I’ve just scratched the surface reviewing the many photos I made yesterday (June 29, 2019) of Conway Scenic’s Trains, Planes and Automobiles steam excursion over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
This was the first public excursion with Conway’s new Budd-dome Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor) as featured on Tracking the Light. And the first time the car was teamed up with steam locomotive 7470.
I made this view of the iconic Willey Brook Trestle on the return run in the afternoon where the steam locomotive was trailing.
For years I’d admired photos from the vantage point on the rocks above the bridge, which has been used to photograph the railway since it was constructed in the 1870s.
I never realized how difficult it was to get up there until I had to make the ascent myself, with all my gear in tow.
This view was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit mounted on a Gitzo tripod. I used an external Lee graduated filter to help improve sky detail.
By working in the vertical-oriented portrait format, I was better able to show the distance of the stream below the bridge and the great verticality of the entire scene. I’m specifically mimicking a 19thcentury glass plate view, while remembering a Kodachrome slide my friend Brian Jennison exposed here of a Maine Central freight.
Tuesday Morning (June 25 2019), I made my way to Palmer, Massachusetts to see how fared the old Boston & Albany.
Not long after I arrived at the old freight house location (the building was unceremoniously demolished by Conrail 30 years ago), I heard ‘Limited Clear CP83’ on my scanner. This transmission indicated that a train was about to take the controlled siding.
Modern six-motor GEs (an Evolution and a Tier IV—standard CSX road power on the Boston Line) rolled east with a short intermodal train, probably Q012 or Q022.
The trailing locomotive was CSX’s Louisville & Nashville heritage locomotive, identified by a tiny L&N logo on the cab and ‘Spirit of Ravenna’ in script. Lucky bonus to catch that in Palmer!
I made my photos at the west end of the yard, working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto lens and my Lumix LX7.
This was just the beginning of the morning’s photography.
Over the last few weeks, Conway Scenic has been working its former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 on short runs in preparation for the summer season and for its big outing over Crawford Notch to the end of the line at Hazen’s Crossing near Whitefield on June 29, 2019.
Last Saturday (June 22), I was up early to catch 7470 working the yard at North Conway. Call me a purist, but I found watching this 0-6-0 switching freight and passenger cars in preparation for its daily excursion work more enchanting than the excursions themselves.
First of all, as an 0-6-0, engine 7470 was intended for switching, so what better assignment could it have?
Secondly, the crisp morning with rich low June sun made for nearly ideal photographic conditions.
I made these digital images using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.
This week, I’ll be scoping places on the old Maine Central Mountain Division looking for the best photographic vantage points to catch 7470 on its ascent of Crawford Notch. The train is scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.
If you are interested, tickets are still available for the trip, which includes rare mileage from Fabyans to Hazens.
Nineteen Years ago, I was traveling with Denis McCabe and Tony Gray to photograph Railway Preservations Society of Ireland’s annual ‘Two Day Tour’.
We stopped along the N25 opposite the water from Cobh, Junction, Glounthaune, Cork, where I used a telephoto lens to expose this view of former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) steam locomotive 171 hauling Irish Rail Cravens carriages on a trip to Cobh.
At the time, an overcast day photo of 171 working tender first didn’t excite me much, and I left this slide with the other ‘seconds’ from that trip
However, in May of this year (2019)—almost 19 years to the day after I exposed the photo—I rediscovered this slide. It was still in the original box in which it was returned to me from the lab. Time has improved my photo and I think it’s pretty neat now.
I scanned it using an Epson V750 Pro flat bed scanner and processed the file using Lightroom.
On Friday, June 21, 2019, Conway Scenic sent locomotive 1751 to Crawfords, New_Hampshire in order to position an excavator that had been working west of the summit.
This was 1751’s first assignment on the Mountain since repairs at North Conway earlier in the week.
