If you are not viewing this on post on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link or you’ll miss the panoramic photo.
Last Friday (July 19, 2019), we traveled on Conway Scenic Budd-built RDC 23 Millie east toward Redstone, New Hampshire on the former Maine Central. On the return we paused at Pudding Pond so that I could make some photographs.
Once I was off the car, by arrangement it moved forward so the front of the RDC was catching the sunlight.
In addition to conventional photos, I also made this panoramic composite using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. The camera has a panorama preset that requires you to make an even sweep across the scene while holding the shutter release. The camera sews together the images and outputs them as a completed panorama.
On Select Fridays, Conway Scenic operates an RDC trip for children out on its Redstone Line—former Maine Central Mountain Division running east from Mountain Junction. Last Friday, July 19, 2019, I took the opportunity to travel with the crew on this run.
At Mountain Junction we cleared for the Valley Train led by GP7 573 that was on its return run from Bartlett to North Conway, New Hampshire.
When the Valley Train passed us, I made this view from the cab of Conway Scenic’s former Susquehanna (originally New Haven Railroad) RDC number 23, named Millie.
You know, I could have named this post: The Valley Meets Millie at Mountain Junction.
Last week at North Conway, New Hampshire hot humid afternoon gave way to rain forest-like torrential rains.
In the twilight of early evening, I exposed this raining view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.
The slight blurred effect is a combination of the cascading downpour and relatively slow shutter speed. For me the combination of heavy rain, dusk, and slight camera blur makes for a painterly effect that helps transcend the decades.
Near the summit of the former Maine Central Mountain Division at Crawford Notch, the line passes through a deep rock cutting in a natural low point in the mountains known as the Gateway.
Conway Scenic’s normal operations of its Notch Train to Crawford’s Station finds the train passing the Gateway at the peak of high sun. In other words, one of the most difficult times for photography using natural lighting.
Fires in the West resulted in particulate matter and haze, which last week provide a great degree of diffusion, making these condition an ideal time to catch the Notch Train on its uphill run.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view from the railroad east end (compass south) of the famous cutting. Having locomotive 1751 in the lead was an added bonus.
I thought in the heat of high summer, it might be a refreshing time to present some frosty views from last January.
Previously, I’d posted some black & white photos exposed during a lake effect snow squall at Brookfield, Wisconsin on CP Rail’s former Milwaukee Road main line that I’d made on a photographic adventure with Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt.
That same morning, I’d also worked in color using my FujiFilm XT1.
Here’s a view of a westward empty grain train passing the old Brookfield station led by brightly painted BNSF GE’s.
It’s a stark contrast from the leafy trees and high summer temperatures of today.
Last Saturday’s excursion atop Mount Washington lent to some precipitous views of the line.
Over its 150 years, I imagine that every inch of this short but steep railway has been photographed.
Not withstanding that, I’ve added my FujiFilm XT1 photos to the mix. Here’s a selection as we rode up on the train. Special thanks to our brakemen on the way up who allowed me to make a few photos from the door at the end of the car.
Tracking the Light Rode the Mt. Washington Cog Railway!
These are not the words I want to see at the back of my camera screen.
Let’s back up:
Yesterday, after traveling to the top of New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain via the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway with my friends, I made a series of cosmic photos of the surrounding scenery.
However, during my photography all of a sudden as I was reviewing photos the words ‘Card Read Error!’ came up on my camera screen.
This is bad news: it means that the recording media has been damaged or corrupted.
When this happens to you, don’t panic, but follow these instructions:
1) DO NOT attempt to expose more photos using the damaged card. Doing so can greatly complicate your future ability to retrieve the images that you’ve already exposed.
2) Turn your camera off.
3) Take the card out of the camera.
4) Replace the card with a fresh spare. (I always carry two or three spares with me).
5) Test the camera using the spare card. If it seems to work as normal, you can probably resume photography. If it doesn’t, there may be a more complicated problem.
