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-   -   West Slope and Sand Patch, great 48 hours. (http://www.railpictures.net/forums/showthread.php?t=12042)

asis80 04-12-2010 02:10 PM

West Slope and Sand Patch, great 48 hours.
On a whim, I decided to take a 2 day weekend trip on the NS side of things on the West Slope and then head to Sand Patch. That's IF my employer would grant me the day. I get up, get everything ready and sit and wait by the phone. Why does time CRAWL when you REALLY want to do something?! :lol: Anyways, I call in and ask if I'm needed for the day. I think you know the answer from them when I tell you I was headed out the door with the camera, laptop, a change of clothes and a blanket. It gets cold up there in the mountains!

The sun had already risen as I was leaving the house, so no "spectacular" sun rise shots could be had. By the time I got to the first spot at Lilly, the sun was really high. Even at 930-1000 the sun was high. I snapped off a few shots, but nothing special. I wanted to get a "slide" picture over on track 1, but an empty coal train had been sitting there for quite some time, think days. My hopes of that shot were, ahem, shot down. "Man", I thought, "This trip isn't what I hoped for".

A side note, I live quite a ways from Cresson, the epicenter of the West Slope. So when I go somewhere that's far, I expect my results to be a bit better than par.

I continue over to track 3 and 2, a few blocks from the famous "Slide" shot. And alas, I was greeted with an Eastbound. And so was everyone else at the park.


Luckily he stopped just short of the tunnels to test the brakes before heading down the mountain, so I had a chance to race to the seldom seen Eastern portals and snapped a shot of him coming out of the Tunnels. Shot may come later, we'll see.

The light was starting to get pretty bad for the park location, Cresson was alright, but still a little harsh. In my mind, I was thinking "Wow, high sun already". I couldn't think of anywhere to go. Then it hit me. Cassandra! There's some props you could incorporate and most likely being it Saturday a lot of people might be there. I arrived, and there were a lot of people, but all on the bridge. A fellow whom I always speak with while I come here was there taking his usual video.


I got stuck here. Literally, I got stuck here. The day was starting off slow, but as time went by. Train, after train, after train, after train showed up. At one point, all 3 tracks were occupied, but no shots were to be had as they came east (backlit shot). After snapping off a shot, I would go to head to another location and there would be a train. Snap the shot off, and another one. This happened for a good hour. 11 trains all together.

I put my foot down and left. I headed towards Carney's Crossing where a 68Q came into view, and so did it's helpers. Snapped that shot off and now I'm thinking, "This is more like it". At this point, I'm starting to get tired. Been up since 530am, and had that drive to Cumberland looming in my head. I headed back to the park and heard a train heading down track 1 with a helper and nearly had a stroke. Track 1 is back in service! I think I'm going to wet myself!!!!

WHOOOOOOA! Now, you have to understand. Besides the "slide" shot I wanted again, there's an evening shot from high above the Tunnels from a place called "Tunnel Hill" for a train on track 1 with a helper. Last time I was here last summer in my very successful West Slope 4 day trip, I got this shot. It's a very nice shot. That night before taking a nap, my fumbling tired fingers deleted that very shot as I was looking through my pictures. I got the shot again, but it was my popular night shot from here. This long awaited shot had come to me once more!

I high tail it out of the park and up to Tunnel Hill, and as soon as I park the car and get out, there's the helpers coming out of the tunnel. Snapped off the shot, and right after put a "lock" on it so I couldn't accidentally delete it again.


I saw another freight coming west now as I was atop Tunnel Hill, as you can see across the mountain and witness the both ends of the train right in front of you below and across the mountain at "benny curve". I went down to the park and got some really nice power.


The sun was still high, but you know what. I was happy with what I got. A slow day with crummy harsh lighting and slow traffic turned out to be a great day with great lighting and tons of traffic. I didn't want to drive through the night to Sand Patch, so I packed it up and headed to Manila. I'm a cheapy-deep, so if I can sleep in the car, I will.

After arriving in the area of Sand Patch, I heard Amtrak coming up the hill. I went over to the "Sand Patch Overlook" to maybe get a streak of it going around the famous photo location. I did, but it didn't turn out so well. "I'll get you tomorrow", I thought. Packed the tripod up, put the camera away and headed to Manila.

