J. Alex Lang


Much of my railroad photography has taken place in great company – I don’t tend to travel alone. Longtime childhood friend Lou Capwell and I both grew up mentored by rail enthusiasts who were active in the 60s and 70s and themselves lamented the demise of the glory days of the 50s. We grew up modeling fallen flag railroads and knew about fallen flag history even in a post-Conrail era. I think this distinguishes us from the 20-something railfan crowd somewhat.

He and I each grew up and moved away from “home” in the Lehigh Valley area of eastern Pennsylvania, where we still pay attention to the last remnants of those fallen flags. For us, the signals are often the only remaining evidence of predecessor railroads – Conrail included. So we’ve grown interested in finding signals installed by the Lehigh Valley, the Reading, Central of New Jersey; and the concurrent realization that this phenomenon is true – but quickly waning, especially in light of the advent of PTC. So, off we went looking for signals on the Nickel Plate, Bessemer & Lake Erie, vestiges of PRR in oddball places. We’ve both become fond of the signals that remain even when no track is in place any longer.

In addition to all of this – the signal was often the only clue of the next “move”. Even in the scanner and ATCS age is this still sometimes the case. Seeing signals at night, sitting and watching, drinking another carton of local iced tea, listening for distant horns, a squawk on the scanner, and hoping for a high green to pierce the fog – this is how Lou and I spent many nights working through the various life issues that come up in the younger years. Even now, when things get stressful, I head out at night looking for the same solace.

This photo and a brief quote were included in the Center for Railroad Photography and Art‘s Railroad Heritage magazine #26, 2011.