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Edition #64, October 15, 2007

Success at The Last Moment

Photographer: Ken Fitzgerald

                               Photo by Ken Fitzgerald

Success at The Last Moment

The last day of May in 2006 was a long one, and I did not get out of Fort Worth, TX until 6:30pm to visit my father in Sweetwater 185 miles to the west. The UP’s Baird Sub was very quiet on the radio, and it looked like this overcast day would go down as pictureless until literally the last few minutes.  As I left the town of Cisco behind, the sun finally made an appearance as it dropped into the open zone between the cloud deck and the horizon. As I advanced on west the sky was turning a shade of red as I approached the small community of Putnam. 

The radio silence was shattered by a static-plagued conversation that I vaguely interpreted as an eastbound train giving up a warrant at Clyde 20 miles ahead. I exited I20 and after driving around for a few minutes trying to compose a picture, I found a large puddle at the west end of town that the reddening sky was reflected in. I framed my shot and started to wonder if I had heard correctly as the minutes ticked by and the colors in the sunset began to fade into darkness.  “Let's see, Clyde to Putnam, how long should it take at track speed?  Any train should have been here by now......”

I was about to give up thinking I was wrong about what I heard, then I nearly jumped out of my shoes when the block signal in front of me lit up showing a bright red for anything opposing an eastbound train.  I double-checked my settings and pushed the ISO to 1600 to get the shutter speed and f-stop combination I wanted.  In about two minutes the UP 3853 East came speeding by with a manifest train on its way to Fort Worth.  I packed up and headed on west to Sweetwater as the sky lost all color within a few more minutes, confident I had achieved something of quality during the last few seconds of daylight.

Ken Fitzgerald

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