If you've never been there, or to Sand Patch for that matter, it's in the middle of nowhere. You can basically set up camp anywhere, as long as it isn't someones back yard. Manila has a nice big open area famous for camping. Sand Patch is that kind of place where there is no ambient lighting to pollute the sky, so any star gazers would be in paradise.

I arrived, parked near the signal and opened my laptop up and went through my West Slope shots from that day and processed them, get rid of a task of sorts. The signal lit up for an Eastbound. "Eh, what the hell. I'll try for a night shot". Set the tripod up again, waited and waited and Q352 comes into view.


I finished processing and promptly headed to bed. Which was the backseat of my short Chevy Aveo. It was ok, but it was free. After waking up a few times during the night, it was time to wake up for good. An all GE consist was pulling hard up the mountain, which is what actually woke me up in the morning. What a great alarm clock!

First up for the day was Mance. I always head there first, no matter how many shots I have from there, when I head to Sand Patch. Kind of a tradition, you could say. I arrive, and I fall asleep. Haha, yes I fell alseep again. Maybe because of all the waking up during the night. My scanner was on and I heard Amtrak call Manila, which isn't too far away. And for Amtrak, it takes around a minute to get to Mance from there. I had no time to go hike up to the overlook on the East end of the horseshoe, so I had to settle for one of those grab shots. One of those shots you'd be ashamed to have, lolol.

I left and headed in the general direction of Cumberland, my ultimate destination. I had heard that Q368 was to have a BNSF on the point that day, as usual. I went to Fairhope as the light was just GORGEOUS there. Then I heard that Q368 was still hours away. "Damn it", I was thinking. The light won't be any good there anymore. A quick phone call to a friend, Tom Mugnano, and he suggested I head to the Foley Overlook.

Foley Overlook, ah. Makes my car cringe. The road to get to the overlook is bad. It's extremely bad if it's washed out. The Glencoe side is the worst. Clay road with ruts, no kidding a foot to 2 feet deep in some spots. It's bad. And my car is inches off the ground. Not good. We haven't had any rain, and the Fairhope side is paved and gravel for 90% of it. I mustered up the courage and 15 minutes later, arrived at a location where I once tried to get too before but nearly ran off the cliff. 2 years ago when I first tried Foley, it was raining and i had no knowledge of how bad this road was. Clay when wet is like ice, and my car didn't agree with me when heading down this little valley on the road. I turned around and forgot that shot.

2 years later, I was awarded with a great scene. But no Q368 with the BNSF. I'll settle though. ;-)


Time to head to Cumberland! Now, as soon as I got off the mountain for that Foley shot, I heard that damn Q368 coming. I headed back up there and there it comes around the bend. I look closer though, and they put a helper ahead of that BNSF leader!!! Boy, was I saying some nasty words. I headed back down for a 2nd time and raced to Cumberland to maybe get a "narrows" shot. I was hoping the helper would cut off at Hyndman, but with it being helper ahead, it of course with my luck stayed on all the way to the 'narrows' shot. I snapped the shot off anyways, really high sun, and headed to a spot I've dreamed of hiking too. Just never found the right season or had the energy to do it.

I drove up this mountain that comprises one of the mountains in the famous Budd Board "narrows" shot. I get as far as I can (a catholic school), park the car in the parking lot, and start walking. It doesn't take long to get to the woods from the parking lot. I head down the trail and there's little side trails you can take to get to these outcrops. I went through a dozen or so of these outcrops, but they were all overgrown with trees. Can't see a damn thing. 20 minutes into the hike and still nothing. The trail sort of "ends" when you get to the bottom of this little hill and alas, I was there. The view of Cumberland, the Budd board, Narrows, Viaduct, anything you want, if your glass is up to par with the distance, ;-).

After waiting and waiting and waiting, the scanner let me know that an empty coal drag was heading out of town. But! Oh no! Q138 is heading right beside me down below destined for the spot I want this coal drag in. Q138 would have been blocking the spot. And sure enough it did. With a quick lens change, I opted to zoom in a bit and got a "meet" of sorts anyways. Not a bad shot.


