Chlorophyll Rampant

Posted by George Hamlin
on Sunday, June 5, 2022

The greatest component of railroad photography, particularly of the action variety?  Without a doubt, waiting, which can induce anticipation; frustration; discomfort; boredom; enervation; etc.  I’m sure that most readers can name others.

On the other hand, it also may offer the opportunity for reflection and camaraderie, since this is often a shared pursuit.  As we’ll see, that can include both those came with you and new acquaintances.  The latter run the gamut from entertaining to those for which you might wish to have the “hook” used to remove unworthy vaudeville performers from the stage.

The stage here is the Rumsey Monument located above the south bank of the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  The Norfolk Southern’s H-line crosses the river here on a high trestle on its way south between Hagerstown, Maryland and Roanoke, Virginia; north of Front Royal, Virginia, about 60 miles south of Hagerstown, this is a segment of the NS’s principal north-south line on the east coast. 

Thus, the combination of reasonable train frequency, a beautiful setting and scenery has drawn fans to this location for many years.  On June 4, 2022, the friend with me hadn’t been there before, so it was a natural choice for an afternoon of shooting.  On arrival, however, we were impeded by the presence of a wedding taking place near the entrance to the park that contains the monument. The attendees had occupied all the parking spots; imagine their nerve!  (In fairness, it would have been difficult to quarrel with their location choice.)

A quick relocation allowed us to catch intermodal train 203 (Rutherford, Pennsylvania to Atlanta) from the highway bridge located a short distance upstream from the park.  Upon our return, most of the wedding participants had left, parking was secured, and we climbed up to the base of the monument, putting us essentially at the height of the railroad.  One advantage of this spot is that the structure provides tiered four-sided seating for those waiting, including your choice of sunny or shady options, depending on the time of day.

A pair of northbounds passed before our cameras, but what we really needed was a southbound to take full advantage of the light.  Eventually, social media provided the information that just such an item was on its way towards us, in the form of NS’s Croxton, New Jersey-Atlanta train 211.  Unfortunately, further information was not immediately forthcoming, bringing forth (wait for it) “The Wait”. 

To its credit, the intervening time period was a delight for the senses.  From the top down, a bright-blue, essentially cloudless, sky; late afternoon sunlight that got even better as time passed; pleasantly-warm temperatures accompanied by a light breeze; the riot of green foliage forming the backdrop for our planned photos.  Complementing all this was the sweet smell of blooming honeysuckle distributed subtly by the breeze.

An additional aid in passing the time was the excellent repartee between the three of us (another fan not known previously to either of us was present), and the conversation helped pass the time, including such time-tested railfan photography subjects as will this arrive before dark and when will the clouds develop.

Older-school technology, in the form of a scanner, finally let us know that 211 was nearing Shepherdstown; the setting sun wasn’t going to win this one!  As you can see above, this photographic wait was definitely not a fail; enjoy.

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