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Edition #262  January 15, 2016

Thanks Dad

Photographer: Hal Reiser

                                                                                         Photo by  Hal Reiser


Thanks Dad

This photo is not much to look at. On the surface it shows a New York New Haven and Hartford Railroad EP-5 passing westbound through New Rochelle NY on a grim looking day. The locomotiveís appearance is typical of the state of the railroad in the year before itís absorption into the Penn Central. Artistically the image leads a lot to be desired from the standpoint of what is todayís accepted standards of railfan photography, but to me itís priceless. The date stamped on the slideís cardboard mount reads APR68. I was thirteen at the time I pushed the shutter to record this moment in time and though it is not the first rail image I have taken it is the earliest slide I have that has survived the passage of time.

It is fitting that this image is of an EP-5 as my earliest memory of a train is of one of them so naturally they have always been one of my favorites. I guess I was about two or three and I remember I was being held in my fatherís arms. We were standing and chatting with a group of people at a spot very near the New Haven mainline when a EP-5 came roaring by with a passenger train. New Haven train crews nicknamed the EP-5ís ďJetsĒ due to the jet engine like sound that their blowers made.  That sound plus the vivid red, white and black colors must have really made a huge impression on me. To this day I believe this was the day that I began my life long love affair with trains. My obsession with taking train pictures started a little later.

Growing up my father dabbled with photography and he had a darkroom in the basement of our first house. As I can attest there is nothing more magical to a young child then watching the image on a black and white print emerge in the developer. My father encouraged my interest. My first camera, a Kodak Brownie Starflash was a birthday present. When we moved to our second house, my father and I set up a new darkroom and I learned the basics from him. Subsequently his interest began to wane and I took it over.

Though not visible our house in New Rochelle was located only a short distance from the New Haven Mainline. It was an easy walk and I spent many an hour hanging out by the tracks waiting for something to come by. There was always the hope of catching an EP-5 or an FL-9 on one of the long distance passenger trains or even the more exciting and infrequent freight trains to Oak Point of Bay Ridge yards. As I grew older and could responsibly handle a camera my father would let me borrow his 35mm reflex and I started broadening my horizons. I would put the cameras into a knapsack (in the days before the word backpack became popular), hop on my bicycle and ride over to the stations at either New Rochelle or Larchmont. A really big adventure would be going to Mamaroneck.  Naturally as time went on the car replaced the bicycle and the trips became longer. 

Iím still a film shooter, I still shoot slides and black and white, and I still maintain a darkroom to this day. Some people might say Iím a luddite and in some ways I still am.  But when it comes to photography thatís not the case. I still love the process and I have never lost the magic of watching the image emerge in the developer. And it will always be a connection to my father long after he is gone.

Thanks Dad.

Hal Reiser

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