Early on Saturday morning Steve arrived at Meadow House and we drove to Marshall diner for breakfast. We hurriedly gobbled it down as we had an appointment with a very important train that was running thrown my small town. We rushed to the level crossing, parked Stuart, and walked down the tracks so the old landmark grain tower would provide a suitable backdrop. And we waited. I was very excited and immensely relieved to be set up before the locomotive arrived. I had my G15 set up on a tripod for video and my Sony was ready to roll too.
And then we heard her, a shrill whistle in the distance got everyone in their places with necks craning for the first glimpse. The barriers came down over the crossing and then we heard a deep rumble of a steam engine. Dark grey plumes of smoke could be seen puffing above the tree tops and suddenly a bright headlight flashed into view. More piercing whistles shrilled from the train and all I could do was stare with incredulous awe at this magnificent beast bearing down on us. And then the most wonderful sound of all, the slowing down of the engine. It was stopping! Stopping here in my little town of Marshall! Right next to the feed mill tower. I was almost in tears, completely bowed by this majestic spectacle and so profoundly grateful that I was experiencing this moment.
The 611 stopped at Marshall for a full 5 minutes blowing steam and smoke from every orifice and blasting her whistle, giving her spectators a never to be forgotten show. I had goosebumps as I stood and stared up at her in complete adoration. It was actually really hard work to put myself behind the viewfinder of my camera and concentrate on taking photos that I would likely never have the opportunity to take again.
And then with a long loud shrill, she started chugging slowly forward, and I reached out to stroke her cardinal red and gold stripe that runs down her side. I waved at the driver and yelled out a thank you, then stood back to watch her pick up speed and round the corner out of sight.
We moved fast then, picking up tripods and camera bags, rushing for the car. We were on a high after our experience and laughed and shouted as we quickly walked, marveling at what we had just witnessed. There were many cars that had been held up on the crossing and as we drove down Main Street, I had never seen so many vehicles in Marshall before. We were soon on Rte 55 racing toward Markham, following a line of other cars with the same idea in mind.
We saw the smoke in the distance above the tree tops and heard her whistle. With windows down we tore along the country road, breathing in the wonderful smell of coal and watching a helicopter above us that weaved back and forth across the tracks.
We got to Markham and quickly got set up by the tracks again; this time we were actually lower than the railway so she was going to look huge as she came by. Once again we heard her whistle and then saw her headlight on her bullet nose coming close. But now her engine was racing, she wasn't going to stop. The 611 came thundering through the tiny village, dwarfing the old abandoned train depot. The sheer force of her blasting past us nearly knocked me off my feet. It was sensational, the noise, the smell, the sheer hugeness of this intoxicating metallic beast. I drank in and relished every second of her passing. And then suddenly she was gone. Steve and I just stood grinning widely at each other. What a ride! And we hadn't even been on the train. I was euphoric! We had been extremely fortunate to have experienced 2 thrilling moments. We loaded our equipment back into Stuart and then headed for a beer, eager to look through our photos and video footage. What a morning!
Next morning I was on my own but undaunted I drove back into town to see the Steam Queen pass through Marshall again.
And then I drove to Rectortown to catch her on her return trip. I arrived there to find just one other person waiting by his tripod and we struck up a conversation. John and I patiently waited a good 45 minutes and by then a small crowd of others had turned up.
Bill and I drove to Fox Meadow Winery, relaxing outside with a bottle of red wine, cheese and crackers, chatting about our experience with the 611. I heard her whistle in the distance, on her final leg back to Manassas, and had to resist the urge to leap to my feet and dash after her. I felt a twinge of regret as I suppressed myself, but thought, no, it's time to relax. And silently bid the Queen of Steam a silent adieu.
I did shoot some video footage of the 611 with my G15 but the poor soundcard really couldn't handle her shrieking and engine noise so on some parts of the video it sounds like the speakers have blown out!
The video of the 611 at the locations we chased her to is here.
A wonderful link about the 611 is here.