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About Joe the Photog

August 11th, 2016

About Joe the Photog

Did you know that http://joethephotog.com/ is the official online destination for for all things Joe the Photog? I searched for weeks looking for a good online printer to handle the framing and printing of my sales and found it in 2012 with Fine Art America. They offer a money back guarantee but -- knock on wood -- no one who has purchased a print from me has returned it.

Aside from traditional prints matted and framed, they also print on metal and canvas. I've ordered both to see how they look and like both mediums. But the metal prints look absolutely stunning. Ironically, metal prints are also a little less expensive.

It's been exciting to be able to shoot what I want and then post the best shots on a print on demand site and have people buy them! When I sell a railroad print, I want to dance the jig!

Besides the railroad stuff, I have scenes from my hometown, Lancaster, South Carolina, skyline scenes from Columbia, sunset shots and waterfall photographs, more than 1200 photos in all and always increasing.

But my favorite are the railroad shots!

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What I Have Learned Lately

August 4th, 2016

What I Have Learned Lately

Some recently asked me what if anything I had learned in the 18 or so months since I have been going through my medical issues. This is actually something I have thought about over the last year or so and I have wanted to put it into words, but I kept putting it off. It has challenged some of my long held beliefs about myself and the world. And for that I am grateful.

I remembering being in the hospital after my first surgery when they took the two toes off my right foot. The recovering time was going to be at least two months, most of that with a wound vac hooked up to my foot with me out of work. I was real scared because money was already mostly non-existent. I saw myself losing my car which would be bad since I was planning to move to Lancaster as soon as I could to be closer to my kids.

So I created a GoFundMe page and shared the link on my Facebook. I didn't know what to expect. But within an hour, I had my first donation. I was a little surprised. I felt a little bad, too. I felt like I was asking for handouts. I've never liked to ask for help. I prefer to find a way to do things myself. But I knew that wasn't happening this time.

Friends who couldn't help financially reshared the page. One former colleague in TV news shared it on Facebook. Not long after, one of his fans wrote me and I said, “I don't know you, but if he vouches for you, yu must be OK.” And she made a donation. Other folks I hadn't heard from in years chipped in. I was able to keep my car, pay for some prescriptions and finally see my kids when I was able to drive because of this.

I've always been cynical by my nature. I often have a biting sense of humor and at times my world view is dark. But what I have realized is that people are actually generally very nice. They want to see you do well. They worry about you when you're not. I made a post once and a friend saw it, noticed it was a little darker than usual and changed his plans for that day to come see if I was OK. I wasn't, but his visit helped tremendously. Another friend who is going through her own health issues knew of people in Columbia. Since she could not get down herself, she asked one of them to come see me. He and I turned into fast friends and I looked forward to his weekly visits.

It's been really eye opening. We are so quick to think things are much worse than they really are. Maybe we watch too much news. Maybe we follow too many folks on Facebook who share this view. But I don't believe tis is how people really are. I think the vast majority of folks are great people. I hope I remember tis feeling. I hope in time I can start helping people, too. I hope I can pay it forward. I owe it to the folks who have helped me.

Tracking A Train

August 1st, 2016

Tracking A Train

We railfans live in interesting times. With the internet, it is so easy to know when a train is coming to your area that you may want to shoot. Here in the Carolinas, we routinely get reports from all over the east coast about trains that have not even left their home yard yet but already have special engines leading. Consider this train from last year.

We heard there was an Augusta, Georgia-bound ethanol train with Kansas City Southern power leading about to leave Indiana. My first question was what paint scheme was leading. Most railfans prefer the red Southern Belles, but I'm still partial to the old gray engines. I'd be willing to drive out of my way for a grey engines, but might not worry too much about catching a Belle. Since it was a grey KCS locomotive, I decided to try to catch it. For days I kept track of it via various reports on Facebook.

