Train-Watching Memories
Dave, Steve, Bob and Dad

Train-Watching isn't a very well-known hobby, but there are a lot of people who are interested in it. To the skeptics, I would compare it to fishing. You get to spend a day or two outdoors with friends trying to "catch" something. To a railfan, it might be a photo of that rare locomotive or paint scheme, or getting ideas for a model railroad. A railfan can spend a lot of money on equipment. Cameras, tripods, scanners, tape recorders and many other items can be a necessity on a train-watching trip. I think the best part of the hobby is just being outdoors in the middle of nowhere with train-watching buddies. The nights camping out at the tracks. The Bridge. The "hammering" sound of an approaching GE U-boat in the dead of night. Seeing a glow late at night at the start of the 8-mile straight knowing it's a very fast piggyback. The campfires. The sounds of the locomotive's dynamic braking at Sand Patch. The high volume of trains at South Bend. Visiting places like Tehachapi, Cajon Pass and Bolo Hill. Camping at Bealville. Just being out in nature, away from everything. The sheer adventure of it. Train-Watching has been a lot of fun!

It was a dark and foggy night Dusk at Lena and the 8-mile straight A Triumph TR6 is not a Land Rover
Let's camp here! The Shadow The Hobbyshop incident in Lafayette
Double track or single track? The tar bucket I didn't phrase the question quite right
The Flash Earning our Masters degree The garden spiders
The soda can incident We're almost there! Stop! Stop! Stop!
Witches in the woods Tree Frogs The Butterscotch Bird
Feel like dancing Dress code Diamonds are rough
When is it a train? The cat was busy The 100th train
Don't litter here! Marilyn and Emil Mann Not a Company Photographer!
A hobby is born What's a crayfish doing there? Just happened to mention fog
We tried to be nice, Mr. Spider Who goes there? Something scampered by
A GE "U-boat" in the dead of night Bolo Hill Snapping Turtles have the Right-of-Way
The Owl This trip wasn't much fun Operation Dam it
The Sounds of Sand Patch Campfires 2101
Playing with bats Dial 9-1-1 A howling sound in the woods
Strange names

It was a dark and foggy night
Dave and I were standing on the Penn Central tracks at the West end of Avon yards one particularly foggy night, when one of us just happened to turn around to see a glow to the West. Almost immediately, we heard what was obviously a train bearing down on us at great speed! It was the Amtrak with an E unit on the front. We scrambled to safety, but that really shook us up! We had no idea a train would be going so fast in those conditions!

Dusk at Lena and the 8-mile straight
Camping at Lena was a special experience. Somehow, we felt as if we were in a different world, away from the realities of life. A place to escape. And, of course, to watch the trains go by. We would basically endure the day, waiting for
dusk, then head down to the bridge...

A Triumph TR6 is not a Land Rover
After a while of train-watching around Danville, Dave and I wanted to go exploring farther West. We set out one day in Dave's Triumph TR6, armed with highly detailed USGS contour maps. We were West of Greencastle when I spotted an "unimproved" road on the map. We took this little dirt road, which was actually a perimeter road around a farmer's cornfield. We followed it around for quite a distance, thinking it would connect us with a main gravel road, when we found a creek blocking the way. Instead of turning back, a decision was made to try and cross it. It wasn't very deep or wide, but still... We made it across, but afterwards, we thought it was a pretty adventurous thing to try! In subsequent trips, we would always look at that place as we drove by on the main road.

Let's camp here!
Dave and I had been train-watching for a year or so and thought it would be fun to camp out at the tracks somewhere. One evening, we packed up our cars with camping gear and headed out, not knowing where we would camp. We just knew we could find a suitable spot somewhere. We scouted this one place which looked promising, then decided to look a little farther to the West. We weren't really finding anything we liked, and it was getting late, so we turned around and headed back to the spot we looked at earlier. On the way back, I saw a place I wanted to check out. I parked my GT6+ over to the side of the road, and the right-side wheels dropped off the edge! I asked Dave to go and try to find some help. He wanted me to go with him, but I selfishly wanted to stay with my car. Dave reluctantly went for help and shortly returned with a farmer's tractor following him. The farmer pulled me out, refused payment and left. As we started to leave, Dave's TR6 wouldn't start because the battery was dead after he used his headlights to light up the recovery scene. We got him going and headed back. We got to the spot we saw earlier and stopped in the road to look at it closer when my car started rolling forward because the handbrake wouldn't hold. It was well past midnight, we were tired, we were having one big moment after another and I'm sure Dave had gotten fed up with me, so we decided to camp at this spot.

