Old 04-20-2006, 11:10 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Columbus, Ohio
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Default The Hunt for Moxahala (part III)

By the time I got to Moxahala, it was closing in on five o'clock. I parked the car in a conveniently placed gravel turnout off the road, got out and proceeded to walk to the northern tunnel portal as planned, if it was within reach. The single track curves slightly in between a couple tree grown hillsides, so at first I was not able to see clearly down to the portal. Always staying alert, I cautiously walked along the ditch beside the roadbed and tried to stay out of the stream of water flowing along side it. After about five to ten minutes of walking, the mysterious portal became visible. The track enters the portal along a curve, so it would be a bit tricky (for me at least) to get a shot on a train exiting. There wasn't enough standing room on the inside of the curve for me to get a shot, so I had to settle for the outside. Luckily there was an old 3-foot cement abutment on this side, so I was able to get a slightly higher angle. I would have preferred getting higher, but this was not possible since the sides of the hills bordering the track were pretty steep.

I waited patiently yet hopefully that the expected northbound would make its appearance. Though I was confident that I hadn't missed the train, I had a slight gut feeling that I was waiting for nothing and the train was already in Columbus, some 50 miles away.

In the meantime, I experimented with some shots and angles, all of which I wasn't sold on. The light was shining through the inside curve which was the opposite side that I was able to access. The sunlight wasn't a big deal anyway, since the area near the portal was shaded anyway. I thought I would settle on a shot of the train just exiting the tunnel and go for that.

While I waited, a couple trucks passing through the road where I parked almost made me think that it was the train coming, but I was wrong. Other than the occasional muffler-less vehicle on the roadway, it was a pretty serene and relaxing place to wait. Before much longer though, I heard the familiar rumbling of several thousand horses coming from the opening. I was getting excited now! Since I had not seen the train at all, I had no idea what was going to come through. I stood up and got myself ready to fire off some shots. Though I still wasn't happy with my vantage point, I was going to capture this scene whether I liked it or not. I poised myself and looked through the viewfinder. Still no train, but I could hear `em coming! I lowered the camera slightly to see if I could see the headlight on the tunnel wall. Not yet. I moved the camera up to look again, still nothing. Man, this apparently wasn't the 50 mph hot-shot expresses I was accustomed to on the flat lands of north-central Ohio!

The hell with it, I'm just going to leave the camera focused and be ready. Shortly, I saw the headlight shine through the black abyss. Right after, through a haze of blackish-grey exhaust, out pokes a blue wide-nosed ex-Conrail GE. How appropriate! I fired a few shots. I felt compelled to drop the camera and just take in the sites with BOTH my eyes, but I guess I wanted something to remember the trip by. As soon as I took the shot, the elder GE slowly made itself upon me and so did the smiling face and friendly gesture of the conductor. Following behind were two catfish nose to nose. After that, a long procession of NS Top-Gons with some ex-Conrail G52's sprinkled in for interest creaked, strained, and lumbered past me. It didn't take long however, for the train to pick up speed drastically after it crested the hill. Before I knew it I was counting the cars faster and faster, to the point that I was kind of losing track of where I was. On top of this, I heard on the radio that there were in fact helpers on this train, so that kind of distracted me as well.

Image ©
Photograph ©

It seems however, there was a problem with the helper. Before the tail had exited the tunnel, the helper crew (86R with one person, I believe) was calling up to the head end 88K crew that he was having computer problems. By the time this information had been known to me, the tail end had exited and a solitary ES40DC (still in primer) brought up the rear with the cab end trailing. I packed up my gear and hustled back to the car attentively listening to the radio.

About fifteen minutes later I made it back to the car, got in it, and headed north to try to keep up with the train. It was starting to sound that the helper situation on the rear end was more terminal than both crews originally anticipated. Before long, the helper said that he was losing power and didn't think he would make it back home. It was decided that once they reached New Lexington, they would stop and try to troubleshoot the problem. As I drove to keep up it was difficult deciphering what was going on between the crews and dispatch. To make matters worse, I was heading into the early evening sun, so most of my concentration was on the curves in the road.

Once I reached New Lexington, I spotted the helper end of the train parked. As I moseyed through town, it sounded as if they were going to take the broken unit all the way to Buckeye and call a cab for the crewmember on 86R. At this point, I took this as an opportunity to get ahead of the train and beat it to Bremen, the next large town and maybe get another shot. No sooner that I was through town, the train continued as well. Once I got to Bremen, I tried to locate a photo location as quickly as I could. Not being familiar with the town made this a bit of a challenge. There was a curve that headed into the sun by a BP station, so I guess this was as good a spot as any. I parked, set-up, and in no-time, the train was coming around the bend.

Image ©
Photograph ©

After it had passed, I thought I would try to catch it again. The sun was getting kind of low and the day was long, so I was going to have to make quick work of the time that was left. I didn't have an idea where I was going to meet the train next, but the decision was made that they would use the passing siding at Thurston to pick up the broken helper and bring it up to the front. Once I got there, it wasn't long for the train to arrive behind me again. The sun was setting, so I tried to fire off a couple last wedges, since that was all I could muster. After a while of train order canceling and issuing, the head end units tied down the train and pulled up through town to the north end of the siding. By now it was just about dark, and I really couldn't pull off any decent shots that I feel are worthy of sharing. After the lead units were on the siding, they headed back to the rear.



Unfortunately, this is where the story ends. The unit retrieval process took a long time, and by now it was dark, and I didn't need to hang around. The only thing I wished I had a chance to see was the locomotives once they were finished. It wasn't clear to me if they simply coupled on to the broken ES40DC, and continued on to Columbus with the broken unit's long end forward, or did they somehow shuffle it to the trailing end of the lashup. This was unknown to me. But hey, that's OK, more questions about the West Virginia Secondary were answered on this day than I could ever ask, and the great memories of the trip leave me itching to go back for more.

Last edited by ccaranna; 04-22-2006 at 04:33 AM.
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