Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Train of the Year

I had just finished adding up my time card Friday afternoon, and having discovered I had but a few minutes to finish work before overtime, I thought to myself, wife is out with a friend for lunch, I can chase the train. I wonder if it has been through.

No sooner had I completed that thought than I heard the train blow for the Main Street crossing. I still had a few things to complete at work, and then head home to get my gear and the dog out. By the time I caught up with the train again it was north of town, disappearing into the woods off North River Road. I headed to a spot overlooking the river, but my landmarks to find the spot were long gone, as it had been almost a year since trying for the spot. While I scuffled around on the cliff side, the train appeared through the trees, belching exhaust and roaring up the slight grade. It would have been a good shot, with exhaust back lit through the winter trees. Next time.

I headed north again, to Ellis, where the tracks pass near Ellis Lock, and where the PRR used to come within kissing distance of the old W&LE. The train was in sight when I got there, and I shot the leaders coming down the tangent, and the trailing engine, Sd40-2 5855, rolling past the big red house hard by the tracks.

I had wanted to shoot the train where it emerges from the woods on an S-curve to parallel Beech Rock Road for a quarter mile or so, but my trip along the dirt roads (which included some quick car repairs when a branch caught in the chassis) was much longer than the train's. The 5855 was rolling past when I came down the hill, and again I ventured across the hills to find another spot.

Dresden Road is a winding and hilly drive, at times dirt, at times fairly new pavement ducking and weaving across the hills. Near Dresden it settles down somewhat, coming back to water level not far from the river, where the OHCR's former WLE comes out of the woods again, with the PRR's remains paved and trod by bikers and hikers close by. The sun had not swung around quite enough for the photo I had in mind, and had made before, but it would do. Winter.

The tracks cut right through Dresden on a right of way narrow enough to be considered street running, I guess. Only the latest evening light is right for the northbound train, and only the latest trains ever face that light. Friday the train was not late enough, having made good time from Glouster and Zanesville, and the train was somewhat back lit. Not enough for a decent glint, just enough for more winter. Bare trees and low, cool, light. I was trying to figure out how to get the leaders passing the old mill near the tracks, and thought the trailing engine would look much better.

At Trinway I looked for a place to shoot the train, and didn't find one, so I went north to Adams Mills. The Panhandle and the Wheeling are close through town, the former WLE still in use as storage, although not through the village. I looked for a spot to shoot the train to include the town, and was only partly successful.

After Adams Mills I headed to Conesville, but let the train roll through town unmolested, as my final chase of the year had come to an end.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Afternoon Suprise

I went to Coshocton Tuesday afternoon to bring my daughter to see her mother, and as I pulled in to the parking lot behind her school I heard a steam whistle. I figured the local paper factory was blowing it's noon whistle. At 12:30. Which was a little odd.

When it blew a second time, I handed by daughter to my wife and headed block west to investigate. Because it sure sounded like a steam engine...

It was. The former LS&I 33, nice and clean and full of life, and steam. It simmered for a few minutes in front of the OC depot, and the headed south, perhaps on a break-in run for one of the Ohio Central's Polar Express trips, or maybe they were just running it because they could. Either way, I felt darn lucky to have chanced up it, as did another fellow who was out and about and stopped to take a look.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Local at Dawn

A morning trip to Coshocton yeilded another visit with the Coshocton Local, this time as it switched the Clow pipe works on the south side of town. I came across the local as I took my convoluted trip through town on the way home, hoping against hope that I would find a train in the flurries and predawn light.

I came across the 8702 sitting just short of the Clow gate. I had never seen the 8702 before, and better yet, it was lettered for the Pittsburgh and Ohio Central, something else I had never seen. A small group gathered near the gate to examin the switch with a broom.

I left the train and went to find a photo of the train coming through the neighborhood near the plant, but when it appeared I realized it would be pushing it's newly aquired bulkhead flat car of pipe. But the brakie was riding the rear, and undoubtably freezing his ass off too. While the photo is short on neighborhood, it worked out ok in regards to a canopy of trees and a little bit of snow.

The brakie jumped off beside me, flagged the crossing and was back on the rear without ever coming to a stop. The train pushed past, and he was off again to line the switch so the train could head south. Snowflakes were lit briefly by the headlights in the predawn shadows.

I folled the train south to Paper Mill Road, where the train would pass near the mainline, and also past the OC's headquarters. The tracks were still in shadow, but I still got a broadside of the frumpy rebuilt geep.

