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A tale of Southern Steam, Gremlins and pushing the limits

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  • A tale of Southern Steam, Gremlins and pushing the limits

    The title pretty well sums this post up (I guess I could have added dead diesels to it as well)...our last Steam road trip of 2013 was a frustrating one to say the least!

    Saturday, November 16th dawned cold but with some sunshine in Knoxville TN. NS and TVRM would run the last Two mainline steam trips of the year that weekend, between Knoxville & Asheville. We had both been looking forward to these trips more than the others, as the scenery along that route is stunning. The weather forecast had been changing almost constantly, but I still held out some hope of some sun.....but that was not to be.

    Between the time we left the hotel and made the quick drive over to the Holston River bridge at Strawberry Plains TN, the sun left us. It was cold, dark and foggy at the bridge, and would stay that way for the rest of the day. Moody weather like that seems to lend itself well to shooting steam, and we did what we could do. Things went well until we got over towards Del-Rio Tn, and thats where the day took a turn for the worse...or so it seemed.

    While most of the gang had stopped at Del-Rio for a shot, Carm and i forged ahead to make sure we got to Marshal NC ahead of the train, that was THE shot I wanted. As luck would have it, we soon encountered a bridge that was closed for repairs that we did not know about, and a detour sign. I was able to let a few folks know about that in time for them to take the back road around it at Big Creek, but we had to follow the detour, which would take us 50 miles or so out of the way. The road we had to take put us over the top of a couple of mountain, and by the time we got to the end of it, we had no cell service and even the GPS was lost! Thankfully, I was able to keep in touch with a friend that had took the "short" way on the radio to keep tabs on the train, and somehow we made it to Marshall less than a minute ahead of the train!

    After Marshal, the rest of the day was a little less aggravating. We got several more shots of the 630 plus the CNJ heritage unit at Ridgecrest NC, and to top it off the sun finally came back out! I had planned on going back to Marshal again for a shot of the train Westbound along the river (with the sun!) but as usual, the gremlins managed to get us once again. The new (rebuilt) slug-set that was "helping" the 630 had died dead several times on the Eastbound trip, and had to be replaced before the train could leave Asheville. That caused just enough delay to assure the sun would be long gone by the train finally got out of town.

    All in all it wasn't a bad trip I don't guess. Having all of those diversions to the master plan is part of the fun of doing what we do, and can really make you have to step back and re-think things (not to mention push yourself and your equipment to the limits at times) In the end, we had fun, had a few laughs, and I am already looking forward to 2014!

    Below are a few from the day, and you can find the whole set plus the rest of my SR 630 stuff from the year at this link >>> Norfolk Southern Steam Photo Gallery by E.M. & Carmon Bell at

    Eastbound crossing the Holston River at Strawberry Plains, TN.

    With a little teamwork, I got the shot I wanted at Marshal NC. 630 rolls Eastbound, following the French Broad River up the gorge to Asheville. The train was already in sight by the time we got here, and I had to jump out quick..Carmon was able was able to scoot over the drivers seat, get turned around and picked me right back up (and missed the shot herself)...teamwork!

    With that pesky slug set dead yet again, the 630 had the train all to herself as she worked hard to drag it up the hill at Alexander, NC.

    Coming and going as the train entered Asheville, near Murphy Junction

    Late in the afternoon, a rather large group of us went back to Marshal to wait for the 630 to head back West. Thanks to them having to swap out diesels at the last minute, the sun was gone by the time the train got to us, but we hung in there. finally, just before it was dark the 630 showed up. We had waited for over 2 hours, and I was determined to get a shot. I cranked the ISO up to 3200, opened the lens up as wide as it would go and this was the result. Not the sunny shot I wanted, but still not to bad.... Sometimes you just have to push the limits!
    E.M. Bell, KD4JSL
    Salvisa, KY