May TRAINS Features Conway Scenic.

May 2020 Trains Cover.

My epic 8-page article on the Conway Scenic Railroad appears in the May 2020 Trains Magazine.

Months of research and personal experience contributed to my writing and illustrating this feature.

It was my hope to distill the railroad’s history, operations and spirit into these 8 pages.

Ironically, the magazine arrived the week following the railroad entering its unplanned period of dormancy owing to the on-going COVID-19 crisis and New Hampshire’s mandates in reaction to the crisis.

The photo below shows the waiting room on Friday afternoon with the first of several coats of fresh polyurethane in anticipation of the 2020 operating season.

12mm view with XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit.

Although ‘cocooned,’ with its operations postponed, Conway Scenic will continue to make preparations to reopen when the time is right to do so.

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English Electric in the Douro Valley One Year Ago.

It was just a year ago, March 30, 2019, that I exposed this digital image of a Comboios de Portugal (national railway of Portugal) passenger train winding along the picturesque Douro Valley near Aregos .

Denis McCabe and I had spent a week documenting Portuguese railways. Fine weather and excellent scenery combined to make this an enjoyable and successful Iberian adventure.

For this photo, I worked with my compact Lumix LX7. This compact camera produces outstanding results, owing in part to its Leica Vario-Summilux lens. Previously on Tracking the Light I published some of my Douro Valley photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Top of the Boston & Albany—May 1985.

In the mid-1980s, my friends and I would convene at Washington Summit on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline.

Located in the Berkshires, several miles timetable east of the old station at Hinsdale, the summit offered a good view in both directions and a pleasant, quiet place to wait for trains.

On this May 1985 afternoon, the chugging of an eastward freight could be heard for several miles before it came into view. I opted to frame the train with the Top of the B&A sign.

This sign was replaced in the 1990s; Conrail was divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1999; the old Bullards Road over bridge (seen in the distance) was removed in 2003; and the trees have grown much taller. So there’s not much left of this scene today, although the tracks are still there.

Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with Canon f1.8 50mm lens.

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Unfolding Situation at North Conway

Yesterday, David Swirk issued a statement explaining why the Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operations as planned in April. I’ve included an excerpt of the statement below.

In recent weeks, I’ve been continuing to photograph, video record, and prepare advertising materials for the railroad. I’ve included a few photos of the way things appeared at North Conway on March 20, 2020.

We continue to plan for our delayed reopening.

Excerpt of Friday’s statement.

Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operation as planned in April 2020. This is in compliance with the recently issued New Hampshire Stay-at-Home order that is going into effect ll:59 PM Friday, March 27, 2020. This order is in response to the unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that is aimed to end the spread of the disease by restricting public movement and preventing non-essential businesses from opening. Conway Scenic Railroad will continue to closely watch the unfolding events relating to the containment of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

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SPV2000 at Windsor Locks May 1985.

I made this photograph at Windsor Locks, Connecticut showing a southward Amtrak SPV2000 making its station stop.

The Budd SPV2000s only worked this Amtrak ‘branch’ for about six years and during that time they were rarely photographed.

Lets just say, I’ve seen more of my own photographs of these cars on the Springfield-New Haven run than all other published views of the cars. (And I only have a few photos).

It’s too bad. I thought the cars looked pretty cool. And they were fun to ride on. Plus, you never knew when one might show up hauled by an Alco RS-3 or some other locomotive!

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ALCO RS-3 Westfield, MASSACHUSETTS.

On May 14, 1985, I exposed this photo of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s stored RS-3 203 at the railroad’s Westfield, Massachusetts yard.

PVRR was one of the Pinsley-owned railroads.

In 1985, my photographic efforts were supported by a shoe-string budget. I’d buy bulk 100-foot rolls of 35mm black & white film to roll my own cassettes. At the time I was working with a 1938-vintage Leica 3A with a screw-mount Cannon f1.8 50mm lens.

I’d process the film at college using Kodak D76.

Three decades later I’d scan the negatives. I have hundreds of rolls from that era picturing thousands of scenes, most of which can never be repeated.

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Zagreb August 2003.

Yesterday, when I read about the Magnitude 5.4 earthquake that shook Croatia, I thought back to the pleasant few days I spent on my first trip to the Croatian capital Zagreb in August 2003.

During that trip, I exposed this Fujichrome slide of a tram in Whirlpool a advertising livery near the Zagreb main railway station.

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Wrestling with a Tripod in the Rain.

New York’s Canisteo Valley was among my favorite places to photograph in the late 1980s. The lure of the Erie Railroad and the old Union Switch & Signal Style S signals had captivated my interest.

On the morning of July 19, 1988, my old pal TSH and I were on one of our annual summer rail-photo adventures. We had started before dawn, and picked up a westward Conrail OIBU rolling though the Canisteo toward Hornell, New York.

Trains moved right along on the former Erie Railroad mainline and racing ahead of it in a Dodge Dart, I parked and leaped out of the car at a preselected location at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) and began to set up my photograph.

