Every November at the end of the summer timetable a special charter travels the line with enthusiasts who share the twin passions of steam trains and photography. The train drops them at Campbell’s Platform and positions are taken at the seaward end and along the wall below. Bristling with lenses, tripods and bags full of gadgets, some stand on stools and step ladders. Down the line, Taliesin, with a string of heritage carriages, waited patiently in the trees.
A big blob of cloud arrived with the charter so it was time for a chat and sandwich break; I recognised Geoff from the same event nine years ago who subsequently stayed at Campbell’s Cottage and is threatening to return for New Year. ‘You’ll be very welcome Geoff, tell the others how great it is!’ It used to be known as Dduallt Mess sleeping eighteen volunteers in bunk bed accommodation but these days sleeps four in two en-suite bedrooms.
I asked a man with an American accent how much he’d paid to join the train; he’d thought it was about £50 a day for three days but that was small beer compared to the plane ticket from Detroit!
Sunshine moved slowly up the valley like a giant floodlight and the walkie-talkie gave the driver the signal. Spectacular plumes of steam spouted out of the chimney and jetted forwards from beneath the engine. A sixty second burst of click-click-clicks, like you hear on the news, followed the train as it rounded the corner. The driver reversed and repeated the journey twice to give the chance of a better shot or a better angle with a different lens. Then another engine pulled a string of slate wagons up and free-wheeled down. Likewise this happened several times until it was time for the circus to carry on down the line. And this is what it was like: