RANIERI: MASTER OF HIS ART
Linesiders pay tribute to ‘stratford Mafia’ steam photographic great, Malcolm Ranieri.
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.
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.