A pair of leased HLCX former BNSF SD40-2's were assigned to Canadian Pacific train 930, crossing the Hudson River at Rogers Island in Fort Edward, New York on December 17, 2010. Photographer Gary Knapp gives some insights into photographing the nocturnal north end of the former Delaware & Hudson Railway in upstate New York.
"I love it when a plan comes together..."
By Gary Knapp /Photos by the Author
Photographing the "North End" of the Delaware & Hudson in upstate New York has been somewhat of a challenge in the years since Canadian Pacific purchased the road in 1991. Most of the traffic that travels this important Albany-Montreal route has shifted to a nocturnal schedule, which of course brings its own challenges if one wishes to continue the pursuit of the railfan photography hobby. However, when you don't have to worry about sun angles, a multitude of possibilities suddenly present themselves!
In mid-December, a pair of leased HCLX ex-BNSF SD 40-2s visited the D&H, assigned to trains 931/930. My usual "stake out" location is in Port Henry, New York, about 75 miles from the Canadian border. I discovered the colorful visitors while photographing the northbound 931. The train was seven hours late, but was quickly turned and reappeared on time at the U.S. border eighteen hours later. When I heard the train had cleared U.S. Customs and the crew was ready to board, I was caught unprepared. I wanted to avoid Port Henry after shooting there this morning, and I really wanted to find a new location to photograph these colorful visitors. It was a tall order, but I was up for a challenge!
I headed south from Port Henry, with 930 shadowing me before I put some distance between us using the long stretches of 55 mph highway on the New York side of Lake Champlain. As I headed down through Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and into Whitehall, I kept drawing a blank for a location. I hoped that someone living close to the tracks might have festive Christmas decorations out, but nothing caught my eye. In Whitehall I spotted the Clarendon & Pittsford local waiting for 930 pass before it crossed over the D&H and headed back to Rutland, Vermont. They weren't sitting in a good spot for photography, so I looked elsewhere. I poked around Whitehall for something new to try, but I couldn't find anything I liked. With 930 gaining on me, I decided to continue south to Fort Edward. During the forty minute drive, I went over my options in my head. I know I wanted a "new" location, but I had the bridges at Rogers Island plus the unique old D&H station to fall back on.
Imagine the look on my face when I swung my car onto the access road to Rogers Island and the headlights lit up a construction site! Oh man, right where I shoot from, too... Piles of materials, an excavator, the whole nine yards, all fenced off. Next stop, the station. "What could go wrong here?" I thought. I started putting down some of my strobe lights, then I stopped to walk around to make sure I liked the angle here. Did I mention wheelchair access ramps have just been installed here by Amtrak? A massive poured reinforced concrete platform complete with fence to obscure locomotive trucks was part of the package.
So I'm standing out in the middle of the road, staring at the scene, trying to find something I like here, picturing the ex-BNSF units in their "Heritage One" paint. My conclusion? I don't see anything at the station worth setting up for. Normally at this moment, an air horn is heard off in the distance, completing the feeling of defeat... But no, not this time! I put the lights back in the trunk and headed northward, out of town. The "requirement" that tonight's location was to be a "new" spot, had become a self-created mental barrier to me.
Three miles out I stop, turn the car around and head back into town. Entering onto Rogers Island again, I take the road leading down under the D&H bridge this time, grimacing at the construction mess where I usually shoot, and turn crossing under the railroad. It was like that mental barrier was instantly lifted. I follow a set of tire tracks in six inches of fresh snow into a turn around alongside the Hudson River. Driving back toward the bridge I see these two trees. Here was the location I was looking for! I quickly backed up the car, got dressed for the outside temperature that hovered somewhere around 9 degres, and set up the lighting. It had to be simple, there was no time to finesse. I throw a lot of light out over the Hudson Rver onto the bridge, and a small amount for the trees.
As I finish postioning a second flash for the trees, I'm smiling... I can hear the distinctive sound of SD40-2s pulling in the distance! That's gotta be them! I make some adjustments the composition right before I hear 930 blowing for the crossing above the bridge. I see headlight glow above the far end of the bridge, then leader 7915 is out onto the deck, and in a flash the HCLX twins are captured! I excitedly review the resulting image while the freight rolls past above me. Yup, this will do for a "new" location to note the visit of these two colorful engines!
When you're part of the Canadian Pacific family, you never know who's going to show up to visit! An interesting mix of Soo Line, CP Rail, and Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern power hauls ethanol train 642 across the Hudson River at Fort Edward, New York on December 22, 2010.
After the colorful ex-BNSF units paid their visit to the D&H north end, we were greeted by members of the extended Canadian Pacific family. Red-and-white Soo Line 6025 was teamed up with CP Rail "Action Red" and DM&E blue-and-yellow to haul ethanol train 642. After attempting one shot of this interesting consist passing Christmas trees in Port Henry, my plan was to drive ahead to shoot them crossing the Hudson at Rogers Island in Fort Edward. With several long stretches of 55 mph highway to use to my advantage, I didn't anticipate getting ahead of the train again to be a challenge. It's nearly midnight, so there's not much traffic to contend with.
When I dropped into Whitehall, I was not surprised when I failed to spot any sign of 642. Usually you can look back up along Lake Champlain and readily spot a southbound train. So far, the plan was successful! Driving through downtown Whitehall, the highway comes alongside the D&H main as it emerges from a short concrete tunnel that passes under some of the city streets. You can imagine my surprise to hear a low pitched rumble as I drop down alongside the tracks, and look left to find myself pacing a Soo Line unit! "So much for the plan," I thought!
Then the dispatcher saves me... With northbound train 415 nearly ready to leave Saratoga for Whitehall, and the outbound crew for 642 called at 3:00 a.m., it is decided to hold the ethanol train at Fort Edward just north of Rogers Island. My plan is saved! Down to Rogers Island I go, with plenty of time to set up. I do a practice shot of train 415 going away behind three SD40-2s. As 415 pulls onto the siding, the sound effects of 642 getting underway again are almost as good as seeing the power appear out on the bridge.
Isn't it great when a plan comes together?