Thursday, July 13, 2006

Genesee Railroading

All the images from this trip can be viewed in Photologues. Use the link at left.

When the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society asked me to put on a program for their annual banquet, I thought it would be a great opportunity to transfer one of my multi-media slide shows to digital (taking advantage of my relatively new digital projector), so armed with my revised Up From the Apple show and my new Steaming Along program, I was Rochester-bound.

June 10, 2006
The weather was dull and overcast as I hit the road, following the ex-Erie main line along the Pennsylvania-New York border towards Binghamton. The dull weather meant I wasn't in any particular hurry to get trackside, so a bit of exploring was in order. My first stop was at the ex-Erie depot in Coshecton, New York, recently restored by the local historical society.

As I passed through Hancock, I realized I hadn't checked out the former New York, Ontario & Western depot in the nearby town of Cadosia in quite awhile. Once a major junction point on the O&W, Cadosia was where the coal line from Scranton joined the main line between Cornwall on the Hudson River and Oswego on Lake Ontario. The tracks have long been gone from Cadosia, and on my last visit the depot (converted to a bar) sat in a big open area next to what was once the marshalling yard for the O&W's coal trains. It took me a few minutes to find the depot on this trip, as the empty abandoned yards that surrounded the structure 20 years ago had grown in with trees, and I didn't recognize the area immediately. But soon I was at the depot (now a garden center) and noted that the freight house was also still standing. A large trestle had stood just behind the depot with a view down into Hancock, but growth has obliterated the view.

Next up was a stop in Binghamton, where a local freight for the New York, Susquehanna & Western was cutting locomotives out of the consist just south of town. They had some work to do, so I buzzed across the Susquehanna River to Conklin Yard (former Delaware & Hudson, now Canadian Pacific) where a coal train was backing in. A quick run down to Terrace Drive on the south end of the yard led to the discovery of a couple of switchers working, then it was back to the NYS&W, where the local freight was now ready to head into Binghamton. I caught it passing an eastbound train that was tied down waiting for a crew.

I had wanted to shoot the Susquehanna's passenger operation in Syracuse, so my next stop was at OnTrack's Syracuse University station, where I caught the Rail Diesel Car making its scheduled 2:20 p.m. stop. Thing was, it wasn't turning back to Syracuse like it was scheduled to, but instead was heading to the balloon festival at Jamestown Beach. The railroad was running special trains all day (no mention of this was made on their website when I had checked a few days earlier -- in fact, the schedules on the website, the schedules posted at the stations and the actual "official" schedule were completely different from each other). Not wanting to get caught up in balloon traffic, I headed west of Syracuse along the ex-New York Central (now CSX) main line and caught a westbound train (after heading all the way into downtown to the main OnTrack station to check the balloon festival schedule, since it wasn't posted at the outlying stations) then headed back to Jamesville (norrth of Jamesville Beach) to await the last northbound festival run. The local police were doing a booming business in Jamesville, picking off unsuspecting ballon fans as they passed through the town's speed traps. Much to my surprise, the northbound train wasn't the RDC's but was instead a locomotive-hauled passenger train. Duly recorded, I decided to head back to my spot on CSX west of town and shoot trains until dark, then make my way to Rochester.

As I headed west, I noticed the solid bank of clouds appeared to end farther west, so I decided to drive until I reached sun and then stop. By the time I reached sun, I had covered about half of the 60 miles between Syracuse and Rochester, and a quick check of my watch indicated that I could get to downtown Rochester by 6:00 and attempt one of my "priority" shots of the trip, a CSX train crossing the Genesee Falls in downtown. Off to Rochester!

Once I arrived at the falls, I was pleased to see that a lot of the seediness that I remembered from a previous trip had vanished. A nice park led to the footbridge that parallels the CSX bridge over the falls, and provided a very pleasant train-watching spot. CSX fully cooperated, and it wasn't long before I had three trains shot crossing the bridge. With that shot in the bag, I decided to try a couple of other spots recommended to me by local railfans, and headed towards the Main Street overpass at the west end of Goodman Street Yard. Once again CSX cooperated, and I had that shot accomplished in short order. back to the falls for one more train, then up to the Amtrak station (just east of the falls bridge) to shoot an Amtrak train just after sunset. Time for bed.

