November 6th, 2011


Chasing the 844

I spent part of yesterday continuing my chase of Union Pacific steam engine No. 844. It was supposed to leave Tucumcari at 7am, which was, unfortunately, before sunrise. I decided to head to the first of my pre-determined photo locations to wait for it there. On my trek eastward the day before I made note of the mile markers where photogenic bridges were located. Those would be my prime locations. If other opportunities presented themselves, I would jump on them.

I waited in the pre-dawn darkness about 10 miles west of Tucumcari. Finally a headlight pierced the gloom. The photographic results were less than spectacular. Oh well. Off to the next bridge. By this time the Sun had peaked over some low clouds in the east. Success! I then proceeded to the next bridge. Another good photo shoot. I then lucked out when the train must have had a bit of mechanical difficulty and it stopped not too far from the freeway. I grabbed a few more pics as well as getting to hear that wonderful "chugga-chugga" sound as the engine began to pull its load from a dead stop. I then tried my luck at a remote grade crossing. This was another failure. There were a lot of people there and most had good photo spots picked out. I just wanted a pic of the engine passing in back of the classic railroad crossing sign. Of course some fuckwit had to stroll in front of everyone's shot just as the train got to the crossing. I then proceeded to Santa Rosa where the train was scheduled to make a 30-minute stop.

Having done a little research ahead of time on Google Street View, I knew there was a lovely bridge over the Pecos River right in town. That's where I would set up for a good shot. It was a beautiful location! When I got there there was only one couple there. By the time the train passed by, the bridge was nearly full of photographers. I put my camera on continuous shoot and just took pic after pic. Thank doG for digital technology! Unfortunately I still screwed up. When I had taken pics of the train at full stop I switched over to a setting to allow slower shutter speeds to capture better depth-of-field. I forgot to switch back to the "motion" setting. I ended up with a lot of blurred pics. D'oh! It was too bad because the setting was exquisite with a beautiful high trestle, a magnificent steam engine, gorgeous sunlight, and spectacular Fall foliage. Oh well. I did manage a few acceptable photos.

At this point I could have either continued along the route to Vaughn, NM or just bag it and head on home on I-40. I opted for the latter. Chasing a train along an interstate highway was one thing. Chasing a train down a 2-lane highway was another. I saw how retarded people were driving on the Interstate. I could just imagine how bad it would be on a smaller road. There were assholes doing 45 MPH in a 75 zone just so that they could take pics or whatever. The freeway is clogged with trucks hauling their asses to get to their destinations. It was a highly unsafe condition. I had my photos. I had my experience. It was time to go home.

I definitely made the right decision. A major Winter storm was making its way across the state and I punched right through it. Conditions went from bright Sun and mild temps in the 50's to gale force winds in a matter of a few miles. It was a game of "dodge the tumbleweeds" as the wind whipped up to 30-40 MPH. I watched my fuel mileage drop from 18.6 to 17.1 as the wind buffeted the vehicle. The temperature also dropped from the 50's to the 30's and a light rain changed to near-blizzard conditions. And I was only about an hour from home! It was certainly an exciting hour to get home! And now...PICS!

844 in the pre-dawn twilight heading west

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