Sunday, June 21, 2009

Verndale Rail 2009

The first thing to say about the railfan get-together at Verndale on June 20 is "thanks". Thanks to Christopher Muller, who not only was a driving force behind getting it going, but also took the logistical lead in making sure there was food, beverage, and a grill for cooking. Thanks to everyone who attended and made this a fantastic experience for all who were able to be there. Thanks to BNSF for running trains on the Staples Sub while railfans were present. Thanks to Mother Nature for giving us great weather for the event. And thanks to the City of Verndale for providing a great location. In my opinion, and I think in the opinion of everyone who attended, it was a great success and will lead to other similar get-togethers in the future.

So what went on at this gathering? Well, here is a "taste" of the event:

As you can see the trains weren't the only thing that got attention. MN Chris did a bang-up job with the grill and there was food aplenty. I also have to give a shout-out to Mrs. L4T who baked some chocolate chip cookies for me to bring. They must have been good as none of them came home with me, and I didn't eat all of them myself.

Door prizes were distributed, and appropriately, the youngest attendees, along with some of the older ones, were winners.

What else do I remember? Well, I was chastised (in good nature, and I have to admit, only after insinuating that since this was my "home territory", I might have to charge for photography permits for interlopers) for not tending to my vegetation contol duties along the right of way.

I remember being reminded how old I actually am, since in the process of trying to start something with a St. Louis Cardinal fan and bringing up the subject of the 1987 World Series, it came to light that the person I was engaging in debate was only 5 at that time, compared to me having been in my late 20's.

I was put in my place as a Pentax owner, when a herd of Nikonians descended on Verndale in a clicking frenzy.

I heard stories about how NOT to clean the sensor on a DSLR, including what cleaning solutions and tools are a bad idea, and why it's important to know how long the mirror will stay up while you are doing this. That last story, involving a q-tip and no sense of timing, was enough to send chills up your spine.

We watched some spectacular video from end of LTV, when 5 F units were bringing reclaimed pellets from the dock in Taconite Harbor back to the plant site. Chris does a great job on those videos and they helped to entertain us during the times when there were no trains.

I remember the way people were gathered around the computer trying to interpret the ATCS display, and the speculation that maybe, just maybe, a coal empty from Superior might show up and surprise us all.

From my perspective, the best part of Verndale Rail 2009 wasn't the opportunity to take train pictures. It was the chance to meet people who I have corresponded with via email in the past, or who I have met briefly out along the tracks. While the internet lets us find people who share out interests more easily than in the past, there is still no substitute for meeting someone face to face and spending time with a group of people who participate in those activities that we enjoy. Getting to spend time with this group of people yesterday reminded me of that, and for me at least, put rail photography in second place for a day. It was fun to see and shoot trains but the real enjoyment came from sharing experiences and stories with people who could understand and identify with you.

That's not to say it wasn't fun to grab some train photos-and I learned the appropriate way to announce the appearance of a headlight in the distance. "Hot rail!"

I got a few decent shots, that I will be sharing over the next couple of posts. I learned a few photography facts, that hopefully will help me in the future.

So again, thanks to all involved for making this a success. It was one of the highlights of my railfanning career, and it left me looking forward to doing something similar again. Hopefully some of you who weren't able to make it this time will be able to attend the next one.


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