I was back in the Lehigh Valley for Thanksgiving. It was something of a drive-by visit; got there Wednesday, and left on Sunday afternoon. This did not leave much time for anything other than seeing family, and driving to see family, so I only got out to watch trains once.
I grew up in Bethlehem, and lived there until I was 21, when I moved to Indiana. Every time I come back, for holidays, for business, whatever, something is different – a housing development where a cornfield was, a new supermarket where the old one used to be. That goddamn casino. Things like that.
What stays the same, though, is how it feels to be out and about in my hometown at night. That’s the only time it still feels like home, and when i prefer to do most of my photographing when i am there. Everything seems to slow down, and it feels like I am the only one out there. In an area where more and more New York and New Jersey transplants arrive every day, it’s a tough feeling to find, that solitude and quiet.
And of all the places I like to be at night, it’s the south side of town, along the river, that is my favorite. What, to the railroad, is called CP 88 (a control point, eighty-eight miles from New York City), has always been my home office when watching trains in Bethlehem. Situated between two of the three bridges that span the Lehigh River, seemingly insulated from the hustle of the revitalized South Side, 88 is the best place to just sit, and let the trains pass by.
It’s rare that my social life and middle-of-the-night train nerdy life intersect, but I think I have had a conversation there with every single person in my life of any import. Since about 99% of the time spent along train tracks is spent looking at those empty tracks, good conversation is a must, and that has always been the place to do it.