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Edition #126, May 15, 2010

Close, But No Cigar

Photographer: George W. Hamlin

                                                                                   Photo by George W. Hamlin

Close, But No Cigar

As photographers, I suspect that most of us have played either or both of the roles depicted here: having someone insert themselves into the picture when it’s too late to move or re-frame the shot, or performing the ignoble act ourselves, to the consternation of one or more friends.

Two days after the Fourth of July 1968, my Louisville railfan friends Skip Hansberry and the late Steve Evans had taken their visitor over to observe the action on the Southern Railway’s heavily-trafficked CNO&TP, from the vantage point of the station at Georgetown, Kentucky. The advance billing lived up to its name; we saw several freights, including the noted “Sparkplug” auto-parts hotshot, as well as the southbound remnant of Southern’s once-fabled “Royal Palm”. Little about today’s number three could have been classified as ‘regal’ with its consist of a single E unit, several baggage cars and a pair of stainless coaches, however.

Another purpose of going to Georgetown was to meet Flem Smith, a local fan that fit the description of unofficial railroad employee. He’d spent enough time at the depot that he was familiar to the crews, and typically gave them an enthusiastic highball as they passed. Since he’d done this from a position well back from the tracks when the first northbound went by, it didn’t occur to me that this would cause any problems with photography.

After the Palm exited south, we were awaiting another northbound freight, termed the “Rabbit” by the locals. As it came into view, I lined up my shot to be framed by the front of the depot and its overhanging roof. Needless to say, I was surprised at the resulting “action shot” of Flem’s highball, complete with an agricultural product representative of his home state.

It’s amazing what forty years and a little maturity can do to youthful attitude. The good news is that since my 35mm negatives are in strips, this photo didn’t get trashed. It’s apparent that the sudden appearance of Flem’s arm caused me to press the shutter a little too quickly; it probably would have been better even under the circumstances, if I had let the lead SD-35 get a little further into the frame. Or would it? Then the jumbo tankers in the background wouldn’t have been visible, and it would have been a little less obvious reminder of what happened. In any case, I’m a glad that I still have the shot!

George W. Hamlin

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