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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Road to SDI-Columbia City, IN: Day 1


With a recent photo job planned for RailAmerica, Steel Dynamics Inc. and LB Foster, I decided that I would drive from my home in White River Junction to Indiana with a planned stop in Pittsburgh at the LB Foster headquarters.  This would also allow ample opportunity to do some shooting of rail action along the way and give me a chance to stop in and see my parents outside of Hershey, PA.  Though a bit out of the way, I figured on a drive south from Whitehall, NY to Belden Hill Tunnel <IF> anything would be in the afternoon picture there.  Heading from home to Whitehall, I came across the Vermont Rail System ethanol train departing town with a mixed bag of leased power - the GMTX GP38-2 2189 leading GMRC GP40 304, GMTX GP40 3105 and LLPX 2334.  Having these trains as close neighbors, I let that one go and continued on toward Whitehall with the hope of running into the CP 252 train that would likely be southbound about the time I arrived.

No sooner had I ventured through Rutland and the VRS radio channel came to life with the CP 252 announcing their arrival at Whitehall Yard to make a setout.  That would work out perfectly - I would swing into the Cumberland Farms convenience store in Whitehall and pick up a favorite of mine - Diet Pepsi fountain soda - before proceeding on to land a shot or two of the 252.  High sun was prevalent as it was around 1030 hrs that I arrived there, so my options would be limited to something from above that would also allow me to use one of my bigger lenses and hopefully knock out some of the harsh overhead lighting.

My recollection of the lighting for the time of day led me to the Route 22 overhead bridge in Fort Ann, NY, where I would officially kick off the day's photography with the CP 252 being led by CP AC44CW 9813 and CITX SD40-2M 3100.

I would then continue on my trek for my ultimate goal of the Belden Hill Tunnel.  As I drove south I heard a few trains working at a variety of locations, including a welded rail train on the CPR at Saratoga Springs, NY with SOO SD60 6043.  Passing through Albany, I listened in on the D&H South End Dispatcher talking to a maintainer and telling him he had southbounds "stacked up" from Oneonta back to Albany.  Bonus!!  I heard the CP 252 (previous days!), CP 935, CP 937, CP 939 and a "Work Extra" all in the lineup to the foreman requesting time.  He was also told that there were two northbounds, a CP 934 and 931, with the latter being broken down at Afton.  As I exited I-87 just north of the tunnel, I heard the detector on the north side of Belden Hill and figured I had missed the first train, CP 252.  I headed around the hill to arrive JUST as the 252 emerged from the portal.  I decided that this one would be a watch and be happy that there are several more in the works - NS power and all ;-)  With the big lens, I shot into the portal to capture the CP 935 deep inside the bore.

I was interested in capturing the southbound CP 937 - the Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) empty hopper train - emerging from the bore with the searchlight signals and as much of the train as I could muster.  When I first looked at the view for this shot, there were a LOT of taller weeds obscuring the foreground.  Back to the truck and I broke out the 6' step ladder to gain the necessary height to get above the weeds.  As I set up, I listened as the rumbling of the empty hopper train grew louder and louder, then went silent as it dove into the north bore of the tunnel.  In a few short seconds the headlight became visible and then the trio of black and white locos emerged with a muffled GE whump-whump-whump.

I decided that the last train - the 939 - was worth giving up as I had texted with Brian Plant and learned that the CP 256-08 would likely be departing East Binghamton Yard at 1600 hours.  The hopper train photo was taken at 1525 hours...  As I headed to East Binghamton to check out the yard and see if the 256 was ready, I came across the yard crew working an intermodal train with a pair GP9u's 1545 and 1651.

A trip to the other end of the yard found the crew aboard the 256 conducting their brake test and readying to roll south.  The consist had been a pair of ICE blue-and-yellow units bracketing a CEFX SD40-2M in SD45 carbody.  Today's train would be departing with ICE SD40-2 6446, CEFX SD40-2M 3127 and the last ex-Canadian Pacific SD40-2 still in CP red paint on the ICE - 6214.  With the air test underway, a trip south toward New Milford, PA to grab fuel (no I didn't use a full tank to Binghamton, but started with only half a tank...) and make myself a sandwich before setting out to find the first location.  Again in texting with Brian Plant (who by now was on his way south also), the decision was made to head to the south end of the controlled siding and wait it out there.  From ground level the shot was rather fouled by high grass again - but atop the truck - well, you can see the results.

From New Milford, the chase was on...  We'd shoot south of New Milford at an overhead bridge, then proceed further south to Kingsley, PA, where a trip under the huge Lackawanna Railroad-built Martin's Creek Viaduct gave me a breath of relief as the sun would be perfect for this train crossing high overhead.  Driving up the dirt road to the top of the hill and the overlook, I hoped that I'd be in position in time to get this one here.  As I pulled in and exited my truck, the distinctive sound of EMDs roared in the valley and out onto the bridge the colorful consist emerged.

Making a quick turnaround - which on that narrow road and my Nissan truck - well, I made it and then headed for the overhead bridge at Hop Bottom that would thankfully allow just enough light to capture a fairly well lit image of the 256 passing mile 648 of the CPR Sunbury Subdivision.

From here it would be tight, but the possibility of getting Tunkhannock Viaduct at Nicholson, PA.  My first thought was the 'famed' cemetery shot, but I also wanted the "Lackawanna RR" in the shot - but would I make it??  Backup shot would be from the south end of the bridge and the pull-off/overlook from ground level.  On the drive there, the train had reported clear of a slow order around mile 647, potentially buying the time needed to get the cemetery shot.  My gut feeling usually wins out and this day - with the guidance of Mr. Plant (Jr.!) - I felt this would be the winner.  On arrival at the cemetery, I framed up a shot with a pair of US flags in the foreground, then bolted up the hill and looked at the Lackawanna RR inclusive shot.  Would I pull this one off???  I'd be happy with the flag shot, happier yet with the RR name on the bridge...

And alas - the bolt up the hill yielded the following photo...

With the day getting later and my desire to make my parents place before it got too late, I figured this was a SCORE and was pleased with my efforts of Day 1 on the journey to Indiana.  I explored a few more trains along the way, but didn't feel like shooting anything else with the end goal of Roma Pizza awaiting at my parent's place!

1 comment:

  1. Great Shots!!! I really enjoy your work!