A Tornado in Bristol

Sunday morning on the Portway

Sunday morning started quietly enough.  I put on some warm clothes, it was only 6º C outside, bright and sunny. Harnessed the dogs, found a coat, jumped in the car, down the Portway, under the Suspension Bridge and down the Long Ashton bypass, parked up, clambered out of the car and waited on this bridge.

A bridge to a farm in Long Ashton

There really was a Tornado on the way….

While we waited, I was given on the spot lessons in using an enormous camera. I was riding shotgun on the photography. Brian had the really big camera, I had his spare. And what training did I get?  I was told to hold it and press a button and keep pressing it and try not to get the parapet in the picture. So I took some pics of the foliage. Those are my practice shots above (the parapet is carefully positioned in one).

The big camera (not the one I was using)

The Tornado was coming. It really was.

First a whistle… there’s always a whistle… and then a puff of smoke

And then…

…round the corner it came!  09:32:56

She'll be coming round the corner...

I pressed the button on the enormous camera and kept my finger down. I took 35 shots in 18 seconds. That’s faster than I think. Really.




Lights, music, camera, action!

Oh the glory of the steam train, the sound, the speed, the plume of billowing clouds catching the morning sunlight, living and breathing, the nearest thing to a dragon, the pictures don’t give you half of it, a quarter of it. There’s nothing quite like a steam engine in full throttle – the hot smells of the coal and the hiss of the steam and the pistons….

To see the difference in the two cameras, here is one of Brian’s –

The Torbay Express pulled by Tornado

And then she stormed under the bridge and flew down the line to the South Coast. A golfer in a pink shirt, who had stopped on his way to the range, said, ‘She doesn’t hang about, does she?!’

And who, or what, is the Tornado? Only the first A1 modern new built steam engine for zillions of years, well since 1960, that’s what.  Heading down to Plymouth on a pleasure steam; this sweetheart is certified to do 75 mph and is designed to do a ton.

Steady on Zeb, we sound like we could be getting into this!

Woo-oo Hooo!

And I didn’t get the parapet in the pictures, though I have a way to go in photographing trains at 75 mph….

14 thoughts on “A Tornado in Bristol

  1. heidiannie

    That’s a great shot. Where’s the other 34?
    And where did Brian set up for his shots?
    I love trains. A steam train at 75 mph… you could have done a video!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      The other 34 are in the computer and Brian has a ‘few’ more on his. He wasn’t so far away – next time maybe a video Heidi ! Glad to hear you love trains too :)

      Monday am. I’ve added a couple more, one of Brian’s to show the difference. It was a very dark cutting, the sunshine over the top, just catching the plume and the light is very ‘blue’ at this time of year, so I’ve had a go at lifting the colours, but I’m not very good at photo editing.

      Promise this won’t turn into a train spotting blog everyone :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Celia, It was on Top Gear earlier in its career, racing a car and a bike – Kings Cross to Edinburgh :) It wasn’t the best place to take a train photo but it sure was fun :)

      On YouTube – Search for:

      Top Gear Steam Train Race Part 1/4 The one where Clarkson shovels coal! May predicted ‘he would be dead by the time the train reached the end of the platform’

      Oh I’ll put the embed code here.

  2. cityhippyfarmgirl

    The Monkeys would have been squealing with delight if they had been standing on that bridge. VERY big Thomas the Tank Engine fans which means any train is a potential to be in the story as well. That would have been fun taking the photos, especially with the big camera :-)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thomas the Tank has single handedly kept the love of the steam engine alive I think, Brydie – and anyone would squeal when one of these goes by :)

  3. blue

    What a beauty! And it’s a BIG train too – all those carriages!
    I can see how this train spotting (steam engine train spotting that is) could become very catching.

  4. lynne

    I see the tell tale “red ring” on that lens which means it is an L series professional lens…..a sure sign that the photographer is not to be argued with …………………….

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      @ blue – It was a very lovely engine and it is always nice to see something with your own eyes. It’s the smell that does it for me, waves of nostalgia :)

      @ Lynne – I think you know more about cameras than me. The photographer was grumbling that his filter needed replacing this morning… :)

  5. drfugawe

    Sadly, they’re all gone in the U.S. – but I’ll always remember the excitement as a kid of going down to the station when one of the last really big ones would be coming through – it was much like being up close to a gigantic, living, breathing prehistoric animal.

    There are a few “nostalgia” trains doing short runs in the summer here and there, but it’s not the same – is it?

  6. GillthePainter

    What a hoot.
    We live near steam engine country. It all gets very exciting when walking through the woods and hills, as the plume of steam approaches.
    You can get rather close to the tracks too, close enough that the train speeds past and blows your wig off.

  7. In a Welsh Garden

    A Fab post – I could sense and hear the train coming closer, closer as I read on..What amazing photographs too – brilliant. Reminds me of that film , ‘The Railway Children’ – The Age of Steam and all that – Love it.

  8. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Doc – it’s mostly heritage stuff here too, but we have loads of them, and this one is allowed to go on the main line so gets to do big runs, though it is not part of the regular train service. We have lots of steam fairs too, with all sorts of steam powered machines on display.

    Gill – what fun that must be – to be that close to the tracks – is that the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway at Toddington that runs down to the racecourse ? Brian has just walked into the room – says it has a special tunnel – the Greet Tunnel – which goes right through the hillside….

    Hi Inawelsh ! It’s pure Railway Children, I jump up and down and resist the urge to take off my flannel underwear and wave it at the driver :)

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