Friday, September 28, 2012

Lost And Found

Photo 2425 Cincinnati Union Terminal; Cincinnati, Ohio August 11, 2012
Cincinnati Union Terminal
Moving along with our continuing travelogues, we'll jump to August (see, we're catching up!) and a trip to Summerail at CUT. Summerail is the big multi-media railroad photography exposition held inside Cincinnati Union Terminal (a place that used to see hundreds of trains a day but is now reduced to only seeing Amtrak run one train each way three times a week). Organized by David Oroszi of Dayton, Ohio, Summerail brings together some of the finest photographers from the heartland and across the country.

Cincinnati Union Terminal, built in 1933, is an art deco masterpiece, and the last of the great stations built in the U.S. before the decline of passenger trains as America's premier transportation mode. Other than a brief sure in traffic during World War II, the number of trains calling at the terminal was in decline almost as soon as the station opened. By 1971 Amtrak was down to two trains a day stopping at CUT, and Amtrak pulled out altogether in 1972. The building sat empty until 1980 when a shopping mall was opened inside it. By 1982 the building was empty again, then in 1990 it opened as its current incarnation as the Cincinnati Museum Center. Amtrak returned to the terminal in 1991. Summerail is held in the Museum Center's theatre, just off the grand half-dome rotunda.

Photo 2426 CSX Transportation; Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio August 11, 2012
The view from CUT Tower A
I headed west with Railfan & Railroad associate editor Otto Vondrak on August 9, driving straight through from New Jersey to Cincinnati. On August 10 we did some railfanning with local guide Willie Davis before heading to the traditional Friday evening meal at Camp Washington Chili, followed by an evening of slides in the CUT theatre.

Saturday, August 11, was the big day for Summerail. I spent the morning in Tower A located in the upper reaches of CUT. At one time Tower A controlled all the movements into and out of CUT; today it is operated as a museum by the Cincinnati Railroad Club. The tower provides a panoramic view of CSX's Queensgate Yard and Norfolk Southern's Gest Street Yard. To the south, the NS's ex-Southern Railway bridge into Kentucky is visible in the distance. A handful of trains from both CSX and NS came into the yard during my two hours there.

The multi-media shows were all tremendous -- one of the best line-ups of shows I have ever seen at Summerail (and I've been there every year since 1999). Dinner was the traditional Skyline Chili meal across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., then more shows took us late into the evening.

The next morning Otto and I loaded up on supplies (cans of Skyline Chili, bottles of Ale-8-One, and more) then headed into Kentucky to shoot the Short Line of the former Louisville & Nashville (now CSX). In LaGrange CSX trains share the main street with auto traffic (the street running has become the town's biggest tourist draw) and we got one train each direction there. There was quite an assembled throng of photographers in town, and while most shot an eastbound train from the sunny side at the east end of the street running, I opted for a more unconventional angle passing the town clock.
Photo 2427 CSX Transportation; LaGrange, Kentucky August 12, 2012
CSX Transportation; LaGrange, Ky.; August 12, 2012
We needed to head further west for a night photo session in southwest Indiana, and the intel was that a Norfolk Southern heritage unit (No. 1066, painted for the New York Central) was working in helper service out of New Albany, Ind. Even though the heritage unit would be facing into the train while pushing, we decided to check things out and headed to New Albany. Much to our surprise, a young railfan there informed us that the next westbound train had locomotive trouble, and the two engine helper set (the heritage unit and one other engine) was going to be split up, with the NYC engine assigned to the point! We couldn't believe our luck! However, I am not going to show you any shots of that chase for reasons that will soon become clear.

After a spectacular chase across Indiana, Otto (who is not into night photography like I am) opted to stay at the motel while I headed out to Boone, Ind., and the Squaw Creek Southern for a night photo session organized by Mark Mautner. I hadn't downloaded any of my photos so far on this trip to my computer and my digital cards were filling up fast. I had to pause twice during the night photo session to change cards, and during the first of those changes I took out the card containing the NYC heritage chase and unknowingly dropped it (I would not discover this until I was back home in New Jersey and found a gap in my photos). 

