Even this saddletank steam locomotive, Harrogate, here being refilled from the water tower by her fireman, harmonises with the line-side vegetation. Harrogate began her life as a shunter in a gasworks but is now in fine fettle in this rural retirement.
On this occasion we decided to follow the footpath beside the track out from Alston into glorious Cumbrian landscape. In summer the lineside is fringed with wild flowers, including spotted orchids, and some very fine displays of guelder rose (above).
The line crosses the South Tyne about half a mile out of town and it was while we were leaning over the bridge parapet that we watched this spotted flycatcher, flitting out from an ash branch and snatching insects. The afternoon was so still that you could hear the bird's beak snap shut over its prey.
Harrogate caught up with us and steamed past, sounding her whistle, hissing steam and pulling her rattling carriages, clicketty-clacking over the rail joints. After she'd passed and disappeared around the bend in the track the flycatcher was still on its branch, undisturbed by the passing mechanical monster.
A transport system at one with its rural surroundings...