In early July 1995, Sean Graham-White and I spent several days working with the Belt Railway of Chicago for an article on Clearing Yard for Pacific RailNews.
At the time, I was PRN’s Associate Editor and Sean was among our regular contributors.
Sean had organized with the railroad for us to interview employees and make photographs. BRC assigned an Assistant Yardmaster to drive us around and provide introductions.
Among the facilities we toured was the KCBX Terminal (a bulk commodity trans-loading facility for barges) that was routinely served by a BRC local.
On July 2, 1995, the local was worked by a pair of BRC’s vintage Alco C-424 diesels. These locomotives were very popular with railway enthusiasts, but could be a bit elusive and hard to find running, unless one was very familiar with Chicago-land operations.
I made a number of images of the Alcos and the facility, but most of these did not run in the magazine article, which instead focused on BRC’s Clearing Yard rather than the Alcos or the KCBX terminal.
In October 2005, I arranged through official channels at Genesee Valley Transportation to ride Delaware-Lackawanna’s trains PT98/PT97, and interview railroaders about their work as part of research for my book Working on the Railroad (published by Voyageur Press in 2006).
On the morning of October 13, 2005, I joined the crew in Scranton for their run to Slateford Junction near Portland, Pennsylvania. After a bit of switching we were on the road. The weather started out dark and damp, and didn’t improve any throughout the day.
The primary emphasis of my trip was the crew and many of my photographs from the day depict engineer Rich Janesko and conductor Shawn Palermo at work. These were featured in the book.
On the return run, I opted to ride in the second locomotive for a little while to make images of the train climbing west through the Delaware Water Gap on the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline. It was on this section that my father had photographed Erie-Lackawanna’s Phoebe Snow more than 40 years earlier.
We departed Slateford Junction in early evening. I exposed this image from the fireman’s side of former Lehigh Valley Alco C-420 number 405. Leading is a former Erie-Lackawanna C-425 (running back on home rails thanks to GVT’s policy of Alco acquisition).
I used my Nikon F3T with an f2.8 24mm lens mounted firmly on a tripod in the cab and set the shutter speed at between ¼ and 1/8th of a second to allow the trees and ground to blur.
I was trying to emulate the effect that Richard Steinheimer achieved on his famous cab ride photos at night in a Milwaukee Road ‘Little Joe’ electric.
View from Delaware-Lackawanna’s westward PT97 at the Delaware Water Gap, west of Slateford Junction, Pennsylvania on October 13, 2005. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T and 24mm lens.
I’ve featured Chicago & North Western 1385 in a number of books, including my American Steam Locomotive (published in 1998 by MBI), and Locomotive (published in 2001 by MBI) and most recently in Alco Locomotives (2009 by Voyageur Press).
The locomotive is preserved at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin, and was operated regularly when I lived in Wisconsin in the mid-1990s. My friend John Gruber had helped save the locomotive in the early 1960s, and it was his son Dick Gruber who introduced me to the engine when we worked for Pentrex Publishing.
Here’s an excerpt of my text from Locomotive on C&NW’s R-1 Class 4-6-0s:
If any one locomotive could be selected to represent Chicago & North Western’s steam power fleet, it would have to be the Class R-1 Ten Wheeler. In its day, the R-1 was the most common, and perhaps the most versatile locomotive on the railroad. A total of 325 R-1 were built, the most numerous type of any C&NW steam locomotive, and they were among the longest lived classes on the railroad as well.
During the last 15 years of the 19th century, C&NW amassed quite a variety of 4-6-0s. Most were products of the Schenectady Locomotive Works, in Schenectady, New York, but some were built by Baldwin.