The Squaw Creek Southern is operated by Respondek Rail, and company president Terry Respondek posed for one of the scenes giving a thumbs-up to his locomotives.
Photo 2431 Squaw Creek Southern (Respondek Rail); Boonville, Indiana August 12, 2012
Squaw Creek Southern; Boone, Ind.; August 12, 2012
Most of the night photo session was done with plenty of flash, but during one of the equipment moves I took advantage of the existing light at the shop and captured SD9 No. 204 poking out the back silhouetted by the shop lights.
Photo 2432 Squaw Creek Southern (Respondek Rail); Boonville, Indiana August 12, 2012
Squaw Creek Southern; Boone, Ind.; August 12, 2012
The next day, August 13, we rocketed back home to New Jersey. Once there, I downloaded all my photos and noticed everything from the NYC chase was missing. I immediately knew where I had dropped the card -- in the Squaw Creek Southern yard -- and I pretty much knew where I was standing when I likely dropped it. However, my card was now 800 miles away. What to do?

After some thought, I remembered that Carstens Publications had an employee living in central Illinois about 200 miles from Boonville. In my capacity as editor of Railfan & Railroad, I "assigned" him a day of work to go down to Boonville and track down my card. After about a week of it lying on the ground, Jim Wiggin was able to find the card, right where I dropped it. He mailed it back to New Jersey, I loaded it into the computer, and -- voila -- I had my NYC shots back. So let's review the chase -- it started with a scene at the levee at New Albany, Ind., as more and more railfans gathered as the afternoon progressed.
Photo 2428 Norfolk Southern; New Albany, Indiana August 12, 2012
Norfolk Southern; New Albany, Ind.; August 12, 2012
While most of the photographers followed the train for some extra shots, Otto and I decided to head directly to the tunnel at Maplewood, Ind. Good thing we did -- there was room for about five photographers comfortably. As the train popped out of the tunnel, the rest of the motorcading photographers jockeyed for position as 20 people tried to fit into the space that would accommodate about three.
Photo 2429 Norfolk Southern; Maplewood, Indiana August 12, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Maplewood, Ind.; August 12, 2012
We would continue along this ex-Southern Railway mainline on the way to Huntingburg, getting several fine photos along the way. About the time we were ready to break off the chase, I noticed we were only a few miles from Eckman. I had chased a freight through Eckman back in 2010 and knew it was a good shot, so we made our last stand there.
Photo 2430 Norfolk Southern; Eckman, Indiana August 12, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Eckman, Ind.; August 12, 2012
From here it was the night photo session and back to New Jersey. What was an adventurous trip turned out to be a little too adventurous for my tastes, but thanks to Jim Wiggin it had a happy ending.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cool Chromes -- Blue Trains

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular mini-feature looking at some slides that have recently passed through my scanner.

Coming off the slide scanner this time we have a few blue images. The Conrail SD80MACs were the coolest things going when new. Sporting more white trim than the typical Conrail locomotive, these units from Electro-Motive Division of GM were mostly put into coal service. Here we see a train entering Enola Yard across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, Penn., on May 19, 1996.
Photo 2422 Conrail; Enola, Pennsylvania May 19, 1996
Conrail; Enola, Penn.; May 19, 1996

Next up we're at Mannington, N.J., on the Salem Branch of the former Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Lines. After merging into Conrail, this branch was spun off to the West Jersey Short Line, then the West Jersey Railroad, then the Southern Railroad of New Jersey, then U.S. Rail and then back to SRNJ. This RS3m was working the branch under the West Jersey Short Line flag on June 25, 1986. Note not one, but two large cast iron crossbucks protecting the crossing.
Photo 2203 West Jersey Short Line; Mannington, New Jersey June 25, 1986
West Jersey Short Line; Mannington, N.J.; June 25, 1986

