Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Comfortable Shoe

One of my all-time favourite spots is not the most scenic I've shot at, is not the most exciting place as far as tons of traffic to be, but I've taken more good, clean photos there than anywhere else, I'm sure.

One of the reasons for me to frequent it is that it's easy to get to. I-49 and LA Hwy 1 follow the Union Pacific line for a great distance and this happy occurance gives the rail photographer plenty of good opportunities. Instead of going into the literally dozens of good shooting spots along this line, though, I'm going to cover one--the spot that is my favourite.

  • Rapides Station Rd/Hwy 1 (I-49) crossing

(Lies on the corporate limits of Alexandria and Boyce, exit 94 off I-49)

This is an excellent hangout. The RoW is fairly clear in both directions, allowing shots from both sides of the crossing and for a hundred yards or so in each direction without running into too many trees or such. There are very few visual obstructions other than the signal towers and such, and the traffic is light so it's rare that you get a vehicle waiting at the crossing in your composition. Plus for most of the year the light stays well perpendicular to the track unless you're out either very early or very late.

Here's a nice long shot of the crossing, taken from my perch on the side of the interstate. Little did I know that day that a KCS Retro Belle (4045) was going to be crossing.)

And yes, I ended up chasing this particular beastie well through town, but that's for another time.

I caught this extensively modified ex-Amtrak Pandrol Jackson grinder setup parked on the siding that runs on either side of the crossing.

And if you're like me and like to walk stationary cars for railyard sign and grafitti then this is a nice quiet spot to check out. Right now, matter of fact, there are some 40+ empty lumber cars parked there, have been for the better part of a month.

The Alexandria UP sub also uses a pair of CSX engines and has at least three NS engines there as well, so the variety of road power is wide and extensive.

Hanging out at this crossing late in the evening has also been profitable--well into Fall, around 5 pm before Daylight Savings I was treated to a fairly long set of UP gondolas that, in the setting sunlight appeared almost golden, and which set the twin UPs up front into nice relief. This shot was taken from a stance on top of two concrete drains just to the south of the crossing, not fifty feet from the roadbed.

And this was my reward for waiting:

The Boyce PD doesn't seem to concerned by my presence there, either. I've parked and walked and wandered there many times and never had any grief from the boys in black. The interstate's twin overpasses offer some nice shade and some fairly safe public parking, and there's many different places you can set up for a variety of shots. According to my Alexandria Sub timetable this area is posted at up to 60mph but I find that very few of the 4-6 trains that travel this area use that speed, as just inside Boyce to the north and at the Airbase Road crossing to the south are both slower posted areas so it's rare you see a train flying through. It's also a main course for autoracks coming into the Alexandria Sub so the opportunity for catching a truly long, uniform train are pretty good.

So. Even though it's not the prettiest and not the most visually striking place on the line it's darn good for practicing and for relatively trouble-free shots.

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Blogger Jean said...

That last shot is gorgeous!

November 19, 2007 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger Nancy Dancehall said...

I agree. Good lighting. And that sky is amazing.

November 19, 2007 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger AspergantuS said...

I haven't been train spotting in years....thanks for the reminder...

November 19, 2007 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger Irrelephant said...

Thank you, ladies! That was my lagniappe shot, my one in a million. I had packed up the camera and put my helmet and gloves back on, had started Betty and was ready to drive off when I saw a black misshapen blob at the tail end of the train. Thought at first it was a caboose (at this point cabooses haven't been used in 30+ years,) panicked, struggled the camera out, had NO time to get helmet or gloves off, I just sort of blindly aimed it from about a yard in front of my face and opened the shutter, and got that shot.

sometimes the Universe does smile.

Aspergantus, you need to go back! There's something in a little boy's blood that makes it imperative that they stand at a railroad crossing and wave as a freight comes through, blasting that horn.

November 20, 2007 at 6:15 AM  

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