Last week, Kris Sabbatino and I drove east along the old Grand Trunk and paid a visit to Genesee & Wyoming’s small yard at Lewiston Junction, Maine.
Shortly after we arrived, a pair of EMD SW1500 switchers lettered for G&W’s Quebec Gatineau pulled into the engine facility and tied down.
Pretty neat to catch these antiques working in bright afternoon sun!
Later I looked up the details of these locomotives and was pleased to learn that they were both former Conrail, originally Penn Central locomotives. I’ll need to see if I have them in blue or black! Stay tuned.
Exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135 Fujinon zoom lens.
Yesterday, photographer Pat Yough sent me an article from the Altoona Mirror concerning Norfolk Southern’s planned demolition of the former Pennsylvania Railroad MG Tower (located on the climb from Altoona to Gallitzin, PA.)
Like the late, great New York Pennsylvania Station, MG Tower will succumb to corporate philistines who fail to value history and architecture. The rationale for such destruction may be justified to satisfy short term financial or safety prerogatives, but the loss is everyone’s. Once destroyed, this classic structure will be gone forever.
So much of the Pennsylvania Railroad has already been lost in the name of ‘progress’ and other abstract concepts. Have we learned nothing from past transgressions? So today’s railroad remain eager to erase the monuments of railroading’s glory days.
Of course the tower can be saved.
Of course future generations could benefit from its preservation.
Instead it will be but a memory ruined by those who fail to value history.
Well done Norfolk Southern! May the names of the persons condemning this structure to dust be enshrined so that everyone can relish in their achievement and congratulate them for their wisdom.
June 27, 2020 was the Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer debut!
This was the big day!
I organized banners for the locomotive . . .
And a ribbon-cutting photo-op with Dave and Rhonda Swirk at North Conway, New Hampshire.
The guests were boarded.
I departed ahead of the train by road and hiked in to the Frankenstein trestle where I caught the train on film and video. Then, I laid chase to intercept it again at Crawford, NH. A neat trick considering all the equipment I was carrying.
At the end of the day, I was interviewed on the radio for broadcast Monday.
The other day, in preparation for debut of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer, the railroad operated a work extra with locomotive 1751. This ran up the former Maine Central Mountain Division to clear debris and rocks that had fallen on the line.
To move the heaviest rocks, railroad president and general manager Dave Swirk personally operated an excavator.
I traveled with the train to document its work.
On the return run, I posed a sequence of photos at the famous Frankenstein bridge.
Photos exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Today, Saturday June 27, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad the Mountaineer will make its inaugural run between North Conway and Crawford Notch.
Tomorrow, Saturday June 27, 2020, Conway Scenic will inaugurate its Mountaineer. This the rebranding of the ‘Notch Train’ that operates from North Conway over Crawford Notch using the former Maine Central Mountain Division.
Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer is the railroad’s premier scenic journey.
The Mountaineer was the historic name for the express passenger train that ran from Boston North Station to the White Mountains via Boston & Maine’s Conway Branch and Maine Central’s Mountain Division.
Last summer, I organized a special publicity train to make photos and record video of our Notch Train/Mountaineer train set. Mike Lacey was the Engineer, Joe Costello was the Conductor, Adam Bartlett assisted as trainman/videographer, and I made still photos.
A variety of these images have since appeared in advertisements, on the web, and in the pages of Trains Magazine.
It was a dull day back in April when Kris Sabbatino & I explored the abandoned Boston & Maine right of way near Lisbon, New Hampshire.
This is now a trail.
I recall back in the early 1990s, when short line operator New Hampshire & Vermont was still running trains on this line.
All just a memory now.
I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3.
I then processed the negatives using my special ‘split development’ as previously described on Tracking the Light (two development baths; one hot and weak and active, the other cool and strong to maximize tonality.)
Afterwards, I toned the negatives in a selenium bath mixed 1-9 with water.
On Sunday June 21, 2020, I traveled to Bartlett, NH on our afternoon train from North Conway that boards at 1230.
My primary concern was to diagnose the sound quality on the train’s public address system. However when we arrived at Bartlett, I arranged with the train crew to jump off and make a few photos while the locomotive (former Maine Central GP38 252) cut off and ran around the train.
A thunder storm was brewing to the northwest, which made for a dramatic sky, despite sun on the rails at Albany Avenue in Bartlett.
Later, I learned there had been some fierce weather on Mount Washington.
I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7. These files are from the in-camera JPGs, other than scaling for internet presentation, I made no alterations digitally in regards to color balance, color temperature, contrast, or exposure.
Yesterday, June 20, 2020, Conway Scenic finally commenced its Spring/Summer season. Our opening was more than two months later than originally planned owing to restrictions imposed to contain the Cover-19 Pandemic.
We had warm weather and nearly sell-out attendance.
To provide extra seats we put on RDC Millie in the afternoon for an ‘extra’ run to Conway.
In total we operated four trains!
Conway Scenic will be open seven days a week through the summer.
I kept my FujiFilm XT1 busy, in addition to my other duties.
It has been six months since I was hired as Conway Scenic Railroad’s Manager, Marketing & Events.
