Location:Tanfield Railway

I was surprised to realise that I’d never properly blogged about Tanfield Railway, apart from a passing mention in my review of the Olympus 35RECR camera, despite the fact that it’s one of my most frequent photo locations. So, time to put that right with a small selection of images from two visits in December 2013.

Tanfield Railway, located between Stanley in County Durham and Gateshead,  is apparently the oldest working railway in the world, having been constructed in 1725. Of course there were no trains then but there was a waggonway with horses pulling coal-wagons and the railway is still operating with vintage steam and diesel locomotives.

Tanfield offers a variety of photographic opportunities. There are of course, vintage engines and carriages, in regular use, and potential people shots, of the volunteers who run the railways or the paying passengers. My own preference is to seek out the quieter corners in and near Marley Hill engine shed. The engine shed looks like a museum – not unlike the nearby Beamish museum – but here there are no ropes beyond which you cannot step. As long as you don’t disturb the work going on, you can get close to the engines, tools, and miscellaneous paraphernalia.

Outside the engine shed there’s a large area with about 30 engines, carriages, cranes, etc, in various states – some working, some being actively restored, and others close to ruin. So you can expect lots of rust, flaking paint, spare parts, and industrial heritage partly covered by grass.

Since my trip to Glen Affric in November 2013, I didn’t do much photography for a while – partly because the weather was very grey and wet, and partly because I had lots of developing and scanning to attend to. But I did make two short visits to Tanfield in December; it’s only about 15 minutes drive.

The first trip was with a Canon FTb 35mm SLR which I’d had for a while but used very little. I had a roll of Kodak TMax 100 loaded which I wanted to finish off; it took another trip to Durham the following March before the film was finished so it was in the camera at least 4 months – which isn’t uncommon because I’m fairly sparing in how many times I press the shutter and usually have a few different cameras loaded with film and vying for my attention.

The following images were all taken with either 28mm/f2.8 or 50mm/f1.8 prime lenses, and the film was developed in Rodinal diluted 1+50.

Although there’s a lot to be said for taking just one camera and one film type on a trip, I did see a few possible images which really cried out for colour, so I returned two weeks later with the Mamiya RZ67 loaded with Fuji Velvia 50, which I developed in the Tetenal E6 kit.



The weather was even more wet and cold than the previous trip, but the Velvia was a good choice to bring the colours out of the gloom. The “Santa Special” trains were running so I queued up with the waiting families for a hot chocolate and mince pie to warm up before heading for home.

To sign off, here’s an older image to show that these engines do work !

Whoosh !


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