Thursday, April 11, 2013

Steam Chaser

There are many who make fun of trainspotters. But they are a hardy breed! Take me, for example. The sun had come out and I was spending an hour or so in the garden this afternoon. Now, Skip Cottage is but a field away from the West Coast Main Line, and when I hear something going by, it is an instinctive reaction to look up and see what it is. And, over the years, I've got used to the regular services passing at specific times, both passenger and freight.

But this afternoon was different. It sounded different. I looked up and there was an A4 Pacific steam locomotive heading north!

Would it be a case of drop everything, grab keys and camera (with a quick check that the memory card was inside - caught once, learned from the mistake), jump in the car, and drive slowly and carefully after it? Now, I've been 'steam chasing' before, see here. A bit daft, really. So today I checked on the locomotive movements page of the brilliant and essential website Mainline Steam, and when I had ascertained that a stop had been scheduled at Beattock, only THEN did I jump in the car and drive slowly and carefully after the loco.

On a walk last year (see here) I had noted what would be a good location if ever I was looking to photograph a steam locomotive on the West Coast Line. That's where I headed, checking as I drove past Beattock that the engine and its support coaches were indeed in the passing loop there. They were.

By the time I was installed at the edge of Greskine Forest, the sun had disappeared, the east wind had got up, and there were flakes of snow in the air. Of course, I hadn't wasted time in dressing for the occasion! I waited, and waited. I had worked out that the steam loco would have had to pull aside for the Machester Airport service (15.07 out of Carlisle) for Glasgow, before tackling the Beattock gradient. I waited, and waited more, and eventually the First TransPennine service did pass (above).

By this time of course, I was so cold, I could hardly hold the camera! But, as I said above, trainspotters are hardy souls.

Listening for the sound of a steam locomotive in these surroundings should have been a pleasant experience. However, the sound of my teeth chattering was drowned out by all the noise from the nearby M74 (which I've left out of the photograph), and it was this little white cloud of smoke in the distance that showed me that my wait would soon be rewarded.

Getting closer!

A4 Pacific 60009 Union of South Africa, double headed with K4 61994 The Great Marquess, pulling just their support coaches on their way to Thornton Yard, in Fife. Thornton incidentally was where 61994 was based prior to withdrawal in 1961, as I found out here. 60009 is scheduled on the SRPS 'Forth Circle' railtour on April 21 (see here), and both 60009 and 61994 are involved in the Railway Touring Company's 'Great Britain VI' (here) which gets to Scotland on April 23.

Note to self. Make sure you know which was the wind is blowing before deciding which side of the line to position yourself to get a good photograph. Ah well, can't win them all, but it was great to experience steam on the Beattock climb today!

Meanwhile, back at Skip, I've been trying over the past few years to get some little patches of Chionodoxa established. Pretty little bulbs. I like the common name - Glory of the Snow. And who knows, there may yet be more of the white stuff to come this year, although I do hope not.

These daffodils have decided to flower anyway, despite the cold!

I had a visitor the other day. The bird feeders have been busy these last few months. Sitting quietly at home, perhaps reading or working at the computer, I sometimes jump at the sound of birds scattering and crashing into the conservatory glass doors. Usually, they seem to be able to pick themselves up, and they fly off apparently unharmed. Occasionally I've observed them completely still on the ground, before coming round and taking to the air again.

What can startle them? Sometimes it's a loud car or lorry passing; sometimes it's someone walking a dog. But the biggest panic is when a grey missile flashes round the edge of the cottage into the birds' feeding area. A sparrowhawk in attack mode! This one, above, had a successful outcome on yesterday's foray, and it stayed on the ground long enough for me to get this photo through the double glazing.

I suspect my favourite blackie just hadn't been quick enough. More about sparrowhawks here.

Photos © Skip Cottage

1 comment:

  1. Nice pix after two hunting sorties! I'd bet the hawk is telling you to keep putting out that feed for his prey.

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