In October 2023, Lerro Photography sponsored four days of photo charters at the East Broad Top Railroad using 2-8-2 #16. For this event, we ran two 2-day charters with 40 photographers participating in each group.
On the first day of the charter, we started things off with runbys in the yard and a number of human-interest shots with our reenactors while the crew fixed a malfunctioning dynamo on #16. To fill the downtime, we had our fantastic group of reenactors pose in various places around the station, both with the train and antique vehicles. Once the dynamo was fixed, we were underway and performed runbys at a few spots along the line with a couple of antique vehicles and the reenactors. As the train returned for our lunch break, the photographers got a glimpse of what was in store for our night photo session. A large wooden frame was being erected in a corner of the station parking lot. Our afternoon session began with a few runbys in the yard before heading back out on the line for a couple of spots that worked under cloudy skies. Once we returned to the station and finished off the daytime session with a couple more runbys, everyone realized what we were doing for the night session.
For the previous two months, we secretly planned to recreate the classic 1950s drive-in movie theater shot that O. Winston Link did in Iaeger, WV. The original Link photo, “Hotshot Eastbound,” features a full-sized 1950s drive-in screen and a passing Norfolk & Western A-class 2-6-6-4. We needed to scale the screen down since we were doing our photo using narrow gauge trains and with a limited number of antique vehicles. After measuring the parking lot and figuring out the space the locomotive and a few freight cars would fit in, we finalized the desired screen size. From there, we had to decide on how to build it. After much discussion and brainstorming, Linn Moedinger developed a wood frame design that would be stronger for our needs.
Over the next couple of weeks, we acquired all the materials needed, including the wood and the white tarp for the screen. Several of us built the wood frame the day before the charter and mounted the tarp near the roundhouse instead of the parking lot due to the railroad’s weekend event excursions. During the lunch break and the afternoon session on Monday, EBT staff and volunteers moved the frame to the parking lot and erected the screen in the desired position. They could anchor and secure the screen with a mixture of scaffolding and pikes. When our train returned to the yard, the drive-in movie screen was ready for action.
At 7:30 pm, we had the antique automobiles and reenactors in position and our LED lights turned on. The moment of truth came once we turned the projector on, and we could see the image of the airplane on the screen. The train backed up within moments, and all the photographers were as happy as possible. We actually pulled it off! I wanted to do this scene for years but could never find the place and people to help make it happen. I am eternally grateful that the East Broad Top took on the challenge and helped make it a reality.
We kept the train static for the first 30-40 minutes and allowed the photographers to move up close to the convertible, which was a 1948 Plymouth, to shoot a near-identical angle to the original O. Winston Link photo. Once everyone got a couple of tries with the stationary shot, we backed the train up and did a handful of slow runbys. By 9:30 pm, everyone was more than happy, and we called it a night.
On the second day, we took advantage of a small window of sun early in the morning to do some yard and station runbys. The clouds returned as we headed out onto the line, so we performed runbys along the line with different variations than the day before. During the lunch break, the EBT staff took our photographers on a tour of the shops and other buildings to take photos and learn about the yard’s history. In the afternoon, we had #16 move around the yard on its own to emulate hostling and servicing scenes. We also had reenactors pose around the various buildings in the yard area. Once we finished in the yard, we took the train, reenactors, and classic cars back out on the line for a few more runbys until sunset.
On the third day, we had a whole new group of photographers come in, so we had to essentially repeat what we had done the previous two days with a few changes. Everyone was asking if we would do the drive-in night shoot for the new group. Luckily for them, we planned on doing it again. The morning session started out with yard runbys before we headed north out on the line. While some of the photographers were on a lunchtime shop tour, a small break in the clouds gave us a chance to take sunny pictures with the reenactors and cars posed in front of the Orbisonia station. The afternoon session started at the coal tipple at the south end of the yard before we ran all the way to the wye at Colgate Grove on the north end of the line to turn the train and do a couple of runbys. For the rest of the session, we performed runbys southbound along the line with our reenactors and antique autos posing at various locations.
In the evening, we reset the drive-in theater scene with more automobiles. Most importantly, we had a second convertible available. Because of the second convertible, we were able to set up a second close-up scene so that the photographers could shoot two sets of couples sitting in the cars. Like on Monday night, we spent the first half of the night session allowing everyone to take close-up shots of the reenactors in each car, and the wide view of both convertibles. Once everyone got their shots, we backed the train up and performed runbys. After the official night session, the train returned to the yard, and we spent an additional 20 minutes photographing the reenactors with the automobiles.
Thursday’s final day dawned foggy in the valley, delighting the photographers as we got some moody runbys by the station and throughout the yard. The fog remained thick as the train ran north out of town, allowing us to shoot from the afternoon side of the big-fill location in the morning with the reenactors and classic cars. The sun eventually burned through the fog and gave us the best weather of the week so we could spend the rest of the morning session doing runbys under bright, blue skies. The afternoon session concluded with great sunlight for our southbound trains at several locations, finishing up in front of the EBT depot.
We would like to thank the East Broad Top staff and volunteers for their hard work during the charter and all the preparation to make this event possible. We would also like to thank all our reenactors and antique automobile owners for coming out on their own time and helping add authenticity to our 1940s-1950s scenes. Everyone made a long-desired vision a reality and pulled it off flawlessly.