The Shadow
A regular occurrence of camping at Lena was the "late-night piggyback" from the West. Conrail called it MAIL-4. This train would blast by anytime between midnight and 2:00am. Every once in a while, the humidity would be high enough so, that as the train approached the overhead bridge at Lena, the train's headlight would cast a giant shadow of the bridge into the air. It was quite spectacular!

The Hobbyshop incident in Lafayette
Dave and I were in a hobby shop in Lafayette looking to buy train models to build. We were browsing and I was looking at a display of model locomotives. I thought Dave was standing next to me, but instead, it was a complete stranger. I spied a Penn Central F unit exactly like the one Bob had, and blurted: "Hey, there's an engine just like Bobby's got!" to him. After I realized what I did, I said "excuse me" and walked away. I am sure Dave overheard this because of the smirk I saw on his face.

Double track or single track?
When I first got interested in train-watching, I found a spot near Danville where I could park the car just off the edge of the road. It became the first train-watching spot. At night, I could sit there in the weeds, close to the double-track mainline and watch trains go by. One evening, I managed to talk Dave into going out there with me. It was his first train-watching trip. When we arrived, it was dark. We saw a train light to the West and hunkered down in the weeds. While we were waiting, we saw a train light to the East. Trains were approaching from both directions! As the trains got closer, Dave kept asking me: "Are you sure there are two tracks here?" "Are you SURE there are two tracks here?" I knew there was, but Dave was so persistent and genuine with his question, I almost became unsure myself. I eventually replied "yeah, I think so."

The tar bucket
Spending long periods of time at the tracks could get tedious, so we would find creative ways of passing the time. At our first spot near Danville, Dave and I were sitting near the tracks one night just throwing rocks over to the other side of the tracks. One of us hit a discarded spike container which made a distinctive "bonk" sound. I called it the tar bucket for some reason. This container was hidden in the weeds and could barely be seen when looking for it. After that, Dave, Bob and I would sit there for hours and lob rocks over the tracks at this "tar bucket" that we couldn't see, having all kinds of competitions. Over time, we had thrown so many rocks at it, I began to worry that trains might derail because so much of the ballast had been thrown over to the other side.

I didn't phrase the question quite right
There was a hobby shop on the far Westside of Indianapolis which Dave and I liked to visit. The proprietor was an elderly gentleman who was running his shop out of his garage. He had quite a selection of Athern HO cars and locomotives. Dave was over one weekend and we were going to put together some models. I was interested in purchasing a locomotive (the road name I can't recall), so I phoned this hobby shop and inquired as to whether he had this particular road name. At the end of my question, I added "dummy?" It sounded like I called him a dummy! What I meant was, did he have this particular engine as a non-powered unit. Dave snickered out loud and I almost burst out laughing at my mistake.

The Flash Notes
Bob and I were camping at Lena one night, sitting around the campfire talking. Earlier that evening, Bob had been taking pictures using a long lens. Bob still had his camera and tripod at the ready in case he wanted to take some time exposures. As we were talking, I heard a "thump." I looked over and saw this camera lens rolling quickly towards the campfire! In a split second, I bounded out of my lawn chair, lept partially over the campfire and deftly scooped up the errant lens. Bob burst out laughing, saying that he had never seen anyone move so fast before! It turned out that the mounting bracket on Bob's camera had broken, dropping the lens.