6) Before downloading, do not ‘format’, ‘erase’ or take any action that will add/subtract information / data to or from the card.
7) Later, when you are home, attempt to download your card using an external device. In my case I have a card reader that inserts into my MacBook using a USB port.
8) After you successfully download the card, put it aside and mark it ‘defective’. Once recording media goes bad it is unwise to continue to use it. Buy a new card.
In my situation, I waited until evening, I first downloaded the new card that I’d inserted into my after the first card went bad. Only after all the photos from the new card were successfully downloaded and backed up on an external hard drive, did I began downloading the images from the damaged card.
I was lucky and all my images were downloaded with relative ease. I marked the suspect card ‘BAD’ and put it away. I will not use the card again. If I could not download the card using my normal software, I’d have to go through a more complicated procedure to attempt to retrieve missing photos.
Incidentally, camera-recording cards are only designed for short-term storage. I routinely download my cards nightly. While, I hold on to the cards for future re-use, I do not use them for long-term storage.
I suggest that all digital and digitized images be stored in triplicate and in different places. Further, since all hard drives will eventually go bad, it is wise to periodically re-backup data on new media. At least once a year I back up older files on new hard drives and check to make sure that files transfer successfully.
Wednesday evening July 10, 2019, I made this sunset view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s dinner train at Bartlett, New Hampshire.
The dinner train uses largely the same consist as the railroad’s Notch Train, but operates in the evening from North Conway to Bartlett and return.
Owing to the extreme exposure contrast between the darker areas of the car’s undercarriage and the highlights in the sky, I carefully balanced my exposure using the camera’s histogram to retain the maximum amount of detail, and later adjusted the RAW file in Lightroom in post processing to allow for the most pleasing image.
The other evening I exposed this trailing view of Conway Scenic’s RDC number 23, Millienear Glen-Jackson on its evening run up to Attiash .
On of the best kept secrets among Conway’s scheduled trains are its RDC runs for Attitash that depart North Conway on select evenings at 6pm.
I like the RDC, a typical Budd Car, that was common to New England passenger services when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s.
For this photo, I was working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto. The camera color profile was set to Velvia (see photo above), but ultimately I worked with the camera-RAW file in Lightroom to adjust color temperature, contrast and saturation (see photo below).
Warm sunny summer mornings are very pleasant. However with the warm weather comes rapid plant growth which can complicate railroad photography.
Take for example these views that I made at Vernon, Vermont at the end of June, 2019.
New England Central’s 611 crew was taking Brattleboro-Palmer turn southbound with locomotive 3476 in the lead (a one upon a time EMD SD45 re-built to a SD40-2/’SD40-3’ configuration.)
To get a bit of elevation, I scaled a mound on the east side of the line, near the grade crossing at the switch for the old power plant.
I liked the cows grazing in the nearby field, so working with my Canon EOS-7D with 200mm lens, I made a distant view. Unfortunately for the, the brush had grown so much that it seems like the freight is emerging from the undergrowth!
I also made a few photos with a FujiFilm XT1 and 27mm pancake lens. Of these, the more distant view seems to work better from a compositional standpoint. SD45 enthusiasts make argue otherwise!
On our rambles on Friday July 5, 2019, we paused at the trackside grave yard in West Northfield, Massachusetts (railroad south of the junction at East Northfield), to roll by Amtrak 54, the northward Vermonter.
I was giving my cousin Stella a tour of New England curiosities, sights, and infrastructure.
We’d hoped to catch New England Central’s northward 611, a train that we spotted a few minutes earlier, but we ran out of time before it crossed the Connecticut Bridge (located less than a mile from this spot on NECR’s line that runs between Palmer and East Northfield.)
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Friday (July 5, 2019), I was rambling about with my cousin Stella—visiting from California—when we paused at Bardwell’s Ferry,.
The ferry is long gone. Instead a well-preserved pin-connected lenticular truss bridge carries the road over Massachusetts’ Deerfield River.
