New Camera
Assorted Des Moines
March 6 - 11


After using a "first-generation" digital camera for four years and taking literally thousands of train pictures with it, I decided it was time for something new. The Apple QuickTake had served well, but as with any computer-related technology, its performance fell far short of newer models. On Saturday, March 6, Jan and I went to H.B. Leiserowitz (Candy and Cameras) and, after looking at Nikon and Olympus, decided that an Olympus 620 would be the new source of images for Virtual Train-Watching in Iowa.

I don't usually discuss cameras in my excursions, but I'll make an exception this time to explain what went on as I took the first few shots with the new camera. Most of the images linked below have been resized to 50% and/or saved with some JPEG compression.

As soon as we had a couple of other errands out of the way, we headed for Short Line Junction to try out the camera. We parked near the diamond. Since I now had a zoom lens, I aimed at the west end of the yard, zoomed in as close as possible and pushed the button. I was pleasantly surprised by the little "click" of the mirror snapping out of the way and the familiar momentary blackout of the image in the viewfinder - it had been a long time since I'd used a reflex camera for train pictures! The shot (here cropped) came out better than I expected. I had the camera in its "medium resolution" mode. We were far enough away (perhaps 1/4 mile) from the engines in the yard that such a shot would have been a waste of time with the QuickTake.

Before long, a switch job came out of the yard behind UP 3393 and UP 601. I just kept snapping pictures and playing with the zoom, ending up with another image of 3393 and of 601. The cut they were bringing out across the diamond had an old ROCK hopper car in it.

The next train out of the yard was a northbound. I took several shots, again from the diamond, as it rounded the northeast leg of the wye. On the point were UP 2959, shown here at full zoom: UP 2959, and UP 4417.

Once I got the camera home, I invited my grandkids over and took lots of pictures of them, too, but we'll stick to trains here. I tried out a couple of other features of the camera on some models. Using the macro mode, I photographed a couple of buildings that Jan's been working on for the layout. I also tried out some shots of locomotives - RI 631, 1259, and 256. All of the model shots were made in the camera's lowest resolution mode and using its automatic color correction. The buildings are under florescent light, RI 256 under incandescent, and the other locos were taken with flash.

On Sunday, we headed out again, this time stopping along the remains of the Indianola branch to check out the salvage operation. As we were starting to go north out of Carlisle, we heard the detector back south on the line, so we returned to the old depot location and waited. At about 1:15, UP 9510, NS 6089 and UP 5514 cruised around the curve and headed north for Short Line. These shots were taken at full zoom on a train moving around 40 mph. The train was instructed by the yardmaster to stop at the BN and bring their power to the ramp.

We drove on up to Short Line and took up a position on the north side of the yard across from the diesel service area. Pretty soon, 9510 reappeared and pulled up to the fuel rack. These last two shots and some to follow have a "washed out" look because I used spot-metering in order to get the locos when shooting toward the sun.

At 2:10, a westbound Iowa Interstate train, with only 19 cars, came through Short Line. Conductor Dixie was out to throw switches and lead IAIS 431, 628 and 466 through on the main track (spot metering used again on these).

On Thursday Jan had an appointment in Des Moines, so we made a quick pass at Short Line, arriving just in time to catch a northbound leaving the yard with CNW 6871 and 6878. It was too late to get out, so I had to shoot through the windshield for this one. We went through downtown Des Moines, stopping to get some pictures of the 4th Ave. arch and the depot. The IAIS was working on the crossing signal. I also got a detail shot of some stonework on the east end of the old RI depot. All of Thursday's shots were in lowest resolution mode, where the camera's 8 Meg memory card will hold 99 pictures.

I took a couple of pictures of the depot from a loading dock across the tracks and used a program that came with the camera to "stitch" them together later. I was surprised at the interesting result. Now that I've seen what can be done, I'll have to try this again.

After Jan's appointment, we went back to Short Line Junction and caught job 75 heading downtown with UP 1648. They had a Rock boxcar in their consist.

Things were pretty quiet at Short Line, so we started homeward, only to find BNSF 3204 switching the NS Glake yard. We decided to loop back and check the east end of Short Line Yard, and found CNW 4608 shoving a cut into track two.

That's It!