Welcome to 'Footplate Cameraman', a site solely dedicated to the memory of my Dad, Jim
Carter - or 'Jim the Steam' as he was also known in some quarters.
Both my immediate family and dad's close friends have inspired me to set up this website in order to share his superb photographs with you. It also gives me chance to tell a few tales along the way, which I know Dad would approve as he was no stranger to telling a tale or two himself!
One thing for sure, he always wanted his photographs to be seen by fellow railway enthusiasts and for future generations who were not around to witness steam days for themselves.
The first photograph on Footplate Cameraman is for my Dad...No 46245 City of London at Edge Hill taken in 1961.
I hope everybody enjoys the website.
Thanks for viewing, Chris Carter.
As a young boy Dad was fascinated by steam engines. He would spend hours on end spotting and taking photographs at Wigan North Western Station with his younger brother Colin. All he dreamed of was one day being a Engine Driver. Seeing the mighty Stanier Pacifics on the Anglo-Scottish 'Royal Scot' just added to his fascination for all things steam and those childhood train spotting days left a lasting impression.
In August 1952, 15 year-old Jim Carter started work for British Railways as an Engine Cleaner at Sutton Oak Motive Power Depot in St Helens' and in the early days he did a variety of labouring jobs like sand drying, coaling engines, shovelling ashes and 'knocking up' to name just a few. He always said that he enjoyed cleaning most of all; the sight of an immaculate locomotive ready to leave the depot gave him enormous satisfaction. He could hardly wait for the day to come when he would be going off the shed as a fireman. This picture on the footplate sums up his determination and his childhood ambitions of working on steam engines becoming a reality.
was a time when every small boy dreamed of driving a steam engine. This was
certainly the case with my dad, whose lifetime love of steam locomotives began
at a very early age, spending all his spare time at local stations spotting
trains with his brother, my Uncle Colin.
Dad's obsession with railways continued at school where he was more interested in the view he had of Sutton Oak (8G) shed yard from the classroom window than learning the three 'Rs' - many a time he was in trouble for not paying attention to lessons in class! He once said tongue in cheek that his ambition to become a brain surgeon didn't cut the mustard with the careers teacher at school and so he ended up working for BR instead!
Be that as it may, no school leaver was happier with his lot than my 15 year-old dad when he started work as an engine cleaner at Sutton Oak sheds, St Helens in 1952. Having got one foot firmly on the ladder, he was determined that nothing would stop him from achieving his goal of driving main line expresses.
I was talking to my Uncle Glen, who was some 6 years younger than dad, and he clearly remembers being taken on the footplate during visits to shunting yards. He also recalls helping dad revise for his fireman and driver tests. Dad gave him an instruction manual and asked him to repeatedly fire off questions at him.
One question the family always remember was - What is steam? Well, it must have worked because dad started at the bottom and worked his way up through the ranks, moving to Widnes, Patricroft and Newton Heath.
(Below) This photo was taken after dad moved to Widnes in 1954 when he was travelling during his national service. He still found time to photograph his much loved steam engines and this one was taken in 1955 with his trusty kodak Brownie box camera at Leeds city station. The locomotives in the shot are an unidentified 'Class 5' and a 'Baby Scot' ready to leave on an express bound for Liverpool.
(Below) The photo shows Patricroft's old shed with a line up of various steam classes. On 9th of March 1959 Dad started work at Patricroft where, during the first week, he fired on two 'Jubilees' and a 'Royal Scot' working the 5.10pm Manchester Exchange- Windermere Express.It was from then on that he really got into railway photography. He always allowed himself at least half an hour before booking on at Patricroft to take a walk around the shed with his camera to see which of bigger engines were in good photographic positions. On many an occasion he had a few shots in the bag before booking on.
(Above-Below) To celebrate the age of steam and the role that Patricroft station and motive power depot played in the grand scheme of things, Wigan-based graphic designer Mark Mennell, a creative innovator of wall art from metal, wood and mosaic, was recently commissioned by the Friends of Patricroft Station, Salford Community Leisure and Northern Rail to produce a set of lightweight information panels and artwork which can now be seen on the station's Liverpool platform.
Mark began by surfing the Internet for photographs of Patricroft station and engine shed from steam days, and came upon my website; he dropped me a line to ask permission to use some of dad's photos, which I was more than happy to oblige. To take part in the creation of a display of Patricroft's railway heritage at the station is not only a tribute to all the railwaymen who worked at both the shed and station over the years, I'm sure dad would feel justifiably proud...I know I am. (Below) This is Mark on the left and yours truly on the right at the opening ceremony at Patricroft station on Saturday 2nd April 2016.
As can be seen from the images above and below, the artwork contains a number of Information panels giving the viewer an insight into the area's rich history; there are also panels based around the story of the Stanier 'Black 5'; incidentally No 45156 Ayreshire Yeomanry' was the last engine to leave the Patricroft Shed driven by none other than dad, as mentioned on the first Patricroft page.
The artwork was produced by digital printing onto lightweight composite panels, necessary due to the age and condition of the platform walls. Mark also specialises in the delivery of many other inspirational art projects designed to bring something special into the lives of everyday people, such as local community groups and schools through to large public and private sector organisations.
