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Saturday, 23 November 2013 15:02

Rocks by Rail

Written by Mike
Andrew Barclay and Sons Limited saddle tank works number 2088 built in 1940 at Rocks by Rail, Rutland Railway Museum, Cottesmore, Rutland.  18 November 2013.  Ref 1364638 Andrew Barclay and Sons Limited saddle tank works number 2088 built in 1940 at Rocks by Rail, Rutland Railway Museum, Cottesmore, Rutland. 18 November 2013. Ref 1364638

It’s Monday 18 November, and it’s a photo charter at Rocks by Rail, previously known as Rutland Railway Museum.  We have three stars for the day, two Andrew Barclay 0-4-0STs and visiting Peckett 0-4-0ST ‘Fulstow’.  The weather?  About as grim as it gets – foggy forecast set to improve to drizzle.  I know I say industrial steam always looks great in grim weather, but today is going to test that theory – hard.

Pictures and video


Photo Charter

The photo charter was organised by Russ Hillier.  I always enjoy Russ’ photo charters.  His irreverent approach to everything and everybody is way too good to miss.  Line those talents up against organising loco crews and a bunch of mischievous photographers and you have the recipe for some great entertainment even before you’ve got your camera out of its bag.

Rocks by Rail

Rocks by Rail is the new marketing handle for what was previously known as the Rutland Railway Museum.

The renaming is appropriate in that there’s a lot more to Rocks by Rail than just the railways.  The whole ironstone mining story is told, including some of the machinery used to extract the rock from the ground.

From a railway perspective, Rocks by Rail is home to a large number of both steam and diesel locomotives and the associated (and appropriate) rolling stock.  There’s a demonstration loading area, a small yard, a shed/works and a short running line.  More than enough to keep us entertained all day.

A nice touch is Rocks by Rail recognises there’s more to the world than hard core gricing.  The café served good drinks, snacks and meals, and there are nature trails to entertain the kids.  When you boil it right down we’re talking about a lot of rusting ironwork littered around the site of an old mine, but they’ve done a great job in presenting that as a cohesive story.

Charter stars - the locos

There were three locos used for the charter.  They were:

  • Andrew Barclay and Sons Limited saddle tank works number 2088 built in 1940
  • Andrew Barclay and Sons Limited saddle tank works number 1931 built in 1927 'The United Steel Companies Limited, Cottesmore Mines, Rutland'
  • Visiting Peckett W6 Class 0-4-0 saddle tank works number 1749 built in 1928 'Fulstow'
  • A fourth loco was also used - R and W Hawthorn Leslie and Company saddle tank works number 3865 built in 1936 'Singapore'.  This one wasn’t in steam (it’s not currently a runner), but some rags in the smokebox were used to give the right impression.

Lessons learned

What did I learn that’s new?  Three things stand out.

Graduated filters

The first is when you get an ‘ISO 800’ day, you also get a relatively bright sky, relatively dark subject combination.  No cameras like that, and especially not digital cameras.  Sometimes on grubby days I yearn for the old Ilford HP4 film.  With the right processing, that could handle anything.

After my recent experience at Foxfield in similar weather, this time I took along a grad filter to try to hold the sky back and stop it blowing out.  And I did the right thing.  I wanted the option of both 1 stop and 2 stop variants, but in the time available I could only put my hands on a 2 stop.  It’s worked well – in fact in a couple of shots, it’s worked too well.  Find out more about how I use graduated filters.

Gricers talk

The second lesson is that when you get a bunch of gricers, they talk.  Lots.  That’s all good and fine, until you hit the record button to capture some video and the super sensitive microphone records the gricer’s good natured banter as well as the locomotive.

I’ve seen other people shooting video going around asking people to shut up.  It’s an approach, but not one that’s going to engender good will or that I’m comfortable with.  That’s probably the reason videographers are commonly referred to as ‘vidiots’.  I prefer to try to get away from everybody else, but there’s limits to what’s possible.  It’s one of those things that needs watching for, and doing whatever is appropriate at the time.

Similarly, watch out for the clicking of other people’s shutters.  They record surprisingly well.  At one point during the morning a guy with an ancient mechanical Hasselblad came and stood next to me.  When the shutter on that thing went off it sounded like a rifle!  And then the hand-cranked film advance sounded just like reloading…

The heavier the tripod the better

The third lesson is about tripods.  I’m currently using two tripods.  A ‘portable’ Manfrotto and a big carbon fibre Manfrotto.  At Rocks by Rail I was using the biggie.  Video has got to be stable, and the bigger and heavier the tripod, the more likely this is to happen.

At home in Cyprus I also have a really heavy Gitzo, but chose to bring the carbon fibre Manfrotto with me this time on the grounds of weight.  I’m regretting that.  The Gitzo is built from some spare iron they had left over from building the Bismarck.  It may be heavy, but its rock solid too.

Pictures and video

In summary, the Rocks by Rail photo charter was a great day out – thank you Russ.




Mike McCormac has been a photographer since about ten years old.  He's a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, and splits his time between living in Olney in the United Kingdom and a village in the hills near Paphos in Cyprus.

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