Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 08/12/2011

It Came From Outer Space!

Locust, originally uploaded by

Where’s a camera when you need one! I’m sure I’ve mentioned how, besides birds, animals, reptiles, insects, planet etc., one of my passions include trains.. well, not so much trains as locomotives (there is a difference). I’m quite lucky in that from where I sit most days during the day, I can see a wide variety of engines pass by, express, run abouts, freight there’s a constant stream. Every now and then something more interesting passes by, and on rare days a heritage engine may make an appearance. Today was my lucky day when a “streak” went past, running light (ie it’s not pulling anything) with billowing white clouds of steam enveloping it giving it an almost ethereal feel. For those not conversant in UK locomotive terms (and there’s probably few of us left, such is the stigma of Train Spotting – but as my founding ideology is based around Punk Rock (no, not spitting and swearing, Punk was all about doing it yourself) I don’t really care is there people snigger when I mention such stuff.. the thing is they don’t snigger for long!!), a “Streak” is the nickname for the A4 pacific locomotives built over 70 years ago by the London North Eastern Region company (LNER as it’s more commonly referred to) the most famous example of which is 4462 Mallard which to this day holds the World Record as the fastest steam train, having attained this accolade on 3 July 1938 when it reached 126mph. We’ve been very luck to watch one of the class, Bittern, being slowly refurbished at a local Heritage Railway over many years even having been invited up into the cab on one occasion – recently this locomotive has undergone a change of image (not a Gok Wan Acolyte*) being re-branded (everything is a brand these days.. that or a franchise… I wonder if I can brand myself as a franchise with the help of Wan Trinny Susanne Gok Mary Queen of Shops?) as 4492 Dominion of New Zealand, a name and number new to this class of locomotives and it was this that I saw steam past (the first time I’ve seen it in this livery).. quite magical.

I’ve mentioned before (again, I’m repeating myself) just how much I love using a number of the services that Google offer, top most of which is Google Docs. I can work on the same document simultaneously on my laptop, desktop, phone and tablet and any changes I make on any of these are reflected immediately on the others and best of all the application saves constantly so I very rarely loose anything I’ve typed (though of course, Dear Reader, you probably can pay Google to loose my verbage, so you don’t have to read it). Obviously you do need access to the internet, as this is currently a Cloud only service but I’m hoping that Google release an android client soon similar to the Android app Catch which I use currently when out and about and am inspired to put finger to screen/keyboard (it really doesn’t have the same ring as Pen to Paper does it). I no longer bother with the industry standard word processor or spreadsheet offerings from Microsoft – all the functionality I need is present in these free online services.. and I never have to worry about backing up any docs either as they’re all stored on Google’s servers.

The UK is bracing itself against high winds that have been forecast over the next couple of days, with speeds in excess of 90mph being mentioned. These gales often bring in with them a number of foreign bird species from further climes, that have been blown off course. The winds are heading in from the South West, which could mean that a number of US birds make an appearance on our shores. We already have a number of immigrants that haven’t made any move to repatriate themselves to their homelands, including Northern waterthrush, Bufflehead, and American purple gallinule. The last of these I’m amazed has made an appearance on the waterways of this country – they resemble the UK Moorhen, a bird I have rarely seen fly not because of any scarcity, they are abundant, but they’re a water bird that skulks around the water margins, disappearing into Reed beds whenever you approach them. For such a bird to appear here is pretty amazing – and what a bird, they’re far more colourful than their UK brethren (most foreign birds are, much to my chagrin) with their iridescent indigo, aqua and emerald plumage. Sadly the bird didn’t survive too long, exhaustion being sited as a possible cause of death. Only time will tell whether we see anything exciting over the next few days, but I will be glued to a number of bird watching websites.. well, not quite glued of course.. but I might write a script to monitor and retrieve any information from these sites but then again, I’ve been meaning to finish my website for a month now so don’t hold your breath (but it does give me an idea for a subscriber feature to the site!)

*A lyric from a Half Man Half Biscuit song “Fix It So She Dreams of Me” – a typical witty, cynical lyric from our dear Nigel.


  1. Well, I visited here just now to comment on the rather marvellous image of the locust only to discover your comments about the A4 steam engines; in particular the 4492 ‘Dominion of New Zealand’. I photographed this beauty at Nordern station, Dorset in September – the day of the Swanage Folk Festival and Steam Rally and so on. Unfortunately the engine had broken down at Nordern, creating some consternation and the holding up of passengers on subsequent trains from Swanage to Nordern. It was wonderful being able to photograph it though.

  2. What an amazing macro. What lens did you use?

    • I use a Sigma 150mm macro lens, it doesn’t have image stabilisation which in these circumstances I could really do with as I wasn’t for once using a tripod.

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