Sunday, August 26, 2007

Colorado State Fair Express Chase

I could post all the footage and photos I got of UP 844 as it came south from Denver to Pueblo, but I would be hard pressed to keep up with Kevin Morgan of ColoradoRailfan.com. Seeing him near Larkspur and again in Pueblo, I saw how easily the pros drift through the amateurs and somehow make it all look so easy.

I still might post a few. I'll have to recover my ego first. In the meantime, I'm offering an editorial, although it will likely just add to the consensus of the railfan community at large.

I was reminded yesterday that mainline steam tends to bring out the very worst of railfans. I will spend little time citing what's wrong, but it's still worth noting that:
  • Slowing traffic to a crawl on a major Interstate highway just so they can pace a train that is still 100 to 200 feet away from them causes active and thorough resentment from not only the general public, but other railfans trying to get to the next photo location
  • Walking in front of the photo line to get their own shot reveals just how unprofessional and ridiculous some railfans can be, especially when the same person shows up in shot after shot after shot. His wearing a pale yellow T-shirt makes it all the worse
On the positive side, I appreciated so many of the fans finding discrete places to photograph the train. Positioning themselves in the bushes, below the grade or generally out of the way, many of the photographers were decent to each other and respected each other's desire for the perfect shot. Following the golden rule--even in a hobby--by talking with folks already set up about where you can go to stay out of their way helps everyone feel respected and yields some good rewards. The challenge of catching a locomotive at speed is challenging enough without climbing all over each other to do it.

While it's not unique to railfanning the events, there is a great opportunity for connecting with others. Among railfans, you can easily spot loyalties and what sub-category of railfan they find themselves in. There's the big steam fan, the narrow gauger, the local historian, the obscure short-line fan, the camera geek and the dabbler, to name a few. One usually finds a mixture of two or three interests in a single railfan, but there is usually a chief love, proudly proclaimed somewhere about the person on their shirt, cap or jacket, making it easy to spot each other. Striking up conversation about such a love is easy and opens up roads to long and true friendships.

Speaking of great loves, I was gratified at the UP's surprising good taste in letting the Rio Grande Heritage unit, UP 1989, assist the 844 over the Palmer Divide. It's always a beautiful sight to the eyes to see the flying Grande in gold and black on home rails, especially the joint line. It was 136 years ago, before Colorado was even a state in the Union, that the Rio Grande's founder directed the Grande to build south from Denver. When so many "& Pacific" railroads were going east-west, Palmer was the true entrepreneur, defying convention and running north-south to tap the riches of the Colorado piedmont on the way to Mexico City. That he never made it past Raton is dwarfed by the fact that his work still survives today.

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