Thursday, September 25, 2014

Random Ramblings - The Acadian

The Acadian; McAdam, New Brunswick; July 2002
In July 2002 I went to the Maritime provinces of Canada, along with my brother Bruce, to photograph the three VIA Rail Canada streamliners running at the time. We spent one day chasing the Chaleur onto the Gaspe peninsula, two days chasing the Ocean to Halifax and one day chasing the Bras D'Or onto Cape Breton to Sydney. The Chaleur is currently suspended (I guess it's running with buses due to bad track), the Ocean no longer has its streamlined equipment and the Bras D'Or is long gone. It proved to be a worthwhile trip given all the change that has come to the Maritimes.

On our way home from Cape Breton, we were traveling west on a day that a short-lived luxury cruise train was heading the same direction. The Acadian made a once-a-week round trip from St. John, New Brunswick, to Montreal, Quebec, with an overnight stop at Greenville, Maine. Powering the train were three former Amtrak F40PH locomotives, two of which were used at a time. We set up in St. John at the Reversing Falls bridge, shot the train there, then headed west, shooting the train once again at Fredericton Junction. From there we bee-lined to the one shot we really wanted to get -- passing the magnificent former Canadian Pacific station at McAdam, New Brunswick, just east of the U.S. border.

When we got there, the shot was looking like it wouldn't be quite like we had planned. The tracks were lined for a train to travel on the north side of the station, and the building would cover most of the train. Weeds were in abundance as well. For some reason we couldn't see down the tracks far at all -- the train was going to just pop out from behind the station with little warning. And to complicate matters, the sun started playing peek-a-boo with the clouds.

We waited and as our estimated train time approached we heard a rumble. Unfortunately, a cloud parked itself between us and the sun. Oh, well... The rumble got louder, we aimed our cameras -- and a freight for New Brunswick Southern (which operates freight service on the tracks) popped out from behind the station. Hmmm... The train pulled ahead then tied down west of us, which was a very good thing -- it would force the Acadian to take the much better track on the south side of the station.

In due time, the Acadian appeared and this time the sun was out! The resulting photo can be seen at the top of this post. Once into Maine, the train would no longer be chaseable, so we let it go here and returned to the U.S. at a leisurely pace.

The Acadian had begun service in June 2002, so it had been running only about a month when we photographed it. It stopped running in June 2003, just  few days after its one-year anniversary. It proved to be a fitting coda to a trip to shoot the vanishing streamliners of the Maritimes.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Night Time Magic

Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 20, 2014
The big steam event of 2014 was Train Expo, sponsored by the Steam Railroading Institute and held in Owosso, Mich., from June 19-22. Main line and short trips were run, and a total of eight live steam locomotives were present for the event. The highlight, though, (at least from a photographic standpoint), were the three night photo sessions put on by Lerro Productions and Pete Lerro.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 20, 2014
The stars of the show were two Lima-built 2-8-4 Berkshire steam locomotives. Pere Marquette No. 1225 calls Owosso home, and gained fame when it was the locomotive used as a model for the Polar Express. The other big Berk in attendance was Nickel Plate Road No. 765, which is operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society in Indiana. Four of the visiting locomotives were small "tank" engines (lacking tenders) and could be seen around the turntable in the photo below. Pete Lerro's father, a noted railroad artist, posed as the turntable operator.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 20, 2014
The sessions ran from just after sunset (which was nearly 9:00 p.m. that far west in the time zone) until about 1:00 a.m. Just after sunset it was possible to get some "blue hour" light in the sky.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 21, 2014
The line-up around the Owosso turntable was pretty impressive. Each of the three sessions started with the "money shot" of the locomotives on the radial tracks. Little River Railroad 0-4-0T No. 1 usually operates on a tourist railroad nearby in Michigan, and was joined by stablemate Little River 4-6-2 No. 110, the smallest standard-gauge Pacific-type locomotive ever built.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 21, 2014
After the big turntable shot, smaller scenes were set up. Pete Lerro and his crew worked hard to get the lighting just right for each set-up, and volunteers from both SRI and the FWRHS stayed late to tend to their locomotives.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 21, 2014
The hallmark of Lerro Production night photo sessions are the "railroaders at work" scenes, many inspired by the Depression-era photography of Jack Delano or the late 1950s work of O. Winston Link. Jeff Mast posed as a railroad worker on the 1225.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 21, 2014
After 11:00 each night the large crowd of about 50 was broken into a smaller extra-fee group that stayed around for more detailed shots that weren't suitable for a large number of people. One shot was from inside the turntable "house" looking out at the two Berkshires. It was discovered during testing that the glass in the window caused too much glare, so it was carefully removed -- one of the many details that make Lerro Productions night sessions worthwhile. Gary Melford posed as the turntable operator.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 21, 2014
A subset of the "railroaders at work" theme are portraits of railroaders. A World War II-era portrait of "Rosie the Riveter" capped off the final night session of the evening. Alaina Kraus made for a wonderful Rosie.
Steam Railroading Institute; Owosso, Mich.; June 21, 2014
This is the seventh and final (I think) post from a two-week long trip I took in June. To recap the posts, we rode a photo freight on the Arkansas & Missouri, went to the Ozark Mountains to visit three tourist operations, chased the Amtrak Exhibit Train behind Alcos on the A&M, followed a Kansas City Southern freight through parts of three states, looked at Arkansas streetcar operations in Little Rock and Fort Smith, and checked out the railroads in and around Nashville. It was a heck of a two weeks!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Music City USA

