My Railfan Experience in Germany

German Class 023 (2-6-2) steam locomotive at the passenger station in Trier waiting on signal from the conductor.

As a US Army soldier stationed in West Germany during 1971 and the first quarter of 1972, I had an opportunity to witness and photograph one of the last bastions of steam in regular service and to observe operations at a major train station.

The German Federal Railway (Deutche Bundesbahn or DB) was formed as the state railway system of the newly formed Federal Republic of Germany on September 7, 1949. The DB was a successor to the Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft (DRG). The original DB remained the state railway of West Germany until after German reunification, when it was merged with the former East German Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) to form Deutsche Bahn AG, which came into existence on January 1, 1994. The DB initials remained but the logo was slightly modified to a more modern style.

The post where I was stationed was located in Wiesbaden and was known as Camp Pieri. It was located near the top of a hill and on clear days you could see part of the city and even the city of Mainz, which was located across the Rhine River.

After being in Germany for a little while, I was itching to get out to do some train watching. I had no car at the time so I depended on public transportation to get around Wiesbaden. Read more

A Clinchfield Chronicle 

The Trackside Photographer is pleased to announce the publication of a new book by contributor Eric MillerA Clinchfield Chronicle: Photography Along CSX Transportation’s Clinchfield Route showcases heavy haul mountain railroading on one of the most scenic railroad lines in America. This 110-page all-color volume covers ten years on CSX Transportation’s Clinchfield Route, the former Clinchfield Railroad between Elkhorn City, Kentucky and Altapass, North Carolina. Separate sections cover the Elkhorn City to Erwin, Tennessee “Kingsport Subdivision,” the Erwin, Tennessee to Altapass portion of the “Blue Ridge Subdivision,” and the famous CSX Clinchfield “Santa Train.

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Galt Coal Burns All Night 

The Great Falls & Canada Railway


AR&CC locomotive #13 at Shelby Junction (Virden, Montana) in the winter of 1897. This locomotive was originally North-West Coal & Navigation Company (NWC&NC) #1. From left; Fireman A. Niven and Engineer T. Nolan. Photo courtesy Glenbow Archives NA-1167-11

In time, the Lethbridge (Alberta district, Northwest Territories) coal mines would feed all the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) steam locomotives in western Canada, as well as the stoves of its stations and many settler prairie homes. The slogan “Galt Coal Burns All Night” was emblazoned on signage wherever it was sold; lumber yards, grain elevators, and farm cooperatives. By 1890, the North-West Coal & Navigation Company (NWC&NC) averaged 90,000 tons delivered per year to Dunmore, and the CPR wanted more. Northwest Mounted Police Superintendent Deane reported the Galt mines could produce more than 1,000 tons per day – with the possibilities for more in sight.

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Twenty-Two Hundred Miles
  and Counting

Part Two
Union Switch & Signal searchlights are mounted on the Santa Fe era cantilever at Verona, Illinois.

Early on a cold February morning in 2016, I left Topeka, Kansas for Prairie Village; a suburb of Kansas City. I was picking up my Mom and brother to continue my effort to photograph as many of the “old signals” as could be found. On most Class 1 railroads in the country, PTC is quickly taking over and I made it a priority to head east and document a few of the remaining color position lights, cantilever searchlights, and tri-lights before they were gone forever. This would be a continuation of the trip I took in August to photograph the last semaphores in New Mexico, and, as with that trip, the evidence that the end is near for the “old signals” was a constant on most of the journey.

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Editor’s Notebook

Work in Progress

Grade Crossing at Limeton, Virginia

That “killer” image that we all look for is sometimes not enough. To tell a story, go deeper into a subject or come to terms with an idea or emotion that cannot be expressed in a single image, we may need to undertake a multiple image project.

Sometimes projects come together after the fact when we find among our images relationships that we didn’t see at the time we made the shot. Sometimes projects are very intentional, involving research, shot lists, perhaps even a storyboard. Last month I mentioned David duChemin and his concept of using the camera as a tool of exploration, and I recommend his current video podcasts where he expands this idea in relation to personal projects. Simply put, David’s advice is to get an idea that interests you and is not too broad, and begin exploring that concept visually with a camera. Read more

The New River Gorge

Part Three

Read The New River Gorge Part One here and Part Two here

The New River Gorge Bridge as seen from Bridge Buttress

In Part Two, we had just begun to explore Fayette Station, West Virginia.  Here Route 82 (one way from the north side of the Gorge and back up the other side) descends the mountain to the river then back up along the south side.  Before the New River Gorge Bridge was built, Route 82 was how the Gorge was crossed at this location.  At that time it was two way but for years now it has been limited to one way traffic.

Fayette Station is a busy place during the warm months.  It is a center of activity for raft take-outs, rock climbing, viewing the bridge and for several waterfalls which are within walking distance.  It also has a great rail fan location which I’ll get to later. Read more