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After all, a colour photo will always polarise opinion about the transition from steam and command a scrutiny bordering on obsession. RECONNAISSANCE WITH A CAMERA by Richard S Greenwood MBEI've always lived in a house where you could hear the trains - at least if the wind was in the right direction.Okay, perhaps the steam versus diesel debate may have lost some of its sting over years, but even the most placid spotter still bellyaches about the sad demise of Britain's railways during the Sixties, much of it inextricably linked to the decline of BR's ageing steam fleet and the dastardly Beeching axe. All night shunting in the 1940s, overnight freights in the 1950s and 1960s and now East Lancashire Railway locomotives whistling in Heywood station.Some of my earliest memories involve train journeys.

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The lens was a 3 element example and its performance fell off at wide apertures, but I bought one and the Sportsman was relegated to colour work.The Iloca served until early 1961 when a Leica II was acquired (left) which had a f3.5 Elmar lens and a nominal 1/500th sec speed, though the shutter was very tired and something like 1/100th actual fastest speed was the best it could do.So when I saw a Leica IIIa advertised in Amateur Photographer by someone living in Haslemere (I was resident in Guilford at the time) I dashed over and bought it. Even odder still, railway photography - a natural adjunct to spotting - didn't come cheap either, yet it became one of the fastest growing pursuits for boys - and hallelujah for that! The talent to which I am referring are gentlemen born and raised during the 1940s and 1950s, who spent the best part of their youth dashing around the country in the pursuit of loco numbers or taking photographs of trains just for the fun of it. I'm talking about that quintessentially British 1950s curiosity called train spotting; a hobby demanding such high levels of commitment and pricey long-distance train travel, that it's surprising it ever got off the ground in the first place, especially during the penny-pinching post-war years.

'Terrier' 0-6-0T 32636 on 6th April 1963, and Exeter St Davids (below) with this study of 0-6-0PT 3794 performing station pilot duties on 9th July 1961.

Fast-forward to the present day and Richard's fifty-odd year old photos of BR's steam days can now be enjoyed by millions on the Internet.

This engine was allocated to Bacup shed, which prior to closure in 1954, provided the power for the Rochdale station passenger pilot as well as the goods pilots.

Until 1952 they ran over the direct Rochdale-Bacup line being the only traffic to use the Bacup Shed to Facit section. It wasn't until August 1958, on starting my first fulltime job, that I was able to afford an Ilford Sportsman 35mm camera with a 1/200th second shutter and f3.5 45mm lens.

It had its limitations, of course, especially when photographing fast moving trains or in poor light, but it turned out some acceptable work.

In October 1959 my boss drew my attention to a special offer on Iloca Rapid 35mm cameras; these had a 1/500th second shutter speed, a f2.8 lens and integral (but not coupled) light meter.