17th February 2011 - 21st Century Steam
John Day - report by Chris Hurricks
This was the second of our experimental afternoon meetings held at the Co-op Education Centre in Fore Street. It was a joint meeting with the local branch of the RCTS and there was a gratifying attendance of 33. Our worthy Chairman gave a brief outline of the programme which, as well as scenes in the UK, would cover steam in the USA, Ukraine and China. The shots were in roughly chronological order, taken over the 11 years 2000 to 2010 inclusive and to bring us right up to date five shots taken on the GCR just 19 days earlier. Steam has featured quite extensively on the Great Eastern in this period after many years of famine and we started at Witham with BR 2-6-4T 80080 plus support coach overtaking Cl 5 45157 in the loop. On the narrow gauge we saw an RCTS special on the Bure Valley, the Gartell Railway on the trackbed of the old S & D, and the extensive multi gauge system of Graham Lee's at Statfold Barn, near Tamworth. Memories flooded back with shots of the many main line tours which had passed through the Ipswich area with 'Tangmere', 45157, 76079, the B1 and the BR 5. As usual with local scenes it was interesting to look at the background and spot the changes.
The Diesel Units operate rural services radiating from Norwich and Ipswich to Felixstowe, Saxmundham, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Sheringham, Cambridge and Peterborough, while the locomotives and coaches are formed into eight 10 vehicle and three 9 vehicle sets used for the London to Norwich main line train services. In addition Class 153 or Class 156 Units are provided for the Marks Tey – Sudbury route.
The North Norfolk is one of John's favourites and we saw all the home power in action on that scenic line. John had been lucky to be there when both the B12 and J15 were in action on the same day. Many visiting locos have worked on the NNR and none, it seems, had escaped John's camera. The V2 was probably the most impressive and we are indeed lucky to have such an interesting line within reach. Lord Kitchener's car and the J15 side by side at the Mid Suffolk were interesting and a brief look at that famous signal gantry at Falsgrave box at Scarborough (now dismantled) preceded views of steam in the snow in the Ukraine in 2004.
The group had their own special train and lived on it for a week, an experience not for the faint hearted. There were sparkling scenes aplenty in the snow of the 4 different locos used, all of Russian origin, and with temperatures down to -25C smoke and steam effects were memorable. Shots of some of the 'locals' were shown, the train crew and the evening entertainment on board.
In November 2004 John had been to the classic steam route in China, the Jing Peng, and although very cold it was sunny throughout. The massive QJ 2-10-2's, sometimes double heading, were seen at work in the barren but spectacular countryside. The Chinese know how to build railways and there was one location where the line was visible on 4 levels as it climbed to the Summit, trains being in view for 7 to 8 miles. Poverty was rife and we saw local women sifting through ash heaps for any unburnt coal.
Next it was off to the Chairman's favourite haunts in the USA with the huge Union Pacific Challenger 4-6-6-4 at work on various specials. Milwaukee 261 was another fine example of North American power, the smoke from which blotted out the Sears Tower in Chicago which John had tried to work into the shot.
In 2005 it was a further visit to China where, although the Jing Peng had been dieselised, QJ's were still working in other areas. This led nicely into QJ's in the USA (Yes!) where 3 were imported in 2007. John had an invitation to attend the first run of well known railroad entrepreneur R.J.Corman's QJ in Louisville, Kentucky in May 2008. The livery of QJ 2008 was striking in the extreme and it was used to show off some new sand wagons.
Back in the UK, the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley, the SVR, the WSR and the NYMR were all seen but then it was the return of our local celebrity, 'Oliver Cromwell' working from Liverpool Street to Norwich in September 2008. To set the scene for this a lovely black and white shot was shown of 70002 hauling the up 'Norfolkman' on Ipswich water troughs in the 50's. This was taken from the pill box which still stands beside the line here. 70013 was seen on its many visits to East Anglia plus some away from home, truly it has been a very hard working machine. That other famous loco, 'Tornado', was captured at Ipswich just entering the tunnel at the tail end of the ECS for the Winton Train from Harwich International the next day, the latter seen passing the 'field' at Bradfield.
Main line steam action in many parts of the UK were followed by a few steamy shots, both rail and water, on his recent visit to New Zealand.
In September 2010 it was back to the USA for some more special workings of the Challenger, the shot with the train crossing a causeway at Memaloose, Oregon bringing gasps of appreciation. John's Christmas card shot of A4 60019 at Brandon in the snow on 19th December last was superb and he closed the show with an atmospheric night shot at Ipswich of Tangmere, the station clock showing 1814. Just one more thing to mention; in Oregon John had found a road sign which read 'FOSSIL JOHN DAY NEXT RIGHT' so he considered it time to finish!
We owe a great debt to John for providing us with highly entertaining shows backed up by his very high photographic standards. Thanks and keep up the travelling!