Link's Color photo--a witness account
NW Mailing List
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Fri Sep 3 21:25:01 EDT 2010
There is no mystery, based on the daylight test photos Link made (previously referred to as NW2134 and NW2135), that the color photo on the cover of Thunder on Blue Ridge was made near Bridge 90. This location is near MP N-252.5, halfway between Boaz and Bonsack. This is also very close to the west end of the passing track that started there and extended to the east past the Bonsack station, which is about a mile east of the photo location. If the photo would have been made directly adjacent to Boaz siding, there would have been three tracks to the left of the shanty - right to left, one siding and two main tracks. As you can see, there is no siding. The photo was taken neither at Boaz or Bonsack. I can't post the two photos that would clear this up (NW 2134 and NW2135) without permission.
From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Subject: Re: Link's Color photo--a witness account
To: "NW Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Date: Friday, September 3, 2010,
Thanks to Ed King for posing the "Highball" discussion, which I,
too, and no doubt others have pondered for some time.
I ran down the eyewitness citation to which I referred several days
ago. It is in Classic Trains, summer 2001 (v.2, n2), p. 32,
where there appears a "box" on Highball within a feature article on
Link's sounds of steam. Quoted within the "box" is Link's assistant
for the Highball shot, David Plowden:
"That train...I remember it whistling through the night when it
started coming up the mountain. It took, I would say, 45 minutes to
a hour to get to us. It was going no more than 15 miles an hour,
working absolutely flat-out, both engines. It means, it was a
hair-raising experience to be right next to the track when these
things went by, I tell you."
The "up the mountain" business and the 45-60 minutes: sound like
anything near Bonsack? I know there are problems with the Blue
Ridge analysis, but does not that description favor a location well
to the east of Bonsack?
Harry, I will eagerly await your finding on a shanty between Boaz
and Bonsack. Useful to a Blue Ridge-area modeler!
For those who do not have the CT article, I will add more from
"This was a double-header they ran especially for Link; it was a
sort of farewell present to him...
"You know," I said to Link, "the packings on these engines probably
are going to be pretty loose. They're old, being retired. If we
shoot them straight on, you're going to get nothing but [leaking]
Link considered this, and said, "Yeah, you're probably right."
"Indeed, when the engines appeared, they were leaking from all ports
possible. If we had shot it head-on, all we'd have gotten was a
great cloud of steam."
So: an inimitable Highball going-away shot, thanks to an alert
photographer assistant's caution.
Notwithstanding the CT "box" citing Boaz as Highball's location (by
Robert McGonigal, the "box" writer, not by Plowden, the witness, who
is silent on the location), I think in light of the discussion over
recent days we are presented with a story easily "up the mountain"
to the east of Boaz.
The article notes that "Link got N&W employee Bill Tanner to
hold up a white lantern in a highball gesture"--having failed to get
Plowden to pose with a red lantern. Plowden: "I'm an old
railroader. Red means only one thing. If somebody holds up a red
lantern in front of the train, they're going to dump the air."
Plowden continues: "Link was incredibly nervous...because he
realized that he had one shot and that was it. Here was the
railroad that had put on a doubleheader for him...the last
time this would happen. It was his last chance--can you
imagine the strain on this man? And so I remember him standing
there as those engines came...He had predetermined exactly where he
was going to fire the shutter, when the N or the O on that second
tender passed a certain place. So, when that engine passed the
spot, Link fired the shutter, and lit up the night."
...and imaginations for generations to come.
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