Photographer Cheryl Smith from Leeds visited the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway's Victorian Evenings in 2004, searching for a suitable subject for her early camera.
This is her story of this wonderfully atmospheric image, taken on a lengthy exposure in falling rain whilst the train waited at Lakeside for the passengers to return from their cruise on Windermere.
I have been visiting the L&HR since I was a child. As well as photography, which has now become my career, I have a keen interest in steam trains, the Lake District and the Victorian era. After seeing the advertisement for the Victorian Evening trains, I made up my mind to come along this year and have a go at combining all these passions!
I wanted to use my Kodak No2 Box Brownie camera – which has been converted to a pinhole aperture – to capture a classic subject, such as a Victorian steam train. I wanted a black and white photo that looked at least 100 years old, even though it was actually taken in 2004. In Furness Railway Number 20, I had the ideal subject!
The Box Brownie is of course one of the very early mass-produced cameras, and my friend Jonathon has converted mine to a pinhole camera. In other words, the aperture, which allows light into the camera, is literally the size of a pinhole. Jonathon has patiently taught me how it works. The exposure time is far greater than for the normal Box Brownie, because it takes a long time for enough light to go through the pinhole to expose the 120 (medium format) film inside the camera.
Using the light-meter from my modern SLR camera, set on F8, I read the light of my subject. Then using the chart Jonathon had made for the pinhole, I was able to find my exposure time, which for this subject on that gloomy night was 30 minutes! Luckily for me, the kind people from the Furness Railway Trust were equally as eager as I was to let the Brownie do it's work, even though it was pouring with rain!
So what about the finished result? I love this photo, and it has come out just how I wanted it. The exposure time was so long that you can’t actually see the rain, or any trace of the various crew members who had to walk up and down the platform and tend to the engine whilst the aperture was open! Now I have my very own Victorian style photo that I took myself, with a little help from fellow enthusiasts!
İFurness Railway Trust