Posts Tagged ‘Westbury’

Westbury – Diesel Heaven

December 14, 2015

I’m not that regular at travelling by train. Although I can hear trains from my home, I have no local station and that means journeys always have to start by car. Once in the car, why bother with a train!

But recently, as a treat, my wife and I took the train from Westbury to Weymouth which gave me a few minutes on Westbury station to admire some of the diesel locos I happened to see.

Let’s start with this row.

image002This is a line of class 70 locos operated by Colas Rail. Class 70s are quite new. The first appeared in the UK in 2009/10 but these examples arrived in 2014. Do they not have work to do?

Nearby was another Colas operated loco – a much older class 60.


The first of these locos appeared in 1989 which means these locos are in the region of 25 years old.

A class 59 appeared hauling an enormous (and I presume empty) stone train towards the Mendip quarries.


The train had a change of driver at this point. You can see the train of wagons trailing away and off screen to the right. I don’t know how long such trains can be in the UK, but when the train restarted after its crew change it took a mighty long time to pass us.

This particular old thing dates from 1985.

But pride of place in my brief spell of diesel spotting has to go to the class 08 shunter.


This looks like something from a past age these days and indeed such locos are truly venerable. Of course, they look the part with that con rod linking the wheels. They keep alive the arm movement kids used to make to be steam locos. This one still sports the colours of EWS even though, like the 59 above, it is now operated by DB.

The 08s have their origins with locos built in 1945, although this design was introduced in 1952 and locos of the type were built in large numbers up until 1962. So even if this is at the newer end of this, we are still looking at a loco more than 50 years old. In fact this loco was built in 1960 so is 55 years old.

I will add that there were class 66 diesels to be seen as well, but not in easy to photograph locations.

Our train arrived. It was an utterly filthy (on the outside) class 150 unit. The windows were so thick with grime it was all but impossible to see out. The rebranded Great Western Railway ought to do better than that. We customers, on a line down to Weymouth, surely deserve to be able to see the lovely countryside we travel through.


A fab photo

March 11, 2015

This is not a photo taken by me. I was looking through some of my son’s photos and came across this one which I thought was just fantastic. It was taken back in 2007.

Son isn’t always good at captioning his photos but this has no need of a caption for me. It is, without any doubt, Westbury cement works.


The vantage point was somewhere up on the downs. And what a vantage, and what an advantage son took of it. The vale was completely lost in mist with only the tallest bits of the cement works rising above it – notably, the chimney which was belching its vapour in front of the clear blue sky. Some more distant landscape also is above the mist.

This photo is not repeatable now for the cement works has closed and the chimney remains amid an argument as to whether it is an iconic landmark (I happen to think it is) or a piece of industrial blight in the rural landscape. Yes, the chimney remains but it no longer belches forth its fumes – which were mostly, steam.

Now some photographers talk about a rule of thirds. Photographic highlights, according to this rule are supposed to be a third of the way across the photo and a third of the way up or down.  Based on this rule, my son didn’t get it right. The chimney is surely the focal point and it’s less than a quarter of the way across and about half way up the image. Maybe son realised this for he took another photo – this one.


Well, I reckon it’s a good photo as well, but for me the top one is the winner. But then I never really thought that composition in a photo was about hard and fast rules.

Either way, I’m a jealous dad who wishes he’d been there to get the photo.

We are, of course, photographic rivals and the local show photography trophy has recently had to move from my house to his for this year we shared it with the same number of points. I expect other competitors are getting fed up with our surname appearing on this trophy. I know we have won it for the past four years – me once, my wife once, my son once and then a share.  The rivalry is good humoured. My son has won because he has used (better than me) the image enhancement software I have for a category called a digitally enhanced picture. In truth, I’d like a non-family person to win it this year, unless my daughter would like to enter the fray!

Eric Ravilious – November

November 30, 2014

I have been back in seventh heaven in November. My Eric Ravilious calendar has been showing me a chalk downland scene and one I am very familiar with.


This is not the much loved Sussex of my childhood.  This is the equally loved Wiltshire of my adult life. And I was last at the Westbury White Horse on October 1st when I took this picture.


What has changed since 1939, when Eric produced his painting, is that the horse has been concreted and painted. You no longer get the chalky streaks flowing off the hooves in rainy weather.

Of course, the trains have changed as well. From this viewpoint, but not where Eric has put his train, I managed to get two of the present day trains.


These are nearer in to Westbury.

I wanted a closer look at Eric’s train.


I should say that loco is stylised. It doesn’t look to be anything I’d have expected the Great Western Railway to have been operating in 1939. But it looks the part as it works hard with its mixed goods train.

What a lovely picture!

A train from on high

May 6, 2014

Today’s train is really quite a venerable piece. It isn’t a steamer nor even what used to get called a ‘heritage diesel’ or ‘classic traction’. No, it is what currently runs most services between London and the West of England via Taunton. It is an example of the once ubiquitous High Speed Train or HST for short. And they have been running the service on this line for well over thirty years now. Indeed the prototypes of this train were built in 1972 – more than forty years ago. They certainly aren’t new!

But on this occasion it is the viewpoint that I like – almost looking down on the train from high above it.


There’s the train, heading off to the west and shortly it will be in the town of Westbury in Wiltshire.

My vantage point for the photo was on Bratton Camp, an ancient hill-top fort with a very steep slope on the hill. This slope is decorated by the Westbury White Horse, so this view might almost be seen as the opposite of the Eric Ravilious picture featured in March on my Ravilious calendar (click here).

That photo was zoomed in when taken, but I took a second zoomed out to show more of the scene.


The train is little more than a purple line on this photo with the front end about to pass the Westbury Cement Works which is now disused. The train provides some scale (for me) when pondering on the height of the chimney. It is about five and a half carriage lengths high which means 400 feet in English units or 120 metres or so in metric.

The hill above the white horse is just a few metres higher.

Since the cement works closed there has been some debate over the future of the chimney – is in an eyesore or an iconic landmark. Personally, I go for the iconic status and do you know what? I think Eric Ravilious would have done as well.

March – Eric Ravilious

March 31, 2014

This, I suspect, is one of Eric’s best known images. It features as the March picture on the 2014 Ravilious calendar.


All those who realise I love railways will think that I love this picture. Those who know I am a Wiltshire dweller will think I do, too, for the view from the train window shows the Westbury White Horse. That’s something I pass by on a fairly regular basis. In fact, here’s a 2001 view when the old horse was in need of a clean up.


Yes, I do love the picture. It’s a great work of art but all is not quite as it seems.

Eric’s original picture showed the Long Man of Wilmington through the train window. He wasn’t satisfied and his wife, Tirzah, a quality artist herself, did a real cut and paste job, affixing the Wiltshire white horse in place of the Sussex giant.

As a railway nerd, I always thought that looked like an old Sussex train. Everything about it says so to me, from the lettering showing a carriage number to the leather strap for opening the window. Somehow that carriage looked wrong in Wiltshire. Most folks won’t notice that.

So all the brush strokes are by Eric, but the composition of the work is Tirzah’s. Between them – what team work – they created a wonderful and evocative image of times past.