Earning our Masters Degree
One of the spots Dave and I liked to frequent was located on the North side of Greencastle where the Conrail mainline crossed over the L&N. We had to park our car at the side of the road, climb up the embankment and walk down to the bridge. We were there one afternoon and noticed that a Greencastle police car had pulled up behind our car. We duly walked back to speak with the officer. He said that some nearby residents had seen us on the bridge and had called the police to investigate. We explained to him that we were train-watching. The officer seemed a little hesitant about our explanation and told us he would report back that we were working on a college project. The officer left and we walked back to the bridge and continued with our "project."

The garden spiders Notes
On one of our annual camping trips at Lena, the campsite area was heavily grown over with weeds and tall grass. Dave and I cleared out an area to put the tent and set up camp. We were waiting for dusk when I decided to check out the area around the campsite. I was walking through the tall foliage when I almost walked into a spider web with a very large garden spider in it! The center of the web was about chest-high on me. I called Dave over to see this. We looked around and found two more of these large spider webs. One web was anchored near the top of a telephone pole! The evening air was very still and we later saw a couple of these spiders doing "push-ups," causing their webs to swing back and forth.

The soda can incident
Although Dave and I are brothers and train-watching buddies, we are different in our personalities. Dave always seems to be even-tempered, while I tend to be emotional and rather irresponsible. One day, as we were getting ready to leave our first camp spot, I had just finished drinking a soda and heaved the empty can over towards a trash dump located behind the camp spot. The can hit a tree branch and fell to the ground near me; it didn't even come close to where I wanted it to go. I won't repeat exactly what I said, but I blurted that the soda can didn't have a very smart butt! Dave burst into laugher, asking me why I thought it was the soda can's fault that it didn't make it to the trash dump!

We're almost there!
On one of our annual camping trips at Lena, Dave and I were hurrying along the "dangerous road" in my Honda Accord, trying to get to the camp spot ahead of an approaching thunderstorm. We were very close to our destination, when I drove under a low branch which wiped the magnet-mounted railroad scanner and CB antennas off the top of the car. One of these antennas snapped back and smashed out the back glass. We stopped along the side of the road to excavate as much of the shattered glass as we could before the storm hit. We found a thin plastic drop cloth which we used to cover the back. As we carried on, Dave was convinced that we had to turn back. The storm hit, and we could see and hear water running into the back of the car. We made it to the camp spot and spent the night sleeping in the car because of all the rain. The next day, we stopped at a hardware store in Greencastle and bought some heavier plastic. We drove back to the tracks and did a
proper job of covering the back of the car.

Stop! Stop! Stop! Notes
I was camping at Lena one night when I noticed a pair of headlights heading down the access road to the camp spot. Sometimes people would drive down to the nearby lake to fish. Occasionally, a railroad worker would check out the signals nearly a mile away. Overall, it was very rare to see anyone to drive down this road, especially at night. As the car approached, I quickly could tell that it was going very fast. I could hear the engine noise and the gravel being kicked up as it sped towards me. I grabbed my flashlight and signaled frantically for the driver to stop! The car ground to a halt just before the campsite and Bob jumped out! He said he hit 70 mph! He had just bought a Honda CRX and drove out to the tracks to surprise me. Well, I was very surprised!

Witches in the woods
On one particularly warm weekend in May, I decided to go camping at Lena. I had settled in to the tent very late at night and it was very quiet. I was about to drift off to sleep when I heard these chilling sounds in the woods behind the tent. I didn't know what it was. It sounded like witches laughing, and I was out there all alone. Even though it was very warm that night, I suddenly got very cold. The sounds didn't last very long, but I managed to switch my tape recorder on. I later learned that what I heard were Screech Owls.

Tree Frogs
When camping out at the tracks, we would hear all the usual night sounds associated with camping accompanied by the sounds of approaching EMDs and U-boats. One of the regular sounds, along with crickets, are tree frogs. I don't think I've ever seen one, but they make a calming "croak-croak" sound which was very much a part of the camping experience. One night, Bob and I were camping at the original camp spot. As we settled in for the night, I casually mentioned that these tree frogs usually "croak" twice, but occasionally, one would "croak" three times. After about fifteen minutes, as I was almost asleep, Bob turned to me and said that he couldn't go to sleep because he was lying there waiting to hear a tree frog "croak" three times.

