Basketball, once again, brought me to the Steel Valley. With the win on Wednesday, the Maysville Panthers had a chance to win a district title, expunging some of the demons that had haunted them since losing in Stuebenville last season in a game they had in hand.
And once again, an early, safe, departure brought me to the valley well before game time. As I was rolling through Yorkville, I noticed the WLE had an AEP coal train stretched across town, and I got off to go shoot it. As soon as I got off the highway, I noticed that NS too had strung a train across town. Blocking me from my intended quarry, the WLE train. So I took some back roads, following the familiar silver hoppers (from Wednesday) until the train started to roll slowly northbound, blocking me once again from my train.
It takes a long time for a mile long coal train to pass at 10 mph, and just as the last few cars rolled into sight, I could see the WLE train blocking the crossing in front of me. Two chances to cross the tracks, both blocked by trains. Fiddle.
Once I was back on 7 north, I realized there was no way to get the AEP train, as it would most likely stop at the Cardinal plant. Both sets of tracks and route 7 run close to each other and the river just north of Rayland, with no safe access. After running around a bit, I paced the NS train as it paced the WLE train, which did indeed stop at Cardinal. I mulled shooting from an AEP driveway, and thought better of it. The southbound WLE train that leaves Mingo at 5 ish met the AEP train at the plant. Two strikes.
I wondered what would happen to the NS empties. I stopped in Brilliant, and waited for an age before finally the train lumbered through town. I shot from a hillside, the opposite from my last shot at Brilliant a few days before.
After the basketball game, and sending photos from the local paper, it was time to head back. As I pulled into Mingo Jct, a northbound was leaving. It was too close to the parking lot that overlooks the mill, so it was back to Steubenville for a quick shot past the bones of the mill. It was a longer wait that I expected, the train creeping from Mingo. In the mill a switcher was doing it's work, the roar of the engine echoing from the mill, mixing with the traffic on the nearby road. It ebbed and flowed as the engineer flogged his aging steed- indeed, it sounded as if it was working very hard. As I tested my exposures and color balance, I noticed trucks moving around in the back of the mill, drawing streaks across my frame. It stood to reason that when the train did come, there would be accompanying truck streaks too.
After my northbound, complete with waving brakeman, I headed back to Mingo for a near-traditional night shot of the mill. From the elementary school overlooking the mill, I shot a hopper being unloaded, the mill, and the steam silhouetting the ore crane.
And then it was off again, south to the interstate, and then back to the office to put the finishing touches on the day.