St. Paul man walks nine hours for time-lapse tour of Green Line

It opens next year. But Nick Wormley of St. Paul couldn’t wait that long.

Fascinated by the route of the new Central Corridor Light Rail Transit, or “Green Line,” he walked for nearly nine hours straight with a camera and tripod to make a moving time-lapse tour video of the route, showing what travel on the new line would be like.

It’s 11 miles between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis, and he says it’s the smoothest, safest and most direct path between the cities.

Perhaps he was too excited to take breaks: the longest interval between shots was less than four minutes. Wormley is a railroad historian, photographer, and software engineer.

“In general, I like trying to do things that others think are pointless, difficult, sometimes borderline illegal, and perhaps even foolhardy,” Wormley said.  “My motivations in doing such things are purely because I can.”

During construction, each time new concrete was poured, he rode his bike down the middle of the tracks, and pondered making a time-lapse before the trains started running.

But how?

Clamping a camera to his handlebars gave him less than satisfactory photos every time the bike hit a bump. He thought about putting his bike directly on the rails, or “railbiking” to avoid that.

“And then, as I imagined myself pedaling down the light rail line on such a device, it was hard also not to imagine ending up behind bars, or at the very least, getting a cordial recommendation to cease what I was doing,” he wrote on his website.

So, he would have to walk.

A partial trial run prepared him, and on Nov. 17, he did it. Maintaining motivation and working up the guts to get through were challenges, though. He was glad someone asked him what he was doing shortly after he began.

“I needed to make that statement out loud, because at the time, I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d actually be able to walk the entire eleven miles, especially in the rather stiff wind that was blowing,” Wormley wrote.

And others motivated him, too.

The sun was going away, and it was starting to cool off.

I was thinking about throwing in the towel about then, but a couple of college kids came biking up, and one of them said, “Hey, man! We went to Target like four hours ago, and saw you on the tracks! What are you doing?!”

I told them about the project, and that I’d started at 10am in Lowertown.

They seemed to think it was pretty cool, if not a bit crazy, and frankly, it was their interest that made me decide to finish at the end of the line, rather than quit simply because the sun had gone down.

And, he says, his fear of being a trespasser was a hurdle he got over.

The University had put fences up around the “pedestrian transit mall” they’ve built along Washington Ave., would those still be in the way?

And secondly, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to walk over the Mississippi River bridge, which is very clearly not a place I’m supposed to be!

An hour later, it turned out that the fences were indeed still there, but I was able to move them enough to pull myself through, and, during the time I was “trespassing”, I don’t think a single person looked at me twice.

Or once, for that matter.

When I got as far the pedestrian bridges at Northrup (sp) Mall, I decided to keep going over the river.

Nobody was going to give a damn.

The Metropolitan Council will announce the date of the opening of the Green Line on Jan. 22.

This is not the longest time Wormley has carried his camera for a time-lapse video. Capturing the Hastings Bridge raising took longer, although he didn’t have to walk the whole way.

“I physically sat next to my camera for about 17 hours,” Wormley said. “By the time the span reached its final position, in the wee hours of the morning, I was the only person remaining, and I believe my shot is unique, because by then, everyone else had given up and gone home.”

What else drives him to do this?

“Anyone can photograph anything — it seems like everyone has a camera these days!” he said. “So my work tries to capture things that require extra physical effort and persistence, that therefore might not otherwise be captured.”