In theory, on any given weekday you ought to be able to make a representative photograph of Mass-Central’s local freight arriving in Palmer.
This goes on duty in the morning at Mass-Central’s Palmer yard, makes its run up the Ware River Valley and returns, typically dropping its interchange for CSX and New England Central at CSX’s former Boston & Albany yard.
However, catching a locomotive with the cab-facing south and at the correct end of the train can be more difficult. It’s luck of the draw to get the locomotive facing south. And for operational reasons, the locomotive may be placed in the middle or at the end of the interchange when passing the old Palmer Union Station.
I was lucky a couple of weeks ago, when I made this view at CP83 with Mass-Central GP38-2 1750 leading the train. All that’s missing is the sun.
There’s only a handful of locomotives left operational in the classic Guilford paint scheme.
Classic? Yes, this livery has been worn by New England locomotives for more than 35 years. So the other day, when I saw Maine Central 305 working the west end of East Deerfield, I thought it made for a great photo in the year 2019.
The first time I saw a locomotive in this paint scheme on the Boston & Maine was back in 1983, and that was from the windows of a Mystic Valley excursion to the Hoosac Tunnel.
Hard to believe the old Boston & Maine yard tower still stands too.
The other evening I made a few handheld photos of Irish Rail class 201 diesel number 217 River Fleskat Dublin’s Heuston Station.
217 was working a Mark4 set on the 2100 schedule to Cork.
There are myriad approaches to night photography. In this instance, I worked with my Lumix LX7 without a tripod.
I’m fortunate because I have an unusually steady hand. The Lumix further aids my efforts because it has image stabilization.
I set the camera to ISO 200, and working in ‘A’ (aperture priority) I manually set the lens aperture to its widest opening, which in this case is f1.8. The wider the aperture, the more light passes through the lens to reach the sensor, so having a ‘fast’ lens (one with a small maximum aperture number, such as my f1.8 lens) is a huge benefit.
This set up allowed me work with a 1/10 of second shutter speed, which is adequate speed for a static photograph.
If I had been using my FujiFilm XT1 with the kit zoom lens, my widest aperture would have been about f4.5, which is nearly two full stops slower than f1.8, which means at ISO200, I’d require about ½ second exposure to obtain a comparable result, which is too slow for a sharp handheld image in most instances.
Another way of approaching this would be raise the ISO. So with the FujiFilm set up just described, I could increase the ISO setting to 800, which would boost the effective sensitivity of the sensor by two stops (bringing me back up to 1/10thof a second using f4.5). However, this would also boost the noise level and reduce sharpness.
Back in the old days, I would have used Kodachrome, and that would have required a tripod, and probably some filters to colour-correct for the artificial light. Today, digital cameras when set to ‘auto white balance’ do an admirable job of balancing the colour for fluorescent, sodium vapor and other forms of artificial light that tend to tint an image.
Normally for night work with the Lumix, I’d dial in a 1/3 over exposure compensation (+ 1/3 on the exposure compensation dial) however in this situation the relatively bright night sky where low cloud was illuminated by lots of artificial light combined with the silver body of the locomotive and bright platform lighting, obviated the need for boosting the exposure by 1/3 of a stop.
However, I did make some very subtle changes in post processing to help visually separate the roof of the locomotive from the sky.
While the New CT Rail trains tend to capture most of attention on the Springfield-New Haven route (now branded as the ‘Hartford Line’), Amtrak continues to run its shuttles and through trains on the same route.
I made this view last week of Amtrak 490 working northward to Springfield, Massachusetts as it crossed the Connecticut River between Windsor Locks and Warehouse Point.
I like the distant vantage point, using a telephoto lens to feature the small train on the big bridge.
Monday, 11 February 2019 was bright and sunny in Dublin.
Although I was only just back across the Atlantic, I made use of the morning when I’d heard that Irish Rail 073 in heritage orange paint was working the down IWT Liner (container train operated from Dublin’s North Wall to Ballina, Co. Mayo).
As this exited Dublin’s Phoenix Park Tunnel approaching Islandbridge Junction, an Irish Rail ICR working the Hazelhatch-Grand Canal Docks service came the other way.
I hadn’t anticipated a ‘rolling meet’, but as luck had it I got two trains for the price of one.
This sequence of photos was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 27mm pancake lens.