While we were photographing the bridge and river, I thought my ears tricked me; the rushing water sounded remarkably like a distant freight.
Since this wasn’t a serious rail-photo excursion, I hadn’t brought my scanner.
I went back to the car to get my omnipresent notebook, when I heard a whistle!
The flashers on Bardwell’s Ferry road illuminated, and sure enough there was an eastward Pan Am Southern freight approaching!
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, I exposed this series of photos.
I assume that this was symbol freight 16R which forwards Norfolk Southern traffic from Enola (Pennsylvania) and East Binghamton (New York) to Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard. Without a scanner or positive confirmation, guess is all I can do.
Knowing I had a few minutes while east and westward trains made their meet at CP79 east of Palmer, I explored locations at Warren and West Brookfield. I concluded that summer-time brush along the line made many of my traditional photo locations un-workable.
So, I went over to East Brookfield, where the overhead bridge offered a clean view of the tracks. One photo was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 the other with a Lumix LX7.
Toward the end of June 2019, I visited New England Central’s yard at Brattleboro, Vermont.
It was the first time in many months that I used my old Canon EOS-7D, which I’d fitted with a 200mm telephoto lens.
As the 611 crew was getting organized to take Brattleboro to Palmer turn south, I made these photos.
I’ve always like the Canon color palate, which I believe is a function of their lenses and sensor. This is decidedly different than the digital photos I make with either my FujiFilm XT1 or Lumix LX7. Playing with a long telephoto is always fun, although in recent years I’ve shied away from very long lenses, as I’ve found that they tend to be overused.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019, I used my FujiFilm XT1 to film a short video of Conway Scenic’s historic excursion over Crawford Notch to the far western end of its line at Hazen’s, near the White Mountain Regional Airport in Whitefield, New Hampshire.
The trip represented steam locomotive 7470’s public debut since its recent restoration to service and its first trip leading an excursion all the way to the end of the line. It was also the first public trip using recently acquired Budd dome car Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor), which can be seen directly behind the locomotive in the video.
I planned to this as a follow-up to earlier Conway Scenic shorts, including an interview with Conway Scenic President and General Manager, David Swirk which has attracted more than 40,000 views on Facebook.
So far, this most recent video has had about 6000 views on Facebook and is now also available on Conway Scenic’s NEW YouTube channel. (See link above.)
These videos are part of a strategy designed to promote the railroad using social media.
Conway Scenic’s Valley Train makes its station stop at Attitash.
The station is just a flag stop on the Valley run that serves the Attitash Mountain Resort. It has a short platform with benches, railings, a classic enamel metal sign with blue and white letters, and the requisite yellow line.
On Sunday, the Valley Train dropped off seven passengers who had traveled from North Conway via Bartlett. They were among many passengers traveling round trip to Bartlett.
To my disappointment no passengers boarded for the run back to North Conway.
With permission of the operating crew I disembarked with Lumix in hand to expose this photo. The train’s conductor is at right logging the move in the station register.
Last Tuesday, June 25, 2019, I’d photographed an eastward CSX intermodal train at Palmer, Massachusetts that took the controlled siding at CP83 and then eased up to the east end of the siding at CP79.
I took a chance and drove expeditiously to West Warren in anticipation of a westward freight. I was rewarded for my efforts.
The lighting was tricky but colorful. The sunrise was heavily tempered by clouds rolling in from the west.
To make the most of the contrasty scene, I used a Lee graduated neutral density filter over the front of my lens to reduce exposure in the sky, and then underexposed the entire scene by about two thirds of a stop. I used the in-camera histogram to gauge my exposure by aiming to obtain minimal loss of detail in highlight and shadow areas. To the eye, my RAW files seem a little dark, but this is by intent.
In post processing, I lightened shadow areas while controlling highlights in an effort to replicate scene as I saw it.