June 11, 2006
First quarry this morning was a shot of a train passing the Kodak building in downtown Rochester. An early morning eastbound Amtrak train was selected as the target, but arrival at the shot (just west of the falls bridge) was in time to get a late-running Lake Shore Limited in addition to the train I was seeking. With that shot accomplished (twice) I cruised around re-aquainting myself with Rochester, a city I hadn't visited for about ten years. Driving around, I eventually settled on CP 367 in the town of Brighton, just east of downtown and within sight of the east end of Goodman Yard. A train or two later and it was time to leave.

I was meeting Chris Hauf of the Rochester Chapter at the group's Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in the town of Henrietta at a location known as Industry, where the Chapter has restored the Industry depot. Chris gave me a tour of all the Chapter's equipment and the restoration shop, then I rode a track car (can't call it a "speeder" because you'll scare the general public, even though it never tops five m.p.h.) over a mile and a half of track to another museum, the New York Museum of Transportation. While the R&GV Museum is devoted to the freight and passenger railroads of the region, the NYMT is more geared to streetcars and other non-rail transportation modes. I returned back to Industry on the speeder, then returned to CP 367 for some more CSX and Amtrak action (some of it even in sun!) before heading off to the banquet to put on my shows.

After the banquet I decided to try some night photos at CP 367, as it is guarded by two New York Central style signal bridges, complete with searchlight signals, at both ends of the interlocking. I caught two eastbounds side-by-side at the west end, then headed over to Goodman Street Yard for a couple of shots, then finished off with a westbound passing an eastbound at the east end of the interlocking. Another day in the bag.

June 12, 2006
The weather forecast for the next two days was bad, so I decided to cut the trip a day short and not head into Buffalo for a day of shooting. Instead, I got up at the motel (located just a few miles from the museum in Henrietta) and set out for Lakeville, home of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad. A quick check at their office revealed that a train was heading for Rochester, so I headed back north and set up next to the museum building at Industry to get the train's passange. Been on the road for over an hour and I was only five minutes from my starting point. I continued the chase (there were two four-axle Alcos leading the train) to the south end of Rochester, then turned west with the railroad to Genesee Junction, where I somehow lost the train. Thinking that it might have turned south at the junction (it was supposed to go north to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh yard at Brooks Avenue, but it didn't appear that happened) I headed south as well. No sign of the train. Oh, well...

The tracks of the Dansville & Mount Morris appeared along the freeway as I headed south, and I decided that more exploring was in order. I got off the freeway and looked for any power the D&MM might have in Dansville. I didn't find power, but I did find the old passenger depot, located about a half mile below the current end of track. Thinking the power might be at the B&P interchange seven miles north, I followed the railroad to the interchange point, only to discover there was no yard (or power) there -- just tracks in the trees. Heading back to Dansville, I checked out what is probably the only customer on the railroad, the Foster Wheeler plant. If the railroad had any power, it was probably tucked inside the plant somewhere. Back on the road...

Next up was the B&H Rail shop in Cohocton, New York. I couldn't find anyone around to check in with, but I did find an ex-Minnesota Commercial six-axle Alco and a Bath & Hammondsport Alco switcher sitting outside the shop. Amazingly, the only sun of the day came out while shooting the two units together.

After passing through Bath I started keeping a watch out for the Bath & Hammondsport train that might be returning from the Norfolk Southern interchange at Gang Mills. Sure enough, I spotted the westbound train as I sped eastward on the freeway about seven miles outside Bath -- and I had just passed a freeway exit. I had to drive another five miles and then double back, but I was able to shoot the train (once again with two Alcos on the point) twice outside Bath and once passing the coal silos in town. The day was waning.

Passing Gang Mills yard, I heard a train on the radio get permission to pull up to the yard office. Then the dispatcher warned the crew to watch out for a westbound train that should be there by the time they reached the yard office. I got through Corning (the big town next to Gang Mills) and heard the radio announce the train's passing of a defect detector, which also announced the train's location. I could see the tracks as I drove along and -- there -- a milepost indicated that I was about four miles from the train and closing. Thankfully, there was an exit just a mile ahead that featured an overpass over the railroad, and I wasn't there long before bagging a westbound Canadian Pacific train operating over Norfolk Southern. Continuing eastward, I was passing the town of Owego when I heard another westbound calling signals. I got off at the next exit and U-turned back west for a 14-mile backtrack to Smithboro, where I caught the last train of the trip with Norfiolk Southern power.

