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Thread: A day in the blizzard

  1. #1
    TomNanos Guest

    Default A day in the blizzard

    Note: Click on the photos if you want to see a larger version. This will take you to my site -

    Well, since we were under a blizzard warning for most of Connecticut, I decided to be a complete moron and not heed Governor M. Jodi Rell's advice to stay home, and ventured out at the height of the storm. Since it was Sunday, I couldn't stay in the area around Lebanon if I wanted to catch any rail action - NECR typically doesn't run south of Palmer, MA on Sundays. So it was off to the Amtrak station in Old Saybrook, CT - at least I could catch a few trains there. Plus, track speed through the station for the Acelas is 90 MPH. Oh, yeah....

    Normally the ride from home to OSB would be a touch over an hour. With a good 3" of snow on I-395 and I-95, and visibility at most times a whopping 3' in front of my plow (I took my 4WD pickup with the plow, just in case), it took me just under 2 hours. Not too bad. It helped that I was one of the few idiots on the road.

    As I was approaching the Old Saybrook exit on I-95, I heard a northbound regional talking amongst themselves. The engineer was remarking to one of the conductors that he thinks the one passenger they're to pick up in Old Saybrook is on the wrong platform. A second later, he comes back and says "oh, wait, he's got a camera." Well, at least I'd have company while I was freezing my ass off.

    Turns out it was fellow rail photographer, and good friend, Bob LaMay (yes, the guy that wrote the FL-9 book). He'd been there since 9am, and caught a couple trains before I got there. After chatting for a bit, it was time to grab the cameras and start shooting. The signals just south of the station went to green over red, and soon after that, the stationmaster made the announcement of the train's arrival on track one. As the train pulled into the station, led by AEM-7 #910, the snow lightened up a bit allowing for a decent view of the approaching train.

    Surprisingly, there were quite a few passengers riding the rails during the storm. I guess they opted for the train instead of dealing with the roads. With the trains averaging only a 20-30 minute delay, that's not such a bad decision. Second photo shows two of the Amtrak conductors, obviously a bit chilled by the "breeze," waiting for the last of the passengers to board.

    And a brave conductor gives me a hearty wave as the train pulls away, headed for New Haven and points south.

    Once out of view, it was back into the shelter of the overpass stairway for a little repirieve from the wind, and a bit of chimping. Bob headed down the stairs, having used the overpass as an elevated shooting platform, to do a little chimping himself. Happy with the shots, it was time to start thinking of the next shot - a northbound regional that was due in another 10-15 minutes....hopefully.

    I decided to get a shot down on the old platform, near the signals just south of the station. On a gamble, I headed out of the stairway's shelter, and started the 150 yard walk to the spot I had chosen in my head. When I got there, it was the view I was looking for, but boy was it windy out there. 15 minutes later, and quite covered in wind driven snow, it was time to head back in for a break.

    With the feeling back in my legs & fingers, the stationmaster made his announcement of the approaching train. Stupid me should have waited for that announcement instead of just trudging out in the snow. Oh, well, live & learn. As i get to my spot, some faint headlights can be seen piercing through the blowing snow. Another regional led by an AEM-7 - I guess I wouldn't see any HHP8 led trains today.

    After the passengers boarded, he pulled out of the station, and the end of the last car was completely caked with snow. Brrrr

    But there was no way I was heading inside. As the regional was pulling out on track 2, the signal for track 1 changed from stop to clear. This only meant one thing - a southbound Aclea not making a station stop! Putting the camera under my vest to keep some of the snow off of it, I waited in the open for the approaching Acela trainset.

    "Train Approaching....Please Stand Behind The Yellow Line...." the automated system at the station repeated. OK, here it comes. I'll have only one chance for this. Quick calculations gives me 2-3 frames on the motor drive while the 90MPH train is in the frame. OK, I picked the spot where I wanted the nose of the locomotive. And that's pretty much as it appears here:

    As the train passed, I turned to shield myself and the camera, and was enveloped in a white cloud of snow. A couple seconds after the train had passed, there was still a heavy fog of snow blown off of the tracks. Once that cleared, it was time to head back to the shelter of the stairwell.

    As Bob & I peered outside waiting for the next train - a southbound regional - the snow started falling at a much heavier rate. At times it was difficult to see the station across the two main tracks. As the snow was falling, the automated system kicked in again, announcing the incoming train. With the heavy snow, my 20D was having difficulties focusing on my intented target. As the train pulled through the veil of snow, I finally got a focus lock, and fired the shutter.

    More passengers left the shelter of the stairwell, and made their way to the warmth of the coaches, all the while, the conductors anxiously waited to follow them onboard.

    Once departed, it was time to check the timetable again. Two more Acelas were due - one northbound, and one south. I decided on a wide angle shot as the high speed train flew through the station platforms. Again, only time for a couple frames as the train sped through the station at close to track speed.

    With the next Acela due in another 20 minutes, Bob & I decided to hit the local Dunkin' Donuts for a much needed coffee. With the hot liquid in hand, we decided to head a bit east of the station to get a bit of a different vantage point on the southbound Acela. Again, the snow picked up, and of course the train was throwing quite a bit of it to add to the frozen fog.

    At this point, we called it a day. The next train, a northbound regional, was running quite late, and the light was beginning to fade. Time to head back to the warm confines of home and share the pictures with my daughters.

    (Duplicate image for thumbnail preview)
    Last edited by Bob; 06-17-2006 at 05:00 PM.

  2. #2


    Great East Coast feel with the blizzard and electric passenger train operations. Sorry for the slow review..this needs to go top side so us left coasters can get an idea what a REAL blizzard is like. Great work in bad weather, Tom.

    Martin Burwash

  3. #3
    greffern Guest


    Me like this one. I like the text, but maybe it's a tad more report than essay... I like the photos as they have a sense of atmosphere in them, it looks right to me. Yep, I like this one.

  4. #4
    ahockley Guest


    I like it. The text does a good job of portraying your feelings about the weather and your planned photos. The images support the text well. Things which stand out are your inclusion of the "people factor" with the shots of the train crews and passengers, and the shots of the Acelas at speed through the station.

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