“We worked like thieves, stealing images as train riders do, from that passing world unmasked by the railroad whose intrusion helped create it. A corridor of random and disordered beauty, the backs of buildings, a space where nothing is posed. You would walk here as a trespasser, stepping over weeds and cracked pavement, past a rusty fence, a chained dog, a string of white laundry, a man fixing his truck, a woman lying in the sun.” – Michael Flanagan, Stations: An Imagined Journey
Saturday afternoon found me over in the valley again. Here in central Virginia, “the valley” is understood to mean the Shenandoah Valley which is “over” on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains from where I live. A year and a half ago, I began working on a project to photograph a few miles of railroad that runs between Elkton and Front Royal on part of what is now Norfolk Southern’s Shenandoah Valley line.
It was a pleasant early spring day. Some snow still lingered on the north facing slopes of the mountains, but in the valley the fields were beginning to turn green, and the trees were just starting to show some spring color. In the Town of Shenandoah, I stopped in the NS yard office and asked if it was OK to take some pictures (it was) and found out that a northbound freight was leaving soon. Read more
The Trackside Photographer is entering its third year of publication (we launched on March 3, 2016) and I want to thank everyone who has followed along with us. I am most grateful for the many contributors who have been wonderfully generous to share their photography and stories with us, and who make this site possible.
One of the joys of my job as editor has been the opportunity to see hundreds of your photos from around the world. I have learned a lot, both about railroads and photography. Looking at the work of others inspires and fuels our growth as photographers, and that is the simple idea that keeps us on track. There is more to come in 2018. Join us! Read more
Why trains? What is it about the railroad that connects to so many people? For many of us, the answer lies in childhood memories, our earliest wonder at the spectacle of a thundering locomotive, or perhaps that Lionel train under the Christmas tree. I am old enough to remember watching steam railroading on the Norfolk & Western as a boy in the 1950s. But it goes beyond that. The railroad was the prototype for that most American of obsessions, the road trip. Even though train travel has been overshadowed by the automobile and airplane, when we look down the tracks, far-away places still call, and we are pulled into the distance.
Late in the 1945, a Navy ship with my father aboard docked in San Diego. The war was over and Dad was going home. A train carried him across the country that he had fought in the Pacific to preserve and protect. He rode through the small towns and the big cities. He watched other servicemen reunited with their family on the platforms of small stations scattered across the nation. He dozed in his coach seat while America streamed by the window. Read more
Above is the set-up shot. All I needed was a south-bound freight train rolling by that lovely old Brookhaven station for a great train picture. So I waited. I had no idea how long I would have to wait, but I wanted the perfect shot that was dancing in my head. I wait some more. A headlight down the track! I get in position, but the locomotive in the distance stops, and then backs up; just an engine switching cars. Read more
My favorite photography magazine these days is PleinAir Magazine. Yes, I know that PleinAir is not about photography, but it has been a source of inspiration to me that I cannot find in the pages of the regular photography magazines with their emphasis on gear and technique.