My new blog – Planes and Boats and Trains

I’ve accumulated an awful lot of photographs now from the Library of Congress, and while I’ve posted quite a lot over the past 18 months or so on here, I felt it time to do something a little different.
To that end, and because wordpress blogs are free, I’ve set up another blog to run in parallel to this that is dedicated to the planes, boats and trains that I’m interested in. In fact that’s what it’s called –
This will simply be one photograph at a time, with bare minimum information – title, date taken, photographer and link to the image on the Library of Congress website. I will post them more frequently than the posts on here as less time is spent in their creation!

They have all seen some limited editing on Lightroom from me – primarily cropping, straightening and sharpening and maybe some global tonal adjustments such as contrast. This is because although the scans are of a very high quality, they are just raw scans from the negative and as such tend to be rather flat looking. The colour ones aren’t too bad but but as they are slide film, some of the ones taken in low light suffer from blocked up shadows so have required some more work to extract detail. The nature of slide film also means that some scans had some unusual colour casts and so I’ve had a crack at adjusting these to what I think is something like.
The oldest negatives are glass plates and are over a hundred years old, so some of these have required use of the healing brush in Photoshop to tidy up scratches, dust, cracks and damage. Unfortunately it’s not possible to load the full resolution images onto the blog so it’s not possible to see the jaw dropping resolution of the biggest files but nonetheless you can appreciate the quality of the images even at web size.

I will continue to post library of Congress images on here, accompanied by my own narrative but the individual images now have their own home here:

#419 – Leigh Spinners

DSCF2027Sometimes, you just see a photograph materialise in front of your eye – the light meets the composition and you are in just the right place at the right time. You stop and just bring your camera to your eye and thankfully you have just the right lens on your camera (I tend to use prime lenses so I’ve either got the right lens on or not!), you snap away and then something happens – someone walks into shot, the light changes and the photograph goes away.

I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times this has happened to me – this was from Saturday at Leigh Spinners. It’s not the finished article yet as these are more or less straight out of the camera, but more to come soon!


Talk at Darwen Camera Club  24th August 2015

For anyone in East Lancashire who is interested in my work, I will be giving my Mechanical Landscapes talk at Darwen Camera Club on Monday 24th August 2015. The meeting starts at 7.30 and the talk lasts about 90 minutes (ish). The club meet at Hollins Grove Church Hall, Hawkshaw Avenue, Darwen, BB3 1QZ

#418 – Really Big Machines Part 2


I wrote a blog post a while back showing the library of congress images of the 50000 ton press at Wyman Gordon in Worcester, Massachusetts. I mentioned that there was a bigger one at Interforge in Issoire in France but had no pictures from my visit. However, an old postcard has turned up online, which shows how big it is.

Issoire itself is a small French town near Clermont Ferrand, with a very picturesque town centre. It is also home to a gigantic aluminium plant that was built in or before WW2 due to its location away from Northern Europe. The gigantic concrete roof of the rolling mill is several feet thick and was supposed to be bomb proof. 

Next door is the forge of Aubert and Duval who in the 1970’s built a subsidiary plant called Interforge where this enormous machine resides.

The press is used for forging aircraft parts. It’s a closed die forging process which means that the two parts of the press tool (a bit like a giant mould in the shape of the part) are slotted in and a billet of hot aluminium is then inserted and squeezed into shape. It’s a bit like a child’s plasticine press but on a giant scale.

Like all presses, there’s nearly as much below ground as above it, and the building was constructed around the press, which took a long time to assemble. It’s actually from Russia (note the Russian script on the front), which is unusual when you consider that it was built in the middle of the Cold War in the 1970’s. It is said that there is a similar press in Russia that at be rated even higher than this 75000 ton model, but that’s just rumour. It’s possible though, as this is supposed to have exceeded its official rating in the past. Given that it’s Russian, it’s probably hopelessly over-engineered, so nothing is likely to break, but I’d not want to be anywhere near if anything did go wrong…..


#417 – Library of Congress Images – A Beyer Garrett in Iran


I posted a while back some pictures I took of the former Beyer Peacock works in Manchester, and it coincided with stumbling across this photograph in the Library of Congress of the trains run by the allied forces on the Iranian Railways in WW2. I actually posted some photographs of British built 8F’s on the line a while back, but didn’t really pay much attention to this at the time, until I visited Gorton and dug out a reprinted Beyer Peacock catalogue I bought from MoSI as part of their Beyer Garrett centenary event in 2009.

Sure enough, in 1936, Beyer Peacock sold 4 Beyer-Garrett locomotives to Iranian State Railways for use on their northern section which crosses the Elburz mountain range.