I went down the street to the main line, where the local would back past again to head into town to switch some other industries. I waited and waited, photographing some weeds against the dawn, hoping against hope that the train would come while the sun was out, and backlit snowflakes danced across the tracks with alarming sparkle. But instead the train took forever, and the sun (and floating sparkles) were gone by the time it game. So I got low and shot the tiny train as it backed past, giving the brief illustion of the middle-of-nowhere before disappearing under the highway bridge in the distance.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Night in Steel Valley

The end of football season brings playoff trips, and this year I drew a trip to Stuebenville, my fourth trip east this year. I left early, to assure a prompt arrival at the stadium, and maybe allow for a train or two before the game. I enjoy the trip along the river between Bridgeport and Stuby, and always prefer it in daylight.

I breezed through Mingo and Stuby, arriving first in Mingo Jct the same time as a northbound local, and in Stuby in time for... nothing. I followed the tracks up to Toronto, looked around Toronto and headed south again. Nothing stirring in Wierton, either, and the light was rapidly fading. I headed south to Mingo, and as I pulled into a small lot overlooking the mill, I saw a row of coil gons rolling north.

Back north to a small crossing in Stuebenville, a crossing I had seen each time I had visited, but never explored. I had a feeling you would be able to see the mill from the crossing, and would make a good shot if I could beat the train.

I pulled down to the beaten up crossing, half expecting the train to be thundering past by the time I got my car parked. It was an industrial driveway, and despite being only 50 yards off the road, was the kind of place you don't really feel like staying after dark, setting up a tripod. But it only took a moment for the train to appear, it's bright lights and glowing rails sharp against the looming skeleton of the mill.

The train rumbled past, and I whipped the tripod around to get the trio of blue engines rolling toward one of Stuby's suspension bridges. In the distance you can see the strips of a sheriff's office cruiser parked outside the county jail, another good example of the intellegent use of riverfront property.

The train was moving fairly slowly, so I hopped back in my car to chase it up river. By the time I got to the edge of town I was ahead of it, despite having travelled on a mile or so, and I pulled down the bumpy dirt road leading to the marina. It took a minute to see what my shot was, and as I pulled in, a car started up and left. I wondered what they were up to in there before pulling out my tripod and setting up. As the train neared, I noticed it lit up the side of a caboose on display, and quickly recomposed, resulting in a somewhat awkward shot.

The train picked up as speed as it rumbled away, lighting the concrete retaining wall and then smoking it up after the power was out of sight.

It was time for football, where I photographed the valiant, but losing effort of a local high school team playing the defending state champs on their home turf. After shooting the game and getting my photos emailed back to the paper, it was time to head home.

But not after a few night photos in Mingo Jct.
There are always a few switchers sitting outside the mill, parked outside the roll up doors that lead to the engine house. This time, hidden in the starry lights, a fellow remote control switcher was pushing ore cars over the dumper, a line of flame marking their progress over the heaters. The night wasn't that cold, or else the smoke effects would have been more profound.

As I stood on the hill outside the school overlooking the mill, I saw the familiar triangle of lights creeping through the trees. I wanted a shot of the train passing the mill, lighting the gondolas and mill with headlight wash. So I stood there, trying to guess if I could beat the train to the parking lot, despite the various stop lights between me and my destination.

Long story short, I could. But only because the train was switching the yard. After running around town a few times, thinking the train was leaving, I gave up, and shot it where it was, and then began the long ride home.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Steam's Return

I knew the OC's 1293 would be returning to Zanesville on Monday, because it had to. There is no other way to get back to Coshocton. A crew member told me Friday that it would be in steam, too.

I had some appointments to deal with Monday morning, and I just assumed I missed the 1293's return trip when I went into work later in the morning. But as I was sitting in the office, I heard a familiar whistle, and went out to find the train.

There was no sight of the train at the yard, and no puddle under the hydrant used to fill the steamer on Friday. I figured I would have plenty of time to get to the scenic overlook that affords a view of all of down town- and the OC's bridge over the Muskingum River. Something made me look at the bridge from ground level.

That is when I found the 1293. Going across the bridge. Guess they didn't need any water.

Back to State Street. I didn't really have any other options. Not that it is such a bad place to take pictures of steam engines in snow flurries.

The train sat at State Street for a minute, and then backed down the connection and up the former WLE. I raced over to Keen St to get a shot of the train backing up. There is a funny crossing here, as the tracks cross two streets in the middle of an intersection. I told the guy who got off the train about the photo I put in the paper, and asked if they would back all the way to Coshocton. He told me they would run the engine around in Armco Yard and then head north.

After shooting the train going away, I headed back to the office. I told the City Editor about the steam engine, and she said she had heard it, but didn't seem all that interested in using it was wild art, despite the 2000 hits on the web gallery and two reprints we had sold. Oh well. I figured I would get a shot I had hoped for anyway, just in case we needed some wild art (slow news day art, for lack of a better term)

I rolled down an alley beside Armco and watched the 1293 hook up to it's train. As it started to pull, I headed north along West North River Road to the fields I had shot the train crossing the first time around, and I had shot the coal train passing several times before, most recently in the post titled 'heavy train in the heavy rain.' Before I did though, I shot the train passing the marina, and then curving into the woods along the road. And then north, to the field, where three other people were waiting to see the train.

