Sperry Train-Under Clear Skies

Irish Rail—April 18, 2014.

Irish Rail 22000-series Intercity Railcars make a daily transfer at Islandbridge Junction on the morning of April 19, 2014. It was here that I photographed Irish Rail's elusive Sperry Train back on August 30, 2012.
Irish Rail 22000-series Intercity Railcars make a daily transfer at Islandbridge Junction on the morning of April 18, 2014. It was here that I photographed Irish Rail’s elusive Sperry Train back on August 30, 2012.

Good Friday has a long-standing tradition of being a special day on Irish Rail. The weather is usually fine, and there’s always something interesting on the move.

This year Good Friday again met, and exceeded, expectations. The previous day had been a disappointment.

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, my friend Colm O’Callaghan and I had been out for the Irish Rail Sperry train. (Previously in Tracking the Light, I’ve highlighted this elusive rail-defect detection train, see: Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012). On that day, we waited in vain under increasingly cloudy skies. As it turned out the Sperry’s plan for the day was cancelled.

When Good Friday dawned clear and bright, I wondered if there was anything on the move. I’d set out for the shops to get some breakfast, but had the wisdom to bring some of my cameras with me.

On the way, I stopped at my familiar Islandbridge Junction overlook (near Heuston Station), where I noted that a railcar transfer was in progress. I made some photographs. Then, I heard from Colm: the Sperry train was expected to depart Dublin’s North Wall after 10am! Wheels were turning!

My morning shopping trip was suspended as we headed ‘down road’ to find places to intercept one of Ireland’s most difficult quarries. This Sperry rail-defect detection train only makes a few trips a year, and it had changed its program on a moment’s notice!

Irish Rail class 071 General Motors diesel locomotive number 082 leads the Sperry consist near Straffan on the Dublin-Cork mainline. Exposed with my Canon EOS 7D and 20mm lens.
Irish Rail class 071 General Motors diesel locomotive number 081 leads the Sperry consist near Straffan on the Dublin-Cork mainline. Exposed with my Canon EOS 7D and 20mm lens.
Trailing view at Straffan. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Trailing view at Straffan. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
The Sperry train had gone to Sallins to run around, and in this view was returning up-road toward Heuston Station. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
The Sperry train had gone to Sallins to run around, and in this view (near Hazelhatch) it was returning up-road toward Heuston Station. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Lumix LX3 photo at milepost 11 3/4 near Hazelhatch. Sperry’s detection equipment is in the yellow container riding on a flat wagon. Immediately behind the locomotive is the weed spraying van, where the Sperry crew can ride to monitor equipment. The yellow tank wagons at the back of consist are normally used for the weed-spraying train and are included with the Sperry consist  to assist with braking.
Lumix LX3 photo at milepost 11 3/4 near Hazelhatch. Sperry’s detection equipment is in the yellow container riding on a flat wagon. Immediately behind the locomotive is the weed spraying van, where the Sperry crew can ride to monitor equipment. The yellow tank wagons at the back of consist are also normally used for the weed-spraying train and are included with the Sperry consist to assist with braking.

Our quick action and careful thought paid off. As it turned out, the Sperry was working up and down on the quad track section of the Cork line. So, we had several excellent opportunities for photography. Assisting our efforts were regular updates and communications from like-minded photographers up and down the line from our positions. (Thanks guys!).

For me the day’s highlight followed a tense moment at Stacumny Bridge (near Hazelhatch), when the up-road IWT Liner (Ballina to Dublin container train) and the Sperry train (working down road) approached us simultaneously! This had all the ingredients for a photographic disaster.

While waiting for the 3rd pass of the Sperry train we caught the daily down IWT Liner (Dublin-Ballina containers). This is a favoured location at Stacumny Bridge near Hazelhatch. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
While waiting for the 3rd pass of the Sperry train we caught the daily down IWT Liner (Dublin-Ballina containers). This is a favoured location at Stacumny Bridge near Hazelhatch. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Anticipation! When both the Dublin bound IWT liner and Sperry train appeared simultaneously, I changed my plan. Both trains are moving! Lumix LX3 photo.
Anticipation! When both the Dublin bound IWT liner and Sperry train appeared simultaneously, I changed my plan. Both trains are moving! Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail 081, leads the Sperry train down road. It was making multiple trips to scan different tracks on the quad track section between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch. Sperry's train examines rails for internal defects. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail 081, leads the Sperry train down road. It was making multiple trips to scan different tracks on the quad track section between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch. Sperry’s train examines rails for internal defects. Lumix LX3 photo.
Sperry rail-defect detection equipment is housed in this specially outfitted container that rides on a flat wagon. This is the important part of the train. Note Sperry's logo on the back of the container. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Sperry rail-defect detection equipment is housed in this specially outfitted container that rides on a flat wagon. This is the important part of the train. Note Sperry’s logo on the back of the container. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Trying to position for two moving trains in opposite directions takes skill and a lot of luck. We were very lucky. In the end, while I didn’t get what I’d anticipated, instead, made a once in a lifetime photograph: the near perfect rolling meet between the liner and Sperry train under full sun! Yea!

Trailing view of the up IWT liner at Stacumny Bridge, April 19, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
Trailing view of the up IWT liner at Stacumny Bridge, April 18, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.

The downside: by the end of the day my poor old Panasonic Lumix LX3 developed a minor intermittent electrical fault. While, I was still able to make photographs with it, its reliable performance is now in question. After near five years of hard service, my favorite ‘everywhere camera’ may need to be replaced! In the meantime, I’ve got my Canon EOS 7D, plus Canon film cameras and my old Nikons to fall back on.

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