Tuesday, April 30, 2013


A Link to the Past

This old hunk of odd-ball railroad equipment provides a link to the past. I do not think that I live in the past, but I do respect and honor all the places that I have been and most of my past. The locomotives that were brand new when I came into this world are mostly gone. A few are still used on short branch lines, and a few more are in museums.

This item is some sort of maintenance of way equipment. It looks like it was home-made.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Limited Sunset, 1995

Here is another idea of where my style was about twenty years ago. It has developed, but some of the essence has been there a long while. I showed a black and white version of this where the RR crossing sign was cut partially off. I think I liked it that way.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Oaks on a Small Hill, Humboldt County, 2013

This is a black and white interpenetration of a scene that I do not think worked very well in color.

In Color

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Springtime on a Backroad

On a Backroad in Humboldt County, April 2013

A beautiful spring day in Humboldt County. We were practically alone out there. I love it that where we live there are still places for one to find solitude.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The Shell of Southern Pacific's Mojave Station, c.1993

As with the section gang housing that I wrote about in an earlier posting, the SP was determined to rid itself of as many fiscal drains as it could. I recall hearing that the property tax burden was enough motivation for them to abandon round houses, crew quarters, medical clinics and stations.

When I was working the railroad in the seventies, we always picked up train orders here. For east-bound trains this was the end of double track for trains proceeding on to Los Angeles or Palmdale and the Cutoff. Either way, the eastbound train had to have orders because we were running against scheduled trains that had the right over our extra or non-scheduled trains.

Up until about 1970 Mojave was a small but busy hub of railroad activity. It had a functioning yard with a crew on duty perhaps day and night (I would need to fact check to be sure), several local trains a day, and what I recall was called a station agent or telegrapher. I think all were gone by the time this photograph was taken.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Steam Engines at Silverton, 1992

I would much rather photograph and experience trains from the ground than to be riding on them. Don't get me wrong, riding is fun, but the photographs are from trackside. Lisa and our friend Terry rode one of these up the canyon from Durango, and I met them here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Blue Blossoms, 2013

I took this photograph a couple days ago while on a photo outing with Pam and Hal. I shot nearly every thing hand-held, and enjoyed the freedom that provides. Doing so prevented me from "focus stacking" this image, but, as Hal would say, "what the hay (hey)".

Friday, April 19, 2013


My First Attempt at "Focus Stacking".

I see lots of potential in utilizing this process. This image is a composite of three. The first is focused on the foreground flower, the second on the upper right blossom, and the third should have been on the left flower. This image has a tremendous depth compared to the individual images.

All were shot at f 22, yet that alone was just not enough to capture it all.

Focus on Near Blossom

Focus on Far Blossom

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Some More Humboldt Bay Shipping, c.1982

This scan is from a 35mm slide. I frequented the Del Norte Street dock when we lived in Eureka. It only took me a few minutes to ride my bike down there. I do not think there are many ships coming in any more. It fact, I would be surprised if any  cargo ships come in at all. I think some barges may arrive here from time-to-time, but I think that is it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Depleted Retail Building, 1993

This former feed store is part of the body of work that I did of the Edison Highway area of East Bakersfield. I think of this area as being south of the SP Bakersfield Yard, and from Oswell Street on the east, to Kern Junction Tower on the west. It includes some of East California Avenue and this building. I photographed the area in the early 1970's and again in 1993.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


South Spit Humboldt Bay, 2013

I took this image the other day at the south spit. I think it is the stronger of the several compositions that I made that day. I think I prefer it in color over the toned black and white.

Sand Sculpture, or Mummified Muppet Bert, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013


Hal Work and the Sea, 2013

I like the simplicity of this image. It reveals the essence of our local beaches. They are vast, often devoid of people, cool, and lovely. This beach is on the south spit. It is a place where I seldom visit, yet it is close. Eureka and Field's Landing are just across the bay, but it seems like being miles away from anyone.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Trillium in our Yard, 2013

In our yard there is a large patch of redwood sorrel, and in the center of that is a cluster of trillium. We have been watching these every year, and the plants and blossoms are expanding in numbers. I counted fifteen blossoms and buds a couple of days ago when I took these photos.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Train Number 52 at Bealville, CA

Somewhere I have a black and white photograph of a Santa Fe GP 7 or 9 helper engine on the rear-end of a caboose. It is pushing a freight train through Tehachapi. I must have convinced my parents to stop the car so that I could take my photograph. I must have been eight or ten then. What I know for sure is that by that age, I was a railfan.

Many years later, I took this photograph.  I was an employee of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, and I was off duty. It was sometime in the early 1970's, and I had driven to the mountains just so I could photograph this train. Bealville and Caliente were two of my favorite locations to see and photograph trains.

One of the things I like about these photographs is that they show the section houses. I am guessing that this photo was taken in 1972 or so, and there still were facilities at Bealville (they were all removed shortly thereafter). To the left of the train, and just beyond the signal tower, is a section crew truck. It is parked near a section house.

