Fellowship Outweighed ‘if Onlys’ of McKay Day

Berea is not the only home to a memorial to the late Dave McKay. Jack Norris arranged for this tribute to Dave at Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. (Photograph by Jack Norris)

When I look back on the Akron Railroad Club’s 2017 Dave McKay Day I’ll remember the “if onlys” that surrounded the event.

If only we had had the weather of Sunday, April 2 on Saturday April 1 when the McKay Day was held.

If only I had had my camera ready when two Citirail ES44ACs that were leading CSX train Q384 showed up.

If only we had gone to dinner at 5 as we had planned I could have photographed the Wabash heritage locomotive leading Norfolk Southern train No. 294.

If only the fog that shrouded the east side of Cleveland early Saturday morning also had been in Berea when I arrived I might have gotten a dramatic image.

All of those missed opportunities have their own story behind them, starting with the fog.

As I drove south on Warrensville Road I saw how the fog created an interesting effect with the lights illuminating the RTA Green Line station platform.

I thought about turning around to go get the image, but kept going. I hoped to reach Berea before the fog lifted but by the time I arrived, it was gone. Of course I’m assuming it was as foggy in Berea as it had been on the east side of town. Maybe it wasn’t.

Photographers generally hate overcast skies because they produce flat light and little contrast. So I left my camera in its bag, which I placed on the back seat.

I didn’t regret that until I spotted the headlight of an eastbound CSX train. As it got closer something about the lead unit looked different.

The train was closing in as I struggled to get out of the car, open the locked back door, reach across the seat for my camera bag, open it, get the camera out and remove the lens cap.

By the time I did all of that the photo opportunity was gone.

I’ve only once photographed a train led by a Citirail unit, which features a pleasing gray, yellow and blue livery.

This missed opportunities annoyed me because it was of my own making due to lack of preparation.

I was prepared, though, for the Wabash unit. I had my camera with me at dinner at the Berea Union Depot Taverne. The plan was to eat and then go trackside to catch the Wabash unit.

But making photographs of other trains delayed us by 20 minutes.  Even if I still had been sitting at our table when the Wabash H unit came through I doubt I would have made the image.

I would have had to move some wood slats of a venetian blinds and the image would have had heavy back lighting.

Of the 46 train movements that I saw in Berea on this day, I made two or three images that might rise to the level of being somewhat interesting. The rest are routine images similar to ones I’ve made before in better light.

CSX is leasing about 20 of those Citirail units so maybe there will be another opportunity to get one leading a train.

I’ve photographed the Wabash heritage unit more than once and even if my plan had worked out it would have yielded nothing more than a side light image.

I can always go to Berea on days when the weather is better.

But opportunities to socialize with my fellow ARRC members are less frequent. With my plans to move out of the area within the next two years they may be quite limited.

The bigger picture is that the ARRC’s McKay Day is less about photography than it is socializing. The fellowship of the event meant more than getting some so-so photographs on a less than ideal day for photography.

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One Response to “Fellowship Outweighed ‘if Onlys’ of McKay Day”

  1. Bob Says:

    The plaques at the HSC are no longer there, the RRMM moved them to the new roundhouse built on the museum grounds in Altoona.

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