A final check at Binghamton revealed nothing shootable at either end of Conklin Yard, and a return along NS down the Delaware River presented nothing before darkness set in east of Hancock. The trip was over.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Eastern Pennsylvania - Steam and Main Lines

All the images for this entry can be found in Photologues. Use the link at left.

With a few days to do some short trips from home, I headed into Pennsylvania to check out the action.

May 20, 2006 - Steamtown to East Stroudsburg
For Armed Forces Day, Steamtown National Historic Site operated an excursion beyond its usual route between Scranton and Moscow, traveling all the way to East Stroudsburg. Canadian National 2-8-2 No.3254 was scheduled to pull the trip, so I headed to Scranton in time to chase the departure.

The scanner came to life as I approached Scranton, but ominously I could hear the crew calling the train as "Nickel Plate 514." This would indicate a diesel was on the point. Sure enough, upon my arrival I discovered that Nickel Plate GP9 No.514 would be ahead of the steamer for the trip, the reason being that the 3254 had just come out of the shop after a lengthy repair and didn't have its road-worthiness tested. The diesel would be an insurance policy against a mechanical problem.

With the diesel on the point, I decided to let the excursion proceed without me in pursuit, and instead visited the Steamtown shop to check on the progress of Pennsylvania Railroad 4-6-2 No.1361, Boston & Maine 4-6-2 No.3713 and Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 No.26 (and to check out how my new Nikon D200 handled interior shop lighting). All were in various stages of disassembly, with two workers heating what appeared to be the tender frame of No.26 with acetylene torches. Work on all three locomotives has apparently progressed past the teardown point, and re-assembly (a time-consuming process) has begun. Nonetheless, I wouldn't anticipate seeing any of the three locomotives operating until sometime in 2007 at the absolute earliest.

After the shop visit I took off after the excursion, as the plan was to remove the diesel at Gravel Place (about three miles outside East Stroudsburg) and have steam make a grand entrance into town. As I passed Tobyhanna on I-380 I heard the excursion just leaving its servicing stop there, so I motored in to Devil's Hole to get a shot there. After Devil's Hole, I checked out the shot passing the concrete signal tower at Gravel Place (no shot there due to heavy brush) and headed into East Stroudsburg. Sure enough, the diesel had cut away and the large crowd in attendance got a good look at No.3254 as it pulled the train into town.

Since it was only around noon, I headed down to the New Hope & Ivyland to check out 2-8-0 No.40. The locomotive had been painted and lettered for the "Lancaster & Chester" (a South Carolina short line that owned No.40 at one time) for a set of winter photo charters, but was scheduled to be painted back into its New Hope & Ivyland scheme. While I had numerous shots of it lettered L&C on freight trains, I didn't have any of it lettered L&C on a passenger train. The New Hope shop forces had been busy, however, and upon my arrival I discovered that the L&C lettering was already a thing of the past. Nonetheless, I shot No.40 a few times before calling it a day.

May 27, 2006 - PicnicRail
Each year I'm asked to put on a slide show at PicnicRail on Memorial Day Saturday. PicnicRail is a joint picnic involving several Chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (Hawk Mountain Chapter's Phil Reppert is the organizer) and several other railroad historical societies. It's held in Blandon, Pennsylvania, just outside Reading, at a picnic grove directly adjacent to Norfolk Southern's former Reading Company main line.

Starting out from New Jersey, I spotted some Norfolk Southern power beneath the Delaware River bridge in Portland, Pennsylvania, so I made a brief detour to shoot it. Then it was off to Fleetwood on the NS main line, where the town's historical society has restored the "Fleetwood" lettering to the end of the old Cadillac Fleetwood body plant along the tracks. back-to-back westbound freights and an eastbound passed through town, then my brother (who had driven up from South Jersey) and I moved one town east to Lyons. On the way I heard a westbound train on the scanner and sped down to the tracks, only to discover it was a light engine move running in reverse -- not the most photogenic subject! The trailing unit was a BNSF Railway GE locomotive, but there was no good going-away angle available where we were.

