I thought in the heat of high summer, it might be a refreshing time to present some frosty views from last January.
Previously, I’d posted some black & white photos exposed during a lake effect snow squall at Brookfield, Wisconsin on CP Rail’s former Milwaukee Road main line that I’d made on a photographic adventure with Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt.
That same morning, I’d also worked in color using my FujiFilm XT1.
Here’s a view of a westward empty grain train passing the old Brookfield station led by brightly painted BNSF GE’s.
It’s a stark contrast from the leafy trees and high summer temperatures of today.
Duplainville, Wisconsin is a busy place for rail freight.
Here are two to four views (up loading difficulties makes the final number uncertain) of an eastward empty unit coal train on the old Milwaukee Road, now CP Rail, with Union Pacific GE diesels fore and aft working as distributed power. In the trailing photos you can see the diamond crossing with Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line from Fond du Lac to Chicago.
Light snow made for added drama.
I exposed these with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
The old Erie Railroad is one of my favorite lines.
Mike Gardner and I got a very early start on 15 April 2004. We worked our way west to the Portage Bridge at the Letchworth Gorge in western New York State in time to intercept an eastward CP Rail freight.
We chased this capturing it in multiple locations along the old Erie line to Hornell. At this time Norfolk Southern was the owner operator, while CP Rail operated via Delaware & Hudson trackage rights.
Clear blue dome; bright red EMDs, and great scenery with a good quality chase road made the morning extra productive.
It helps to have good timing.On the afternoon of January 20, 2015, I arrived at the Mine Dock Road grade crossing on CSX’s former New York Central West Shore Route (now called ‘CSX’s River Line’) This was at just the right time.
I found a location, and as I took my camera out the bag, I could hear a train approaching. This turned out to be a southward crude oil extra led by BNSF Railway 7500 in the lead. I had just enough time to change lenses, make a test exposure, before it got close enough to properly photograph.
When this train passed, the home signal located beyond the rock cut cleared to ‘approach’ (yellow-over-red-over-red), telling me there was a northward train lined, but that this would need to stop at the next signal. This was a pretty good sign that there might be a meet.
Over the next hour, I photographed three more freight trains on the old West Shore, two northbound CSX freights, followed by a southward ethanol extra led by a pair of Canadian Pacific General Electric diesels.
In addition, I made use of my telephoto lenses to photograph passenger trains working the old New York Central Hudson Division on the east bank of the river.
While I was just lucky, it helps to be able to interpret the signals and have a keen ear for trains. My scanner might have helped me too, if I’d plugged in the correct frequencies. Or it might have distracted me. As it was I did well by sitting tight and waiting out the parade.
My old boss at Pentrex Publishing, Don Gulbrandsen, encouraged my photography along the Mississippi by describing the whole experience as the ‘Spirit of the River.’ While for me the main attraction was the railroads; the towns, scenery, boats and barges, locks and wild life (mostly birds of the feathered variety), which made for added interest.
Between 1994 and 1996, I made numerous trips to the Mississippi River Valley, largely working between Savanna, Illinois and La Crosse, Wisconsin and the corresponding towns on the Iowa-side.
I often traveled with Tom and Mike Danneman, Dean Sauvola, Tim Hensch and others, who added their perspective to the Mississippi Valley. While Burlington Northern (BNSF after September 1995) was the busiest line, whenever possible, I focused on the other railroads, namely Canadian Pacific’s Soo Line and Chicago, Central & Pacific.
The vast majority of my photography from these trips has never been seen, save for the occasional slide show in the 1990s. The other day, on request from a regular Tracking the Light reader, I opened a blue Logan Box filled with cardboard-mounted chromes that is labeled ‘Midwest 1990s,’ and contains some of my Mississippi River highlights.
Some of the photos are classic views, others are more interpretive. At the time, I was aiming to expose scenes that captured the railroad in its environment, often with a greater emphasis on the environment than the trains.
November Views of a Station; Get Your Photos Soon, Before its Too Late!
Brookfield, Massachusetts; Brookfield, Illinois, and now Brookfield, Wisconsin—Have you noticed a theme?
The former Milwaukee Road passenger station at Brookfield, Wisconsin is located between Canadian Pacific’s main tracks at the west end of a grade separation. This unusually situated station has provided a visual link to the railroad’s past for many years, and is one of the last structures of the old order along this line.
Today, Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities is largely free from historical infrastructure. The days of an agent working at Brookfield have long since passed. Neither passenger trains nor freights have stopped here in decades. Yet, as of today, the old building survives at its traditional location.
Here’s some advice: get your photos NOW. Don’t wait. Word on the street is that the station will soon be either moved or demolished.
And even if the street gossip changes its tune, the reality is that old wooden railroad stations are ephemeral structures: Never assume the old station that has always stood there, will be there the next time you return.
I made these photos last week while re-exploring southern Wisconsin with Pat Yough and Chris Guss . Back in the 1990s, I made a number of photos of this old station, but I’ve learned you can never have too many images of something (or someone) once its gone.
Might the old station be preserved? Quite possibly, but it won’t be trackside, and thus will have lost its context. This location without the station will just be another characterless wide-spot along the line. Someone might call this ‘progress’; I call it ‘change’.
On Saturday November 9, 2013, I worked with three cameras and photographed the Brookfield station from a variety of angles as the sun came in and out of the clouds. Two eastward Canadian Pacific freights passed giving me ample opportunity to put the old station in context.