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.

Book Review: Modern Diesel Power

I was recently contacted by Voyageur Press to review 3 Brian Soloman authored books.  The first two reviews are for books initially published in 2011. The third will be published next month.  Look for these reviews sprinkled in with regular dogcaught.com content. 

As a railfan motive power strikes me as one of the most fascinating parts of railroading.  In the 1970s’s and 1980s, while in my formative years as a railfan, locomotives were very interesting to follow since most every locomotive type since the dawn of the diesel era was still on the road.  Many models of Fs, Es, Geeps, Alcos, and GEs all still roamed the Northwest and made the head end of trains an interesting surprise.  Business economics and the desire for greater efficiency changed the railroad’s philosophy about locomotives and as we moved through the 80s and 90s the great diversity of locomotives waned.  Call it progress or call it a crying shame, these factors led us to the less diverse locomotive landscape we see today.

Modern Diesel Power addresses diesel locomotives as they matured through the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s.

Divided into four chapters, the book first tackles the two major manufacturers, General Electric and Electro Motive Division.  In these chapters Brian Soloman details the freight locomotives GE and EMD turned out during this period covering the major models, design considerations, and technological improvements.

In the final two chapters Mr. Soloman looks at Passenger Locomotives and Switchers.  These are both unique sub categories of modern locomotives thanks to the variety of locomotive designs and features which are unique to particular railroads, lines, or locations.  In the passenger chapter the development of the GE and EMD products are discussed as well as Motive Power’s latest offerings.  The switcher chapter primarily focuses on “Gensets” and how manufacturers are looking at the development of low emissions, high reliability locomotives which railroads can place into environmentally and politically sensitive areas to replace older less efficient units.

I found the organization of each chapter pleasing and easy to digest.  At the beginning Mr. Solomon provides several pages of general overview covering the major models and their design characteristics.  Once the main text body ends the details begin!  As the chapters transition to a photograph oriented structure, detailed captions hold many additional details describing some of the most unique developments or one-off items.  In a sense it is like taking a stroll through a railroads back lot looking at their collection of locomotives and having someone explain all the unique variations in front of you.

My expectation of the book was that it would contain many Brian Soloman photographs.   I was truly surprised though at the sheer number which were Mr. Soloman’s.  My impression is he gets around as there was almost no area of the country which didn’t have a Brian Solmoman photo!  Most of the photographs are standard railfan faire, with well lit subjects and few shadows.  As a documentary book these photographs fit in perfectly and provide wonderful examples of the details Mr. Soloman writes about.  I found a few gems in the book like Chris Guss’ flash photo of Indiana Railroad’s SD9043s and Mr. Soloman’s pan shot of a GO Transit MP40PH leaving Toronto.  I thought these stood out as exceptional work.  You too may find something special in the more than 200 locomotive photographs presented.  To top it off the publisher saw to it that all the photographs presented were reproduced nicely and with accurate color rendition.

The book is published in paperback at 6.5″ X 8.25″ with glossy pages.   I think this size is just perfect to carry with you into the field and use as reference.  If you prefer to digest it all at once, it is a quick read, taking me between 2 and 3 hours to read cover to cover.

All four chapters combined do a wonderful job of covering the major design, efficiency, emissions, and technology improvements which have come into play in the last 30 years. If you are a locomotive rivet counter this book likely doesn’t cover all the details you want.  It is not a spotters guide.   However, if you are a railfan who enjoys locomotives and is looking for a handy reference this book is perfect.  I grew into railranning during the period this book covers and despite feeling like I had a good understanding of all the locomotive developments over the last 30 years I learned a few things.

Recommendation:  Buy Modern Diesel Power if you want to understand diesel locomotive development over the last 30 years and would like a concise, well illustrated reference.

Modern Diesel Power is available for purchase on the Voyageur Press website, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  It is also available as an e-book!