Friday, July 2, 2010

The Railyard

I took these photos a couple of summers ago from off the E. 6th Street bridge in Topeka, between Adams and Branner Streets.  I went there two different times about two weeks apart.  I would wait around for a few days until the sun was in just the right place, and there were the right kind of clouds to balance out the top half of the picture, and there were a good number of trains in the right spot on the tracks.  When everything was just so I would park and walk what turns out to be quite a long way to the part of the bridge that overlooks the tracks.  Each time I went I shot about 50 photos. 

This shot is looking north along the tracks towards the direction of the Santa Fe shops.  On the far left you can see the Amtrak depot and track.  The Amtrak depot was built in 1950.  All of the trains in this shot are Santa Fe trains.  This section of railroad has likely been around a long time.  The Atchison and Topeka Railroad was chartered in February, 1859 by Cyrus K. Holliday, one of the founders of the city of Topeka.  Santa Fe was added to the name in 1863 to represent Mr.  Holliday's desire to develop the line to that city.  For over nine years the railroad only existed on paper.  There was no track for the trains to run on, but that's ok, because there weren't any trains, either.  Finally, on October  30, 1868, ground was broken in Topeka for the construction of the AT&SF track.  On April 26, 1869 the first section opened, a six mile run south to Pauline.  I was not able to confirm it in my research, but the section of track in this photo is likely part of that inaugural route to Pauline.  Meanwhile, the main focus of the track building was westward, and they reached Dodge City on September 5, 1872, and the Colorado state line in December, 1873.  Oddly, Holliday ended up abandoning the idea of connecting Santa Fe to his railroad due to the expense of building in the difficult terrain in the area and the sparse population at the time.  Nevertheless, Santa Fe remained in the official company name.

Here is a shot for the black and white photo fans.  Trains are a good subject for photography.  They are also a good subject for paintings, literature, songs, movies, travelers, fans of hobos, you name it.  Railroads and trains are often quite romanticized.  In a time before automobiles they represented their own kind of freedom, and speed, and according to a lot of movies they represented adventure, crime, and espionage.  When trains came along they fascinated and scared people.  They were huge, belching steam and quite intimidating to someone who usually took a horse and buggy.  They freightened livestock, made a lot of noise, reduced a trip to the west coast from months to days, and were sometimes tempting to robbers.  Today there are a lot of people who are devoted to seeing and logging as many different trains as possible, tracking all their movements and learning to identify and recognize trains on sight.  I don't do any of that, I just like peering down on them occasionally from bridges.

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