Erie Mainline Revisited

On August 22, 2010, Norfolk Southern SD60M 6777 leads symbol 048—a special move of James E. Strates cars—working eastward at West Cameron, New York. Photo made with a Canon EOS 7D in manual mode fitted with a 24mm lens; exposure f3.5 1/500 at ISO 200. (Jpeg and RAW files exposed simultaneously)

Originally Posted September 28, 2012.

On Sunday August 22, 2010, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I were making photos in western New York south of Rochester, when we got word of an unusual train on Norfolk Southern’s former Erie Route. Having worked this territory for more than 25 years, I navigated a course cross country to intercept our mystery train south of Silver Springs at Castile, New York. We were both curious to see what this was. As it turned out it was a single SD60M leading a portion of the James E. Strates Show train. We made our photo at Castile near the remains of old Erie Railroad water tower, then chased eastward. We followed it to Swain, Canaseraga, Arkport, and to Hornell, New York, then into the Canisteo River Valley. Among the locations we chose was at West Cameron, New York, a spot on the inside of curve, where in the 1980s I’d often photographed Conrail and Delaware & Hudson trains passing a former Erie Railroad  Style-S upper quadrant semaphore (see Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores posted on September 23). Conrail had single-tracked the old Erie route through the Canisteo Valley in 1993-1994, so it had been a long time since the semaphore came down, yet a portion of the old westward main was retained at West Cameron for use as a setout track, so despite changes, this location didn’t look substantially different to me than it had ‘back in the day’ .

In 1988, Conrail SD50 6700 leads eastward BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) carrying New York City subway cars rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen at Hornell. This passes a semaphore on the westward main track at West Cameron, New York. Photo made with a Rollei Model T, a twin-lens reflex featuring a 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held light meter. Negative scanned with an Epson V500 scanner.

Afterwards, I searched back over my 120-size black & white negatives, and located this view made with my old Rollei model T of Conrail’s BUOI in 1988. Compare these two photographs made at virtually the same location, at approximately the same time of day, yet more than 22 years apart. There are many advantages to working the same territory repeatedly over the years. While familiarity may lead to boredom, it can likewise lead a photographer to make interesting comparisons.

A lesson: keep making photographs despite changes that appear to make the railway less interesting.

2 comments on “Erie Mainline Revisited

  1. I know that feeling too. Nothing on the railroad is forever.

  2. Wayne Depperman on said:


    I’ve done a bit of that sort of thing.
    It gets rather poignant, though, when you have the privilege of riding the engine cab over a route. And then, not many years later, you go back and photograph an empty right-of-way.
    But it’s something that has to be done — a kind of continuity.


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