Saturday, March 09, 2013

Riding the Rails

Lawrence, KS about 6:15 am.
A week ago, I embarked on a trip to Lawrence, KS by train.  It had been quite a while since I had made a lengthy train trip -- 47 years, in fact.  I left Ann Arbor about 7:30 am and arrived in Chicago about 11 CST. I had a few hours to kill, so I met up with my friend Trish, and we had lunch and went to the Art Institute of Chicago afterwards.  It was a quick visit, but always fun seeing a fellow photographer, and Chicago has no lack of photographic subjects.  I barely made my train to Lawrence, but once I was on the Southwestern Chief heading west, I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.  Returning, I left Lawrence KS on Thursday  about 6:45 am and made it home to Ann Arbor at about 11:45 pm.  The short layover in Chicago enabled me to have dinner at Union Station and walk around a bit shooting some photos of that beautiful place.
Union Station, Chicago

I took a few cameras along -- my Olympus EPL-1 M 4/3 camera with the 17mm lens, my pocket Sony Bloggie camera, my Nikon EM with the 50mm 1.8 E lens, and my Debonair toy camera.  The shots presented here are all digital shots, as I have yet to process my film, so that will have to wait for another blog post.

W  of Jackson
Train travel is very attractive to me -- I love watching the landscape roll by, and the various factories, small towns, train crossings, farms, urban centers, etc.  It really is a slice of America, and you see so much more riding in the train, and gain a better appreciation of distance than via plane.  You see the wildlife, too.  I saw many turkeys in the woods, whitetail deer, a red fox, hawks, owls, crows, and other birds.  Instead of seeing road-kill, I saw lots of wildlife.
great view
Railroads are still the unifying infrastructure across America.  You really get a feel for this when you travel by rail.  The rail yards with many, many tracks, passing freight trains, and industrial and agricultural centers with trains serving them.  You don't really get that impression from the highway unless you make a concerted effort to see those places.
rail yard

Michigan City, IN


Mendota, IL

I mostly enjoyed my Amtrak experience.  Two things would have made it better -- high speed rails and better rail beds.  Oh, and more service to smaller towns.  That didn't affect me, but I suspect it affects others that have to travel some distance to a train station, especially when trains used to serve their community.
I could see a lot from the train, and I look forward to seeing how my film shots came out later this week.
arriving in Chicago

Even if you don't have to take a long trip, I suggest a day trip via Amtrak.  Go early in the morning and return that same evening.  Bring your cameras, as you will see different scenes than you would by highway.   Go with a bunch of friends, and make it an even more memorable trip.


hardkoretom said...

I'm planning on taking a long train ride from LA to NYC and you hit all the points that I wanted to check out on the ride.

I think i'd waste all of my film for the trip just going one way.

Bill Bresler said...

Lovely work, Mark.

s.c said...

Great reportage. Like it very much.

David said...

I was hoping to see some photos of Lawrence! I went to the University of Kansas, and grew up in Kansas but never rode the train. We always thought the train station was abandoned in Lawrence, so it's nice to know that it still runs. Thanks for sharing.