This was the final day of my train chase. I had a fantastic time on Day 1 in Quebec; I made the most of a rainy situation on Day 2 in Albany. Now comes the hard one. A Day 3 chase from Saratoga Springs to as far north as I could comfortably travel.
With surprises all around.
My original plan was to shoot Day 3 with film; but I ended up mixing my film shots with digital acquisitions, so once the film shots are developed, you’ll see them here.
Okay. Strap into the car, six cameras riding shotgun, let’s do this.
STOP 1 – Wilton
Three years ago, I planned a shot on Scout Road in Wilton, but never acted on it. Thought I would get that shot in 2020. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and the train went on a virtual run for TWO YEARS. So now’s my chance.
There’s an overpass on Scout Road in Wilton, and next to the overpass is what appears to be a nature preserve – with some parking spots. After politely confirming with one of the nature preserve workers that I could park there and shoot near the tracks (and by “near,” I mean at a safe and legal distance from the tracks themselves), I set up my gear.
I’ve tailored up my Nikon Df stereo shooting gear for the event.
Checked the time. 11:05 a.m. The train has to arrive at Fort Edward for a concert by 1:00 p.m., and it has to pass this route.
11:30. Nothing yet.
11:45. Nothing yet.
12:05. Nothing yet.
Then I hear something. Train whistle. The squeal of wheels on rail. But it’s coming from behind me.
Wait … did I mis-judge this and I’m shooting the train going in the wrong direction?
Okay. If nothing else, just get the shot and don’t worry about it, Miller.
And sure enough … I did get the shot.
But it’s a shot of this.
That’s not the Holiday Train. That’s a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight train with about 50 boxcars and fuel tankers on its way TO Saratoga Springs. Which means this train has to get to Saratoga BEFORE the Holiday Train can come up.
Okay. Let’s wait some more.
12:30 pm. Nothing.
12:45 pm. Nothing.
1:00 p.m. The train should be in Fort Edward by now.
And at about 1:10 p.m. … look what flew by. And by “flew by,” I mean this thing thought it was an Amtrak Acela in terms of speed.
But I was in the right spot … and I got the shot.
Damn. This Nikon Df setup looks incredible.
Okay. Grab the gear and head to Fort Edward.
STOP 2 – Fort Edward
By not stopping at Fort Edward first, I had to park three blocks away from the show. With that in mind, I brought the Pentacon Six with me and captured some performance shots – mostly of Lindsay Ell and Jojo Mason on stage. I had my fun, that’s all that mattered. And once those shots are developed, I’ll post them here.
But now I had to get to Ticonderoga and Montcalm’s Landing. That would be the spot where the Holiday Train stays until Amtrak 68 passes through. So let’s go.
STOP 3 – Montcalm’s Landing, Ticonderoga
Montcalm’s Landing is a spot where the Holiday Train has to stop. Because passenger rail has priority over freight rail, it has to wait until Amtrak 68 comes down from Ticonderoga on its journey south.
Which should allow me some film shots.
I pulled up next to what appeared to be another train photographer. “I hope I’m not blocking you if I set up here,” I said.
“No, you’re fine,” he replied.
I pulled my Kodak Medalist II (“Kodak Red”) out of the car. “As long as the train stops for a few minutes, I’ll be able to get my shots of it, nice and crisp.”
“It’s not stopping,” he said to me.
“It has to stop. Amtrak 68 leaves the Ticonderoga station at 3:18 p.m.”
“Amtrak 68 doesn’t exist any more. Amtrak stopped the service after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This is what happens when you use 2019 information for a 2022 train chase. Oopsie.
No matter. I put Kodak Red back in the car and brought out the Nikon Df stereo setup again.
We talked for a few minutes. The other photographer’s name was Colton, and he enjoys photographing trains. He even sells some of his photos to a train magazine. Good on him.
And just as CP 2246 jingle-belled its way up the track …
I caught this image. Woo hoo.
Since the train wasn’t stopping at this point, I had to get to the next location – the crossing at Crown Point – before the train arrived there.
“Can I follow you?” Colton asked me.
“Sure,” I said. And we drove off.
STOP 4 – Crown Point
Three years ago, I had this spot all to myself. An unobtrusive locale near an auto body repair facility. You might remember; I got this video as a reward.
This time, however … I arrived to see a dozen different photographers at that same location.
I quickly set up my gear. The plan was to use my Krasnogorsk FT-2 super-ultra-wide camera “Raskolnikov” for an ultrawide film shot.
I looked around.
“Move your ass, you’re blocking my shot.”
Okay … I can do that. Everybody gets their turn.
I relocated my tripod and hoped for a good angle.
“Hey, douchebag.” Another photographer. “Who told you about this spot? Nobody’s supposed to know about this location.”
“I just did some research a few years ago and found the location. How did you find it?” I asked.
“I found it online. Some douchebag wrote a blog about it a few years ago.”
I bit my lip. A clear case of Instagram pollution.
Instagram pollution, for those not in the know, happens when someone gets a fantastic shot – a field of sunflowers, for example – and instantly, because the photo is geotagged, that location gets overrun with Instagram photographers who want the same image.
The train arrived. I only had one chance to get the ultra-wide shot. And hopefully, I did.
Next stop – let’s go to the concert in Port Henry.
STOP 5 – Port Henry
And this is where karma favors the kind and fucks up the chisel-brains.
To get to the Port Henry station from Crown Point, one takes Route 9N. Route 9N has one lane in each direction. This is important. Because as I arrived in Port Henry …
There was an accident. One car rammed into another. And a couple of the photographers from the Crown Point photo shoot – who previously treated me like some sort of interloper who DARED invade THEIR precious shooting locale – were climbing out of their wrecked cars, screaming at each other and blaming each other for their mishap.
In other words – these foamers were so busy chasing the train, they didn’t pay attention to their driving. Sucks to be them, I guess.
I immediately swerved around the traffic accident, and as I drove a few feet further …
Holy crap, there’s the Holiday Train. It’s parked. It’s PARKED in the best photo spot imaginable.
Okay, Miller. Find a safe parking spot. Do NOT cause a second traffic accident.
Pulled out the Nikon Df series and began shooting again.
Oh my God. This is incredible.
I looked around. Instead of angry foamers photographing the train … I saw families photographing the train. Families who took pictures from a safe and clear distance, who respected everybody’s personal space and who had a ton of fun doing so.
And Colton – the photographer who I met over at Montcalm’s Landing – also made it past the car accident. We talked some more, and I could tell that he enjoyed photographing the trains and chronicling their journeys. This is fun.
I offered to take some selfies for people, capturing their smiles and joy with the Holiday Train in the background.
Then someone returned the favor.
Yeah. That’s a smile. And a thumb’s up that hearkens back to the Fonz.
A 2 1/2 hour drive home, and this year’s Train Chase 2022 is complete.
I had some successes – that bridge shot in Quebec, and some of the other shots from today’s sprint – and some “we’ll try this again next year” – the Albany rain shot, and the Saratoga Springs one that I abandoned due to poor weather.
I waited three years for the Holiday Train to come back.
And I gotta tell you.
It was so worth the wait.