Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Southern Shortline Short Slow Chase

Georgia & Florida; Quitman, Ga.; December 12, 2014
During the past month or so we've been recounting some of the shortline railroads I hit on a trip between New Jersey and Florida with my brother Bruce back in December. We devoted three posts to days spent on the Sandersville Railroad in Georgia, the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western in North Carolina and the Lancaster & Chester in South Carolina. We also had a post about an unexpected encounter with the Hilton & Albany using street running at night. We wrap up our shortline coverage for this trip with a short chase of the Georgia & Florida Railway.

We had finished shooting the Hilton & Albany in the early morning hours of December 12. After getting a little bit of sleep, we headed down to the yard office of the Georgia & Florida Railway in Albany to see what was up. They had a coal train in Albany with BNSF Railway power that would be going out later in the morning, and there was also a train running between Greenville, Fla., and Adel, Ga., that would be going out after lunch. Since we wanted to shoot shortline power and not locomotives from major railroads, we opted to head towards the Florida line in search of the train from Greenville.

While flying down the freeway near Sparks, Ga., we spotted an old Electro-Motive Division (General Motors) switcher at the Reames Concrete plant. Of course, we needed to investigate. We checked in at the office and got permission to drive back on the property to photograph the silver unit.
Reames Concrete; Sparks, Ga.; December 12, 2014
Since we were not far from Valdosta on the way down, we opted to exit the freeway and head to the yard of the Valdosta Railway at Clyattville, home of the railroad's largest customer. GP7u was sitting next to the office (in the same place we had seen it back in March). A track maintainer pulled up and said a road freight was out, and told us how to find it. Alas, we followed the tracks all the way into Valdosta and back and never found the train.
Valdosta Railway; December 12, 2014
The day was slipping away and our Georgia & Florida train was theoretically out of Greenville. Not knowing how fast the train could move or where it was, we opted to go to the halfway point on the train's northward journey at Quitman, Ga. We set up at a grade crossing south of town and waited. And waited. And waited. After about 90 minutes of that, we decided to head back into Quitman where the Georgia & Florida crossed a CSX branch on a bridge. Maybe CSX would send something while we waited.

Once in Quitman, a quick look at the CSX tracks led us to believe that a CSX train would be unlikely.  When it seemed all was lost, however, our northbound train made an appearance passing across CSX on the bridge (top photo of this post). The chase was on!

Now when I say "chase" I don't mean anything even resembling high speeds. The train was going maybe ten miles an hour, and the lateness of the day meant there were long shadows everywhere. It took us several miles to find a good spot to shoot, and then took the train quite awhile to reach us. Our second shot was near Morven.
Georgia & Florida; Morven, Ga.; December 12, 2014
Now the sun was setting, but the slow train speed worked to our advantage. We could predict where the train would be right after sunset and have plenty of time to set up strobes for a twilight shot. We picked the town of Barney, Ga., as our location and started getting the lights up. Right on cue, just after the sun set and while there was still some orange in the sky, the train showed up and we got our third and final shot of the chase. Since we were in Georgia, a peach shed made an appropriate place to frame up the photo.
Georgia & Florida; Barney, Ga.; December 12, 2014
All in all, our three-shot chase covered about 17 miles in 91 minutes. You can see more photos from the day here.

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