While going through some old shots, I noticed that in my original raw file folder of my personal photo folder, I noticed I hadn't shot a train since the 11th of July! Not a huge deal, but I needed a break from working nearly 12 hours, 6 days a week for the past couple months. I was throwing around the idea of going to Harpers Ferry on CSX's Cumberland Sub, but I already took that trip not too long ago. And a non-work related sprained ankle was telling me that brutal hike wasn't such a great idea. The weather wasn't looking too shabby for the tri-state area, but I didn't care. I seem to do better and create some killer images with not so great weather. I just simply did not know where to head too. A few days before the trip that wasn't even planned, I started to get worried and was thinking that maybe the mini vacation would have to wait. Money wasn't an issue, just me being so indecisive didn't help. I've done Sand Patch so many times, and Cumberland, and shooting in my area of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area didn't appeal to me. So I started researching and made the decision to head to Shepherdstown, WV on NS's H-Line.
I had put in a personal day for work on Saturday, and the supervisor didn't even let me know until Friday night (talk about short notice) that I could have the day off. Everything was packed Thursday night and the hotel room booked, I was going no matter what. After only getting about 3 hours of sleep, all I had to do was put shoes on and go. Driving through the night (Takes nearly 4 hours of driving to get there from where I live) was easy with 2 large coffees, haha. The sun broke over the mountains of WV and I just knew it was going to be a great day. Or so I thought.....
After arriving at the local Sheetz to take a potty break, I headed to the foot of the main attraction (The large trestle over the Potomac) at this little college town at the C&O canal park. Scanner was on, camera was ready, now all I needed was a train. Looking over my timetables I printed out the night before, I was studying on what to listen for, the sidings, signals, etc. A crackle over the scanner came about as the dispatcher released a southbound to head my way from Vardo Yard. The reception was very faint, even when the train got closer. It tripped the detector only about 2 miles away and out of the car I went. The sun was magnificent, and I didn't have to go far to grab this shot as the scene opened up before my eyes for a light power move, NS 965, at the park parking lot, which made for a spectacular scene:
And then, a depressing wait ensued. The sun was getting hot, and more and more people started to flock to this popular spot to hike, run, bike and what have you. I started to get strange looks from people, lots of strange looks. Just another day of a foamer where some people just don't...ahem...understand, haha. There was a lady that actually called the rangers on me. I was asked a few questions, showed them my recent publication in Railpace Magazine, and they were quickly on their way with a friendly, "Nice pictures, have fun and have a great day!". I was growing tiresome of the wait. It was too hot for me to take a nap in the car. I started to walk around and look at the old relics of the park and the C&O trail. I called my fiance to walk her through to install the Hagerstown district on her laptop at home, where she was. Once installed and running, she had told me a northbound was heading my way. "Great!" , I thought. But the sun was getting so high, the lighting was pretty harsh. I had a narrow window where the light would be alright...not perfect, but just alright. But to my dismay, it was being held at the Shepherdstown siding for a southbound meet. I didn't take any chances on missing this train. The recent rain has eroded some of the beaches lining the Potomac. The "hike" down to the spot I picked out was pretty treacherous actually. My ankle was protesting all the way down the straight down rocky river bank. Finally, the southbound came and the northbound was released from it's holding position. NS 290 with a lone unit throttles up across the bridge:
After that train had passed, it was 1200 on the dot. More trains passed, but the light was pretty horrible. Clouds started to roll in, which I didn't care. Like I said, clouds don't bother me. But my stomach was aching for some grub. I headed back up the mountain and to the other side where I wanted to go sit on the edge of the mountain at the monument park. But as I got to the entrance, I find that the WHOLE PARK is closed due to a wedding. I was a bit upset, I'll admit. I worked my way south of there to a little park by the old Shepherdstown station, right by the tracks. Ate my lunch, relaxed a bit as a few trains passed by. Light was still pretty bad. It was blistering hot, and I usually can take the heat, but being up since 230am and the combination on the miserable heat wave, I needed some AC and a recliner (my car has no AC, and NO recliner of course, lol). So I decided it was time to check into the hotel room over at Martinsburg, a short drive from where I was "stationed"
I checked in, and my intention was to take a nap, but since some poor planning of shots, actually no planning of shots happened, had the best of me I watched some tv, made the room freezer burn cold, ate some more of my leftovers from lunch and started to look over the area more carefully. I only had about an hour to do this, as the light was starting to finally get better as time went by. I opened up my ATCS on my laptop that I brought with me and wow, it was lit up like a Christmas tree. I was uber excited, finally some flowing traffic! I grabbed my keys and camera, and headed out the door.
