One Fine Sunday At St. Denis

by Jim on 2011/08/14

[Jimbaux likes to make walls come tumbling down.]

(Hey, I had to use some music that I associate with the area, the northern part of the original United States!)

Y’all might remember that early this summer, I visited the St. Denis MARC Station on the CSX southwest of Baltimore at the invitation of one of the local foamers from one of the internet forums, and you may remember as well that I was not well received there, or maybe even not received at all!  Well, I got plenty of responses to that piece, including Tom Becket‘s interesting comments (in the comments section on that article) on the nasty “competitive” aspect of the railroad enthusiast community and how it seems to be prevalent in the Northeast (though I’ve experienced similar nastiness from some Texas and Louisiana foamers as well, the latter being very rare, but maybe because we have so few here.)

However, most of the responses I got to that piece were private or were on some internet forum (meaning that regular Jimbaux’s Journal readers would not see them), and many were from railroad enthusiasts in the Maryland-Virginia area who basically apologized for the rude behavior of the others at the St. Denis station, told me that those guys are known even locally to be that way, and told me to not judge the whole state of Maryland, or even the greater area, based on their actions.

I Returned

Well, partly because I didn’t want that to be a lingering memory – a lingering impression – of the railroad enthusiasts in the area, I returned to the scene on July 17, four weeks ago today, and took the below pictures.  More importantly, though, this time, I was actually acknowledged by some of the people there, albeit people who were not there when I had gone the prior time.

I did indeed have a good time sharing the train stories with the guys there.  The first train I saw when I got there was this coal train.

As it turns out, this is actually a relatively popular photography spot.  I’ve come to sympathize with the great difficulty in getting good railroad photographs here, because not only does one have to deal with things like fences and powerlines, but in places free of those, there are many curves and many trees, making access difficult, meaning I can’t do stuff like I’ve been doing lately with The Chip Local on the ex-SP in southeastern Louisiana.

Here’s a much wider shot of the same coal train and also some other foamers shooting it (there are several unseen in the green shack), taken a few seconds later as soon as I could put the wider lens on the camera:

The specific track that the above train is on, the one farthest from the camera, is the original mainline of the Baltimore & Ohio Railway.  Somewhere not far west of here, the other two tracks split away to the southwest toward Washington, DC, while the far track shoots roughly westward toward Harper’s Ferry and Cumberland, joining the Potomac River at Point of Rocks, Maryland.


After that came, in the other direction, the Q703, a garbage train that I was told originates somewhere around New York and is bound for somewhere in Virginia.

I was told that because the long section of straight track, which you see in the above picture, is very rare for this area, this is a relatively popular photo spot.

I’m Not In The Midwest Anymore

The only times I had seen ICE-DME power before this day was during my time spent on the DM&E (Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railway) in the summer of 2008 and also occasionally as grain train power on the KCS between Kansas City and Shreveport.  Understandably, the local foamers were quite pleased to see that this unit ethanol train which originated on the ICE (Iowa Chicago & Eastern) had the ICE power that it had.  So was I.

And here is the view in the other direction:

And that would be my last view there in many ways, as a few days later, I would head south to Louisiana.


As of the last few days, I’ve learned that the trip that I made from DC to Louisiana less than a week after taking the above pictures was really a one-way trip.   I would like to take this opportunity to thank the railroad enthusiasts of the area, most of whom I never actually met in person, for helping me with all of the information, for tolerating my questions, and for being generally good people.

For those of you who arrived at this post via some internet forum, if you want to keep up with my photographic dispatches, particularly of the fascinating railroad scene in southeastern Louisiana, the best way to do it is to join the Facebook fan page.  Click on the below icon when you’re logged into Facebook, and click the “Like” button:


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Thanks again, everyone.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 WTF August 14, 2011 at 22:49

The people who hang out at St. Denis are the biggest assholes in the world. I have never met a group of weirdos like them. On this side of the world (Metropolitan and Cumberland) people are willing to help out newcomers and newbies in the hobby. At St. Denis they treat you like shit.


2 Tom Becket August 18, 2011 at 17:17

I’m sure there will be an episode of the Journal to give some insight as to how the trip to Lousiana became one way. I’m glad I was able to give some insight into the quirks and foibles of railfanning in the northeast. It ain’t like many other places, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. As they say in the Texas tourist ad, it’s a whole ‘nother country. You survived it, and got some good stuff there, despite the fences and natives. I’m sure had you stayed, you’d have found some really good locations with a little poking around-they DO exist-and you’d have learned how to deal with the local foamers. I usually did my train watching solo, partly because of the situations and people you encountered, and I found it was quite rewarding, and I could check things out at my own pace without a lot of distraction. Best of luck back in Cajun country, and have a plate of Jambalaya for me!!


3 Tom Becket August 18, 2011 at 17:33

By the way, thanks for linking my Railroad Picture Archives album. I appreciate the exposure.


4 Art Reid April 5, 2012 at 10:39

I’m sorry we never linked up in person while you were out here. I think I did see your car go by me a time or two here in Brunswick- not too many LA plates out this way. Maybe if you ever get out this way or I get back down that way we can link up and shake hands.


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