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The lost train

10/09/2014
An old train trestle crosses a gorge just north of the crossroads town of Prospect, Maine

An old train trestle crosses a gorge just north of the crossroads town of Prospect, Maine

Every week I drive a scenic stretch of road near a little town called Prospect, Maine. Just before I pass through its crossroads, I always glance over at a rusty train trestle and think “that would make a nice picture.”

To make a GREAT picture it needs something else: A train.Now Maine doesn’t have many trains. At least not in these parts. There’s plenty of tracks, but trains stopped using them when  the lumber boom ended around the Turn of the Century. Seeing a train in Bangor is like seeing a lobster boat on Lake Superior. Sure, there’s a few now and then, but it’s more novelty than routine.

So I usually just sit behind the wheel and enjoy the view in Prospect. Coming from the north, cars and trucks climb out of a rocky river valley and cruise along  a ridge. Drivers look over the top of rolling pine forest and glimpse a little used quarry high up in the hills. Then the road plunges down a deep gorge and up the other side like it was built by roller coaster engineers.

This is where you see the trestle and where you wish for a train.

Last Monday, I got my wish.

Entering Prospect from the south, I spotted a big blue diesel engine rumbling on the tracks next to the highway. It pulled a couple of rusty coal cars and about a dozen white tankers. The train was headed for the trestle at a nice, slow pace.

I immediately thought about my picture.

This is it! I’ve waited two years for this train. I couldn’t believe my timing, my luck, I was going to get my GREAT picture.

I raced ahead through Prospect, plunged down the gorge and up the other side. I spotted a vantage point just above the trestle, parked my truck on the shoulder, pulled out my new camera phone and waited in the weeds for the little blue train. It was a perfect scene. The late afternoon light was golden. The low sun cast a shadow through the gorge but the rickety trestle glowed like embers in a dying fire. Rusty red maple trees accented an evergreen forest background.

I heard the train blow its horn as it passed through Prospect. It sounded weak and tired, like an air horn running out of air. I couldn’t see it, but the train crawled up a hill toward the trestle, its steel wheels squeaked against the rails. I pointed my camera phone at the bridge and took a few test pictures. Yup, this was going to be great.

Then the train appeared. It crossed the bridge and “click,” I took my picture.

I made a couple more shots as it passed over a ridge and slowly disappeared into a  forest.

Wow.

I immediately went to my phone. Flicked the screen to “gallery” and checked out my GREAT train photograph:

Something went horribly wrong. My camera phone automatically shifted into extreme close-up when I opened the shutter at the decisive moment

Something went horribly wrong. My camera phone automatically shifted into extreme close-up when I opened the shutter at the decisive moment. This was all I got of the train crossing the trestle.

NOOOooooooooOOOOooooooOOOOooo!!!!!!

Something went horribly wrong. The camera went into hyper focus and produced an extreme close-up. I don’t know why. What I do know is this: I will never see a train on that bridge again, much less in the golden afternoon sun surrounded by fall colors.

I guess I just have to settle for nice pictures.

After crossing the scenic trestle, the train rumbled over a ridge and disappeared into the forest.

After crossing the scenic trestle, the train rumbled over a ridge and disappeared into the forest.

 

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One Comment
  1. As a kid I used to hear the trains in Bangor at night. There used to be a rail yard on Main Street and you could hear the cars slamming together as the put the train cars together. I lived on the east side of town!
    Sometimes we would get stuck on the old bridge to Brewer and have to wait for a long train to go over the bridge. Still love trains!
    Andy

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