After arriving at a little parking area by the Shepherdstown signals, I heard the dispatcher give the clear for a southbound 11R to leave Vardo. I couldn't understand what engine # it was, but I could tell he wasn't saying NS xxxx, something was good on the point. I hear him get closer and closer, and he trips the detector. I set up on the "cut perch", as I call it now, and yup. Something good, GMTX 9050 on the point of 11R, something I don't see on the Pittsburgh Line (my usual "camera grounds") :
Time for some more bridge shots.
All the photographic elements (the kayakers, the boaters, piers, etc) seemed to just fall into place perfectly. I couldn't ask for any more perfection. Now it was time for some serious processing, uploading, and a little more planning for my 2nd day of this trip, the MAGNOLIA CUTOFF. With the help of a friend, Jon Wright who knows this area VERY well, it seemed like the place to be. I wanted to be closer to home that 2nd day so I wouldn't be too exhausted driving the 4 hours home from Shepherdstown, and it was along the way. I planned to get morning shots at the cutoff, then head up the Cumberland Sub to Cumberland for lunch and then continue shooting up the Keystone Sub through Sand Patch to finish up there and then head home. Well, those plans went out the window as I slept it. Boy was I upset. Boy oh boy...hahaha. I said some choice words to myself for being so dumb after getting up to the alarm at 530 and wanting to get another 15 minutes of rest. 15 minutes of rest turned into 4 HOURS of rest as I woke up a 2nd time at 930. I thought, well, the morning is screwed. Lets just go to cumberland.
After driving out of Martinsburg after packing up, checking out and heading out the door in record time (you tend to do things more expeditiously when you screw something up, haha) I decided, what the hell. Lets just to the cutoff for a "scoping out" session. And I'm glad I did decide to go to the cutoff. It was beautiful. I didn't stay very long. It seemed as though Amtrak had the same idea of being late that day as it was a couple hours behind. Here, the Capitol Limited makes it way across the Magnolia bridge, the old WM bridge can be seen here also :
I headed down the Low Line road to various points, including Kessler (shots will come as I process and edit this at some point in the week), Corothers Tunnel, the Paw Paw and Magnolia signals, Kessler Curve, etc. I was knocking around the idea of the Kessler overlook shot, but again. My ankle was saying otherwise. After leaving the cutoff, I headed to Cumberland, which is only a short 30 minute drive. Ate lunch and headed up the Keystone sub to the Sand Patch area, an area I know pretty well. I grabbed a few shots around here also (like I said, more to come when I get to it) and ended the trip with a shot famous in fall, but also very exceptional in summer also. The purple hues in the field add a nice touch to this scene of Q368 winding down grade at the famous Mance Curve:
I waited around for another shot of a helper set B254 shoving hard against a coal train, and wanted a westbound in sweet evening light, but that never happened. I was tired and wanted to just go home. Driving out of Meyersdale I heard a westbound coming up the hill, but I had a good start on the way home and I thought to myself, "I'll get you next time....".
All in all, it was a pretty nice trip, even with that 2nd day missing the whole morning. I plan on going back and redoing this trip, but with more focus on the farmlands around the H-Line and ESPECIALLY more focus on the cutoff. Hope you enjoy and feel free to comment!! Thanks again!