It began timing out that it would pass through Columbia either late on a Saturday or early on a Sunday. I thought of where I'd want to shoot it. I like the photo ops on the line south of Chester in South Carolina. A lot of interesting curves and open scenery. But there are also great shots south of Columbia. For example, the street running in Augusta is very cool. So I kepy my options open and waited.

When I went to bed on Saturday night, it looked like the train might pass through overnight. I decided if it did, I'd have to catch the next one. So when I woke up the next morning and looked for updates, I was very happy to learn it still had not passed through town yet. It was close though so instead of driving north or south, I left my house and drove about three miles to a location I had wanted to shoot a train for years. The weather was a little grey, but that worked in my favor. Otherwise, the sun angles would have been all wrong.

So I got my shot

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After days of planning, it turned out all I had to do was drive five minutes from my huose and take a shot.

Where Have I Been Lately Part II

June 10th, 2016

Where Have I Been Lately Part II

A year ago, I wrote a blog entry trying to answer the question -- Where Have I Been Lately? Well, here is part two of that. The original blog is listed a few entries down. After my big toe and second toe were amputated off my right foot last year, I thought and hoped things were getting back to normal. But normal for me has never been too normal anyway and it ended up a lot of things would keep changing in the year since.

In late October, I was recovering from a second amputation. They had gone back and performed a transmet surgery on my right foot which meant they took the rest of my toes and part of the foot itself. I still wasn't feeling right but money was very tight and I was preparing to go back to work with an insert in my shoe. I was walking pretty good, but when I went back to work, I had been moved off of one post where there was not much walking at all to another post where there would be a lot more walking.

I'll cut with the melodramatics.

I was on the job for less than a week before the cold chills, stomach aches and other symptoms returned. I went to the ER on October 31st knowing full well I would be admitted again. And I was right. I was told they needed to perform a below the knee amputation on my right leg and also an amputation of the big toe on the right foot. At this point, I was like, sure, go ahead. The right leg was taken on November 1 and the left big toe the day after. I was put in a room on the 11th Floor at Palmetto Health Richland where I would stay for six months.

Yes, six months.

The main problem was that the blood infection was back and would not go away. They were worried it was in my bones in my left foot and knew it was attacking my heart valves. I was put on an IV drop of antibiotics during which the second toe on my left foot became infected and was amputated. I was given more antibiotics and when it looked like the infection was gone, my third toe on my left foot became infected and consideration was given to taking it too.

I was actually toying with the idea and saying just take the whole foot and let me heal, but my doctors thought they could save the rest of the toes and foot. And, so far, they were proven right. I got released from the hospital on May 2nd.

And on May 9th, I caught my first moving train since October. It was on my hometown railroad, in good light, passing an area landmark. I was excited.

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I've been battling insurance issues since then and trying to get settled into my new place. I don't know if the future holds more surgeries and less limbs, but I'm trying to enjoy what I have in the meantime.

If I Had It To Do Over Again...

August 12th, 2015

I was just glancing at this shot on my FAA page --

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and some seven years after I shot it, it dawned on me that I missed a chance to mess with your head a little. I could have crouched down closer to the ground to get the railroad tracks out of frame. I believe if I were closer to ground level, the pavement would cover the tracks right up and create the impression that the train was literally driving down the center of the road.

This is in Augusta, Georgia, one of a handful of spots left in America where freight trains and car traffic coexist on roads. I understand the locals loathe the set-up and there have been pleas to move the tracks, but so far, nothing has come of it. Railfans love this stretch of 6th Street for the very reason that locals hate it -- the trains. I've shot here a few times --

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And it's always a question of how to shoot the scene. The very nature of street running tends to make straight on shots the easiest to take. They can tell a lot, too. It creates a nice story with cars parked on the side of the streets and, well, that "No Left Turn" sign in the one with the Union Pacific power is classic. But today, for some reason, as I glanced at the first shot in the blog, I realized I missed a chance to do something just a little out of the norm. I remember my thinking in that shot. Shoot the intersection. I sometimes call 6th and Broad my favorite intersection around because of the railroad tracks through it.