The Butterscotch Bird
One of Dave's passions was bird-watching. During our train-watching trips, Dave would frequently point out a certain bird and explain its coloring and habits. I learned what Turkey Vultures do if the unsuspecting should venture too close to their dinner! Occasionally, Dave would direct my attention to the call of a Cat Bird. This bird had a cry which sounded to me exactly like the meow of my cat,
Butterscotch. We would hear this bird and Dave would ask me what kind of bird it was. I would always respond: "That's a Butterscotch Bird."

Feel like dancing
On one our early train-watching trips, Dave and I stopped at our original camp spot late at night to see if any trains were approaching. We got out of the car, walked up to the tracks and didn't see anything. We listened, and thought we heard something. We waited a few moments, then saw a glow to the West. Shortly, an Eastbound train roared by. A pair of locomotives were pulling a string of empty hopper cars, and this train was going really fast! He was on the tracks nearest us, which hadn't been upgraded to continuous rail. As the train flew past, the wheels of the hopper cars set up a loud rhythmic sound as they passed over a nearby rail joint. Dance on!

Dress code
Dave lived in Phoenix and would occasionally travel to Dayton, Ohio on business. I would take time off from work and drive over from Indianapolis to meet him at Piqua for some train-watching. On one of these outings, I arrived at our pre-determined spot at the tracks and waited for Dave. After a while, he drove up in his rental car, jumped out, and was wearing a tie! A tie! Usually, jeans and T-shirts were what we wore. But a tie for train-watching? I was very surprised and Dave had a big laugh about it.

Diamonds are rough
The trackwork where one rail line crosses another is called a "
diamond". When Dave and I met at Piqua for some train-watching, we didn't really like to stay near the tower where the Chessie crossed the Conrail because of the sheer noise trains crossing the diamond generated. It would give Dave a headache. I remember the first time we watched trains at Piqua, we settled at a place about a mile East of the Chessie/Conrail crossing. Later that night, we heard a Southbound Chessie train cross the diamond and the sound was very loud even at that distance.

When is it a train?
In all the years we went on train-watching trips, I would religiously take notes and count the number of trains we saw. I was developing a database and wrote several programs to print the notes and display various statistics. I was starting to work on a program which would display all the different types of trains. One day at Lena, I saw a "
train" that I didn't quite know how to classify. Was this a train or not? Should it be counted as a train? I remember really fretting about it. I counted it as an "official" train, but then wasn't sure how to classify it. After that, I began to realize that statistics weren't what really mattered.

The cat was busy
On one of my train-watching trips, I stopped briefly at Burnett to see if any trains were approaching. I pulled up next to where the tracks crossed the road and noticed a cat stalking something. The cat paid absolutely no attention to me at all. I got out of the car, went to the back to get a soda from the cooler, got back into the car, and this cat never wavered from its
stalking pose. I took pictures of it. The cat completely ignored my presence. I drove away and wondered what kind of creature was in danger and if the cat ever claimed its prey.

The 100th train Notes
In all the train-watching trips we went on, I was obsessed with breaking the previous record for total trains seen on a trip. I think the first record was something like eight trains Dave and I saw on one of our weekly trips at our "original" spot near Danville. As we went farther West and spent more time out at the tracks, the record increased to nearly 50 trains. Then one day, in 1982, Dad and I went up North to check out the Conrail line that ran through South Bend. There were trains going by all the time! A couple of years later, I went up there on my own, determined to see 100 trains! Instead of staying in a Motel, I would sleep in my car near the tracks, so I could count every train that went by. In late 1984, I saw my 100th train, a BN at Arnold Street. Three years later, I spent four days and nights at the tracks, ruining my health (I went though nine 12-packs of Kroger Big K diet cola), so I could set my all-time record of 248 trains on one trip. While I still have an interest in train-watching, I don't think I ever want to do that again!

Don't litter here!
Late in 1982, Dave and I went train-watching at Tehachapi, Cajon Pass and Bolo Hill. These were all legendary spots we had read about. One night at Sullivan's Curve, in Cajon Pass, we were set up for time exposures. While we were waiting, I finished a soda and heaved the empty can down the embankment. Dave admonished me! "How could you litter at this sacred place?" Having been properly scolded, I climbed down the hill to retrieve the trash I so irresponsibly left, promising never to do that again!

