Rainy day people

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Monday, May 01, 2017

The northbound 'Silver Meteor' pauses at Palatka, Fla.,  on a rainy January 2015 day. Photo by Brian Schmidt

This past weekend the Center for Railroad Photography & Art held its annual "Conversations" conference at Lake Forest College in suburban Chicago, which brought together some of the continent's best railroad photographers. The weather for the weekend, by most accounts, was abysmal. It was cold, rainy, and windy. Not the most pleasant weather to be standing trackside waiting for a train. And yet, many of those visiting from out of town (or, more specifically, out of the Midwest) took advantage of their time in the area to expand their photographic horizons. Others, of course, marched off as soon as they could, even forgoing already laid plans, to find better weather elsewhere.

Railroads run in all weather conditions: sun, rain, snow, fog, wind, clouds, and more. And yet the photographic record of the railroad industry skews decidedly toward the sunny days. Shouldn't the photographic record, and therefore the historic record, of railroading better reflect this reality?

While I have not had a problem using my cameras in the rain, I have lately contemplated purchasing something with a little better weather sealing, even an underwater type camera, to better handle adverse weather conditions. Then I could forge ahead into the storm with a little more confidence.

Do not misread my intent here. I do enjoy spending a sunny summer day trackside, sitting in the grass watching trains pass while enjoying a cold beverage and a good book. I still wouldn't think to try such things in a driving rainstorm.

But there are days where I set out, as I'm sure you do, specifically to make photographs. On those days, then, the weather shouldn't matter as much. Railroading runs around the clock and in all weather, and we, as the historians of our generation, should better recognize that fact.

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