Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Special Trains at Christmas

New Hope & Ivyland; Hood, Pennsylvania
Christmas has always been a special time for railroad enthusiasts -- how many railfans got their start with a Lionel set under the tree? Trains and Christmas just go together.

The Polar Express movie from a few years ago only reinforced the Christmas and trains connection. Many tourist railroads offer official Polar Express trips or knock-offs (North Pole Express is one way to avoid copyright issues!).  And a lot of this magic can be found at night, when the trains and the surrounding communities are decorated in lights. Thus, in addition to being a time for peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, it's also a good time to break out the strobes for some good ol' night photography.

On December 10, 2010, I headed down to the New Hope & Ivyland at New Hope, Pennsylvania. Just outside of town is a location called Hood, with a nice bridge over a small stream. Santa was riding the NH&I throughout the day, but on Fridays and Saturdays there were three departures after dark. I met up with Mike Burkhart and Jeff Smith at Hood, and each of us set up a set of lights to capture the Santa Claus specials. With two flashes each, it was quite the light show each time 2-8-0 No. 40 steamed by. We stayed at Hood for three hours, trying different angles with each departure. It was a cold, but fun, night.

SEPTA Christmas Lights Special; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The next night the three of us were onboard the Christmas Lights Streetcar Special hosted by the Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Mike is the Chapter president and assisted with moving lights around, while Jeff and I used over-the-shoulder Lumedyne flash units to light a PCC-2 streetcar on the streets of Philadelphia. SEPTA personnel (consisting of streetcar operator Gary Mason and supervisor Ed Springer) were cooperative in allowing several night photos; locations were picked based on the amount of Christmas lights along the street or, in some cases, because a street was quiet of auto and other streetcar traffic. No Santa tonight, but it was an unusual streetcar opportunity.

SEPTA Christmas Lights Special; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  A week later (December 19) Mike and I were in Delaware along the Wilmington & Western, where their Pennsylvania Railroad "doodlebug" (a self-propelled diesel-powered railcar) had its halls decked with many, many Christmas lights. We went to the small community of Wooddale, location of one of many bridges across Red Clay Creek, to photograph four after-dark trips on the railroad. Steve Jensen, a volunteer for the W&W, was out chasing as well, and he arranged for the railcar to traverse the bridge slowly on each trip, allowing us to fire off several shots each trip.

Finally, the last trip ran and it was time to head home. Now I really have the Christmas Spirit!

Wilmington & Western; Wooddale, Delaware

More photos from each of these trips can be found in Photo Lines.

1 comment:

Walter Scriptunas II said...

Great shots! The one of 40 is awesome!

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