Steam and Diesel

Trying to type with cold hands. Winter has arrived and it’s all freezing cold and dark, not great for photographical motivation. But hey-ho, one does one’s best.

Catching up on the last couple of rolls I’ve shot that are on Flickr already but I’ve not got round to writing about. So, this one is about shooting old trains on an old camera, or: Me and my Yashicamat 124G at the National Rail Museum in York.


I took a collection of cameras on a recent road-trip and the Yashicamat was on duty for the rail museum as it’s solid handling and low recoil leaf shutter make it good for borderline camera shake inducing shutter speeds in low light situations like a dark train shed. I’m a big fan of the 6×6 format for composing images, but until I sort a nice (!!xmas self-present spoiler!!) Hasselblad 500 out the Yashicamat is all I have to go on.


As my camera collection will attest I appreciate a good bit of solid mechanical engineering so these old diesel hydraulic locomotives from the 1960’s are right up my street. They are very purposeful machines with solid aesthetic styling akin to a Nikon F – someone has obviously thought about the shape, but not at the expense of functionality. It is what it is with a kind of honesty that is no longer en vogue with modern product design practice.


The streamliner steam locomotives are particularly interesting as a steam engine is pretty much 100% function with very little that can be done aesthetically beyond that. Not to say they are ugly, but just that you can’t simply rearrange the mechanism to create a different aesthetic, you have to work with what is there. But all the same, a bit of bent metal plating later and I’m seeing Spitfire and E-Type Jaguar in those curves, a very hand-beaten human-made form.

And for all that above, it’s all iron and brass below on a scale that things just aren’t made on any more.

I’ve managed to fill a roll of film with details and vignettes almost fully removed from their environment, which is probably a good thing given the dark shed they were all housed in. The Yashica proved it’s worth as I had a full roll of hits and no misses. The dim screen made focusing difficult, but many shots were just set at minimum focus distance with me moving back and forth to get the right things sharp. A reet grand day out.


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