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Edition #63, October 1, 2007
Photographer: George Pitarys
Photo by George Pitarys
This story begins in the fall of 1977. At that time I was a relatively new operator on the Canadian Pacific’s Saint John Division. I was headquartered in Brownville Junction, Maine and worked the several stations on the CP’s 200-mile trek across north central Maine. One needs to understand that this is a very remote area. In the 117 miles of the Moosehead subdivision, only 8 paved roads are crossed. Most days that fall I was working the third trick at Jackman, and when my duties were completed, I jumped aboard the assistant roadmasters motor car, and did his daily patrol with him. These trips were taken under two premises, firstly we bird hunted. Even though firearms were prohibited on company property, a single barrel shotgun was fairly “hide-able” and partridge were plenty, as they warmed themselves on the right of way. My second purpose was shooting of the second kind, which is to scout, and or actually take pictures at the many remote locations we passed each day. I was very successful in both endeavors.
Jump ahead 16 years to 1993. I have moved on and now a dispatcher for the Maine Central, living in New Hampshire, but the CP is something for me that I will never have left. However, it’s evident that the CP is making all the moves to leave its operations east of Montreal to history. Yours truly realizes this, and spends much of his free time that year returning to Maine, to get the shots that had been stuck in my head all the intervening years. The ones I never shot while I worked on the line. I got many of the locations that had haunted me, but still some remained, after the CP had completed its retreat to Montreal in Dec 1994.One of these “holdouts” was a location named Brassua Pit. When I had first seen the spot, I always imagined there might be a good shot from the top of the pit, but never got up there.
Leap forward again to August 2000 while vacationing in the area, I decided to try and find the spot by road and after some research, I was able to do so. However, I was somewhat dismayed to note that the overall nice scene was obscured by a number of trees. On the way out I ran into the section crew, and after a bit of reminiscing I mentioned a particularly large tree that was in the way. Overnight, I thought about the fact that with some trimming, I still might make a passable shot, so I returned the next day with a bow saw and ax, and much to my surprise, the big tree was gone! My not so subtle hints to my old coworkers had not gone unnoticed. Those that remained could be handled with the tools I had, but one had to get down that long nearly vertical bank. So I tied a rope off on a tree at the top, and the whole family, my wife Candy, 14-year-old son RJ, 12-year-old daughter Jodi, and myself rappelled down the slope. We spent the next hour and a half of that hot July afternoon, chopping, sawing and dragging the offending flora out of the way. On completion, Jodi said, “Dad, I don’t think I can get back up that rope”, so Candy and RJ went up the rope to the truck, while Jodi and I walked a half mile to a point where we could rendezvous with the truck. Imagine Candy’s chagrin when arriving at the top of the bank that I still had the truck keys! However R.J. was thrilled to make another round trip on the bank, and we later successfully met. Work completed, I discovered that a track work block, precluded the daylight passage of any trains! Fast forward one more time to October that same year and while on my annual hunting trip, I once again found myself in the area of Brassua Pit, and a cell phone call revealed that a train was due imminently. So the shot was made, truly a time exposure, one 23 years in the making!
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