2020: The Year of the Deathstar
In years past, when asked about the things I take photos of, I always answered with trains - of course - but always specified something to the effect of: "only really interesting ones, like steam engines. I would never go chase a diesel because they aren't very interesting."
Well, suffice to say I don't say that anymore.
I happen to live at an interesting railroad crossroads of sorts. The old east-west line, owned by too many companies in years past to list but including the New York Central, Penn Central, Conrail, and now Norfolk Southern, certainly acts as a bit of a dividing line in town. But it's the north and south mainline of the Illinois Central that is the true split. It literally divides the town in half and is very much a focal point in the town. In fact, this mainline is the reason the town exists at all.
The Illinois Central went through many changes over the years, including a rebranding into the Illinois Central Gulf after its merger with the Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio, but its parent company finally dumped the railroad on its own in the 1980s. Finally, the IC was on its own again, and ready to rebrand. The new Illinois Central saw a dip back to its classic black paint, but with a new set of logos - a big "i" overtop a circle made up only of parallel lines. The birth of the Illinois Central Death Star.
Somehow, six years have gone by since I started this site. I think we can easily pull another six, and more... but the original reason SMWorks was made is no longer the focus of the site. At one time, I fancied myself a content creator for the train simulator Trainz. Quite fancy indeed, isn't it?
SMWorks was made to host my Trainz creations to allow for others to download them. Most of that content has continued to be up for download, and in fact I retained most of the sites old pages that linked to that and kept them exactly as they were when I decided to convert the site over to be what it is now.
However, the time has come, and it's time to remove the last of the Trainz content from the site.
Well. I don't think I need to bore you with world events as of late. I think we all get the gist.
So, furloughed, no classes, no work, and really anything else going on, there hasn't been much to talk about. It's been depressingly quiet for the most part - until somewhat recently, at least.
If you've seen the Gallery lately, or my Flickr or Instagram, you might have noticed a few new shots crop up. A few things happened in the last two months which have given me a few nice photo opportunities. Shameless shoutout where I ask you to follow me on either or both of the aforementioned platforms - stuff appears there first almost always. Links to those (and others) in the sidebar.
So, let's start from the beginning.
It's a small and disjointed family made up of audio equipment, computers, a camera or two, and other odds and ends, but it's a family nonetheless. Say hello to the newest member of said family:
2019 and 2020 are contrasting rather sharply, I would say. Calling the past 365 days (and change) a rollercoaster is an overplayed trope, I think. Maybe I can call it an audio wave and still get the same idea across. Highs and lows, yeah? Maybe.
So, three weeks into the new year - and new decade - and it's been rather quiet here all that time, and even before. Yeah. Things got busy and other things got delayed or put off. You know I was writing a post about my 261 chase - like 3 months ago. I do want to actually go and write that, as there are some great moments in it, but I haven't been up to the task lately.
Instead of musing about the many things I haven't gotten done, let's take a moment to celebrate 2019. You know, three weeks after it ended.
The Great Race Across 2019
Welcome to part two - and coincidentally, day two - of chasing the Union Pacific Big Boy #4014 across the Midwest! If you haven't read part one, I recommend it - I'm just gonna jump straight into things. Here's a link to part one if you missed it: Link
And this upgrade's been such a long time coming! SMWorks has existed since 2014 yet has always been accessed via "smworks.weebly.com," which, to be honest, is not the best. Having a .weebly as your extension doesn't exactly scream professional...
So, without further ado, welcome to SMWorks.org!
Quite literally nothing except the way you connect to the site has changed - and even that hasn't, really. The .weebly.com extension still brings you here just as it always has, but it redirects to smworks.org now. This "little" change opens a lot of doors and finally brings at least a hint of professionalism to this little place. If we're being honest I should've done this five years ago, but, hey, better late than never, right?
That's it, really. Registered the domain name today after having thought about it for the last few months (which was mostly just "should I choose .org, .co, .us, or something else? 'Cause I can't use com or net but org is nice but co is like com but nobody uses co except the UK but-") and threw this tiny post together. Expect a few new graphics in the next week or two in celebration of that fact.
Side note: I am in the midst of writing out Part 2 of 2 of the Great Race Across the Midwest, and now last months Milwaukee Road 261 photos are coming into the editing booth (which I'm also tinkering with some new editing techniques so... we shall see how that goes). Expect the Part 2 post in the next two weeks, and after that a very, very, very long post about the Milwaukee Road 261 chase will follow, all while uploading more photos of each trip. Stay tuned!
