August 29th, 2014



Wednesday, driving back from Infectious Diseases on I-96, I passed a billboard for the Coopersville & Marne Railway. It's a tourist short line, created 25 years ago from a piece of the Grand Trunk Western, which runs a couple of passenger cars out-and-back into the country. They do a number of fun themed trips, including stopping at a pumpkin patch to pick your Halloween victim (grin) and murder mysteries for adults.

The billboard mentioned they are always up for charters. As I was thinking about the kinds of groups who might charter the train, I spotted it. Much of the line parallels I-96. Now here the thing. We've lived here for most of the Coopersville & Marne's existence. I've photographed a couple of times around the terminus in downtown Coopersville, right where Lemmen Chevrolet used to be, including some B&W I shot this winter with Wendy's old Nikkormat, but haven't posted. I have seen the train along I-96, but was either going the wrong way, or didn't have time, or didn't have a camera... or worse, the train was stopped for its entertainment or pumpkin hunting -- away from any access roads.

Well I try to carry a camera all the time now, so I continued on at 70mph to Exit 19, got off on 48th Avenue and headed east just before the grade crossing. It's an old road -- the railbed is level and straight, the road is not. Down below some trees I heard the train pass. Fortunately, up ahead there was a driveway to a self-storage operation in the middle of nowhere (but probably visible from I-96). Turn around. But there was now a car ahead of me, pacing the train at maybe 25 mph. Florida plates. Madly waving at the train. Family, I suppose. I passed them and passed the train.

Back at 48th, I almost turned to catch the train at the grade crossing, but across the intersection was a parking lot with nothing around it. A Park-n-Ride for the expressway. Perfect. Plenty of time to sit at a nice angle and wait for my train.

Technical/Artistic Note: I love having the lightweight semi-pro Nikon D100, especially with my mobility. But sometimes the pictures come out and sometimes they are weak. It's not the same CCD sensor as the D1 series. So is it the camera or my post processing? I turned on the Matrix metering last week, hoping to get a better exposed based image, but they don't... pop. Mainly I boost the contrast and brightness to get a pleasing look. Now I am trying upping the Saturation by 40 points, which is really working. That and contrast gives me some color, highlights and blue skies. Should've thought of this before. Hell I set the Saturation onboard the D100 from I to III already, but this is definitely more vibrant. Added some Sharpen, too, on two of the shots.

I probably took it too far, but these give me a vibe of 1960s Kodachrome-X slides. Not quite the Kodak 64 Professional (PKR) or Ektachrome 200 Professional (EPD) I'd really want, from the film days. By contrast, the D1X and D1H with just contrast adjustments shoot more like clean Vericolor III Professional (VPS). For those of you who know your 1980s 35mm Kodak films.

Coopersville & Marne Railway train crossing 48th Avenue. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Following train into Coopersville. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Even with a 35mph speed limit, it was easy to get ahead again and found a parking lot next to the depot. No gates or lights at any of these crossings, for safety here in town they let someone off to flag the train across.

Pulling into the Coopersville depot. Their prime locomotive is this 1200hp EMD SW-9. A switch engine, the SW series are dependable workhorses. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The passenger cars are a mixture of heavyweights with 6-wheel and 4-wheel trucks, like this one. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Whew. Boy, haven't chased a train in years. So good to know I have some usable images, even if these are the final pictures. Truth is, I spoiled myself in the old days, shooting transparency film -- you hot it or you didn't. With first and 1½ gen DSLRs, the sensors don't have the dynamic range of film, hence my issues with editing.

Anyway... I had fun.

Dr. Phil

a wizard of id

You know it's going to be an odd day when both elevators say they're on 5, the left one starts coming down, you press the up button, and the right elevator dings and opens on 1 despite it saying it's still on 5...

But you know that there's some sort of building problem because it is excessively humid, so you get in the elevator anyway. And properly get off on 2. Who knows what the indicator on 1 says?

But before you got there, it took almost two hours to get there... after you got on campus. There'd been a note in the university e-newsletter last week that university IDs were being changed. I'd say "again", but really I've been here some 22 years and this may be my fifth ID card -- and two of those changes were switching from Faculty to Grad Student and back. (grin)

So I figured I'd drive around to the Bernhard Center this morning and get it out of the way. Arrived 10:20. And... no parking spaces. The two handicapped spots were in use. And there were a number of cars in the Tow Away zones.

Twice spots opened up -- and I couldn't get them. Lots of families working on taking The College Kid around. Watched a couple of kids and their dad playing with an old golden retriever named Arby. Their Saturn SUV had one of those power lift gates -- which would close better if the back wasn't so stuffed. Funny to watch it close, only to open again.

After an hour, I decided to drive around one more time, missed a spot but another was open. On the left side of the drive with a curb, which made getting in and out exceedingly difficult. Went to stuff quarters into the meter -- the handicapped spots were free -- but it was jammed. Got the walker, rolled in, found a bathroom -- the button didn't work for exiting. Guy behind me helpfully pushed the button a few more times. Yeah, Sparky, the guy with the walker didn't think to try it.

People milling outside the BroncoID office. A line? No, waiting for their cards. Alas, I didn't get to keep my old one. The girl had only modest success getting the remote control camera to work right. Had to keep lowering my chin -- and I have a long torso and she couldn't figure out how to get the glare off the glasses. Then waited in the hall for the guy with the softest voice in the group to come and call names.

At this point I found myself across from the campus bookstore, which I haven't been in for years. Decided to look for a new WMU cap. Had to negotiate through a tangle of scattered clothes racks too narrow for the walker. Will not buy the ones in the same fonts and design for every other bloody school. Found a nice black with yellow trim hat with an embroidered W and Broncos horsehead. I have a very old brown Western hat that's pretty battered.

Had to loop way around the back of the store to get a free path out. Had to pass a big display of Moleskin notebooks. Looked at a small black book. Want something to pocket with me to make notes in class and office. Could work. Then a flat pen to go with it. Overpriced, of course, but look... here's a boxed set with both. And of course my shiny new Faculty BroncoID still gets a 10% faculty discount. So not quite as bad as it could be.

By this time I was at the other entrance, near the Blazer. But no power doors and three stairs here -- in the immortal words of Tim Gunn, I made it work. Along with two students who figured it was dumb to have to go all the way around the building to get to the same spot. Pulled out my quarter I'd left sticking out of the meter. Western doesn't need to get money out of me for parking.

Whew. Just about two hours. And look, there's a bunch of people gathered around a WMU sign for a picture... And one had a bucket. Yup. I got out the D100 and shot some administrator taking the ALS Ice Bucket plunge. (grin) In my comfortable air con, that made my day. Timing is everything.

Dr. Phil