The impact of his metal artworks, mosaics, painted murals and printed graphics are not only striking, but suitable for a range of even the most demanding environments - and I just love the idea of Mark's art cheering up our drab stations; click HERE to contact Mark should you wish to discuss a potential project.
(Below) This group photograph was taken in pouring rain following the inauguration of the artwork at Patricroft station ny the Ceremonial Mayor of Salford on Saturday 2nd April 2016, and shows from left to right: Alan Davies, the Mayor's consort; the Ceremonial Mayor of Salford Councillor Peter Dobbs, and on the right myself standing alongside Mark Mennell.
(Below) Dad passed out for driving steam locomotives in August 1962, by which time I suspect he had a secret yearning of becoming a professional photographer too - and to his credit, he actually achieved both, for he will always be known as the 'Footplate Cameraman' with several books to his name - 'London Midland Steam In The North-West published by D Bradford Barton; 'Working Steam' by Viking Publications; 'Footplate Cameraman' published by Ian Allan; and 'From the Footplate - The Colour of Steam' published by Atlantic, plus he was a regular contributor to the monthly railway magazines, including 'Railway World' which featured his superb Carter's Double-Spread. The covers from his Books are below in the order of publication.
Dad transferred to Newton Heath Depot after Patrcroft closed on 30th June 1968. Newton Heath will always a very special place for me; even the football club I support was started up by Newton Heath engine drivers - and in case you're wondering, the club I'm talking about is Manchester United FC.
But trains and railways have always been my main interest in life, which is why I became a regular visitor to Newton Heath shed during childhood spotting days. Oddly enough, though, I can't remember the first time dad took me there; he said it was as soon as I could walk, which doesn't surprise me; my interest in trains must have something to do with the Carter genes...and my wife wonders why I love diesels so much!
I hear people talking about enginemen having steam in their blood, well I'm pretty sure my dad had high-octane diesel running through his veins because after BR steam finished in 1968 his first grudging opinions of modern traction changed into something edging on respect.
Perhaps it might surprise some enthusiasts for he has always been known as a steam footplate cameraman, and this is why I wanted to show another side of him and post some of his diesel photographs on the Internet.
But then diesel runs in my blood too, which is hardly surprising considering who dad was. Not much of a choice in that, suppose. When browsing through dad's diesel photos there are some things etched in my brain and the memories I have of visiting Newton Heath are beyond price. Dad was a Newton Heath driver for many years and taking me there was one of the best things he ever did.
The access I had was pretty much unlimited and I never wasted a moment; the shed was usually full of Duffs, Peaks, Whistlers and Rats - that's Class 47s, 45s, 40s and 25s should the uninitiated be reading this.
I regularly joined the men in the cabs for a bit of shunting up Red Bank or taking a loco to be cleaned. I used to sit in them for hours on end, fiddling with things that I shouldn't!
I recall dad giving me a diesel key, and my favourite moments - under supervision mind - was starting up the locos which, let's face it, for a small boy was brilliant! I just couldn't get enough of it.
Even today I never tire of hearing the roar of a Whistler starting up; I visited the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) for a Deltic weekend on 15th-16th October 2011, and saw the Class Forty Preservation Society's machine. I stood there like a mesmerised time traveller, gawping at 40145 for a long moment, letting all the memories come flooding back of my visits to Newton Heath.
This was the first time I had visited the railway since dad died - the ELR was a regular haunt for him after he retired from BR, and it was quite an emotional day, but a good one nevertheless. For me, the Whistler held its own amongst all those Deltics, and though I did have my Diesel Key in my pocket there were too many people around to take her for a spin!
Over the years I've lost count of the number times I've sat in a diesel cab with dad; he knew his stuff when it came to locos and he spent hours teaching me how they worked. The fact is, when pottering through life you may not always realise how lucky you are, but that's not the case with me...dad gave me an unbelievable upbringing with railway adventures around every corner and a very big horizon.
(Below) It was not only the coaling tower at Patricroft that provided Dad with his best vantage points. If there was anything high enough in the vicinity he would clamber up it! This classic elevated shot of 46047 is a good example.
When I was looking though dad's things to find what best summed him up as a train driver and that of a railway photographer, I found this letter from the British Railway Police, which I suspect is just the tip of the iceberg when it came to his encounters with them. I remember joining him on trips and we'd be pretty much everywhere on the railway, and it wouldn't be long before he was going somewhere he shouldn't! I can honestly say they were fantastic times and I feel privileged to have had the experience...this letter sum's him up perfectly...
This photograph of dad was taken in the early 80's when he was gathering photographs together for his book 'Footplate Cameraman.' It's not generally known that he originally decided to title his third book 'One Man's Railway'...however, I know which I prefer - 'Footplate Cameraman' has always sounded right to me.
(Below) Dad had loads of sayings, one of them being 'Madder than a box of frogs!' I think that's true with this photograph of him. I'm not sure whether he's taken a good photo or caught a big fish. Either way, he looks pretty happy with himself and my wife wonders why 'I'm daft as a brush'...say no more.
Finally, a little bit about the legal stuff. The photographs on this site are protected by copyright, however I am willing to give permission to use the pictures as long as it is in the spirit of this page, but you do need to ask first. Dad's photos are not in the public domain...so please respect them. If you wish to make contact, my email address is below. Please note - this is not a 'clickable mail-to link via Outlook Express. You will have to email manually. Thank you.