Monday, 21 September 2015

An Insomniacs guide to the SVR Autum Gala 2015


I thought I would add an entry to my blog about this years Autumn Steam Gala, this is a must see event for me. The difference is that I have suffered a bit from Insomnia for a while now and to sleep in my van parked in the station car park has somewhat eluded me. The mixture of change, excitement, and late nights all come together to make it next to impossible for me to get any sleep, unfortunately this year wasn't much different. I did still really enjoy myself though...

I arrived at Kidderminster Station on Friday around 1pm. To my surprise I also noticed that the entrance to the car park had a sign in the way saying the car park was full along with a smartly dressed guy standing next to it. The smart guy said that the car park was indeed pretty full but fortunately he let me pass saying I might be able to squeeze my van in somewhere. This to me was a bit unusual as I have never seen the car park this full before, I thought to myself 'this is getting to become a popular event'. Anyway, I managed to park up and went for a wander around that station while waiting for Andy to turn up.
There was a nice collection of engines on view already, the 14xx and autocoach was a pleasant surprise too.
Then of course there was the Royal Scot engine. I have never seen one before and I commented that it looked a very well proportioned engine. The engine looked superb and it fitted in to the railway scene really well. The whistle was a bit naff though! Once Andy has arrived and we had had a browse around Kidderminster we then headed off to the next station along Bewdley to get some fish and chips.
I don't know exactly why but am guessing that the Royal Scot engine had drawn in the crowds but there seemed to be a generous collection of photographers out and about. Above you can just about see Britannia pulling into Bewdley Station.
It looked good in the early evening sun. The weird thing though is what they were coupling it up to.
I guess there is no reason why such an engine would be used to pull a freight train, it just looked a bit weird to me though. Anyway, once that trundled off into the distance it was time to walk into town and get a fish and chip dinner.
Once we got back it had got suitable dark enough for me to have another bash at some nightime photography. It is sort of the highlight of the event to me, the fact trains are running 24 hours over the 3 days. The only trouble is I had 2 problems, the first is I forgot my remote shutter release thingy and the second is I am a bit rubbish at taking nightime shots. The above photo is an early attempt and it came out weird considering it was actually this dark...
Now that is the sort of picture I am happy with. The crowds had disappeared by now (don't know why) as it was now around 7pm so getting into a good position to take a photo was no trouble at all. Also having a new camera (Canon 700D) made it much simpler to experiment with settings.
Of course using long exposures makes it really hard to catch moving things, or more correctly things that decide to move when you are mid way through an exposure!
I know I said it before but the whole place just oozes atmosphere in the dark, I just love it! Anyway it was time to head off back to Kidderminster jut in time to see this leave...
It was then time to say our goodbyes for the day and settle in for the night.
So. I was at a steam railway, it was 2.30am and I couldn't sleep at all. So I did the obvious thing, get out of bed, grab the camera and go and take some photos. It was very quiet and serene until a train arrived but even they were trying to be quiet. The rest of the night was spent watching TV and cursing at myself for not being able to sleep, things weren't too bad until around 3-4am when the tiredness started to catch up with me,  it felt like I had to make a decision, do I get some sleep and risk sleeping late and missing a chunk of the next day or stay awake and grit my teeth and get through the rest of the day. I chose the latter this time.

At around 6am the place started waking up again and I was out and about with my camera to catch the morning chores.
It was a bit foggy on the Saturday morning, great for getting some nice atmospheric photos!
The morning progressed and the queue for the morning breakfast train grew longer.

As the day progressed the weather perked up and it ended up being a lovely autumn sunny day. As a result of the previous nights escapades I did struggle a bit, especially when I was sat on the train keeping my eyes open but I didn't let it ruin the day out. Saturday was a day to travel along the line visiting the various stations.
Royal Scot was looking resplendent in the sun.
There seemed to be plenty of people willing to get soot in their faces. I even noticed some safety goggles for sale at one of the stations.
I have now worked out why some southern engines had such large chimneys! This was Sir Keith Park doing its best to help along global warming!
We bumped into Will J and Tom E at Arley Station. Will was wowing the crowds with his models and layout of Victoria Bridge. It was nice to catch up with these guys once again.
While outside there was the opportunity to see scenes like this, they are not that common.
The workshops at Bridgnorth Engine Shed have always been fascinating to me. I wouldn't like to operate some of the machines though, they looked downright  scary. At least I could recognise what they were though.
And this was the final photo I took at the Gala. It was really nice to see autocoaches being used how they were meant to be with all the remote operating gear working.

And so that was the end of the day. I left Kidderminster for home around 6.30pm on the Saturday worn out and tired but very happy. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable 2 days indulging myself in one of my passions regardless of sleep or not, to me it was really worth it. A special thanks goes to Andy H too for keeping me company and being patient with me too.
I say this every year and I really hope at least one person will take my advice. If you haven't tried it out yet then go to the SVR autumn gala, OK it can be busy at times but to be surrounded by steam at night on a working railway totally transforms the whole experience. The atmosphere of the railway just comes alive, go there and soak it up!

Julia :o)


  1. On your observation on the Royal Scot, it was fairly common practice to use top-link engines on Fish, Milk and Parcels trains and (for the GWR at least---I cannot sperak for other Companies) the Fast Fitted freights.

    They promised overnight delivery anywhere on the GWR, and very early morning for principal stations. There was an article from just after WW! about these in the Railway Gazette, which I've transcribed. If you'd like a copy. let me know.

    Mark Austin

    1. Thank you Mark.

      I don't doubt that they were used for freight trains throughout their life, especially towards the end of steam. Its just a little weird to me to see it in action, these were the express engines of their time. Thanks for the offer of the transcribed document too, I will remember that just in case I need such a thing.


  2. Great atmospheric shots especially the ones at night.

    1. Thank you Neil.

      I have a renewed energy for taking night shots, the new camera has seemed to have helped lots. I have even been scouring the net to see if anywhere else is offering anything similar so I could practice again. Sadly I haven't found anything yet.


  3. Hi Julia, what a lovely collection of photos. A real treat for those of us who can't make it to these events.

    As Neil says, the night shots are particularly effective. I immediately wanted to model the scene with the Lyon's tea and Colman's starch signs under the lamp!

    1. Thank you Mikkel.

      If anyone could recreate that shot of the signs and lamp then you could. I would love to see the results too.

      J :o)

  4. I see you captured my best side Julia!

    Glad you had an enjoyable time despite not getting any sleep. The photos are fantastic, especially the ones taken around 6am in the early morning mist. I'm looking forward to next year's gala already :o)

  5. It seems that you had a great time and its good to see you getting splendid results from your new camera! When I forget my remote release, I find that using the 2 sec delay timer helps to keep the camera steady, since I'm not thumping the release at the time of the exposure!,

    1. Good idea Mike and one I tried to do but I couldn't work out how to do it on this (new) camera! I need to swat up on how the thing works.

    2. I know what you mean! I recently bought an Olympus OM-D, which has notoriously complex menus, and, after several months, I'm still finding my way around it! I do appreciate its light weight and ruggedness, though.