North Pole Oil Train
December 20-21, 2005
By Art Chase
Every year there are a couple special days when I try to always get out and play with my camera. Usually when the temperature is really cold and the days right around winter solstice. When the weather is clear the colors are awesome and we get about four hours of sunrise-sunset like color out of the sky. The sun doesn't rise more than 10 degrees above the horizon. This year was sweet! We had some clear skies, descent snow on the ground, temperature was 10 above (didn't even have to wear a coat) and lots of golden colors to work with.
The noon oil train had run out to North Pole, the MAC's had run around the tanks. The sun just broke horizon when I was able to position the camera where I could make the most of each shot. Some times I take too many shots, but with these colors, it only served the purpose more. The shots actually are more playing with the light than being dark in tones. Using a Nikon 5700, with auto settings to make up to the lack of time it takes to run through each manual setting. But I have learned some trick with the camera that gives me the kind of shots that I try to get on these special occasions. I lock onto the brightest area of the shot, then swing around and get the image. I also strive to get reflections off the equipment or wait until the unit or train is where I want it to be. This year just turned out some really special colors.
All the MAC and oil can shots are taken at Chapados, which is the siding for the refinery. They where using two MAC's, 4007, Spirit of Palmer and 4015, Spirit of North Pole. (Rather fitting for the day!) Was kind of funny, but the next day they used three MAC on the train, but the weather was over cast and gray. Still got a couple shots of them, they were units from the second batch of MAC's, but that a story for another time.
Basically the locomotives run around, re-couple andpull the train forward, reverse into the refinery. Swap trains and take the other cans back to Fairbanks. Then repeat! A lot of traffic for a small town on the tundra. Then on the 21st. I also heard the Eielson coal run coming through town. They had set out some hoppers that would be returned to FAI after they had been set out from Ft Wainwright movements. Units 3012 and 3006 were picking up cars from the north end of the North Pole siding. I had always wanted to capture a movement right in this spot during the low sun. I was very fortunate this day. In 20 plus years up here, this was the first time I was able to catch all the elements together. I liked this shot.
And 2002 is dragging loaded coal hoppers across the Moose Creek bridge, headed to Eielson AFB. Just had a few extra moments on the way home from the airport, and I happen to see the coal train running to the base. Not needing any more excuse than that, I had to get another wish list shot. There aren't days when it's too cold to chase a train. It was minus 28 that day.
Hope you like them! Maybe it's time we get a screen saver with all these images in one spot for the ARR fans. Whadya think John?