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Edition #263  February 1, 2016

Thank You, Mr. Graham

Photographer: R.G. Edmonson

                                                                                 Photo by  R.G. Edmonson


Thank You, Mr. Graham

July 3. This is the first day since her return to service that Norfolk & Western 611 will takes on Christiansburg Grade with an excursion train from Roanoke to Radford, Va.

Scanning Google Earth for a likely photo spot, I see a small road leading well off the beaten path. It's private property, so the right thing is to get the owner's permission. I seek out J.R. Graham, who owns 160 acres on this hilltop. He's most gracious, even drives me around the property in his ATV to show me another vantage point. (Would have been a great shot, except for all the trees.) I finally set up at his grade crossing.

I eat lunch. I nap. I'm roused by I don't know what. The clock says it's almost showtime, but there's no way to tell when the Queen will approach except to tune ears to the faraway to catch the whistle and exhaust beats of her approach.

Then the sound ... diesel?? What?? ... the Queen broke down and they're substituting power? Diesel assist on the heavy grade?

Nope. Two black-and-white Gevos with an Armour Yellow tail heave into view, making a steady 25 or 30 pulling double-stacks up the hill. Excursion or no excursion, Norfolk Southern is still earning money with intermodal. This is the warm-up act.

The Queen is waiting in the wings, and in due time she makes her entry. I get my shots.

But that's not the end of the story. Often what's memorable is what you can't photograph. The sounds. That haunting whistle, the steady breath of a machine that's on her knees and pulling hard.

Just to my right is a flange lubricator. Drivers hit grease, and ch-ch-ch-ch suddenly becomes ch-ch-chchchch-ch-ch–ch–ch-chchchch–ch–ch–ch-ch-ch-ch as she gains her footing and moves on around the curve.

Thank you, Mr. Graham. Great show.

R.G. Edmonson

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