Last week, Paul Goewey and I revisited Thompsonville, Connecticut, an old mill village along the former New Haven Railroad, just south of Springfield, Massachusetts.
I made photos here in the mid-1980s and late 1990s, but hadn’t scoped the location since the start up of CT Rail passenger services last year.
I’d been inspired to go back when I traveled on CT Rail a few days earlier.
These views were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 of southward CT Rail train 4405 on its way to Hartford and New Haven. I worked from the road, making images from the ‘dark side’ of the train by using my telephoto to feature the train rolling though the curve.
Pearse Station features a capacious Victorian-era balloon-style train shed. Presently this is under-going restoration making for seen very different scene today than this one that I exposed 21 years ago.
I was very impressed by the Pearse Station shed and exposed a number views to make the most of the structure.
This is among my favorites. I’m standing near the south entrance to the shed, and the illumination effects resulting from combination of the broad southward opening and skylights produce an excellent effect on the train and platforms.
My composition is simple, yet clever. I’ve centered the DART train— which some photographers would frown upon, insisting instead on arbitrary placement using rules of thirds or other preconceived notions—and so made the most of the train shed, which is really the subject of my image.
By allowing for greater amounts of interior space to the right of the train, I’ve caused visual tension, while helping to expand the space in the photograph occupied by train shed. This draws the eye away from the train, while the lighting on the front of the train pulls the eye back. Placement of the rails to the lower right corner has another effect, allowing the eye to follow lines of perspective back to the north opening of the shed.
A novice artist might crop this image by cutting the space to the right of the train, moving the corner from the rails, and thus spoiling the intended effects while placing greater emphasis on the DART train, and in so doing ruining my intended composition.
A week ago, on Wednesday February 6, 2019, Paul Goewey and I caught CSX’s Q-264 rolling through CP64, the interlocking at East Brookfield near the train’s terminus on the East Brookfield & Spencer Railroad (the local short line switching railroad that unloads the autoracks for regional distribution).
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm lens, I exposed this view at ISO 800.
Recently discussions of Irish Rail’s Sligo Timber have led me to ask, ‘When did this traffic end?’
Sometimes my memory offers a clear picture of the past, in other situations it is fuzzy and lacking desired detail. This is among the reasons I try to apply detailed labels and captions to my photographs near the time of exposure.
I recall the Sligo timber’s revival in Spring 2002, and my many opportunities to photograph timber trains on the Sligo Line and in around Dublin in the years that followed, but I’m unable to remember when the last train operated.
On guessing, I thought 2007 or 2008 was pretty close. So on reviewing my photo files, I was a bit surprised to find this photograph dated 21 May 2009.
I exposed this view on Fujichrome from my regular spot at Islandbridge Junction, which shows Irish Rail 232 in the modern green livery leading a timber out of the Phoenix Park Tunnel. The construction-progress of the apartments at left helps me confirm the date of the photo.
So, when was the final movement of timber by rail from Sligo? I must have been away.
—Not seeing semaphores? Click the link to Tracking the Light to get the full view and story—
I made this vertical (portrait) view of a driver’s training special on Irish Rail’s Sligo Line at Killucan back in April 2003
Railway Preservation Society of Ireland tank engine No 4 had run around its train at Killucan and then received the signal to reverse back on the main road (line). The driver had opened the regulator (throttle) and the engine had begun to move when I released the shutter, framing the engine in a cloud of its own effluence.
The semaphores were removed in conjunction with Irish Rail’s conversion of the Sligo line to operation using Mini CTC signaling during 2005, a change that closed Killucan cabin, among other classic signal cabins on the route.
On Monday February 4, 2019, I took a spin on CT Rail from Windsor Locks, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts and back. The fare was a reasonable $4.00 in each direction and I bought my tickets from the fare machines at the stations.
Traveling by train presented an opportunity to visit with my old friend Jack May, who had traveled up from the New York metro area.
I made a few photos using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras. It was a nice bright day! I scoped additional line-side locations from the train.
It was a bright overcast afternoon on 26 May 2005, when I photographed Irish Rail 077 leading an empty bubble cement train from Conyngham Road in Dublin looking toward platform 10 at Heuston Station.
I made this photo on Fujichrome slide film using my Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor ‘prime’ telephoto lens.
The telephoto compression has the effect of making the distant mountains seem closer while foreshortening the appearance of the cement train, which makes the individual four-wheel cement wagons seem even shorter than they were.
