Semaphore at dawn

Semaphore Dawn—Tracking the Light Daily Post.

Adrian, New York, May 1987.

 A thick Spring fog blanketing the Canisteo Valley acted as a sound envelope. The combination of moisture and the valley’s walls produced an acoustic environment that enhanced the railroad experience. Making this special was the almost total void of other human made sounds.

The trickle of  water from the nearby Canisteo and a light breeze through the trees was punctuated by the distant roar of an eastward train. Engine noise and the clatter of freight cars gradually swelled as it worked from Hornell down the valley on the former Erie Railroad.

I’d positioned myself at lightly used private crossing near westward signal 318 (measured in miles from Erie’s Jersey City terminus). A hint of blue in the sky marked the rising sun.

After more than ten minutes, I’d listened to the mournful warning blasted for the public crossing in the village of Adrian, two miles to the west. The roar grew louder. Then finally, there was a hint of headlight piercing the fog.

Semaphore at dawn
Delaware & Hudson’s symbol BFOA (Ford autorack train destined for Ayer, Massachusetts) blasts by a former Erie upper quadrant semaphore east of Adrian, New York at 5:20am on May 16, 1987. This vintage signal, one of several dozen protecting the railroad in the Canisteo Valley was the primary intended subject. This image was first published in Pacific RailNews in the 1990s. Images like this one will help illustrate my new book; Classic Railroad Signals that I’m now assembling for publication later this year by Voyageur Press.

My college roommate had lent me his Canon A1 35mm SLR, which I’d loaded with professional Kodachrome 25 slide film. I had this tightly positioned on a tripod.

 

When the train began to illuminate the scene, I opened the shutter. This closed again moments before the headlight of the lead locomotive left the scene, leaving a truncated streak of light to represent the train’s passage.

 

Images like this one will help illustrate my new book; Classic Railroad Signals that I’m now assembling for publication later this year by Voyageur Press.

 

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Tomorrow: Like the Ribs of some Ancient Beast.

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