Friday, May 31, 2013

Chasing a ghost from the B&O

As I mentioned previously, I grew up along CSX's Sarnia subdivision between Chatham, Ont. and Sarnia, Ont. The line was a throwback in many ways, which you can read about in this post. The most obvious throwback on the Sarnia sub was the continuing use of Chessie System-painted geeps (mainly GP-38s) well into the 1990s. This seemed odd to me since the merger forming CSX between Chessie System and Seaboard System was quite a speck in the rear-view mirror by the mid 1990s.

This sub was in many respects an orphan, being cut off from the remainder of the CSX network. I've been told this was the reason why the motive power on this sub continued to sport Chessie colours long after most of CSX's diesels were repainted in the initial grey and blue CSX paint scheme.

Well, seeing Chessie painted locomotives is one thing, but seeing a Baltimore & Ohio-painted geep? In the 1990s?

I know it sounds ridiculous, but this was what happened one summer in the early 1990s when this ghost of railroading past made its way onto the Sarnia sub. I remember how strange it seemed to be seeing the dark blue geep puttering up and down the line. The last time I had seen a B&O geep was in the mid-1980s when I was in grade school and even then I knew that the B&O was long gone.

So one summer, I began my quest to catch up with this engine and snap a photo of it. The problem was, being too young to drive, my sole means of catching up to trains was to hop on my bike and race down to the St. Clair Boulevard crossing, which was about five minutes from my house. I remember this engine teasing me. I would see it from time to time when I was being driven around and didn't have a camera. I also remember biking around Corunna (my hometown) and hearing a train coming only to realize I didn't have my camera on me. That B&O geep was an elusive subject to capture.

So one afternoon as I was biking around Corunna near one of our main roads, Hill Street, I could hear the sound of an engine horn. The B&O geep was at the head of the consist, complete with the Capitol Building logo on the front of the hood. As luck would have it, I had my camera. Even more exciting, I just so happened to be in a great spot to capture the engine, very close to the tracks. My moment had finally arrived.

As the train approached, I set up my camera and watched it approach through the camera lens. It crawled closer and closer, finally relenting to a photo, I thought. Just as the unit began to fill my frame, preening for a photo, some kid on a bike raced right into the middle of my frame, right as I clicked the button to snap a frame.

This was long before the term photobomb meant anything. I was crushed. I quickly recovered and took this shot (below).

This going away shot was all I could get after I wound the camera's film and framed the locomotive properly. I didn't date the original print, but I am assuming it was taken around 1991 or 1992.

I remember looking at that ruined photo in my collection for years, always cursing that dumb kid in the middle of the frame, who was scowling at me and wondering what the hell I was doing taking his photo. In disgust, I threw away the print. Years later, I threw away all my reels of film. To this day, I still can't believe how stupid those two decisions were.

So, this is the only shot I ever captured of CSX 2100, still painted in the old B&O colours. At least it makes a good story. Sigh.


Eric said...

Michael, that makes me want to dig out my C&O GP30 grabshot at Shannonville! Thanks for sharing this shot plus your earnest regrets for throwing away more photographic treasures.


Anonymous said...

I lived along the chessie Sub #1 living near Walkerville Jct in the early 90's and saw this old blue B&O Geep many times and I always wondered how did this unit escape the paint shop

Michael said...

Thanks for your comment. I always wondered the same thing when I saw this one wandering along the Sarnia Sub. Seems like Chessie and CSX were never in a hurry to repaint older geeps in the 1990s.