Black Gold #14845

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The Story

The crack of dawn spills soft gold light over the nearby mountain onto the black slab sides of these two steam locomotives hauling a westbound train on the Strasburg Railroad. They push up a thick, full plume of coal smoke into the cold morning sky, rattling and chuffing as they go. The screaming whistle instantly shatters the beautiful dawn into a hundred pieces at every road crossing. This is old steam railroading from yesteryear done in full drama with all the smoke, noise, and the heavy smell of burning coal.

Being there, you see the beauty of thick smoke rising against the morning sky. Standing close to the track, you feel the weight of intense noise that leans hard against your very soul and smell the sulfur of coal at work. Black gold…in motion, at that.

My group of photographers shuffled their feet beside the tracks in the chill October air. Chilled, we waited for the short train to come closer. We were a group of shooters and steam railroading enthusiasts gathered to record this unique piece of history as it rolled by. The old steam locomotives are pulling antique wooden freight cars and two old passenger coaches heated by coal stoves. Soon the train would come back for us and we’d discover how very good coal heat is for cold fingers and noses.

It’s not a hard stretch to mentally time travel back to 1890 and believe it when this train goes by filling up every sense we possess. Adding to the effect is the surrounding Amish farmland of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is another kind of throwback altogether. In this scene and all along the short Strasburg Railroad, the old trains and the Amish dwell side-by-side in every day normal.

More information here: https://www.strasburgrailroad.com/

Image and text © Andrew Dierks

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