On a sunny Saturday in October, I ventured up to Denbighshire, North Wales for a day out at Llangollen Railway. Olympus and London Camera Exchange had teamed up with Llangollen Railway for a day of photography surrounded by trains of days gone by.
The idea of these events is to give photographers a chance to have a go and get to grips with camera gear (in this case, Olympus camera bodies and lenses) in an environment other than the shop (which, let’s be honest, isn’t a natural shooting ground for photographers!). When we ordered the tickets we could let them know exactly what camera or lens we were interested in trying out.
On the day, the organisers turned up with plenty of Olympus gear to go around and an Olympus expert was on hand to answer any questions. We also had a very helpful volunteer guide from Llangollen Railway. I must admit, I thought there might have been a push for sales, but there wasn’t. We were offered a discount should we want to buy any gear, but we certainly didn’t feel obliged to buy anything.
The day began at Llangollen Station, the start of the primarily steam hauled heritage railway line through the beautiful Dee Valley. The line now runs for 10 miles, from Llangollen to Corwen, and is just part of what used to be the old Ruabon to Barmouth main line. The original line was closed to passenger trains in 1965 and goods trains in 1968 with much of the track and its infrastructure removed soon after. In 1975 a group of enthusiasts decided to resurrect part of the line and thus created Llangollen Railway, with signal boxes and stations being rebuilt over the years.
A few shots were taken of the train and the station before we boarded the train for our trip up the railway line. We had a little educating to do as the man sat opposite couldn’t understand why women would entertain the thought of enjoying trains and photography. The fact that there were at least 4 of us females sat in the carriage with our camera gear seemed to have passed him by. I hadn’t realised that as soon as I’d climbed aboard the steam train I’d stepped back in time as well!
With a toot of the whistle and a cloud of steam, we were off, following the River Dee up the valley. The views were fantastic and the weather perfect. On the way to Corwen, the train stopped at Berwyn, Glyndyfrdwy and Carrog stations, but, with a busy day ahead of us, we didn’t have time to stop off at all of the stations and have a wander around. Another time, perhaps.
We didn’t travel all the way to Corwen, instead, with the promise of being able to look inside the signal box, we alighted at Carrog and awaited the steam train’s return to collect us for our return journey to Llangollen.
Carrog is a wonderful little station. It has retained its original ticket hall and has a lovely little tea room too. Former railway coaches have been converted into a shop selling railway memorabilia and flowers adorn the station platform.
Carrog signal box sits at the end of the station platform and we were kindly allowed up into the box in pairs (you really can’t get any more than 2-3 people in there at any one time!). An engineer was busy fixing something, so I took a few shots and left him to it (it’s got to be pretty annoying trying to fix something in a small space without other people coming in and making it even more cramped).
It wasn’t long before the steam train was rolling back into the station and we were soon on our way back through the beautiful Dee countryside to Llangollen.
Back at Llangollen station, we had a wander around and waited for the next train to leave so we could capture it from the bridge (we had to wait a while!). The only problem photographing a steam train from a bridge is dodging the soot and smoke!
For the final part of the day, we headed to the engine sheds for a tour. This part of Llangollen Railway is usually out of bounds to visitors, but we were able to see the engines which are in the middle of being restored or fixed. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep a heritage railway running.
All in all, it was a wonderful and interesting day out at Llangollen Railway with Olympus and London Camera Exchange. The weather couldn’t have been better and we saw some great sights.
There’s plenty more to see and do in the area, such as the Horseshoe Falls, horse-drawn canal boats and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, but we had to get home so I’ll show you those another day.