Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day 2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part Two
Phelan Way

Before leaving Polish Hill, George and I did some exploring above the church, looking down the streets and alleys for vantage points. Phelan Way, which runs behind the church and climbs like crazy at its eastern end, up to Herron Avenue, offered a good example of the neighborhood’s flavor.

George found the narrow passage between two buildings attractive, and he had me walk past it a number of times on the next street down, Brereton, so he could capture me in mid-stride in the gap. The large and indolent husky who lived there watched me over the gate with some interest but expended no energy in saying so. Read more

Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day  2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part One

In April 2018, my friend George Hiotis and I made a fourteen-day, 2,300-mile journey from my home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to Chicago and back. We had a GREAT time.

Ostensibly, we made the trip for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art conference, but we spent most of a week before and all of a week afterwards on the road. I came back with 4,200 pictures—crazy, right?—and George brought home more than 5,000. We photographed at something like seventy-five locations, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia, from before dawn until long after dark on most days. We stumbled on some astonishing places and buildings in addition to the dozens that George had put on the initial itinerary, developed through scads of research in the months before the trip. We also met some memorable people, a few of whom I photographed. I had set out on this trip determined to overcome my self-consciousness about photographing strangers, and you will see some of the results here. Read more

Waiting on a Train

One day you are making dinner in the afternoon and see a headlight on the bridge, that headlight you waited so patiently for as a kid.

Go back to the days when you were ten or eleven and the phone rings at home. Grandma needs you to get something from the pharmacy. She sends you there a couple of times a week for various and sundry goods, so you jump on your bike (a twenty-six incher—big time stuff there) and head to her house to get the money. Then off you go down the back road, not because it’s the most direct route, no because it runs along the edge of the hill and from there you can check out the B&O and their big bridge over the Allegheny River. The line is the Pittsburgh and Western (P&W) sub that runs from Glenwood yard west towards Ohio or (if they take a right at the wye in Eidenau) Buffalo.

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Stations and Old Stories

When my parents had to drop off a package at the Railway Express Agency at the now long-gone New Haven Railroad station in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that’s when I got hooked on trains. I was five years old then, but the sight of an express train roaring by toward New York City had me riveted. From that day through my childhood, I would beg my folks to stop by the station so I could stand where so many travelers to up and down the East Coast trod upon those old wooden platforms. The place reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke, diesel fumes from idling locomotives, the noise of baggage carts and porters moving across the platforms, and those great, green REA trucks coming and going from their part of the station.

But as I became an adult, it wasn’t just the old country depots and big city stations that fascinated me. It was and still is the stories and even history that moved through them. Read more

The Glenapp Boys

Keeping the Dream Alive

Two thirds of the Glenapp Boys: Dennis Sibson (left) and Rob Sibson stand outside the cabin at Glenapp that they hope to stabilize and restore. Alan Sibson was not present the day this photo was taken.d

Early on a typical grey, warm and humid January morning, I find myself driving down the rough road that runs alongside the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) crossing loop (siding) at Glenapp, near the border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. The last time I was here was in 2007 to observe the electric staff working be replaced by the new Remote Control Signalling installations ARTC was putting in on the crossing loops at the north end of its North Coast line. Back then, the vehicle access down to the signal cabin was poor, and hemmed in by rampant vegetation of numerous weedy varieties, while the signal cabin itself looked to be on the verge of going the same way as the electric staff machines it housed. Now, as then, the place is quiet, with just some bird song and an odd low rustling sound in the background. Read more