It's always fun to get photos of railway action in new places. For me in December, an emergency run to Ogdensburg, New York for children's medicine turned out to be a unique chance to get a photo of the end of the New York & Ogdensburg Railway line in the small upstate New York town. It was not an easy photo to capture and I think I may have aroused suspicion. In any case, here's the story and some thoughts on this seemingly ordinary picture.
First, a little background. The NYOG is a shortline railway connecting the St. Lawrence River port in Ogdensburg with a junction with the CSX in Norwood, New York. The connection is with the CSX St. Lawrence Division, which is ex-Conrail, ex-Penn Central, ex-New York Central. The Ogdensburg rail line is 26 miles (41.8 km) long and serves some vital purposes that might not be apparent to the casual observer. It serves as a transloading facility for trucks that serve Ontario, Quebec and northern New York. According to the port authority in Ogdensburg, it carries plastic pellets, resins, oils, lubricants, fuels, adhesives, chemicals, feed, grain, fertilizers, minerals and some unique cargo like wind turbine blades. The railway is owned by the Vermont Rail System. This is the railway that took over much of what was known as Central Vermont, a one-time CN subsidiary.
Getting shots near the port is almost impossible, as the area is surrounded by chain link fence with razor wire on top. Not surprising. However, there is a small vantage point near the end of Paterson Street, where it intersects with a tiny dead-end Railroad Street. From this point, where there is a riverside parking lot, where you can see the end of one of the spurs that are scattered throughout the port area. This is the shot I got.
Big deal, right? Look closer. You can see the green boxcar at the end of the line has a roll-top door at the end that opens up. I have a closer image (see below) where I could make out that the car's numbering and lettering was changed to read "MW" which is code for maintenance of way. You can also see the remnants of an old Conrail logo on the maroon car to the right of the loading machinery. There is also a Vermont Rail System car in the lineup, not to mention some covered hopper to the right. It was hard to make out from where I was standing, next to the fence.
Here's a closer look.
This shot gives you a better look at the faded Conrail logo, as well as the Vermont Rail System logo to the right. I still had a hard time making out what was loaded in the cars, although it looked like something bailed, like compressed recycled material or something like that. You can also see a group of buoys on the asphalt, likely due to the ice in the St. Lawrence River. Here's a blown up shot of the cargo.
Here's a closer look at that MW car at the end of the line, which appears to have a rolling garage door installed at the end. Seems like this car is no longer fit for any revenue movement.
Here's where the story gets interesting. I was setting up to take more shots of various cars in the consist, thanks to my camera's zoom, but then I realized people working in a nearby building had taken an interest in what I was doing. I suppose that's natural, as this place is fenced off for a reason. I turned away from the fence and checked my phone, but the people in trucks on the other side were watching me like a hawk, so I decided, even though I was on public property, it was time to move on. I went back to my car in the parking lot, but noticed that the people watching me were not going to be satisfied until I drove away, which I did reluctantly.
There weren't any other obvious vantage points to view this rail yard and I was on the clock, as my kids needed the medicine, so I decided to move on. So ended my brief experience of photographing a new-to-me railway in New York state.
This is a good example of the type of railway photos I have come to appreciate more and more. There isn't anything exciting going on. There are no movements, no engines, no action. It's just a string of old boxcars. But I have come to realize that railway photography can be as much about where the railway is situated as what's on the rails. The background details provide more to the story and make the hobby more interesting.