Around the time that I took this photo, I worked on the brakeman's extra board. Several times I was a crew member of a work train. A work train was a special train that was ordered by a section foreman. Its purpose was to provide a platform for a small crane, and to deliver ties and ballast. We often had two SD 9 locomotives, and a relatively short train. We delivered the ties, spotted the crane, and spread the ballast wherever the section foreman desired. We had to work around the mainline trains, and so we spent a lot of time "in the hole" (siding) while traffic passed.

I do not recall the name of the Bealville section foreman. I wish that I did. He took great pride in his section and in his work. I understand that he regularly walked his entire section to inspect every aspect of his tracks, so that he could take the best care of his section of the railroad. He and others like him all over the system were instrumental in keeping the trains rolling, and the railroad safe.

Train Number 51 at Bealville With One of the Section Houses

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Cropduster, Near Edison, CA, 1972

One evening in July 1972, I was driving home from Palmdale or Mojave. I noticed the crop duster working a field, and noted that it may pass in front of the setting sun. I pulled off of the highway and over to the old road where I set up my seldom-used 350mm lens on my SRT 101. I do not recall if this was a hand-held shot or not. I got lucky.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Driftwood Sculpture on the South Spit, 2013

Pam, Hal and I went on a little field trip to the south spit yesterday. It was fun to exercise my photography skills in the flat light that the overcast noon time light produced.

Driftwood Sculpture Variation Number Two, 2013

 I spent more time on the image this morning and came up with this variation.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


SP Train Number 375, The Starpacer, Arriving at the East End of Bakersfield, c.1971

In the late 1960's and early 1970's Bakersfield Yard was a busy place. Bakersfield served as the terminal for trains originating in Los Angeles, Colton, Fresno, and Roseville. Most trains either off of the valley or off of the hill, were routed into the yard, and onto one of the yard's numerous tracks. The main line(s) paralleled the yard tracks, and afforded the only direct pathway through the yard.

Hotshot trains, like the Starpacer, were normally brought down the main for a power change at the Yardmaster's tower. My job as the East-end Switch Tender was to route trains into and out of the yard. I would do so by "lining" the proper switches either to or from the east-bound or west-bound main lines.

I took this photograph one dawn as train number 375 passed the east end on the west-bound main toward Kern Junction and the Yardmaster's tower. "He" was likely doing a little less than forty miles-per-hour in this photo.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


View From the Cab of Amtrak Number 12 at Ilmon, CA

A minor claim to glory that I can take, is that I was the fireman on The Coast Amtrak, Train Number 12, on its only venture over Tehachapi Pass. The coast main line was washed out, and the train was detoured via the Santa Fe valley route to Bakersfield. The train was delivered to the SP at Kern Junction where the SP crew took over from the AT&SF. I was called out as an extra board fireman to work with Engineer Hull. As I recall, we took the train to Union Station.

There was a lot of excitement for railfans since this was the first passenger train to go over this route since trains number 51 and 52 were terminated several years prior. We were chased by several carloads of happy fans, and were ambushed by a small crowd at the famous loop (Walong).

It was especially fun because we had ample power to go the speed limit of 25mph all the way up the hill. Normally, with freight trains, we would drag up the hill at speeds around 15mph, and we were often "put in the hole", but not so on a first-class train.

View from the Cab of Railfans at Walong, c.1977

Friday, April 5, 2013


Meeting the SP Extra 5303 at Sandcut, CA, c.1975

When I was in my early teens I saved up my lawn mowing money and purchased a small telescope. I ordered it from Sears. It was a "Tower" brand, 30X power, and it had a very short tripod. It was a terrestrial type scope - like a spotting scope. I often took the scope up into the foothills near our house. I placed the scope on an old log that was laying on the ground, and I started looking.

From this vantage point, I could see much of the Southern Pacific's main line from about Fairfax up to Sandcut. If I saw any train traffic I would take to the scope and watch. It was easy to spot the east-bound traffic because I could hear their horns as they slowly left Bakersfield Yard. I followed them as they ascended the moderate grade toward Sandcut. It was there that I would permanently lose track of them as they made the left-hand turn where they dropped down about 86 feet to Bena.

It was nearly impossible to spot west-bound trains as they emerged into view at Sandcut while looking through the scope. I had no method of knowing when they would show. Sometimes I would be gazing at some of my other favorite things to look at, and would hear the sound of a horn to alert me to the presence of a train. Once-in-awhile, I would hit the jackpot and witness a meet of west and east-bound trains at or near Sandcut. That was as good as it got.

In the late 1950's and early 1960's I was still living in my imagination, and I often placed myself into the locomotives of the trains that I watched. I imagined operating the train up the grade and into the unseen and magical realm of railroad, and mountain passes beyond Sandcut. I tried to visualize what it was like to be on a train through Caliente, and onward to Tehachapi. I practically willed myself into those trains as my daydreams attempted to create a reality that would fulfill my fantasy.

