Carrick-on-Suir, December 23, 2002.

Laden Sugar Beet Waits in the Loop.

Irish Rail’s Sugar Beet season was a busy time for me, photographically. The season began in early September and usually ran through early January, depending on the volume of the harvest. In the early 2000s, I’d typically be in Ireland from late-October through the early weeks of the new year.

Exposed on black & white film using a Rollei Model T mounted on a Manfrotto tripod at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland.
Exposed on black & white film using a Rollei Model T mounted on a Manfrotto tripod at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland.

While I’d miss the brighter, dryer, warmer days early in the beet season, I’d make up the difference by photographing on the dark, wetter, colder days in November and December.

The atmosphere of the beet season is what I remember. The dampness, the muck, the dirty old four-wheel wagons. The sounds of General Motors diesels accelerating out of passing loops, and working in Run-8 on wet track.

Irish Rail’s staff were always friendly, and between trains there would a welcome cup of tea in a signal cabin or gate keeper’s shack.

Over much of the route traditional mechanical signaling was still the rule. The slap of lever and the thunk of a semaphore blade falling into place was the sign that something was about to happen.

And there was the smell of the beet. Especially in the fields around Wellingtonbridge, County where beet was grown.

The last laden beet train rolled towards Mallow, County Cork in January 2006, a little more than three years after I made this image.

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