Timeless classics, these update posts. Today we have a fairly major one though, so I'd call it warranted to be sure.
After a few months of off-and-on work here and there, SMWorks finally has proper, dedicated gallery pages. There's been one for the Great Race To Ogden, but it's been lackluster and kind of messed up thanks to the redesign. So, I'm happy to present brand new, revamped photo galleries! There are three out now:
-The Great Race To Ogden [UP 4014 & UP 844]
-The Great Race Across The Midwest [UP 4014]
-Milwaukee Road 2019 [Exploring the Pacific Extension]
...and a fourth coming soon, showcasing a recent trip I've just returned from - more on that soon.
In addition, beneath the graphics that let you travel to these gallery pages, there's a year-by-year mini gallery of other photos of mine. They've been floating around for a while now, but now they're nicely sorted - and actually, there a bunch there that have never been posted anywhere, and they'll probably stay exclusive.
The homepage has seen a little cleanup, the about page has been rewritten and fixed up, and various graphics, titles, and other text forms have been updated and cleaned up. Since the last time I did one of these types of posts, I've put out a few other blog posts highlighting various Big Boy things. I've got another for the Midwest trip to do, and I want to finish up a few more for the Great Race to Ogden. In addition, we'll be seeing one or two (betting on two) about my most recent trip - Milwaukee Road 261's Gourmet Express 2019! I've posted a handful of photos of that trip on my Flickr and Instagram already, and you'll be sure to find dozens and dozens of original, untouched shots appear exclusively in this blog soon. Also included in this site update are those important missing details: back-to-top buttons, new, better buttons, fixed uploads of the photos, and other bits and pieces.
Now, to close off on a few things and not make this longer than it needs to be, let's look at a few upcoming things. Most obvious: I promised a storefront to be released summer of this year, but its October and its a no-show. Yes, that's still in the works. I'm satisfied with how the site looks now, especially with dozens of newly published photos on it, so I can finally put some attention to that. I hope to make prints available by the end of 2019, but making a firm date is hard, as work, school, and everything else in life has drastically taken away my time. We'll have to see how things go, but I'll work on it as time allows.
As with everything, things are always a work-in-progress, so you can expect new photos and galleries to become available all the time. With luck, we'll see more frequent updates, too. With the refurbished site, please, don't hesitate to leave me feedback! I would love to know what works and what doesn't, or what you'd like to see.
Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoy the updated site!
The Union Pacific certainly has a thing for Great Races - which certainly makes sense, as chasing down their trains certainly is a race!
Throughout July and early August this year, the Big Boy #4014 embarked on its second journey - called "The Great Race Across The Midwest." The locomotive visited Minneapolis, Duluth, Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, North Platte, and many, many towns and cities along the way. It took routes a Big Boy has never once travelled before, making it a prime opportunity to chase. Of course, it was about a full month, so there was no way I was to be able to follow it the way I did during the Great Race To Ogden because it was prohibitively expensive (as we all know from the Ogden trip...) and getting that much time off work was difficult.
Nevertheless, I managed to secure a short trip - July 30th & the 31st. The route for these two days was simple: West Chicago to Cedar Rapids on the 30th, then Cedar Rapids to Des Moines on the 31st. In Part 1, we'll cover the first day, the 30th, and the ridiculousness that was chasing a Big Boy in Illinois & Iowa.
Going back to the beginning of the Great Race To Ogden, there was one particularly early day in the schedule. Specifically, May 6th, 2019 - when the Union Pacific #4014 & #844 left Rock Springs, Wy at 4:00AM. This was because it allowed them to get around scheduled track maintenance - but more importantly, this caused the train to go through morning light.
Of course, before it could be seen in said light, it had to actually leave Rock Springs. At four in the morning.
So, leaving our hotel somewhere around 3:45AM, we headed over to the yard in Rock Springs to take a quick peak at the giant locomotive and its smaller - yet still sizable - companion in the darkness.
Now, I am not a night-time photographer - I don't claim to be. My photos have a bit of grain and often some shakiness from longer exposures, so they're not perfect. I never really planned to do night shots - and my flash refused to fire for whatever reason! So they're a tad bit weird. Still, I grabbed as many as I could in the little time we had.
I am very glad I did.
Hello, my name is SM, and this is where I write.
This little blogspace is where my thoughts go - whether it's talking about a photography trip or a DJ mix, this is where it all ends up.
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