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Edition #70, January 15, 2008


Photographer: Hal Reiser

                                                                                          Photo by Hal Reiser


Some of my favorite rail photos come from the transition era when steam gave way to diesel. Unfortunately being born too late to witness that time I have had to content myself with enjoying and envying the works of the masters like Hastings, Shaughnessy and Parker Lamb, who were lucky enough to have lived at the proper time and were able to appreciate the opportunity.

When it comes down to it though, I am not a big steam fan. Growing up with diesels has seen to that. However, the chance to see and listen to big steam engines at work in this day and age does hold its attractions and occasionally my arm can be twisted. Such was the case in January, 2005 when my good friend Howard Pincus and I headed west to Ohio for a winter photographers weekend at the Ohio Central Railroad featuring their former Grand Trunk Western 4-8-4 No. 6325.

The first half of the weekend began with diesels, much to my delight and the chagrin of the hardcore steam fans. The passenger train carrying the photographers was hauled by the OCís pair of ex-VIA (CN) FP-9Aís wearing a Pennsylvania Railroad inspired five strip maroon paint scheme. The special departed the Morgan Run Shops and ran east on the OCís ex-Pennsy Pittsburgh-St. Louis mainline as far as Bowerstown, OH where the 6325 awaited our arrival.  At Bowerstown the Fís cut away from the train and headed back west to Dennison to clear up and the 6325 took over.  We worked our way west to Dennison arrived there a little after midday for a lunch stop and a series of run-bys. After doing a couple in the yard the photo line began to set up for a shot at the restored Pennsy passenger depot which houses the Dennison Railroad museum.

At about this time several things began to happen. First, the low clouds and snow squalls that had been with us since the morning began to break up. Secondly, by the time we had reached Dennison I was in a foul mood. In spite of the pleas of the tripís organizers to give all the participants a chance at the best photo line spots by rotating positions during the multiple run-bys at each location, the same people were continuing to monopolize the photo line and were not yielding. As I watched this same situation develop again at Dennison from behind the photo line I said to myself, ď*&%#@%^%$$ THISĒ and turned away. Disgusted, I noticed the FP-9ís sitting on a spur track a block west of the station so I tromped down there to see if maybe I might be able to do some kind of meet shot with the Fís.

Unfortunately after circling the units I realized that the angles were all wrong for what I had in mind and was about to give up when suddenly I was blinded by the light bulb going off over my head and realized I could finally attempt a transition era shot.

The engineer was sitting in the cab of the westward facing unit so I climbed up and asked him for permission to shoot from the eastward cab. The reply was, ĒSure, no problemĒ. Elated, I scrambled up into the other cab and set up.

Standing on my tiptoes with my back jammed against the electrical cabinet, and using a 24mm wide angle I could just get the entire windshield within the frame. I was concentrating so intently on not cutting off the sides of the Fís windshield that I donít remember much of the scene as the 6325 stormed though town. I knew however it was going to be a good and I only hoped that I hadnít moved and screwed up the shot. When the slides came back I was ecstatic.

The stiff northwest wind which had cleared away most of the clouds had blown the 6325's exhaust plume down toward the ground and totally obscured the photo line. Instead of shooting an approximation of a transition photo in Ohio in 2005, with the exception of one automobile, I had managed to come up with an image that could put me in the firemanís seat of a Grand Trunk Western F-3 waiting in the hole somewhere in Michigan during the 1950ís for one of the GTWís few remaining Northernís passing with the varnish.

Hal Reiser

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