Going-Away Shot

Posted by George Hamlin
on Saturday, January 4, 2020

Disclaimer:  not everyone likes them.  Admittedly, if what you’re most interested in is a view of the front of the leading locomotive, you’re out of luck.  On the other hand, if you want to get a sense of where a train is heading, this pose is for you.  And, as a bonus, with a modest amount of planning, you can get that coming-at-you wedge and take a going away shot. 

Case in point, looking at Amtrak’s Texas Chief arriving Joliet, Illinois, nearing the end of the journey from Houston to Chicago, on Sunday, November 14, 1971.  Amtrak was still quite new then, having only begun operations on May 1 of the same year.  This November date was the advent of Amtrak’s first “real” schedule, which among other things featured the innovation of trains operating through Chicago Union Station between St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Evidence of this event can be seen in the form of the crowd of railfans that had traveled as a group from Milwaukee to Joliet to mark this event; they can be seen on both sides of the track that the Chief was utilizing.  If memory serves me correctly, J. David Ingles, then a Trains staffer, was among those taking the historic ride through Chicago Union.

Admittedly, I shot the going-away view somewhat wider than I might have for an oncoming shot, but this managed to preserve quite a bit of history for posterity, including bits of Joliet’s Union Station at the left, and the interlocking tower on the right.  Prominent are the semaphore signals protecting the north side of the diamonds; eye-candy supreme in today’s terms.  A white-jacketed porter/car attendant is peering out the dutch door of the second coach as the station stop approaches; it’s likely that the vestibule’s stairs will be down, and the lower part of the dutch door open by the time that the train comes to a halt.

It’s apparent that the train’s consist that can be viewed from this angle is still Santa Fe, all the way.  Behind the “warbonnet” passenger F units are four single-level stainless steel cars, including a full baggage, baggage-dorm and two Budd-built long-haul coaches. Next up is a high-level coach, most commonly associated with the ATFS’s El Capitan.  Lessening demand on the El Cap and San Francisco Chief prior to Amtrak’s inception had allowed the use of these well-regarded cars on the Texas run, although the high-level diners and lounges are absent here.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t commit the ultimate heresy of not photographing the F units approaching, as seen here:


This view was shot more tightly than the going-away, probably for two reasons.  Although there is another signal bridge with semaphores atop its structure in this direction, the right-of-way is otherwise fairly bland, which leads to the second reason, namely, who didn’t like making the warbonnet Fs the principal element in a photo?  During my pre-Amtrak time in Chicagoland in 1970-71, most of the passenger trains on the Chicago end of the railroad were powered by more-recent locomotives, including EMD F/FP45s, and GE U28/30CGs, making a shot emphasizing the F units highly desirable. 

My only regret?  I wish that I’d taken a going-away shot of the full consist, so that the rest of the passenger equipment could be discerned.  Live and learn (and until then, regret later…).  And light on the nose of the units would have been nice, but I knew even before they rolled into view that this wasn’t going to be possible.

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