When two trains arrive at the same time

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, February 19, 2017

All of us thrill to the sight of two trains in motion at the same time. Whether it’s a meet, an overtake, or an over and under, it’s a rare and delightful treat. The opportunities are rare, but they happen more frequently than we think: Trains of the BNSF passing over Union Pacific trains at Grand Island, Neb.; trains stacking up on the flyovers at Santa Fe Junction in downtown Kansas City; CSX and NS trains saluting one another on the move at Howell Wye in downtown Atlanta. Those are just some of the memories of two trains on the move in my own personal recollection. I added yet another on a recent Sunday on the south side of Milwaukee.

Correspondent Chase Gunnoe and I were waiting for the northbound Amtrak Hiawatha in Oak Creek, Wis. We were anticipating the northbound Chicago-Milwaukee train a few minutes prior to its 2:19 p.m. stop at the Mitchell International Airport station before heading into downtown Beer City. From our vantage point at the Puetz Road crossing, we could see a long way down a straight as a gun barrel tangent. A headlight came into view, but it was moving at a pace unbefitting a six-car passenger train with a schedule to keep. Looking through his telephoto lens, Chase identified it as an automotive and stack train, and we both speculated that we might just witness an overtake right here.

Seconds later, another headlight popped into view, and train No. 335 began is passage in front of us. With the freight still on the move, we watched the passenger train sprint toward us and disappear in a whoosh around the next curve. I lifted my Nikon D700 with a Sigma 150-600 mm lens and snapped a few pictures, delighted to have added yet another memory of two trains passing simultaneously before me.

How rare is it to get such a show? And how often are the “almost had it” misses that deprive us of these scenes? I just know that early in my railroad photography career, in September 1978, I stood on a bridge in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the Southern Railway and Louisville & Nashville paralleled each other. Two headlights appeared at either end of the field of vision, and as a 17-year-old I had to decide which side of the bridge to be on. I got the shot of two elderly SR geeps on a local passing a southbound L&N hotshot. That was the first time I witnessed and photographed such a meet. And I still never tire of it. Never will.    

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