Sometimes days don't go well... but, sometimes a day just works out perfect. And that was how this past Saturday went for me.
Whenever I am home from school I always make an effort to get out railfanning at least once with my father. Usually we take one day out of the weekend and dedicate a few hours to heading out and shooting some trains, something my dad and I have done for years and I've loved. So when I was home for a few days over this past weekend, we made plans to head out on Saturday.
After chasing the Delaware Lackawanna for the first time down the Pocono Main over the summer (I had shot them prior, but never a full chase of the road train), I already knew months prior to coming home that I wanted to chase the DL. There are very few places in the world that you can shoot an operation like the Delaware Lackawanna - a mainline ALCO railroad.
As my Fall Break approached, the plan was the same - chase the DL. But about a week before I came home, a friend of mine reminded me that Reading and Northern 425 was running a fall foliage excursion that Saturday. The 425 has always had my interest, but I never had made it out to shoot them. My father and I love steam trains, and have driven hours across the east coast to shoot steam engines, but never got around to 425. The 425 has always had this hype about it but I never understood it, I always just thought it was another mid-sized steam engine running on a regional railroad, something I have seen many times before. So I finally decided that was going to be the day I shot 425.
Plans started formulating in my mind, and I came up with the perfect plan for the day, allowing us to shoot 3 different opreations (NS, R&N, and DL) throughout the day. The plan was to jump on 78 west in NJ, stop in Allentown on the way out for NS, then head to Port Clinton, chase 425 to Jim Thorpe, and take 80 home and try and shoot the DL on the way. But as most plans go, something always happens and not everything works out...
So Saturday morning rolled around, and we hit the road pre-dawn and got to Allentown just at sunrise. And immediately after pulling up to the crossing in Allentown, NS 23M came blowing by with a SD70M-2 leader. A nice start to the day. And 15 minutes later, 15J came by with another SD70M-2 leader. Not a bad way to start the day. After a pair of sunrise shots with EMD leaders, I was pleased to say the least and we headed off to Port Clinton.
We pulled into Port Clinton around 8:40 to find what we expected - 425 and the train boarding with railfans scattered about getting their shots. My father and I were very excited to watch 425 get the 14 car train up to speed out of Port Clinton, and we anxiously awaited their departure. Finally 9 rolled around, and 425 whistled twice... but then the diesel rev'd up... and then up to notch 2, and the train started moving. And nothing coming from 425. They slowly rolled out of Port Clinton, and were on their way - a big letdown from the engine that was supposedly one of the best steam shows around.
We got to the next spot on the chase and the 425 not only lived up the hype, but surpassed it. 425 came flying around the curve at track speed with white smoke billowing out of the smokestack, making more noise than any other steam engine I have ever seen - including 611. The 425 was amazing. But more on that in another post...
After a very successful chase out to Jim Thorpe, running into many friends along the chase, my father and I headed up to I-80 to start heading east and intercept the DL. After a quick stop at Wawa to get some food, we were on the way to the Pocono Main. Two friends, John and Duncan, were out following the PT98 and giving me updates all day so I had a pretty good idea we were going to be able to catch up to them. I had heard they were out of Cresco when we were about 20-30 minutes away from East Stroudsburg, and it looked good for us to beat them to the southeast end of E Stroudsburg. As we got off the exit in East Stroudsburg, they let me know PT98 was a few minutes off - perfect timing. We had gotten into position, and 2 minutes later the set of 5 matched ALCOs came blowing by.
Quickly running back to the car, we jumped in and were on our way to the Water Gap - one of my favorite places to shoot trains in the Tri-State. There is a nice S-Curve with mountains in the backdrop, so we headed for that. We got there and I was a little surprised to find about a dozen+ photographers there. The DL is a popular railroad to shoot, but usually I don't run into that many photographers out there.
After getting the shot I wanted, we headed off to the very well known shot of the DL coming into Slateford Yard... and I was blown away by the amount of people there. I have shot the DL around the Water Gap quite a few times, but never seen it like this. I pulled up to this shot to find roughly 40 photographers shooting, and about 2 dozen cars. I was shocked, never have I seen such a big group of people following the DL at once. I ran into a bunch of people who I haven't seen in months (or years, for some) down in the Water Gap, which is always nice. I believe I have talked about it on this page before, but I am unlike many railfans and enjoy big group meet ups. Yes, they have their downsides which I definitely agree with but I do love talking to all the railfans around.
So, this was one of those days when everything works out perfect. Two EMD leaders on NS, an unreal show from 425, and shooting the DL train with 5 ALCOs. Doesn't get much better than that.