Once in Lyons, we shot an eastbound train led by a Union Pacific locomotive, and a couple of NS westbounds appeared. Also the light engine move re-appeared, this time running east but still running backwards -- apparently the power had run from Allentown to Reading to be turned and was returning to Allentown. This time, however, we had a well-lit going-away angle to shoot the BNSF unit.

With traffic dying down and the sun setting, it was time to head to Blandon and the picnic. Great conversation and a barbeque chicken dinner were had by all, and after the slide show it was time to head home.

May 29, 2006
Let's get one thing straight right away -- Memorial Day 2006 was hot! Nonetheless, the forecast was for sun, so I decided that perhaps a visit to a tourist railroad might be in order. I hadn't checked out the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad, the new (in 2005) operation of the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern, so I headed for Jim Thorpe.

A quick stop at the station was made to photograph the LGSR train sitting in front of the former Central Railroad of New Jersey depot, and the F3 diesels owned by the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society and the Tri-State Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (and used in tourist service in Jim Thorpe until 2004) were also committed to film. Then it was off to Glen Onoko, the southern gateway to the Lehigh Gorge. Two railroads shared the gorge at one time -- the Lehigh Valley, which is now used by the Reading & Northern/Lehigh Scenic as well as Norfolk Southern, and the now-abandoned Jersey Central. The CNJ roadbed is now a hiking/biking trail (and quite popular), and provides great access for photography along the former Lehigh Valley.

The first train departed Jim Thorpe at 11:00 a.m., and I shot it framed by some trees just north of Glen Onoko. The LGSR operates with two Reading & Northern SD50s, one on each end, so I tried to choose locations that provided a good going-away shot as well as a standard comin'-at-ya. The train headed into the gorge, and I continued walking north, stopping at a nice location where the tracks curve past a signal. I shot the returning 11:00 train there.

With over an hour to kill until the next train appeared, I stopped at a convenient picnic table and finished off the bottle of water I had brought with me (did I mention it was hot?). I then walked further north and found a nice retaining wall where I could shoot the 1:00 train coming and going, which I did. With about 30 minutes between the time the northbound 1:00 train passed and its southbound return, I continued walking north, but soon discovered that the tracks curved to the point where the sun was on the wrong side for photography, and the line continued to be elevated on a retaining wall, precluding crossing the tracks to the sunny side. I soon hit a point walking north where I calculated that I couldn't return south in time to get to a good photo location, so I was committed to walking north and hoping I could find a good photo spot before the train showed up.

I was walking at a fairly brisk pace (did I mention it was hot and I had finished all my water over an hour ago?), hoping to reach Oxbow Curve where the tracks would curve back to a more favorable sun angle. Alas, I was about five minutes too short, and had to settle for a not-too-bad shot of the train exiting Oxbow (although the going-away shot was lousy). I was now finished with the 1:00 train and just had too wait for the 3:00 train a little over an hour away.

Now it was reality time. I had walked in over two miles from Glen Onoko and had to work my way back. I trudged out of the gorge and back to my car, where I thirstily guzzled a very hot bottle of Diet Coke (at least it was wet) before walking into the large bridge over the Lehigh River at Nesquehoning Junction for the 3:00 train.

The tower guarding Nesquehoning Junction had been covered by heavy brush for years, but when the Reading & Northern re-opened the Lehigh River bridge to freight traffic a couple of years ago, they removed the brush from the abandoned tower. Alas, it didn't take the local urchins too long to discover the now-clear walls of the building and it is now covered in graffiti. I opted for a distant shot of the tower from the east side of the Lehigh River, where I captured the outbound 3:00 train. I then drove into downtown Jim Thorpe, bought a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water, chugged them both down, and shot the returning 3:00 train passing the F3s in the Jim Thorpe yard, wrapping up a great day of tourist line shooting.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Canadian Encounter

All the images from this trip can be viewed at Photologues. Use the link at left.
Every year I take a trip with George Pitarys and Bill Linley to somewhere in eastern Canada, with George planning out the complete itinerary. It's one of the few times each year where I'm truly along for the ride with no worries about logistics -- George has it all planned out. Our 2006 schedule included visiting the Huron Central, chasing VIA's Canadian and riding the VIA Rail Diesel Cars between Sudbury and White River, Ontario.