Our third chrome features blue and gray (and yellow) from CSX Transportation. Certainly one of the most scenic regions east of the Mississippi River is the Hudson River valley north of New York City. This view is from the Bear Mountain Bridge, which carries U.S. 6 and the Appalachian Trail across the Hudson. This stack train has just popped out of the Fort Montgomery Tunnel on its southward trek on September 18, 1999. 
Photo 2142 CSX Transportation; Bear Mountain, Fort Montgomery, New York September 18, 1999
CSX Transportation; Fort Montgomery, N.Y.; September 18, 1999

We finish off with a blue image. This westbound Metro-North train is minutes away from its final destination at Port Jervis, N.Y., on April 30, 1997. The sun has already set, allowing the headlight and signals to pierce the last twilight. 
Photo 2419 New Jersey Transit; Port Jervis, New York April 30, 1997
Metro North; Port Jervis, N.Y.; April 30, 1997

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Random Ramblings -- Walking the High Line

Photo 2448 The High Line; New York, New York September 14, 2012
The High Line; New York, N.Y.; September 14, 2012
I was going to start this by saying "let's get off the beaten path a bit," but in reality we're going to take a very well-worn path. This is the High Line, a linear park in New York City that is a huge success. The structure was built by the New York Central and opened in 1934 to access the city's industries along the west side of Manhattan (indeed, it's name during NYC days was the West Side Line) while eliminating street running and grade crossings, but all rail service ceased in 1980.

The current park is about a mile long, extending from 30th Street (not very far from Penn Station) on down to Gansevoort Street. Along the way the line still passes through the second stories of old industrial buildings (notably those that were once a part of Bell Laboratories and Nabisco). During the changeover from abandoned rail line to city park, the right-of-way had to be stripped down to the concrete and steel. When it was reconstructed, it became something of a yuppie interpretation of a rail line. Rails were put back in place, albeit at the wrong gauge and spiked directly to the ties instead of using tie plates. Additionally, the rail was given an abandoned look by planting plants "inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks" (to quote that source of all sources, Wikipedia). Along the way you'll encounter a "woodland," a "grassland," and even a "thicket." Nonetheless, the entire structure could have been simply made into a wide walkway instead of the walkway sharing the reminders of the railroad past, so we should be grateful for that. The park was opened in 2009 from the south end to 20th Street, then northward to 30th Street in 2011.

On September 14 I headed out to the High Line with Otto Vondrak (associate editor of Railfan & Railroad magazine) and took a leisurely walk south from 30th Street. It was a pleasant day and we paused along the way for many photos (there were a lot of photographers out), got an ice cream from the lovely ice cream lady stationed under the  Standard Hotel and had some great tacos at the food court located inside what was once the Nabisco plant. There were indeed many sights to see. Surprisingly, we found a diamond (rail, not jewelry) hidden in the shrubs near the south end. To really appreciate the rail heritage of the line, a visit in early spring or late autumn would probably be best when the plants "inspired by the self-seeded landscape" are a bit more dead.

The High Line has been surprisingly successful, but perhaps not in the way the city envisioned. Instead of becoming an oasis for the residents of the neighborhoods, the High Line has attracted a huge tourist trade. Following the tourists into the neighborhoods were the trendy restaurants and boutiques, and some of the last blue collar businesses on the lower West Side have been pushed out of the area. 

The final train on the West Side Line was operated by Conrail in 1980. The train carried three cars of frozen turkeys. Best as I can figure, it was not a winter railfan trip.

(Note: I came up with the title for this entry on my own, then discovered while doing research that there is actually a book called Walking the High Line, a photographic essay by Joel Sternfeld that documented the abandoned line as it looked in 2000-2001. There was no intent to steal Mr. Sternfeld's title [although it should help my Google rankings]).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

We Are Family

Photo 2405 North Carolina Transportation Museum; Spencer, North Carolina July 2, 2012
Norfolk Southern Family Portrait; Spencer, N.C.; July 2, 2012
After the conclusion of the marathon 18-day trip to Kansas City and Iowa (which took us four parts to cover in the blog), I was only home four days before heading south from New Jersey to Spencer, N.C. The occasion was the Family Portrait held by Norfolk Southern. NS had painted 20 new locomotives into old schemes of the railroads that have been merged or otherwise absorbed to make up the modern system. In addition to the two original primary components of NS -- Southern Railway and Norfolk & Western -- the paint schemes ranged from the obscure (Interstate Railroad) to the modern (Conrail) to the colorful (Illinois Terminal) to the weird (Penn Central).

