On Tuesday, July 18th, I got word that NS train 228 had the Monongahela Heritage unit leading, followed by 35Q with the GoRail engine. I've already caught the #8025, and I'm not terribly interested in SD60Es (which the GoRail unit is), but does one really need much of an excuse to go railfanning? Armed with knowledge, I made my way towards Gainesville just in time to watch 211 pass with a CEFX leaser sandwiched by two NS. Drat! I then witnessed a hy-rail truck get on the tracks and proceed east, which indicated that I had a while to wait before the next train.
Once I heard 228 trip the defect detector at MP 19.7, I shuffled down to the Godwin Road crossing between Manassas and Bristow to set up my shot. The sun was almost directly overhead, but I wasn't terribly concerned as, again, I already captured this unit on pixels some months ago.
After 228 passed, I opted to take a nap before setting up at Powell Junction for 203. I was a bit nervous standing on the median strip (less concerned about the traffic and more concerned about law enforcement showing up and telling me to get lost!) but it turned out this was a brilliant location, as I got a lovely shot of 203 leaning into the curve at Powell and subsequently knocking down the Approach signal before a crew change at Bristow.
Finally, it was time to set up for 35Q. I planned a going-away shot for this train at Gainesville, so I could A: include the green signal in the shot, and B: not show the ugly cab of the SD60E in charge. About five minutes before the train arrived, the crossing experienced a false activation which lasted roughly 30 seconds. I didn't think much of it, and happily photographed and filmed the passing manifest, which came with some extra horn action from the engineer!
My original plan was to fade out on the crossing gates going back up after the train had cleared. However, much to my surprise, my camera battery died before the gates went back up. After a good ten minutes of the gates remaining down, I opted to call the phone number posted on the crossing for such situations. The nice woman on the other end took my name and callback number, and I described the problem. Before hanging up, I asked if I could please cross the tracks because my truck was on the other side and I was ready to go home. Unfortunately, I was specifically instructed to NOT cross, as the tracks were "still active" and the woman on the phone was unable to verify that no trains were coming.
Thus began a long waiting period, during which I weighed my options. I *knew* that no other trains were nearby, and it was technically safe to cross. However, A: suppose NS police arrived just in time to see me walking through the down gates, and B: if they arrive and the gates are still down and I'm gone, they have my name and callback number, and they'll *know* I walked through the gates illegally. Given that this was my first interaction with the railroad proper, I wanted to be a goody-two-shoes. I also noted that my phone battery was running low, and a lighting storm was approaching from the west. While in the middle of deciding that I would cross "illegally" if my phone ran too low or the storm got too close (some safety decisions trump others, after all!) the gates finally went back up...45 minutes after 35Q had passed. The time wasn't completely wasted, as I did manage to get a couple of artsy shots of the crossing during my wait, and after all, I DID have a good day's railfanning, now with a story to tell!
As always, please enjoy the pictures and video, and thank you for reading!