I was working with equipment I borrowed from my father. The Leica M2 loaded with PKM (Kodachrome 25 professional) was mine, but the 200mm Telyt mounted with a bellows on a Leica Visoflex viewfinder and positioned on a antique Linhof tripod were his.

In our hasty chase, I’d cut my set up time too fine. It was lashing rain and I was struggling to set up and level the tripod, while trying to focus the camera using the Rube Goldburg Visoflex arrangement. My exposure was about f4 1/8 of a second.

Conrail’s BUOI came into view before I had time to refine my composition: this imperfect photo was the result. I recall the frustration of fighting with the equipment as the roar of the train intensified and the rain obscured my vision.

Let’s just say, that at the time I wasn’t impressed with my image. I’d cropped too much of the foreground and the whole image is off level. So for 30 years, it sat in the Kodak yellow cardboard slide box that it had been returned to me from lab in.

Last year, I scanned it. Ironically, this damp-day silhouette closely captures the spirit of Conrail’s Canisteo Valley that had captivated my photographic interest. The reflection of the headlight on the glossy codelines is the finesse that I didn’t manage to capture in most of brighter-day photography.

I’m glad I didn’t throw the slide away.

This morning I cropped and leveled the image in an effort to correct for my failings in 1988. I’m not sure I improved it any.

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Geneva Street Car House—SF MUNI.

I liked the old Boeing-Vertol LRVs. (Light Rail Vehicles).

The shape of the cars lent well to photography.

The San Francisco cars reminded me a the old orange creamsicle frozen treats.

Back in December 1990, I made this view of a Boeing car leaving the Geneva Street car house for a run on the M-Ocean line. I was working with my old Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens on my F3T loaded with Kodachrome 25.

I made great use of that lens, but sold it in 1996 when I bought my 80-200mm zoom. In retrospect, I made better photos with the fixed 200mm.

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Amtsterdam May 26, 1996.

My father and I traveled from Brussels to Amsterdam by train on May 26, 1996. Shortly after arriving at Amsterdam Centraal, I exposed this color slide of a tram paused in front of the station.

On the front of the tramcar is a bit of graffiti which annoyed me at the time. This bit of marker seemed to spoil the scene.

Later in the day, we traveled by tram to the end one of the lines, just to see what was there. It was like Legoland.

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December 31, 1994—Chicago.

I made this view at the CTA’s Clark-Lake Station on the rarely photographed Chicago subway.

The Loop is often pictured, but not the lines underground.

My brother and I had spent the day exploring Chicago and it was nice to get out of the cold.

I used an FLW color-correction filter to compensate for the green cast produced by the artificial lighting underground.

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Shadow at 64

During Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Train season last month, I took this photo from engine 573 as it approached milepost 64 along the Saco River.

We were plowing snow ahead of the scheduled train. The sun was rising behind the engine and it made for an interesting juxtaposition.

Exposed digitally with my Lumix LX7.

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Tokyo April 1997

My preferred camera-lens combination in 1997 was a Nikon N90s with Nikkor 80-200 zoom lens.

This versatile set up gave me great flexibility. At the time I was still exposing both Fujichrome and Kodachrome slide film, but was leaning more and more toward Fujichrome.

Ironically, in retrospect I found that camera flexibility doesn’t necessarily produce the best photos. I think this is because the zoom lens allowed me to quickly adjust the focal length and perspective, I didn’t spend the time to properly scrutinize the scene for the best possible image. This not a fault with the equipment, but in how I was using it.

This photo of JR trains crossing an overpass in Tokyo reminds me when I felt the N90S, 80-200mm lens and Fujichrome Provia gave me limitless photographic potential. Maybe it still does?

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Bytom Four-wheeler.

On a trip to Poland in August 2006, I made a few photos of the four-wheel trams at Bytom.

At the time these were some of the last traditional four-wheel trams in regular revenue service and represented a carry-over from an earlier era.

For me, it was an opportunity to photograph one of Europe’s most obscure transit lines. Thanks to Michael Walsh of the Irish Railway Record Society for recommending this location.

I made this view using a Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO).

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Vlexx at Oberwesel; Railcar Skirts the City Walls

Standing on the Oberwesel city walls last September, I made this digital photograph of a Vlexx diesel-railcar gliding along the Rhein.

A cloud obscured the sun so I made some adjustments in Lightroom to temper the effect of the changing light.

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Swift River Covered Bridge

There’s more than one Swift River. In fact, in Massachusetts, I know of at least two. The river discussed here is the Swift River in New Hampshire that passes through Albany and Conway.

My railroad photography has been light since the end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Trains on February 29, so I thought I put up something a little different.

Last weekend, fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino offered to show me some interesting photo locations in the Conway area and we drove to the Swift River Bridge at Albany.

Panoramic composite exposed in-camera with my FujiFilm XT1.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In addition, I exposed a few frames of black & white film, which at the rate I’m moving on processing might not get processed until the leaves are on the trees.

The style of bridge intrigued me. While I’m familiar with the Howe Truss, this was something different. Later I looked it up on-line, and it was described as a ‘Paddleford type with added arches’.

