Saturday, May 2, 2009

Last train to Calais from Woodland Maine

At 0500 hours, I awoke as the alarm clock was going off. Perfect weather for the last day of Rail-Operations between Calais and Woodland Maine. We all knew going into the trip, the weather was going to suck. I grabbed a quick shower and headed off to meet fellow photographers Shawn Duren and Mike Peverett for the trip to Calais from Brewer. We headed out Route 9 (the airline as its called) shortly after 530 am and arrived in Woodland at a little after 7am. We arrived and found Guilford Rail System GP40 # 321 sitting at the station in Woodland. Shortly we were joined by Mike's Brother Pete and begin to document the day.

We talked with the crew and began to photograph the last day of operations. I soaked up the talk from the crew about the years of service they had put in. Many people stopped in that morning and said good-bye's to the crew.

As we talked with the crew and visitors, paperwork was being taken care of. At 0744 the last call to North Billerica was placed requesting permission on the Woodland Industrial Track. WD-1 was the train's identification. The phone call was short and lacked any significant meaning to those in North Billerica. It had a empty feeling in the office when the phone was hung-up. Very odd to hear the words, this is the last call from this phone.

A small sign was brought into the station and placed beside the desk for the crew to place onto the locomotive for some photo's and then be placed on the caboose to be taken on the ride to Calais. Small details caught my attention and had to be dealt with. The calender on the desk had the date of April 29th, and the sign said May 1st which was the actual date. I changed the calender and took more photo's.

Around 0815 the crew grabbed the bags and climbed onto the 321 and placed the sign for all too see. A small crowd gathered to watch. Photo's were taken for old time sake and the crew stood for final photo's in front of the station. As quick as the sign was placed, it was removed to be placed now on Maine Central Russel Snow Plow number 73 which was in "mint" condition. The plow was on the rear of a string of empty boxcars, this would be last traffic to leave woodland. As the train made its run-around and backed onto the train, a few people stopped at the north end of the yard to watch the train depart, mostly workers at the closing mill and passing trucks. A few more photographers arrived and the train began to pull away from Woodland one last time.

Along the line, a few people grabbed shots, but no real significant showing of support for the now last train to Calais. The train pulled into Calais a short time later where one media crew was spotted and a few more people with camera's were waiting at the NB Southern Railway bridge. The gate was opened, and the train backed into New Brunswick. We crossed the river and shot the crew climbing off the train and watched them walk back into Maine and closed the gates one last time. Cheers from the crowd were heard, and photo's were taken by those present.

We shot the train along the line at the Wye in Woodland, first as it went around the wye, and two as it passed along the causeway / bridge into Canada, again in Baring where it crossed the river back into Maine, at the Moosehorn wildlife park in Calais where the old Calais Branched joined the Woodland Branch, the new overpasses near and for the US Customs Crossing in Calais, at the Milltown Border crossing and the Roundhouse and the last shot of the train backing across the bridge into Canada for interchange with the NB Southern.

Once the fanfare was over, we dropped 2 of the 4 vehicals off in a parking lot and headed north to find the Southbound NB Southern local headed for St Stephan NB to pick up the last train and take it north to McAdam. We found the train at Moore's Mill and shot it a few times on the trip south. NB Southern GP38-3 @ 2319 was leading a short train of 3 High-cube 60 foot boxcars, a tank car and a hopper plus a NB Southern "Van"

The train arrived in St Stephan and began to back down the Milltown Branch to service the industries along the way before picking up the last train from Woodland. The locomotive had some issues and a call to the RTC in St John NB provided no sucess. The crew was having a false indicator light on the unit and the computer system in the unit was preventing the train from moving despite no wheel-slip. The rails were dry now, so this was no problem. A small wait and they began making some progress up the hill. It took about 30 to 45 min before the train reached the crest of the grade. We were joined by Fellow Photographer Rod Bushway at this time and headed for the interchange as progress was made with the train cresting the summit and now heading down hill.

The NB Southern crew dropped its train and headed light with the "van" and tied onto the last train from Woodland. The engineer fired up the 321 and used it to push the train up the hill for the run-around move. The 321 was run around the train and attached to the front of NB Southern for the ride to McAdam # 2319 which the crew said was "junk".

Steve Boyko joined us at this time to also document the last GRS unit in Canada anytime soon. After a long wait, the train headed back to the switch to head north. They switched the last industry and headed north.

The train rounded the corner, 5 vehicals of photographers parked on the EB shoulder on the newly constructed highway to grab shots. The train rounded the corner and the smoke was rolling out of the 321 hard. The engineer backed off the throttle and began to give her more when more smoke rolled out. The more she smoked, the darker she got, eventually blocking out the sun as the train rolled under the bridge.

Suddenly the sound of a air being sucked into the locomotive and a "pop" was heard. The breaks were applied and the train stopped. Apparently the govenor had popped out and they had to reset it before heading north. Several shots were obtained of the train heading to McAdam as the sun began to show its face.

Digital cameras are so nice, but it so sucks when your memory card is full. It cost me at least 1 significant shot along the way. One I had climbed onto the top of my SUV for.

At McAdam the train was tied down not were we had hoped for, but still okay for pending nightshots. It was now time for chat. Many of us had now gone 12 to 16 hours without a true meal. We arrived at Klinkers Bar in downtown McAdam and chowed down and 2 of the crowd of 4 decided to have a beer.

Once chow was consummed, we headed off and grabbed nightshots of the train. I smoked a cigar and enjoyed the sound of the "Creppers" in a near-by pond. At 930pm I headed home and arrived safely at 1130 and called it a night.

Editor's note....
photo's to be uploaded soon and some editing to be done)

1 comment:

Train Geek said...

Great post, Isaac! It was great to hear the Maine side of the story.