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

With a telephoto lens, good positioning and anticipation, you can come away with some good human interest images such this one of a young girl being helped off the train.

Combine a telephoto lens, good positioning and skillful anticipation and you can come away with good human interest images such this one of a young girl being helped off the train. Her small stature in contrast to the wheels gives a sense of size and proportion.

Second of two parts

I like photographic challenges. In my previous post, I wrote about how the strict security measures imposed by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad at Boston Mill station during the photo runbys of Nickel Plate Road No. 767 last September limited where photographers could go in ways that had not been the case in previous years.

Unless you had a ticket, you had to contend with orange plastic fences, large crowds and highway guard rails.

The security was designed to keep people away from nearby locations along the tracks that were some distance from the station. That had not been done in past years, but was taken to a higher level in 2016.

I spent time during the September 2016 visit of Nickel Plate Road 767 in the “ticketless zone” in Boston Park and in the ski resort parking lot on the west side of Riverview Road.

I wanted to see what I could do within the limitations that the railroad and park officials had thrust upon me.

The first thing I decided to do was to live with guard rails and a little bit of orange fencing.

It wasn’t ideal, but being in the ski resort parking lot provided a wider perspective than is available to the passengers at the station.

They had to deal with large, dense crowds. I looked for places away from the crowds and found them.

That was how I came up with an interesting angle on the east side of the tracks along Boston Road. I got the nose of the NKP 767 with the crowd of passengers and the ski resort in the background.

That image wasn’t as ideal as I would have liked due to a grade crossing signal control box getting in the way and the tight angle forced by a line of trees to my right.

However, it was a view that few other photographers thought to try and it was better than most anything I could have gotten in Boston Park.

Some of the most promising images to be had at Boston Mill are human interest photographs.

With a telephoto lens, you can zoom in on the engine crew, get shots of the passengers disembarking, and capture those still on the train during the runbys.

My favorite human-interest image of the two weeks that I chased NKP 767 was obtained at Boston Mill in this manner.

I’ve already posted that photo, but it showed a young boy sipping a bottle of soda while seated next to his grandmother in one of the open-window coaches as a look of wonder crossed his face.

Ultimately, what to do with the restrictions at Boston Mill for those outside the ticketed passenger zone comes down to what type of photography you do and how creative you are.

If you are only interested in the train coming at you, then you’d be better off to buy a ticket so you can get a straight-on shot of that.

If you are unwilling to shell out for a ticket, you could go to any number of places in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to photograph the steam engine as rolls past.

If, though, you are interested in documenting the broader story and the environment that surrounds the annual two-week visit of a steam locomotive to the CVSR, then there are opportunities waiting at Boston Mill. You just have to study the scene and try some things.

Some of your efforts won’t work out quite the way you had hoped, but you might be surprised at how a little creative thinking and working the angles can yield a better image than you might have imagined was possible.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

By the time that NKP 767 ended its time on the CVSR, I had starting to get the hang of photographing across Riverview Road. There are decent to good images to be made there.

By the time that the NKP 767 ended its time on the CVSR, I was starting to get the hang of photographing across Riverview Road. There are decent to good images to be made there.

You look past or over the guard rail, this is a pretty decent photo of the NKP 767 charging past. And the guard rail isn't really blocking anything, just adding a touch of clutter.

You look past or over the guard rail, this is a decent photo of NKP 767 charging past. The guard rail isn’t blocking anything, just adding a touch of clutter.

I had not planned to photography this runby, but couldn't resist getting a portrait of my friend Adam Barr getting a video of the runby with his smart phone.

I had not planned to photograph this particular runby, but couldn’t resist getting a portrait of my friend Adam Barr doing video of the runby with his smart phone.

My intent was not to capture the train so much as to show how people on the west side or Riverview seek to capture it. The larger environment is part of the story, too.

My intent was not to capture the train so much as it was to show how people on the west side of Riverview seek to photograph it. The larger environment is part of the story, too.

Not everyone disembarks fro the steam train during the photo runby. Watch the windows for you might get a good human interest image of those still aboard.

Not everyone disembarks from the steam train during the photo runbys. Watch the windows and you might get a good human interest image of those still aboard.

Sometimes you can get a clear angle. Sure, the locomotive is not coming toward me, but it is still putting on a show even though it is backing up.

Sometimes you can get a clear angle of the train. Sure, the locomotive is not coming toward me, but it is still putting on a smoke show even though it is backing up. The image was made at the east side of the Boston Road grade crossing.

By standing back and then zooming in with a telephoto lens, you can get the crew at work.

By standing back and then zooming in on the locomotive cab with a telephoto lens, you can get the crew at work.

The angle was tighter than I would have liked, but I was pleased overall with this take made from the east side of the tracks where far fewer people were standing.

The angle was tighter than I would have liked, but I was pleased, overall, with this image that I made on the east side of the tracks where far fewer people were standing.

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