At the end of March, the State of New Hampshire’s ‘Stay at Home’ order changed Conway Scenic’s plans. Employees were sent home and the railroad temporarily shuttered. Soon afterward the railroad was allowed to bring back a skeleton staff to maintain the property and equipment, prepare training materials and advertising.
While other businesses were gradually allow to reopen, until last week no date or specific conditions for tourist railroad operations had been forthcoming.
Then, eight days ago, we learned via the media that the railroad would be allowed to open from the following Monday provided that it adheres to a variety of conditions designed to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 and help protect guests and employees from infection.
At that moment we chose Saturday June 20th as the date to reopen our railroad to the public and resume scheduled excursions. In the interval, we have been preparing for Saturday.
The world we lived in 2019 has changed. Procedures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, including now-common social distancing protocols have complicated the way we must handle visitors and in ways we could not have previously anticipated. This has necessarily altered the railroad schedule to reflect new boarding practices.
In the last week we have run several test runs to help train crews and evaluate equipment, which providing me with the opportunity to make photographs fro advertising. It is those photos I present here.
Starting tomorrow, Conway Scenic Railroad will be operating seven days per week. Trains to Conway board at 0930 and 1500; trains to Bartlett board at 1230.
Bi-weekly Mountaineer excursions to Crawford Notch are planned to begin on June 27.
Owing to the uncertainty of the volumes of guests and the length of time it will take to issue tickets and safely seat our guests in adherence with the new guidelines and requirements, Conway Scenic now stresses train boarding times rather than departure times, to help insure that trains operate on schedule.
It will be great to have visitors on our trains again!
I needed a topic for today’s Tracking the Light, so I reached in to a sorting file of un-scanned slides and found this photo: Surprise!
On October 13, 2004, photographer Mike Gardner and I chased New England Central Railroad’s 608 south from Palmer, through my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.
This is a chase I’ve done countless times over the last 40 years, but just because you’ve done something before, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to find a new angle on it.
At Robbins Road in Monson, I made this dramatic trailing view of the train’s locomotives. Here we have a selection of NECR GP38s roaring away in ‘Run-8’—maximum throttle on the tooth of the grade.
The train was moving 10-12 mph, producing a rush of engine exhaust along with traction motors blowers blowing to keep the motors cool. (And prevent them from over heating) These blasts of hot air, combined with the wind from the train’s approach and passage, plus and sand from the sanders to maintain adhesion all helped stir up the ballast and fallen leaves.
It was a good chase and I wish I was there now!
I scanned the photo using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and VueScan software. My initial scan produced a 4000 dpi TIF file, which I then imported to Lightroom in order to scale it for presentation here.
June 2020 Trains Magazine features my 8-page article on New England Central.
Mark June 20, 2020 on your calendar. On that day, Conway Scenic Railroad will commence its 2020 operating season!
Yesterday, I was down in the yard making photos of 470 Club’s F7A 4268 that Louis and Jordan were transferring from stall four in the roundhouse to its new location behind stall 1, where it now sits back to back with sister B&M F7A 4266 (for continued restoration work), when I heard this news:
The State of New Hampshire is planning to lift the conditions that have restricted Conway Scenic Railroad from operating public excursions.
These were posted to: covidguidance.nh.gov.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been assisting with planning for our delayed reopening, including mapping the seating arrangements for our passenger cars, helping to draft training materials, working on schedules, and learning some nuts and bolts of real railroading, along with marketing activities.
Among the complications of our reopening are the conditions that still remain in place to minimize the spread of Covid-19 that require us to limit passenger car capacity, enforce social distancing, maintain sanitary conditions etc.
These have resulted in much longer boarding processes, and at least initially we will need to begin boarding guests 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure times.
We have to limit the numbers of guests in our station, and set up new procedures for our crews.
I’ll be a busy guy over the coming days. Since we only received the particulars of the new ruling yesterday many of the details still need to be worked out.
Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s Photography Blog.
Between 2000 and 2007, I made more than 1,000 images of the Irish Rail weedspraying train on its annual campaign around the system.
In my early days focusing on this one of kind train (there have been many weed spraying trains, but this one was unique!), I aimed to catch it in unusual places.
On this day in April 2000, I was traveling with intrepid photographer Mark Hodge, and we drove cross-country from Tipperary to County Limerick to intercept the train on the then rarely-traveled Foynes Branch.
Later in the morning, I caught the train coming off the branch at Limerick Check.
The day was wet and dark, but I’m very glad I exposed these photos, despite the fact that over the coming years I made numerous sunny day views of the train.
The other day I wrote of our adventure following the former Grand Trunk Railway line north through New Hampshire and Vermont to the Canadian border but not finding anything on the move.
Friday, June 5, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I made another go of finding the ‘SLR’ as Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic is known.
(Just for point of reference in this instance ‘SLR’ represents the railroads official reporting marks. However, to avoid unnecessary confusion or gratuitous irony, I did not make these photos using a single lens reflex, but rather a mirror-less Lumix LX7 digital camera.)
Thanks to Andrew Dale—who supplied helpful schedule information and sighting details—we were able to intercept the SLR’s westward freight. Driving east from Gorham, Kris and I waited for the train at Locke’s Mills, Maine.
