Thursday, June 21, 2007

Postcard from the Past

Updated 6/22/2007 at 11:00 a.m. to include reference to old posting.

According to my Sitemeter logs, a visitor to this blog stopped by shortly before 9 a.m. today, using an IP address that is believed to be in the vicinity of Altoona, PA.

Altoona is one of those meccas that rail enthusiasts love to visit, for it was home to a massive locomotive shop owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). There is quite a railroad museum there. Nearby is Horseshoe Curve. The grade is such that helper locomotives are placed at the end of freight trains to provide tractive assistance.

I visited these places in August of 1984 and took several slides. The image shown here was taken at a public viewing area at the heart of the curve. If you click on the image, you can get a higher resolution version.

Although not nearly as busy under Conrail as it was under the PRR years, the curve saw quite a bit of traffic, enough to warrant three tracks. Multiple trains, as seen in this photo, were a common sight.

For a high school age boy who was used to seeing no more than five trains a day on his hometown rail lines, this was heaven, teeming with trains. Although the dress blues of Conrail's locomotive fleet were no match for the PRR's Tuscan red beauties, I was happy to take whatever I could find.

Almost 23 years have rushed by since I clicked the shutter and created this photograph... 23 years! I remember my father jogging up the long battery of steps to the the viewing area with such ease. At the time, he was a year and a half younger than I am now.

About a month and a half after this photo was taken, my father would announce his plans to remarry. It rocked my world, and I responded by regressing and cutting him off emotionally. In the days to come, I will be shaking up my world in an even bigger way. It will be a test to see whether I have truly matured since then.

Update: I just realized an amusing, if not eerie coincidence. The lead unit on the front train in the photo in this post is Conrail 5036. If you go back to the February post "Ghosts from Hobbies Past", the lead unit is Conrail 5046. They were taken in two different locations a little over ten years apart.
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