While diesel engines are just has happy to lead a train facing in either direction, steam engines prefer to face forward. Turntables were once found at any point where a locomotive might need to stop after working a section of the line and return back to its base of operation. They were everywhere.
Stepahannie and I took the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad from Cumberland to Frostburg last summer to enjoy the scenery, ride our bikes on a short section of the Great Allegany Passage, and to locate good photo locations for later in the year. The turntable in Frostburg was near the top of my list: I’d never photographed a steam engine getting turned .
There is a wooden fence around most of the turn table pit and a large wooden staircase along one side that allows riders to watch their power getting turned. I located a couple places where I could get a clear shot without the fence or onlookers (either would ruin the illusion).
On the night I arrived in Frostburg to shoot the steam engine there was no danger of anyone lining the fence to watch as the engine was spun around: it was about 30 degrees and the snow was just about to change over to rain. After taking another shot in town, I picked up two lights and ran them up to the turn and set them in locations I’d already mapped out during the day when I visited with another night photographer, Sean Hoyden.
The crew had to come down and shovel out the turntable pit. Everyone involved got soaked. The staff in the depot did their part and brought cups of hot chocolate to the crew working outdoors. As the locomotive started to spin, I stepped out of a telephone booth where I was staying dry and climbed atop the railing on the staircase and waited for the centenary bridge in the center of the turntable to line up with the space between the 734 and her tender and took my one shot.
A print is available at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/185391590/western-maryland-scenics-turntable