Classic General Motors Locomotives: Monday December 3, 2012

New England Central’s former Central Vermont line at Stafford Spring, Connecticut at 10:35 am December 3, 2012. Exposed with Lumix LX3.

As I write this I’m eagerly anticipating arrival of an Author’s Copy of my latest book: North American Locomotives published by Voyageur Press.

This morning, while I was polishing off some text and captions for another future Voyageur Press project, tentatively entitled Railroad Family Trees, I thought I heard familiar thunder in the valley.

What’s that? I turned down the volume of Led Zeppelin’s Going to California to listen outside. It was the unmistakable sound of turbocharged 645 diesels at work. I opened the window and turned off the music (sorry Jimmy). Clear blue sky, and a New England Central train was into the grade on State Line Hill — roaring slowly southward.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’d been eyeing some of New England Central’s recent acquisitions: rebuilt GM six-motors wearing Union Pacific’s Armor Yellow. Of special interest to me are those that feature old SD45 bodies and thus characterized by angled radiator intakes (factory built SD45s were powered with 20-cylinder 645-E3 diesels, but during remanufacturing these machines were modified and received a variation of the smaller 16-645-E3). While I’d made static photos of these locomotives in the yard, I’d been waiting for an opportunity to catch one on the road in nice light.

Opening email I hastily attached the remaining documents for my editor, pressed ‘send,’ then grabbed my cameras, scanner and notebook (a real paper one) and made for the car. Soon, I was in downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut, and after about 10 minutes I heard the southward freight whistling for nearby crossings. As the train crawled into view my intuition proved correct: New England Central 2674 was leading on train 603. (I’d probably known this sooner if I’d been listening to my scanner instead of Zeppelin).

New England Central 603 approaches downtown Stafford Springs on December 3, 2012. Exposed with Canon 7D fitted with 28-135mm lens.

On December 3, 2012, New England Central 603 passes Stafford Springs, Connecticut with 23 cars in tow. Lumix LX3 photo.

In Stafford Springs a succession of grade crossings combined with a sharp curve limits speed to 10 mph; and today’s train was taking it handily, giving me ample opportunity to exercise my Lumix LX3 and Canon 7D (didn’t bother with film today). As it crawled through town I opted for pursuit, and continued to the Route 32 overpass on the Stafford-Ellington town line, where I made another set of images.

New England Central 603 rolls south of Stafford on the former Central Vermont Railway. This view was made from Route 32 which runs loosely parallel to the railroad between Palmer and New London. Canon 7D photo.

Later in the afternoon, errands brought me north toward Palmer, Massachusetts, and so I spent the remainder of daylight photographing a variety classic General Motors Electro Motive Division diesels at work. CSX’s local B740 was working the former Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, while Mass-Central’s daily freight arrived on the Ware River Branch with its rare NW5 trailing. This 1947-built antique is among the most unusual locomotives operating in New England today. Later, a New England Central local came on duty using one of its few remaining GP38s to work Palmer. All in all, a day filled with classic GM diesels, and not a modern safety-cab to be seen! (Although GE Genesis units worked Amtrak’s Vermonter.)

Three class GP40-2s work CSX local B740 at Palmer, Massachusetts on December 3, 2012. Lumix LX3 photo.


Typically CSX local B740 requires a pair of GP40-2s, but today (December 3, 2012) it had three. It is seen working the old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
Mass-Central’s Ware River line freight arrives at Palmer about 2:45 pm on Monday December 3, 2012 with locomotives 960 and 2100. Canon 7D photo.
Mass-Central’s Electro-Motive model NW5 number 2100 is a rare treat. Lumix LX3 photo.
Mass Central’s freight and CSX local B740 are both within Palmer yard limits. Soon, Amtrak’s daily Vermonter will be due. Palmer was a busy place on the afternoon of December 3, 2012. Canon 7D photo.
with the panning motion.
At the end of the day, New England Central 3550 works a local freight at Palmer. I made this pan-shot with my Canon 7D set at 1/30th of second at f5.0. This image was made in the evening twilight, and required modest post-processing adjustment using photoshop to improve contrast and color balance. The secret of a good pan is to use a slow shutter speed and keep panning with the front of the locomotive. Another trick; turn off the camera’s image stabilizer because it tends to interfere with the panning action.

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