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One of my favorite seasons to photograph is winter, but only when it snows. With the temperatures plummeting into the teens at night, I am reminded of a snowy weekend late this past January.

Folks rushed to the grocery stores to collect their bread and milk as the largest snow storm our area would experience was plastered on local television screens and newspapers creating angst and excitement.

However, I had another plan brewing deep in the back of mind. I remember it was a perfect storm, in more ways than one. The storm was hitting on a weekend, I was not scheduled to work and there was, of course, no classes on campus during the weekend. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to quickly become a three-day weekend, if I recall correctly.

Armed with the knowledge of the impending snow storm, I decided join some friends who were out photographing trains in the weather. I left home having taken a half hour to clean off the car and battling the continuous, constant and fast falling snow.

Was it my smartest decision? Perhaps not. But it proved rewarding.

I slowly trekked my way out of my country hollow home and into town, probably not hitting 15 miles-per-hour the entire time. I finally made it to the interstate, where speeds were a slightly faster — ranging from 30 to 45 m.p.h.

With a little slipping and sliding, but in full control of my vehicle, I continued on to our meeting point of Kenova, West Virginia (well-known railfanning spot). I knew then I wouldn’t be back for several days – there was no turning back.

After arriving at Kenova we traveled around Ashland, Catlettsburg and Kenova to find trains. Our first train would be a CSX coal train headed east across the Big Sandy River bridge between Catlettsburg, KY and Kenova, WV.

A snow-covered coal train bridges the gap between Catlettsburg, KY and Kenova, WV across the Big Sandy River.

Our second train would be a yellow engine-led train passing Prichard, West Virginia. We parked just off old U.S. 52 to take this photo…

A former UP engine, sold to Norfolk Southern, leads a unit grain train across the trestle at Prichard, WV.

That would about it for the first day of snowmageddon, Winter Storm Jonas. We went on to take some night photos, but they didn’t turn out great.

The railroad was limited in operations by the next day with mostly key trains running. I stayed with a friend in Hurricane, WV during these nights and our friend with a four-wheel drive vehicle picked us up.

For whatever reason, we visited Nitro (where our friend that picked us up lives). It was clear that the weather conditions had severely impacted traffic as First Avenue was clogged with tractor trailers…

It was clear that the weather conditions had severely impacted traffic as First Avenue in Nitro was clogged with tractor trailers.

By this time, untreated areas had probably 14-inches of snow, the most this area had seen a long time. We continued our adventures though. The next stop would be for lunch in Saint Albans, WV at a pizzeria (one of the few places open due to the weather).

Following lunch, the radio crackled to life as Q-136 was nearing, the eastbound single-stack intermodal train. We noticed that a crossing had a fairly sized pile of snow from grading operation, it was clear what the next shot would be…

CSX key train Q-136 plows through mound of snow at a grade crossing in St. Albans, WV during the second day of Winter Storm Jonas, 2016.

We would catch its westbound counterpart soon after, Q-135.

Q-135 quietly slides through a grade crossing.

That was it for the second day. But many roads were still impassable by regular vehicles and, consequently, I would spend a third day chasing trains in the snow.

The third day found much improved road conditions thanks to the hard work of road crews. I was able to dig my car out of a snow bank and thaw it out, but with everything canceled (class specifically), I took the opportunity to continue the hunt of trains in the snow. This day would be different, we had both snow AND sunlight.

Just about the only train I photographed would be this CSX led  Norfolk Southern train crossing the Ohio River and the community of Kenova on the famous century old ex-Norfolk and Western bridge.

Who’s railroad is it anyway?

The other shot of the day would be of the old Ironton-Russell bridge, now replaced with a standard, cable suspension bridge.

The old Ironton-Russell Bridge is slated for demolition.

I can only hope this coming winter will just as snow-filled, or at least part of it. Mother Nature has been teasing me recently with fits of flurries and couple mornings of a light dusting of snow.

(Top/featured photo: Q-136 is stopped short of a grade crossing while a technical malfunction is corrected.)

Written by:

Cory Claxon is a journalist/photographer for the Grayson Journal-Times, he is also a avid railfan and historian.

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