The Photographers'

Railroad Page

Home    Archives    Submission Guidelines

Edition #223  June 1, 2014

It's Not Where You're Going. . .

Photographer: Tishia R. Adams

                                                                                                            Photo by Tishia R. Adams


It's Not Where You're Going. . .

it's where you've been.

Sunrise this chilly Saturday in April found me a bit annoyed. The night before, I'd watched local Norton Yard mine crew U46 turn their UP and BNSF power to lead a unit coal train loaded at Alpha Natural Resources' Tom's Creek Complex in Coeburn, Virginia. I knew the train would be leaving the next morning, being accustomed to crew calls for loads bound for Lambert's Point or upward to Portsmouth, Ohio. My first thought was of getting up before dawn and catching some nice foggy shots in the siding with the color popping...just right with first light cutting through the fog. Color from foreign power in Coeburn from the one who catches all the heritage units was a welcomed change.
My boys were going golfing for the day and I was thinking of the music they'd be subjected to for the day. "It's not where you're going, it's where you've been." Not sure why that thought occurred to me when thinking of the boys and music, I was hopelessly wide awake wondering where that was going to lead me. Lyrics to a song I'd listened to and just not "heard"? My favorite photos almost always get a heuristic association with song lyrics. I don't disclose those personal chuckles, but use them to mentally note things about a shot to use for future reference. 4:30am...there's eight blaring horn blasts (the usual number of crossing warnings from trains leaving Tom's Creek) train is leaving early, shots ruined, this is just great! I'm reminded again why I don't make plans - plans never work out. Just get in the car and go and you'll get the shot you were meant to get, who cares where!

Just before dawn, fog heavy as hoped, I drove to Tom's Creek siding and my train was definitely gone. A quick check confirmed 772 from Bluefield, West Virginia had been called from their hotel to take the train east before it's *usual* roll-out crew call of 6:00am. A very unusual run for 772, I didn't ask where the train was currently. Instead, I drove toward Carbo Yard in Russell County, Virginia. I knew if 772 was for some odd reason taking the train on to Bluefield so early, they would need to stop at Cleveland, Virginia to pick up a pusher or two. I noticed bypassing Carbo Yard that only one engine was in the yard and a PTI crew van was loaded and ready to leave, so I made a beeline straight for Cleveland. There's pushers out and about and something is moving this morning. The fog was even thicker I as drove along the Clinch River, and a wet misty fog that was going to make for a great sunrise shot. Under normal weather conditions, one can spot a train in the siding across the river and see pushers on the rear of eastbound loads. But in the dark and the fog heavy, this was not a morning for anticipating what might be sitting on point at Cleveland...nope, nothing but fog, not a train to be spotted.

Seconds from Cleveland, and still no break in the fog and no assurance I was going to find my pop of color waiting ahead. I wasn't sure where I was going if I was wrong and found nothing, but I was tired and sure knew where I'd already been before sunrise. Just as I crossed the Clinch River and entered Cleveland --- THERE'S my UP and BNSF from Tom's Creek. As I'd originally suspected, pushers were out and about and they just happened to be sitting on the rear of this unit coal train. The PTI van pulled in with crew 80M charged with taking the loads to Williamson, West Virginia. We exchanged greetings and they boarded the lead as 772 disembarked. Even more annoyed than I was at not getting my pop of color in the morning fog in Coeburn, crew 772 was none-too-happy at having to make such an early short haul before handing over their loads and taxi-ing home. Tired and annoyed (all of us), the crew of 772 unknowingly gave me an idea as they told me 80M would have the track very shortly. I headed a few miles east along the river to a spot my boys and I had found by accident Fall of 2013. A nice old bridge was calling my name, a down-on shot through a rock cut with that pop of color just before the sun broke through the fog...I could save my planned shot after all. 

Getting to the bridge quickly, I had time to turn my car and think about the wasn't the way I'd pictured getting my first eastbound shot here. As the train approached, I turned around and shot the lead engines going away, disappearing into the fog as they crossed Artrip Trestle over the Clinch. Delete it. Not the way I'd pictured my first shot looking west here either. I have in mind shots I want in each spot I find, and today was not my day to get those colors in fog and obviously not my day to get nose shots the way I'd envisioned off this bridge. But --- I'm always impressed (and somewhat proud,) with the flat clean uniformity of the loads my brother produces with his flood-loader...with the help and steady work of a good engineer. Instead of color, looking down on those loads, I opted for a moody black & white shot of the top of the loads as they slipped into the fog. Unfamiliar with the location, one would have to guess to where those loads were disappearing. 

A heavy rumble charging hard from behind, there come my pushers and I know I won't get ditchlights. The pushers pass beneath me with nice, bright headlights cutting the fog and no ditchlights. I read a lot of grumbling about going-away shots, but still don't understand all the fuss. So I fire off another black & white shot, looking west and still not the way I'd planned my first shot here. Yet somehow, this was "THE" shot of the day. Rather than rush home and add the lights with Photoshop right away (I'm too lazy to edit, honestly,) I think "It's not where you're going, it's where you've been." My pushers going away into the fog, into the unknown, no ditchlights and a heavy wet fog hiding the trestle and river ahead and it was perfection to me. Being proud of a going-away shot, I'm told, is akin to being proud of a shot in rain...both of which I am extremely fond. Everyone offering compliments on this shot has referred to it as "the black & white with
 the engine popping out of the fog" and I just thank them, not bothering to correct them. Adding those ditchlights as an afterthought would kill the story, the story that every photo gets - the story the photographer associates with those fantastic chases or lucky mishaps. This was definitely a lucky mishap getting the shot that fools most. 

80M's pushers will forever be my reminder of how I end up in the most unusual, unintentional places trackside. This shot is my reminder that where I'm going doesn't matter, it's where I've been that sets the mood for a day of railfanning when I'm at the wheel. No plans, just start shooting somewhere and drive until I know I've gotten a shot that suits me...or so I've come to think: until I get the shot I was meant to get for the day. In this shot, this going-away eastbound mistaken for a westbound wasn't where that engine was going that made the shot, it was where it had been. Where it, and I, had been the past twelve hours is what enabled me to capture the first nose shot I was truly meant to get from Artrip Bridge. 

Afterthought: Those nagging suspected song lyrics, words that had inadvertently stuck in my head because they were originally out of place...not in rhyming fashion as played in a country song I had recently heard...a genre my 8 year-old detests and my 5 year-old sings with glee and happily tortures his brother with while golfing. The original lyrics had annoyed me when first hearing them because they did not rhyme with the line prior, my mental reworking of which has cued a lesson for snagging the right shot regardless of the accepted "norm". 

Tishia R. Adams

Click Here to join The Photographers' Railroad Page update list and be notified of new editions.

This site is sponsored by Lightsource Photo Imaging

The Photographers Railroad Page
Copyright 2014 by The Photographers Railroad Page. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/15/14 17:37:06 -0400