Norfolk Southern came into existence in 1982 with the merger of the Southern Railway and Norfolk & Western. As its 30th anniversary approached, railroad artist Andy Fletcher made up a poster of proposed "heritage" paint schemes that could be applied to NS's current diesel fleet and sent the proposal to NS CEO Wick Moorman. Mr. Moorman liked the idea, and after kicking around ideas the company endorsed a program of painting 18 locomotives; two more would be subsequently added. NS paid attention to detail, gathering paint diagrams from historical societies and other resources, and adapted paint schemes that never appeared on diesels that were this modern to fit today's carbodies. The results were spectacular.

For this adventure I was joined by my brother Bruce and Railfan & Railroad Magazine associate editor Otto Vondrak. We began our journey from New Jersey on July 1, 2012, and, of course, our first stop had to be at the great train watching town of Ashland, Va., on CSX's for Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac route. We shot a couple of Amtrak trains at Ashland, then moved north to Doswell for the last light of the day where we got a northbound CSX freight on the RF&P clattering over the diamond where the line crosses Buckingham Branch Railroad's ex-Chesaeake & Ohio route.
Photo 2403 CSX Transportation; Doswell, Virginia July 1, 2012
CSX Transportation; Doswell, Va.; July 1, 2012

Photo 2404 Norfolk Southern; Spencer, North Carolina July 2, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Spencer, N.C.
The next morning we photographed Amtrak's Piedmont trains at High Point and Thomasville, N.C. While Amtrak's Carolinian to New York operates with conventional Amtrak locomotives and cars, the carriers in-state North Carolina routes use equipment purchased by the state and look different than anything else operated by Amtrak. We needed to be at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer shortly after lunch, so we paused for one final southbound Norfolk Southern freight from  the highway overpass just north of the museum grounds before heading in. While walking back to the car, Otto's glasses fell apart, with one lens plummeting from the bridge into the deep weeds below. This would necessitate a couple of runs to Lens Crafters down in Kannapolis the following day, but it did yield some good photography.

Getting back to our immediate story, however, we entered the museum grounds and there they were -- 20 brand new locomotives in a variety of paint schemes surrounding the turntable. There really isn't any place else other than Spencer where this event could be held, as Spencer has one of the largest surviving roundhouses in the country and the roundhouse actually sits further back from the turntable pit than most -- there was enough room between the turntable and the roundhouse to fit an entire locomotive without having part of the engine inside the roundhouse.