Marilyn and Emil Mann Notes
One time when Dave and I were camping at our original camp spot, someone had come out to work on the signals. After a while, the worker was done and began to leave. We wanted to go back down to the car, but heard the worker talking to a lady on the radio, so we waited. And waited. We wondered why he was talking on the radio for such a long time. We later discovered that the worker wasn't talking on the radio at all. He was talking to an old lady who lived nearby. Several times after that, we would get "trapped" talking to her. She was a very nice person, but she sure loved to talk! We met her husband, but he seemed to be very quiet.

Not a Company photographer! Notes
One afternoon, Dave and I left our original camp spot and walked down to the 8-mile straight. Dave wanted to get a dramatic photograph of the Westbound Amtrak. When we arrived, I stopped at the signal so I could give Dave an advance warning of the train's approach. Dave walked farther on down the tracks with his camera. I climbed up the signal tower to get a close look at the light, but after seeing spiders and bees under the lens shade, decided to climb back down and watch from a safer distance. When the green light came on, I waved my arms at Dave. He positioned himself on the tracks for the photo. As soon as the Amtrak appeared around the bend, the engineer blew the horn and the train started to slow. As it passed me, I could see the crew standing up, peering down the tracks. Dave said that when the train passed him, they were looking back at me. We weren't sure if the crew got a really close look at us, but we knew they didn't like seeing Dave on the tracks! The train sped up and continued. We thought it would be a good idea to go back to our camp spot in case the railroad wanted to investigate.

A hobby is born
It happened on April 13, 1975. I was on my way to a wedding and as usual, was running late. I was heading south on Girls School Road when the railroad crossing gates lowered for an approaching train. My thought was that now I really was going to be late. The train did seem to be going pretty fast, however. I impatiently sat there and waited for the train to pass. As the train approached, I just happened to glance over and see the locomotives hit a low spot on the tracks and bounce violently up and down. It was an alarming sight! The dynamics of it made a big impression on me. For the first time, I found it fascinating to watch a train pass by.

What's a crayfish doing there? Notes
Our camp spot at Lena was near a small creek. Often, we would see these one or two inch diameter holes in the ground near where we pitched the tent, which was about 20 feet from the creek. We always thought that they were made by some kind of winged insect or perhaps snakes. One night, Bob and I were camping there when Bob shouted at me to take a look at something. He had seen what looked a large spider poking out of one of one of these holes! Using our flashlights, we looked around and found some more of these holes and discovered that they were crayfish! It appeared as if they would stay just below the surface and wait for an insect to crawl by. We caught a cricket and put it near one of the holes. A crayfish popped out and disappeared with its dinner. Amazing! We always thought crayfish only lived in the water.

Just happened to mention fog
In 1998, Dave and Cindy visited Dave's family in Indianapolis for Christmas. On January 1, the night before they were scheduled to fly back home to Phoenix, a major snowstorm hit Indiana. They had to postpone their flight until the following Wednesday. The weather in Indiana during the first two weeks of January was pretty bad. After that, the temperatures rose, and the snow and ice started to melt. On the 21st, I drove home from work during a thunderstorm and heavy fog. I sent an e-mail to Dave the next day describing how different the weather conditions were now and mentioned the fog. Shortly, I got an e-mail back from him saying that he remembered we were out at the tracks somewhere when we were surprised by a fast approaching train in the fog. We spent that day and the next several days exchanging train-watching memories. I envisioned that someday, we would collect our memories and put them into a document of some kind. About a month later, with Dave's valuable help, I started up my home page and the Train-Watching Memories page was born.

We tried to be nice, Mr. Spider Notes
One evening, Dave and I were returning to our camp spot at Lena after getting some supplies. As I was backing the car up next to the tent, Dave spied a very large wolf spider lurking near the front of the tent. The last thing we wanted was to have something like that showing up in our sleeping bags in the middle of the night! I grabbed a long stick. The intention was to see if I could get the spider to crawl on to the stick, then try to fling him and the stick as far as possible over to the other side of the tracks. I positioned the end of the stick in front of the spider. The spider immediately jumped at the stick and attacked it! That was it. Our diplomatic approach failed and the spider paid the consequences.

