By Andrew Blasczcyk
Posted May 2, 2007
I, like every railfan have been asked, “Why do you do it?” at least half a dozen times regarding why I like to stand by railroad tracks for countless hours waiting for a train that may never show up. Some people have witty remarks or turn the question back around on the person doing the questioning while others fumble around for a response that won’t make them seem like a “weirdo” or a “dork.” I prefer to use my photos to illustrate why I chose this hobby instead of spending my weekends at baseball or band practice or skiing in the winter. I don’t use one photo in particular, but rather chose one that will appeal to the person I want to share with. If it is a female friend I tend to use a photo that depicts a pretty scene such as a farm or a forest or a river to show the scenic parts of the country I visit. If I want to impress one of my thrill-seeking friends I will usually show them a photo that shows power such as a close, low-angle shot or even a pace shot that captures the excitement of a chase. For the rest I tend to use more artistic photos with dramatic lighting such as a sunset or a silhouette photo. I have just recently found that there is one type of photo that everyone reacts to the same and touches them in some way. This is the story behind my favorite one of these.
Since it was Winter break I had the full week off and knew that I would be spending my Wednesday out in western NJ chasing the Black River & Western from Three Bridges to Ringoes, NJ. My friend, Mike, a non-railfan, called me up on Tuesday afternoon asking if I wanted to hang out the next day. I told him my plans and he was perfectly content in joining me on the chase. The next day, Wednesday, December 27th, 2006 was forecasted to be a “partly sunny” day and turned out to be exactly that; one of those “Hey, look it’s partly sunny…over there!” kind of days. We got to Three Bridges a little after the local, which meant we had and hour and a half to kill before it was to head back to Ringoes so I showed Mike the spots I had in mind. He got a real kick out of the whole idea of literally chasing a train. After 30 minutes or so we went back to sit and relax until the SW1200RS was done switching the NS interchange. Every now and then the sun would come out so we’d get out of the car to take some shots (I let him borrow my camera when he wanted to take one).
With a constant 20-25mph wind blowing and temperatures in the mid-30’s(F) it felt a lot colder than it was so we took refuge in the car. While watching the switcher shuffle about in the distance I noticed a blue sedan cross the tracks, hot the brakes, and pull over to the side of the road. A man in his early 30’s got out of the car and got his son who couldn’t be more than a year and a half old out of the car seat in the back. He walked down the hill back to the BR&W crossing; I too had gone outside to get more shots despite having taken every angle possible. The man shouted to me across the tracks, “Is the train gonna pass soon?” I responded with a thorough, “As soon as he finishes switching those cars, he’ll come down here to pick these up.” He nodded with approval and went back to watching the EMD work with his son who has not stopped staring down the tracks. I crossed the tracks to go back to the car when I got one final idea for a photo. A quick look up at the sun revealed that I had a few more seconds of light down the tracks. Telephoto in, half-down on the shutter, and the man turned around and took a few steps back from the tracks responding with a loud “sorry!” Since, I had a ski-mask on to protect me from the harsh wind, I motioned with my hand as politely as possible for him to step up again, but he hadn’t seen. I freed my mouth and told him that I wanted them in the shot and once again he nodded and walked to his original position. Click! I had gotten it, in clouds, but I got the shot that defined the day!
I walked up to the gentleman and thanked him for posing and asked him if it was okay to use the photos as I saw fit. He was more than happy to oblige and explained, “I can’t leave until he sees the train go by. If I try to leave he will start crying.” I got a good laugh out of his response and walked back to the car with a smile to warm up again.
So, now when I get asked, “why do I do this?” I guess my answer would be to witness moments like that in this photo. Getting to see the next generation of railfans get their first taste of what this great hobby has to offer, and to see a father and son bonding over it. That to me is one of the many reasons that make standing by railroad tracks for hours on end all worth it.