The museum generously provided a scissors lift to get media members onto the roundhouse roof, where the colorful locomotive line-up provided many photo angles.
Photo 2406 North Carolina Transportation Museum; Spencer, North Carolina July 2, 2012
Norfolk Southern Family Portrait; Spencer, N.C.; July 2, 2012
Norfolk Southern's company photographer, Casey Thomason, had a skyhook that lifted him way up in the air (and I mean way up) but the museum moved its scissors lift to the front of the scene, giving media members a nice elevated view of the lineup. The photo below is actually five photos stitched together into a panorama. The locomotive at the lower right, NS 1030, is painted in the current corporate scheme and was chosen to represent the current railroad and its 30th anniversary.
Photo 2412 North Carolina Transportation Museum; Spencer, North Carolina July 2, 2012
Norfolk Southern Family Portrait; Spencer, N.C.; July 2, 2012
The next day the crowds poured into the museum for the opening of the two-day Family Portrait event. It took a little bit of time to get crowd control figured out, and NS scheduled a corporate photo shoot for the morning (hey, at $2.5 million per locomotive, NS had something like $52 million in corporate assets tied up in the event so they deserved to get a little mileage out of the show!). Sweltering heat and high humidity didn't help matters, but as the sun went down the venue turned into a warm summer night under the lights as photographers gathered around the turntable.
Photo 2407 North Carolina Transportation Museum; Spencer, North Carolina July 3, 2012
Norfolk Southern Family Portrait; Spencer, N.C.; July 3, 2012
While the heat and humidity could have generated thunderstorms and plenty of clouds, the weather cooperated for the most part. The sun was out for most of the day, and surprisingly clear skies displayed a full moon as it rose over the roundhouse.
Photo 2414 North Carolina Transportation Museum; Spencer, North Carolina July 3, 2012
Norfolk Southern Family Portrait; Spencer, N.C.; July 3, 2012
The next day a well-organized parade of power was presented, letting everyone get nicely lit roster shots of each unit in the large field at the south end of the museum grounds. We headed out at midday to shoot some regular trains and were rewarded with one of Amtrak's North Carolina trains passing the ice house in Salisbury (the large city just south of Spencer).
Photo 2409 Amtrak; Salisbury, North Carolina July 4, 2012
Amtrak; Salisbury, N.C.; July 4, 2012
When we got back to the museum, they were putting the locomotives back onto the roundhouse radial tracks, so we were able to shoot several of the heritage units on the turntable, such as the one representing the coal-hauling Monongahela Railway.
Photo 2410 North Carolina Transportation Museum; Spencer, North Carolina July 4, 2012
Norfolk Southern Family Portrait; July 4, 2012
Your writer with NS CEO Wick Moorman
That night we did another night photo session, then headed north on July 5. With not much time to spend trackside we caught Amtrak in Richmond and a little bit of action in Ashland, but mostly it was a straight shot home, bringing to an end what will probably go down as the railroad event of 2012. Was it worth the quick turnaround after the long midwest trip? You bet!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cool Chromes - No Maize Maze

We start off this week's four-pack of Cool Chromes with a shot that is impossible to do anymore. The Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, Penn., has always tastefully displayed its steam locomotives. In the early days, the railroad gave each locomotive a "family" look as all were given high headlights, the same numbering style and striping on the cab and tender and the railroad's oval herald. In later years, historic authenticity became the norm -- the Canadian engines had their headlights centered on the smokebox and all the locomotives were given the paint schemes they wore for their pre-Strasburg owners.

More than that has changed on the Strasburg, though. Cherry Hill, the small station on the line, has a sign listing the population as "17 More Or Less." As the narrator has explained on the Strasburg trains for the past 50 years, that means more when the train arrives, less when it leaves. Today, however, there are seldom fewer than 17 people already at Cherry Hill when the train gets there. A huge corn maize/petting zoo/pumpkin patch has sprouted on the hillside and in the field on either side of the tracks. Our first Cool Chrome goes back to a gentler, less commercial time in August 1982 -- No. 90 is sporting the "Strasburg" look, and the hill at Cherry Hill is still a farm.
Strasburg Rail Road; Cherry Hill, Penn.; August 1982
Next we'll head to Arkansas (or maybe Missouri). Cotto Belt 4-8-4 No. 819 is heading home from (or going to) the Convention of the National Railway Historical Society in St. Louis, Mo., in June 1990. The locomotive is based out of Pine Bluff, Ark., and to reach the convention it had to travel over the same Cotton Belt tracks it traversed in regular service. We see it here meeting one of its freight-hauling successors (the SSW on the diesel stands for St. Louis Southwestern, the real name of the Cotton Belt). I just need to figure out where I took this shot! (EDIT: Thanks to John Craft, I now know this photo is at Bernie, Mo., on the train's inbound [northbound] move. Thanks, John!)
Cotton Belt 819; Somewhere in Missouri; June 1990
Next up we have Morristown & Erie SW1500 working at Lake Junction near Wharton, N.J., on April 21, 1998. The Toys 'R' Us distribution center in Flanders used to get a boxcar a day delivered from the M&E that it would unload and send toys out to happy girls and boys via truck throughout northern New Jersey; the M&E would pick up the boxcar from Norfolk Southern at Lake Junction. Alas, service on NS became so bad that Toys 'R' Us shifted to all trucks for distribution, costing the M&E an important customer.
Morristown & Erie; Lake Junction, N.J.; April 21, 1998
And we'll head across the country for our final photo. Here we are at Delmar, Calif., in March 2002 as a northbound Amtrak Surfliner crosses the causeway north of town. The tracks beyond the causeway curve to the shoreline, where the tracks ride the bluffs directly above the Pacific Ocean. Delmar is one of the most pleasant places to watch trains in the country.
Amtrak; Delmar, Calif.; March 2002

