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Fall Colors 2008

June 21, 2009

The fall colors can be the trickiest thing to shoot. Think about it. It only comes about once a year and there is a very limited window. Then there is the weather; will it or won’t it provide just the right light at just the right time. Then add all the elements of railfan photography. You can see just why it is so tricky to get that perfect fall shot.

Okay, I admit it: I have never gotten the perfect fall color shot. It isn’t that I have never put forth the effort. I try to get out when I can to get what I can. But for all the stars to align? Nope. Not yet. Perhaps someday, but not yet.

I decided to carry my camera with me whenever I went out and about and for whatever reason in the fall of 2008. I got a few good shots, but nothing spectacular. That’s okay, though. The challenge of it and the attempt is half the fun of it.


September 29th: The colors were starting to appear in some places. I was leaving Carbondale when I heard the approach of southbound A432 on the scanner. A432 is the daily local freight which runs between Decatur and Cairo, Illinois. I decided to take the long way home, and drove down to Boskydell. Before long, the train rounded the curve and started down the tangent toward the Boskydell Road crossing.

From Boskydell, I got back on U.S. 51 and headed south. Near Cobden, the track passes under the highway and I shot the train climbing the grade from Makanda.


October 5: I was sitting in my living room in Dongola when my scanner went off:

“I-C Railroad. Equipment Defect Detector. Mile Post 3-2-8 point 6. Southbound,” said the familiar computerized voice on the radio.

I grabbed my camera and ran out the door, heading for Cheshire Road not far from my house. I parked the car at a gravel driveway and walked up to the tracks. A few minutes later a southbound grain train for Cairo appeared out of the trees, rounding the curve as it descended the grade into downtown Dongola.


October 6: Again I was driving home from Carbondale as A432 was heading south. I stopped at the U.S. 51 overpass, sprinting from the car to the roar of diesels climbing the grade.


October 10: I was at home again when the scanner came to life. This time it was the detector located at Wetaug, the next town south of Dongola. Once again I grabbed the camera and ran for the car. I drove down Cheshire Road to where the road crosses the tracks. The train was already in earshot, the diesels already working hard to drag the train up the grade. After a few moments, an Illinois Central SD70 rounded the curve. That yellow stripe around the engine seems a tad out of place on the formerly back and white locomotive.


October 22: It was a beautiful fall afternoon. What better than to head out along the railroad, camera in hand, to get some shots of Union Pacific trains on the Chester Subdivision. South of Grand Tower, a pair of G.E. offerings led a southbound stack train.

Later on I worked my way north, following a Chicago bound intermodal train. The trees in Murphysboro were just beginning to yellow as I caught the train crossing the bridge over Illinois Route 149.


October 31: Once again, the Wetaug detector set me running for my car. This time I headed north to Balcom, a tiny hamlet roughly halfway between Dongola and Anna. Before long a pair of SD75M’s led northbound M396 around the broad curve. Already in this area the color is getting pretty sparse.

Since I was already about, I decided to drive south to Ullin in hopes that A432 would arrive before daylight departed. It almost didn’t make it, but finally rounded the bend only minutes before the lengthening shadows would have swallowed this scene whole.


November 2: I was back in Balcom in advance of a northbound train. While waiting, I shot this photo of a signal standing guard over the former Mainline of Mid-America.

By the time the train finally arrived, the sun was just dropping below the horizon. This is northbound A321, the counterpart to A432.


November 26: The fall colors are over with. Fall has fell, but it wasn’t unusually cold for the time of year as a southbound BNBX coal train headed for Cairo.

Well, not bad. But I’ll be trying again next year.


Copyright 2009 – Mary Rae McPherson

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