Later the locomotive was sent west to Hazen’s at the far reaches of Conway Scenic’s operations on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
I made these views from highway 312 using my Fujifilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In post processing, I digitally applied a graduated neutral density filter to make for better sky detail on the gray day.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019. Conway Scenic has a special Notch Train planned. This will run with steam locomotive 7470 all the way from North Conway over Crawford Notch to Hazen’s to participate in the Trains Planes and Automobiles special event.
I’d spied some rocks high on Mount Willard above the old Maine Central trestle at Willey Brook.
Conway Scenic’s Lisa King offered to bring me on a hike to those rocks for a commanding view of New Hampshire’s famous Crawford Notch.
“We’ll start at Crawfords Station. It takes about an hour!”
So last Saturday, we departed North Conway about an hour ahead of the Notch Train, and drove to Crawfords, where I was surprised to find about 100 cars parked along the road.
I was astounded to ‘discover’ that one of New Hampshire’s most impressive views attracts hundreds of hikers on bright warm weekend mornings!
We walked up through the forests, fording streams, avoiding bugs, dodging potential encounters with bears (we didn’t see any, but I’ll bet some saw us, since, earlier in the week, I’d spotted a bear cub on the line).
At the top, Lisa brought me a great view looking down the valley, and down onto the famous Willey Brook bridge.
I’m saving the bridge photos for a rainy day.
Next Saturday, June 29, 2019, Conway Scenic has scheduled a special Notch Train to be led by its steam locomotive 7470. This will depart Conway at 9am and run over the Notch and beyond to Hazen’s Crossing near the White Mountains Regional Airport for an event called Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
(I’m told tickets are still available, but get yours soon!)
Call: 603-356-5251 or check Conway Scenic’s website:
It was a little more than six months ago that I made this view of a heritage streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana while walking to the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to board Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
I exposed this digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with my zoom lens set at 110mm.
Lately, I’ve shied away from using the zoom and instead prefer to work with my prime lenses. However, the zoom is well suited for street photography owing to its variable focal length.
Earlier this week, Dave Swirk, president and general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, enlisted my skills to help promote the railroad’s June 29, 2019 special steam trip over Crawford Notch to the Trains, Planes & Automobiles event near Whitefield, New Hampshire.
Dave explained how this excursion is a rare opportunity to see Conway’s only operating steam locomotive reach Crawford Notch—which is beyond its typical operating territory— but also offers the opportunity to travel all the way to Hazen’s Crossing at the western limit of Conway Scenic’s operation of the former Maine Central Mountain Division. The Airshow / Carshow is an extra bonus!
Using my FujiFilm XT1 camera with 12mm Zeiss Touit, I recorded Dave speaking about the railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 that was recently restored to operations and its role in the special June 29th trip.
I edited the video output from the camera using Apple software on my Macbook.
This event is a big deal for Conway Scenic. It has been nearly five years since 7470 regularly worked Conway Scenic’s excursions, so this trip represents an exciting opportunity and there’s no one better than Dave himself to capture the enthusiasm for this special event.
Locomotive 7470 is a heavy 0-6-0 built in 1921 by the Grand Trunk for service in Canada. It is significant as the first locomotive to provide service on the Conway Scenic and of great personal significance for Dave.
On June 29th, the special Notch Train will depart North Conway behind steam at 9am.
To book tickets for this event call: 603-356-5251.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I made this view of Conway Scenic’s lower quadrant semaphore in the fading light of evening.
This is an example of a Union Switch & Signal Style-B mechanism powering twin lower quadrant blades was an early type of signal used in automatic block service and once common on Boston & Maine and Maine Central lines in New England.
On March 16, 1986, I hiked west of milepost 84 on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route to photograph Amtrak train 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited(Boston section).
This was just a few months before Conrail single tracked the line between Springfield and Palmer, Massachusetts.
I was keen to document the Boston & Albany’s line that passed through the northern reaches of my home town, Monson, Massachusetts, in the railroad’s traditional directional double track configuration.
This lone image is part of my much more extensive project to document the Boston & Albany route on film.
