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Edition #136, October 15, 2010

Last Shot of the Day

Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic

                                                                                   Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic

Last Shot of the Day

February 15, 1986 dawned clear and cold. Seeing this I rolled out of bed on the first alarm. Leaning over, I told Susie “Looks good today, I’m gonna call the Lake Erie dispatcher to see what’s running.” She said okay then rolled over to get a couple minutes more peace. I padded down the stairs, found the number, dialed and asked, “Just wanted to know, do you have any 2800’s out on the road today?” The P&LE dispatcher hesitated for a moment and said “Yeah, I got a couple on a Monessen ore. They’re leaving the Rocks shortly.” I told him thanks and hung up. The 2800’s were Pittsburgh and Lake Erie’s U28B’s, a personal favorite. They were running out their last miles, so I was out to document their last days as best I could. By the time I made it back upstairs, my girl was already up and about. I told her we were going to go after an ore train and she just smiled, well knowing what was ahead. I dressed quickly, grabbed the camera bag and we were off-oh those days before children: just pick up and go!

I figured on catching the train at East Monongahela and (of course) knew of a donut shop across the river in Monongahela (the coffee and donuts assured me of domestic tranquility). Upon pulling up to the end of the highway bridge at East Monongahela, I found the southbound signal lit green and soon the ore drag arrived-two U28’s bracketing an MP-15. We shot them a few times as they made their way along the Mon River to their final destination.

At Monessen, the crew yarded their train adjacent to the Wheeling-Pittsburgh steel mill, then drifted back to the yard office and knocked off for lunch. Susie and I did the same, finding a convenience store and stocked up on goodies. Back at the yard, awaiting the crew, we sipped coffee, snacked and told each other stories-our favorite waste of time. Presently, the crew returned, about the same time as a couple of GP-38’s came north with a coal drag. After that bit of excitement, they tied on to a string of empties destined for McKee’s Rocks. It’d already been a long day, so I planned one last shot from the highway bridge at Webster, PA a couple miles north of Monessen.

We parked and walked up onto the rickety steel structure to find the Mon River a deep blue in the late afternoon and on it a big northbound river tow moving snow covered coal to some power house along the water. Timing was with us as the P&LE U-boats met that riverboat at a bend in the river, as the dying light of the day washed over them.

By the time the exhaust of those GE’s billowed up around us on the bridge, I knew I had my last shot of the day.

Kevin N. Tomasic

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