Phantoms In The Night   by  Dave Hyman
Fostoria Ohio has been described as the busiest interchange east of the Mississippi with over 100 trains per day, but today that was not the case.  F Tower is usually buzzing 24 hours a day with constant radio chatter with trains coming and going in every direction. With tracks winding through the city streets and crossing gates constantly raising and lowering, driving through Fostoria is a driver’s nightmare. You should expect to see a train at every intersection anywhere in town, at any time, day or night.

The air is quiet and still tonight, the silence broken by the occasional sound of police car sirens in the distance, or, the distant rumble of traffic on the freeway. The crickets seem awfully busy tonight, making more noise than everything else put together. Tonight is a particularly hot and humid summer night, everything you touch seems to be sticky, condensation drips from every surface, sweat drips from your brow. Even the breeze is hot and humid, with no respite from the hot summer night. The moon is full, often obscured by passing thinly veiled clouds, illuminating the shadows and then passing back into dark black voids in the landscape.

Tonight I drove 150 miles in 2.5 hours to capture the action at Fostoria expecting to see and photograph many trains. Being somewhat familiar with the setup there I planned my main shot for the night.  Of the many photo opportunities at Fostoria I chose to set up at North Findlay St next to the mill. Here the Norfolk Southern mainline swings under the mill walkway high above and heads up towards the now abandoned station. My tripod set up and camera controls set, I waited patiently for my first train. The signal blocks were all red as far as the eye could see with no trains in sight, no horns blasting the night air …. at least on the NS tracks. CSX was sending their trains through on their mainlines a hundred yards away and going behind the mill, just enough to catch a glimpse of, and then vanishing into the night. Several times a police cruiser passed by on his nightly routine of street patrol. After several passes he finally pulled over and started a conversation. He seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing there and this was not a problem encounter. While he was talking to me CSX sent another train through on the other side of the mill and he said “it looks like you are at the wrong tracks! ”. I said “yes, but the shot I want is over here”.  We both had a laugh at that one, and he went on his way.

30 minutes later we got a high green ………. OK, here we go! This is what I had been waiting so patiently for, for half the night. A last minute check on camera settings, a couple blank shots and I’m ready. Finally … in the far distance I heard the horns blowing as the train entered Fostoria on the east side. The NS tracks run pretty straight though town with just one curve above the station so spotting the train is a simple job. A few seconds later the all familiar glow on the railheads told me that the train was now approaching at track speed.

With all kinds of apprehensive thoughts going on inside my head this is “do or die time”. I’m either going to nail this shot or screw it up. It’s that simple. Turning my back on the approaching train I hit the cable release and opened the shutter before the gates came down ………..

With a deafening roar, horns blasting for the crossing, my 10,000 foot train came towards me with throttles wide open.  The sounds and the noise was amplified even more by the mill and buildings on the other side of the tracks, bouncing back and forth creating a echo effect to enhance the experience. As the last car passed me I closed the shutter.

Mission accomplished ……….

Once again the night was still and quiet ……….. the Phantoms had come and gone.

Dave Hyman.
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