A Trackside Photographer—Canadian Style!

Canadian Pacific #9371 traveling westbound between Ingolf, Ontario and Caddy Lake, Manitoba,. through the Canadian Shield.

This past New Year my wife and I took a vacation to the Whiteshell Provincial Park where we spent ten days in a cabin so that we would have two weeks to do nothing except relax and do all the stuff that we love to do in the Canadian wilderness.

The Whiteshell Provincial Park is located in the boreal forest of Eastern Manitoba, which is also part of the Canadian Shield named after the jagged granite terrain.

So to begin my story as a “Trackside Photogapher”, I find myself standing along a Canadian Pacific (CP) main line waiting for a westbound freight. Trains were on a holiday schedule, so I had some time between freights to think.  I ask myself and wonder what it’s like to be a Trackside Photographer in Kansas, or Virginia, or some of those cool places where there is so much more diverse landscape to capture. “Not sure”, I reply to myself, as I ponder in envy. But I am a Canadian Photographer on the prairies, and I endeavor to make my photography fresh and unique . . . so let me tell you how a good ol’ prairie boy makes his train photography unique. Read more

Trout Lake

I cross the Big Mac into the Upper Peninsula, paying four dollar for the privilege at the St. Ignace toll booth. A few miles north of St. Ignace, I leave the freeway, taking Michigan 123 into the heart of the Upper Peninsula.  The road follows the former roadbed of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad which Ernest Hemingway rode a few years after the Great War as he and his friends headed to a fish camp along the East Branch of the Fox River outside of Seney, Michigan.  That adventure provided fodder for his classic short story, “Big Two Hearted River.”  In those days, one had to cross the Straits of Mackinac by ferry, but in 1957 the bridge opened, spanning the straits.

It’s late afternoon on a hot July day when I reach Trout Lake. There is a small IGA here with wonderful sandwiches, piled high with sliced meats.  As I plan to have dinner with friends in Marquette, I avoid the temptation and order a cone of hand-dipped black cherry ice cream.  As I wait on the clerk, I look around the store for a minute.  In addition to groceries and a deli, they have fishing gear and some hardware.  It seems to be a place from the past, which is why I like stopping here. Read more

The Bodmin & Wenford Railway

Riding a steam train through Cornwall, England

Traveling in England, Scotland, and Wales for over 25 years has given my wife and me numerous opportunities to ride the extensive rail system in the United Kingdom. On our latest trip, in May of 2017, we were finally able to check off something that has been on our bucket list a long time—ride the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, pulled by an historic steam locomotive. The Bodmin rail line was one of the first railways in the world to use steam locomotives, certainly the first in Cornwall, and it is Cornwall’s only full size railway still powered by steam.

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Last Stand on the Topeka Sub

The cantilever at Eudora, Kansas. with one US&S searchlight, stood for nearly a century. It is now gone.

Since 2015, I have lived on or near the BNSF’s former Santa Fe Topeka Subdivision. This proximity has allowed me to watch firsthand the replacement of the searchlights, color light signals, and the code lines that have governed the subdivision for decades. All over the country, on busier lines, the old signals have been falling, rapidly replaced by Positive Train Control (PTC) and the new, “Vader” style color light signals. The BNSF’s former Santa Fe Topeka Sub is no exception. Running from Holliday to Emporia, Kansas (KS), this portion of the BNSF has acted as a relief valve for the busy Emporia Sub. It also hosts Amtrak’s #3 and #4, the east and westbound Southwest Chiefs. While the signals on many lines have been upgraded on many parts of the BNSF system, the Topeka Sub has largely been untouched. That is until now. Read more

Surf Line Stations

One day in 1959, I was driving by Santa Fe’s main line tracks in Buena Park, California, and noticed a small wooden station there. I drove by there a couple of months later, and the station was gone. This started me thinking; “Hmm, these things seem to be vanishing just like steam locomotives did.”

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Grade Crossings

Several years ago, I lost patience waiting around for a train to photograph and started to pay more attention to the landscape that the tracks run through. I became absorbed in the things that surround the railroad, and that the railroad alters and defines as it passes through. So absorbed, in fact, that trains occasionally rumbled by un-photographed.

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