A CSX local passes a house on the Rondout Creek in Kingston, NY. Have a listen:
For the unacquainted, modern, major (class 1) railroads are made up of the mergers of many smaller lines. Norfolk Southern received a large delivery of locomotives last year, each in a paint scheme inspired by by one of the railroad’s predecessors. They are called HERITAGE UNITS and people get excited. Really excited. Until recently, Norfolk Southern operated outside New England and it’s previous lines don’t evoke any nostalgic feelings for me. However, you can watch me stay up all night to take a photo one of the last two locomotives in D&H paint, the railroad where my great grandfather worked, and where I first saw freight trains roll though post-industrial upstate New York. So. I get it. Sorta.
Normally, I’d blow off one of these Norfolk Southern HUs (as Heritage Units are know among the rail fan community) but when I got a email staying that 1071 was in my neighborhood, I looked it up. Central of New Jersey inspired blue and orange would look really sharp crossing the green plant life in the Hoosick River at Schatacoke, NY. I also knew railfans would like to see this locomotive at night.
The train lead by this locomotive normally comes through between 7 and 9pm. I arrived on the scene in time for for a major thunderstorm. I waited them out as it got dark and then set up. Because of the thunderstorms, I had no interest in setting up lights in the river. Everything had to be set up from shore. I put one light nearly perpendicular to the tracks facing where the lead locomotive would sit. Three, very focused lights were placed in a tight cluster near the tracks. These were pointed down the length of the train, lighting the rear end of the bridge and train. One light was focused with a large parabolic reflector. I used 15degree grids on the other two to keep light from spilling out which would overexpose the nose of the lead locomotive.
Normally, the Pan Am Southern sends several trains through each night. Tonight, the first ‘train’ with permission to head west was a pickup truck operating on railroad wheels. It was sent to inspect thunderstorm damage. Next through were several more thunderstorms (I’m not sure if they got permission). Then. Nothing. Hours of nothing. No radio chatter. It never rained hard for very long. But short burst of downpours required that I keep the camera off the tripod, in the car. The flashes stayed covered in clear plastic bags.
Early in the morning hours, one train ran through. I shot a photo of it. At this point, I think I fell asleep. I was woken by a text from Gary Knapp, the north’s other night photographer. He was 10 miles away, waiting on the same train. We agreed that we’d pack up by 5:30am. However, at that moment, it was pouring and so I waited in the car. As the rain slowed, I heard a horn and started turning on the lights. One started shorting out and was shut down. It must have gotten wet.
With an adjusted ISO speed on the camera (to compensate for the out-of-service flash), I climbed my stepladder and shot a photo of CNJ 1071 crossing the Hoosick River in the tail end of a thunderstorm, ten hours after I arrived on the location.
A steam train approaches Deep River Creek near Essex, CT. I just posted this canvas print and a few others for sale.
I was nervous about shooting in the rain - but it turned out great. The exhaust hung forever in the cold, damp air.
Everything about the Batten Kill RR is old school. Here, a pipe-smoking engineer without any reflective gear shoves a string of grain cars with a Schenectady built 1952 RS-3.
Vermont’s railroads are busy at night right now and I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity. I set up along the road under the tall bridge over the Sugar River in Claremont, NH. The first shot was a complete failure. However, I’m quite pleased with shot of train 601 heading south with a pair of New England Central gp38-2s in blue & gold. The railroad has been recently purchased and all the engines are being repainted to match the parent companies orange and black scheme. Five hours and one meeting with the police after 601 passed south, I shot it again heading towards the camera on its trip back north to White River Junction.
I shot at Eagle Bridge this time last year – the topography and number of light, telephone, and street light poles is a challenge. However, the B&M and D&H union depot is an worthy subject. Today, the tracks in the foreground of the image are used by the Battenkill RR to interchange with the Pan Am.
Yesterday, I asked a coworker who lives along the Hoosick River to email next time she noticed fog hanging in the valley. A few hours later I received a message: fog. A few minutes after arriving at the banks of the river, I received a follow up message: “its pouring.”
While I waited for the sun to set a set of empty auto racks rolled east. A few minutes later another eastbound crossed the detector on the Hudson River Bridge…the robot squawked some details about a train on the westbound track of the B&M: Canadian Pacific’s D44 rolled through on its way to the Batten Kill railroad in Eagle Bridge, NY. The signal to my east shown red for the remained of the night, signifying a string of east bound trains.
After dark, an empty BNSF grain train rolled through. I had hoped to capture a silhouette in the fog…trees were not a perfect backdrop (a real shame given the huge number of them in upstate NY). Later that night, D44 headed west on its way home and I managed to miss that shot. I heard a Norfolk Southern intermodal train, 23k, to my east after I had dried off and stowed the flashes…oh well!
If I didn’t get any great shots last night it wasn’t because of a quiet night on the Pan Am 5 trains in 4 hours is a busy night.
The calendar claims that it’s spring time now but the ground in Becket has a different story. I’ve been thinking about shooting through a stand of trees for a while and I happened to notice this location on a drive one day. Perfect! One row of trees between the road and the tracks. I knew I couldn’t wait too long as leaves would ruin this shot… but… snow? I just had to give it a try.
Clarendon & Pittsford heads towards Whitehall to interchange with the Canadian Pacific. I brought the wrong lights the first night but got a good shot the on the 2nd try -two nights of driving and two nights of lugging my gear down into the riverbed. The first night, I caught Amtrak at Whitehall, packed up and raced to Center Rutland, VT (we arrived at same time, btw). It had rained between my visits and the Otter Creek had angrily covered my spot from the first night. After some thought, I rearranged my plan and waited. Soon, I realized the camera and lights were becoming soaked by mist coming off the falls and my nightly chores include walking around with a towel, drying everything off (what fun).
An hour after arriving, Amtrak’s Ethan Allen was tucked out of the way and after another hour of waiting I saw headlights high above the river. The train slowly rolled over the bridge and I tried to get the whole cab in a gap between bridge girders….almost.
Enough of being inside! I drove up to Lake Luzerne to grab a shot of the S&NC No. 192 heading south over the Sacandaga River. This is the 3rd time I’ve shot a D&H lightning stripe unit at night and its clear that its one of the sharpest paint schemes to photograph.
This is a cool location and I might be back with some more light to put on the very black looking river.