In the late 1990s, Seattle-based tour operator Great Train Escapes employed me to provide on-board contextual narration to their guests during their autumn rail-based New England excursions.
Part of the journey were trips over the St. Lawrence & Atlantic former Grand Trunk line in Maine and New Hampshire.
On several occasions we boarded the train eastbound at Gorham, where I took the opportunity to expose Fujichrome color slides.
Last week I revisited the old Grand Trunk station and environs at Gorham with fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino, where we met Andrew Dale who reminded me of my earlier visits to the town. This inspired me to dig into the archives to find these vintage photos.
The modern images were expose using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit, while the vintage photos were made with a Nikon.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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!