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Edition #60, August 15, 2007
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Photo by John Fasulo
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away
A long time ago in what seems to be a galaxy far, far away I spent a lot of time in Central New York mostly on the weekends visiting my girlfriend at Cortland State Teachers College. We would explore the area, going to state parks, museums, and regional festivals. On one particular weekend we were driving through Lakeville, NY going nowhere in particular. I noticed smoke rising from behind a building a few blocks away. As we got closer and turned the corner, I was surprised to see a steam engine, no. 38, a Baldwin 2-8-0 sitting next to an engine house. The engine’s tender read, ‘Livonia Avon & Lakeville RR’. No one seemed to be around as we parked next to the engine house. I got my camera bag from the back seat, loaded a roll of Tri-X and began to take pictures. I several shots before a young man appeared from the engine house. He nodded hello and began his morning inspection of the engine for the days run. I later found out that this engine was used during the week to shunt cars and on the weekend pulled a local excursion train. At one point the engineer climbed onto the front of the engine and removed a cover from the stack. (I later found out that this strange contraption was a fan used to draw air through the firebox and helped make the fire burn hotter thus making steam quicker). As the engineer stepped off the engine, I took a shot. It was, as Cartier-Bresson said, a decisive moment and has become the one photograph that I have taken that I hope to be remembered for when I’m long gone and turned to dust.
At that point the engineer, Kevin McGarvey and I started to talk a little and I was invited up into the cab. I took another photo of Kevin sitting in the engineers seat. After a short time we said goodbye and a few days later back at home I developed my film. I had my ‘moment’ caught on film. It is what seems to be a timeless photo; taken in 1974, it could be 1944 or 1934.
Years passed. I continued to photograph railroads while I worked as a cameraman in NYC. The photo of ‘The Engineer’ hangs in my home and ahs been published a number of times. Over the years, I often wondered what had become of Kevin McGarvey and number 38. Last year I called the Livonia Avon and Lakeville to see if by chance Kevin was still working for them. To my surprise he was still there after all these years. I asked to speak with him and was surprised to find that he remembered me and the time we spent together. I sent him a copy of the photo and was invited to come back to Lakeville for a tour and some photo opportunities. The one photo that I wanted to do while I was there was a photo of Kevin in the engineers seat. This time it would have to be in one of the railroads Alcos, number 38 having been out of service and sold long ago. When I arrived at the railroad’s main shop in Lakeville last August our reunion was emotional for me. Kevin, up until now, was the subject of what I feel is my best railroad image and one that I won’t top, ever. Kevin asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that if I got any photos, the one that I had to have was of him sitting in the engineer’s seat of an Alco. Kevin posed almost exactly as in the photo taken so many years ago. He has more grey hair now and has put on a little more weight. And, like many of us, wears glasses. Over the years he has worked at the Livonia Avon & Lakeville, rising to Chief Mechanical Officer. The railroad, a regional short line, serves central and western New York. A small staff operates from a new facility about a mile from where I took my first photos. McGarvey, laid back but clearly in charge hasn’t changed much in all these years. The Baldwin is gone but the line can boast a number of Alcos with one, according to the builder’s plate, built 57 years ago. Exactly both Kevin’s and my age. The Alco is still running strong. For now, I can say the same for myself.
For Kevin McGarvey 1949 - 2008.
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