After waiting for around an hour or so, at least it felt like it, I was awarded with the shot I wanted of that coal drag, but with autoracks instead.


continued below

asis80 04-12-2010 02:10 PM

Too bad the sun went away for this shot, but the view is still rewarding. I'll return here one day, maybe in the summer. After packing up my lowerpro, I headed back up the mountain. Holy hell was that tough. 20 minutes to get down to the spot, 45 minutes to get back up. I didn't realize how steep it was, and lost the trail for quite some time. Get back to the car and relax from that hike. I go get some grub and head back towards the summit of Sand Patch. Light is fading fast and there's nothing really to get in good light. X021 was the last train to be in good light, photo to come later.

I start going through my shots and look over at the setting sun. And it hit me. WOW! What a scene! The Sand Patch overlook shot is famous for it's morning view. Windmills, CR boxcar, trailer, sweeping curve. BUT, I've never seen an evening shot looking the same direction. I mean, it's easy to get, IF there's a train. Sure enough, that same autorack train I saw in cumberland, Q297, was heading up the hill and it had a helper. So I'd have a "train" I guess you could say. Train comes screaming down the mountain and I'm presented with a great scene in front of me. "CLICK". A wonderful shot from a famous location that seems to only get that "one" type of shot in the morning.

I have to post the rejection, as I'm reworking the shot to get past that nasty PIQ rejection. I used too much shadow highlight and cropped in slightly. Reworking it as we speak.


I packed up the car, getting ready to go home. But we forgot something! Amtrak. Remember that night streak I wanted from Sand Patch? It wasn't going to work, if it didn't work the previous night, it wasn't going to work that night either. Still too much light. Besides, I figured I have that wonderful sunset shot from that location anyways.

I drove to the former Western Maryland Salisbury Viaduct, now a biking trail. I tried this shot once before, but it was pitch black and couldn't set the scene up properly in the camera, and ended cutting off 90% of the tracks. There was still some light left, Tony DePalma rounds the corner with P029, Capitol Limited, and click goes the shutter. The exposure runs up and I'm thinking in my head "Please work, please please please work" And alas, it did. No manual required, ;-).


A great ending.

All in all, didn't do too bad for a spur of the moment 2 day getaway. I have a few more shots, and if I put them on (Like said above, I got stuck at Cassandra with 11 trains, lol) I'll edit this up. Hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope I didn't bore you out of your mind. Thanks!


troy12n 04-12-2010 09:13 PM

That road between Hyndman/Fairhope and Mance is awful. The worst part of it is in and around Foley, which is unfortunate. I have driven it several times in my 2 wheel drive F150 and once in a rental SUV Nissan XTerra which had 4x4. That time, I got a flat tire at Mance and had to drive to the Wal-Mart in Sommerset on a spare tire because that was the only place open on a Sunday which could patch a tire and the rental place in Cumberland was closed. I was not too keen about driving that thing around in such a desolate area without a spare.

The only road I have been on which was worse, and that is debatable is the road between Thurmond and Prince, WV.

Back to the issue at hand, the only drawback to the Sand Patch area is what seems like complete lack of trains for hours at a time. I was once in and around Keystone all day and got 4 before 10am, then nothing until just before dark.

milwman 04-13-2010 10:08 AM

Fun read, I need to get out that way.

Mgoldman 04-17-2010 01:08 AM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by troy12n (Post 112794)
That road between Hyndman/Fairhope and Mance is awful. The worst part of it is in and around Foley...

Awe... it's not so bad.

Great photos and series of photos, Ben.


cassfan3 04-21-2010 10:39 PM

Did you actually make it up that hill in the Camaro Mitch? lol

Mgoldman 04-22-2010 12:59 AM


Originally Posted by cassfan3 (Post 113273)
Did you actually make it up that hill in the Camaro Mitch? lol

That's as far as I could get. The rocks ahead were taller then my tires were high.


troy12n 04-24-2010 12:15 PM


Originally Posted by Mgoldman (Post 113276)
That's as far as I could get. The rocks ahead were taller then my tires were high.

Yea, I was gonna say, no way you got a Camaro up there, lol

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