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Edition #77, May 1, 2008

Moodna Stars

Photographer: Michael William Sullivan

                                                                                                      Photo by Michael William Sullivan

Moodna Stars

My friend John and I where out in the freezing cold doing some night photography across northwestern New Jersey. We started off at Port Morris around 10PM and made our way west to the Delaware River Viaduct on the abandoned Lackawanna Cutoff. He had just gotten a new camera and wanted to play with time exposure settings. He was experimenting with a few shots of cars making their way along the Delaware Water Gap navigating the curves of I-80 when I came up with the idea of driving roughly 65 miles to the one of the most famous locations along the NJ Transit/Metro-North Southern Tier line.

We knew we had one more westbound train to work with that night and had about an 90 minutes to get in position. Despite this time limit, we kept getting distracted by abandoned railroad tracks that John's GPS showed crisscrossing the countryside along route 94. Stopping here and there to try to find remains of Lehigh & New England, Lehigh & Hudson River and New York, Susquehanna & Western relics, we slowly but surely made our way across Sussex County into Orange County.

Upon arriving in Salisbury Mills, NY we looked at our last piece of railroad right-of-way along the old Erie Railroad Newburgh Branch where the tracks used to cross Orrs Mills Road. At this time GPS said only about 1 mile to the final destination. A few feet from the crossing with the old right-of-way we made a right onto Clove Road, crossing the Moodna Creek and paralleling the open fields of Moodna Valley. Soon enough we found Otter Kill Road and made a left headed east.

It only took a minute for the steel monster to rise above the horizon. Moodna Viaduct stood tall above us, dwarfing all around it. Built by the Erie Railroad between 1904 and 1908, this beast stretches 3,200ft long and rises 193ft above the ground making it the largest steel railroad viaduct east of the Mississippi River.

We pulled onto a small dirt access road and into the field below the south side of the viaduct. The air was quiet and crisp. Not a drop of humidity to be found. Slow, thin, wispy clods rolled in from the east and the sky was littered with stars. At this time it was about 2:35A. We where not sure if we had arrived too early or too late. We did not have a radio with us so we couldn't listen to the dragging defect detectors. With the outside temperature easily in the 10's, we got out of the car and set up for the shot. We had little faith that we'd made it in time and were freezing to death for no reason. This wasn't your average cold either. This was a nasty wind blowing down the valley, chilling us to the bones almost immediately. The ground was so frozen that I wouldn't be surprised if the blades of grass we where walking on did not bend under our weight.

About 5 minutes passed waiting in the brutal cold and on the edge of giving up, a bright headlight appeared through the trees on the east end of the bridge and brought life back to our frozen bodies. Seconds later NJ Transit train #69, an F40PH-2CAT leading five Comet V cars headed west for Port Jervis, NY crossed the span taking the late night passengers west for home. Next stop, Salisbury Mills Station.

I only took three photos while at this location, this one being the best one of the bunch. I had no feeling left in my hands for about 25 minutes after I released the shutter, but who said being a photographer was always supposed to be easy? Sometimes you just gotta eat it up for the shot.

Michael William Sullivan

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