Runner-up: To appreciate the daunting task of the transcontinental railroad builders, you need only go west to Wyoming. The modern Union Pacific Railroad remains tested by the same vast landscape that challenged the pioneers. In a scene repeated for 150 years, a manifest train climbs out of Rock River, on May 12, 2019.
Runner-up: The day started out with beautiful blue skies, but as I neared the mountains, it was clear that a storm was brewing ahead. On Jan. 4, 2019, this westbound Canadian Pacific Railway grain train at Cowley, Alberta, on the Crowsnest Subdivision, captures the essence of Western Canada and the “Go West” theme through the stark differences between the mountains and the prairies, the drastic and quick changes in weather, and showcasing the raw beauty of Alberta itself.
Runner-up: While there are countless spectacular scenes to capture in western Canadian railroading, the twin bridges at Cisco, British Columbia, would surely make the short list. The structures reflect the ruggedness of the Fraser Canyon and convey just how big of a challenge it was for railroads to tame the West and tie the country together. On the evening of Aug. 21, 2018, the shadows have engulfed most of the scene. A thin slice of sunlight has found a gap in the mountains and strikes the side of Canadian National ES44AC No. 3823 and its westbound grain train.
Runner-up: Milwaukee Road’s beautiful “Cedar Rapids” Skytop parlor lounge brings up the rear of a westbound Hiawatha, led by 4-8-4 No. 261. In actuality, this was taken during a Lerro Productions charter on May 9, 2008, westbound at Plato, Minn., on the Twin Cities & Western Railroad. When Trains magazine announced the theme for its 2019 photo contest, “Go West,” this transcontinental-railroad-inspired image, featuring a well-known train of the former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, racing into the setting sun, instantly came to mind.
Runner-up: On Oct. 2, 2017, I had the pleasure of visiting Utah and the Great Salt Lake. While most photographers seem to focus on Union Pacific’s Lucin Cutoff causeway across the lake itself, I was able to photograph this eastbound intermodal train approaching the Cutoff from a vantage point on the west side of the lake. On a personal note, I was standing beside my sister and two lifelong friends who, like myself, were born and raised in the Northeast. It was certainly a thrill for us to “Go West” and experience such a scene.
Second Prize: A BNSF Railway empty coal train rolls west under a high-green signal toward the setting sun at Hebron, N.D., on July 26, 2011. This railroad was part of the Northern Pacific main line to the Pacific Coast. This photo speaks to me as it illustrates the story of what the railroads endured on their way moving west to build this country. A green light is showing all the while the train is chasing the setting sun toward the Pacific. Nearby, the town of Mandan, N.D., is nicknamed “Where the West Begins.” West of that town, along the shores of the Missouri River, is the beginning of the transition of the Great Plains, then into the Rocky Mountains, and ultimately the Cascade Mountains and Pacific Coast. Each day, this saga is played out multiple times with trains plying the same path the others have done, moving west.
First Prize: On June 13, 2015, westbound Amtrak California Zephyr No. 5 is running 21 hours late due to tornadoes in the Midwest. So I planned a trip to a favorite spot on the old Southern Pacific line, west of Ocala and east of Toy, Nev., on Union Pacific’s Sparks Sub. Pointing my camera west, I caught No. 5 as it came through on its way to California with the Milky Way in the background.
Grand Prize: This photograph captures my perceptions of American westward expansion. It creates a tension between ideas of East and West, past and future, static and dynamic, confinement and freedom. Taken on my first visit to the western United States, it depicts the Sumpter Valley Railroad, which runs close to one of the great symbols of westward migration — the historic Oregon Trail. The “viewer” looks back east from the caboose of a mixed train shunted into the spur at Hawley, while Alco 2-8-2 No. 19 with its log train passes on the main, during the railroad’s Photographers’ Weekend, Oct. 14, 2018.
In the spirit of the myriad Transcontinental Railroad 150th anniversary celebrations, the theme for Trains photo contest was “Go West!” So with that motif, 94 photographers sent a total of 231 images for the 2019 Trains Photo Contest. Check out the eight winners!
Please let us know what you think of the winners in the comments section below.