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Home / Photographers / Roy Hobbs

Roy Hobbs

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Following evacuation to Somerset in the late 1940s and being billeted alongside the GWR main line through Langport, I was introduced to trainspotting by a school friend; this becoming my introduction to the fascinating transport world.  On my return home, my mother subsequently provided for my birthday an Ensign Ful-Vue box camera, the first photos taken being of the green London Transport country area buses.

I was fortunate inasmuch as my Reigate home was the HQ of this area of LT and also an important engineering base being responsible not only for this section of their operation, but also at the time, for the body overhaul of their Central area’s red buses by the expatriate Chiswick Works staff relocated here during the war period.

This resulted in a considerable variety of interesting vehicles of all kinds being seen locally well into the early 1950s, until vehicle standardisation sadly eliminated the great majority.  With Redhill, an important junction and rail centre also being close-by, it too became a significant location and various views were taken around the station and shed premises during this time.  However, all negatives from this era are no longer in my possession and, including the rail examples, are currently with a well-known LT bus enthusiast and photographer Alan Cross of Wigan.

During the early 1950s, having left secondary school, I joined the RAF in the Ground-Radar branch, at which time my photographic interests were mostly put on hold, with only minimum activity taking place during the period.  However, following demobilisation I eventually found work in the London area with the Marine Sales section of the Castrol organization.  Here my photographic interests once more came into play with the purchase of a folding 35mm Baldinette camera incorporating a f2.8 Cassar lens in a 1/250 shutter from London photographic specialists Wallace Heaton, then in nearby Bond Street.  This was in 1956 and my main interest then centred, once again, on the local SR scene around Redhill and nearby locaations within a roughly 10-mile radius, this being assisted by the acquisition of a sports/racing cycle enabling many otherwise difficult locations to be reached.

I’d always had an interest in the Irish rail scene, due to its, then, extremely antique locomotives and rolling stock, and visited there frequently between 1957 and 1963, sometimes with cycle but on other occasions by motorcycle, which included following various local rail tours such as those ran jointly by the IRRS/RCTS/SLS societies in 1961 and 1964.

The majority of monochrome photos up to 1959 were taken on the original Baldinette but I then decided to try a larger format camera and obtained an Ensign Autorange 16-20 II taking 16 2 ¼ x 1 5/8″ negatives on 120 film but found this limited for many views due to its 1/300 shutter speed.  For a short period I also experimented in 1959 by returning to 35mm using an East German Zeiss Werra camera with a superb Tessar lens but found it limited by its extremely poor viewfinder, which often resulted in regular subject misalignment.

Around 1961/62 I also spent short trial periods with a folding Voigtlander Bessa II and a pre-war Agfa Speedex Compur, but both were found wanting, especially in regard to film sharpness, particularly the former which other well-established photographers had similarly experienced, this being put down to probably lack of rigidity in its bellows mechanism.  A further short trial was undertaken in 1963 with a MPP Micropress camera, with roll filmback but once again limitations were discovered with its standard Ektar lens giving an unsatisfactory performance.

I finally settled later that year on an Ensign Autorange 820 Special using it in its 12 (2 ¼” square) frames mode, this overcoming to some extent the limitations of its 1/250 shutter speed, due to the resulting medium focus characteristics.  This was essentially my main black and white camera for several years into the mid-60s when I transferred completely to colour slides, employing from 1961 an Agfa Silette Compur incorporating an f2.8 Color-Solinar 1/500 lens/shutter combination and subsequently from 1967 a Praktica VF using a Pentax SMC Takumar f1.8 lens alongside the existing 1/500 focal plane shutter.  These two cameras, which are still in use currently, primarily for recording the continually evolving London area bus fleets and routes, having also seen use on my various overseas rail trips to Western Europe, along with those to Latin America during the time I was employed by the airline British Caledonian (BCAL) at Gatwick from 1971 to 1977.

The few UK rail views taken with this camera were predominantly of various rail tours and of steam as it continued to decline in such areas as the North West, along with Scotland and the North East during the run-down of the coal and steel industries there; I retain all the colour material referred to.

I still retain a limited interest in the London area bus scene but all present photography, both domestic and transport-related is via the medium of print film for general record purposes.

I was fortunate in enjoying the acquaintance and friendship of many other significant railway photographers including R C (Dick) Riley, Roy Vincent, Mike Pope, John Snell, Peter Gray of Teignmouth and former Swindon apprentice A E (Dusty) Durrant.  Lacking my own transport I frequently accompanied several of these friends, often as navigator, on their various car-based expeditions across the UK.  The two with whom I travelled the most were David Clark in David’s Austin Farina A40 (still with a neighbour in his New Eltham area home) and T B (Trevor) Owen when living in Camberley. With these pals I made several trips over many years in the 1960s, travelling widely across the UK right up to the time when routine BR steam effectively ceased in the North West in August 1968. Some of these photographers’ collections are also held by The Transport Treasury archive.

I hope that you enjoy the fruits of my photographic labours.

Roy Hobbs
25 March 2016