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.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rainy Night at the Yard

Call this one forced futility. After heavy rain most of the afternoon, I figured a quick stop by the yard on the way home would yield a shot or two.

It did, kind of. The rain started as soon as my rickety tripod was set. I didn't have a lens hood, and I had to wipe my lens a few times while figuring out my exposure. It would be a short shoot, two frames, it turns out.

My first wide view of the yard, although I was hoping to shoot longer, as the yard was nearly empty. But better to preserve my gear, as the rain was getting heavier. The shot is of an abandoned switch, the blobby shadow beside it a photographer, holding a floppy hat over his camera, hoping his tripod doesn't slip. What is more futile than the fear of rain and a busted switch?