The above image is a representation of the fulfillment of my daydreams. In this photograph I am the Fireman of a helper engine on a train. The train is at Sandcut where the head-end is already around the left-hand curve, and is dropping down to Bena (my camera captures the moment and provides the proof of my "jackpot" win - we met a west-bound freight at the perfect time).

What I did not realize when I was the kid with the telescope, nor when I was the young man in the cab of the locomotive, was that I was capable of setting goals and fulfilling goals. Only in hindsight, did I come to understand the power of intention.

The fifteen-year old Tommy, the thirty-year old T.A. Bethune, and the sixty-seven year old Thomas are all linked in a "Vonnegut" type time warp where past experiences and ages merge into a composite that my limited vocabulary cannot even begin to describe.

I know now, from this perspective, that all the moves and decisions that I made about railroading were the correct ones. I lived a dream. When it was about to become a nightmare, I, in essence, woke up from it, established a new set of goals, and embarked on a quest to fulfill them. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013


"Cookies Are Out", c.1973 on the Colton Cutoff

This is a photograph of me grabbing a bag of cookies from one of the "cookie ladies". I do not have many photographs of myself while at work on the railroad (in fact, I can only recall one photo of me operation a locomotive - I cannot find it).

The cookie ladies lived on a small ranch near our main line. Their place was just a short distance west* of Sullivan's Curve. The ladies prepared small bags of cookies, and one of them would stand out by the tracks and hand them up to us. Usually they would get out to the tracks in time so that the head-end brakeman could grab a bag from the locomotive. The engineer would call the caboose on the radio and say "cookies are out". That gave us plenty of time to get ready to grab the bag. Often we would toss the cookie lady a newspaper as an exchange (there is a paper on the ballast to my left).

This process only worked when we were going west toward Palmdale. We usually were only going about fifteen miles per hour up the hill, and that gave them time enough to get out to the tracks. There was a siding about a mile from their place, and the engineer would sound the horn, and that served as notice to the ladies. Eastbound trains were usually going about twenty-five miles per hour, and that was just too fast for an exchange.

The Cajon Pass had three sets of tracks. Our's and two more that were shared by the Santa Fe and the Union Pacific. Each railroad had distinctive horns, and so the ladies could tell who was coming. We were the only ones that were treated by the ladies.

For this photograph, I enlisted the conductor to take my Rollicord with him onto the empty flat car just ahead of the caboose. The conductor may have been Kenny Burkheimer. 

*The SP operated east and west from San Francisco. For simplicity sake, there was no north and south.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Southern Pacific Railroad Bakersfield Roundhouse, c.1975

I took this photograph before sunrise one morning while I was working as a hostler at the roundhouse. My duties were to move locomotives and consists of locomotives through the servicing area and on to wherever the roundhouse foreman wanted them to go. Sometimes we put individual engines onto the tracks off of the turntable, and sometimes we assembled multiple units into consists of two, four or more locomotives.

This photograph shows about seven "goats" or switch engines, and a consist of at least four units off to the upper right. I think those units were the head-end power for one of the Starpacers - either No. 365 or more likely, No. 375. Those units are being replaced with two "valley" locomotives for the trip to Fresno and Roseville.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


El Capitan, Yosemite, 1961, Kodak Brownie

Here is an example of how I figured out how to make a bridge through time. I took this Ektachrome in 1961 with a square Brownie. The film size is 127, or 1 5/8" square. I bridged time by scanning and  processing the very dirty slide in Photoshop and in Light Room. I had to work on it for quite awhile.

I wish that there was some method wherein I could speak to my fifteen-year-old self. I have a couple of pointers for him, but then what would I dare change? However, I do think he has a good eye, so perhaps I should just leave him alone. I think he may turn out all right.


Emergence, 2012

This image along with two others were my submissions to The Northwest Eye, a juried show sponsored by the Humboldt Arts Council. All three of my works did not make the cut.

Not feeling rejected is the issue that I am working on. I prepared myself to accept that I could not only not win any awards, but that my work could be "juried out". I must admit that I do not feel all that bad. I felt much worse the last time that this happened. Yes, two years ago, I received a "best of show" in this exhibit, and of course I was elated. The lesson for me is to be neither upset or elated in any of these situations. In that regard, I am making progress.

Later: I went to pick up my work, and we could only find two of the three. We finally found the third - on the wall in the gallery. They missed including it in the accepted list. My attitude has shifted since this morning, but not as much as it would have a year ago. Nonetheless, I do feel better.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Moonscape, Korea, 1968, Minolta SRT101 135mm f2.8

This photograph was taken from my tactical site. The distant lights on the hilltop are of a radar complex. The reflected moonlight is on water from the Yellow Sea. The tides here were very impressive.