I have a lot of last minute proof-checking to do on the current issue of Railfan & Railroad, so I don't get away from the office until after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9. A late drive gets me to George's house near Nashua, New Hampshire, at about 2:00 a.m. Since our scheduled departure time is 4:00, a motel is definitely not worth it. Not wanting to disturb George, I pull over in a parking lot about a mile from his house and get some sleep.

May 10
My cell phone rings at 3:20 a.m. Sure enough, it's George. He's up and ready to go. I drive the couple of minutes to his house (after de-grogging myself), we transfer my gear to the rental car, and we're away before the 4:00 schedule. Our first stop is a solid seven-hours-plus away -- we want to catch the Ottawa Central as its freight makes its return trip from Pembroke to Ottawa on the Ottawa River bridge at Portage du Fort, Quebec. An uneventful border crossing into Canada, and we're soon in cell phone contact with the third member of our group, Bill, who's been chasing the freight with Ray Farand and Dave Stremes. Our schedule is looking good -- we'll be at Portage du Fort well before the train.

We all rendezvous at the Smurfit-Stone plant in Portage du Fort, where another Ottawa Central crew is working. Soon we're off for the short walk in to the Ottawa River bridge, and a slightly longer walk downriver to improve our photo angle. The train, powered by two ex-Canadian Pacific RS18s, crosses the bridge in good sunlight (not bad with a forecast that had called for clouds and rain), and soon we're piling Bill's gear into the rental car and bid farewell to Ray and Dave.

With some sunlight to burn still, we head down to the Canadian Pacific, where we chase a train eastward, finishing with a nice shot at Pakinham, Ontario, across a field dotted with yellow dandylions. But the train is heading east and we need to head west (we have a reservation in North Bay, Ontario, four hours away) so we leave our eastbound to resume our journey. We do bag one more eastbound on the way, however.

May 11
The traditional stop at Tim Horton's gets the day started, and soon we're off to Parry Sound to get set for the day. A stop on Canadian National on an old wooden overpass yields four trains, but our info (thanks to a CN sectionman who stopped and gave us a rundown) says nothing more is due for a few hours when VIA's westbound Canadian is due. This gives us a chance to grab some maple ice cream and scope out our set-up point for VIA.

The Canadian is our top priority for the day. A one-time Canadian Pacific train, it retained its CPR routing into the VIA era. Alas, VIA decided eventually decided to route the train over the Canadian National in central and western Canada, taking the train off its historic route. However, CN and CPR utilize directional running on their parallel lines between Parry Sound and Sudbury, and thus the westbound Canadian runs over its original route on this stretch.

Our chase begins at Nobel, where trackwork brings the train to a brief stop, allowing us a second grab shot almost immediately. Photo locations are picked to allow both good comin'-at-ya shots and going away shots, taking advantage of the round end observation car Waterton Park on the rear. The bridge at Pointe au Baril is good, but while looking for a place to turn the car around (after getting the shot) we find an even better shot 100 yards up the road. Add that one for later in the trip. We bag the train a few more times on the CPR, with the last at Rutter. By Sudbury Junction the train is back on the CN and we're in a downpour. The planned rest of the chase to Capreol is scrubbed due to weather, and we're soon esconsed in our hotel room at the Sudbury Quality Inn with a good view of the CPR yard and the parading hookers on the street below.

May 12
This was a day where the Huron Central was our primary goal. We could see the Espanola Turn being made up in the yard from our motel room, and soon we were set up at Copper Cliff (in the rain) waiting for the westbound move.

The trip goes well, with several good shots in the clouds (at least the rain is letting up) along the way. The crew was getting used to seeing us, and near Nairn where they were switching a spur we could hear the conductor on the scanner (riding the rear car) tell the engineer, "Three cars to the photo op." After working the spur, the locomotives pulled to a stop next to us and we're able to give the crew copies of the latest Railfan & Railroad, which includes an article on the Huron Central.