I had Velvia in my Nikon F3 and I was focused on the boats in the River Liffey, when the Saturday laden timber from Sligo rolled out of Dublin’s Phoenix Park tunnel and crossed the bridge in front of me.
You’ll need to click on Tracking the Light to see the vintage photo.
On January 25, 2019, Pat Yough and I were aiming to catch New England Central 611 on the Millers Falls high bridge over the Millers River. This stunning 1905 pin-connected deck truss has been one my favorite spans to photograph in Massachusetts.
I made my first photographs of the bridge nearly 33 years ago: On May 14, 1986, I’d followed Central Vermont 447 north from Amherst (where I was enrolled at Hampshire College). The train was running at an abnormal time, which gave me the opportunity to make a late afternoon photo at Millers Falls.
Although I made some nice sun lit photographs on Kodachrome 64 of the CV GP9s and CN M-420 diesel working across the bridges, two problems vexed me and resulted in these slides spending more than three decades in the ‘seconds file’.
As the train rattled across the bridge, a huge flock of pigeons soared in the sky, which at the time ruined the image for me, since many of the birds looked like dark blobs that resembled dust on the emulsion. The other difficulty was more serious.
I was using an old Leitz 50mm collapsible Summitar lens which had a loose front element and had lost its critical sharpness. Although on a small scale the photos made with this lens appear ok, when enlarged they are unacceptably soft. I’ve electronically sharpened the photo here to make it more appealing for internet presentation.
Ultimately, I discontinued the use of the soft lens, but it took me several months before I recognized and accepted the problem, and found funds to rectify it.
Here’s a late 1990s view on Amiens Street in Dublin in front of Connolly Station.
The 1980s-era DART electric suburban train isn’t remarkable; except for a nominal change of paint and end lights, these cars look much the same today.
However, so much else has changed, which makes the photo look dated, and fascinating now.
I exposed this Fujichrome colour slide using my Nikon F3 with 135mm lens, probably in the Spring of 1998, and no later than Spring 1999. At the time of exposure, the scene seemed so unremarkable, I didn’t bother to put a date on the slide mount.
After catching New England Central’s local freight at White River Junction (featured in Friday’s Tracking the Light), I figured we had time to zip down I-91 to Brattleboro, Vermont and catch road freight 611 on its run south to Palmer, Massachusetts.
Rolling down Cotton Mill Road, I spied 611 led by five vintage EMD diesels pulling across the causeway south of Brattleboro Yard.
Pat Yough, visiting from Pennsylvania, wanted to try for a photograph at the Junction in East Northfield, on the Vermont-Massachusetts state line, so after a cloudy day photograph near Vernon, we overtook the slow moving freight.
Shortly before the train arrived, the clouds parted for a few moments, and a brilliant ‘sucker hole’ illuminated the tracks.
Working with my 18-135mm zoom lens, I quickly adjusted my composition to make the most of this sunny opportunity. And made several nice sunlit telephoto shots.
By the time the train rolled below us, the clouds had dampened the morning light. Yet, the chase was on . . .
A visit toward the end of January 2019 found the new bridge open to traffic in both directions and nothing left of the old bridge except the concrete bridge piers.
New photographer-friendly fences were in place on the west side of the bridge, while temporary chain-link fences were on the east. Presumably these will be replaced as the new bridge reaches completion.
The view west offers several good angles of the tracks; while (as previously discussed) the view to the east of East Deerfield Yard suffers from the installation of new power lines with heavy electrical cables that interfere with photography.
Last week, Pat Yough and I drove to White River Junction, Vermont, seeking photographs of Buffalo & Pittsburgh 3000, a classic EMD-built GP40 that works the New England Central (NECR) local freight based there.
We found the engine, and shortly after we arrived a snow squall allowed us to exposed some very wintery images.
It had been several years since my last visit to White River Junction, which historically was among the busiest freight locations in Vermont.
Why is a Buffalo & Pittsburgh engine on the New England Central? My short answer: since both B&P and NECR are Genesee & Wyoming railroads it seems logical that engines from one railroad might be loaned or conveyed to another. However, the detailed particulars of the B&P 3000 arrangement are beyond my knowledge at this time.
Finding B&P in White River was only the beginning of our day photographing NECR operations; Stay tuned for more!