Luling, Texas, leaving for Flatonia
Big Boy No. 4014 touring the Union Pacific system throughout 2019 to commemorate the transcontinental railroad’s 150th anniversary.
See more at: Union Pacific Steam
With this work I wanted to:
- Capture the massive 1.2 million lbs of beautiful, mobile machinery that comprise this, the largest steam locomotive ever made
- Honor the journey across the United States in this 150 anniversary tour
- Pay Tribute to the event and the joy it is bring people along the way – Thanks Union Pacific
- Continue my tribute to the Steam Powered Era, which was way too short
Catalyst: I had several train fans recently request I catch this restored historic locomotive as it made it’s way across Texas this Fall as part of the 150 year anniversary tour. Researching I realized this shoot would be a little more ‘touristy’ than I am normally comfortable with. Well, I could bring my grandson JC and that would make it ‘Okay’. And while this was not back-packing to an obscure location to capture a scene that no one else has, it is very ‘Americana’, the train and the whole event, so we’ll go with that angle. JC wasn’t able to go so I had to capture it ‘for him’.
My Plan: Ha! – the ‘plan’.. Get familiar with the train and dynamics in Luling, try to catch a couple crossings on next leg, and get something grande in the smaller town Flatonia. I had been on the Union Pacific Steam Club Facebook page, google maps, scoping vantage points considering the sun at that time of day, hourly weather, etc. On the way down I did the preparedness thing and stopped to gas up (& empty my bladder), so I could drive from Luling to Flatonia to get back ahead of the train without worrying about that. Well, I had forgotten my wallet, found $3.50 in a ripped $1 bill and some change – so there went stop 2 🙁 ah they have a viewing Pavilion – and that says too organized anyway 😉 I’m gonna gonna have to get my shot in Luling. 😉
Touristy – Yeh, that was an understatement, upon arrival I saw people parking a ways away from the stop, so I figured I’d better just pull into the lot and walk a ways. Seemed there were thousands of people out on this Wednesday midday in this small town: school kids, families, business people, train enthusiast, and a quite a few there to ‘capture the moment’..
The Stop: Right off saw my show artist friend Steve Riley down from Dallas. They were following to Eagle Lake. We caught up while waiting for the train (which was about 30 minutes late). Even though he and I were first in from the front when the train stopped, there was no setting up and getting a tripod shot. I heard lot’s of ‘photographers’ complaining people were in the way. Really? What did you expect? – this ‘event’ is for Rail-fans of all ages and people are there enjoying the moment in what many were calling a ‘historic event’. Not the shot I was after anyway, so a few snaps and I’m down the road to capture the departure.
Staking My Space: Walking towards the outskirts of town, saw my neighbor RJ setting up a GoPro on the side of the tracks. Setting up on the ‘dark side’ I asked. ‘Oh yeh I guess it might be better on the other [South] side’ he replied. Don’t get my wrong, despite being a hobbyist with a full-time job, I suspect he has as much or more photography knowledge than I do. 😉 We kept moving down the tracks, but there were people everywhere and he said the trestle up the road had several people shooting so I guess there were going to be ‘others’ the whole way. So I left RJ and headed up a little more, just short of a curve to avoid massive power-lines above it.
Ready: Found my spot, got down low to one knee.. – Okay so I was sitting on my butt, hey, I was waiting and I had on jeans so I can swivel fine. Switch to my zoom lens to be safe and watch. Finally, she – or I guess ‘he’ (named Big ‘Boy’ after all), started moving. A little light on the steam which I thought good, time “it’s” here could be steaming good. Well not so much, but I am a pretty good digital artist, so no worries.
The Shot: I know the shot(s) I want but begin to snap early just in case, 3 or 4 frames then here it comes – what I visualized. But I’m too tight so I grab the lens and crank hard (a wee bit damaged it is) to get past that threshold to 24mm. I get it framed (yes we’re talking about less than a second for all this, cause it’s ‘moving’ pretty good now. Bam, I got it and a couple extra, with the side steam going by.
Fly in the Gravy: I swivel to get the nice shot I set up of the locomotive and cars rounding the bend and ‘son of a..’ get this Norman Rockwell of saggy-ass britches from behind standing there in pure bliss watching the scene. I chuckle, get up and and shuffle to get the train rounding the bend with more people gathered around. I got my shot – I’m good 😉
We’re Done Here: I walk back to check on RJ picking up his collection of smashed pennies & nickels (he didn’t want to risk loosing a quarter). Said his GoPro got ‘steamed’ inside. He was gonna walk around the town and check it out.
When I got back to the truck, searched again for some more stray money, but I was ready to get back and start working on this anyway 😉 Turns out I could’ve made it the extra 60 some miles detouring around to Flatonia, but another day. This part of my job was done, and did witness a little History… – and a whole lot of happy people 🙂
Oh, BTW, here is the original source photo…