A Year Away

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.

September Nights

Amtrak Cascades train 509 has a clear indication on the cantilever signal at Vader, WA on a beautiful September evening.  509 was the last of 14 trains passing this spot in a 4 hour period on September 12th 2013.

Some of the best weather we have in the Pacific Northwest happens in September.  The sun starts down after 7pm but with the warm days the temperatures are still comfortable enough to be outside after sunset.  Early September usually remains dry so the skies are clear and the bugs are few.  All this adds up to some great September nights outside!

Short Time Cantilever

Thursday last week I visited Vader, WA with the idea that the cantilever signals there won’t be there much longer.  The nationwide PTC mandate has BNSF replacing signals and upgrading the signal system at quick pace.  While work to stand up replacements hasn’t begun in Vader I’m certain the plans are in place and it will just be a matter of time before it does.

From 4pm to 8:20pm 14 trains passed!  Daytime maintenance held the train traffic up a bit so the early evening time turned quite busy.  At one point the UP local was switching Napavine while 3 northbound trains stacked up from Vader to Napavine South.  Soundbound trains kept rolling but only so the dispatcher could clear a path for Amtrak Cascades trains 508 and 509 could meet more conveniently.

It was a good night to be hanging out with friends and enjoying the activity.

Still Standing

Northbound Vancouver-Everett Manifest train passes underneath the cantilever signals protecting the crossovers at Ridgefield South on BNSF’s Seattle Subdivision.

A few weeks ago I chose to use my Sunday railfan day to visit Ridgefield South.  My main goal for the visit was to make another photograph of a train and the cantilever signals which protect the Ridgefield South crossovers.  With PTC on its way these signals won’t be around forever.  So far there are no signs of replacements being installed but you know it will happen. For now things are status quo there.

Bigger changes are afoot.  Ridgefield wants to install an overpass and eliminate the two crossings in town.  In addition a new bridge would be built across Lake River to access the S Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.  The second step would eliminate the “Wildlife Crossing” just north of the crossovers and potentially cut off all public access to this location.  That is surely years away, but as we all know time can get away from us sometimes.

VP661 Swain – Endangered

It’s close to gone.  See it while you can.  The endangered cantilever protecting the north (cough…east) switch at Swain will soon be gone.  Look closely underneath the cantilever and behind the Superliner and you can see the replacement waiting for its chance to go to work.  Once this happens the face of downtown Junction City will be forever changed.