We were sitting around the dining room table in the home of Ed Ribinskas eating pizza on Sunday afternoon when Marty Surdyk got a text message that a CSX westbound freight with a former Iowa, Chicago & Eastern unit on the lead was approaching Conneaut.
The heads up came from Richard Thompson who had been photographing with his clan in Conneaut for much of the day. Earlier, Ed, Marty, Jeff Troutman and myself had been photographing at Perry and trading OS reports with Rich.
The plan was to putz around on Ed’s HO model railroad layout after eating. I had other ideas, first, though. I wanted to capture that ex-ICE unit. Jeff agreed to take me trackside while Marty and Ed stayed behind.
We staked out the north side of the tracks just east of the former New York Central passenger station in Painesville. It was overcast, so for lighting purposes it didn’t matter what side of the tracks we were on.
Shortly after we arrived, it started snowing. The weather forecast was for an Alberta Clipper to sweep through the area during the afternoon, bringing with it snow and much colder temperatures.
Man, did we get clipped. The clipper arrived with the speed of an express train trying to make up time. Within minutes we were enveloped in blizzard-like conditions. The wind was blowing with gale force velocity and the snow seemed to be going blowing straight across, now falling downward. It was one of those storms with large flakes and it didn’t take long to cover the ground.
Jeff had gotten out to see if the signals to the west had come on. We had heard an eastbound train on the radio. He pointed toward the west and I ventured out into the elements. He was motioning toward what turned out to be an eastbound intermodal train.
The wind was blowing into my face and my camera lens, but I bravely fired away. I had never before attempted to photograph in such conditions. The images turned out fair, particularly the image shown above of the train passing the depot.
The storm abated somewhat, but it was still snowing hard when I heard the train we were waiting for call a signal to the east. I got out and shortly thereafter the gates began to drop at a nearby grade crossing.
I quickly discovered that leaving your camera on auto focus during a snowstorm isn’t such a good idea. The camera went hunting and many of the shots I snapped turned out blurry. But it focused well enough to hit the “sweet spot” as Duluth, Minnesota & Eastern 6366 — the City of Winona — came into view through the snow on Track No. 1 and filled my lens.
I zoomed back to wide angle to capture a few more shots and then waited for the rear end of this rather long train to pass for a going away shot. In the meantime, a short train — perhaps a local — passed by estbound on Track No. 2. If only that train had been a few minutes earlier or later.
I suppose I shouldn’t be greedy. But opportunities such as this don’t present themselves to me very often. I shot a few going away images and it was time to go back to Ed’s house.
By the time we got there, it had stopped snowing and it didn’t snow the rest of the day. You know the phrase, “I’d rather be lucky than good?” Had I been a more experienced and skilled snow photographer I no doubt would have gotten better photographs on this afternoon. Still, for a short time on Sunday I felt good about being lucky, very good.