Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Transport: Reacting to a Steam Locomotive

A lone photographer on a ladder was noted in the middle of a field near Baldwin Road outside of Owosso, Michigan on 26-July-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of the joys of riding behind a steam locomotive is watching the reaction of people along the tracks. Whenever a large steam locomotive moves, a hoard of railroad photographers generally chases the train, and their antics can be anything from amusing (such as the man on a ladder seen above) to horrifying (such as the man reported to be steering with his knees at high speed while chasing an all-day Train Festival excursion earlier last weekend in central Michigan).

A van with an open door paced former Nickel Plate #765, a large steam locomotive, as it ran back to Owosso, Michigan along King Road on 26-July-2009. The train had slowed to about 25 mph by this time.

These railroad fans who knew that the train would be operating are not nearly as much fun to watch as locals who did not know that the train was coming. Some just drop their jaws. Others are seen breaking into a Steve Martin-style "What the @#!% is that?" routine. Children can even run in fear, or, fortunately more commonly, jump for joy. Inevitably, just about everyone waves.

Rafters on the Deschutes River near Tuscan, Oregon reacted to the passage of the "Daylight" steam locomotive on 16-September-2006.

Even locals that have heard that train is coming--and perhaps have even set out lawn chairs as they waited for it to come by--can be entertaining. The children, especially, can have unpredictable reactions. Quite a number seem to be captured with the awe that inspires many of them to be future crew members of steam locomotives, or at least future passengers of the trains.

Will she be a future steam engineer? Two children joined an older family member in watching the passage of Nickel Plate Road #765 through Bannister, Michigan on 26-July-2009

A few people, of course, are completely oblivious to the passage of the special train. They are so intent on what they are doing--whether it be fishing, digging for clams, or just household chores, that they pay no attention to the rare event unfolding before them. I find these people the hardest to explain--is a short wave not at least called for when a steam train goes by?

Two fishermen in the Black River near La Crosse, Wisconsin were practically oblivious to the passage of Milwaukee Road #261, a large steam locomotive, on 16-September-2008.

One of my all-time favorite scenes while watching steam locomotive observers was not captured in a photo. A man had set up for a photograph of the "Deschutes River Daylight" returning from Bend to Portland, Oregon in September 2006. As the steam locomotive passed, he apparently lost his balance and fell straight into a ditch. I never heard who it was, or whether his shot taken before the fall turned out.

One never knows what one will see from a steam train, but the people will always be entertaining.

No comments: