Thursday, July 22, 2010

Verndale Rail 2010 Part 2-The Men (and Girl) of Verndale Rail

One definition of "tradition" is "a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable".

Using that definition, Verndale Rail is not a tradition. Darn near every moment and activity can be verified as a result of the profusion of information gathered by participants.

What I'm saying is this: there are a lot of guys taking pictures of trains during this annual outing that has become a rite of the longest Saturday of the year in these parts. A few weeks ago I made my own meager offering of train pictures from the event. Today I want to focus on what really makes it special: the people that participate.

There was a tremendous mix of repeat offenders attenders and first timers at this year's event. While it is great fun to renew the camera wars with veterans of previous battles it's equally entertaining to draw in new recruits, especially when they can widen the battlefield not just with a brand, but with the ultimate offense, advocating for a camera that is NOT a DSLR with a lens the size of a 2 liter coke bottle. You know who you are.

Anyway, on to the men of Verndale Rail 2010. I've tried to include you all but no doubt missed one or two-for the full roster go to the class picture here-you even get to see the Verndale cop, who stopped for a burger in the afternoon. Oddly enough, given all the bluster about cameras, only one photographer in this photo was willing to endorse a camera brand.

These photos are in chronological order of when they were shot-and since Todd was one of the first arrivals (he beat me there), naturally, he got shot first, as he stared down a thouroughbred.

As more attendees showed up, and camera gear began to be unlimbered (I'm sure that some of these guys have to do stretching exercises before they zoom these lenses out for fear of pulled muscles), railfans admire one another's gear. I'm not positive, but I think I heard Drew whispering something along the lines of "nice lens" to Chris just as I shot this photo.

So anyway, most of my railfanning is a solo affair. I don't have the donut eating, Journey listening, Silverado driving companions that all of you do, so when there are other fans around, I tend to have to try and find a crack in the photo line to try and get the train in the shot, as here:

Another valuable lesson I learned this year was that trains can be spooky-not scary-spooky, but spooky like walleyes in a clear lake, or wise old wild turkeys on the lookout for hunters. After observing how to combat this trait, I understood how some of you get the great shots you do-you SNEAK UP on the trains, so as not to scare them! No wonder they go so fast around here, I'm always standing up and waving at them.

Obviously, without the limits film placed on photographers in the past, we are happy to click away at anything that may turn out OK. In fact, some of us (me) are so desperate that we will even take pictures of people taking pictures of other people. Sometimes a train will wander into the shot. The one shown here, though, was going very fast, since Mike has jumped up to wave and scared it.

There's a story behind the class photo I linked earlier. Since Chris brings all the food, and does most of the organizing, when it comes time to take this picture, he naturally gets to use his camera. (Most of the rest of the guys think this group would break their camera, anyway) The thing is, if he is going to use his camera and be in the photo, he needs to either (a) move faster than the speed of light, or (b) figure out how to use the self timer. For a few minutes this year, I suspected he might have decided to use option (a), since it seemed much easier and more attainable than option (b). But, given a little help from your friends, you can solve darn near anything. I still can't help but smile when I think of the Reverend saying "that was worse than my wedding pictures".

The long two year history of this event has allowed a pattern to develop-and one part of that is the obligatory trip west to shoot a train in the Wing River Sag. Since I live less than 10 miles from here, and shoot this location way too much, I decided to capture the crew as they saluted a passing train.

Even with ATCS and scanners running, it still takes a keen eye to spot the headlight that will initiate the "Hot Rail!" cry. Here's Mike, with an eye peeled for an eastbound. He likely just heard a train clear a warrant and knows something is up.

And then once the headlight is spotted, the photographers dig in, like a batter waiting for a Nolan Ryan fastball (or some pitcher for the Cardinals, if that's your taste). You can almost feel the tension build as the players anticipate what's coming:

Oops, here I've managed to slip in a train picture, sorry.

Given that the sun was setting, we were all packed up and ready to go, we had little hope for another shot, when here came the last train of the day. The Verndale cop has stopped to visit, and it's a chance to work his cruiser into the shot.

So, there you have my story of Verndale Rail 2010. I felt like it topped the inaugural edition. Once again, the highlight was time spent with people who have a common interest. The weather and the railroad both cooperated, and Chris did a great job with the food and organization. A few door prizes were awarded. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate it an 11.

Looking forward to next year,


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