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Edition #255  October 1, 2015

My Autumn Colors

(Black and White, Green and White, Black and Gold, Red and Yellow)

Photographer: Kevin Scanlon

                                                                                  Photo by  Kevin Scanlon

 

My Autumn Colors

(Black and White, Green and White, Black and Gold, Red and Yellow)

As old guys tend to say, it seems like only yesterday. Forty years have passed quickly. It was a pleasant early autumn day on October 5, 1975. As was our weekly routine, Keith Clouse and I were out on a Sunday taking train pictures. We would often head west of Pittsburgh to see what was happening at Conway Yard then get a few action shots somewhere. Radio scanners were rare back then. Cell phones and internet information didn’t exist. If you wanted to find out what was happening you had to ask somebody. Railfans back then scratched train sightings onto cave walls.

We drove up the dirt road past the little church at Homewood, PA toward the Penn Central’s Wood Tower. We hadn’t been to the tower before but perhaps the operator would not be too hostile to a couple shaggy young guys and would give us a lineup. We parked behind the op’s green Javelin and grabbed our cameras.

“Hi, anything coming?”

“TV-1’s on the bell. Mail 9 is right behind running on main one. You guys can hang out to catch them if you want.” Hell yeah! The op was a young guy and didn’t seem to mind having a little company.

“Hey, you guys want a picture of something good? The conductor on TV-1 is a real piece of work.” He stomped on the radio pedal and called out, “TV-1, Wood.”

“TV-1 answering Wood.”

“Hey Whitey, stick your head out the window when you go by. A couple of guys want to take a look at Santa Claus.”

“I shaved it off! The ladies like my face smooooth.”

The headlight was coming around the bend. I photographed the engines through the tower window and stepped outside for a picture of Whitey in the caboose. Back inside the operator was preparing orders to hoop up to Mail 9’s crew. It was the hottest train on the railroad and right on TV-1’s markers. He slammed over the crossover switches, accelerating all the way. Whitey would be waving from his caboose to the mail’s caboose as it passed him in a couple minutes.

The operator was climbing back up the steps as I shot the mail train’s bay window caboose from inside the tower. A coffee pot was boiling on a small hotplate. Next to the door was a portable black & white TV he had brought to work. We spent the next hour talking to the operator and watching the TV. The Steelers were playing the Browns and when his relief showed up at 3:00 he would be able to make it home for the 4th quarter.

It was the final autumn for the Penn Central, but the Steelers just starting their run. They were defending their first Super Bowl victory and establishing their reputation as the greatest football team ever. Last week they were beaten by the Buffalo Bills with O.J. Simpson torching them for 227 yards. Today’s game was just as expected for Steelers vs Browns; a brutal, bloody street fight. The Steelers went through three quarterbacks. One would go down and be taken off the field and another would replace him. Terry Bradshaw didn’t make it to halftime. The Steel Curtain defense was fired up mostly due to holding by the Brown’s line. Mean Joe Greene was ejected from the game after an on-field brawl. What a great game to watch for three guys huddled around a tiny TV in an interlocking tower. The TV trains outside would interrupt from time to time. We listened to the end of the game on the car radio. Steelers 42 Browns 6. They would go on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in their second Super Bowl.

The Penn Central has been a favorite of mine, although when it existed the railroad was held in distain by railfans. Maybe it was the drab black paint, maybe the run-down state of the property, maybe because it was a blanket smothering several widely admired railroads. But my PC memories are brightly colored with red and yellow Kodachrome boxes, friendship, legendary football and an afternoon where it all came together in a green and white wood box.

Kevin Scanlon

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