Picture of the week: 06/12/21

IT’S funny how a photograph has the power to sweep the years away in an instant.

This chance discovery from almost half a century ago recalled a glorious summer holiday in the Lake District while studying for A levels.

As a party of railway-mad teenagers, our destination for that break in July 1974 was a dream cottage, literally feet from the West Coast main line near Shap Summit.

And as well as offering the chance to watch the electric-hauled express trains thundering past the door, it provided the perfect touring base to explore the glorious Settle & Carlisle line south towards Leeds, or the long-closed Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway west towards Workington.

But if the holiday was SO memorable, how come the pictures remained hidden for almost 50 years? The answer, in part, lies in changing technology.

For these pictures were taken as colour slides, which might have been perfect for showing on the school’s slide projector – but not owning one at home meant it was never really possible to see what the pictures actually showed.

With exams to prepare for – and the excitement of university beckoning – it wasn’t long before the small collection of a few dozen slides was consigned to a little box at the back of a cupboard, surviving a succession of house moves, but their contents never seeing the light of day.

Flash forward to 2019 and the chance to get the slides burned onto CD finally provided the opportunity to see those shots from almost 50 years ago.

Predictably, perhaps, most might be only of interest to railway enthusiasts, with many of them chronicling the stream of Class 86 and 87 electric locomotives barrelling up and down the main line between Euston and Glasgow.

It also showcases some spectacular Lake District scenery – this part of the route over bleak Shap Fell was hacked out by thousands of tough navvies using picks and shovels in an amazing piece of Victorian engineering from 1844 onwards.

But what of that cheeky smile in the signalbox mirror? Although in the year below the rest of us at school, Pete – or Charlie as he tends to be known these days – was a sufficiently dedicated railway enthusiast to be welcomed along for the week-long adventure.

Nice, then, to discover that Charlie never lost his love of railways – or his equally affectionate memories of that break in the Lake District all those years ago. As he said in 2019 when the pictures first came to light: “I often look out of the window when I’m heading north to see whether I can see that cottage. I spend my life playing with trains…… busman’s holiday really.”

And what of that glorious Settle & Carlisle line? More of that next week, perhaps.

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