Finally we could hear its EMD-roar to the east.
We then followed the heavy freight on its westward prowl toward Canada. We were among several other photographers with similar approaches.
A full moon and solid tripod aided my photographic efforts.
I made my first visit to Rigby Yard in Portland back about 1983 using directions provided to me by the late Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.
Over the weekend, I traveled with Kris Sabbatino and retraced my steps to Rigby.
Working with a Nikkormat FT with 105mm telephoto, I exposed this view on Fomapan 100 Classic black & white film, which I then processed yesterday. To obtain a greater sense of depth and texture, I aimed through some tall grass in the foreground, while focusing on the Pan Am Railways EMD diesels in the distance.
Using split development with twin development bath, I produced negatives that were ideal for scanning.
My recipe: Kodak HC110 mixed 1-300 with water and a drop of Photoflo for 9 minutes at 70 F (with minimal agitation); then Ilford ID-11 1-1 with water for 5 minutes 30 seconds (agitating very gently for three inversions once a minute); stop, twin fix bath, rinse, perm awash, 10 minute wash, and final rinse in distilled water.
Years ago I said to a fellow photographer, ‘When the scanner is silent, either the railroad isn’t running any trains, or your scanner isn’t working’.
Now that we are into the ‘long days,’ I hope to use the later sunset to make railroad photos that are not normally possible during the rest of the year.
Forty minutes to the north of North Conway, is Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic. Normally this is an elusive nocturnal operation with road freights to and from Canada passing 3-4 nights a week.
While in the 1990s, I traveled on, and made a few photographs of trains on this former Grand Trunk Railway line at locations in Maine, New Hampshire and to lesser degree, Vermont, in recent times my coverage has only featured tracks, not trains.
On June 4, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I set out in the hopes of finding one of these elusive trains . . .
We joined the route near Gorham, New Hampshire and followed the tracks west, passing Berlin, Groveton and North Stratford. Then into Vermont, to Island Pond.
We continued following the tracks all the way to Norton, on the border with Canada. We waited out the daylight at a lightly used rural grade crossing just a few miles from the Vermont-Quebec line.
As darkness fell, we retreated to Island Pond were we made photos of the station and the rising moon. No sign; not even a hint of the southward (eastward?) freight.
I learned the next day, that it didn’t operate, but that trains were scheduled to run on that day, Friday June 5th.
Finding freight cars on the move on Conway Scenic is a relatively rare event.
Other than a tank car converted to the role of water tender for steam locomotive 7470, most of the other freight cars on the property are either reserved for maintenance work or to star in photo charters and special events that typically operate in the autumn.
Last week GP9 1751 switched out North Conway’s North Yard to collect Bangor & Aroostook refrigerated boxcar 7765 for movement to the shop in anticipation of its repainting by the 470 Club.
This made for photographic opportunity, both to make unobstructed views of the car and picture it on the move behind a locomotive. Road Foreman of Engines, Mike Lacey was in his element switching the freight car with the GP9!
I was working with the crew to expose these images, which were exposed using a FujiFilm XT-1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
In April, Kris Sabbatino and I drove north into eastern Maine, and followed the old Grand Trunk Railway from Bethel toward Gorham, New Hampshire.
Grand Trunk was conceived as a broad gauge line to connect Portland, Maine with Chicago via Montreal. The route was absorbed into the Canadian National in the 1920s, and the Maine portion was spun off in the late 1980s. Today this line across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont is part of the Genesee & Wyoming family, and operated as the St. Lawrence & Atlantic.
I made these photos near a small line-side grave yard in the vicinity of Gilead, Maine using a Nikon F3 loaded with Agfa APX400. I discussed the processing of the negatives in an earlier post.
I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, so I randomly selected this slide from a group of 600-plus 35mm color slide that I’d initially gathered as material for a book on EMD diesels.
This slide didn’t make the cut.
Nor was it labeled.
So, I called up my 1996 photo notes and looked up the relevant details.
At the time I was living in Waukesha, Wisconsin and working for Pacific RailNews.
On the morning of July 27, 1996, I had driven north (railroad timetable west) along the Wisconsin Central mainline toward Byron following a northward freight.
At Byron it met two eastbounds, the second of which was this Canadian National rock train led by Grand Trunk Western former Detroit, Toledo & Ironton GP40 6404.
CN had worked out an arrangement to run its rock trains over WC. Notably, this was several years before CN acquired Wisconsin Central, and at the time catching GTW locomotives on the WC was a novelty, if not unusual.
Working with my Nikon F3T with 105mm lens, I exposed this slide at f6.3 1/500 at 741am. I noted that this was my ‘full daylight’ setting for Fujichrome Sensia 100.
On April 21, 2016, I made a rail-trip from Basel, Switzerland across northeastern France that included a three-hour stop-over in Strasbourg, where I explored the city by tram.
It was a warm sunny day and I made this 35mm Provia 100F color slide using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
Strasbourg was the first city to adopt this style of low-floor tram car sold as ‘Eurotram’. Similar cars were later ordered for service in Milan, Italy, and Porto, Portugal and have previously been featured on Tracking the Light.