Massachusetts Central, July 10, 2014

Palmer to South Barre, Massachusetts.

Trying to see the railroad differently; I’ve been photographing the former Boston & Albany Ware River branch for more than 30 years, so finding new angles is a bit of a challenge.

On July 10, 2014, I met Mike Gardner, Paul Goewey and Brian Jennison in Palmer with the expressed goal of following Mass-Central’s daily freight northbound.

It was a bright morning following a night of heavy rain and mist still clung to the valleys. Mass-Central was working with GP38 1751, one of two locomotives acquired last year and custom painted into a variation of the 1950s-era Boston & Maine ‘Bluebird’ livery.

Mass_Central_at_milepost2_Palmer_P1010002

Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Thorndike, Masschusetts on the morning of July 10, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
Thorndike, Masschusetts on the morning of July 10, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

After the train passed Thorndike, (a few miles from Palmer yard), it slowed to a craw then stopped unexpectedly. Trees had fallen on the line. This delayed it while crews cut the trees with chain saws. In the mean time, Paul showed me an angle near Forest Lake that I’d never seen before.

Track speed on the line is a casual 10 mph. The trick isn’t trying to keep up with the train, it’s trying to stay focused on the subject. In addition to the slow running, Mass-Central spends a lot of time switching freight cars, and often in places that aren’t conducive to summer-time photography.

A plow warning signal near a crossing at Forest Lake. Mass-Central still retains many of these simple steam-era signals. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A plow warning signal near a crossing at Forest Lake. Mass-Central still retains many of these simple steam-era signals. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Mass-Central at Forest Lake where the water is covered with lilly pads and other growth. Thanks to Paul Goewey for showing me this angle. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Mass-Central at Forest Lake where the water is covered with lilly pads and other growth. Thanks to Paul Goewey for showing me this angle. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Where? Ware. That's right. Mass-Central 1751 crosses the old bridge over Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.
Where? Ware. That’s right. Mass-Central 1751 crosses the old bridge over Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.
The Whistle Stop was closed so I opted to feature the station building that is often blocked with cars. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
The Whistle Stop at Gilbertville was closed so I opted to feature the station building that is often blocked with cars. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Or, for an alternate view. . . .
Or, for an alternate view. . . .
Pastoral scene near Barre Plains. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Pastoral scene near Barre Plains. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

South Barre is as far as the Mass-Central goes. Beyond that the old B&A branch is abandoned. Having done well with the northward run, we opted for lunch, then moved on to other lines.

I worked with three cameras; my Lumix LX7 and Canon 7D, plus my old Rolleiflex Model T. (This isn’t the same old Rollei, that I used back in the 1980s, but one similar to it.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t functioning perfectly in the morning, and I missed a few photos before I got it working. Now, to process the film!

South Barre, where Mass-Central reaches the old mills by way of a spur that crosses Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.
South Barre, where Mass-Central reaches the old mills by way of a spur that crosses Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.

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One thought on “Massachusetts Central, July 10, 2014”

  1. Good stuff. I look forward to getting my film back to see how I did. I know I had a good time in any event.

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