So I remember wanting the traffic lights in the shot and then to get the building in the background in the shot as well. In post, I have to rotate the shot a fair degree. I have a tendency to do that when I shoot handheld; I'm not sure why. But leveling the shot as much as I did caused some of the road sign to have to be cropped off. So even while it is one of my favorite shots, when I look at it, I still see the flaws in it. And now, eight years later, I see what I could have done different in it too.

Such is the mind of a photographer, I suppose.

Another Photographer Killed On Railroad Tracks

August 7th, 2015

I took the liberty of adding to a news story about the latest photographer killed on railroad tracks and writing it more like it could be written to really illustrate the nature of what the guy was doing. Part of this is real, part of it is not. I hope you like it.
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FRESNO, Calif. (KFN) -- Friends are remembering a young photographer who was hit and killed by a train in Downtown Fresno as someone who lived life to the fullest, was a risk taker and didn't completely think things through.

“Yeah, he was kinda a hot head and a bonehead all wrapped up into one,” said a friend who did not wish to be identified. “I used to tell him not to be on railroad tracks and he’d just laugh it off and say, ‘What’s the worse that could happen?’”

Police say 25-year-old, Christopher O'Guinn was shooting photographs of a model on the railroad tracks and didn't know the train was coming until it was too late.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” Chief of Police Ray Munnerlyn said. “But it appears he kept taking pictures right up to the minute the train made impact with him and scattered his limp body along the tracks.”

A broken lens is still scattered across the rocks below the Stanislaus overpass in Downtown Fresno. This is where Christopher O'Guinn made a really bad decision and lost his life and where he hit the shutter on his camera for the last time because he was trespassing on private property.

His friend, Kayla Aguayo said, "He was truly an amazing person and photographer. Perhaps in hindsight, he wasn't the brightest guy on Earth for being on the railroad tracks, but indeed a really remarkable person.”

On Thursday, O'Guinn was shooting pictures of a model on active railroad tracks. A train was in the background of one shot, moving south, while another was headed north, directly in the path of O'Guinn, who for some ungodly reason had decided active railroad tracks was a great place to stage a photo shoot.

Lieutenant Joe Garcia said, "That engineer told the one going northbound, 'hey, look at that shit! There are some really dumb a** mutha f**kers on the tracks.' He started throttling down, actually."

Lieutenant Garcia says the northbound train also blew it’s whistle but O'Guinn was apparently so enthralled in what he was doing that didn't hear the train behind him until it was too late. He tried to jump out of the way but it clipped him and killed him instantly.

"It's definitely a hard time right now," Aguayo said, "I think it's a hard time for all of us who knew Chris because we all really loved him, in spite of him being a big dumb jackass.”

Aguayo says O'Guinn was drawn to the tracks. He was 25, still new to Fresno and his photography was just starting to take off.

"Really, just started putting his name on the map here in the valley," said Phil Perez, a photographer who also knew O'Guinn. “He poured his heart and soul into his work. Now, I guess, his blood really is on the tracks.”

Still, O'Guinn left behind memories, pictures of people he knew, his friends and the places he loved.

"Chris is a talented individual," Perez added, "he created beautiful images for everybody to see. But, of course, he won’t be creating anymore unless he’s got a camera in the Afterlife.”

O'Guinn's life was cut short but the images he captured will live forever. Left unspoken are the people whose life he touched in death. “The train crew on both trains, but especially the one that hit him, will have to live with this forever,” Chief Munnerlyn said. “So while his friends will mourn him, this crew will forever see him trying to run off the tracks knowing they were about to him him and knowing there was nothing they could do about it.

“I hope those damn pictures were worth it.” Chief Munnerlyn said, shaking his head and walking away

Shooting the Charlotte Streetcar

August 4th, 2015

Shooting the Charlotte Streetcar

Recently I went up I-77 to Charlotte, North Carolina to get a few shots of the new streetcar line. The CityLYNX Gold Line is the first 1.5-mile segment of a 10-mile streetcar system. It travels from the Charlotte Transportation Center via Trade Street to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center with six stops that allow citizens to connect to CATS bus and LYNX Blue Line light rail services, small businesses, Central Piedmont Community College and Novant Hospital.

