June 1996: It had been just over a year since Union Pacific absorbed Chicago & North Western.
I made this view of a westward UP train with SD60M 6276 in the lead.
A father with his young son on a bicycle look on in wonder.
This single frame was exposed with my Nikon F3T and 35PC (perspective control) lens on Kodachrome 25. The film’s slow speed combined with side lighting and minimum aperture of just f3.5 only allowed me a shutter speed of 1/250thof a second, which wasn’t fast enough to freeze the train’s motion in this broadside view.
I feel that the slight motion blur makes the photo because it conveys the speed and mass of the train in contrast to the relative fragility of its on-lookers.
The tree branches at top right help accentuated the blurring effect.
In July (2017), John Gruber and I visited the old Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin. I was surprised to find that the railroad’s old mailbox remained.
It has been more than 22 years since the old C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific. In 1995 at the end of C&NW’s independent operations I’d made photos of this same mailbox, which for me served as a symbol of the railroad.
Now it’s a faded vestige of another era. More than just the paint has changed.
A week ago, I traveled with John Gruber and Scott Lothes for a day’s photography on the Wisconsin & Southern,
A couple of days previously, John and I had made some photographs exploring the line to Reedsburg (see previous posts). So armed with that experience plus good information on operations, we set out with Scott for another run.
Among the three of us we have a bit of photographic experience and a lot of railway knowledge, so we were in good position to make the most of the day. I always like learning from fellow photographers as everyone has their own way of seeing.
I have to admit that the old Chicago & North Western line between Madison and Reedsburg isn’t my strongest field of interest. When I lived in Wisconsin this line (then still operated by C&NW) was largely nocturnal. However in more recent times, John and I have made daylight photos.
Until a few months ago the route still featured some vintage wig-wag grade crossing signals, and these had been the focus of my earlier efforts on the line. Since these are gone, we were able to take a more diverse approach.
The Reedsburg line is now but a branch on the sprawling Wisconsin & Southern freight gathering network, but historically the line was a key Chicago & North Western mainline between Chicago, Madison and the Twin Cities. For me this legacy makes the line more interesting.
We picked up the train at Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Yard, and over the next few hours intercepted it more than a dozen times.
Sunny weather plus a single clean SD40-2 running short-hood first put us in a good position to make satisfactory images. On the previous run John and I needed to make do with the engine running long-hood first, which is a more challenging subject to photograph.
Here are a few digital photos from our second chase. Any favorites?
I exposed these three photos last week on Wisconsin & Southern at Baraboo, Wisconsin using my old Leica 3A loaded with Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50).
In its heyday, Baraboo was a division point on Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Madison-Twin Cities main line.
Its glory days are now more than a century past; decline began in the early twentieth century, when this route was augmented by C&NW’s low-grade Adams Line (via Milwaukee), which became a preferred route for through freight and fast passenger expresses.
It was severed as a through line in the 1980s.
As mentioned in an earlier post, on this July 2016 day John Gruber and I were following Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison to Reedsburg freight.
Some photographers might object to the railroad’s choice of motive power: an SD40-2 operating long-hood first. I recall the wisdom of my late-friend Bob Buck who reminded me once many years ago, ‘The railroad isn’t operated for your benefit.’
(In other-words; if a long-hood forward SD40-2 is on offer, that’s what there is and so make the best of it.)
Compare these images:
In one, I’ve adjusted the contrast to compensate for a cloud that momentarily softened the noonday sunlight. In the second, I’ve worked with depth of field and focused on trackside weeds instead of the locomotive. In the last, I’ve included fellow photographer John Gruber to add in a human element.
On my 1984 visit to Chicago I’d made photos and traveled to/from the old North Western Station.
Wow, have things changed.
Yes, I’ve made some visits between then and now, but it’s been a long time.
The old station was torn down not long after my first visit and replaced with an epic glass box. Today, this is known as the Ogilvie Transportation Center.
In the mid-1990s, about the time that Chicago & North Western was folded into Union Pacific, the station’s Bush train sheds were demolished and replaced with more modern platform coverings. I made a few photos during that transition.
Still, it seems a bit strange for me to see the former North Western Station in this modern format. My impressions from 32 years ago remain only in my memory and few photos that I made with my Leicas.
On the weekend of April 23, 1995, Howard Ande and I followed Chicago & North Western’s east-west mainline from Chicago to Council Bluffs, Iowa and back making hundreds of images in anticipation of the Union Pacific take over.
I exposed this color slide of a relatively new C&NW GE-built DASH9-44CW near Missouri Valley, Iowa on the evening of April 23, 1995.
Instead of focusing on the engine, I set my focus point on the window. Using my Nikon F3T, I exposed this image with an f1.8 105mm lens wide open for minimum depth of field. This is a personal favorite of mine and over the years I’ve reproduced it in various places.
Tracking the Light is on auto pilot while Brian is Traveling!
From my classic Kodachrome file: it was on the evening of April 19, 1995 that I made this photo of a pair of Chicago & North Western GP9s assembling their train at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin for the run up to Clyman Junction.
I used a low angle, but using my Nikkor 35mm perspective control (pc) lens, I adjusted the front element to hold the vertical lines in parallel, thus avoiding the unnatural looking parallax effect.
C&NW was just weeks away from being absorbed by Union Pacific. It was the end of an era. Hard to believe it was really 20 years ago!
My intent of this image was to show a simple juxtaposition between C&NW GP9 4153 and the steam-era coaling tower in the distance.
By this late date, steam was four decades gone, and C&NW was already part of the Union Pacific system, having been absorbed just a few months earlier. Yet, despite UP being the operating company; in Adams, Wisconsin things still appeared to be business as usual on old C&NW.
To put the GP9 and coaling tower in relative perspective, I used my Nikon F3T fitted with a 200mm lens, and found a suitable angle at a distance from both subjects. My aim was to minimize extraneous elements and focus on the railroad interest.
Since the locomotive was static, I used the opportunity to make photos from a variety of other angles. Some of these photos appeared in my book on EMD F-units published by Specialty Press about 2005.