I exposed the photo on 120 roll film using my father’s Rollei Model T. In May 2019, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. For presentation here, I adjusted contrast and exposure using Lightroom.
Last month on Tracking the Light (See: ARCHIVING, RESEARCH AND A NASA LAUNCH.) I wrote about a project that I’ve been involved with to develop very long term archival digital storage media.
Last week NASA forwarded a photograph (above) of our media on the International Space Station, where it is being exposed to various types of radiation as part of testing.
Among the requirements of these tests was that the materials be delivered to NASA using ground transport to avoid unnecessary exposure to gamma rays and etc, prior to the beginning of the tests that began with the launch in May 2019.
As a result, my father and I traveled by train across country to deliver materials to our NASA contacts in Houston, Texas. These were carried in a specially designed box for storage on the International Space Station. We traveled on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Crescentand Sunset Limited. At all times the box was in our sight.
Summary of my earlier Tracking the Light Post:
Several years ago my concerns over the lack of long-term archival storage for my growing collection of railroad photographs (and those of my fellow photographers) led me to begin working with scientists at Creative Technology LLC, including my father Richard Jay Solomon, Clark Johnson Jr., and Eric Rosenthal, in order to find a means of preserving photography, especially digital photography, by using proven technologies.
This evolved into a much larger project aimed at preserving and storing all digital media using silver technology—similar to that used to make photographs.
NASA took an interest in Creative Technology’s concept and offered to send examples of Creative Technology’s storage media to the International Space Station to test its ability to withstand the rigors of the space environment.
CTECH/WORF-NASA Press Release
Can data survive in space over extremely long times and multiple human generations? The possibility of human colonies on other planets may ultimately depend on just such data stability. Now, a patented innovative long-term archival data storage system created by a Delaware-based firm will be tested on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019 for up to a year.
The system developed by Creative Technology LLC (CTech) of Hockessin, DE, is called WORF, for Write Once, Read Forever. WORF applies a century-old tested archival media for photography in a completely new way for storing high-density computer data in perpetuity. Inherently secure, low-cost technology is used for WORF that cannot be hacked or altered. WORF media can be used to store critical DNA and healthcare records, financial information and contracts, family photos and records which need to preserved for multiple human generations.
NASA’s ISS test will determine if WORF-stored data can survive a hostile space environment during long-term space missions, such as the mission to Mars and beyond. Today, conventional media, such as hard drives, magnetic tape, and solid state memory, are vulnerable to decay and bit rot due to gamma and cosmic rays and age deterioration.
WORF media is a green technology which can be stored for long periods in normal room environments without excessive energy for cooling or maintenance, opening up a new opportunity for storing secure data for extended periods of time without the need for energy.
CTech is a group of technologists with over 300 years collective experience in human perception, image capture & display, photosensitive media, data storage & compression, and video and telecomm applications and technology. CTech sponsors have included NSA, the Naval Research Lab, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, & DARPA.
All media used today have to be continually replicated and authenticated in order to be readable even in less than one human lifetime, and that process alone incurs new errors each time the data is copied. WORF avoids that problem, saving enormous labor and energy costs over long periods.
Copyright 2019 – All rights reserved – Creative Technology, LLC
On June 1, 2019, after several years of slumber, Conway Scenic Railroad’s 0-6-0 7470 made its first steps, moving under its own power around the railroad’s North Conway , New Hampshire yard.
The sights and sounds of this former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 have delighted visitors and residents of North Conway since the early 1970s, so having the locomotive back under steam represents a milestone event for the railroad’s 2019 operating season.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7.
Among the challenges of photographing excursion railroads is working with high-summer light. Operations favor the schedules of the majority of the visiting public, and during summer often this tends coincide with the dreaded midday sun.
Black steam locomotives make for an extra challenge as the drivers and other reciprocating gear tend to be masked by the inky shadows of the highlight.
In this circumstance high-thin clouds diffused high-sun and resulted in better contrast than on a completely clear day. Working with my RAW files in Lightroom I made further adjustments to shadow areas in order to make my images more appealing.
