Chasing trains

Rails Upstate

Steam and Diesel locomotives side by side DURR

I was a virgin train chaser until this weekend. Now I am an addict.

It is not every day a steam locomotive and diesel engine share the same track in a small upstate New York hamlet.  Train chasers travel all over the country to capture a shot like this. I needed only to drive down to the bottom of my hill.

If you are not a rail fan, you most likely will not understand the adrenaline rush and pure joy that comes from chasing trains.  No, I am not talking about traveling along a stretch of highway parallel to the rails, speeding up or slowing down to stay in synch with the train. This is dangerous.

The safer form of chasing trains entails researching and choosing a train you wish to photograph, mapping out strategic stops for photography ahead of time, and following the train from its departure station to its arrival station and back.

I was a virgin train chaser until this weekend. Now I am an addict.

It all began while location-scouting for an upcoming documentary project (about trains, of course.) I got wind that the local tourist train, Delaware and Ulster Railroad, had rented a steam engine this weekend for a “Haunts of Rip Van Winkle abbreviated rail tour. The steamer would come to my town, “turn around” and head back to the station.

Twice this weekend, overlapping departure times of the usual 116 diesel pulling the silver liners  all the way to Roxbury, NY from Arkville, NY caused these two historic locomotives to pass each other like two ships in the night.

Above is the money shot, a still taken from the video footage I captured of the event.

But true passion is never satiated, and I was not going to head back up the hill to my house. I rushed out to Rt. 30 (adhering to speed limits, of course) and hurried up and waited until the steamer rounded the curve with the Round Barn as its backdrop.

Running back to where my car was parked, across the tracks and across the road, I worked off the morning’s pancakes.

My next stop was at Kelly’s corners, and I kneeled down, prayer like, camera resting on the guardrail, and snapped shot after shot of the steamer crossing the bridge over the East Branch.

By the time I got to the parking lot at my last stop, the motley crew of chasers I had inadvertently joined had grown. A friend I wasn’t expecting to see was there. We hugged. The sun was shining. The whistle floated towards our ears, the scent of coal teased at our nostrils, we all took our places. We waited.

The wait climaxed into 10 or 15 seconds of the train’s approach, sun on her nose, brakes screeching, steam filling the cloudless sky, and following her cars with my lens.

Most of my footage from today is being kept under wraps for the above mentioned project. I really can’t wait to share it with the world. The world of rail fans that is!

4 thoughts on “Chasing trains

  1. I enjoyed your essay on the trains, as mine is quite similar in that I would take a train above any other type of transportation. Although I’m a devotee of classical music, I really enjoy the song ,The City of New Orleans. It’s a bit sad but I love it any way.
    My love for the DURR began in 1962, when NY Central ran it as a freight line. I recall crossing the tracks just past Arkville and I couldn’t get over seeing railroad tracks in the mountains.
    I did take the ride on July 29 of last year and it was magical.
    I loved every second of it. I really would like to relocate to Ulster county while the prices are low. I am trying very hard. If I can accomplish this, I can relish this little line all the more and ride more often too.
    There is nothing sadder than seeing rusted unused rails where trains once ran. I applaud every and all the wonderful people that are keeping this line alive and well. Keep up the fantastic work.
    – Dr. Robert A. Cospito.
    (Zoologist; Herpetologist; Cryptozoologist; Consultant; Author).


      1. There’s one other comment I’d like to make that how similar this atrocity here with the U&D rr is with the LIRR here in Queens NY. Back in 1952 the Long Island rr had a branch that served Rockaway Park. It seems as though as a train was passing over the wooden trestle someone flipped lit cigarette out the window and the trestle burned thus ending the service. In 1955 the NYCTA aquired the property as an extension of the A train service.
        However, the rest of the line itself, what’s left of it, was never declared abandoned it was declared unused and was allegedly destined to be rebuilt and used as a one seat ride from Penn station to JFK. This dates back to 1971, here it is 2018 and the line is still awaiting the transformation. Now, as in Ulster county, it was proposed to rip up the rails and make it a high line for people to walk and ride bikes.
        Positively disgusting!!!
        – Dr. Robert A. Cospito.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I would like that very much. You never know our paths may indeed cross someday.
    Hopefully it will be by the trackside waiting for that headlight to appear in the near distance. My prayer is that the DURR will keep running. I know if it does, the riders, myself included, will come.
    – Dr. Robert A. Cospito.


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