Going to extremes at Corrour

Ewan Crawford

This is a photograph of a 37 taken with a generator and a bank of studio flashes ... and a guessed shutter speed.

Corrour: Class 37 hauled sleeper train heading south at Corrour at night. Lit by studio flashes. Ewan Crawford //1995

It was around the time of the discussions about withdrawing the Fort William sleeper. I had a passion for O. Winston Link style photographs and had been taking photographs of the sleeper every friday night for about two years at various random spots up and down the length of the West Highland Line.

To take this photograph we drove up to Rannoch. We arrived there just as the afternoon northbound Sprinter did. It was early and it took two dashes from the carpark to the station manhandling boxes, rucsacks and a generator to get everything on board. An extremely kind guard held back the train while this vast amount was loaded into the train. And so off we set for Corrour.

A short ride spent getting odd looks from fellow travellers. We waited by the door.

At Corrour we dragged everything back off the train. The generator was stashed in the doorway of 'Morgan's Den' and we set off into the moor to setup tents for the night. On our return the generator had vanished ... a little wind-up for us and a story to the effect that a couple of lads had set off across the moor with it. And then a smile. " put it away for safe keeping" or words to that effect. He was a character. We whiled away the hours until the sleeper came talking of hills, bothies, cleaning up bothies, the disgusting and worrying process of removing needles from bothies and finally the now abandoned farm at the south end of Loch Treig and a large pile of fenceposts some gits had set fire to.

With an hour to go we setup the generator and lights carefully beyond the fence at the south end and west side of the station. There was still that strong blue light in the sky you get after the sun goes down. I crossed my fingers it would last. It did. We connected the cables up, setup a tripod and waited.

Of course you can hear a 37 some distance off round here growing louder and quieter, applying power and taking it away. We started the generator. Flashes start whining as they charge. Finally a headlight appeared. Some quick calculations about balancing available light (must have dark blue sky, must have dark blue sky), flash light, speed of film, shutter speed, iris (tricky ... this isn't exactly a studio). The locomotive pulls into the station and we let the driver know and ... flash. The generator slows to almost a stall and recovers.

We relocate the lights and take another, just in case. I needn't have bothered. The first was the one as I found out a week later, after development. There is a blue sky and the exposure is about spot on. Jammy.

The sleeper leaves so quickly and suddenly we're standing in the dark in a moor with a large pile of wires, studio flashes, tripods and a generator.
So after a night on the moor we returned to Rannoch.

Copies of the photographs went to Tom-na-Faire and Polmadie, as a sort of 'thank you'. I wonder where they are now?

These are probably the most extreme lengths I've ever gone to for a photograph.