Trains and Flowers

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!

Gorgeous Day In The Gorge

I feel like I sound like a broken record because I’m starting another post with “another trip to the Gorge”.  I guess I shouldn’t whine too much because not everyone can easily visit such a wonderful place on a regular basis.  I should feel proud to be able to start off another post with “another trip to the Gorge”, right?

Sunday’s trip to the fabulous Columbia River Gorge was an opportunity to hang out with a friend visiting from Wisconsin. Scott previously lived in Oregon so he wanted to spend the day hanging out in one his favorite places.   With sunrise scheduled for 5:18 we decided to leave Scott’s hotel at 5 and find some trains in the morning sun.

Our first stop coincided with the eastbound morning Z train making a meet with a grain train at Cooks.  This location was right on the eastern edge of the morning low clouds hanging around the west side of the mountains.  In the minutes before the Z train’s arrival the scene migrated from full sun to cloudy.  Of course just before the train arrived the sun disappeared altogether.   Thankfully the sun came back just enough to highlight the subject and give me this wonderful photo.

Throughout the rest of the day we visited Rowland Lake, West North Dalles, MP 99 on the UP, the Lyle rest area and associated rock out croppings,  the rock spires at MP 81.5 on the BNSF, and finally Rowland Lake again.  In the middle of the day we stopped in for a nice lunch in The Dalles and relaxed while the trains took a break and the sunlight was less than optimal.  The middle part of the day had plenty of lulls so we engaged one another in interesting conversations ranging the gamut of rail related topics as well as technology, science, and some politics.

Near the end of the day we found ourselves at Rowland Lake again.  BNSF lined up 2 trains to head right into the sun so we found our various locations around the lake for photographs.  I chose to capture this photo of the evening Z train between the Oak trees.  Now, before you say “wow, you had great luck with the barge and tow boat Steve”, understand this is a composite photo.  The barge passed through the scene about 9 minutes prior to the Z train.  I felt the combination depicts what actually happens quite frequently on the Columbia River so I chose to put the two images together.

That’s it for this Gorge visit.  Someone else approached me about a July or August trip so it looks like “another trip to the Gorge” is in store!


Saturday in the Gorge III

This post is a continuation of a series of posts about my visit to the Gorge in April.  You can find the first two posts here and here.

After last photographing the grain train east of Bingen, I drove east to meet up with my friends who’d taken up station at MP 116 east of Maryhill.  I figured the fastest way to them was the old highway past the Stonehenge Memorial.  I calculated I’d arrive at the crossing and find the grain train rolling past.  As I descended the hill I could tell the train hadn’t arrive yetg so I jumped into position to capture it rounding the curve near the east switch.

As soon as I’d fired off a few test shots the grain train’s headlight appeared under the U.S. 97 overpass.  After a moment for a breath I captured this image of the train winding around toward the east switch with Wy’east (Mt. Hood) towering above.  This location is one of several popular locations between East Wishram and the John Day Dam for railfans to capture a train and Mt. Hood in the same scene.

Railfans in the Northwest sure are lucky!  Where else can this sort of scenery be captured so readily?

GorgeRail 2012 – My Thoughts

Last Saturday I attended the annual GorgeRail railfan slideshow in The Dalles, Or.  This year like all prior years I enjoyed socializing with my railfan friends and viewing some very interesting photo presentations.  In fact I think the socialization and connections with other fans makes this show special.  With attendance less than a hundred, it is easy to chat with folks and build those relationships.


In my opinion GorgeRail is one of the most technologically sophisticated shows in the railfan community.   This year the tech team rented a very powerful projector which displayed images very brightly and very clearly.  It surpassed anything I’ve seen at Winterail or the Autumn Leaf slideshows.  Additionally, the tech team calibrates the projector so color rendition is spot on with EVERY image presented.   Audio quality is top notch thanks to the Discovery Center’s wonderful audio system (and a fix by the GR tech team).  I must say here that having a professional A/V engineer, a digital imaging expert, and a strong technical geek on the technical team makes all of these pieces work together smoothly and professionally.  These guys make the presenter’s show work smoothly and look great.  I know that plans for next year’s show will have the presentations looking even better!

The presentations ended up about a 50/50 mix of story shows (those with a story that is supported by the images) and photo stream shows (those that are simply a stream of photos set to music).  Also the shows were about a 50/50 mix of modern day images and historical images.  I’d say the programs were most heavily weighted towards the SP but since most everyone loves the SP, there were few complaints.  This year there were no Gorge related programs at all.

From the feedback I heard everyone enjoyed the presentations.   I did too.  I saw all sorts of wonderful photos spread throughout the day.

I do struggle with programs which aren’t well thought out, scattered, and don’t follow the theme or story they start with.  A few of the GorgeRail shows went down one or more of those paths.  Were they huge problems?  Not really since the staff placed these shows at a good location in the line up to reduce their impact.  Was there anything wrong with the photos in these sorts of show?  Not really, the only issue (in my mind) was there were way too many photos in them.   Was I satisfied?   I was.  I have a passion for trains and I really enjoy seeing the variety which is presented at GorgeRail even I my taste in presentations is different from that of the presenter.

Saturday evening and Sunday are traditionally railfanning days and this year was no different.  Late Saturday the weather began to change in advance of an approaching storm so the sun was obscured near sunset.  Sunday ended up being cloudy all day.  No problem though because it was good to hang out trackside with friends.

Saturday in the Gorge II

Back to my mid-April visit to the Gorge.  As I mentioned in my previous post I was up early so I’d be in position for sunrise at tunnel 2 east of Cooks.  I was there on time and my first train passed at 6:45, literally 2 minutes after the sun popped over the horizon and came up over the only  cloud.  Too bad it was a westbound.  Fortunately there was a train in the Cooks siding waiting to head east so I’d have perfect fodder in just a few minutes.

While waiting for the eastbound to arrive I had a nice conversation with a native who was minding his fishing rig below the hill.  He was very curious what I was up to and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to steal his fishing gear.  Once he saw the camera gear he realized I was another railfan and we ended up having a nice conversation about railfanning and the number of trains that pass through the gorge.  He went to his rig and retrieved a fish before he headed on his way.

At 7am the eastbound was finally out of the siding and popped out of the tunnel into the morning rays.  Well worth the effort to get up early.

Next time I’ll have a few photos from around Maryhill which include a snow capped Mt. Hood….