|Proviso Sunrise by Sam Carlson|
|To my way of looking at it, sunrise is better than sunset. It's just that most people are not awake to see it. Sunrise arrives with clean, fresh air, unlike sunset. It's a new day dawning, not an old day yawning. The smoke and haze of commerce has yet to poison the air.
But like sunset, sunrise is fleeting.. One has only a few minutes to enjoy it, and then its natural beauty is lost forever, replaced with daylight. Trying to photograph it can be difficult. You're short on time. Your camera has to be ready, now. Right now. You must be wide awake, your thinking cap on. Focus on the sky, meter for the sky. Then shoot! Hope for the best. Maybe try again. The sky is ever changing.. Each picture will be different. Soon the beauty will be gone.
It stands to reason, then, that it would be much more difficult to get a train into the picture. You have to be in the right place at exactly the right time.. So does the train. It has to be the perfect confluence of nature, time, the train,...and you.
July 29, 1996, provided just that sort of confluence. I was in Proviso Yard of the Union Pacific, formerly the Chicago & Northwestern, working as a messenger/crew hauler. Early morning at Proviso is slow, like the calm before a storm. And that's exactly what this was. Off to the east, a lake effect storm was gathering strength. As the sun rose, the sky seemed to catch fire. I was at County Line at the west end of the yard. As the sky became more vivid, I got a good shot of its violent, fiery countenance.
Then I had to find a train. In a huge railroad yard, that would seem easy. But it wasn't. The Wisconsin Pocket had a few engines in it, but they were faced the wrong way. I couldn't make it work. The Global II switch engines, a GP7 and an SD45, were at rest, but there was too much junk in the way, plus a couple of awful floodlights. Now short on time, I had to think fast. Get to the east end of the hump yard! Maybe there's a cut pulling out! Drive way too fast over the rough gravel access road! Kick up too much dust! Arrive at the east end of the hump, and there's.....nothing. Think faster! The Harbor! Maybe the Harbor Belt will have something.
Race to the far east end of the yard. The IHB is on a fill, and it crosses the C&NW on a bridge. Maybe something will be on it. Zoom under the Mannheim Road bridge! Off in the distance, I see a train on the IHB. Eureka! The power will be gone, but if we get there in time, at least it will be something. Hope the train is long. Nervously check the camera while careening down the bumpy fire road. Avoid hitting a small pile of ties. Miss a bucket of spikes. Skid on loose ballast. Almost wipe out. Train is still going over. It's slowing down! It's almost stopped! It's B&O 89! It's coming down Harbor Hill! It has to slow way down to let the brakeman line the switches into the yard. Spin to the left, cross the two mains that lead to the city. Lucky there's no train here. Bounce across the lead to Yard 4, no train here, either! Lucky again! Roar through the B&B yard that used to be Yard 3! The power is just starting to slowly cross the bridge over Salt Creek. Screech to a halt! Great stuff! We will get the power after all! Pile out of the van. We made it, with 2 seconds to spare. Meter off the sky, as it's still the sky that will make this shot. The train is only a pawn in this game. Train is almost in the perfect spot. You'll only get one chance! Squeeze the shutter. OOPS! Forgot to advance the film! Quick, advance, aim, and shoot again! Perfect!...I hope.
I shoot film. So I had to wait. This is what I waited for. - Sam Carlson
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