Half-past midnight

I dabbled a bit in multiple-bulb, sync-flash in the early 80s using old screw-mount Number 2 bulbs, miles of wire, old school technology, and considerable luck. The bulbs, out of production for years, were expensive, temperamental, and not necessarily guaranteed to fire. Even if the "blue dot" was still blue.

On March 29, 1982, I set up at the TH&B station at Smithville, Ont., for the nocturnal passage of the Buffalo-Toronto Conrail/TH&B/CP run-through freight known as the "Kinnear." At the time, the train alternated between Conrail and TH&B crews and power; this was a Conrail night, with GP40 3198, GP38-2 8093 and GP35 2310 doing the honours. I'd talked with the engineer earlier at Montrose Yard in Niagara Falls. He was an old head, a no-nonsense guy, a fast runner. I had a notion that I might be in for a show, and hurried to Smithville to string wire and set up bulbs and reflectors.

At 00:30, the old guy delivered. BUCP-9 came tearing through Smithville at what must have been a mile-a-minute. I have no accurate estimate of just where the speedometer needle in the 3198 was pegged, but I do know that BUCP-9 put on a ground-shaking, ear-splitting, stand-back performance that blew over a few of my reflectors, set off the burglar alarm at the funeral home next door, and quite likely woke the dead. The streets of Smithville were empty. I was the sole witness to the spectacle.

As luck would have it, only three bulbs fired; the fourth, positioned to illuminate the side of the train, did not. The memories make up for it.

Enough to wake the dead, BUCP-9 rips through Smithville, Ont., at 00:30 on March 30, 1982.