Among the iconic locations on the former Pennsylvania Railroad ‘West Slope’ (west of the summit at Gallitzin) is a massive curved stone-arch bridge near Mineral Point, known as ‘The Big Viaduct.’
In the early hours of September 5, 1997, Mike Gardner and I drove down a heavily brushed in road that had once been the right of way of a Johnstown Traction Company’s electric line.
Mike was dubious when I urged further forward progress into the inky gloom and thick bushes. It seemed like an adventure into the rain forest.
We arrived at on overlook near the famous bridge just as the first hints of daylight colored the sky. A thick fog covered the ground, but the fuzzy twinkling spots above told us that it would be a clear morning.
In the distance, I could hear Electro-Motive diesels whining in dynamic as they approached with a westward Conrail freight. Despite the fog and gloom, I set up my Bogen tripod, attached my N90s with 24 mm lens, and when the train passed, made a series of long exposures with Fujichrome Provia 100F.
Soon the sun crawled above the hillsides and began to burn off the fog, Conrail ran a procession of trains, mostly westbound. Later in the morning when a clear blue dome prevailed I relocated trackside to make a view of an eastward freight climbing across the bridge.
It is mornings like that one, 17 years ago, that make me wish I was right now trackside in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and not thousands of miles away in front of a computer, writing about the experience.
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