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.

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