BPC goes Trainspotting : 21-Jul-2013

Trainspotting is a 1996 British black comedy about drug dealing directed by Danny Boyle based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh.  I know this because it is one of my son Tom’s favourite movies.

This however was not the theme of our latest BPC excursion.  It was all about the trains.  More specifically a steam train, the 620 class steam locomotive – 621, The “Duke of Edinburgh“.  This is a 4-6-2 locomotive, one of 10 fast passenger engines originally intended for the Adelaide to Port Pirie “East-West” route.  4-6-2 refers to the arrangement of wheels, the middle number “6” referring to the number of large drive wheels that propel the train.  The first and last numbers refer to the smaller wheels fore and aft .

The Duke of Edinburgh was scheduled to leave Mt Barker at 10.00am to arrive at Strathalbyn by 11.00am and Goolwa by 12.00pm.  We arranged to meet at Mt Barker at 9:15 to witness the coupling of the train prior to departure.  This however was too early for some, who were concerned about road conditions.  There had been a pile up on the freeway the previous morning when it had iced over.  Regardless we had a good turnout with around 8 keen trainspotters, (and one that we acquired).  We befriended Nigel from the Edwardstown camera club who was out with his wife and nephew.

The magic of the steam trains is in all that steam.  The 140 ton steel monolith comes alive when it belches out steam from its various orifices and lurches backwards and forwards along the tracks.  No one failed to be captivated.  Just have a look at the photos.  Standing on the low ground we were enveloped in dense white steam as the “Duke” whistled then tugged it’s carriages out of the station up towards the Wistow highland.

We had a plan.  I had a map of the train line showing the location of the 11 level crossings between Mt Barker and Strathalbyn.  In our cars we drove ahead of the train and parked near a crossing in order to photograph it.  This was quite exhilarating and a lot of fun.  On a few occasions I arrived too late, seeing the train chug past as I was parking the car.  My fellow photographers however were nicely positioned and have excellent photographs.  At Strathalbyn we parted company.  Some drove home, others carried on chasing the train.  Ken unfortunately had to take his wife to hospital after she developed knee pain.

The photography was interesting.  With the stationary train at Mt Barker it took some discipline to step back and look at the scene more analytically.  Once I had a photo of the train at the station I needed to move around and look at new angles to improve the mood and the intensity of the subject matter.  However once the train started moving it was a different story.  Waiting at a crossing it was easy to get bored.  Finally as the train rounded the corner and first came into view I wanted to fire of a salvo of shots.  It was however too far away and as the train neared the focus was lost and it was easy to get blurred photos.  I felt like a fusilier in Zulu dawn.  There was a risk of shooting too early and missing the target entirely.  I needed a gunnery sergeant to tell me when to hold and when to fire.

Overall it was a well rated and enjoyable outing.  Fortunately the predicted bad weather came on later in the afternoon.

James Allan

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