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Random Ramblings - Susquehanna at Night

Author's note: This begins an occasional musing about a photo -- not necessarily a great photo, but one with a story behind it. Welcome to Random Ramblings.

NYS&W; Susquehanna, Penn.; August 30, 2012
A shot that I have always wanted to get was a night photo at the massive coaling tower that straddles the former Erie Railroad main line at Susquehanna, Penn. In recent times, a night photo is just about the only option available -- even though the line is now owned by Norfolk Southern, the only reliable traffic is a tri-weekly freight operated by the New York, Susquehanna & Western between Little Ferry, N.J., and Binghamton, N.Y. The train leaves Binghamton at about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, passing beneath the coaling tower sometime around 10:00 p.m. The counterpart train leaves Little Ferry at about 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, getting beneath the coaling tower well past midnight.

Since I was heading up to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad in Old Forge, N.Y., for an event, I decided to do some night photography on the way, pausing at Susquehanna and also along the former Delaware & Hudson at Harpursville, N.Y., on the night of August 30, 2012. It had been a few years since I had been to Susquehanna, but I found the dirt road back to the coaling tower in the last light of the day, and by 8:00 I was set up waiting for the train.

At this point I only knew the departure time for the train -- 7:30 from Binghamton -- and since I wasn't that far out of Bingo I was ready for the train to get to me almost anytime after 8:00. But 8:00 came and went, then 8:30, then 9:00. I broke out my iPhone and started looking through old messages on the NYS&W Yahoo! group to try to see if there was any info on when the freight ran. Past messages said the train went through Callicoon, a bit farther to the east, usually around 10:15, but at 10:00 I was getting antsy. Maybe the train wasn't running tonight...

I composed a message to post to the group to see if anyone had any info on the train's departure, but just as I was ready to hit "send" I heard horns at 10:35. I got the strobes ready and lined up the shot. The train's lights came out from under the coaling tower, temporarily disorienting me (I lost the right edge of my frame) so I pushed the trigger. Poof! Everything lit up for one 400th of a second and it was done.

This shot has a few problems. First, the focus is soft. That needs to be corrected. Second, this is a cropped version of the photo -- I pushed the trigger too early when I panicked. Next time I'm going to put the camera on a tripod and watch the train directly (not through the viewfinder). Also, this was the first time I was using my new/used Nikon D7000, and this kind of shot is not the time to be experimenting with unfamiliar equipment.

Since there was a full moon, I spend some time getting some exposures of the coaling tower illuminated only by moonlight. Once again, the focus is soft.

A photographer friend, Pete Lerro, has given me hints for better night focusing, and I'm eager to get back and try these shots again. All it takes is giving up some sleep.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Land O' Corn - Part 5

This is Part 5 of what started out as a four-part entry on a trip to the Midwest to visit Kansas City and St. Louis before heading on to the convention of the National Railway Historical Society in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. However, the week of the NRHS Convention produced so many great photos that we gave it its own entry and made this a five-part story. In Part 1 we headed west towards Kansas City and in Part 2 we took a look around K.C. In Part 3 we spent a day in St. Louis and then headed up to Chicagoland. In Part 4 we attended the NRHS Convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In this part we'll look at a few other highlights of rail activity in Iowa, then head home.
Union Pacific; Clarence, Iowa; June 17, 2012
After chasing the NRHS Convention inbound trip on June 17 and getting it at Geneva and Nelson, Ill., (see last post) and once again at Calamus, Iowa, we broke off the chase in favor of hanging out on the Union Pacific (ex-Chicago & North Western) main line. An eastbound stack train came out of the setting sun at Clarence, but it had a Distributed Power Unit (helper locomotive) on the rear which we shot passing the Land O' Lakes Feeds elevator in Clarence. From there we headed into Cedar Rapids to check in for the convention.

