#142 – East Lancashire Tornado (again)

Didn’t get chance to actually ride behind Tornado last week, partially due to other commitments, partially due to the fact that I knew it’d be packed. So I left it a week and headed to Ramsbottom on a rather nice day.

Nikon D700, 16-35mm, ISO200, 1/500 @ F11

Now if on the off chance you read this blog regularly, you’ll know of my aversion to taking pictures in stations. However, the purpose of this trip was to actually ride the train rather than to photograph it from the lineside, so photography was secondary, but I packed a camera nonetheless. We were fortunate that Ramsbottom station was rather quiet when we got there, in fact, the doors were still shut until about 10 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive. I say scheduled, as in actuality, it arrived about 10-15 minutes late, which is not uncommon on the East Lancs for some reason. But, perhaps due to the relative earliness, or the fact it wasn’t a steam gala, the station was relatively free of passengers, which meant some nice uncluttered views. Past experience has shown me that the engine will tend to pull up at or near the water tower, and as this makes a nice piece of the station to include (along with the brazier), I decided to use this as a frame. As luck would have it, the train pulled up exactly where I wanted it to, which also allowed me to get the paper mill chimney in as well, which provides an appropriate background  – after all, Ramsbottom is a town synonymous with that industry.

After pondering briefly why there were so many hi-viz clad photographers at the trackside (the East Lancs doesn’t issue trackside passes), it was nice to sit and watch the countryside pass by, as opposed to standing in the countryside and watch the train pass by, which is what I usually do. But of course, despite being a relatively long line for a heritage line, the reality is that the distance between stations is no more than 10 minutes, even when travelling at a leisurely 25mph. But there’s no rush, it’s a Saturday morning, and we’ve nowhere to get to.

And so to Rawtenstall, notable for not many things really, although the station platform is surprisingly long. That said, our train nearly filled it, as all of Tornado’s trains had notably more carriages on than regular service trains, such was it’s popularity. Now in my experience, if you’re going to take pictures at Rawtenstall station then the best place is at the far end of the platform, away from the station building. There are 3 reasons why you shouldn’t go to the station end – 1) everyone else will be there trying to get a picture, 2) the engine doesn’t actually stay there for very long as it is uncoupled and then reversed back up the line to run round, and 3) the view is crap.

Nikon D700, 28-70mm, ISO200, 1/80 @ F16

This being the end of the line and there being nothing worth doing in Rawtenstall, we headed back south to Ramsbottom and then Bury. The railway are fortunate to have a quite large station at Bury, and one that is relatively modern by heritage railway standards, with many of the current structures dating back to the 1950’s. We decided to hop off the train here rather than go to Heywood, a place that makes Rawtenstall look like Monte Carlo. The facilities at Bury are very good, with a buffet on one platform and a very good bar on the other, while in the station proper there is an excellent shop, although we only got as far as the A1 trust stall selling all manner of Tornado goodies.

Buy the time we’d sampled the bacon sandwiches in the bar (not bad at all), it looked like the cast of Ben Hur had descended on the platform for the arrival of Tornado. Any possibility of interesting photography was eliminated by the fact that the background to the up line was a stone wall. and also by the fact that by the time the train stopped, the engine was forward of the end of the platform. Wide angle lens to the rescue, although it hardly salvaged the situation from a photographic perspective.

Nikon D700, 16-35mm, ISO250, 1/30 @ F11

Next and final stop was back to Ramsbottom. The East Lancs is a mix of urban, suburban and rural landscapes, all within a few miles of each other, and it alternates quite quickly from rubbish dumps to open countryside to parkland back to an urban landscape on arrival in Ramsbottom. Sure it’s not got the beauty of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, but hey, the line starts in the suburbs of Manchester (or Greater Manchester if you insist), so you’re not going to get breathtaking vistas.

And that was that. Further crowds awaited the train in Ramsbottom, further confirming it’s celebrity status. In fact people of all ages were present on the platform, as well as pressed up against the fencing around the crossing, mobile phone cameras held aloft to catch a snap. As there were too many people for me to bother photographing  trains, I decided it was far more entertaining to photograph the people instead.


Nikon D700, 16-35mm, ISO200, 1/160 @ F11

 Well done to the East Lancs for getting Tornado to the railway, let’s hope she’s here again soon:)

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