Who goes there?
It was the middle of the night at Lena and Bob and I were asleep in the tent. There was a sound and I half-awakened. I thought there was something or someone moving around near the tent. The sound wasn't very loud, but It was definitely there. In my groggy state, I tried to be as quiet as possible. I slowly unzipped the sleeping bag. Then I slowly turned over and carefully unzipped the front of the tent. I grabbed the Mace. I quickly opened the front of the tent and found myself facing a pair of shoes pointing right at me! I was suddenly wide awake! Then I realized they were my shoes! I had forgotten to bring them in when we turned in for the night. I got out and looked around. There was nothing there. I got back into my sleeping bag to try and go back to sleep. As I lay there, I realized that the sound I heard was the breeze brushing the outside tent flap against the front of the tent.

Something scampered by
Bob and I were camping at Lena one night. Conrail had been doing some clearing and grading along the hill just East of the tent. I got my flashlight and took a walk along the top of the hill to check on the railroad's progress. Even though it was late, I didn't need the flashlight because there was a full moon that night. As I walked along this path, I saw something cross it about ten feet in front of me. I walked on past, thinking it was probably a mouse. Then I stopped. The motion of what I saw looked somehow odd. Whatever it was seemed to be crawling instead of running. I switched on the flashlight and went back to have a look. I discovered that it was a huge wolf spider, a female with little baby spiders all over her back! I called Bob over to see this. It was the biggest spider we had ever seen!

A GE "U-boat" in the dead of night
Dave and I were at Lena late one night when we heard a faint "hammering" sound in the distance towards the East. A few seconds went by and we heard it again. There was a train approaching and it was obvious there was a GE U-boat in the consist. As the train approached, the "hammering" sound grew louder. We thought the train was closer than it really was because the distinctive sound of the U-boat dominated the quiet of the night. The sound grew louder and louder. The train's headlight finally appeared around the curve at the Bridge and the train roared past us and into the distance, the U-boat "hammering" loudly away.

Bolo Hill
Our fascination with Bolo Hill started in 1977 when Dave and I saw a picture in Trains Magazine. The photo was taken by the legendary Richard Steinheimer and appeared in his August, 1977 Mojave Crossing article. It was a small color photograph of an approaching Eastbound train in the distance alongside continuously-lit block signals. It made a big impression on us. Dave and I visited Bolo Hill and the view was spectacular. We could literally see trains miles away! Both Dave and I took many photos of trains at Bolo Hill using telephoto lenses, trying to emulate Stein's picture.

Snapping Turtles have the Right-of-Way
I was driving up to the Conrail crossing at Perth one afternoon when I saw a very large turtle walking across the road. I had never seen anything like this before. From nose to tail, this thing was more than foot long. Instead of "scooting" along, it was actually standing up on all fours and walking. I had to see more. I drove around it, stopped and got out of my car. As I went back to the turtle, it was about to walk off the road and disappear into the weeds. I reached down to grab it on either side of its shell to pull it back onto the road so I could get a better look at it. As I was about to grab it, a little voice inside me said "don't do that!" Instead, I grabbed the back of the shell to try and quickly pull it back. The instant I touched the turtle, its head and neck shot back towards me several inches! Its jaws were snapping and it was growling and hissing at me! If I had grabbed it at the sides of the shell, it would have gotten me for sure. I immediately let go. The turtle walked off into the weeds and there was nothing I could do about it.

The Owl
I was returning home from the camp spot at Lena late one night, driving along the "dangerous road" with my Cibié high beams and fog lights lighting up the darkness. All of a sudden, a huge bird came from out of nowhere and swooped straight down towards the front of my car. I remember seeing very wide fierce-looking eyes and big claws coming right at me. The wingspan of this bird seemed to be as wide as my car. I ducked, convinced that it was going to crash right through the windshield. It swooped over the top of my car and was gone. Shaken, I drove on thinking that the poor little field mice don't have a chance against that kind of predator.

