Just off Interstate 88 in New York, near Colliersville, is the small town of Cooperstown Junction. Cooperstown Junction used to be a major route as part of the D&H line, which later became the Cooperstown And Charlotte Valley Railroad. Unfortunately, the construction of I-88 revolutionized the transportation through the area, and freight service ceased in the 1980’s. The line was officially abandoned in 1998 after years of disuse.
This is one of the few places in my life that truly inspires me. If you decide to visit, you will be surrounded by abandoned locomotives, railroad box cars, and various support equipment. If you look closely, you might notice the remnants of an overpass that was removed a long time ago. Across the road from the abandoned locomotive featured here are the remnants of a passenger train.
When photographing an abandoned rail yard, or in this case, the closest I’ve ever come to a full-blown locomotive graveyard, it’s best to shoot in the winter time when there is snow on the ground. Snow is one of those things that tends to discourage inexperienced photographers into putting their cameras down until warmer weather returns. Snow also has an effect on a scene; by hiding the smaller details, it allows the more prominant details to stand out above the rest. Ultimately, snow creates the feeling of true abandonment and isolation.
The Railroad Scene
Anytime you photograph a specific scene, don’t forget to include the little details somewhere in the background. Here I have taken a frontal shot of the abandoned crane truck with the abandoned locomotive in the distance. This picture just says, abandoned railroad.
Unlike most other photographers and otherwise logical people, I like to explore places and things that most people might consider too risky or dirty to explore. I’ve always been fascinated by trains and railroads; when I was a small child, I dreamed of having a nice track of land where I could collect train locomotives. But trains are big things, and they’re expensive, so when an opportunity presents itself where I can journey inside the cab of a locomotive, I jump at it.
Older train locomotives have small windows. The windows here are only slightly larger than those found in the cockpit of a commercial jetliner. Modern locomotives have much more impressive windshields and side-view windows.
Sometimes I come across an ultra-rare find such as this letter, which was written on January 13, 1966, which describes the workings and operation of the locomotive generator.
Here are a few take-away tips for photographing railroads.
Finally, if you would like to see the entire set that these photos were taken from (I didn’t have enough room to display them all), you can check them out here.