We parked near the end of the line and I immediately saw a shot I wanted to take as it rounded the curve off of Hawthorne Street

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We boarded the next car and went to the point where it connects with both the bus system and the light rail line at the Charlotte Transit Center. We got a few shots at street level, then went up to the platform with thelight rail and waited for the next car to come back

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The wires are all over the place, but it's a shot that was calling out to me to be taken. We went back down to street level and used a little cloud cover to get a shot with the city in the background. I want to go back on a clear day and get there earlier as this is a morning shot with good light.

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Then we took a train back down to the end of the line and set up for another shot with the hospital in the background. The sun came out just in time.

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That was going to be it for the photography that day, but as we walked back to the car, we saw that the streetcar that had just passed was lining up for another shot. I decided to get a detail shot of it this time.

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All in all, not a bad outing for an hour or so on the new streetcar line in Charlotte. I imagine I will return again soon.

Photographers Killed While Shooting Trains

July 24th, 2015

Photographers Killed While Shooting Trains

Quick. Do the names Greg Plitts, Sarah Jones and Kathy Carlisle ring a bell with you? Greg Plitts might. He was a well known fitness instructor who made popular videos posted on YouTube as well as a former model and aspiring actor. But that’s not how I know his name. What about Jeff Ray? He was a guitarist and actor in a Las Vegas run of the popular Broadway show “Jersey Boys.” Chances are you have not heard of him either.

What these four folks, as well as others like them, have in common are that they died in ways that garnered a lot of national media exposure. They were hit and killed by trains while taking photographs or having photographs taken of them. Now it might seem a little stupefying to think that someone could be hit by a train. Afterall, trains are easy to avoid, but it happens more than you might expect.

Here are a few examples –

Greg Plitt: The 37 year old fitness guru was killed in June, 2015 while he and a film crew were shooting on tracks in Burbank, California. Witnesses say the engineer of the train was laying on the horn before impact. None of the crew were injured.

Jeffrey Ray: The 43 year old was struck and killed by an Amtrak train near Seattle. While posing for photos on the train tracks. He was a guitarist and cast member of the Off-Broadway show “Jersey Boys.” His girlfriend who was taking the photographs was unhurt

Sarah Jones: The young South Carolina native was a crew member for the biopic “Midnight Rider” who were filming scenes on a railroad bridge in Georgia. She was killed and others were injured when a train came and they could not get off the bridge in enough time. The director was found negligent in her death because the railroad company, CSX, had denied permits for the filming and told them not to be there.

Kathy Carlisle: The 52 year old high school photography teacher was struck in Sacramento, California. She was shooting an oncoming train and did not see the train coming from behind her on the tracks she was standing on.

Johnathan Eade was killed by an Amtrak train on a bridge in Missouri. Officials speculate he did not hear the approaching train due to traffic noise on the road below.

Fenjin He and Zuojun Lin: The Chinese-American photographers were killed when they got too close to the Norfolk Southern train they were shooting in Pennsylvania.

Then there was the high school girl’s volleyball team in Nebraska who chose one of the busiest rail lines around for their team photo. Luckily, this photo shoot did not end in tragedy. An employee with Union Pacific saw what was going on and called it in. Trains were stopped and officials were dispatched to the scene. Helping arrange the shoot with the coach of the team was the owner and editor of the local newspaper. Apparently this was not the first time they had done tis. The tracks in that area see fifty trains a day according to Union Pacific.

The interesting thing I found while doing admittedly non-scientific research was that more photographers are killed on railroad tracks than people posing on them. I say this because there is a big push on Facebook and other social media to get folks to stop doing portrait sessions on railroad tracks. And that’s a good campaign. But most of what I found on Google indicates that photographers there shooting trains are just as likely to be killed as are models in portrait sessions. Sometimes we as railfans think we know when trains will run or assume that we’ll hear them coming, but time and time, people with cameras in their hands prove these notions wrong.