Such are the challenges with modern photography. With black and white film, I would have exposed for the shadows and printed for the highlights, but that technique won’t work with digital photography. Where black & white film could hold great detail in dense highlights, but suffered from thin and detail-less shadow regions, digital sensors have the opposite sensitivity range.
Among the mix of photos and video I exposed on Saturday June 29, 2019, was this Lumix LX7 view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 leading the Trains Planes and Automobiles rare mileage excursion west of Crawford Notch near Fabyans, New Hampshire.
To preserve the sense of motion, I manually selected a small aperture and slow ISO (80) to allow for a comparatively slow shutter speed, while making a slow full body sweep keeping parallel with the forward motion of the locomotive.
I continued this technique for some of the passing cars as well.
I’ve often found that the panning technique can be an effective way to compensate for an overcast situation.
I’ve just scratched the surface reviewing the many photos I made yesterday (June 29, 2019) of Conway Scenic’s Trains, Planes and Automobiles steam excursion over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
This was the first public excursion with Conway’s new Budd-dome Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor) as featured on Tracking the Light. And the first time the car was teamed up with steam locomotive 7470.
I made this view of the iconic Willey Brook Trestle on the return run in the afternoon where the steam locomotive was trailing.
For years I’d admired photos from the vantage point on the rocks above the bridge, which has been used to photograph the railway since it was constructed in the 1870s.
I never realized how difficult it was to get up there until I had to make the ascent myself, with all my gear in tow.
This view was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit mounted on a Gitzo tripod. I used an external Lee graduated filter to help improve sky detail.
By working in the vertical-oriented portrait format, I was better able to show the distance of the stream below the bridge and the great verticality of the entire scene. I’m specifically mimicking a 19thcentury glass plate view, while remembering a Kodachrome slide my friend Brian Jennison exposed here of a Maine Central freight.
Tuesday Morning (June 25 2019), I made my way to Palmer, Massachusetts to see how fared the old Boston & Albany.
Not long after I arrived at the old freight house location (the building was unceremoniously demolished by Conrail 30 years ago), I heard ‘Limited Clear CP83’ on my scanner. This transmission indicated that a train was about to take the controlled siding.
Modern six-motor GEs (an Evolution and a Tier IV—standard CSX road power on the Boston Line) rolled east with a short intermodal train, probably Q012 or Q022.
The trailing locomotive was CSX’s Louisville & Nashville heritage locomotive, identified by a tiny L&N logo on the cab and ‘Spirit of Ravenna’ in script. Lucky bonus to catch that in Palmer!
I made my photos at the west end of the yard, working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto lens and my Lumix LX7.
This was just the beginning of the morning’s photography.
Over the last few weeks, Conway Scenic has been working its former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 on short runs in preparation for the summer season and for its big outing over Crawford Notch to the end of the line at Hazen’s Crossing near Whitefield on June 29, 2019.
Last Saturday (June 22), I was up early to catch 7470 working the yard at North Conway. Call me a purist, but I found watching this 0-6-0 switching freight and passenger cars in preparation for its daily excursion work more enchanting than the excursions themselves.
First of all, as an 0-6-0, engine 7470 was intended for switching, so what better assignment could it have?
Secondly, the crisp morning with rich low June sun made for nearly ideal photographic conditions.
I made these digital images using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.
This week, I’ll be scoping places on the old Maine Central Mountain Division looking for the best photographic vantage points to catch 7470 on its ascent of Crawford Notch. The train is scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.
If you are interested, tickets are still available for the trip, which includes rare mileage from Fabyans to Hazens.
Nineteen Years ago, I was traveling with Denis McCabe and Tony Gray to photograph Railway Preservations Society of Ireland’s annual ‘Two Day Tour’.
We stopped along the N25 opposite the water from Cobh, Junction, Glounthaune, Cork, where I used a telephoto lens to expose this view of former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) steam locomotive 171 hauling Irish Rail Cravens carriages on a trip to Cobh.
