Today’s Picture – 2010, or 1950?



For today’s pic of the day, I feature this shot of a British Railways Standard Tank Locomotive, one of hundreds of similar steam engines which were the workhorses of the nationalised British Railways system throughout the 1950s and ’60s.  

Number 80151 was at work on the preserved Bluebell Railway in Sussex when I visited in 2010 and, although shot originally on 35mm colour film, I edited the scan into black and white to give the image much more of a ‘vintage’ feel. 

There is really nothing in the shot to give a clue as to when it might have been taken, save for the pristine condition of the engine. It might very well be 1950 to the casual viewer! Most railway engines of course during their working lives were not kept in such condition and many were very down at heel and work-worn when they were nearing the end of their working lives in the late 1960s.

Even the driver, looking out of the cab for the signal to proceed has a flat cap which adds to the atmosphere. Vintage transport, and old steam railways in particular are a passion for me. Perhaps it is in my blood as my maternal grandfather was a steam engineer, even building his own miniature steam traction engine. He originally worked for the railways in pre-nationalisation days and hoped to work his way up to be a driver but his height of just 5’5″ did not allow this, so he ended up operating the steam winding engines in the coal industry, raising and lowering the men down the shafts and bringing up many thousands of tons of coal which helped to keep the wheels of industry turning throughout the middle of the last century. Unseen by the public and the miners who travelled on his lift each day, his was a profession he was very proud of.


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