15th June 2021 · Peter Gray photographic collection.

Presenter: Laurence Waters.

Laurence was a professional photographer and is now the Honorary photographic archivist for the Great Western Trust at the Didcot Railway Centre. He has also written several books on Great Western Railway subjects, including the railways around Oxford. His talk this evening concentrated on images taken by Peter Gray. Peter was born 11th October 1927, his father and mother both worked for the Great Western Railway at Torquay from 1915. He started taking photographs of trains in the late 1940’s and continued for 60 years. His photographs included all matters concerning railways, stations and people. Kodak produced the Kodachrome film starting in 1930 until 2010 which was Peter’s choice of film throughout, albeit the film speed in the early days was slow. But it got better as technology improved. His camera was a standard Agfa model he used virtually all his career.

The first picture on the screen was a shot taken at Willesden showing a driver talking to two young trainspotters taken in 1957. This was a trait of Peter Gray incorporating a human element where he could as well as station “artifacts”. One of the early photographs shown was at Wadebridge shed with 1367, 1368 and 1369 in a line. Other locations included Bristol Temple Meads (1958), Liskeard Viaduct (1961), Looe (1959), Goodrington (1960) and Cardiff, this photograph showed the days when everything went by train including the tin bath.

After the break, the second half continued in a similar vein. A driver filling out a sheet, Diesel railcar W22W at Kidderminster (1959), this is now at the Didcot Railway Centre, 1664 at St Blazey (1961), 4658 Laira (1962) equipped with snow plough ready for action. An interesting photograph taken on the Looe branch depicting very heavy cloud. In the words of Laurence “lovely composed pictures and lovely locations”.

The evening then moved from Great Western Railway to Southern Railway images. 35072 Holland America Line at Wareham, 30200 at Bodmin showing the shed and building, T9 at Exeter St Davids (1959) and again a similar engine at Eastleigh, 31849 on a pickup freight (1959). Isle of Wight was also included with No 22 Brading at Ryde, No 29 at Cowes, No 25 with the Ryde tramway on the left and No 26 on a goods service at Wroxhall. Also shown 46240 City of Coventry (March 1964), 60009 Union of South Africa on Top Shed, Kings Cross (1962), Liverpool Street (1961) and Shepton Mallet (1961).

The evening concluded with the introduction of “modern traction” on the Western Region. These included D815 Druid at Honiton (April 1971), D812 RN Reserve and D819 Goliath at Aller Junction, D827 Kelly at Exeter (1961), D800 Sir Brian Robinson at Dawlish on a stormy day (1960), D801 Vanguard on a parcel train (1067). D1034 Western Dragon (1966), D1011 Western Thunder at Cowley Bridge (1967), D1010 Western Campaigner at Dawlish. D6320 with china clay wagons on Torrington Viaduct (1967), D6345 Sidmouth (1965), a class 47 at Kingswear and 142018 also at Kingswear (1967).

The audience of 92 were thoroughly entertained by a fantastic presentation. The photographs were of superb quality, great composition and colour. Absolutely excellent – we should have another evening. This was the summing up from the branch Chairman. Judging by the comments either on chat or actually heard from the audience many others thought the same. A big thank you to Laurence for the evening. A note from Laurence, copies are available to purchase from Didcot Railway Centre who will forward any request to Laurence to deal with.