At the time, an overcast day photo of 171 working tender first didn’t excite me much, and I left this slide with the other ‘seconds’ from that trip
However, in May of this year (2019)—almost 19 years to the day after I exposed the photo—I rediscovered this slide. It was still in the original box in which it was returned to me from the lab. Time has improved my photo and I think it’s pretty neat now.
I scanned it using an Epson V750 Pro flat bed scanner and processed the file using Lightroom.
On Friday, June 21, 2019, Conway Scenic sent locomotive 1751 to Crawfords, New_Hampshire in order to position an excavator that had been working west of the summit.
This was 1751’s first assignment on the Mountain since repairs at North Conway earlier in the week.
Later the locomotive was sent west to Hazen’s at the far reaches of Conway Scenic’s operations on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
I made these views from highway 312 using my Fujifilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In post processing, I digitally applied a graduated neutral density filter to make for better sky detail on the gray day.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019. Conway Scenic has a special Notch Train planned. This will run with steam locomotive 7470 all the way from North Conway over Crawford Notch to Hazen’s to participate in the Trains Planes and Automobiles special event.
I’d spied some rocks high on Mount Willard above the old Maine Central trestle at Willey Brook.
Conway Scenic’s Lisa King offered to bring me on a hike to those rocks for a commanding view of New Hampshire’s famous Crawford Notch.
“We’ll start at Crawfords Station. It takes about an hour!”
So last Saturday, we departed North Conway about an hour ahead of the Notch Train, and drove to Crawfords, where I was surprised to find about 100 cars parked along the road.
I was astounded to ‘discover’ that one of New Hampshire’s most impressive views attracts hundreds of hikers on bright warm weekend mornings!
We walked up through the forests, fording streams, avoiding bugs, dodging potential encounters with bears (we didn’t see any, but I’ll bet some saw us, since, earlier in the week, I’d spotted a bear cub on the line).
At the top, Lisa brought me a great view looking down the valley, and down onto the famous Willey Brook bridge.
I’m saving the bridge photos for a rainy day.
Next Saturday, June 29, 2019, Conway Scenic has scheduled a special Notch Train to be led by its steam locomotive 7470. This will depart Conway at 9am and run over the Notch and beyond to Hazen’s Crossing near the White Mountains Regional Airport for an event called Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
(I’m told tickets are still available, but get yours soon!)
Call: 603-356-5251 or check Conway Scenic’s website:
It was a little more than six months ago that I made this view of a heritage streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana while walking to the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to board Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
I exposed this digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with my zoom lens set at 110mm.
Lately, I’ve shied away from using the zoom and instead prefer to work with my prime lenses. However, the zoom is well suited for street photography owing to its variable focal length.
Earlier this week, Dave Swirk, president and general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, enlisted my skills to help promote the railroad’s June 29, 2019 special steam trip over Crawford Notch to the Trains, Planes & Automobiles event near Whitefield, New Hampshire.
Dave explained how this excursion is a rare opportunity to see Conway’s only operating steam locomotive reach Crawford Notch—which is beyond its typical operating territory— but also offers the opportunity to travel all the way to Hazen’s Crossing at the western limit of Conway Scenic’s operation of the former Maine Central Mountain Division. The Airshow / Carshow is an extra bonus!
Using my FujiFilm XT1 camera with 12mm Zeiss Touit, I recorded Dave speaking about the railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 that was recently restored to operations and its role in the special June 29th trip.
I edited the video output from the camera using Apple software on my Macbook.
This event is a big deal for Conway Scenic. It has been nearly five years since 7470 regularly worked Conway Scenic’s excursions, so this trip represents an exciting opportunity and there’s no one better than Dave himself to capture the enthusiasm for this special event.
Locomotive 7470 is a heavy 0-6-0 built in 1921 by the Grand Trunk for service in Canada. It is significant as the first locomotive to provide service on the Conway Scenic and of great personal significance for Dave.
On June 29th, the special Notch Train will depart North Conway behind steam at 9am.
To book tickets for this event call: 603-356-5251.