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Elegant Paint at Okayama.

On April 24, 1997, my father and I paid a brief visit to Okayama, Japan, arriving and departing the same day by Shinkansen.

Okayama had a compact two-prong streetcar system with colorfully painted street cars (it seemed that each car was in a different livery).

Traditional colors on this modern boxy car.

Kodachrome in Fuji-land!

I made these photos with my Nikon N90S.

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Bright Morning in Palmer.

For more than 25 years, New England Central’s gold and navy GP38s have worked the former Central Vermont line. These have been a common site around the railroad’s Palmer, Massachusetts hub.

I thought of that bitterly cold February 1995 morning when I made my first New England Central photos as I exposed these views last week under decidedly more pleasant conditions.

New England Central’s 608 with GP38 3854 at Palmer, Massachusetts in March 2020.
Faded but still working!

I wonder what another 25 years will bring to New England Central at Palmer?

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Amtrak with the Pacific Ocean

On a frosty morning I felt it would be nice to look at a warm evening.

From New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley I’m posting this view of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner at San Clemente Pier on Calilfornia’s Surf Line.

I exposed this view in November 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Chrome at Bad Schandau

It was on a misty May 2009 morning that I exposed this Fujichrome slide of a tram in the village of Bad Schandau in Germany’s Elbe River Valley.

This was just a few months before I purchased my first digital camera and when I still exposing lots of color slide film.

Yesterday I scanned this slide using an Epson V750 scanner and then processed the file using Lightroom.

Below are two Lightroom Jpgs. The top is uncorrected, the bottom reflects digital tidying up for internet presentation.

Specifically, I adjusted the gamma for better contrast by putting the darkest regions at the toe of the curve (far left) and moving the highlights to the top of the curve (far right) while increasing contrast in the middle range. I reduced the amount of magenta and increased the yellow for better color balance, and applied a small degree of digital sharpening for edge effect. (This doesn’t actually make the photo sharper, but it looks sharper on screen). Lastly, I made a nominal correction for level by slightly rotating the image (which crops it).

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Paris Metro Line 6

In March 1999, I made a day trip to Paris from Brussels on the Thalys.

Among my visions for the day was to duplicate views of Metro Line 6 with the Eiffel Tower similar to those that my father made back in 1960.

Working with my Nikon N90S, I exposed this wideangle view from above the banks of the Seine.

While the sun was out, dark clouds would soon pelt hail across the Parisian landscape.

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Hudson-Bergen Light Rail on Film

On January 13, 2015, Jack May and I explored NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system to make photographs.

Fujichrome slide scanned using a Nikon Coolscan 5000 scanner.

I made this view on Fujichrome Provia100F using my Canon EOS 3 with a 40mm pancake lens—a winning combination for contemporary Transit photos with historical format continuity. (A fancy way of saying, I exposed photos of streetcars on film back in the day, and I still do!).

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Tram at the Basel Hbf

Working from a ground level angle, I exposed this view of a tram paused at the Basel, Switzerland main station (seen behind the tram platforms).

Basel, like all of Switzerland, benefits from world-class public transportation including heavy rail and light rail networks. I first visited Basel in 1999.

This photo was exposed during a brief visit on April 21, 2016. Although I made several digital photos, I exposed this frame on Fuji Provia 100F slide film using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

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Stacumni Bridge This Day Five Years Ago!

Tight view of a 201 class EMD diesel.

On March 3, 2015, I made this view of 201-class 8209 in an interim paint scheme leading a down Irish Rail IWT Liner at Stacumni Bridge near Hazel Hatch in suburban Dublin.

I was working with my recently acquired FujiFilm XT1 and getting used to the peculiarities of this excellent image making tool.

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Running Extra

I made these views from the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s 1630 Snow Train during the final days of operation last week.

I’d drafted the Snow Train timetable during early planning for the trains and I was keen for them to operate in a timely manner.

All trains were run as ‘extras’ under Conway Scenic Railroad’s tradition rulebook using timetable and train order rules.

Extra trains must display white flags by day and white lights by night.

The trains proved very popular with Conway Scenic’s guests and ridership exceeded expectations!

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Wroclaw Trams and a Dodgy Character.

Traveling to Wrocław Poland from Prague in May 2000 was an adventure, but it seemed like an easy puzzle to solve when compared to trying to locate the Polish letter ‘ł’ (which should appear as a letter ‘L’ but with a slash mid-way through its flank) on my Apple.

The good news is that computers have the ability to provide a variety of obscure characters.

The bad news is that finding these characters hidden in the maze of Apple’s darker recesses requires opaque-puzzle finding skills and supreme patience! (Not my forté!)

I gave up, but Pop was able to pry from the darkness the key to producing a ‘ł’ on the MAC.

Hooray!

Now, I wonder, can you see the ‘ł’ on your device du jour?

Oh yeah, and while visiting Wrocław, I spent some time photographing the trams there.

Cool city, well worth a visit.

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