Railfan at the High Bridge

Friday, October 19


I recently had an email contact from  a gentleman named Steve Holmes who is producing a series of railroad videos.  Steve asked if we might get together at the Kate Shelley Bridge to do some videotaping on railfanning.  You can read about Steve's work on the Steve Holmes Productions web site.  Portions of his email message to me are copied below:

Prof. Tinder:

Your trip essays and photos have helped me as we start production on a
television documentary about railroading.  ...

The 13-part series, "Making Tracks," explores aspects of railroading in
the 21st Century.  One segment, tentatively titled "Damn Bleeping
Foamers," turns the camera on those who use the cameras.  ...

If you plan a railfanning expedition to the Bridge ... in the next couple
of months, could we hook up with you?  We'd like to show how an enthusiast
goes about his hobby, and to get a few on-camera comments about
railfanning and the emotional pull of the Iron Horse from a
"big picture" sociological point of view.  ...

Our last effort received Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds,
four humanities grants and a CINE Golden Eagle, one of the most
prestigious honors in video and broadcasting. That program, co-produced
with Iowa Public Television, has appeared on IPTV and is likely to have
regional and national broadcasts next year.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Steve Holmes
Executive Producer

Steve and I exchanged a series of messages and eventually arranged to meet at the high bridge west of Boone on Friday afternoon.  We'd had a very nice, clear morning, but it was beginning to cloud up as I left Indianola.  By the time I reached Boone, there had been a few sprinkles of rain on the windshield.  I drove down in to the Des Moines River valley using the gravel road north of the Kate Shelley bridge.  Steve and his crew from Metro Studios in Cedar Rapids, Kirk Hayden on camera and Brent Garrett on sound, were already parked south of the bridge and making tape of trains.

After I parked and we took care of introductions, Steve told me what they'd seen so far and about their encounter with UP's out-sourced security.  An eastbound manifest with a CNW lead unit came onto the bridge just after I arrived at 1:00, so we waited quietly while the video crew taped the train.  Within a few minutes, UP 4551 and 6359 arrived with a long set of empty autoracks.  The crew taped as I took pictures of the train crossing the bridge.  As you can see in the pictures Iowa's trees were full of color, but we unfortunately had an overcast sky.

We moved up the hill to the southwest to continue taping.  Steve had gotten a lineup that showed nothing but eastbounds for the next hour or so.  Our next train came at 1:39 with UP 4265, 4171 and 4298, and a set of stack cars.  Now and then the sun would peek though, but we were also treated to a few brief showers.  Steve and his crew continued to tape, getting pictures of traffic on the bridge and of my answers to questions Steve had prepared about railfans.

The last of the eastbounds, another automobile empty, appeared at 2:13 with dynamic brake fans roaring away.  They nearly came to a stop before proceeding slowly across the bridge.

After this train, I was wired for sound and directed to drive back over the hill to the southwest so that I could come back, park the Jeep, get out and take pictures of imagined trains on the bridge.  Steve stood by cussing the weather while his video crew taped my "arrival".

We next loaded Kirk into the back seat of the Jeep and drove to the old yard office in Boone.  I stopped in the parking area took a couple of pictures of the units on hand, UP Y545, (the first winged "Y" I've seen) CNW 4706, UP Y738, CNW 47?? and UP 7251.  We also made a stop at the east end of the Boone yard and had several "takes" as I got out and shot the trains parked in the yard.

Steve's video crew had to get back on the road at 4:00, and it looked like we might get a few minutes of sunshine, so they decided to try for a little more tape out at the bridge.  I said good-bye to the group and headed back south.

That's it!