This trip wasn't much fun
This memory is from Bob. Sometimes, train-watching can take us to some remote places and Bolo Hill is certainly one of them. We've often wondered what we would do if we ever had some kind of problem and needed help - Steve.
I had gone on a camping trip to Bolo Hill in my CRX. I backed into a dry wash intentionally to set up a tent to camp directly beneath the RR bridge over the wash. Thought that would make a fascinating night. But the CRX got stuck in the sand. I tried everything I could think of including jacking up each wheel individually and putting rocks and stuff underneath them but it was a matter of being able to gain a little momentum from an absolute standstill. Finally I went hunting down along the tracks for something to use as a "runway" and found some pieces of sheet metal that were just about exactly a tire width wide and about 8 ft. long each. I jacked up all four wheels individually again and put the leading end of each of the four pieces under each wheel and "presto!" I just drove right out. I don't know what benevolent force put that sheet metal there but I was sure thankful. I ended up not staying the night. It scared me so bad I drove straight home that day.

Operation Dam it
One of the things Bob and I did to pass the time out at the tracks was building dams at Perth. We purchased army-type entrenching shovels in nearby Brazil, so we were ready to tackle the job properly. This place at Perth was perfect for dam building because a small stream ran under the tracks there. We would go down below the tracks and carefully pile up dirt in strategic places to wall off the flow of water, causing a fairly large lake to form. While this lake was slowly filling up, we’d go downstream and start building a dam in the dry creek bed. We couldn’t take too much time, because the lake forming above could start overflowing its banks before we were finished. There was a nice spot that was fairly deep, maybe two or three feet and we would put the dams in that area. We shoveled and packed dirt until we had a nice dam built. After we were satisfied with our work, one of us would go up to the lake we created and allow the water to start following its natural course down the creek bed. At first it was just a trickle, but as the lake emptied, more and more water came rushing down the creek bed towards our dam. Sometimes, the force of the water would just smash through the dam. If we made a good, solid dam, it would actually hold up until the water started running over the top and then the dam would collapse. It was a lot of fun and it was a chance for two grown ups to act like kids.

The Sounds of Sand Patch
More later...

More later...

More later...

Playing with bats
One of the many interesting things Dave, Bob and I did when camping out at the tracks was "play" with bats. Just before it got really dark, we could see bats fluttering overhead. At that hour, they were somewhat difficult to see. Bats resembled a bird in flight, but instead have very quick and erratic movements. What we would try to do is throw rocks up in the air just ahead of the bat. If our timing was right, the bat would "see" the rock and follow it towards the ground until it realized it wasn't food.

Dial 9-1-1
I was out at Perth late one night, parked at the usual spot where the access road made an "s" curve. I decided to spend the night there, so I drove down west of the control box to park. I drove past the control box and went to make a U-turn so I could point my car toward the tracks. I didn't see a very large mud-hole and drove right into it. The front wheels managed to get clear, but the back end was stuck in pretty deep. For almost an hour, I tried and tried to rock the car out but to no avail. I tried digging out with one of those entrenching shovels Bob & I bought at Pell's in Brazil, but the wooden handle broke. I didn't know what to do. It was almost midnight and I was hopelessly stuck in this mud-hole, so I called 911 on my cell phone. The operator dispatched a wrecker from Brazil after I gave her exact instructions as to where I was. After about a half-hour, I saw a wrecker driving down the access road. He hooked up a winch to my car and pulled it right out. I then drove back to that "s" curve and spent the night there instead.

A howling sound in the woods
I stopped at the "old" camp spot early one morning just to look around. After a few moments there, I thought I heard a train in the distance to the west, so I waited. Soon, I heard a howling sound. There was an eastbound train coming and it was using the dynamic brakes to slow for a recently rebuilt section of track here, which had been caused by heavy rains. I couldn't yet see the train, but I could hear it getting closer. The howling got louder and louder until I saw a stack train burst into view.

