Modern railroads are made up of the mergers of many smaller lines. Norfolk Southern received a large delivery of locomotives last year, each in a paint scheme inspired one its predecessors'. They are called HERITAGE UNITS and people get excited. Really excited. Until recently, Norfolk Southern operated outside New England and it’s previous lines don’t evoke any nostalgic feelings for me. However, you can watch me stay up all night to take a photo one of the last two locomotives in D&H paint, the railroad where my great grandfather worked So. I get it. Sorta.
The train lead by this locomotive normally comes through between 7 and 9pm. I arrived on the scene in time for for a major thunderstorm. I waited them out as it got dark and then set up. Because of the thunderstorms everything had to be set up from shore. I put one light nearly perpendicular to the tracks facing where the lead locomotive would sit. Three, very focused lights were placed in a tight cluster near the tracks. These were pointed down the length of the train, lighting the rear end of the bridge and train. One light was focused with a large parabolic reflector. I used 15degree grids on the other two to keep light from spilling out which would overexpose the nose of the lead locomotive.
Normally, the Pan Am Southern sends several trains through each night. Tonight, the first ‘train’ with permission to head west was a pickup truck operating on railroad wheels. It was sent to inspect thunderstorm damage. Next through were several more thunderstorms (I’m not sure if they got permission). Then. Nothing. Hours of nothing. No radio chatter. It never rained hard for very long. But short burst of downpours required that I keep the camera off the tripod, in the car. The flashes stayed covered in clear plastic bags.
Early in the morning hours, one train ran through. I shot a photo of it. At this point, I think I fell asleep. I was woken by a text from Gary Knapp, the north’s other night photographer. He was 10 miles away, waiting on the same train. We agreed that we’d pack up by 5:30am. However, at that moment, it was pouring and so I waited in the car. As the rain slowed, I heard a horn and started turning on the lights. One started shorting out and was shut down. It must have gotten wet.
With an adjusted ISO speed on the camera (to compensate for the out-of-service flash), I climbed my stepladder and shot a photo of CNJ 1071 crossing the Hoosick River in the tail end of a thunderstorm, ten hours after I arrived on the location.