With December coming to a fast close as always, the year nears its end. 2022 has been a whirlwind year, As most years go, it was a rollercoaster at times, with high highs and and deep lows. In some areas, I did a lot this year, and in others, very little. With this year, I added thousands of miles in trips to my car, visited new places and shot in more states than in any previous year, as well as some very different adventures that have made quite the impact on my life. Many connections, many things... busy, busy year.
A lot happened this year! Let's start from the beginning...
If there's one constant in this world, it's that things don't stay the same forever. It's the nature of the world, things have to change - some of them are big, sweeping changes or outright replacements, other times its just details. When it comes to the world of trains and railroading, you see a lot of changes of all shapes and sizes. Some are for the better unquestionably, such as improving construction standards on tanker cars, but others are unquestionably terrible, such as BNSFs recent Hi-Vis attendance policy that keeps engineers and conductors away from home and family alike and offers no flexibility.
Other changes... they don't have any real impact on the world or railroading at large, but yet we find their negative effects regardless. Perhaps it's just a visual change - functionally everything is the same, but it doesn't quite look or feel the same. This is exactly what has happened at the small community of Lodge, Illinois this year.
Night time photography is one of my favourite types of photography. The challenge of shooting in dark conditions is one that takes some adjustments compared to usual daytime shooting, but when it works, it's often absolutely spectacular. Such is the case when looking up at the stars - a challenge to photograph, but when it works...
There are many night time and night sky types of photography, though I only practice a mere handful. Primarily a more basic type of light painting, using the headlights of locomotives passing by to illuminate a subject and act as their own focal point as they shoot across the frame. However, I've wanted to expand those horizons a bit further and try a different type of long exposure photography - by pointing my camera up to the sky.
Star trails are something I've wanted to try for a while now, but committing to actually doing them didn't come easy. They take time and careful setup on the camera side, and it's easy to screw up and waste all that time. All it would take is one tap on the tripod and a few late hours have now been wasted. Learning to use my intervalometer properly was also necessary - for the last year or so I've had all the tools but not the know-how. Thanks to some quick tutorials and tests at home, I had figured out how to work it all properly.
The question then, is what to shoot? Yes, I could just go to a dim parcel of land anywhere and look up, but adding in a subject to a star trail photo takes it to the next level, and I wanted something more than just the trails themselves.
Thanks to light pollution maps and some previous knowledge, I knew exactly where to go. It only seemed fitting to visit my favourite control point on the NS Bloomington District - CP Osman!
How do you describe the craziest year of your life?
I don't know. I don't think there's one right answer. I do know that this year was insane from start to finish. I put almost 20,000 miles on my car over the course of the year crisscrossing my home state, flying up and down the northern edge of the American south, venturing north to the Marquette Iron Range and to the cold fields of Minnesota, and so many farm roads across neighbouring midwestern states, I couldn't even begin to plot out a path of where I've been. Then there were the additional, oh, I don't know, 8,000 miles of travel by air, bus, and train that took me to and across London, England. Christ, I've been moving around a lot this past year.
Where do I really begin?
The rumour mill had been saying it for about two years at this point that the IAIS QJ 6988 would be doing a few runs when the official announcement came that this oddity would be performing fundraising excursions for local fire departments in Iowa in August 2021. From what I gathered, 2020 excursions were supposed to have happened, but, well, the obvious. But, with extended boiler time, the QJ had a few weekends to do things in 2021 - and they used them well!
As the dates for trips for my summer and fall began to pile in and organise themselves, the QJ happened to line up really nicely. Slated at less than a week from the Big Boy 2021 trip, it would be a tight squeeze for sure - one that meant I had barely enough time to put out a few QJ shots before the Big Boy would envelope the next few weeks of my life. In trying to get the photos and words edited and put out with that big trip, paired with the next few coming up, the QJ fell by the wayside, and I never really made note of it here except for the photos that appeared in the gallery one day.
Well, I'd say it's about time to correct that!
With 2021 being chock full of trips and photo opportunities alike, it's been a very busy year to say the least. Late summer and fall were really intense - a weekend with the IAIS 6988, then just a few days later embarking on the Big Boy 2021 tour, and the back-to-back London/Drumsheds and MILW261 trips (not to mention the LS&I trip a month and some change before it all). It was just packed. So, of course, there has to be something to round it all off.
Well, in that case, I took another adventure up north to Wisconsin to see the Soo Line 1003, where I participated in the Trains Magazine photo charter with the little 2-8-2. Now that was quite a weekend, and quite a send off as my last trip for the year. Clocking in at three days including transit, this little outing would prove to be quite the experience indeed.
When I was writing Big Boy 2021 and A Trip To London, I mentioned I'd received a surprise message from the official Union Pacific Railroad Instagram account. I think it's time to finally fully acknowledge just what that entailed!
Earlier this year, when UP was just announcing the Big Boy 2021 tour, they added a little note in their email that said this:
We LOVE seeing your photos of our steam locomotives, and during the 2021 tour, we're going to be giving away Big Boy T-shirts to people who post the best photos during the tour to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds using the #BigBoy2021 hashtag! Make sure the permissions on your posts are public so we can see them, and watch your DMs on each platform to see if your photo has been selected as a winner!
So, naturally, I did tag my photos with that hashtag, really just expecting a little extra traffic on them. I did not, however, expect to actually be one of those winners.
On Sunday, September 26th, I landed back in the United States on a plane ride from London to Chicago. Then, on Thursday, September 30th, I was hightailing it up I-39/I-94 to Minneapolis to chase the Milwaukee Road 261 for the weekend after last second major car repairs and a distinct lack of sleep from the previous few days.
What the hell was I thinking?
I still can't believe we did it.
Somehow, despite this ridiculous rollercoaster of a pandemic, despite schedule changes last minute, despite the incredibly complicated logistics of getting nine people together... we did it. Nine of us met up in London, England, to go see Pendulum Trinity @ The Drumsheds, packing into a single AirBnB in Stratford. How the hell did we pull this off?
I wrote most of this blogpost about four or so months ago, but forgot about it. While reorganizing some files today and working on other posts, I decided to go ahead and do a quick editing pass and post it. Without further ado, please enjoy this brief post on this important piece of Milwaukee Road railroading history!
A few weeks ago, I received a direct message from a friend with a heads up, one I had never been expecting to get. Usually the heads ups I get are something to the effect of a heritage unit or IC or something coming near me - but this one was a little out of the way. The Pan Am Railways (Maine Central) #609 had arrived in Mervis Recycling in Decatur, IL, to be scrapped.
Why did somebody tell me about a Pan Am engine when I'm not even interested in the Pan Am?
Because this isn't original to Pan Am, Guilford, or Maine Central - whichever name the questionable company wants to go by today. This is the legendary Milwaukee Road #156.
And here it was, ready to be scrapped.
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