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Edition #137, November 1, 2010

Catching the Moment

Photographer: Ken Carr

                                                                                   Photo by Ken Carr

Catching the Moment

Night or timed exposure photography is a hobby within the hobby of rail photography that I enjoy the most. I prefer using only available light from mostly natural sources and limited light from manmade sources to capture a scene.

On January 27, 2007 near midnight I left home in northeast Las Vegas and headed south towards Arden yard, one of two smaller yards within the valley. The scanner had been quiet for hours, the odds of trains running the mainline appeared slim and the sky was lit by a Waxing or almost ¾ size moon with partly cloudy skies. My goal was to catch a few shots of yard power on the wye with the moon in the background and maybe crew changes later in Las Vegas if any mainline trains appeared.
As I neared Arden, the scanner came alive with “Hot rail west bound Arden” and shortly thereafter some 30 miles south the detector came alive with a large axle count but a below average track speed. Now came the questions. Was there a meet ahead or two westbound trains? Late night coal, cement and wheat trains seemed to run the line, If there was a meet, where? South were three stations but only two with sidings between Arden and the detector. I turned on to the interstate headed south. Northbound traffic was heavy with visitors coming into Vegas from California. As I passed them going through low foothills I caught a garbled transmission of diverging approach then silence.

Ahead was the exit to the two stations with sidings, Sloan and Erie. From the Interstate the signal at Sloan appeared green(?). Being color blind the signal appeared white the same as if it was yellow to me. I looked ahead, seeing no power on the approach and bet on Erie for a meet. At Erie I found an eastbound K train holding the main with two SD-70Ace’s on point. I pulled up off the right-of-way and quickly set up my tripod. Behind me I could hear diesels, but they could be trucks from the interstate or the now approaching train?

I took a few quick test shots with my 300D, the cab door opened and the conductor came out. He paused looking at me, then with his lantern came off the locomotive. He stood some 30 feet off from the power and in moments I caught this shot of an approaching coal train lighting up the head end of this eastbound K, with the conductor ready on the ground. A timeless moment played over and over again day or night in all sorts of weather along the Union Pacific.

Ken Carr

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