Strange names
When Dave, Bob and I first started going out to the tracks in the mid-70s, we knew literally nothing about the railroad and the different locations where we would stop to watch trains. We would find a place somewhere where we could pull off the road and stay for awhile. In our notes and memories, we often associated a unique event to these places, thereby giving a train-watching spot a name. Here are some of those names, many of which appear in the memories and pictures pages. I still use these names in my notes.

8-mi straight After seeing a photo taken from Bolo Hill in a railroad magazine, we became fascinated with views down a long stretch of straight track. This particular section of track runs 8 miles straight from east of Lena to just east of Perth. This area was the reason I have an interest in telephoto train photography.
8-mi camp spot Also the Lena camp spot. Located near the east end of the famed 8-mi straight at Milepost 48. This became our regular camp spot. We spent many nights watching trains while sitting next to a campfire under the stars.
8-mi bridge Also known as The Bridge. This bridge was located at the east end of the 8-mi straight. We spent many a late night here watching the far away dim glow of a train's headlight to the west become a fast piggyback blasting towards us.
"old" camp spot Sometimes called the "original" camp spot. The name of this place is Fern, which is a remote area west of Greencastle. It was where we first camped out at the tracks and the origin of the Let's camp here! memory. We first started out camping down at track level, then moved to the east a small distance and camped up on a hill. It became "old" when we started camping at the 8-mi camp spot. This spot is where we met Marilyn and Emil Mann
"crossing" spot Dave and I spent time here in the late 70s. It's where the Conrail crossed over the L&N track in Greencastle. This is where we were Earning our Masters degree.
"canoe" spot A very remote area about two miles west of Perth. On one of our first outings, Dave and I met a man and his son who were out collecting discarded bottles and cans. The man claimed that he owned a canoe company in Terre Haute and that he was a millionaire.
"original" spot This is the place where Dave and I first started watching trains. This spot is located just west of Danville. We would park the car by the side of the road and sit in the weeds and wait for a train to go by. This is where Dave asked if this was Double track or single track? and where we had many competitions throwing rocks at The tar bucket
"ant" spot This is the bridge west of Fillmore. Dave and I stopped here one very warm day and wanted to sit down at track level in the shade provided by the bridge. The only problem was a large ant hill there. We pumped some gas from the car into a jar and poured it on the ant hill. We then threw a match and poof, no more ants.
"cemetery" spot Not as morbid as it sounds. This is the Calcutta cemetery located between Lena and Carbon. We never stayed here, but it is a convenient stop to see if any trains are coming when driving between Lena and Perth.
"sunglasses" bridge A creaky concrete and wooden bridge located east of the "old" camp spot. We didn't spend a lot of time at this bridge. We couldn't come up with any other kind of name, so Dave faked losing his sunglasses here. This bridge is now closed.
"great fill" This is a large fill which traverses the Big Walnut Valley west of Greencastle. At the west end of this fill is where we once tested the theory that A Triumph TR6 is not a Land Rover and got away with it.
"bat" bridge This bridge is located east of Greencastle. It's another place where we didn't spend a lot of time, but one night Dave and I were standing here when a bat flew between us.
"dangerous road" An old railroad right-of-way, this road is located south of the tracks and runs between the "great fill" and Fern, site of the "old" camp spot. There are several places where there is no shoulder, so it's important not to get too close to the edge. While it's paved now, it used to be gravel and quite treacherous, especially at night. This is where the We're almost there! memory occurred.
NSR75 spot Stands for "Near State Road 75". It's a road crossing between Hadley and Reno, east of State Road 75. We would drive down along the tracks to the east of this crossing to watch trains. Dave called this the "big wing" spot because during one of our first outings here, we were bothered by a large bumblebee.
IMI spot This is the road crossing just east of Danville, next to the Irving Materials Inc concrete plant. Before the "new" US36 was built, we called this the "pontiac" spot because there was a Pontiac dealership on the corner of this road and the "old" US36. To this day, the railroad calls this "Pontiac Road"
"crossover" spot Located in Terre Haute, just west of Haley Tower. It's where the east-west CSX line crosses the north-south CSX line. After Haley Tower was taken out of service, this crossing was realigned using crossovers instead of a diamond.

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