Here’s two photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s former Maine Central GP7 573 running around the Valley Trainat Bartlett, New Hampshire on the old Mountain Division.
One was made from the train on a cloudy day, the other from the road near the section house as the engine was cutting off from the train.
Some contrasts: Cloud versus sun; vertical versus horizontal; traditional versus interpretative; road versus rail.
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Some viewers commented that they were unable to see the ‘cloudy’ photo. For this reason, I’ve rescaled and re-uploaded a version of the original vertical photo plus an EXTRA horizontal image from the same sequence.
So, there I was in Whitefield, New Hampshire last week for the first time since the early 1990s, and the old Ball signal was basking in the evening sun.
Once a common variety of signal in New England, often used where one line crossed another, the Ball signal is all but history now.
Whitefield’s Ball is the last on a common carrier, but the lines are so infrequently used that the old signal has virtually no function other than serving as an historical decoration.
However, it’s not the only surviving Ball signal in New Hampshire. The Balls that once protect Waumbek Junction (near Whitefield in Jefferson) are now displayed at North Conway, and will soon feature in Tracking the Light.
North from White River Junction the former Boston & Maine line runs toward Wells River and Newport, Vermont.
It’s been nearly a century since B&M conveyed the line north of Wells River to Canadian Pacific, but I’m old enough to remember B&M operations White River to Wells River, although I don’t have many photos to show for it.
Last week I followed Vermont Rail System’s freight operating northward from White River Junction. Unfortunately for photos, many of my preferred locations were suffering from excessive vegetation.
Here’s a few photos exposed digitally. More to come.
Last week, I made this panoramic composite using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm fixed-focal length (‘prime’) telephoto.
New England Central on the left; Vermont Rail System on the right; the station at White River Junction between them.
By ‘composite’, I mean that the camera exposed numerous single frame images as I swept across the scene and then assemble them internally using pre-programmed software. This feature is offered by both my XT1 and Lumix LX7 digital cameras.
Several days ago, I posted a view of a dusty diamond in the Bellows Falls, Vermont yard that I exposed way back in 1978. Tracking the Light readers wrote in and wondered if this disused section of track survived, and one suggested that it did still exist.
So, the other day, I stopped over in Bellows Falls while driving northward and searched for the old diamond at the southeast area of Vermont Railway’s former B&M/Rutland yard.
I’ll admit that I drove over the section of track in question before I finally spotted it, well buried in dirt and partially covered by a puddle.
Making matters difficult, was that in my youthful focus on the diamond, I completely cropped the building next to it, which if I had included in my earlier photo, would have made finding the location easier.
Below are several comparison views plus a scan from the original slide.
On April 18, 1984, I was photographing Conrail’s Boston & Albany at Warren, Massachusetts, an activity that undoubtedly coincided to a visit with my friend Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies.
Early in the afternoon, I caught a westward train with three (then new) SD50s rolling by the old Boston & Albany Warren station.
This was in double-track days, when Conrail still operated train in the current of traffic in accordance with rule 251 and the long established automatic block signals that protected movements on the line.
Cabooses were still the norm on through freights, but not for much longer. Within a few months caboose-less freights would become standard practice on the B&A route and across the Conrail system.
I made this view on Kodak 5060 safety film (Panatomic-X) using my 1930s-era Leica 3A with 50mm f2.0 Summitar lens. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using Kodak Microdol-X and then made the unfortunate choice of storing the negatives in a common paper envelope, which is where they remained until last week.
Panatomic-X. Now if there was one great black & white film, that was it. Slow as molasses, but really great film. It was rated at 32 ISO (or ASA as it was called in those days) and tended to result in some thin negatives, but it gave great tonality, fine grain, and scans very well.
I’m glad I have these negatives, ignored and stored inappropriately for all these years. If only there was still a Conrail, cabooses on the roll, and Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies to tell you all about it!
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