CSX Transportation; Nashville, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
We're moving along with the big circle trip across the midwest from New Jersey to Arkansas and return. In both directions my brother Bruce and I stopped in Music City USA -- Nashville, Tenn. -- to check out the rail action. Our first stop on the outbound trip was at Lebanon, Tenn., where the Music City Star commuter trains lay up. Since this was a Sunday (June 8, to be precise), no Star trains were running.
Music City Star; Lebanon, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
Moving into Nashville our next stop was at the yard of the Nashville & Eastern just east of downtown. The railroad had some interesting locomotives in the yard, including a couple in modified BNSF Heritage II paint, relettered for the N&E. B40-8W No. 568 showed off the modified scheme, with N&E lettering replacing the BNSF on the nose and flank; it has also been named City of Nashville.
Nashville & Eastern; Nashville, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
Next we went into downtown, where the event formerly known as Fan Fair was going on (back before Nashville sold its soul to Clear Channel -- but I digress). Demonbraun Street provides a nice overview of southbound CSX trains passing under Broadway (below) and going by Nashville Union Station (top photo of this post). The station used to have a large train shed extending south from the headhouse, but all that's left is an empty parking lot. A steady stream of trains paused here to change crews.
CSX Transportation; Nashville, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
From here we continued west to Arkansas, but we would pass through Nashville again on the return trip, this time on Thursday, June 19. Our first stop was to get an inbound Music City Star train passing the bowling alley at Donelson as it pushed into Nashville.
Music City Star; Donelson, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
Next we had an outbound train passing through the station in Donelson. It would meet another inbound train just east of the station.
Music City Star; Donelson, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
Music City Star; Mill Creek, Nashville, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
Music City Star began operating on November 6, 2006, with the hope of capturing 1500 riders each day. Those numbers have never come to fruition, with 2013 ridership running around 900 passengers (which is actually slightly less than the previous year). Part of the problem is the Star only has three inbound trains in the morning and three outbound trains in the evening, with no midday service; to a large extent, many jobs are moving away from traditional work hours, making the train impractical. The other issue is the Nashville station is located outside the core of downtown, forcing riders to finish their trip to work on a bus. Nonetheless, Nashville remains committed to making the service work.

Service is maintained with three EMD F40PH locomotives that originally worked for Amtrak. Numbered 120-122 (Amtrak 332, 398 and 399 respectively), they pull two or three ex-Chicago & North Western gallery cars. Surprisingly, the trains don't lay over in Nashville during the day. All three sets return to Lebanon as revenue moves (although ridership is extremely light). They then return to Nashville (once again as lightly-used revenue moves) for the evening rush hour.

After finishing at Donelson we moved to the scenic highlight of the line -- the through truss bridge over Mill Creek outside Nashville, where we caught an outbound almost-deadhead move behind No. 122.

Moving into downtown, we caught one more outbound move near the Nashville & Eastern yard. In retrospect, we should have gone downtown and shot the train departing from the station. Next time...
Music City Star; Nashville, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
We wrapped up our look at Nashville when we found a Motive Power Resources leased switcher working what appeared to be gondolas of scrap metal outside of downtown. We were unable to determine the company the locomotive was working for, however. From here, we headed north -- I had to drop Bruce off at Lafayette, Ind., to catch Amtrak's Cardinal home, while I continued on to Owosso, Mich., for Train Expo.
Motive Power Resources; Nashville, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
More photos from the first day around Nashville (including the Union Station area) can be found here. Photos from the second day (including more Music City Star) can be found here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Streetcars Of Arkansas

Central Arkansas Transit; June 17, 2014
We're continuing our two-week foray into the upper midwest, turning back east from the National Railway Historical Society convention in Springdale, Ark. So far we have ridden a photo freight charter on the Arkansas & Missouri, visited tourist railroads in the Ozarks, chased the Amtrak display train behind A&M Alco diesels, and headed south along the Kansas City Southern in three states. We are now in Little Rock, Ark., home to the decade-old River Rail Streetcar of Central Arkansas Transit.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
The River Rail Streetcar opened in November 2014 and operates 3.4 miles of track in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The original line operated 2.5 miles between the downtowns of the two cities. In 2006 an extension was opened to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. Three replica trolleys were used when the line initially opened and two more were added with the extension. The cars, built by Gomaco Trolley Company, resemble the Birney cars that operated in Little Rock (which previously had electric streetcar service between 1891 and 1947); the original Birneys were numbered 400-407 and the five replicas continue that series, numbered 408-412.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
The line is broken down into two "routes," the Green Line and the Blue Line. The Green Line operates a loop through downtown, and continues on to the Clinton Library (except in the evening). The Blue Line covers the exact same loop downtown, but also crosses the Arkansas River to make a loop in North Little Rock; it also goes to the Clinton Library during the day. This two-route system means that North Little Rock only gets half the service that Little Rock gets. All the above photos were taken on the primary loop in downtown Little Rock. The photo below takes us out near the Clinton Library.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
All trackage is one-directional, running clockwise in Little Rock and counter-clockwise in North Little Rock. The Clinton Library extension is double-track with rail on both sides of the street. The exception to one-directional running is the bridge over the Arkansas River, where both northbound and southbound cars share a single track.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
North Little Rock has a picturesque downtown, and the system's car barn is located here.
Central Arkansas Transit; North Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
Fort Smith Trolley Museum; Fort Smith, Ark.; June 12, 2014
This concludes our look at the River Rail Streetcar, but while we're on the subject of Arkansas streetcars let's backtrack to the other operation in the state, the Fort Smith Trolley. While River Rail serves as a means of transportation to tourists and residents, the Fort Smith Trolley is primarily a tourist ride. This is part of the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, and the trolley ride was inaugurated in 1991 on a quarter mile of track. Subsequent extensions now gives the line a distance of about 3,000 feet.

