After departing Greenfield, where I’d had the fortuity to catch a westward Pan Am empty grain train (Thursday’s posting on Tracking the Light), I drove to Millers Falls, Mass. My friends Tim and Pat were photographing the northward New England Central 611 turn on its run from Palmer back toward Brattleboro, Vermont.
I phoned Pat when I arrived at Millers Falls. “Where are you?”
“We’re in South Amherst, 611 is passing Amherst now.”
That was just the information I needed.
I knew it would be cutting it a bit fine (in other words; with the wind a my back, I’d barely make it) but I was going to try to run against this freight and intercept it at Leverett (north of Amherst on the old Central Vermont).
I’m no novice at following trains on this line. I recall a spirited chase of CV freight from Amherst to Millers Falls back in Spring 1986!
I had a clear shot to Leverett (I didn’t get stuck behind a school bus). I pulled in, grabbed my FujiFilm XT1, jumped out of the car and listened.
I could hear multiple 16-645E3 diesels working in run 7 or 8. They were very close.
I needed to change lenses and had just enough time to switch from a 27mm pancake lens to my fixed focal length ‘prime’ 90mm telephoto.
As I set my exposure, the freight roared around the bend! I exposed a burst of images and then laid chase back north again. At one point, I gazed in my rear-view and saw that my friends were behind me. Classic train chase!
Here’s another view from the amazing winter photography trip sponsored by Maine’s Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in conjunction with Portland’s Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum.
Sometimes conditions practically photograph themselves, all you have to do is point the camera!
Last weekend the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in conjunction with Portland’s Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum invited me to a magical event featuring three steam locomotives under steam.
Arctic conditions were tough on fingers and toes, but made for spectacular displays of steam and condensation.
Among the stars of the event was former Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington number 9, a legendary machine that had been saved from scrapping many years ago and then stored for decades in a Connecticut barn.
This was my first visit with old number 9.
I exposed these photos digitally but I also made use of an old Nikon F3 to exposed both black& white and color film so that future generations may be able to appreciate the cosmic even of January 18-19, 2020.
Friday, January 17, 2020, I joined the Conway Scenic train crew of a light engine sent west on the old Mountain Division to inspect the line and clear snow and as far as Rogers Crossing east of Bartlett, New Hampshire.
It was clear, cold afternoon, which made for some magnificent views along the Saco River and looking toward Mount Washington.
My primary intent was to document the move and gather some video footage of the railroad operating in the snow.
using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens, I made these views at milepost 62 west of Intervale.
In the 1950s, New Haven Railroad worked with the Budd Company to develop a semi-streamlined self-propelled passenger train adapted from the successful Budd Rail Diesel Car—RDC for service as the Roger Williams.
The ends of the train featured a distinctive nose-section.
I recall these end cars working Amtrak’s Springfield, Mass., to New Haven, Connecticut shuttles in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
A couple of weeks ago on a business trip to Lincoln, New Hampshire, I saw that the Hobo Railroad has this portion of the old ‘Roger Williams’ RDC on display. I took a couple of minute to make a few photos. Someday I’d like to return for a more thorough documentation.
Fresh snow made for a monochromatic setting with the bold New Haven logo.
Earlier this month I exposed this view of Amtrak train 57 on the move crossing a fill on the Connecticut River Backwater just south of Brattleboro, Vermont.
There was soft directional lighting with a textured sky. To better balance the exposure I worked with an external graduated neutral density filter positioned over the front element of the lens with the darkest portion of the filter ever the sky.
I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, but the filter helped.
Luckily, I also exposed a black & white photo that I hope to process with my next batch of film!
We were fascinated by the antique streamlined electrics.
Remarkably, in 1979 many of the steam-era former Pennsylvania Railroad behemoths were still in traffic.
Amtrak and New Jersey Department of Transportation both had GG1s on their active roster.
Sunnyside Yard was a great place to see these once magnificent machines.
Most fascinating was motor 4876, which on January 15, 1953 had led the Federal Express into Washington Union Station—a famously spectacular runaway that sent the GG1 crashing through the station; sinking through the concourse floor and into the basement of the station. The accident was pictured in newspapers across the nation. And in 1979, the old beast was awaiting assignment.
Working with my Leica, I exposed a variety of photos around Sunnyside yard on a visit with my family. Never mind Disney, I though Sunnyside Yard was the coolest place to be.
While I’ve run one or two of these photos previously, those images were taken from prints. I’ve recently located more the negatives from that day, nearly 41 years ago, and scanned them.
Notice the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers to the left of 4876. Kind of a cool juxtaposition.
The other day I posted a photo of the Los Angeles Metro Rail Blue Line and noted that I’d photographed many rail transit systems but ‘lost track’ after 50.