The first day of the NRHS Convention went to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, to visit the Midwest Central Railroad and the Midwest Electric Railway. Mount Pleasant is on the route served by Amtrak's California Zephyr and during a break in the action we headed to the station in town to shoot the CZ as it made its stop.
Amtrak; Mount Pleasant, Iowa; June 18, 2012
As the events in Mount Pleasant wound down, we (my brother Bruce, Mike Burkhart and Frank Ferguson) headed east to Burlington, Iowa, where we found a lot of other photographers who had left the NRHS Convention trip to do the same thing we were doing -- waiting for the westbound California Zephyr to come snaking through the old industrial buildings not far from the Mississippi River.
Amtrak; Burlington, Iowa; June 18, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, was a busy day at the Convention, and we spent all day with activities there. But on Wednesday, June 20, the NRHS trip was running against the sun for most of the day so we chose to head out and do regular service trains on the Union Pacific. One of several trains we got included an eastbound stack train passing the elevators at Norway, Iowa.
Union Pacific; Norway, Iowa; June 20, 2012
Canadian National; Cedar Rapids, Iowa
A busy schedule of meetings the next couple of days kept me close to Cedar Rapids for the next couple of days, but there was a lot to see. Various industrial areas, mostly revolving around Iowa's prime export of corn, are located in and around Cedar Rapids. Down by the waterfront, near the sprawling Quaker Oats plant, one can find Union Pacific, Canadian National and Iowa Northern working the yards there, while nearby the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City and Iowa Interstate also work. Of special interest was CN, which had an SD38-2 from the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern working the yard (the EJ&E was merged into CN in 2009). We caught the unit working near the power plant on June 21.

