Daily Post: Westward Freight in Wink of Sun

CSX Q427 Claws Upgrade at Chester, Massachusetts.

For me the old Boston & Albany West end is hallowed ground. This was the first true mountain mainline in the modern sense. The line was surveyed in the mid 1830s and by 1839 trains were working over Washington Summit.

Over the last 30 years I’ve made countless trips to photograph this line and it remains one of my favorites. Yet, I rarely come up here in the winter.

On Friday, February 7, 2014, my father and I went up to Huntington to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449. Not far behind was CSX’s Q427.

This freight runs daily between Portland, Maine and Selkirk, New York via Ayer and Worcester, Massachusetts. This day it had a pair of General Electric Evolution-Series diesels of the type that have come to characterize modern freight operations on the Boston & Albany route.

Since the train wasn’t making great speed, we pursued it on Route 20, stopping to make photos at opportune locations. At CP 123 (where the line goes from single track to two-main track) Q427 met an eastward freight holding at the signal. We continued upgrade ahead of the train.

I remembered that there’s a gap in the hills at Chester which allows for a window of sun on the line that lasts late in the day. So we zipped ahead of the train.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

At Chester, Pop set up his tripod to make a hi-resolution video of the train climbing. I positioned myself with my Canon EOS 7D with a telephoto lens to make use of the window of sun against a dark background.

As the train grew closer I also exposed more conventional views with my Lumix LX3. The heavy train took more than two minutes to pass.

Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.
Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.

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 Tomorrow: step back 30 years with a visit to West Springfield.

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6 thoughts on “Daily Post: Westward Freight in Wink of Sun”

  1. I have been enjoying your site for about a month and have many of your books. These shots are among the best I have seen – really nice!

    A while ago you mentioned the NSL Electroliner. I know you are not old enough to have ridden them in NSL service (I was in college in WI when the end came, so I was able to ride and photograph the sets.) I am a long time member of IRM and am pleased that we are finally working on completing the restoration of our set (801-802), hopefully in time for its 75th Anniversary (Jan 2016.) All eight motors need to be removed and inspected and repaired as necessary, the air conditioning needs to be replaced, and the interior worked on (we have the fabric and a volunteer who is working on that now.) We only (!) need to raise $500K. We have right around $100K now, and need $150K before we drop the motors and take them to a contract shop. Our biggest problem seems to be getting the word out. Any suggestions on how to reach fans in the NE/East? We do have a Facebook page that we are trying to get and keep current – http://www.facebook.com/Electroliner . Any ideas/suggestions would be appreciated. I don’t expect you to use your “tracking the light” postings for this purpose. Also, John Horacheck (one of the last remaining NSL employees and NSL historian extraordinaire is woking on a book on the Electroliner – hopefully out next year or 2016. We know John and he has an amazing collection of documents/pictures that were saved (must have been by the truck load!) when the line closed.

    Tom and Sharon Sharratt (former crew on the CARITAS 1997 – 2003)
    tssharratt@mwt.net

    1. I’ve been planning a post about the Electroliner, and I’ll be sure to include the relevant contact information that you have provided.
      Good luck with your project! I look forward to experiencing the Electroliner under power!
      All the best,
      Brian Solomon

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