Shortly after arriving on the property at New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad last Spring, I asked owner David Swirk why he had an air-conditioner on his vintage Russel snow plow.
He laughed and said the plow was employed for various tasks. Later in the summer, my video editing studio was temporarily relocated to the plow, where I learned first hand of the importance of the air-conditioner!
Last week in preparation for commencement of February operations, Swirk decided it was time to send the Russel plow out to clear the line and widen the swath of snow made during previous plowing efforts using GP7 573.
So on Thursday, February 13, 2020 the plow was readied and dispatched by Train Order as a Work Extra 573 from North Conway Yard to Attitash pushed in traditional fashion by 573.
I hiked into the Whitaker Woods to document the plow at work, then followed along by road. Here are few of my photos.
I also made a video, which I posted on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page:
This also appears on the railroad’s Instagram page.
Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday February 11, 2020), I traveled with the Conway Scenic train crew on RDC 23 Millie that was performing a trial-run of our new Snow Train service that will begin this Saturday.
By arrangement, the crew dropped me at milepost 64 along the Saco River, so that I could make some video and still images of the RDC to be used in Conway Scenic promotions.
These images are low-res Jpgs downloaded from my FujiFilm XT1 to my iPhone via WiFi.
I made a variety of other digital images that I hope to download soon.
Between February 15th to 29th, Conway Scenic Railroad will be running seven trains a day on an 90 minute interval between North Conway and Attitash. This is something new for the railroad!
When I’m working with film I keep a sharp eye on how many photos I expose, and work judiciously as I approach the 36th frame.
But with digital, too often the potentially vast numbers of photos that I can save to a card leads to my complacency. So, despite having had hundreds of exposures at my disposal, at an inopportune moment after releasing the shutter the dreaded ‘Memory Full!’ message appears at the back of the camera along with a snide sounding ‘beeep!’
I had this misfortune a couple of weeks back when in pursuit of the southward Vermont Rail System freight near Wells River, Vermont.
Luckily, I’d just captured the train in motion.
However, since I’d planned out a series of locations, and I needed to proceed post haste to my next spot. I didn’t have the time to root around and locate another SD Card for my FujiFilm XT1 (poor planning on my part), so I went immediately to ‘Plan B’. (the back up plan).
That involved working with my Lumix LX7 and a Nikon F3 (loaded with black & white film) cameras, both of which are excellent tools.
The film remains in the camera, so I’ve opted to present the Lumix Photos here.
Friday, February 7, 2020, Conway Scenic dispatched former Maine Central GP7 573 as a work extra to clear the line to Attitash (near Bartlett, NH).
Icy rain and sleet had been falling throughout the day and it was beginning to turn to snow. Temperatures were expected to drop and by morning the snow would be like cement. Clearing the line while the snow was still slushy was imperative or this relatively small task could become an epic one.
Conway Scenic normally shuts its lines from early January until April. This year the railroad is planning a series of special trips during the last two weeks of February beginning with Cupid’s Express Valentines Day trains on February 14th, followed by Snow Trains that will run from North Conway to Attitash on a 90 minute interval beginning at 7:30 am.
The interval was my idea and I’ve planned a timetable for the event.
I traveled with the engine crew on 573 to document the day’s events and make notes. Near Mountain Junction (where the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch connects with the old Maine Central Mountain Division) 573 paused for the crew to clear a crossing. I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
On my recent travels between North Conway, New Hampshire and Monson, Massachusetts, I prefer the rural highways of the Connecticut River Valley to the heavily traveled rat race to the south.
Among the benefits of my long way round is that it follows the tracks most of the way.
I don’t always find a train, and honestly across much of the territory I pass there are scant few trains to find.
Last week as I drove north, I scoped a host of locations to photograph along the old Boston & Maine/Canadian Pacific route between White River Junction and St Johnsbury, Vermont.
At the last-named point, I got out of my car by the old railroad station just in time to hear the roar of twin 16-645E3 diesels. Excellent timing! I reversed course and returned promptly to a spot that I’d photographed on previous occasions at East Barnet, Vermont.
This was a good start, but I was just getting warmed up. From there I continue my pursuit to make a variety of satisfying images. More to follow soon!
It is unlikely you will find ‘East Northfield’ on most maps of Massachusetts, since this is a railroad location that doesn’t reflect local geography.
Not withstanding these directional peculiarities, East Northfield (as so-identified by New England Central’s sign) is a classic railroad location and a favorite place to photograph trains. Located on the Massachusetts-Vermont state line, this is where New England Central meets Pan Am’s Boston & Maine Connecticut River line from Greenfield.
On Friday, January 24, 2020, my friends, fellow photographers, Tim and Pat and I converged at the junction to make photographs of New England Central’s northward 611.
Here the train was held for a few minutes while Amtrak’snorthward Vermonter made its Brattleboro station stop. Operational considerations typically find freights holding south of East Northfield until Amtrak is north of ‘West River’ (a railroad location situated north of Amtrak’s Brattleboro station).
The light was fading fast. So working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto, I exposed a series of images to make the most of the tinted low lighting.
The first view was made with an auto-white balance setting. The second two using a daylight preset that results in the camera capturing more of the blue-spectrum of dusk.
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!
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).
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.