While the Quaker Oats plant is large, even larger is the Archer Daniels Midland plant just south of Cedar Rapids. Served by the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC), the plant also boasts its own small fleet of switchers. Unfortunately, ADM is pretty much off-limits to anyone -- especially photographers -- but fortunately the elevated right-of-way of U.S. 30 provides a nice view over the fences. The early morning of June 22 found us on the shoulder of the Lincoln Highway getting the elusive shot.
Archer Daniels Midland; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; June 22, 2012
We noticed the Quaker Oats plant was nicely illuminated at night, with the lights reflecting off the Cedar River. This made for a nice diversion for a night shot. Rail access is from the bridge at the left.
Quaker Oats; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; June 22, 2012
And, of course, that EJ&E locomotive was still hanging around on Canadian National over in the CN yard. Hard to let an opportunity like that slip by, so a quick visit to the yard was in order.
Canadian National; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; June 22, 2012
The rest of the Convention didn't allow for any non-Convention shooting, and soon it was time to head home. After shooting the outbound Convention trip between Cedar Rapids and Chicago at Morrison, Ill., (photo in last installment) on June 25 we took a more leisurely pace home and paused at the Rochelle Railroad Park in Rochelle, Ill. The ex-Chicago & North Western crosses the ex-Chicago, Burlington & Quincy on a diamond in the middle of town, and the city has established a park for train watching, complete with a pavilion, rest rooms and gift shop. A Union Pacific westbound train passed the park on the ex-C&NW.
Union Pacific; Rochelle, Ill.; June 25, 2012
The gift shop has a screen with ATCS Monitor running, which allows viewers to see what the railroad dispatchers are seeing on their screens. Thus, it was easy to anticipate which railroad would be running a train over the diamonds next, allowing for easy movement between the two railroads. BNSF Railway provided action on the ex-CB&Q, including a westbound passing under Rochelle's (non-railroad) water tower.
BNSF Railway; Rochelle, Ill.; June 25, 2012
Upon leaving Rochelle, we bypassed downtown Chicago and instead headed for the suburbs on the Indiana side of the Windy City. Our next stop would be at the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak station in Hammond, Ind. Here, in addition to Amtrak, Norfolk Southern has a heavy presence. Thus, we were a bit surprised when Canadian Pacific came westward under the signal bridge in the late afternoon light.
Canadian Pacific; Hammond, Ind.; June 25, 2012
The final day of the trip was Tuesday, June 26. With 4000 miles under our belts, the last blast home would feature a quick look at Cleveland. Norfolk Southern has two lines through the city, both crossing the Cuyahoga River on lift bridges. Our first train of the day was on the former Nickel Plate Road just east of the Cuyahoga River. Cleveland's famed Terminal Tower at the left was the main train station for the city.
Norfolk Southern; Cleveland, Ohio; June 26, 2012
We tried to find a few other angles of the ex-Nickel Plate bridge, but new highway construction had made the area into a battle zone of sorts. We heard a westbound train on the radio, and found an overhead bridge to shoot from. The bridge had a high chain link fence, but there was a small concrete wall under the chain linking that you could stand on if you grabbed the chain link and hoisted yourself up (then used your elbows at the top of the fence to anchor yourself). As the train appeared, the four of us grabbed the chain link fence and lifted ourselves up onto the wall. When we turned around, a Cleveland city cop was standing there. Fortunately he was more amused than anything else.
Norfolk Southern; Cleveland, Ohio; June 26, 2012
We stuck around on the same bridge for one final shot of Cleveland's light rail, which runs parallel to the ex-Nickel Plate in many places. After getting the last shot, we got into the car and started the final ten-hour segment of the trip back to New Jersey. From Kansas City to St. Louis to Iowa to Cleveland, this was one ambitious trip that turned out pretty good! (Oh, and in five days we'd be back in the car for a trip to the Norfolk Southern heritage unit Family Portrait in Spencer, N.C., but that's our next story).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cool Chromes

Author's Note: We're adding a couple of new recurring topics to the blog. In addition to the trip travelogues, we'll be doing a weekly (or so) review of random slides I recently picked to scan (such as below). I shot slides from the mid-1970s until May 2006, so the Cool Chromes will come from that timeframe. In addition, we'll be doing a quick-hit review of one shot from a recent trip where we'll discuss technique, bad or good luck, or just the story behind the shot. Now on to this week's Cool Chromes.

Coming off the scanner this week we have the following four shots. Let's start off with Alcos on the Arkansas & Missouri as we see a trio of C420s lead a train out of Springdale, Ark., crossing over U.S. 71 on April 9, 1993.
Arkansas & Missouri; Springdale, Ark.;
Next up, we're off to Soledad Canyon in southern California where a Metrolink F59PH pushes a westbound commuter train from Lancaster towards Los Angeles near Canyon Country in April 2002.
Metrolink; Soledad Canyon, Calif.;
I remember riding the famed Brill "bullet" cars on SEPTA's ex-Philadelphia & Western between Upper Darby and Norristown. The bullets were all retired by 1990, with many scattered to museums. It was a lot of fun to encounter bullet No. 205 at the Rockhill Trolley Museum and do a night run in June 2003. The bullets were capable of 100-m.p.h. running, and routinely did 80 m.p.h. or more in regular service.
Rockhill Trolley Museum; Rockhill Furnace, Penn.;
And, finally, let's finish with MLW (Montreal Locomotive Works, the Canadian equivalent of Alco) power on the isolated Cartier Railway in Port Cartier, Quebec. A trio of M636s runs around their train at the processing plant at the south end of the line near Port Cartier in September 2001. Located eight hours northeast of Quebec City and with no rail connection to the rest of the world, the railroad is one of the most isolated in North America; it serves Quebec Cartier Mining (now Arcelor Mittal) with a 260-mile railroad from the mines at Mont Wright to the processor.
Quebec Cartier Mining; Port Cartier, Quebec;

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