Jeff's Blog - Wednesday, July 31, 2019 - Scouting PM1225 Sites

My camera club was hoping to find the spot that this photo of the Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive was taken from, so we could stop there for a shot during our late November / early December group shoot of the North Pole Express.

    
PM1225 on a bridge somewhere

I've used google maps satellite view, zoomed in all the way, to scour the tracks from Ashley to Owosso and found four possible spots. Today I visited them to see which one(s) might be interesting locations. I worked my way through the 4 spots in order from north to south.

The first is at GPS coordinates 43.15004, -84.43858. I parked my car on Taft road and walked the 1/4 mile through an unused farm field, but could not find any break at all in the thick brush between the field and the river to get through. Actually, I couldn't even see through to the river or the tracks. I didn't actually try approaching the tracks from the northeast because I didn't see any way to access that spot, plus it would be a 1/3 mile walk mininum (plus 1/3 mile walk back). I thought this was too far to walk on a rather-rushed morning that might not have the best of weather. Also, the land here is totally flat. The photo is taken from a slightly elevated position, looking down on the tracks. That couldn't be here (unless taken from a drone). Strike one!

The next spot is just 1.25 miles away, at 43.13589, -84.42336. The tracks here are on a berm, and there is very little space to stand at track level with any safety margin. The brush and trees come right up to the berm, so there's not even a spot to stand below the berm, looking up at the train. There are no hills or buildings from which you can look down onto the tracks. I parked at the intersection of S Berry and E Brownell and walked (on the tracks) the 650 feet to the bridge. The first photo below was taken along that walk. Except for one spot, there's noplace safe to photograph from, with only a foot of berm between the tracks and the berm-top's edge. Just south of the bridge is a 20-foot-long gravel build-out at berm-top-level that we could photograph a southbound train safely from (second photo below; stones are below the field of view). Big deal, when southbound, the locomotive is at the back of the train (if I recall correctly). The third shot is looking south from beyond the bridge, showing the best view of the bridge itself. But there's again nowhere to stand safely off the tracks to photograph from. Steeerike two!

    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river

The third site is at 43.07136, -84.32990. This spot was again inaccessible except from a distance. I took two photos here, both through my car window since I could see that this was not a good candidate for photography. The bridge is just that flat dark structure in the distance of the first photo below (taken from where the railroad crosses W Riley road), and it's the hole under the tracks near the center of the second photo below (taken just west of the railroad crossing). The bridge is just beams laid across the creek with the tracks upon them - no rails or other detail, so I can't see any advantage that the bridge provides for a photograph. The thinnest sliver of foul tip.

    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river

The fourth site is the best of the bunch, located at 43.04980, -84.26046. The first photo below is taken from near the curve in the dirt lane nearest to the bridge. It's the best spot I could find for a shot of the train, and it will be northbound. However, the bridge is nothing to write home about, and unless the trees are transparent by the day we go, only a small piece of train will be visible in the photo. There's a convenient spot to park just off King Road (second photo below), but the railroad berm is steep on both sides of the track and I was afraid to bottom-out my car if I tried to cross to the north side of the tracks. So I just left the car there and walked the short 250-foot distance.

    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river

These four shots below are from the south side of the tracks near where I parked the car. These could perhaps be decent spots to shoot from since more of the train will be visible, but the bridge is just a tiny blot from these distances. It might also still be blocked from view by grasses.

    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river
    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river

This last site has a backup plan: 0.4 miles east is a curve in the tracks as they cross the road. This could be a good spot for a photo. A through-the-car-window shot (it was a hot day) is below. It is a 3-mile 7-minute drive from here to Carland. For the train, this is 2.4 miles and at 25 MPH that'll take only 6 minutes. So the down-side of this bridge and also the curve in the track is that if we shoot here, we cannot shoot at Carland. And I think Carland is superior to either of these.

    
Scouting for PM1225 bridge over river

So none of these are the spot in the original photo; maybe it was shot along a different route that PM1225 travels. See also Scott's PM1225 pdf. Based on all of this, my recommendation would be

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