Upon arrival at Espanola, its time to start thinking about bagging the eastbound Canadian. We think we can make it to the ghost town of Milnet, and scanner chatter says there is a train coming. Sadly, the train coming is a freight -- we missed the Canadian and had to beat feet to get ahead of it during its servicing stop in Capreol. Crossing the tracks at Capreol, we are relieved to see the train still there (we can try this shot again in a couple of days), but we still have a challenge. The shot we want involves a bit of a walk and climbing some rocks, so we head towards Coniston.

Once at Coniston, we scramble up the rocks and get set. We don't wait long for 22 cars of stainless streamlined beauty to come past. Bill, who has been rather diligent about getting going-away shots of the Canadian this trip, for some reason decides not to scramble over rocks with me and George to get this going-away shot, and somehow misses the shot of the trip, the Banff Park observation car with the rest of the train snaked through an S-curve.

With the Canadian out of the way, we head back on the Huron Central to pick up the road freight working east from Sault Ste. Marie towards Sudbury. The scanner soon has us triangulated in on the train, which features matched GP40s in numerical order on the head end -- 3010, 3011, 3012, 3013. Somehow the comin'-at-ya shots are in clouds while the going-away shots are in sun. Soon we're back in Sudbury, but we're too late to get the VIA RDC's coming in from White River. We head into town and see the RDC's leaving as they deadhead back to Capreol for the night. We'll be riding these cars for the next two days to White River and back.

Alas, we get some bad news (fairly serious, but nothing with long-range implications) that evening that will require us to return to the United States, cutting our trip short. We make all the appropriate phone calls to cancel reservations for the remainder of the trip.

May 13
Today is a book-home day, but a couple of trains fall into our laps and are duly recorded. We overtake an eastbound CPR freight at Mattawa, Ontario, just in time to get him passing the CPR depot there. Another eastbound is tied up at Chalk River and we shoot him. Bill gets dropped in Ottawa, and just before crossing the border George and I encounter Amtrak's northbound Adirondack stopped for its customs inspection at Cantic, Quebec. We arrive at George's house late that evening, and I don't even consider trying to push the extra five hours to New Jersey.

May 14
The weather doesn't cooperate as I head across Massachusetts and Connecticut, but I need to see something on this final leg of the trip, so I pull into Danbury, Connecticut, hoping to find one of the last FL9s in the yard. It was not to be, so a shot of a Genesis unit next to Danbury's old depot (now home to the Danbury Railway Museum) is all I get before making the final push home.

Spring In the Southland

All the images taken on this trip can be viewed in Photologues. Use the link at the left

I was invited to help out with a night photo session at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer for its Railroad Days in early May. A trip to the southland in sping is always welcome, and besides I had a new toy to play with -- a brand new Nikon D200 digital camera had replaced my fleet of Nikon film cameras.

May 5
I didn't get out of work as early as I would have liked, although bad weather made me a little less than motivated to make a rush. Finally I was out and heading down I-78 in late afternoon. Wanting to give my new D200 a test, I stopped before darkness set in at Hershey, Pennsylvania, where I could view the Hersheypark monorail crossing over Norfolk Southern's ex-Reading main line. After an hour of watching the monorail trundle back and forth, I decided to relocate to the Derry Road grade crossing, where scanner chatter indicated I might see a local working the small yard there. While the local wasn't visible, I did get back-to-back eastbound freights before resuming my drive.

The initial plan was to drive to Harrisonburg, Virginia, and call it a night. Unfortunately, it was graduation weekend for James Madison University and not a room was to be found. I pressed on to Staunton, where I ran into garduation weekend for the University of Virginia in nearby Charlottesville. I eventually pushed on to Roanoke, finally getting a room at 1:00 a.m.

