Palmer, Massachusetts, June 22, 2014.
A wise photographer once wrote, ‘The secret to making photographs is f8 and be there.’
Back in the 1990s, my friend and fellow photographer Mike Gardner said, ‘All good trips begin and end in Palmer.’
Sunday, June 22, 2014 confirmed Mike’s wisdom. I’d headed to Palmer to meet my frient Tim Doherty. Before leaving the house, I searched in vain for my scanner, but departed without it. I was coasting on intuition.
Moments after stepping out of the car at CP83 in Palmer (where CSX crosses New England Central) to say ‘hello’ to Tim, I heard, above the dull roar of road traffic, the distinct sounds of eastbound train’s dynamic brakes.
I said to Tim, ‘There’s an eastbound train, and it’s very close.’ I flicked on the Lumix LX7 that was hanging around my neck and stepped promptly toward my preferred trackside location at CP83. As I did, I heard the lead axles of a six-motor GE rattling across the New England Central diamond a few hundred feet to my west.
I had just enough time to set the exposure and frame up a nice view of CSX Q012 passing CP83′s signals with the old Palmer Union Station (now the Steaming Tender Restaurant) to the left of the old Boston & Albany mainline.
Eastbound in the morning sun. CSX’s Q012 has a clear signal at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Total elapsed time from my arrival in Palmer to the passage of this freight? Less than 2 minutes.
The Lumix Lx-7 cycles relatively quickly, so I was able to make a second grab shot, just a few moments after the first.
There’s a 30 mph speed restriction on the diamond for freight. As the train rolled through, I said, ‘we can catch this again.’ And, off we went on the first of a long-day’s railway photography adventures.
Nearly 12 hours later, we returned to Palmer and, as it turned out, repeated the exercise in fortuity. Immediately upon our arrival, the signals lit at CP83 and these soon cleared to green on the main track. ‘We’ve got a westbound, and it can’t be far off.’
I knew this because CSX’s signals at CP83 are approach-lit, and only light when something has actuated the track circuits between CP83 and CP79 (located at the east-end of the controlled siding). Also, when a signal has been cleared, a train must close.
Again, we had just enough time to get in position for photography.
Walking toward the diamond, some diners leaving the Steaming Tender asked me, ‘Is a train coming?’
Not having time to waste more than a moment in conversation, I replied, ‘Yes, a westbound is very close. Less than four minutes away.’ A headlight appeared to the east as I made the comment.
“How did you know that?” The diners asked, as if I possessed some blind precognition. “The signal shows ‘clear’ for the main track,” was my honest reply, but I may as well answered in ancient Greek.
What’s this? A westward piggyback train in the afternoon? On a Sunday? I’m not one to argue, but I was surprised to see it. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Customers at the Steaming Tender wave to the passing freight. Lumix LX-7 photo.
A tight view of CSX Evolution-series diesels rolling toward the Palmer diamond on the evening of Sunday June 22, 2014. Lumix LX-7 photo.
Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
My luck?—Being in the right place at the precisely the right times. However, I made my own luck. By keeping my ears open and my eyes on the signals, I knew to act quickly. Stop, look and listen, right? There’s no mystery there.
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