Erie Railroad’s Portage Bridge; May 12, 2007

Railroad viaduct at Letchworth Gorge, New York
Norfolk Southern freight 309 eases over the former Erie Railroad Portage Viaduct on May 12, 2007. Exposed with a Rollei Model T (f3.5 75mm Zeiss Tessar) on 120 size Fujichrome Veliva 100—RVP100.

During the second week of May 2007, I was in western New York to photograph for my book The Railroad Never Sleeps.  This project involved coordinating 37 photographers across North America who produced railroad images on May 10th — the anniversary of the completion of the first trans-continental railroad in 1869. The concept was one full day of railroad photography organized chronologically. Each photographer picked their own topics and techniques. I opted to work my old territory from college, which included a cab ride (by prior arrangement) on Genesee Valley Transportation’s Falls Road Railroad. While the book featured the best of the photography on May 10th, I continued to make images over the next few days traveling with fellow railroad photographer Hal Reiser.

The old Erie Railroad is one of my favorites, and on the morning of May 12th we were poised at Letchworth State Park near Portage, New York to photograph the famous viaduct over Genesee Upper Falls in Letchworth Gorge. At 8:17 am, Norfolk Southern’s detector at mp 359 (near old River Junction) sounded alerting us to a westward train. The roar of the falls can make it difficult to hear a train approaching and it is helpful to have some advanced warning. A few minutes later NS freight 309 inched across the trestle with now-rare C39-8 ‘Classic’ 8554 in the lead. I made a series of color photographs with my Canon EOS-3 and Rollei model T. One of the telephoto vertical views appeared on page 13 of my 2011-title Modern Diesel Power published by Voyageur press.

To learn more about the significance of Erie’s Portage Viaduct see my detailed and illustrated response in ‘Ask TRAINS,’ page 64 of the February 2013 issue (on stands soon!). For this article, I show the bridge with a westward Delaware & Hudson freight exposed on Kodachrome almost 19 years earlier (May 14, 1988).

Tower supported trestle at Letchworth Gorge.
Norfolk Southern C39-8 crosses Erie’s Portage Viaduct on May 12, 2008. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with Canon EOS-3 with 200mm f2.8 lens.

See an independent review of Modern Diesel Power at

For more post on the Erie Railroad route see: Erie October MorningCuriously Seeking Erie Semaphores and Erie Semaphores Revisited.

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