View Full Version : Shortlines-- the ultimate time machine

11-25-2010, 01:40 AM
5941 One of the biggest reasons I am so heavily into shortlines is that it is as close to a time machine as you can get. As a young photographer, or more accurately stated, "picture taker," I neglected many a great scene while taking crummy pictures of individual locomotives and pieces of rolling stock.

Today, I seek out the lines that will best afford me the opportunity for a "do over" with the things I plentifully had as a youth. Growing up along the Seaboard Coast Line, I had plenty of chances at U36Bs, and drive in theaters were in every town. Fast forward to 2010, and both of these are almost extinct. So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the Bourbon Drive In in Paris, Kentucky-- still very much active, and about to be passed by some U36Bs within the next half hour or so. Plenty of time to fret over how best to frame what is best described as a classic scene.

The resulting image definitely sums up why I'm "all in" on shortlines. Anyone else have shots to share on why you are?

Joe the Photog
11-25-2010, 01:14 PM
Other than Transformers 2 being a horrible movie, this is indeed a classic scene. They're one of the railroads I really want to get up to see, though I don't know when I might get a chance. For my "classic" scene, I'll stick with the L&C. Even though they've changed an awful lot over the last decade (adding the old Southern line, getting the GP38-2s and getting rid of most of their end cabs, getting sold) about two years ago, they painted two of their last SW models into what amounts to a heritage scheme. I was 11 years old when they painted them out of the two tone scheme in the early 80s, so this was a real treat.

A few weeks ago, I got a shot I've been wanting of them spotting a load of lumber with their engine shop in the background, a shot I've wanted for a long time


Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
11-27-2010, 02:43 PM
I have friends who are more into equipment than I am and are perfectly content getting a roster shot of whatever locomotive they are interested in and then moving on to the next. For me, it is more than that. While the Bel-Del's ex-GMRC GP9 may not be the most riveting thing plying the rails or lack thereof in this scene, where else can you find something like this other than a shortline?:
Or sometimes the power is just awesome.:

GLC 392
11-29-2010, 02:34 AM
I much rather go out and Chase a shortline, as long as they are running, over sitting and watching a class one.

Like chasing my favorite short line the GLC with their GP35's that are being replaced in the next few weeks by GP38-2's


Spending a Week on the LS&I chasing U30C's and C30-7's in upper Michigan, these were replaced by CEFX AC4400's a few months ago.


And cant forget the Lake state that was mainly all Alco & MLW's but was recently replaced to create a all EMD roster


11-29-2010, 06:27 AM
I like shortlines for the flavor, except its hard to plan a trip around them due to their inconsistent schedule...


Where can you see an Illinois Terminal SD40-2 (IT really had SD39's) and a GP8 in 2010?


Or A-B-A F units in freight revenue?


I liked the TRRA, always reliable.

I miss the Midwest shortlines and honestly, I regret not shooting more of it while I could!

11-29-2010, 11:47 AM
I much rather go out and chase a shortline, as long as they are running, over sitting and watching a class one.

Can't argue with that...






You'll never see this on a Class 1:


GLC 392
11-30-2010, 05:00 PM
I wish i would have chased the GRE, MMRR and MSO before i moved, but just gives me more reasons to come home more often.

11-30-2010, 05:29 PM
Great thread! The ability to see things that disappeared from Class I railroading 30 years ago is a big reason why I prefer shortlines.

Try getting this on a Class I. Six Alcos on a loaded grain train with a DL&W era station and signal bridge.

How about engines painted up for railroads that have been gone for nearly 35 years?

12-01-2010, 03:02 AM
Some shortlines down here are real time machines, especially the Hartwell, how about these scenes straight out of the 1970's on CNW's midwestern branchlines.
Be better if they could have put some boxcars on the head end but cant be picky
Only place to find fallen flags like this now
Was too young to shoot HH GE's on NS, but got another chance with GC
SW1500's on "road trains"
First and second gen EMD's rumbling the through the Georgia foothills
The best thing with the shortlines I think is that they are still approachable, in the day where in more places you cant even shoot trains on a class 1 because paranoia about people being on the property, with most shortlines people will be usually glad to talk to you, and in some cases even let you along for the ride.

12-02-2010, 02:04 AM
I love how you've got some shortlines that are so meticulous about upkeep and take pride in their own paint scheme...



Then there are those like the Hartwell and [one of my local favorites, the CLNA] that don't know what repainting a unit is...



And of course you've got to love a 21st century log train...

And laying ballast in creative fashions...

Well, at least when there is ballast ;)

12-03-2010, 12:47 AM
I love short lines - I regularly plan entire trips around them. One good shot from a short line is worth a days worth from a class one. Nothing beats a good looking short line engine. Off the top of my head, I think I have shot maybe 40-50 of them. Like anything trains related, Pittsburgh was a super hotspot for short lines and I took advantage of that. My top ten favorites, in no particular order (shortlines, not photos);





Cleveland Works

Copper Basin



Union (my all time favorite)


12-17-2010, 03:15 AM
Shortlines are also a great way to imagine what could have been. Think what could have been if the Western Maryland were still here, and you'd have something that probably looks kind of like the Maryland Midland.

They'd likely be near the same size as the MMID, and probably still lugging trains with older EMDs. Question is, would it have been the black paint, or would a nostalgic owner/manager have brought back the "circus" scheme when they got these rebuilt GP38-3s?

Yes, one can dream...

12-17-2010, 09:41 PM
or how about a GE center 70tonner working daily on the old NYC caso

LSRC Railfan
12-19-2010, 03:37 PM
I love shortlines. Where else can you find...

Alcos and MLWs in daily service.

or 35s with Alco trucks

or countless relics from fallen flags?

Plus, where else can you find friendly hospitality in the form of information, cab rides, etc?