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Edition #196  April 15, 2013

Long Term Teamwork

Photographer: George Pitarys

                                                                      Photo by George Pitarys

Long Term Teamwork

I am one of a very fortunate few who has a wife that understands, appreciates, and usually wants to participate in my railroad hobby. To a certain degree I suppose it's related to her occupation as she is presently a train dispatcher, and has been for some 18 years. Previous to that, she was a tower operator. That's how we met. She was the first trick tower operator, and I was the first trick dispatcher with whom she worked. However what happened from there, is a different story than one I am looking to tell here. 

She knew from the beginning that railfanning was an integral part of my life, and this fact was clearly obvious to her, even during our honeymoon. On about the fourth day of that event, she found herself learning how to change film in my Nikon FM-2 as we jolted and careened down an access road while chasing a military extra along side the SP's Sunset Route at Dragoon Arizona. Teamwork for us, began at the beginning.

I don't suppose that a railfan my age can ever get enough RS-3 shots, and I am lucky enough to live within a few hours drive of one of the last companies that operate a freight railroad with with them. That of course is the Battenkill, in upstate New York. I've chased them numerous times but late in the snowless winter of 2012 when there was a clear blue dome predicted, Candy and I decided it was worth a trip, and another chase of the venerable RS-3. We left home well before dawn, and arrived at the BK's headquarters in time to share a coffee with the crew and general manager before the days work and chase began.

The chase went smoothly, the old Alco chuff chuffing along at 10 mph with a 7 car train. You can pretty much pick your spots at that speed, but as your near the interchange with Panam at Eagle Bridge, there are several very good shots, quite close together, and that require some hoofing to get to. We made the first of these, ran to the truck and sped off to the next location, which requires a walk of perhaps 150 yards. We'd beat the train ok, but he was close, and the shot I wanted was rather further away, and as I approach age 60, I find I'm not as quick as I once was.

So, I began to run to get to my spot. All good so far, because I'm clearly going to make it in time. And then ( remember I said snowless winter) I stepped into some mud. Mud that went better than ankle deep, and created considerable suction. My foot didn't release, and my momentum pitched me forward, face first toward this mud. My reactions were pretty good, I stuck my left arm to break my fall, and held the camera high in my right.  After the thud, I regained my feet with my clothes covered in the mud. My left arm had sunk elbow deep in the muck, but the camera was untouched... What a PRO ! 

However, by now the train is VERY close, but I cannot set the shutter speed, aperture, nor focus, (Remember I said FM-2, which was of course a fully manual camera), because my hand was coated in an inch of mud, So I turned to Candy and said, "Babe, give me a hand". I had Candy set the shutter speed and aperture, then focus while I held the camera to my eye with only my right hand. When we got it all done, the train was already on the bridge, and I pulled the trigger. Here's the result. Candy got her shot too. Long term teamwork. I highly recommend it.

George Pitarys

See my book Seasons of Trains

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Revised: 08/11/13 13:21:33 -0400