May 6
One good thing about being in Roanoke is that it's a great town for watching trains. After sunrise I went downtown where I caught a light engine move and a caboose hop passing near the former offices of the Norfolk & Western Railway. From there it was off to Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal to photograph the "Lost Engines of Roanoke." This scrap yard contains four ex-N&W steam locomotives, as well as two Baldwin-built diesels that used to work for the Chesapeake Western. Trees obscured three of the four steamers, but the fourth steam engine and both diesels were duly committed to film -- uh, make that pixels, as I was now a digital shooter (for more on the Lost Engines, see the Land of Link entry below). The final stop in Roanoke was at the ex-Virginian Railway depot, gutted by a fire a few years ago. (As a side note, all six of the scrap yard locomotives and the Virginian depot are in varous stages of being preserved).

Now it was time to head to Spencer. I hd been to the North Carolina Transportation Museum's Railroad Days each of the previous three years, and I hoped that they had a surprise or two in store for this year. I was not disappointed, as they had a former Norfolk & Western GP9 pulling an all-Tuscan red passenger train -- an N&W local train straight outy of the early 1960s! Also running was a former Southern Railway FP7 pulling an all-Southern passenger train, and a diesel built by Fairbanks-Morse that last ran on the Beaufort & Morehead's port railroad pulling a string of cabooses (cabeese?).
There was also a fine display of motive power around the turntable, including passenger E-unit diesels from the Southern and Atlantic Coast Line.

The forecasted rain had held off, and after a fine afternoon of shooting the three museum trains, it was time to set up the night photo session. The fine folks at the museum let me decide what scenes to shoot, so we wouind up shooting both the N&W and Southern passenger trains in the big field south of the museum's shop buildings. From there it was off to the roundhouse to shoot the power on the radial tracks (my favorite scene being the ACL E-unit side-by-side with an ACL 4-6-0 steam locomotive -- two generations of ACL passenger power.) The final scene featured the museum's Baldwin-built AS616 painted for the original Norfolk Southern alongside a modern diesel provided by the current-day Norfolk Southern. It was a late night, but a fruitful day.

May 7
The rain finally arrived, and Sunday morniong started out gloomy and wet. My first stop was just north of Spencer where I photographed Amtrak's northbound Carolinian crossing the Yadkin River. A little farther north in Lexington I caught Amtrak's state-sponsored Piedmont heading south, as well as a northbound freight. Hitting the road, I thought I was ahead of the freight near Ruffin, but I wasn't. As a consolation prize, however, I heard him meeting a southbound freight on the scanner, and the southbound made for a nice shot passing a set of signals.

Next stop was Danville, Virginia, where I stopped at Dundee Yard near a small engine facility. When the tower operator (probably the yardmaster for the nearby yard) walked past, I asked if he had anything coming. He responded that a northbound would be on the scene in about 20 minutes.

I relocated to a small wooden bridge over the tracks just north of the tower, and sure enough the northbound showed up. Alas, he had work to do in the yard, and by the time he was ready to proceed over an hour later the weather had deteriorated to a downpour. This put the new digital camera to the test, but I was able to capture images in the dark rain that would have been impossible with film. I then headed towards Lynchburg, but scanner chatter indicated that I had overtaken my northbound, so I left the main highway and headed in to the tracks near Evington, where once again I captured the train in the rain.

With the day hustling by and the weather showing no signs of improvement, I decided to cancel my planned stop at Lynchburg and head for home. Fastest way back seemed to be to take U.S. 501 over to I-81, so that's what I did. I didn;t check the map real careful, however, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that U.S. 501 paralleled the former Chesapeake & Ohio (now CSX) Jame River Subdivision. Just as the road joined the tracks an eastbound train went past. Drat! But the scanner gave a hopeful sign when I heard the eastbound exchange pleasantries with a westbound in a siding. Great! I had a train heading the same way I was just behind me.

I checked the map and picked out what looked like some good photo locations where the tracks, road and James River all came together. I passed up a few good locations on my way to the picked-out spots, only to discover I should have stopped. The location I picked based on the map had the tracks and road separated by a lot vertically (i.e. the tracks are down there through the trees over that cliff). I finally settled for the train passing the steam-era coaling tower in Balcony Falls.

From here the only other stop would be near Natural Bridge at Foam Henge, a full-scale replica of Stonehenge made from styrofoam blocks. Then it was onto I-81 for a ride home in a downpour all the way.

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Newton, New Jersey, United States

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