One year ago Friday I was on a railroad photography expedition in Vader, WA with some good friends. As you saw on dogcaught.com this was a visit to record action under the soon to disappear cantilever signals. It was a busy night and we enjoyed all sorts of trains to photograph with the signals.
As it ends up these photographs were my last.
17 days after this expedition my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As you saw in a post I chose to take a break from railroad photography so I could focus on my wife’s treatment. With changed priorities I chose to set some of my hobbies aside.
That was a tough choice but I felt my commitment to her was the most important thing. I still escaped on most Sundays for rail fanning around town with my daughter. Heck, we even made it out the Sunday after Tammy’s surgery. I used my iPhone periodically to photograph interesting things but for the most part this period was photography free. Thanks to Facebook and my great railfan friends I kept up on the happenings around the area.
Skip ahead one year. Today Tammy feels wonderful. She recovered from chemo, surgery and radiation and as a far as I’m concerned is back to normal. She feels occasional aches and pains but they are minor. She’s healthy and cancer free so I feel like the mission is accomplished!
I haven’t recovered my photography interest though. I’m not sure why but the idea of enjoying life through the viewfinder isn’t as appealing as it once was. I know that having a health issue refocuses your creativity. She and I spent lots of time problem solving and planning which used all the creativity we could muster. The result? My creativity feels exhausted. My motivation is lost.
For now I will continue my hiatus from photography. I do plan to enjoy railfanning and hanging out with railfan friends since my interest in trains and railroading hasn’t waned at all. When my motivation and creativity return I will once again drag my camera along.
As railfans know there are a few iconic locations where rail lines, scenery, and structures converge into unprecedented scenes. For the Central Montana this iconic location falls beween the Hoosac tunnel and the Danvers elevators. It is a bit of a remote spot where nothing more than a few rattlesnakes and cattle live. Its name is Sage Creek. The highlights of this location are of course the 1700′ long Sage Creek trestle and the nearly two mile long sweeping S curve on either side. Add in Montana’s “Big Sky” and this spot unbeatable.
The eastbound excursion train descends the 1% grade from Hoosac tunnel towards Sage Creek.
On the south side of Sage Creek mother nature built a viewing platform to end all platforms. The hills which define the canyon are covered only in grass and are easy to negotiate for an ideal photographic position. No matter what your taste I think you can find a spot on that hill which will make you smile. For our excursion Jay and Carla worked together to put the train in various spots so everyone could have that perfect photo.
Our excursion train parks in the middle of one of the beautiful railroad scenes in Montana.
On the return to Denton we stopped on the north side of the trestle for another photo shoot. This time we set up much closer to the trestle which gives you the idea just how big it really is.
Our excursion train is dwarfed by the massive Sage Creek trestle.
With a scene as giant as the S curve and trestle at Sage Creek I think a 110 car grain train would be much more appropriate for an excursion.
An eastbound empty grain train rolls through downtown The Dalles, OR. E 1st street parallels Union Pacific’s track #2 through about 1/2 mile of this part of town and makes for a great place to sit and enjoy the action.
Last weekend I attended the annual GorgeRail railroad slideshow in The Dalles, OR. I took Friday off with plans of railfanning a bit prior to the show on Saturday. BNSF and UP had other ideas with both railroads shutting down by 9:30am for maintenance. BNSF worked projects at Cooks and Bates while UP just seemed to run out of trains. By mid-afternoon trains began to move again which would set me up for the photos I planned around dark (more on that in a later post).
I found myself in downtown The Dalles as the sun began to sink. I stationed myself on E 1st. street waiting for a westbound M-HKFI to finish their work at The Dalles yard. While I waited an eastbound grain train approached and I captured this image as it overtook me on the city street. What a fun place to sit and watch the trains roll by! I ended up seeing 4 in a matter of a couple of hours at this location.
Saturday’s shows were engaging, entertaining, and very enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed David Lange’s Up Close and Personal show which featured his unique perspective on railroad photography. His show focused on images from his viewpoint and I will say he doesn’t shoot wedgies! I found each of the shows contained a photographic gem. I saw several in the Rob and Austin Jacox show and a couple in Steve Carter’s review of the Spokane area. Steve’s show particularly struck me for how he added drama to a couple of images by making the appear to move by revealing more and more of the lit area of the photograph. Very engaging presentation. Aaron Hockley’s presentation on train porn was a wonderful after lunch reflection on railfan photography garnering many laughs for the parallels to adult themes. Scott O’Dell presented some very unique perspectives from the Seattle Sub including many photo locations I’d never been too before. Martin Burwash and Charles Lange provided shows which gave a wonderful historical perspective to their subjects. I believe the highlight though was Stathi Pappas’ talk on the world of tourist railroads. After listening to him you really have to respect the successful tourist railroads which continue to operate. It is a tough business and I think Stathi has a great insight on where the industry is at and what a railroad has to do to be in the game long term.
Look for more images and updates from the GorgeRail weekend in future dogcaught posts.
Constant change is the rule in Vancouver. Last week when I visited the depot looking down the alley next to the Great Western Malting elevator was nearly impossible. The scrapper near the depot had piles of scrap and equipment which blocked the view. The next week rail cars blocked the way. This week construction had moved moved the scrap out of away so for the first time in several years I was able to capture an image of Great Western’s plant switcher.
The Port of Vancouver renewed the track recently so concrete ties, fresh ballast. and a renewed surface now replace the track which previously was pretty rough. A new set of automatic switches with switch indicators control the crossover between the tracks. Instead of just 6 cars they now pull 12 to dump. All good changes to improve the flow of business.
The fact remains though that the building structures still tower over the trains here. Despite all of the changes, the trains remain diminutive.
I’ve been away from blogging for a bit. Over the last month or so I’ve worked on several personal photography projects and have just taken a break. As time permits and my projects wrap up I will certainly be posting again.
It amazes me every time I arrive in the dry, arid portions of the Columbia River Gorge and find flowers. My mind always associates flowers with more moist conditions. How wrong my mind is!
When I visited Maryhill in mid-May the Arrowleaf buckwheat and the various balamroots were in full bloom. I spent the day hanging out with friends at this curve west of Maryhill and with the variety of rail traffic I was able to capture several of the flowers along with the train traffic. Since these flowers are such a stark contrast to the sagebrush and usual vegetation out here I couldn’t resist.
My favorite from this cloudy day, is this image of a westbound coal train passing through the rocks west of Maryhill. Not only is there a wonderful flower in the foreground but the rock cut is peppered with even more!