I just got a new camera and was eager to try it out, so what better way than to get on my bike and ride Hwy 1A. Except that it snowed last night. The going was slow and slippery, even with studded tires, and it made me appreciate the effort that goes into plowing roads, even when there's only an inch of snow on the road. I got to the location where I had noted some decommissioned power lines and got off my bike and headed down the hillside toward the tracks. It was steep and I almost turned back, but found some animal tracks, so followed them down safely. I walked along the tracks until I got to the first decrepit power pole and got out my new camera. It's a rangefinder with a leaf shutter and operates very differently than an SLR. After focusing, and figuring out the exposure, I snapped the photo. It was not a very authoritative "click." It made me wonder whether a photo was taken, and whether the camera worked at all. So I decided to do manual exposures and that gave me a little more confidence that I was actually taking pictures.
Later on, I noticed a train approaching slowly. By the time it was heading by, I realized it was a some sort of maintenance train. It was short, had a small engine, and had a few cars that were cooking up something awful--maybe tar or some other substance to keep the railway ties in good order. It smelled bad and looked worse. By the time I could get my camera out, it had gone by, followed by 3 pickup trucks riding the rails. I generally don't think about rail maintenance, but it needs to happen. The railway is one of those things that used to be civilian friendly as it was the primary means of getting places afar. But these days, it's just a means for hauling cargo, and the public tolerates it. Less understood is how important it is to our current economy. Without it, Alberta wouldn't be able to sell all its grain, oil, potash, and coal.
But it does come with a cost--including whatever toxic substance that maintenance train was spewing out.