Smoke train photo shoot – not your usual School Tour

Many groups have found out that our School Tour access allows a custom tour of Surrey’s Heritage Rail Experience.

In conjunction with the Crescent Beach Photography Club (CBPC) we hosted one of these special tours at their request to try a photo shoot for club members. The CBPC had been out to ride the Sullivan Excursion in the past so many of the club members were familiar with the layout and the trams. A number of them were also familiar with trains.

Club member Derek Hayes, a friend of the FVHRS and author of Iron Road West, An illustrated history of BC’s Railways, had seen many pictures of steam train at a station surrounded by “smoke” or steam. Usually the real smoke from the coal or oil burning tends to go up rather than surround the trains, the “good” pictures tend to invade the platforms and track areas with steam from the engines.

Derek wanted to experiment with trains and smoke to see what is needed to get just the right effect of atmospheric backlit fog photos with silhouettes of trains and railway officials. In talking with Derek at a club meeting in 2018, I mentioned that we had access to a couple of theatrical smoke machines. And so started planning to get train, smoke and photographers together.

We determined that two conditions were needed to make sure there was time to try different settings: cooler weather and enclosed space. The cooler temperatures allow the smoke to stay visible longer; enclosed space means that it does not blow away so quickly. Being inside also meant that lighting could also be controlled. Well we have the enclosed space – the car barn is rather large.

Photographers to tend to look for opportunities to try new things, and so a number of CBPC members overheard the plans and also wanted to give it a try, which meant that costs could be shared. The FVHRS uses the “School Tour” program to coordinate the scheduling of these types of events for safety, access and staffing needs.

Due to other commitments and events in the year we could not agree on a date in the winter of 2018-2019 that worked for  all interested. The CBPC does plan on photo outings over the year and suitable dates for some conflicted with planned events. The idea lingered on to the fall of 2019 when we scheduled the “SMOKE shoot” for mid January 2020.

You may have noticed Derek’s idea of “silhouettes of trains and railway officials” which implies more than just the trams in the picture. In the past I seem to have become the subject of a number of images being the “face of the FVHRS” for many events and so I was persuaded to pose for a ‘few’ pictures.  I think the event was vastly improved when CBPC member Elizabeth Green arranged a great model, Roxanne Lewis, to be front and center for many of the pictures.

On the night of the shoot there were fourteen club members there, some with more than one camera. Using the fog machines and a few industrial work lights we tried a number of arraignments or tram, people and lights. A good time was had by all, even if a bit chilly. I did overhear a few shutterbugs say they had to stop because they filled all their memory cards.

Please see the gallery of pictures below for some of the shots submitted for the club’s member’s night. See the CBPC website for a few more and links to their social media sites.

If you are interested in the CBPC, the meetings are generally on Wednesday nights, in Crescent Beach, see the CBPC website for  dates.

If you are interested in booking a special time with the trains, or Cloverdale Station, for your club or organization, please see our School Tour page – you don’t have to be a school! Or email to start a discussion on what we can do with your ideas.

CBPC photographers taking pictures while some FVHRS members watch