Waiting for the Train

In the wilds of Alaska, it’s not always a simple matter to “get there.” A primary mode of transportation is via small “bush” and other forms of private aircraft. There are roads for vehicular traffic, but depending on where you’re headed there may be none. Then there’s my favorite form of transportation, Alaska Railroad. Major cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks have large passenger depots, but at many locations, such as Girdwood where I was, with our daughter and grandson, it’s a “depot” in name only. Take a look and I think you’ll get the idea.

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Right on time, the trains Conductor stepped off, checked our tickets, and helped us climb aboard, and we were underway in less than five minutes. My main point here is to note that Alaska Rail stops at many locations much more remote than Girdwood. That says a lot about just how “frontier-like” Alaska is compared to much of the rest of the United States.

World’s Largest

Lake Hood is the world’s busiest seaplane base, handling an average of 190 flights per day. It is located on Lakes Hood and Spenard, next to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, three miles from downtown Anchorage. Last week I was there, enjoying a picnic supper with our daughter and grandson, watching float planes land and take off. As you can see, the weather was perfect for photography.

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Along most of the lake’s shoreline there are small “hut’s adjacent to the dock where planes are secured. Some are decorated in unique ways.

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The best part of our evening was making photos of planes, close up. It took my telephoto lens to make a few, and the images I was able to capture made me smile.

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There is lots to do in Alaska, watching small planes is just one activity. There are more small planes in the state than anywhere else in the country, because that’s the primary way to get around such remote and wide open spaces. That’s what makes our “last frontier” so special. Go if you can.

Destination …

I can’t pass by a lonesome railroad track, with no oncoming trains, without getting close to the tracks, looking from a perspective view, and thinking about where the final destination might be, for trains using that rail line. But, I’m reminded by the nearby road crossing warning sign, that I need to keep my ears tuned to the hum of the track, to make sure I’m safe.

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A Train in Henry, Virginia

Henry, Virginia is really just a name and Zip Code, more than it is a small settlement, town or city. In fact, one of its few main remaining buildings is not much more than a great photo opportunity. The main draw for me are the train tracks that pass close by to that building, and the manner in which the vacant tracks pass into the distance, giving some nice perspective views. That was my mission the day I visited recently, to photograph the tracks with some interesting perspective views. As I was standing in the middle of the tracks with my camera in hand, I heard in the distance the soulful sound of an oncoming train, as it passed by distant road crossings I could not see. I was excited because this meant I’d be able to get a close up photo of the Norfolk Southern train engines as they passed by me, standing a safe distance of course. It was a very long coal train and since I was headed in the direction of the side of the tracks I was on, I decided to drive on with some nice photos. Before I left, however, I snapped an image of the town’s historic building. I have a lot of photos of that building which I’ve taken over the years. Henry, though very small, is one of my favorite locations in the Blue Ridge region.

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Riding the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

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The weather was cloudy and a bit foggy when we arrived in Bryson City, NC early in the AM to board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a five-hour round trip into the Nantahala National Forest. My wife Barb and I, her brother Jerry and wife Mary Ann, along with 300 other passengers, lined up by the waiting 12-car train idling nearby.

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We were greeted by a very friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff which made our trip most enjoyable, learning about the history of the region along our way. Once seated, I immediately noticed the historic atmosphere of the passenger car in which we were seated. It’s too bad we can’t routinely travel in such a manner today.

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Views out of the seat windows were spectacular, as was the included lunch meal we had pre-ordered. The next photo is my sister-in-law Mary Ann enjoying the views and the second is my wife Barb enjoying her BBQ lunch while we rolled along.

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Having been a passenger on trains several times in my life I knew that if I went to the open area in between cars where they connected, I could lean out the window (safely obviously) to make some interesting photos of the train and the surrounding beauty of the region.

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The day after we’d completed our train ride, we drove elsewhere in the region to explore, and on the way back to our motel, we happened upon the train on it’s twice-daily journey, but this time we were across a fast-flowing river we’d been so close to the day prior. We stopped the car, and I got out to capture the following images. The last photo of the caboose at the end of the train is a fitting end to this brief story. It was, in short, a wonderful time together!

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Smoky Mountain Train Past

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It’s simple. I love old trains. While we were in the Smoky Mountain region of Western North Carolina recently, we rode the Great Smoky Mountain RR into the Nantahala National Forest. I’ll have a photo story about that later, but after we rode the train I found some old railroad cars from time’s past, and I was very happy to capture with my camera what I saw. The “open” passenger cars shown below carried many thousands of sight-seeing visitors for many years. These old cars are obviously now fully retired, but remain vibrant in color.

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The images below show details of other train cars which, to me, were very interesting. I sought to compose each photo in the most interesting manner possible.

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Danville Train

Danville Virginia has been a main stop on railroad networks since the American Civil War. Over the years, passengers and freight numbers rose and fell, but still the location remained vibrant. Today, trains still pass by (and stop) at the Danville Train Depot several times a day. The depot’s historic architecture calls out for people like me with cameras in hand to come visit. I especially enjoy the main waiting room, with it’s large wooden benches and atmosphere. When I enter I can imagine myself with ticket in hand waiting for a train. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the photos I made there recently. I felt black and white would best convey the feelings I had at the time.

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Pickin’ Up Dirt Thing

I spent most of my professional life working around “dirt” in some fashion, having spent almost 30 years as an Army Engineer at home and abroad. Thus when our two girls were young they listened to me talk about what I was doing, and sometimes saw first hand what that was. One of them coined the term “pickin’up dirt thing” to refer to any sort of heavy construction equipment they saw. Recently, we hired a local construction guy to come demolish our in-ground swimming pool, and to then dump loads of fill dirt into the resulting hole. Yesterday, looking out the window at the Case front-loader sitting out back waiting to complete the job, I laughed to myself when I said, “There sits a pickin’ up dirt thing.” Then, I was inspired to make some close up, and somewhat unique black and white photos of it, just to be a bit creative. So here you go!

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