The car in use in Fort Smith is an actual Birney car (unlike Little Rock's replicas), built in 1926. It served Fort Smith in regular service until streetcar service was discontinued in 1933. Several more streetcars (including a couple of Little Rock Birneys that are being combined into one operable car) are undergoing restoration. Much of the collection is native to Fort Smith.

The museum also owns three locomotives of various types, the most notable being Frisco 2-8-2 No. 4003.

More photos of the River Rail Streetcar in Little Rock can be found here. More photos of the Fort Smith Trolley (and the NRHS convention train that went there on the Arkansas & Missouri) can be found here.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum; Fort Smith, Ark.; June 12, 2014

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tri-State Chase on Kansas City Southern

Kansas City Southern; Ginger Blue, Mo.; June 16, 2014
On the same day we chased the Amtrak display train behind Alcos on the Arkansas & Missouri (June 16, 2014), brother Bruce and I headed over to the Kansas City Southern for the afternoon looking for a southbound train to chase. Trains were fairly plentiful, but the hard part about the KCS proved to be finding trains with KCS power -- Union Pacific and BNSF power was predominant. We waited at the grain elevator in Anderson, Mo., looking for a southbound, but the first one had Union Pacific power. The second one had BNSF power, but we chased it south to the bridge over Indian Creek near Ginger Blue.
BNSF Railway (on KCS); Ginger Blue, Mo.; June 16, 2014
Kansas City Southern; Anderson, Mo.; June 14, 2014
The third time was a charm, however, as a southbound appeared with one of KCS's "Retro Belle" (a modified paint scheme used on the old KCS Southern Belle passenger train) SD70ACe units on the point and a second one halfway back in the train as a helper. Of course, the clean one was back in the train; the lead unit was a tad dirty.

The chase started at the elevator in Anderson (right). From there it was a quick drive south (except for the speed trap town of Lanagan) to the turn-off at Ginger Blue, then winding down the hill to Indian Creek at the Eagles Nest Campground. Timing was fortuitous here, as a group of kayakers were just making their way under the bridge as the train crossed (top photo of the post).

We then crossed the state line into Arkansas, setting up for a shot just south of the border at a concrete deck bridge on the outskirts of Sulphur Springs. The sun was starting to swing around, as it was getting late in the day, but it turned out to be a pretty good shot.
Kansas City Southern; Sulphur Springs, Ark.; June 16, 2014
The warm afternoon sun was back on the nose of lead locomotive No. 4037 as it made its way slowly through Gravette. It took so long to get here that we briefly thought we might have missed the train and it was long gone. After several anxious moments it appeared, however.
Kansas City Southern; Gravette, Ark.; June 16, 2014
Northbound rail traffic started to interfere, and while we were waiting at the former KCS F-unit on display in Decatur, Ark., a northbound showed up. By the time it met our train north of town and No. 4037 worked its way south, the shadows were really beginning to creep in.
Kansas City Southern; Decatur, Ark.; June 16, 2014
Getting ahead of the train once more, our next shot was off the overhead bridge at Gentry. While the low sun was making shooting difficult in tight quarters (like at Decatur), it was making for some really sweet light when you had open space to work with and weren't fighting shadows.
Kansas City Southern; Gentry, Ark.; June 16, 2014
We crossed another state line, putting us in Oklahoma as we chased. The shadows were definitely in play as we paused at the large feed mill in Watts. The train crawled through here and came to a stop in the small yard just south of the mill. That should do it for our day.
Kansas City Southern; Watts, Okla.; June 16, 2014
Or so we thought. As we consulted maps to see what the best way was to Van Buren, Ark., so we could grab a motel for the night, the train started moving again. The first few miles to Van Buren stayed with the tracks, so we ducked in at Westville where we found wide open spaces. This allowed for a pan shot of the mid-train helper to finish off a three-state chase.
Kansas City Southern; Westville, Okla.; June 16, 2014
More photos from this day can be found here.

About Me

Newton, New Jersey, United States

Thanks For Visiting