Railway bridge.

Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited

Pan American Railways, November 2013

Thinking up new ideas everyday takes a lot of effort, so today, I’ll rely on clichés and old ideas with a new twist to fill the gap.

Pan Am Railways
Pan Am’s EDPL (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut) rolls south on the Conn River Line near Hatfield on November 21, 2013.

Back in the day, in the 1980s, I’d wander up to the Boston & Maine at East Deerfield where I’d photograph trains on well-worn rights-of-way led by first and second generation EMDs. I was thrilled to find freight trains on the move!

The poor ‘ol B&M had seen better days. New England had been in industrial decline since World War I. It was my understanding that the old phrase ‘it’s gone south,’—meaning ‘it’s gone to the dogs’—originated when New England’s textile industries began closing and heading to the Carolinas and Georgia. (Never mind Southeast Asia, China and what not).

Guilford Transportation came about and melded Maine Central with B&M and briefly with D&H. For a few years the railroad was really busy. Traffic was on the upswing, new intermodal trains were introduced, and run-through locomotives from D&H, Maine Central, as well as Norfolk & Western/Norfolk Southern became common.

Then a souring passed over the scene. ‘All that glitters is not gold’, as they say (paraphrasing an English poet), and the well-trodden paths to the Hoosac Tunnel and along the Connecticut quieted for a time.

Things changed again with the dissolution of Conrail. Now Guilford is Pan American Railways and Pan Am Southern. Metallic blue paint has begun to replace charcoal and orange. And traffic is on the rise.

Yet to me, while there’s been some changes, the old B&M is a throwback to another time.

Yes, there’s a few new signals, some new welded rail here and there, and some nice fresh ties. Many of the old searchlight signals and signal bridges are gone and here and there the tracks have been trimmed back. But the B&M has the appearance of retro railroad. It’s like classic rock with spin.

Last week, on November 21, 2013, my old friend Paul Goewey and I went up to East Deerfield. It was like old times. First and second generation EMD diesels were moving freight in every direction while decaying vestiges of New England industry could still be found at every turn.

Just sayin’ it seems to me that at the end of the day, it is what it is, and MORE!

Pan Am Railways
Paul Goewey snaps Pan Am’s MOED (Mohawk Yard to East Deerfield) crossing an early 20th century span in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX3 photo.
Greenfield, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Greenfield, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
These old diesels are the same age as me! (more or less). MOED crawls through Greenfield. The old signal bridges are fading fast.
These old diesels are the same age as me! (more or less). MOED crawls through Greenfield. The old signal bridges are fading fast.
I find the sound of 645 diesels, old bridges and vine-covered bricks in low autumnal light stirs nostalgia within me.
I find the sound of 645 diesels, old bridges and vine-covered bricks in low autumnal light stirs nostalgia within me.
Back in the day I was delighted to find old B&M EMD diesels wearing pre-McGinnis maroon and yellow paint. That was 30 years ago!
Back in the day I was delighted to find old B&M EMD diesels wearing pre-McGinnis maroon and yellow paint. That was 30 years ago!
Railway bridge.
The East Deerfield hump set on the Connecticut River Bridge, November 21, 2013.
Maine Central 507 leads a short eastward freight across the Connecticut River.
Maine Central 507 leads a short eastward freight across the Connecticut River.
Pan Am's ED2 departs East Deerfield for points north on the Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am’s ED2 departs East Deerfield for points north on the Connecticut River Line.
North of Greenfield, ED2 grinds along on its northward plod. New rail and ties are being installed on this line and soon trains will be zipping along. Just like the old days when 'the Boot' (for Bootlegger) connected Washington D.C. and Montreal. (Amtrak's Montrealer). Like, man, its all coming back!
North of Greenfield, ED2 grinds along on its northward plod. New rail and ties are being installed on this line and soon trains will be zipping along. Just like the old days when ‘the Boot’ (for Bootlegger) connected Washington D.C. and Montreal. (Amtrak’s Montrealer). Like, man, its all coming back!
The big chase! Pan Am's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we'd say, "To the River!" Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What all this in one day?)
The big chase! Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we’d say, “To the River!” Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What!? All this in one day?)

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