‘One of These Mornings’ on the EL

I had always wanted to do a “dissolve show” on the Erie Lackawanna, but I never took the time to sit down and do it. One reason for that was because many of my early photos were color prints. It would be expensive to have many of them converted into slides, not to mention the loss of quality that would occur in the transition.

In my initial attempts to do a dissolve show, the transitions between images — the “dissolve” part of the show — was pretty much a set thing. There was little variety. One image faded into another image.

The music was more difficult to fit into the show. I had a cassette player that had to be started at just the right moment to ensure my intended “flow” of the show.

When all that came together it was great. But more often than not those early shows were just a series of slides set to background music.

Fast forward to 2012. Technology has progressed to the point where all the above can be done at your fingertips on a home computer.

I can easily scan my old color negatives and even enhance the quality of the image if need be. The Internet is a big music library, so researching songs doesn’t require a trip to the CD store to buy a disc that I’ve never heard in its entirety.

The music is digital, which allows easy attachment of it to a series of images. The timing can be adjusted to a fraction of a second between image and music. That’s a big plus that allows a show to flow as I want it.

Bottom line: I have complete control of the entire process with the ability to make changes and corrections on the spot. The end results match the original ideas of the show. I guess I could say I was waiting for the right music to be written and published, too!

Why the Erie Lackawanna? Many railroads have come and gone over the years. Everyone has a “favorite” carrier even if you like railroads in general.

My favorite was the EL because it really gave me a taste of what being around the railroad was all about. At first it was the attractive image that their locomotives and rolling stock had. Compared to the drab Penn Central or the “blue dip” B&O, the EL livery caught my attention first.

As time progressed the crews noticed me watching and, once in a while, photographing, the movements in and around the McCoy Street yard in Akron. It didn’t take long to get the occasional invite up into the cab for a ride up and down the yard.

It was exciting stuff for any young rail buff for sure, but those rides gave me a taste of the real deal. The sounds, sights, and smells inside those little Alco switchers was something I just didn’t get standing trackside.

The talk inside the locomotive cab — or caboose on a few occasions — wasn’t always about railroading, either. Conversations about sports, family and life in general showed me a “human side” of railroading. That’s not something gleaned from standing trackside.

Maybe these guys sensed something in me that went beyond the usual foamer interest in trains. The bottom line is that the last years of the EL would become my first years in a lifetime passion for railroading.

Which brings me to this short, but meaningful to me, show on the EL. The first time I heard the song One of these Mornings by Moby, I knew it was the music I had been waiting for.

Simple in its lyrics, powerful in its shifting tones, it was perfect for what I had in mind. I wanted a short show, not one that went on until the viewer’s minds drifted off somewhere else.

I had recently done some “EL archeology” with a friend and had some images of what little remained of the EL in several spots — “ghosts” if you will — near Warren, Leavittsburg, Niles and Youngstown.

I would use some of these images in the show to help convey my feeling of loss. I didn’t want the show to be some “trip down memory lane” nostalgia show.

I wanted it to bring out the emotion of feeling something disappear just as you got to know it, never to be back again.

Most of the images were picked to show a general idea of what the EL looked like in its last years, but the last image, conductor George Rush waving, really summed it up in my book. An old head conductor, he would retire shortly after Conrail merged the EL away.

Is he waving goodbye to a long career? Waving goodbye to the EL, a railroad soon to have a past but no future? Or, after all these years, is he a stand in for today’s me, waving goodbye to some old friends?

You watch the show. You decide.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee




One Response to “‘One of These Mornings’ on the EL”

  1. Dan Olah Says:

    Thank you. I worked as a clerk at McCoy St for an all too short period in ’68- ’69 before joining the Navy. Never returned to Akron but my experiences led me to get on with the BN in Seattle at their roundhouse in Interbay. Now retired, but the EL will always be part of me. Only regret was making it to Youngstown only once. That’s where the action was!

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