Home / Railway Gallery / Standard Gauge Heritage Railways / East Lancashire Railway / ELR 2018 / Santa Specials - November & December 2018 [210]


How quickly this year has gone by, we seem to have gone from the 'Beast From the East' to a heatwave from hell, and then back again to Winter in the blink of an eye, is it really time for the annual 'Santa Specials' already? For as long as I can remember I have always gone along and photographed the Santas, which you might think is a bit strange for a 'Bah Humbug' snotgobbler hater like me, but what is there not to like about a steam loco pulling 7 to 10 full coaches and in very cold air at that, when a good display of steam and smoke is almost guaranteed. Sadly it seems that I'm often in a minority of one, as I didn't see a single other photter around, and I can't work out if it is the headboards or the kids that put them off from attending.

I did say that I have always gone along to photograph the Santas, but that is not strictly true, as last year I almost missed them completely due to an annoying back problem which put me out of action for several weeks. Hopefully I won't have any similar problems this year, and I can catch a few more of them at different locations along the line, as I did again on Sunday 9th of December, though after several days of heavy rain, I was cursing my luck that this particuilar day was bright and sunny, and the very low Sun caused me no end of problems with the north facing steam locos. Good job I know the line and its various moods very well, and have 'contingency' locations for such conditions.

Another visit on the 16th of December, but this time I ventured a bit further south to Irwell Vale and Ramsbottom, and took most of my shots there. Will I make it down to Summerseat next time, we shall see!

Well I didn't make it as far as Summerseat, but that was mainly due to the weather, instead I spent Sunday 23rd of December tramping around the area north of Ewood Bridge in what can only be descibed as pure Windypics/East Lancashire weather - in other words 'grey, wet and miserable' - wonderful, just the way I like it!

It was back again on Monday 24th of December - Christmas Eve, for what would be the last day of this year's Santa Specials, and the main reason for the visits on both days was that the mighty A4 Pacific 'Union of South Africa' had come along to haul the services, and I just love A4 Pacifics, they're my all time favourite steam locos. The weather was also very different as well, in fact you couldn't have had two more contrasting days, with blue skies and sunshine and a heavy frost creating some unsual effects. Now although I'm mainly a Crap Weather photographer and not a big fan of the low Sun, especially when I have to shoot into it when the steam locos are facing north, I needed a dry day so that I could try out 'Big Bertha', my new monster 150-500mm lens, which is not weatherproof in the way that my other lenses are (I will get a raincover for it in due course). This gave me a number of new options, and I was very impressed with its performance, but I have to say that carting all my gear around on foot for over 5 miles, especially after walking a similar distance on muddy paths the previous day, left me well and truly shagged out, and it was a good job that there were no services running on Christmas Day so I could have a good rest and recover again. I forget that I'm getting on a bit and not as young as I used to be, but what the eck, it's great fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. This was definitely my best year for shooting Santas in quite some time, it was almost like the old days.