A regular Tracking the Light reader wrote in that he was close to 90 light- rail/streetcar systems, which made me wonder how many systems I’ve photographed over the years. So the other day, while the rain fell outside the window in North Conway, I made a list of every city/rail transit system that I’d photographed.
For this exercise I included both light-rail/streetcar and heavy-rail metro rail transit systems. I excluded purely interurban lines where the frequency and service pattern doesn’t fit ‘rail transit’.
All of the systems are electric, rail-based transit, although I included rubber-tire/tyre metros such as Montreal, since rails and electricity are involved.
Fine print: I’ve excluded trolley bus operations (in most cases cities that I’ve photographed trolley buses also have some form of rail transit. However, this qualification excluded Chernivtsi, Ukraine—and yes I have a photo of an electric bus there). I’ve also excluded cities where I may have seen rail-transit but not photographed it. As may be inferred, cities with more than one mode (light rail and heavy rail metro for example) get counted only once. However, in situations where disconnected systems serve adjacent cities get counted individually. So I’ve counted the Newark City Subway and Jersey City-Hoboken light rail as two systems. Non-electric systems are not on my list. German cities with interurban interconnections, such as Bonn and Köln get counted twice. Systems with long extensions into adjacent communities such as Charleroi in Belgium and the Belgium coastal tram get counted once. (I realize that some viewers my take exception to my counting the Belgian coastal tram, and not including some Swiss interurban electric lines.) Systems that I photographed under construction or out of service without vehicles, will not be included (that leaves out Florence, Italy, and San Juan, Puerto Rico from my total).
So as of January 2020, my list of photographed subway, metros, light-rail, streetcars, monorail, and rail-based cable car (aka San Francisco) systems total 100.
My challenge now will be locating original images from each and every of these systems. Mexico City was recently covered, so we’ll leave that one out.
Also, I may remember another system, presently off my list, and if so I’ll make note of that later.
Since North Conway doesn’t have electric rail transit, I can only wistfully look back on my photos.
Incidentally, while I have extensive photographic coverage of some cities such as Dublin, Boston and San Francisco, in others I may only have a handful of images. Kansas City, being one recent example, which I photographed from the dutch-door window of Budd dome Silver Splendor (now Rhonda Lee) while traveling East on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in 2018.
This might take a while! (And no, I won’t be limiting my daily posts to rail transit, but will be including archive photos in the mix of other subjects).
My Irish friends might wonder, since Irish Rail class 201 number 204 in unlikely to have ever reached Enfield, County Meath on the Sligo Line—although the older C-Class diesel with the same number probably did pass that point (before my time).
Amtrak F40PH-2 204 almost certainly passed Enfield, Connecticut on the former New Haven Railroad’s Springfield-New Haven Line, a route now described as the ‘Hartford Line’. While I have various photos in the 1980s of the 200-series F40PH-2s, it is unlikely that I have a photo of 204 at Enfield.
Then there’s an extremely remote possibility that I have a photo in my collection of a Boston & Albany 4-4-0 with that number passing Enfield, Massachusetts on the Athol Branch. I’ll have to review my B&A roster to confirm they actually had a locomotive with that number and if it ever ran up the branch.
How about Guilford Rail System’s high-hood GP35 204 working the Maine Central with MABA at Enfield, Maine?
Regular Tracking the Light readers might understand my connections to this engine.
(It’s a sister locomotive to former Maine Central 216 that now resides at Conway Scenic where I now work.)
On February 5, 1996, I exposed a series of Kodachrome 25 color slides of New England Central 9529 switching at Palmer, Massachusetts.
The railroad later renumbered its engines from the 9500-series to the 3800-series, but in 2020 a few of its now geriatric GP38s still work the line in the 1995-era Conrail-applied New England Central start-up paint.
25 years in the same blue and yellow scheme. While not a world record, it is still pretty impressive.
In decades-old railroad tradition, Conway Scenic’s steam locomotive 7470 is largely painted black. While in winter, the environment around the railroad is largely snow covered (at least we hope it is) .
Why steam in the snow?
The cold air contributes to spectacular effects from condensation tinted with smoke from the firebox.
Here are a few of my Lumix LX7 color digital photos from Saturday’s (January 4, 2020) Steam in the Snow excursion sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on Conway Scenic’s operation over the former Maine Central Mountain Division.
(And yes, maybe I made a few classic black & white images of this trip on film!)
I arrived at the old Maine Central station at Crawfords (New Hampshire) in the ‘blue hour’—that last hint of daylight before night.
It was snowing lightly.
The railroad was quiet. No trains are expected for months to come!
The scene was serene.
To make this photo, I had my FujiFilm XT1 with 28mm pancake lens mounted on a Bogen tripod. I set the meter for 2/3s of stop over exposure in ‘A’ mode at the widest aperture. The camera selected the shutter speed at 25 seconds.
Over the course of several minutes, I made several exposures ranging from 20 to 30 seconds each.