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Railfan Extra Board - September 2013

Extra Board

In shades of the old Rutland Railway, Green Mountain Railway 305 leads a northbound empty ethanol train at Bartonsville, Vermont, on September 13, 2013, around 2:30 a.m. Gary Knapp photo

Second chance at Bartonsville

By Gary Knapp/photos as noted

The historic covered bridge at Bartonsville, Vermont, along the old Rutland Railway was washed away as a result of the flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011. Since the bridge was considered an important part of the town's heritage, it was replaced (at considerable expense) with a new, identical structure.

An earlier visit to shoot this location on theVermont Railway's Green Mountain line netted a pair of leaed CITX SD90MACs at the height of a snow storm. The weather on this night was more hospitable, much warmer even though it is raining. The SD90MACs have been returned, exchanged for a trio of GP 38-2s wearing the blue and white of owner CITX. The SD90s were always found on this rare night run over the Green Mountain with the once-a-month returning empty ethanol train. Upon learning of the returning empties en route earlier in the afternoon on neighbor New England Central, I planned to try this night photo again, hoping for a more photogenic leader. With the 90MACs having departed, what could go wrong? At worst I could find a GP 38-2 wearing faded Union Pacific paint up front.

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Driving down here, nearing the end of the two-hour-and-twenty-minute trip, I overhear NECR train 323 ringing up the dispatcher to inform him of a downed tree they are stopped for. There is something the ethanol train does not need to find! Arriving at the outskirts of Bellows Falls I hear the empty ethanol train informing the NECR dispatcher they are clear of his main line as the Vermont Railway crew pulls one spacer and eighty empty tanks onto their on track, identifying their leader as the Green Mountain Railway GP40 305! I am all smiles upon hearing the news! Yes, the 305 will look just fine at the covered bridge.

Vermont Railway 301 leads a southbound freight past the old covered bridge at Bartonsville on October 2, 2010. Built in 1870, the bridge was destroyed by flash flooding as a result of Hurricane Irene in 2011. The bridge was rebuilt and reopened on January 26, 2013. Photo by Otto M. Vondrak

Ten-to-fifteen minutes later I pull to a stop in Bartonsville, elated at my good fortune. I jump out and realize it’s great to be back again photographing trains at night. One thing I feel about night photography is due to the greater amount of time one spends on location compared to shooting trains during the day where you are leapfrogging ahead from one spot quickly to the next, intimacy with location is forced upon you. I quickly note new steel guardrails have replaced the ugly cement “Jersey Barriers” from my earlier visit.

I get right to setting up the lights, as, for all I know, the ethanol train is already on the move. Thirty minutes later I am taking test shots from inside the bridge. Next I hear the distant rumbling of EMD prime movers, and in a few minutes a headlight glow is seen to the south. Holy cow, they are here! I start to walk outside to adjust a flash unit , but think better of it. I’ve learned from past mistakes made making seemingly minor adjustments to the lighting which snowballs into regretting I made the change with no time to fix things.

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As I stand at the mouth of the covered bridge looking south, I realize that headlight is a rare sight here at night. Normally, this line sees a way freight each direction on weekdays and that’s it. With the monthly ethanol train schedule, the empties return overnight providing photo ops such as this.

I take my position back behind the camera mounted on a tripod in the middle of the roadway. No danger of getting run over here, there's no car traffic this time of night. The crossing lights go on, the engineer blows for the crossing, and the 305s cab rolls into the opening, frozen forever by a flash of light. Smiling after I check my results, tonight's attempt says “Vermont” much more than my earlier try. I pack my equipment and head for home, very happy with the results of my second chance at Bartonsville.

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