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Abandoned Trains

Route 32 in Watervliet, NY (about 12 miles from Albany) passes over the mainline of the Delaware & Hudson Railway, much like the other highway overpasses in the area. The casual observer may miss the Lomographer's treasure trove which lies beneath the bridge, along side the tracks.

Route 32 in Watervliet, NY (about 12 miles from Albany) passes over the mainline of the Delaware & Hudson Railway, much like the other highway overpasses in the area. The casual observer may miss the Lomographer’s treasure trove which lies beneath the bridge, along side the tracks.

On an unused siding parallel to the mainline tracks stands a hodge-podge line up of abandoned, discarded and decaying railroad equipment: locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and the one-time hallmark of the American railroad, the caboose. Relegated to rust and decay on an unused track, forgotten and abandoned, this collection of rusting hulks is a sad testament to the once great American rail transportation system.

The area is easily accessed by parking along the road that parallels the D&H mainline, and walking across the tracks, of course, after making sure there aren’t any trains coming. Although there are numerous “No Trespassing” signs in the area, I have never run across the D&H railroad police nor anyone else for that matter. But there are sings of other people having visited here, as many of the trains have graffiti, and there are plenty of broken windows on the passenger cars. My girlfriend once even found a box full of great books under one of the cars.

The highlight (for me anyway) of this collection of rusting trains are the two locomotives nearest the highway overpass, and the old passenger car that is coupled to one of them. The one locomotive is an old Alco S-2 diesel switcher, and is probably about 60 years old. I used to operate a similar locomotive during my days volunteering on a small tourist train line, so it is of particular interest to me. There other locomotive is an Alco FA-2, probably about 50 years old. It was formerly used by the Long Island Railroad, but by that time they had converted it to a “cab control car” and it really wasn’t a loco anymore. The passenger car is an old New York Central Pullman sleeping car, and is by my guess about 50 years old. The New York Central was the railroad my grandfather worked for, and has always been my favourite American rail line.

Just about all of the locomotive and freight cars have been broken into and have the doors wide open, but the only one I have actually climbed into is the Alco S-2 switcher. The cab door is wide open, so I’ve climbed up the cab steps, after having my hands torn by the thorns growing all over them, and hopped up on the back deck. The cab seats are still in place, as is the shell of the engineer’s control stand, but that’s it. All other controls and wiring have been removed. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the cab and snap pictures of trains passing on the D&H mainline. There is something sadly poetic about taking a picture of an active rail line from the cab of a rusting old locomotive that, if it were alive, would surely yearn to be running on that mainline track again.

When I feel like going to shoot photos at this location, I generally get there either before noon, to get sunlight on the west side of the tracks, or after 4PM, to get sunlight on the east side. I also try to get there during good weather, as the area is very dirty and full of tall weeds, so if it’s raining I’d be trudging through tons of mud, and risking slipping on alot of the junk on the ground or slipping on a wet rail that is buried in weeds. Safety first!

Shooting pictures of abandoned railroad equipment, to me at least, is a fun alternative to shooting pictures of abandoned buildings. There is something unique about railroad photography, perhaps the element of motion that trains represent. Buildings never move, and even though these trains will most likely never turn another wheel, you can just FEEL the motion that they once had. Sadly, they have not had such motion for many, many years, and it is doubtful they will ever do so again. In a way that is good for me, as it’s much easier to photograph a train when it is sitting still. And man, do these trains sit still.

written by trabantdeluxe

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