Outside the Fences: The Boston Mill Experience With a Steam Train for Those Without a Ticket

Hey, it shows the steam engine, right? But for a serious photographer this would not be considered a good image beyond its documentary value.

Hey, this image shows the steam engine, right? But for a serious photographer this would not be considered a good image beyond its documentary value. Nonetheless, it does show something.

First of two parts

Plastic orange fences, multiple police officers watching the crowd, and people standing all over the place and getting in your photos.

Such is the reality of being at the Boston Mill station of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for steam in the valley if you do not have a ticket to ride the train.

The 2016 steam season seemed to have set records for how strict security could be to keep photographers without tickets away from the tracks.

In fact, it seemed to tighten from one weekend to the other. What was OK the first weekend wasn’t allowed during the second weekend.

Let me say up front that I have no problem with the CVSR limiting access to the prime real estate to ticketed passengers.

Although the 2016 trips were reported to have sold out, there is still an economic issue involved. If anyone could get into the photo area at the station, then what incentive do people have to buy a ticket?

Besides, the CVSR marketing materials suggested that ticketed passengers would get something that those without tickets didn’t have.

They did, sort of, but that depends on how you look at it. In past years, those without tickets were allowed to roam free at Boston Mill during the photo runbys.

You can get some decent photographs at Boston Mill, but the best images to be had are elsewhere along the CVSR in places open to everyone.

In fairness, CVSR and Cuyahoga Valley National Park officials also are concerned with safety issues.

When you have the type of crowds that were drawn to Boston Mill this year there is the potential for someone to do something foolish.

The orange plastic fencing around the perimeter of the Boston Mill station wasn’t new this year. What was new was that the fencing extended along the tracks south of the station in an effort to keep people from walking down the tracks to stake out photo locations. That probably was a safety precaution.

Some of the security this year, though, was overkill, particularly placing “temporary no parking” signs along Riverview Road well out of view of the photo runby site.

But, again, I wasn’t upset about that because there are plenty of other places to photograph the steam train other than at Boston Mill.

The images that I’ve presented with this post are designed to show the downside of photographing at Boston Mill when you are confined to the non-ticketed zone.

You have to stand in Boston Park on the south side of Boston Road or in the parking area for the ski resort west of the tracks.

Police were strict the second weekend about keeping people from crossing Riverview to stand along the orange fencing and/or the highway guardrails.

None of these security measures mean much if all you want to do is watch the train go by. I saw people sitting in lawn chairs doing just that, some of them elderly.

But what is a serious photographer to do under such conditions?

One approach is to take the view that you are documenting an event. The crowds, the security and the less than ideal photo angles become part of the story if not the story.

All of the images that accompany this post were made with that in mind.

Next time I’ll suggest some strategies for coming away with some good images despite all of the barriers in your way by making the situation work to your advantage.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

In past year, you could have walked up to and shot over that security fence. But not this year.

In past years, you could have walked up to and shot over that security fence. But not this year.

Even with a telephoto lens it is tough getting a good image of the crowd interacting with the crew without that orange fencing getting in the way.

Even with a telephoto lens it can be tough getting a good image of the crowd interacting with the steam locomotive crew without that orange fencing getting in the way.

This what you are up against in Boston Park, crowds of people, poles and wires.

What you are up against in Boston Park? How about crowds of people, poles and wires.

This does OK, I suppose in showing the smoke plume of the NKP 767 and the roadway that stood between the photographers and the tracks. Police and CVSR personnel made sure that those without a ticket did not cross Riverview Road as the train approached.

This photo does OK, I suppose, in showing the smoke plume of the NKP 767 and the roadway that stood between the photographers and the tracks. Police and CVSR personnel made sure that those without a ticket did not cross Riverview Road as the train approached.

It's not a terrible image, but not a good one, either.

It’s not a terrible image, but not necessarily a good one, either.

I was trying to convey a sense of the photo line, but it didn't work out that well because of the distance I had to stand behind them.

I was trying to convey a sense of the photo line, but it didn’t work out that well because of the distance that I had to stand behind them. Such is life outside the fences.

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