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The Photographer - Paul Claxton
The Early Years - as both a life-long enthusiast cum avid steam cameraman, being resident in close proximity to the receiving end of the one-time Wakes Weeks' mass steam-hauled exodus to the Lancashire Coast, it was perhaps inevitable that Paul was to become a familiar sight at Blackpool Central shed in the 1960s, indeed usually to be found cleaning one or other of the depot's resident allocation of 'Jubilee' 4-6-0s or perhaps one of the more exotic visitors from other Regions.
It was at around this time that Paul sought to seek out steam in some of the more remoter areas of the land and trips to the North East and Scotland became a regular occurrence. A passion soon developing for Gresley V2s and for the remote splendour of their Waverley Route stamping ground. As is now well-documented, a campaign was established to ensure that the inevitable demise of steam might be remembered not merely as a depressing era set against a background of neglect and decay, but more so as a period when its departure was permitted to occur with at least an element of dignity. As the photographic evidence confirms today, during this period Paul and his friends made frequent visits to Lostock Hall, Rose Grove and Carnforth in order to clean the very last steam engines in service on BR.
The Mid Years - Paul soon found himself casting his net further afield, in 1972 witnessing the last Australian Beyer-Garratts at work in New South Wales, then in 1974 travelling by land through Indonesia and on into India.
The next chapter of his wanderings opened in South Africa in 1975, where he achieved his lifetime ambition of actually working on main line steam. Paul's steam career started as a fireman based at the celebrated Bloemfontein Depot in the Orange Free State where success came quickly and he soon found himself firing on the most prestigious express trains in the country. His regular engine came to be 15F 4-8-2 No 3126 and upon which his previous 'apprenticeship' was soon to reap its dividends in terms of the exemplary external condition of the locomotive!
Itchy feet eventually taking him north to Kenya, before returning to the UK in 1978.
The Latter Years - on his return Paul, with his beloved Pentax 6x7, was then to find himself visiting most parts of the UK and in particular the Cumbrian Fells - especially when a maroon pacific (or one of the other equally fine 3-cylinder products from Mr Stanier) was due to make an ascent to Shap or Blea Moor!