RANIERI: MAS­TER OF HIS ART

Li­nesiders pay trib­ute to ‘strat­ford Mafia’ steam pho­to­graphic great, Mal­colm Ranieri.

Steam Railway (UK) - - NEWS FOCUS - By DAVID WIL­COCK

The UK’s com­mu­nity of steam pho­tog­ra­phers was stunned in Oc­to­ber by news of the sud­den death of Mal­colm Ranieri FRPS – one of the most adept and most pop­u­lar cam­era­men of the post-BR preser­va­tion era.

A mem­ber of the so-called ‘Strat­ford Mafia’ – a group of West Mid­lands-area rail­way pho­tog­ra­phers who reg­u­larly chased steam on the main line to­gether from the early 1980s through to the 2000s – Mal­colm, 72, was thought to have been in good health. Only a few days be­fore his death, on Septem­ber 28, he was ac­tively pho­tograph­ing GWR pan­nier tank No. 7714 at the Sev­ern Val­ley Rail­way.

How­ever, around the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber he sud­denly went in­com­mu­ni­cado.

A post mortem re­vealed that Mal­colm, a life­time bach­e­lor, had died of a heart at­tack in the ten to 14 days be­fore be­ing found by friend An­drew Bell on Oc­to­ber 12.

A fu­neral ser­vice was to be held at Oak­ley Wood Cre­ma­to­rium, Bishop’s Tach­brook, Leam­ing­ton Spa on Thurs­day Novem­ber 1. His only sur­viv­ing rel­a­tive is his brother, Christo­pher.

Mal­colm was born in De­cem­ber 1945 to an Ital­ian father and an English mother, and he was brought up in ru­ral War­wick­shire.

His rail­way pho­to­graphic in­ter­est didn’t blos­som un­til the mid to late 1970s, en­cour­aged by an­other mem­ber of the ‘Strat­ford Mafia’ – Michael Squire – with whom he worked as a lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer and au­dit man­ager at War­wick District Coun­cil. The pair trav­elled to­gether on countless trips to pho­to­graph steam, in­clud­ing to East Ger­many, from which he ac­quired the nick­name ‘Von Small­hausen’ – a com­men­tary upon his short, stocky build, and a nod to the char­ac­ter in the sit­com ‘Allo ‘Allo.

He had a sharp, dry wit, but didn’t baulk at mak­ing him­self the butt of a joke. He would of­ten bran­dish a gold and black foot­ball scarf, de­not­ing his undy­ing al­le­giance to Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers FC.

By the mid1980s, Mal­colm’s sparkling, qual­ity cam­era work was ap­pear­ing reg­u­larly in the pages of Steam Rail­way and was in high de­mand by rail­way so­ci­eties. Close friend Pete Berry from Glouces­ter cites the kind of lengths to which Mal­colm went to ex­e­cute the ‘per­fect’ rail­way pho­to­graph. He re­mem­bers: “It was July 14 1985 and we had gone to Star­cross Har­bour to pho­to­graph Drys­ll­wyn Cas­tle and Ha­gley Hall on one of the ‘GWR 150’ spe­cials from Ply­mouth. The tide was out, and all the boats in the fore­ground were per­fectly ar­ranged for our pic­ture – but as the tide started to come in they be­gan to float out of cam­era shot. That was enough for Mal­colm – he donned his welly boots and waded out to re­po­si­tion all the boats, to re­con­struct the per­fect pho­to­graph. That was the mea­sure of his pro­fes­sion­al­ism and per­fec­tion­ism.”

In 1995, he passed the very exacting re­quire­ments of the Royal Pho­to­graphic So­ci­ety to be­come a Fel­low (FRPS).

For the bet­ter part of 20 years, Mal­colm was an ac­tive vol­un­teer at his lo­cal steam rail­way – the Glouces­ter­shire War­wick­shire Steam Rail­way – and was for some years a proud sta­tion­mas­ter at Tod­ding­ton, the GWSR’s head­quar­ters sta­tion.

He was the author of more than a dozen books and al­bums, in­clud­ing two on the GWSR.

Steam Rail­way is grate­ful for the help re­ceived from Paul Strat­ford and Pete Berry in com­pil­ing this trib­ute to the warm, friendly and cheer­ful char­ac­ter that was Mal­colm Ranieri.

MAL­COLM RANIERI PAUL STRAT­FORD

A mal­colm mas­ter­shot: GWR ‘mogul’ No. 9303 is sil­hou­et­ted and re­flected in one image as it crosses the sev­ern Val­ley Rail­way’s fall­ing sands Viaduct in late De­cem­ber 1992. In­set: mal­colm Ranieri.

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