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Edition #5, May 1, 2005
Photographer: Kevin Scanlon
Photo © by Kevin Scanlon
I was on an extended road-trip with my closest friend, Kevin Tomasic. We were traveling west from our homes in Pittsburgh, photographing trains along the way to California to visit my school friend Dory. We had a general direction rather than a plan for the trip. Along the way we camped and cooked our food, stopping occasionally at small town cafes and staying at roofed lodging when it seemed appropriate.
Six days into the trip we treated ourselves to a night at the Izaac Walton Inn in Essex, Montana. Even in 1978 the Inn was a railfan destination. We spent Friday night June 2 there; the room was $14 for the both of us. After a nice dinner we went downstairs to the bar for some drinks and pool. That night the sound of the Burlington Northernís F-unit helpers idling outside sang us to sleep.
On Saturday we followed an eastbound to the summit of Marias Pass then headed west to try to catch something at the tunnel near Pinnacle. The only thing moving during the three hours we spent up on a hillside was a bear scratching around below us. Late in the afternoon we set up a campsite at Blacktail then decided to head back to the Inn.
Iíd like to say we timed it for twilight to take a few photos so that the lights on the F-units would not burn in and the sky would still hold some deep blue color. Iíd like to say we knew there was an eastbound working up toward us. Iíd like to say we timed the photograph so that the helper engineer would be checking his orders while a young couple watched from the bench in front of the Inn. Iíd like to say I was pre-visualizing the composition of Mt. Shields looming above the roofline; triangular visual points with the peak, the inn and the engineer; small star trails in the sky.
None of that would be the truth. We were killing time until we could get in some straight rye and a couple of games of pool in the bar. We didnít have a scanner, they were exotic in those days. We got the cameras out of the Army surplus knapsacks and set up the tripods. I got out my LunaPro and took a reading off some ballast approximating Zone V. We composed by instinct. Ansel wouldnít be aghast; he knew some photographs just happen. Moonrise Over Hernandez.
The eastbound manifest stopped in front of us. The helpers drifted west to couple onto the back of the train for the shove. The cars were moving before we noticed. When the Fís were passing us the engines made their characteristic hesitation then throttled up. The power circuits were making transition; the traction motors shunting from series to parallel.
A month later I was on a sidewalk in Oakland, CA holding Doryís hand. We were wishing Kevin a safe trip back home. He would be making the long return drive alone. In the fall he finished his business degree and eventually found a fine life with wife Susie and their family in Pittsburgh. Dory and I put our new lives together in the Bay Area and landed back in Pennsylvania years later.
Series to parallel.
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