Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Fine Art of Train Chasing

I am sure some of my readers are wondering about this term "train-chasing" that I refer to sometimes.

Well think of it sort of like wildlife photography. You are stalking big game that leaves tracks, sorry couldn't resist that one. If you are not careful you can get hurt. Some of the game you are tracking is rare and elusive, but most is common. Just like wildlife, trains are best photographed in light that is complimentary, such as that in the early morning or late evening. Cloudy days and inclement weather are also preferred times.

As you have already read I went out on an "expedition" last Friday, Good Friday, to the area between Springfield and Mountain Grove, Missouri on US Highway 60 which follows the Springfield-Memphis mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, formerly the Burlington Northern, formerly the Frisco Railroad. This is a line that is dominated by coal and container trains. The first train I came across turned out to be a general freight, which is almost a rare sight. The day was miserable, gray and had a very heavy mist. I was anxious to take some shots. This scene is near Seymour, Missouri where I was able to get ahead of the eastbound train to a close crossing. This train was sitting on a siding waiting for another train headed westbound.

I shot from both sides of the train, looking for unique angles and moody effects with the mist. I was pleased with the top shot which was a more unusual angle and seems to be of an approaching train from straight on. One thing to remember is you want to always be alert as you never know when another train can sneak up on you.

From the other side you get a rather ordinary shot, this one only being different from most "normal" train shots by the heavy mist or fog which sends the end of the train into obscurity.

From here I drove on into Seymour to get a late breakfast at McDonalds. I took my Egg McMuffin, hashbrowns and coffee and drove on to Cedar Gap. On the way I passed the Westbound coal train my freight was waiting for so I knew my eastbound would be coming along soon.

The small town of Cedar Gap is very small. It has a saw mill, a post office and a few houses. I drove down to the first crossing found a parking spot near a Missouri Department of Conservation site and set up my camera on a knoll overlooking the tracks. Then the best part of train chasing took place. In the light mist, and the cold wind I settled down to enjoy that Egg McMuffin, hashbrown and coffee. That was the best cup of coffee on a cold morning. I soon heard the diesel's horn in the distance. The action I was waiting for was about to happen.

The small knoll was a great place to shoot from. It gave me a more elevated position to shoot from than normal which makes your picture just a little different than normal. The train was moving fast now and I was able to squeeze off about twenty shots using continuous focus. This was my favorite of the bunch that I took here.

From here I went on into Mansfield and then on to Mountain Grove. A few more opportunities came up to shoot and then it got quiet toward mid/late morning so I drove back to Springfield. It was fun to be out in the mist and wind. There is nothing quite like the sound of a train and the places your imagination can take you with it.

This post is dedicated to Larry Schmidt, husband of my blogging friend Lori who passed away this past Monday morning. Larry and Lori love horses, the best I can give them are iron horses. Lori, my prayers are with you.


Mark said...

Great play-by-play of the process of finding these massive beasts.

The fog definitely adds a nice bit of mystery.

Well done.

Katharine said...

I really enjoyed this. It's fun to hear about your experience. Did you know that Cedar Gap is the second highest point in Missouri? We recently explored around Seymour and I discovered that. It surprised me since it's a relatively flat area. Anyway, nice shots---nice narrative!

photowannabe said...

I love this series and the whole concept of train-chasing. Great shots.
Sorry I have been gone for such a long time. Its going to take some time to catch up on all your great photos.

Mike Young said...

Katharine, I did not know that about Cedar Gap. I had my suspisions that it was high just because of the name and the fact that many trains have helper locomotives to get to this point. Very nice bit of information.

Sue, good to see you again. I have not gotten around well lately so I have been neglecting some of my blogging duties.

Mark, ladies first I guess. They are massive beasts...the locomotives and cars are getting so big and heavy they cannot be operated on many of the shortlines. In fact the branch to the City Utilities coal fired power plant has such light rail that cars carrying coal have tipped over every once in a while. The coal trains creep along here with three massive engines on the front and one on the back, with 60 plus huge coal cars in between. I wonder how long they can put off upgrading this stretch of track.