Monday 12th February seen a TIMELINE EVENTS photo charter take place at the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire, commencing at Loughborough Central. The loco for the day was BR Class 8F, 48624 in BR Black livery. As it was to a freight themed photo charter, GCR regulations state that no passengers are to be carried on goods trains so therefore photographers made their way to locations by road, which was easy enough.
Our first port of call was Swithland Sidings, with it's semaphore signals, passing loops and of course the junction for the small branch to Mountsorrel Quarry, it's a steam railway photographers dream recreating the halycon days of steam train travel, which of course is the main aim of Timeline Events - to recreate bygone ages whether it's railways, air, water, road or even period dressed cameo scenes. The first set of shots seen the 8F paired up with a mixed freight rake, which was parked up in one of the sidings, and seen perform quite a few run pasts, starting off at the North end where the Mountsorrel Quarry branches off and the various semaphore signals, before gradually working our way down to the Southern part of the loops.
Afterwards, the mixed freight rake was put away and the windcutter mineral wagons were brought out, of course the fast, windcutter freight services were the main stay of the Great Central Railway when it was part of the UK rail network, and provided the bread and butter of the GCR's London Extension right up until 1965 when freight services were diverted to other routes, and the rundown continued until closure in 1966 as a through route. The 8F certainly looked the part as she strutted her stuff and indeed, photographs do exist of 8F's working the windcutter services between Annesley, Nottinghamshire and Woodford Halse in Northamptonshire, although 9F's were the main loco's.
After we had our fill of Swithland Sidings, we moved a bit further up the line to another location known as Rabbit Bridge, which is just the other side of Swithland Reservoir from Swithland Sidings. Rabbit Bridge has seen a fair bit of pruning of the undergrowth of late to make the location more appealing for photographers on charters as well as lineside pass holders. Again, the 8F was faultless and it would be very easy to imagine you were back in the late 50's/early 60's and seeing an 8F on a Woodford-bound freight service.
Our next location was Kinchley Lane, probably one of the most popular spots on the Great Central Railway for photographers, and offers fantastic views of Southbound services. The 8F was once again put through her paces for a series of run pasts for photographers and the videographers (I was doing both so it was nice to get a bit of variety). Just before 2pm, bearing in mind we'd been photographing since 8am, it was decided that the loco would return to Swithland Sidings to put the windcutter rake away, return to Loughborough to get watered and for the crew to have a break, before returning to Quorn to collect the next, and final rake; the recently repainted van train. Estimating it would take an hour to an hour and a half, we set off for some lunch, coming back into Quorn, we decided to go to the Butler Henderson Cafe at Quorn & Woodhouse Station to get fed and watered, looking at the menu, the All Day Breakfast really stood out and I thought "Ooo, that'll do me nicely...".
After some time elapsed, it was noticed that the 8F had returned from Loughborough, and after passing through Quorn & Woodhouse, had set back to collect the van train from one of the sidings. Our organiser, Neil, was made aware and such we all finished off our food and drink before heading back to Kinchley Lane for the next set of run pasts with the van train. In the meantime, the train crew waited patiently for us to get into position at Kinchley Lane, before being given the go ahead that we were in position, before performing the first run past with the vans, and a lovely looking ensemble it was too, the vans are a real credit to the volunteers who have given up their spare time to repaint them, I understand that a few more are to be done over time as well to make a longer train. Sadly, as time was getting on, and with the still relatively short days at this time of year, we didn't have time to visit any more locations and before long time was called just after 5pm.
Still, it was a fantastic day of photography, and mostly in the glorious Winter sunshine too. As ever, grateful thanks to Neil Cave of Timeline Events and of course the staff at the Great Central Railway who gave up their free time to allow this charter to take place.