FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Winter steam at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway

Posted in England, Keighley by folkestonejack on March 7, 2014

The Winter Steam Spectacular at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway was marketed as an opportunity to see out winter in style, which it certainly delivered on.

After starting the day with heavy rain the strong winds gave us a rapidly changing picture across the countryside, giving us beautifully blue skies and mild temperatures by the end of the day. At one point there was even the prospect of a rainbow perfectly arched over the railway, but it sadly faded moments before the next train passed through. It was sometimes hard to believe that this was the same day, until a squelch underfoot reminded you that the footpaths would take a little longer to dry out…

Big Jim as BR95820 between Haworth and Oxenhope

Big Jim as BR 95820 between Haworth and Oxenhope

I hadn’t visited the line before, so took the opportunity to travel behind Big Jim to Oakworth and then followed the footpath round to Haworth. This delightful walk takes in Perks Cottage (from the film ‘The Railway Children’), Vale Mill and the wonderfully named Hoot Corner (it’s a blind corner, so the hoot is definetly necessary!).

After reaching Haworth I took a circular walk along the footpath towards Oxenhope, crossing back under the line and along the footpath to Marsh Lane before returning to my starting point. It’s a lovely walk, though inevitably muddy and waterlogged in many places. The views of the line are superb throughout.

The last walk of the day took me from Ingrow West to Keighley by footpath, presenting some unexpectedly photogenic views across the fields to the line.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by how many good walks are available in and around this line, which is not something that all preserved railways can claim. After this taster, I will have to come back to see how different the railway looks in summer.


Wet ‘n’ wild in the Worth Valley

Posted in England, Keighley by folkestonejack on March 7, 2014

The roulette wheel that you spin when booking a place on a photo charter sometimes delivers perfect conditions for steam photography, preferably clear skies combined with the kind of cold and crisp morning that works best for capturing steam effects. Sometimes it delivers a morning like this. Rain, rain and more rain.

As I made my way down to Oxenhope Station in the weak light of dawn, I wondered whether anyone else would be mad enough to turn up. My question was answered almost immediately, as a small band of intrepid photographers began to gather – proving that hope can overcome sense where steam locomotives are concerned!

Heavy rain at the entrance to Mytholmes Tunnel

Heavy rain at the entrance to Mytholmes Tunnel

Our small early morning photo charter on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway was scheduled to start at 7am and would finish at Damems Junction at 9.15am with the transfer of the token that would allow other train movements to take place (and the commencement of the three day winter gala). It was difficulty to summon up much optimism for photographic potential, not least as the rain got steadily heavier.

The motive power for our charter was USA S160 “Big Jim”, a locomotive which has recently returned to service on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway after a heavy overhaul (it hauled its first public service train in around 20 years on 11th January 2014). The locomotives of the S160 class were originally constructed by the United States Army Transportation Corps (USATC) for use in heavy freight work around Europe during World War II, seeing use in the UK for a short while before being exported with the troops.

In the post war period these locomotives were subsumed into the wrecked railway networks of Europe, but a few survivors have since been re-exported back into the UK. The example at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway saw post-war service in the Polish railway system (as PKP Tr.203.474 at Katowice shed) before returning to the UK in 1977.

BR 95820 crosses Mytholmes Viaduct

BR 95820 crosses Mytholmes Viaduct

Most photo charters pay great attention to the smallest details to ensure historical accuracy of the locomotive, wagons and surrounding scenery – even sometimes re-wiring telegraph poles or painting out stripes on wagons to get things right. In contrast, this small charter revelled in historical inaccuracy, utilising USA S160 “Big Jim” as BR 95820 on a small goods working.

To complete this transformation the loco had been painted in a fictitious British Railways unlined black livery but it will only keep this for a short time, before being re-painted in the historically accurate grey livery of the United States Army Transportation Corps. I have to admit that Big Jim looked rather splendid in this livery and was largely responsible for luring me to the railway for this gala.

After sheltering in the station buffet car for a short while we clambered up into the brake van and “Big Jim” propelled us up the line to Mytholmes Tunnel where we made the best of conditions to photograph the loco in a series of runpasts. It was pretty wet out there but the tunnel gave us a little shelter between shots and the fire in the brake van’s stove helped to dry us out a little!

A brief interlude in the rain at Mytholmes was most welcome and we even got a few seconds of sun at the mound between Damems Junction and Oakworth (luckily coinciding with the last runpast of the morning). In the end the results look a little better than I might have anticipated, although no rival for shots under perfect conditions.

USA S160 No. 95820 'Big Jim' as seen from the mound between Damems Junction and Oakworth

BR No. 95820 passes the mound between Damems Junction and Oakworth

After finishing the photo charter “Big Jim” ran around at Damems Junction and took the goods train tender first to Keighley. In spite of the conditions, I was glad to have had the opportunity to experience this rather unusual working. Of course, the moment the charter finished the rain stopped and conditions immediately started to improve…