photography from the ground up

Train Tag

For the past month I have been learning to play the fascinating sport of train tag. It involves learning the route and the timetable of a certain train that runs between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. After becoming familiar with these elements, the next step is to drive from one point to another along the train’s route; the trick being to arrive at the next place in time to set up a shot before the subject arrives. After several weeks practice, I became pretty adept at getting to the good spots and making the images I wanted.

Cumbres Pass

I made this image the first day I went up to try to get some fall photos of the train . It was mid September, way too early for fall color. I’m glad I went though, because it took several tries to get it right. The more I worked the scenes, the more intimate I became with the environment and the train’s schedule. As a landscape photographer, I rarely need to worry about time restraints, so this was a good experience for me.


The second image was made at the beginning of October.  The leaves were just starting their transformation and I noticed that some of the trees were pretty dull, going almost immediately to brown. I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with the greater than usual scarcity of moisture we’ve been experiencing here in the southwest.


Fast forward another week and I finally found what I was looking for; the aspens had reached peak color. Even though some of them were still wearing green, I knew that this was probably the optimal time, so I had to make the best of it. This image shows the train making its way through an aspen grove about five miles north of Chama.


Farther up the route, the color was already gone and the first snow was beginning to cover the ground. I figured the same would be true at the lower altitudes within a few days, so this had to be it. It was also the end of the season for the train so this definitely had to be it.


To finish things off I wanted to capture the train approaching its destination (in this case Chama), so I began looking around and with Robin’s help, managed to find this trestle about a half mile north of the station. We raced the train down through the canyon stopping to photograph at all the good vantages and then made a mad run for the road that brought us close to the trestle. We had to make it in time to run across the trestle ahead of the train to get the image I wanted, but it was well worth the effort.


As the train came closer, I chickened out and moved from the center of the tracks before I made this final image.

14 responses

  1. I love trains. In particular the model before the Second World War. I think they are a work of art,


    November 4, 2013 at 11:15 am

  2. My first experience with a set of images like this. The landscapes, with the train as a focal point, are superb. Love it.


    November 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm

  3. Fabulous images. Lovely to see this old west locomotive! Just like the ones I saw in the movies as a child.


    November 5, 2013 at 1:28 am

    • Thanks. It’s pretty cool to see it chugging its way up through the Colorado Rockies.


      November 5, 2013 at 7:20 am

  4. De somptueux paysages et des locos in !


    November 11, 2013 at 3:49 am

  5. Amazing shots!


    November 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

  6. Jim, these images are really wonderful, congrats! You must be so happy w your results! Personally, the 2nd is my favorite because of the billowing smoke!


    November 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    • Thanks Tina. It was quite an adventure…something a little different for me.


      November 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm

  7. Nice photo:)


    November 24, 2013 at 11:47 am

  8. Really nice pictures!


    March 6, 2014 at 6:20 am

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