Nickel Plate Road No. 765 Steam LocomotiveUnion Road Overpass in Cheektowaga, NY This time, I have a friend to thank to for taking care of my Saturday. Without her tip off I would have had no idea about this excellent opportunity. And excellent it was, as it combined several elements I like to photograph. The historic Nickel Plate Road Steam Engine No. 765 operated by Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society was scheduled to run a sightseeing passenger trip between Buffalo, NY and Corning, NY. Not only did I get the tip but also a nice narrative pointing out good spots along the train's route. That also helped me find the right track on Google Maps and get a better idea about where to be. I felt I was ready. Set the alarm for 7 a.m. and headed out to be ready as the train leaves the Norfolk Southern's Bison Yard in Sloan, NY.
First, I thought I would wait for the train at the Broadway crossing but in the end I decided to try the Union Road overpass in Cheektowaga. The train got under way with quite a delay on Saturday morning but by 8:30 I could see the smoke in the distance getting more intense. At 8:40, it was camera time. Unlike my normal still landscapes where I tend to employ a small aperture and a long shutter (at native ISO 100) to get as much depth of field as possible I had the camera set for more of an action mode here. I kept the aperture at f/11, raised the ISO to 200 and got myself 1/200s. With the train coming at me at less than 45 degree angle, I figured that would be a fast enough shutter to freeze the moving train and offer a good compromise with depth of field to have even the cars behind the locomotive in focus. I captured several shots of the train's approach and zoom, it was gone. It surprised me how much speed it picked up on that relatively short distance. I got worried that my plans for a chase might be futile and the worries were not unjustified.
I decided to skip the area around Erie Street thinking I had no chance to beat the train there. I managed to catch up with the train at couple more spots in the Attica, NY area, mostly thanks to the tracks circling some hills while the roads went more straight. However, on both of those occasions, I only had time to pull over, get out of the car, and the train was there. No time to pick and choose positions. After those, I decided it was time to ease off. I backtracked a bit to scout some locations for a possible Sunday outing and found a few I was happy about. By the time I decided to turn the wheel home it was well after noon and I figured I'd grab a bite first.
Nickel Plate Road No. 765 Steam LocomotiveLetchworth Upper Falls Trestle Two things happened. First, the food and drink made me feel better and second, it was so late by that time that I decided not to go home after all and make my way to Letchworth's Upper Falls and wait for the train's return trip back to Buffalo. Upon my arrival at the falls I was surprised how few people were there waiting for the train. I'd guess around 5 - 10 at the most. Contrast that with the crowds I saw along all of the roads and railroad crossings and I was not sure why. It could not have been the $8 park entrance fee, could it? Maybe at the other places people simply walked out of there house and waited at the tracks, a short and easy way to see this beauty.
And it was a long wait again, probably about two hours this time around. I guess mostly due to the delay from the morning that was now difficult to factor into estimates. While the staff of the train was posting to Twitter somewhat regularly, it was not a reliable source. First, they kept running in and out of signal and second, there was no signal in Letchworth. I knew that would be the case from previous visits so I made sure to read their last update before going dark. They were still in Corning. As such the only source of occasional information was the scanner one of the rail fans had. That was a source of frustration at first as they kept not moving out of Corning, and then the source of hope when the crew started announcing the mile markers they were passing.
And then, following a distant rumble and the engine's horn, it happened and the 765 appeared high up above the falls. One of the advantages of this old bridge for the rail fans is the limited speed the train can cross at. Unlike all the other places I watched the train rocket by me it was a nice slow pace here. I tried to quickly capture several shots, some wide and sone tighter. It turned out to be a bit of a challenge keeping my compositions as I was changing the focal length.
Nickel Plate Road No. 765 Steam Locomotive, Letchworth Upper Falls Trestle
Once the engine disappeared on the right I took a few more shots of the passenger cars as there was a nice mix of colors in this train. Especially the white ones stood out nicely against the strong backlight.
Nickel Plate Road No. 765 Steam LocomotiveOpen Field by Attica, NY There's still some time for this bridge before it is replaced but theory had it that this weekend was going to be the last time for a steam engine to cross the bridge. We will see if that stays that way or if Norfolk Southern finds a reason to make it happen one more time. Either way, I was never too lucky with catching trains on this bridge, always hearing them from the Lower Falls knowing I missed them again. This evening more than made up for those missed opportunities.
I was not done yet though. Knowing I had a long way home and so did the train I wanted one more photo in a more open landscape. I decided to catch up with the train one last time in the Attica area. I left the park in a hurry realizing the train had quite a head start on me and would gain speed quickly coming of the bridge as it was at a high point there with a nice down hill ahead. I first thought I'd go to one of the spots I picked earlier but I picked most of them for the train to look nice coming from Buffalo, not returning, thinking I had selected them for Sunday. In the end, I pulled over on the main road just past Attica where the tracks were fairly close to the road in an open field. Lots of people were already parked and waiting and actually telling me right away to get moving that the train was already through Attica. Sure enough, there it was in the distance. I was only able to arrive sooner by about 2 minutes.
And yes, this was it, after about 12 hours outside it really was time to pack it up and head home. In East Aurora, I passed through a total downpour and could barely see. It was a very localized rain though as I soon drove out of it and followed the rest of the way on dry roads.
Enjoy the beauty that surrounds you! (#etbtsy)
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