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Railroad Days In Monticello

September 20, 2011

In 2010, I visited the Monticello Railway Museum for the first time.  The attraction was the return of an operating steam locomotive to the museum’s stable of operating vintage power.

During that first visit, I shot the footage that would comprise the DVD “Southern Railway 2-8-0 #401: Return To Steam.”  Since then, I made two more visits while shooting sequences for another DVD called “Southern Steam Returns.”  I was so busy taking care of business (i.e. setting up shots, filming, setting up recording gear, etc.) that I may as well have watched the action on television.  Pretty much all the action was seen through the monitor on the camera.

This year’s Railroad Days in Monticello took place the weekend of September 17 and 18, and I had planned to go months in advance.  I had also been determined to NOT see the action through the backside of a video camera.  I wouldn’t be going without ANY gear of course; the trusty Cannon SLR would be my companion for this event.

Saturday morning, #401 backs away from the Nelson Crossing depot on the museum grounds.  You could say I paid for this shot… the blast of steam from the cylinder cocks as the engine backed by got my left side sopping wet and nearly blew my hat over the fence!

Later in the morning, #401 is backing through the yard near the Nelson Crossing depot and past an appreciative audience.

Four trains were running throughout the weekend.  One of the trains was a freight train with a pair of cabooses (cabeese?) for riders.  On the head end was Illinois Central GP11 #8733.  Passing I.C. SD40 #6071, the pair of black diesels brought to mind the railroad I lived along throughout the 1990s.

Wabash F-7 #1189 has just backed by with a train of heavyweight passenger cars.  The switch has been lined for the mainline and #401 gets underway for downtown Monticello.

The former Illinois Central trackage curves around the Camp Creek Yard.  Rounding the curve is Wabash #1189.

The cool thing about events like this is that you can find a spot, sit back, and watch the trains pass.  Rounding the curve and headed for Monticello is #401.  The shot was achieved by shooting at 1/15th second while panning with the front of the locomotive and backing off on the zoom lens.

From a dirt pile across the track from the museum’s Camp Creek Yard, Wabash #1189 heads toward Monticello.

Not long after, the freight train headed by Illinois Central #8733 passes.

In another action shot from the dirt pile, Southern Railway #401 passes on the way to Monticello.  From the looks of it, the train could be moving considerably faster than the 20 miles per hour it was actually doing.

Even at a museum, safety is paramount.  A few crew members felt the frog on a switch rode a bit rough.  During a lull between trains, a few museum members work on the offending frog.

Frog adjusted, a pair of volunteers watch closely as the first train backs over the switch.  It’s all good.

As the afternoon’s shadows begin to lengthen, the last steam train of the day heads toward downtown Monticello.

Here’s one for the museum volunteers who put in so much of their time to pull off an event like this.  In addition to the crews who run the trains and keep the track and equipment up to par, there are also those who work the gift shop and sell concessions to hungry and thirsty visitors.  As the last trains of the day return to Nelson Crossing, volunteers stand by for stragglers who may stop by for one last bag of popcorn; one last hot dog or another soda.

Congratulations to the folks in Monticello for another well run event.


Photos by Mary Rae McPherson.

Copyright 2011 – Mary Rae McPherson

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2011 1:51 pm

    Awesome site. Great post. Well done.

  2. KKCG permalink
    March 7, 2012 9:46 pm

    This is a long shot but worth a shot. In the early 1990’s my grandmother took my sister and I to see a train pass through downtown Centralia, IL, trains being no big deal to a five year old who grew up a block from the tracks in Centralia, I don’t remember much about it except it was loud and seemed like the earth shook when the train passed. I would love to know what train it was so I can remember why it was so important that she take us to see it. It made an impression on me I still remember but nothing more about it. My mother believes it was an operable steam engine but she couldn’t tell me more. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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