It’s the Fall of 2010 and I had just picked up photography after shooting videos for a couple of years. Word had come that CSX was going to replace the old Baltimore and Ohio Color Position Light signals along the famed Magnolia Cutoff east of Cumberland, MD. I spent the majority of my weekends during the Summer videoing that stretch of line. As the daylight faded during those trips I was intrigued by the night along the rails.
Fast forward to the Fall of that year and I had begun hanging out with Sean Hoyden of Night Stalker Photo Works. We ventured out along the Cutoff using his flashes and I began experimenting with my wife’s 3 megapixel point and shoot camera. The camera however had a manual control and could take long exposures up to 15 seconds, something most cameras of that style could not do.
It was from this after sharing a few of the photos that I was contacted by a railfan publication that thought it would be cool to have a little feature. I agreed and ventured out again during late November and found myself at Carothers just east of Paw Paw, WV at the east portal of the tunnel by the same name around 3am. If you look on today’s CSX Cumberland Sub timetable you’ll note that there is no signal by that name. During the signal replacement in the late Spring of 2011 Carothers which was a west bound only intermediate signal was removed permanently.
Up until this night I had always the “streak and change” shots where you set up and film the train and its lights streak by creating a “warp” effect and then the signal switching colors as the train passed. I wanted to do something different this time so I sat and waited after a bit, hearing an eastbound approach a few miles away. As it called the signal on the other side of the tunnel I readied the camera which sat on a cheap plastic tripod and clicked the shutter as I heard the low “hmm” as it entered the tunnel. Not much I could do afterwards, I thought 16 seconds would time it about right for the shot I had in mind. The headlights are about to round the curve when finally the camera is done and the train whooshes past.
I say to myself, “Did I get it?”
The problem with the camera was it could take the exposures BUT then you had to wait for it to process it.
Finally the screen lights up and to my amazement, what you see is what I saw. Today, even looking back I am amazed by what I could capture without the use of a dslr or even a high end point and shoot camera. The signal and it’s sisters along the Cutoff may be gone, but today I can look back into the past and revel.