According to Operation Lifesaver, a non profit organization dedicated to safety around railroads, there were 915 trespassing causalities in 2014. Of these, 501 were fatal. At some level, these numbers seem low. But then I looked up the total number of deaths from airline accidents and found that 451 people died in planes crashes. So more people get hit and killed by trains than die in plane crashes. (Source: NTSB)

Interestingly, National Safety Council (NSC) data indicates that train passenger deaths are extremely rare, even more than airline deaths. But you hear about them on the national news every time they happen and they stay etched in your mind for months after. Additionally, shark attack deaths are almost non-existent. There were three reported deaths worldwide in 2014. But the media plays up every time a shark attacks a tourist, which most times are not fatal at all.

But going back to trespassing deaths on the rails, I have to ask myself why. As said, trains are easy to avoid. Just stay off railroad tracks. But then railroad tracks are often a shortcut for folks on foot. They seem safe because you might see a train every few days or weeks depending on when you go out. Forgetting for a minute that all railroad tracks are private property and that just by being on them you are trespassing, there are also a few things about railroad tracks that need to be addressed –

 It can be hard to tell what tracks are used and what tracks are abandoned just by looking at them. Rust can develop within hours or days on tracks that see regular use while some smaller railroad companies may have lax maintenance of way policy allowing tracks to get overgrown with weeds in some cases.
 Against popular belief, trains are not always loud. When folks say this, I want to yell at them that people are getting hit by trains every day, so they must not all be that loud. In the above case of John Eade, investigators think the sound of the highway traffic near by drowned out the approaching train. But also remember that passenger trains such as Amtrak are by their very nature sleeker, faster and not as loud as freight trains.
 Trains also don’t run on schedules. Just because you see a train passing at a certain time one day doesn't mean it will pass at the same time the next. Even passenger trains can be late. A train can come at any time, day or night, or any track.l
 Even tracks that have not seen trains in many years can start seeing trains again. The Carolina Southern Railroad has not run in four years, but a new company has bought the track and expects to run trains again by the end of the year. Even when the Carolina Southern ran, you wouldn't have been able to tell by the condition of their track. In North Carolina, one section of rail was not used since the 70s or 80s but then opened back up for rail traffic within the last five years and sees regular trains now. These are just two examples near where I live. There are many other cases throughout America where rails have been used again after long being dormant.

When I worked in the media, I had to cover several railroad accidents. I remember one on the CSX in Lancaster when I worked for CN2 News. A man had been walking the tracks at night and was hit by a long freight train on the Atlanta to Hamlet, NC main line. My reporter and I covered it the next day and got there just as officials were wrapping up the scene. One showed us the point of impact and we saw there were still little bits of the man left behind. It was a sobering reminder of what can happen when a train hits a person.

So, really, I don’t need to trot out all these nifty statistics and worst case scenarios. All you have to do is use common sense. Don’t be on railroad tracks, ever.

Where Have I Been Lately?

June 11th, 2015

Where Have I Been Lately?

It's been a long, strange few months for me and I thought I'd at least make an attempt at explaining what has been going on. A few months ago, I hurt my toe. Full disclosure. I'm diabetic and one night I worked a 12 hour shift at work and rubbed a bad blister on my right big toe. I call it a blister, but blister doesn't really do it justice. I heard some doctors cll t a cyst. I've had one of these before and it took a while to heal, but I thought I knew how to treat it. Money is tight because I am going through a separation.

About a week or two after the injury, the engine in my car went so while it was getting worked on, I had to take the bus back and forth to work. I'm lucky to live in a town where there is bus service, but the nearest bus stop is 3/4s a mile from where I live, so for two weeks, I walked to and from the bus stop every day. Still, my toe was doing OK. Not getting any better, but not getting any worse. I treated it, wrapped it and did all the things I thought I should do it to it so that I would not miss work with the bill coming in for my car.

