ST. MARYS, W.Va. --There's a special kind of rail fan who goes beyond a fascination with trains to learn the art of capturing the metal giants in their natural habitats. These people stake out rail lines with cameras and lenses, trying to capture just the perfect combination of light and location for an outstanding photograph.
Chase Gunnoe is one of those guys. A recent high school graduate looking to pursue a career in photojournalism, Gunnoe is fascinated by tracking and photographing trains. His pictures appear regularly on the rail fan photography website www.railpictures.net.
"I was always fascinated by more than riding steam-powered trains up the mountain at Cass," Gunnoe wrote recently, talking about one of his pictures. "Instead, my interest and curiosity extended to the history and meaning behind America's steel highway and its important role in our economy. In later years I developed an interest in photography, and coupled with the ongoing interest in railroads, the two hobbies worked effectively together."
Gunnoe became especially interested in the intricacies of freight and coal hauling railroads, and started documenting the comings and goings of trains around the state. "Rather than simply using a camera to document a particular scene for historical purposes, I've transitioned over to wanting to document a scene for its beauty," he said.
A recent photograph in downtown St. Marys, one of those rare American cities where trains regularly run through the middle of town, is an example. Gunnoe was able to capture a CSX freight train chugging through town, with Christmas lights on the streets as a backdrop.
Gunnoe was running errands in Parkersburg one December evening when he heard the sound of a locomotive horn to the north. Thinking it might be heading to nearby St. Marys, Gunnoe took off in pursuit.
"For photographers and railroad enthusiasts alike, St. Marys represents one of the best 'street running' railroad scenes in the East Coast, and undoubtedly, the best street running trackage in our Mountain State," Gunnoe said. "Extending for four city blocks and totalling three-tenths of a mile, St. Marys and its street running trackage attract railroad photographers from all over."
Gunnoe was able to outrun the train and get downtown before it arrived in St. Marys. "As we arrived, quickly jogging down the sidewalks as motorists passed by with curiosity, eight wireless flashes were set up near intersections, sidewalks, and even on the front steps of the Post Office," he remembered.
Gunnoe finished just in time to catch the CSX freight passing through town.
"The town had been decorated for the Christmas season, and music was playing from a nearby jewelry store," he said. "It was a scene almost surreal, and a perfect definition of small town America."
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.