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Edition #16, October 15, 2005

Gooseneck Morning

Photographer: Ron Flanary

                                                                                       Photo © 2005 by Ron Flanary

Gooseneck Morning

Iím new to digital photography, but Iíve been using a camera to record images of the railroad industry for over 45 years now. Itís my hobby, and itís the enduring love of my life (except, of course, my wife who has been with me for 38 of those years). And, like every other crusty old geezer in this avocation, I was resistant to the ďchange.Ē But heck, the Norfolk & Western didnít retire its last steam locomotive until the spring of 1960, while its eventual merger partner Southern ended steam in the summer of 1953, almost seven years earlier. But, they both eventually realized steam was great for nostalgia, but not a realistic motive power option to pull their trains. Digital photography is here, so like it or lump it.

So, itís September 15, 2005, and this particular morning, I had a chance to go into work later than usual. I took advantage of that time to do some photography. Given the volume of traffic on the various Appalachian lines of CSX and NS within a 50-mile radius of my home, options are plentiful. As the morning fog lifted, I encountered an eastbound CSX coal train near Jasper, Virginia. Too dark? Well, I just dialed up the ISO rating on my still-fairly new Nikon D70 and I was in business. Railroad photography was taking on a totally new dimension as I followed the train from spot to spot.

The image here is not particularly stunning, but it serves to announce that digital photography has given me new creative energy after all these years. The fog is still thick as the two General Electric units shove on the rear of the train through a string of three reverse curves on a 1.7 percent grade at Big Cut, Virginia. Old head railroaders called this the ďGooseneck,Ē and the hill was usually littered with broken knuckles, drawheads and other tell-tale signs of the struggles of moving heavy coal trains against gravity. Today, though, itís a nice proving ground for my digital photography skills. For just a moment, I donít miss the sound of old Southern F-units here quite as much. The experience is as fresh as the morning dew along the Gooseneck. Life is good.

Ron Flanary


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