What's So Special About Shawmut?
Shawmut: no, not a literary Irish mongrel, but rather a mostly forgotten whistle stop near Gila Bend, Arizona, where pusher locomotives used to help freight trains ascend the Maricopa Grade out of the Gila River Valley. Sadly, however, with the advent of much more powerful diesel locomotives, the steam powered pushers became obsolete, and so the little community of Shawmut slowly sank into oblivion.
Apart from its historical interest, this spot has some other major advantages going for it. It's very secluded, plenty dark, and Tucson is so far away that the light pollution isn't much of a factor, if you happen to head out that way during the new moon and point your camera and tripod south to get some shots of the Milky Way in the summer season.
The first time I visited Shawmut I was hard at work positioning and adjusting my camera to take advantage of the magnificent and silent setting, when I began to hear a low hum off in the distance. It slowly increased until I saw a blinding flash of light and as the sound rose to a roar, the ground began to shake! Suddenly, a massive, roaring presence engulfed me as the huge engines followed by what seemed like an endless stream of double decker freight cars thundered past in a cacophony of noise, light and vibration.
As you can imagine, the experience was intoxicating, and I have gone back several times, mesmerized by the amazing roar and presence of these massive behemoths that thunder past on their way to distant destinations. And yeah, I got some great images of the trains, if not the Milky Way.