Subscribe to get access
Read more of this content when you subscribe today.
If you have kids (or grandkids), chances are that at least one of them loves trains. I mean, most kids do, right? All of my kids liked trains when they were little, and so far only my oldest daughter has outgrown them. If you have a little ferroequinologist in your midst, chances are at some point you’ll end up at a model train show. Can this be an opportunity for the creative photographer? Do picture opportunities exist at the exhibit?
This might initially seem like a silly endeavor for a Creative Collective article. Toys, really? Are we actually going to do photography at a model train show? What could possibly be learned from this exercise? I think there are several great lessons to be experienced, and we’ll discuss each. Now let’s take our Fujifilm X camera—with a macro lens attached—to a local train show. Let’s go!
Read more of this content when you subscribe today.
See also: The Creative Collective Corner!
After leaving Richardson Draw, we followed the line of cars to Evanston, Wyoming, to watch the big steam locomotives chug into town. This is where the Union Pacific “Big Boy” #4014 and U.P. #844 were going to park for the rest of the day. I had a couple of ideas where a good spot to watch and photograph the action might be, but ended up going with the crowd to the Walmart parking lot, which turned out to be a decent enough location. There was a large group already gathered when we arrived.
It didn’t take long for the steam train to appear and gradually crawl closer. It was moving much slower this time. The train soon came to a stop and the crew climbed down out of the locomotive cab. There were conversations among the railroad employees. Some of them began to move some large rocks out of a rock pile that was next to the tracks near the front of the Big Boy. Apparently, because the #4014 is so large and swings so wide on curves, they didn’t think it would clear the rocks. We watched a little while, then headed for some breakfast, as it was now late-morning and we had not eaten.
After breakfast, we found the train parked just a little ways down from the rock pile. This is where the railroad would park it overnight. A group of spectators were gathered around the train snapping pictures and taking in the sight. My kids enjoyed seeing the steam locomotives up close. They could feel the heat and see steam escaping from different places on the engines. There were members of the steam crew busily working, doing all sorts of different jobs. I imagine that it takes much effort to maintain a large steam engine. There’s a lot more to do than just park it and extinguish the fire. I was fascinated by this aspect of the operation and focused my photographic attention towards that. My favorite pictures are those of the crew doing their different jobs. I would love to spend more time and energy capturing those types of images. Soon it was time to drive home, and our Big Boy adventure came to a close.
I used a Fujifilm X-T20 (my wife’s, actually) with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens and a Fujifilm X-T30 with a Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens to capture these pictures. It was a good call to avoid changing lenses as there was a lot of dust, especially at Richardson Draw. I’m pretty happy with the photographs that I captured. I felt like I did the best that I could with what I had. If there was more time available to me, perhaps I could have found the train in better light and in a more interesting location. Still, I think I managed to create at least a few interesting pictures that are different from those captured by others. I feel like my images tell a story. That was the point: to have a story to tell about this historic event. Not only do I have that story in pictures, but my kids have it in their minds, and they will carry it with them for many years to come.
Steam Crew (Color)
Steam Crew (B&W)
Evanston Steam (Color)
Evanston Steam (B&W)
The sun had not yet risen when we left the house in the early morning hours of May 6, 2019. My family and I were on our way to witness a bit of history: the newly restored Union Pacific “Big Boy” steam locomotive #4014 on its way from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Ogden, Utah, for the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. This was a big deal because the restoration of the Big Boy, which was the largest steam locomotive ever built, had just finished a couple of days before. The locomotive had not run in 60 years! Up until five years ago it sat in a museum for decades in Los Angeles. Now it was finally operational and, along with the steam-powered Union Pacific #844, on the move westward. It had departed well before sunrise, and if we were going to witness the massive locomotive in action, we too had to depart before sunrise.
This was not going to be our first time witnessing the #4014 or the #844. My son, Jon, and I saw the Big Boy in Barstow, California, when they were moving it east for restoration. My whole family, minus the youngest who was not born yet, saw the #844 in Ogden when it was brought out for an excursion a couple of years ago. This was going to be our first time to witness both of these locomotives together, and also our first time to observe the #4014 under its own steam power. We were pretty excited for this adventure!
I did some research prior to the trip and had a good plan regarding where to catch the train in rural Wyoming. I noticed a place east of Evanston right off of I-80 where the tracks cross under the freeway, and a dirt road follows the rails for a little while. I figured this to be our best bet to set up and wait. This location, which is in the middle of nowhere, is called Richardson Draw. Despite its rural location, Richardson Draw had already drawn a large crowd when we arrived. In addition to all the cars, trucks and RVs, we spotted two buses. I picked what I felt would be the best spot at Richardson Draw to capture pictures and we waited for the train to arrive.
When attempting to capture a well-photographed subject, the struggle is to make something that’s different from all of the other thousands of pictures of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, place, thing or idea, if it has been heavily photographed, capturing something unique is a difficult task, yet that is exactly the task at hand. For this location, I decided find something interesting in the scene to set my pictures apart from all the other similar images. I noticed a small pond that had a tiny amount of water in it, which would reflect the train, and decided to use that element in my pictures. I also decided to begin documenting the large number of photographers and train enthusiasts who were there to see the steam locomotives.
Train watching requires patience. We waited and waited. A freight train passed by. We waited and waited more. The crowd continued to grow larger and larger. A couple of nearby people were listening to radio scanners and informed us that the train had been delayed. Finally, more than an hour after I expected it to arrive, the #4014 and #844 came quickly chugged along. First I saw the smoke in the distance. Pretty soon the Big Boy locomotive appeared. Click, click, click. I captured a bunch of frames, and, just as quickly as the commotion of the train came, it went. We waited awhile for what was a very short event. As soon as the train disappeared, we jumped into the car and began heading to the next location, along with a large group of other vehicles. The kids were particularly excited that they had just seen two big steam locomotives in action, and they hoped for a chance to see them again.
Richardson Draw Steam (Color):
Richardson Draw Steam (B&W):
Richardson Draw Freight (Color)
Richardson Draw Freight (B&W)
Richardson Draw Onlookers (Color)
Richardson Draw Onlookers (B&W)