I got my car back, but my toe began worsening. In the span of just a few days, it went from what I though was manageable to something that looked really bad. What's more is that I was feeling sick. I had a fever, cold chills, nausea and just plain did not feel good. One Saturday, I had to cut short a visit to see my kids and come home and lay down. The next Sunday, it dawned on me that the sick feeling I had and the toe were related, so I finally went to the doctor. Looking back on it, I see now that I was really stupid not to see a doctor way sooner, but with the separation, the car and needing money, I was just focused on the weekly pay check coming in.

So that Sunday, I went to a nearby urgent care and since then, nothing has been right. They admitted me into the hospital immediately and told me that my toe was infected and that it mad moved to my foot. It doesn't make sense to me now, but one thing i was worried about was losing my foot. That may have played a role in me not going to the doctor sooner, although logically I realize that makes no sense at all. But now there was something else. The infection had actually got into my blood stream and I now had sepsis. So the worst case scenario for me, which had been losing my foot, was now losing my life.

Long story short. They saved my foot, treated the sepsis, but I did lose my big toe and my fourth toe on my right foot. All in all, I'm pretty lucky all things being equal. I was in the hospital for a week and have been on bed rest for almost six weeks at home. I was wearing a wound van until today. A wound vac for those that don't know -- and I had never heard of one until I had to wear one -- is attached to the wound by the dressing with a tube. The van, as my sister so aptly put it, sucks the evil out of my foot and goes into a canister on the van which has to be within five feet of the patient the whole time.

It's been a pain in the ass dealing with it and, as I said, they just decided today I don't need it anymore. The wounds are healing nicely now and the hope is that within a month I can go back to work. So, yeah, it was a bit silly of me to delay the obvious so that I wouldn't miss any work when it just kept me out of work longer in the end.

Call me a cautionary tale.

Since then, I've been keeping my diabetes in check. I haven't had a Coke in seven weeks. Cokes were my downfall. I couldn't just have one, Some people have issues with smoking; some with alcohol. Mine has always been junk food. A Coke and a candy bar a few times a day did me in. I was able to pretend it wasn't as bad for me as it was because I was not gaining weight. Some people said I looked too thin. But my blood sugar would rival the batting average of Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn, f you'll allow me to go old school baseball on you.

But it's put a real damper on not just my day time job, but my photography as well. It's been more than two months since I have taken a photograph with my DSLR. There are still pictures on the camera from March, which is unheard of for me. But there's more. In a blog a few months ago called "In Anticipation of a Steamy Summer," I talked about shooting the Norfolk & Western J Class #611 steam engine. For a year it was two hours away from me getting restored in Spencer, NC at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. I was really stoked to see it, but since I have been home from the hospital, it has made a test run and then went back to Roanoke under it's own power.

And I missed it because I need to keep my foot up. (And, of course, a lack of funds de to not working.) Now it's coming back down to Spencer next week and i will miss it again. Yeah, I'm bummed out, but all in all, it's not that bad. A few weeks ago, the doctors weren't sure I'd survive my blood infection. Times are tough. I learned when I went into the hospital that I have real crapy insurance. It's not paying much at all in the way of medical expenses. I' set up a Go Fund Me site and friends have been very helpful in donating so that I can get through these months without any income coming in. (This is not a sales pitch, but the link is http://www.gofundme.com/tpet84 "Joe's Medical Expenses.")

Now I admit I was pretty naive when it came to amputations. I hadn't really thought about the actual process too me, just never wanted one myself. But I thought they took the toe, it took a few weeks to heal and you went on your way. But, of course, it's not that simple. They have t take bone and tendons out too. My foot basically looked like a slab of meat when they were done. It depressed me for weeks realizing it wasn't as simple as I had thought. So in order to help folks understand the process, I took some pictures. Well, really, my sister took the first shots because I really couldn't stand to see my own foot. But lately, I've been using my phone to document the process.

