Steam Saturday: Remembering a 2010 Night Photo Shoot

Let’s take a trip back to September 2010. Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 has arrived on the property of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for the first of what has turned out be an almost annual ritual.

Someone – I don’t remember who – arranged with CVSR officials for a night photo shoot of the 765 at the CVSR’s Fitzwater Shops, where the Berkshire-type locomotive spends its time between excursions.

Night photo shoots used to be a thing with some railfan photographers back in the day.

The photographers would set up their cameras on tripods and one member of the party would run around the object of the photographs – usually a locomotive – firing off a series of flashbulbs while the camera shutters were held open on the bulb setting.

The late O. Winston Link is well-known for having used a similar technique to record the final years of steam operations on the Norfolk & Western.

The Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts used to engage in night photo shoots here and there. One memorable one occurred in Youngstown on Jan. 14, 1977, to mark the end of the Cleveland-Youngstown commuter train on the former Erie Lackawanna route.

That photo shoot is remembered in Trackside Around Cleveland 1965-1979 with Dave McKay.

Another memorable night photo shoot occurred Sept. 10, 1988, in Brecksville when the then-named Cuyahoga Valley Line staged Grand Trunk Western 2-8-2 No. 4070 along the Cuyahoga River with the iconic Ohio Route 82 bridge in the background.

That night is recalled in my book Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in an Edward Ribinskas photograph.

Fast forward 22 year to the evening of Sept. 16, 2010. RRE and Akron Railroad Club members brought their cameras and tripods to Fitzwater at dusk to photograph the 765 with two CVSR FPA-4 locomotives.

There was a small fee charged for the event with the proceeds going to the CVSR if I remember correctly.

CVSR trainmaster and director of operations Larry Blanchard brought the 6777 and 800 out of the shop and posed them with the 765, which was not in steam on this evening.

We picked our spots and set up our cameras and awaited the command of “open them up.” Then someone ran around firing off a flash gun a few times.

I was still a slide film shooter in 2010 and although my results were satisfactory not all of the images I made were necessarily top quality. In some instances light from the open shop doors cast a yellow glow over the scene despite the use of daylight balanced flash bulbs.

It was my first and thus far only night photo shoot in which flash bulbs were used.

The night photo shoot at Fitzwater would be the last of its kind staged by the RRE.

There are still photographers out there who use flash to create night photographs but they use strobes rather than flashbulbs.

During the most recent visit of the 765 to the CVSR, a night photo shoot was staged at Northside Station in Akron, but the lighting was provided by floodlights rather than flashes.

I’m not sure that the CVSR would allow the RRE/ARRC to replicate today what happened on that September 2010 evening at Fitzwater. Whatever the case, nothing like it has happened since, which makes these images all the more valuable and memorable.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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