By Gary Knapp
Posted October 28, 2008
It's 2 A.M. March 17, 2004. We are in Port Henry, NY on CP Rails' Delaware & Hudson "North End", relaxin'.....waiting for a train. Very quiet, as the fair size town sleeps away the night, stretching away up into the overlooking hills from the lakeside railroad. After much tweaking and test firings, the lighting system "appears" to be working to perfection, and SD40-2's are nearby north of me with 250's freight southbound. As if on cue, it starts to snow, so I break out the large black umbrella to protect the Canon 10D. There will be short notice on the train's arrival in town, so I do the sure thing, and wait up on my perch atop the stepladder under the black umbrella with tripod mounted 10D, ready to shoot, the scene all framed up in the viewfinder.
I'm listening intently, sometimes you can hear 'em blowing for a crossing outside of town, but all I can hear are the big snowflakes falling on the umbrella over my head... when out of the silence, the emergency siren goes off! I grab the top rung of the stepladder, swaying, what the heck is that? The loud sound resembles a moaning air raid siren, and the fire station is (of course) only a couple blocks away. I look around, no flames reflecting in the sky, can't smell any smoke, maybe it's something in a neighboring town. The siren continues, on and on, for several minutes, while up on Rte. 9N members of the emergency crew speed by, red lights flashing. It was purely luck... the siren was fading, prior to another alarm, and I "thought" I heard an air horn, blowing for the crossing on the north side of town.
Now I'm focused on the scene in front of me, and lo and behold, I was correct! The trees above the curve to the north start to brighten, and engineer Marty Shapiro brings CP train 250 around the hillside north of the station and past my perch on the stepladder.... click! Yes! Success! The lcd monitor on the camera shows what I had visualized, no small feat in night photography. I carefully climb down off the stepladder with hands full, all the while the siren has been blaring away. BUT, I got the shot, and I'm all smiles. A couple of minutes later the siren stops, and quiet returns.
It was after I had gathered the lighting equipment together forty five minutes or so later, prior to loading it up... that the car came by. The driver pulls up alongside me and rolls down the window, "How's it goin'?" he asks, "Great!" I reply, and relate to him my capturing the night photo earlier. He looks at the nearby lighting equipment, looks at me, looks back at the equipment........."what's all this?" "These are remote control flash units", and I quickly explain the system to him. He gives the lighting system a long look, starts to smile, then begins to chuckle. I take this to be a good sign and decide to continue the conversation, "what are you doing up at this time of night?" Wearing a big smile, he responds........"SO........IT WAS YOU!........ I'm up at this time of night because I'm a member of the e-crew here. Our chief lives up the hill overlooking this spot, and his wife had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. As she was passing through the living room, she thought she saw a flash of light from down here. Then she saw another flash of light, and jumped to the conclusion that an ice fisherman had gone through the ice in his car out on Lake Champlain, and was trying to signal for help with his headlights.........so she pushed 'the button'"! "NO!" "Oh Yes!" I start to stammer out an apology, but end up laughing with the man. "No problem, no problem, it was a good test for our response time", he says. "This probably won't happen again", and still laughing, off he drives after wishing me good luck with my night photography. Every night is an adventure photographing trains!