Saturday, December 1, 2007

Diamonds Are Forever

One of the fun things about railroad photography, for me at least is the variety of things there are to SEE on and around railroads. And primary amongst those things is interchanges. Places where trains change directions, where they turn off the main line, where they can, with some small ease head in another direction entirely. My litany of rails isn't complete without mentioning one other thing--places that rails cross more on the perpendicular rather than the parallel: diamonds.

If you've not seen one up close, a diamond is a floating piece of track. Yes it's spiked and bolted and otherwise attached to the very long wooden ties that run under it but it's separate from the welded-solid lines that lead up to it, and is attached to the rails that lead into it with massive bars of hard rubber, giving it just a little flexibility. And it's LOUD. When you pass four or six or two hundred axles across the gaps and each axle is bearing some seventy plus tons there's a certain clatter made. Musically so; the rhythm of steel wheels moving across cracks, the clickety-clack that was lost long ago when rails stopped being separate pieces and began to be welded and polished together into continuous stretches. If you get the chance, haunt a diamond if only to hear it sing to you, to watch it flex and move and shift like a dancer.

The best part of diamonds for me is that unusual nature. The second best part is the opportunities. This particular diamond is located in Pineville, just behind Lake Buhlow at Control Point Mallin. It's the crossing of not only two lines going in very different directions but it's also the crossing of two company's lines. If you're a black and white photographer you'll find there's tons of opportunities for interesting design arangements also.

At Mallin, KCS and UP lines cross in one spot; there's two of everything there it seems. There's also a nice trio of short side spurs that serve as a storage area for KCS's cars which often presents nice opportunity for up close, relaxed, unhurried photographs of varied cars and graffiti. But let's not forget why we're there--trains from two different companies. I went out last weekend with that very intent heavy in mind. I wanted to wait long enough to see both UP and KCS equipment. What I got wasn't what I bargained for.

I arrived fairly early, had just enough time to get settled in and get the camera out and ready when I started hearing a horn off in the distance behind the trees. I found the sun, positioned it over my right shoulder and got ready. But of course the key to photography and train photography particularly is waiting. So, I waited. And waited. I kept hearing that horn in the distance, never seeming to come closer or move farther away. Waited some more, and repeated my mantra: "Patience is the hallmark of a good photographer."

I never saw that UP--I can only assume it was parked just a mile or so up the track, honking and hooting to beat the band and annoy the fire out of me and when it got tired of that it moved off. But, being patient and knowing that I had all morning to wait if I cared to, I waited. And was rewarded.

The rumbling in the ground was the first clue to an approaching train on the KCS side. The headlights were second, as the wind was up good and was blowing toward the approaching train, thereby keeping the engine noises at bay. The sound finally joined the headlights that glowed bright even in the strong morning light. I started grinning, that grin that only a ten year old boy can truly make at the approach of a train, and framed my shot on the diamond.

Imagine my surprise when in the viewfinder I saw not the old KCS white and red nor the newer grey and red livery but:

Black and white.

Apparently Norfolk Southern owed KCS some engine hours or some mileage, because there was NS 2638 pulling hard, and her engineer hitting the horn in a series of short blips and waving.

And better yet?

A SD70-ACe in Retro Belle colours, KCS 4041, clean and resplendant as they all seem to be.

I only wish my continuous shutter was faster. I could have taken dozens of shots of that beautiful engine passing through. You'll notice that the sun is in the wrong bit of the frame. I was rushed and forgot to place myself appropriately but the sun was, fortunately, nice and straight and high.

Here's the previous attempt; again I was surprised by the train. This time I was too busy listening to the arguing rail employees over at the control point equipment and found myself on the wrong side of the sun as the train was on me too late for me to leap the rails and reset myself.

Next time I'll be ready. I promise you, there will be a next time. Mallin point is a prime shooting spot. Treat yourself to it.

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Blogger Nancy Dancehall said...

Can't decide which I like more - the photo of the diamond or your description of it.

December 7, 2007 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Irrelephant said...

So what you're saying is my photos suck, right? *lol* I'm glad you enjoyed it. I figure if my photos aren't going to wow 100% of the time then my writing better carry the day. *g*

December 8, 2007 at 9:06 AM  

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