Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who the heck is FRED?

Port Townsend, today. As I scan railroad picture-posting sites, am amazed at the luck of most railroad photographers to shoot on a sunny day, with lighting befitting a Hollywood lighting director.

These photographers never take photographs early in the morning, late in the evening, suffocating in smog, fog, rain, drizzle, flash flood, earthquake, hurricane, typhoon, forest fire, or tsunami!

Real trains just don't operate under those conditions!

For years my train-chasing friend - El Purington - and I slogged around Puget Sound and rarely found "calendar perfect" shooting days, on our days off. As you scan back though my blog, the wonderful treat we had with the Spokane Portland & Seattle (SP&S) down in Auburn, were shot late on a rainy, cold, overcast December day. We could not ask the railroad to bring the units back when shooting would have been optimum.

I remember getting up a 4 a.m. to get down to the Green River to shoot a Northern Pacific freighter, only to find the frigging bridge hidden by a blanket of fog! Fortunately, a gust of wind cleared the bridge just enough that my drive was not wasted.

And I stood on a damn stump for a half hour waiting in a downpour for a Great Northern freighter to clear Index, only to discover I was near a spur track instead of the main line and watched in disbelief as the freight roared by about a quarter of a mile from where I stood!

You get my point. Real Railroading is not under a blue sky 9,000 Kelvin 3 p.m. sun, in the middle of a high-pressure center, visibility unlimited!

Well, I'm on a roll now, so I may as well air my feelings about a couple of really irritating issues, at least for me. I occasionally find terminology or an abbreviation I do not understand.

Unfortunately for me, the picture poster assumes I share his wisdom. The photographer in his accompanying caption fails to explain what the term or abbreviation means. In my professional opinion, that can only be attributed to one a handful of reasons; poor sentence structure - not knowing how to present material properly, or a dash, however unintentional, of superciliousness.

Here is an example of one of my favorites: A caption accompanying a BNSF toaster oven - modern locomotive - “It is early morning as a BNSF Dash 300 roars out of Sky Tunnel with OKSDFS.”

What in tarnation is a Dash 300?

What does ODKSSF mean?

Fortunately, I’ve been around long enough to know that Dash 300 must be a designation for a locomotive model, and ODKFSS apparently is a code for the train, that either the writer hasn't got the foggiest idea what it means, but certainly could care less that we, the reader, know what it means.

(So whatever happened to Boise to Spokane 233, or Extra West 4455, or 1st section of 655?)

If you were cleaver enough you discern the six-letter code OKFSDD designation for the train, get off your ego trip and let the rest of us in on your secret!

Another one making the rounds these days - "DPU."

Well, bless my soul! Distributed Power Unit. The correct way to write the caption of your photograph would then be, Disturbed Power Unit (DPU) that way, the rest of us mere mortals would know what the hell you are talking about. (See the "New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage.")

My point being, rather than being smup about what you, share this information with the rest of us.

So, what is a DPU?

Oh! It is a helper! So, what is with the supercilious DPU?

Call it what it is; a helper. "Helper" has worked for a hundred years! And then go on to describe what kind of helper it is; a mid-train helper, or trailing helper, which may be on the rear pointy end of the train, or cut in two-dozen cars ahead of the caboose.


Ahead of FRED!

Who the heck is FRED?

2 Comments - Click here:

Unknown said...

I must say this story hits home. Are we creating a world on the Internet where the sun is always shining and the trains are always on time? Real-life experience trackside is very different from the world portrayed in the pictures. I've struggled with it, and it's nice to know that others have as well.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

There is yet another picture posting web site void of the self-serving atta-boys and so forth. When I first tripped over it, I was taken aback! Poor exposures, out of focus, representing the plethora of nightmares one encounters in the "real world." At first I was tempted to write this site off. Then it occurred to me, that these are my kind of fellows. They are recording memories of trains they've seen and places they've gone, just like me. So you end up shooting into the sun, or find an idling unit jammed in between a sand tower and a box car, or live in the Rain Forest of the world. Who are we - you and me - to judge what is worthy of sharing with others? They are proud enough to share it with us, and they deserve kudos once in a while if the gods did favor them with a neat shot! As I told a friend of mine, this is my kind of railroad photographer, with a can of beer (or soda) in one hand, and some kind of camera in the other! The other group may have mastered - to their way of thinking - photography, but humility is even harder to learn ...

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