Summer Solstice with the Vermonter

Train 54 at Millers Falls.

June 21st was the longest day of the year. Amtrak’s Vermonter (Train 54) departed Amherst, Massachusetts at 4:32 pm, twelve minutes after the advertised.

Sometimes late trains are a benefit. I was aiming toward Millers Falls, hoping to make a photo on the famous high bridge over the Millers River. I arrived nine minutes before the train crossed this span. If the train had been on schedule, I’d have missed it.

Since 1986, I’ve photographed this bridge on many occasions. It was nearly 25 years ago that my dad and I made images of Amtrak’s re-inaugural Montrealer.

Since then, Amtrak service has worked the old Central Vermont north of Palmer to East Northfield (however, where the Montrealer joined the CV route at New London, since 1995, Montrealer’s successor, the daytime Vermonter, works the New Haven-Springfield line, then over the Boston & Albany route to Palmer).

Not for much longer though. The parallel former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line between Springfield and East Northfield is being upgraded and will soon be again hosting Amtrak. So, as mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been making opportunities to photograph the Vermonter on the Palmer-East Northfield New England Central line-segment while I still can.

Amtrak train 54 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge on June 21, 2014. This location presents several photographic challenges. The first is a deceptive angle. I made this view from the Route 63 bridge immediately to the west. While the two bridges are adjacent, they are not parallel, and the slight skewed crossing of the railroad bridge makes it difficult to make a level image. What appears level to the eye, isn't really level. Rather than gauge the bridge, it helps to watch the level of the Millers River. Of course, if you miss the level, you can always 'fix it in photoshop.'
Amtrak train 54 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge on June 21, 2014. This location presents several photographic challenges. The first is a deceptive angle. I made this view from the Route 63 bridge immediately to the west. While the two bridges are adjacent, they are not parallel, and the slight skewed crossing of the railroad bridge makes it difficult to make a level image. What appears level to the eye, isn’t really level. Rather than gauge the bridge, it helps to watch the level of the Millers River. Of course, if you miss the level, you can always ‘fix it in photoshop.’
A second difficulty is calculating exposure. Photographing a highly reflective train against a background of dark green trees can fool camera meters. This is acerbated when the sun relatively low on the horizon, since the light tends reflect back toward the camera. Experience with the location helps; anticipating the bright train, I pre-adjusted my exposure by two-thirds of a stop to compensate for the sudden brightness on the bridge. Vermonter's trailing cab car glints in the afternoon sun.
A second difficulty is calculating exposure. Photographing a highly reflective train against a background of dark green trees can fool camera meters. This is acerbated when the sun relatively low on the horizon, since the light tends reflect back toward the camera. Experience with the location helps; anticipating the bright train, I pre-adjusted my exposure by two-thirds of a stop to compensate for the sudden brightness on the bridge. Vermonter’s trailing cab car glints in the afternoon sun.

 

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2 thoughts on “Summer Solstice with the Vermonter”

  1. Question about that bridge…

    When the Central Vermont used two 2-8-0s on a train over that bridge, they separated them by about half a dozen freight cars. Later pictures show five or more GPs and other diesels pulling a train without any separation between them. Were steam engines that much heavier? (I am assuming the bridge was not strengthened.)

    1. You are correct; CV required engines to be separated crossing the Millers Falls High Bridge.
      The bridge was built in 1906, (that I know), and it is a pin-connected deck truss (you tell that by close inspection).
      However, I can only speculate, as I have not looked, nor do I have access to CV’s bridge records. I can suggest:
      1) In steam days, CV’s bridge engineers may have deemed that the steam-engine’s reciprocating forces combined with the axle-weights of the locomotives to be sufficiently damaging to require steam engines to operate separately across the bridge.
      2) The axle weight of GP9s (or other diesels) may be less than CV’s 2-8-0s. It is my understanding that axle weights may present greater damage than total locomotive weight.
      3) CV may have strengthened the bridge with the onset of the diesel era. In theory, one of the advantages of pin-connected bridge, is that you can add more members without redesigning the bridge.
      Perhaps there’s a CV/NECR Bridge engineer out there who reads Tracking the Light?
      Anyone?

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