A steamer looks somewhat awkward running backwards, but it was still pretty cool to see. As the train disappeared down the straight stretch of track along the road, it almost looked timeless.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


When I heard that Ohio Central would be loaning their ex-CP Pacific 1293 to the Byesville Scenic Railway I was pretty excited. Not because I planned on heading out to Byesville (I don't get out much any more) but because you can't get from OC HQ near Coshocton to Byesville without passing through Zanesville. By rail, at least.

I figured that they would tow the 1293 cold to Byesville, and I heard that the engine would be facing east for the runs out of Byesville, and thus be towed tender first south of Coshocton to Zanesville.

Even so, it would be nice to see a steam engine, even if it would be cold.

I heard Thursday night that the short train to Byesville would be pulled by the 1800, of ballast train fame, and consist of the 1293 and some support cars. I planned on heading out early Friday, to at least get a few shots. After all, an RS18 isn't so bad either.

It was raining when I woke up, and I headed north. The rails looked pretty shiny for a rainy day, so I thought I might have missed the train. But north of town I saw a fellow with a tripod, and stopped to see what was afoot.

Turns out he had chased the train from Coshocton in the dark. Also turns out the steam engine was very much alive, and pulling the train.

So I settled in across the tracks, and waited for the train. There was no mistaking it's approach, even if it was at a crawl. The gentle chuff and melodic whistle were magic. I squeezed a few frames, and tore ass south, to get the train against some fairly colorfull hills across the river.

As I arrived at my spot, I saw the steam drifting across a corn field, and got a timeless shot of distant steam. The effect was made complete by the jointed rail.

After the shot, I ran like hell up the road to get my broadside shot. There was no place to park closer to the spot, and the train was going slow enough that I would catch up easily.

I passed the guy with the tripod and another guy I knew further down the road, at a small private crossing. I was heading toward a curve closer to town, just outside the city limits. The hills would make a nice backdrop, although when I got to my spot I realized I should shoot looser, to include the Muskingum River. Oh well. A vertical and a horizontal were the result.

After the shot at the curve, I headed toward the next crossing, where the train would pass under I70 and cross Linden Avenue near a bar. I tried to find a way to include the bar, and gave up, heading to State Street instead. The train would have to stop to line a switch anyway.

As the train approached State Street, it slowed to a crawl, barely moveing around the sharp curve, once a connection between the Wheeling and Lake Erie and Baltimore and Ohio. I don't know if they worried about derailing or just wanted to give the crew member a chance to get to switch, but the train was crawling. Every few seconds the 1293 would let out a chuff, and shoot darker steam skyward. I can only imagine the sight if it was 10 degrees cooler.

The crewman walked toward the switch, bent down to unlock it, and then appeared to go through most of the keys on his keyring to unlock it. The steamy brute behind him glared with her single headlight.

The short train pulled across State Street and stopped, simmering in the gloomy morning. I took the opportunity to shoot some typical steam detail shots of the valve gear, and then noticed the quiet simplicity of the trailing driver.

The train sat for a few minutes, during which a little boy and his dad came out to see the train. They stood on the porch and looked, and the little boy yelled out a hello. I waved, pleased to see a youngster getting to see the steam engine.

And then, with a short blast of the horn from 1800, the train began to move. A huge cloud of steam enveloped the 1293, and I scrambled to get in better position. I shot the train disappearing into the cloudy sky, and then backing past a trackside house.

One more shot as the train receeded into the distance, and then it was time to drive like hell again. From State Street I made every light to the Y-bridge, a rare feat that includes a left turn light, and two more stoplights and then a right turn on the bridge. I don't think I have ever done it before. At the bridge, I stopped to get the train disappearing through the dog food factory.

Downtown, the train stopped at the yard office, a runty little former CSX trailer. The crew got out and milled around, but there was not nearly as much engineer-checking-his-steed stuff as I expected, although a fellow did roll out a fire house and run it over to a nearby hydrant. Eventually a guy from the water department showed up, and I took his picture connecting the hose. I recognized him from my newspaper duties, and we chatted about the steam engine for a little while as the tank filled.

After the hose was recoiled and put in the tool car, it was time to go. The 1293 let out a whistle, and remembering the display at State Street, I knew the steamer would let out a cloud as it started to roll. I got a few shots of it obscuring itself, both with a little of the former PRR station in the background, and then a few more as the train disappeared out of sight.

Look for the 1293's return soon, and one more photo from this batch that I just can't get blogger to upload.