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Edition #86, September 15, 2008

And None Shall Pass

Photographer: Sean R. Hoyden

                                                                                                          Photo by Sean R. Hoyden

And None Shall Pass

As I hiked down the CSX Right of Way at Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia, I occasionally stopped and stared at the 6 dots of red light pointing back at me.  The signals for the West Absolute Signals at the "Shen" Interlocking were standing a vigilant watch, seemingly saying,

"And None Shall Pass." 

Not too far away, a few dogs, or perhaps even coyotes were yapping as they chased down their prey, or explored their territory in search of a meal.  Further in the distance, I could hear cars and trucks out on State Route 9 heading for destinations unknown to me.  The wind picked up from time to time, sending chills down my spine and reminding me that it was still the dead of winter.

I stopped next the signal masts and looked at the sky, the full moon was hovering overhead, casting an eerie bluish-white glow on everything in view save for the shadows.  I really had no idea why I'd just hiked all the way down here, probably because it was the closest set of signals to the road and the area surrounding them was wide open allowing me to serendipitously experiment with different angles.

The wind picked up yet again, rustling the dead underbrush immediately behind me, momentarily making me wonder if some wild animal could have sneaked up on me.  I dismissed the thought and looked across the field, an occupied house was perhaps 300 feet away and the moonlight illuminated the wispy smoke from the chimney.  What I wouldn't have given to be in that nice warm house right now soaking up some heat. 

'Geez, I was just in a nice warm truck,' I thought inwardly, 'why am I doing this again?'

"Because you want to make those cool looking night photos dummy." my voice broke the natural silence in response.

The signals towered over me, about 25 feet high, each mast had a device strongly resembling that of a traffic light seen at just about any intersection in North America.  These signals however weren't controlled by an electric eye, nor were they periodically cycling through all their various configurations to keep traffic moving. 

No these silent sentries displayed a message, in bright red authority,

"And None Shall Pass."

I set my tripod in place, keeping it configured in it's shortest possible configuration, as I was just too close to the signals to adequately fit the masts completely in the frame.  I actually had to sit on the frigid ground on the Right of Way to enable myself to see through the viewfinder, I could feel the cold permeating every part of my clothing, like thousands of little icy fingers embracing me. I began to shiver.

As I looked through the viewfinder, I set my focus, using the signals in the foreground as my primary subject, but trying to focus also on the moon and the distant signals.  Satisfied with my composition, I opened the shutter. . . . as I glanced at the resulting image, I couldn't help but notice, even the moon seemed to be waiting on the signals to relent, but yet they still said,

"And None Shall Pass." 

Then as I walked back to my truck, craving the warmth of the cab, I took one last look back at the signals, and realized that even I had not completely passed the signals in the 20 minutes I was next to them.  They stared back ominously,

"And None Shall Pass."

Sean R. Hoyden

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Revised: 07/15/09 10:26:59 -0400