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Photographer's Note

LARGER VERSION HERE.

What a fabulous opportunity I had yesterday, thanks to a close friend who informed me that two LMS "Black Five" steam locomotives and some vintage carriages were heading south from Scotland to their winter depot in Carnforth.

These two steam locomotives (one behind the other in this picture), numbers 44871 and 45407, spend the summer months pulling the "Jacobite Express" on the West Coast line betwen Fort William and Mallaig, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct which was made famous in the recent "Harry Potter" movies in which the "Hogwarts Express" travelled the line, also pulled by a "Black Five".

For those interested in steam locomotives (as I am), the "Black Five" locomotives were designed by William Stanier, 842 being built between 1934 and 1951. They were of 4-6-0 axle configuration with 6 foot diameter driving wheels, two cylinders of 28 inch stroke, weighed 75 tons and were a favourite with drivers and railway fans alike. Although they continued in use until the very last days of steam in Britain, only eighteen remain in preservation, the remainder having been scrapped.

A prolonged study of Google maps allowed me to find a wonderful little place to capture these engines as they steamed downhill southwards from Beattock Summit, the highest point on the West Coast Mainline and here they were probably travelling at something like 50 or 60 m.p.h. Fantastic! I felt like a little boy again as the ground shook under my feet as they passed!

Although these locomotives were travelling downhill, I was reminded of W.H. Auden's wonderful poem, "The Night Mail", about a steam train travelling here up to Beattock Summit, a poem which really captivates the essence of steam travel, so I'll quote just a few lines here:

"This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.

Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.

In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes."

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1313 W: 396 N: 4983] (20018)
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