But I didn't want to just have the shots open to anyone who was not expecting to see a deformed foot, so I put them in a password protected gallery jason my site. So if you want to see the for in various before and after situations, go to my Joe the Photog site (http://www.joethephotog.com) and find the gallery called "Private." The password is

foot2016

So now it's June and I hope to be able to go back to work next moth. In any event, I'll be back on my feet during my least favorite time of the year not just for photography, but in general. But I'll be back on my feet, both feet, which is certainly a great thing. Hopefully there will be new photographs coming soon!

In Anticipation of a Steamy Summer

January 26th, 2015

I know, I know, a train guy talking about trains again, but I was looking at Robert Lyndall's fantastic shots of the Norfolk & Western steam engines and got excited.

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The interesting thing is that this shot looks like it was taken a long time ago. The two cars on the road below were no doubt placed there to give the shot a vintage feel. And I guess it was a long time ago if you think it was a was a long time ago that Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever" was released. The 611 is a 4-8-4 J Class locomotive, the only one remaining out of fourteen that were built in the 1940s at the N&W rail shops in Roanoke. The J class series were used daily to pull noted passenger trains such as the Powhatan Arrow, the Pocohantas, and the Cavalier between Cincinnati, OH and Norfolk, VA. Between Monroe, NC and Bristol, TN, the J's also pulled the Tenesseean, the Pelican and the Birmingham Special between Monroe, VA and Bristol TN/VA. When passenger service on the Norfolk & Western was fully diselized, the J's were retired.

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The story goes that the N&W decided to run a steam-powered railfan trip in 1959 after the J Class was retired and it just so happened that the #611 was the first one in the line of stored locomotives, so they chose it. It had been involved in a derailment in the mid-50s and had gone through some repairs already, so it made a natural choice on two counts. The railroad took it out of retirement briefly and did some restoration work for the 1959 fan trip.

By 1982, Norfolk & Western had merged with Southern Railway to become Norfolk Southern. The same year, the NW 611 was brought out of retirement once again to run steam trips. Mr. Lyndall shot this one over the Southern viaduct just outside of Toccoa, Georgia.

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Mr. Lyndall is well known in railroading and railfanning for his fine selection of photography from the hey day of steam excursions on the east coast, most notably the Norfolk & Western's two iconic steam locomotives. In addition to the N&W streamlined J-Class 611, there is also the behemoth 2-6-6-4 N&W #1218.

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A word about steam engine designations. The numbers refer to the wheels. 2-6-6-4 means there are 18 total wheels on the 1218 one of the biggest steam locomotives ever built. The 1218 had a relatively short life as a revenue engine on the N&W. Built in June 1943, she was retired in 1959. Her class of steam engine regularitly pulled troops during World War 2. In 1969, the egnine wound up in Roanoke, Virginia

She was brought out of retirement in 1985 and sent to Alabama for a full restoration. She served Norfolk Southern's 1980s and 90s steam trips along with the #611 until both were retired in 1994 and eventually found their way to their new home, the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

I was 19 then and while interested in trains, didn't keep up on them as I do now. So I missed all kinds of steam excursions through the Carolinas back then. Norfolk Southern ended them in 1994... and by the time I caught this steam engine sittingon static display, I thought my chances of seeing her run steam again were on the same line as, I don't know, seeing David Lee Roth sing in Van Halen again.

But what do you know? The 611 is currently in Spencer, NC getting ready to return to steam again this summer! She had just arrived on property in anticipation of the restoration work that has been going on for the last six months. After missing out on the steam trips of the 1980s and 90s, I'm getting a second chance as are many others!

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I've seen steam trains run, but none as big as the #611. NS brought out the former Southern Railway 2-8-0 #630 and ran here and that was cool

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I've seen the former Lancaster and Chester Railway #40 run on her new home in Pennsylvania

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and I've seen the Washington & Lincolnton run on the Knoxville & Holton River

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but seeing the 611 is going to be a different kind of awesome!

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