In July 1983, ,Bob Buck and I were attending a weekly summer gathering of the West Springfield Train Watchers, a semi-formal group consisting of mostly retired railroaders who assembled with permission of the railroad at the west end of Conrail’s West Springfield, Massachusetts yard.
I say ‘semi-formal’ because member Norvel Parker printed cards for all the members. Somewhere I still have mine.
Toward the end of the evening, I made this photo with my Leica 3A of a westward freight making a pick-up.
In later years, I photographed some of the members, which was probably far more valuable as a record, than making photos of the trains.
In late July 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I were returning from a wander around far northern Vermont, when we paused at Lancaster, New Hampshire.
This was shortly before sunset. I had HP5 loaded into a Nikkormat FTN.
I made these images using ambient light, then processed the film using a custom tailored two stage development recipe:
Before primary processing, I presoaked the film in HC110 diluted 1-300 for 6 minutes; then for primary development I used Ilford ID11 1-1 at 70F for 7 minutes, followed by ‘stop’, ‘first fix’ ‘2nd fix,’ 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse and final wash.
I scanned these negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.
On the afternoon of September 12, 1986, I exposed this photograph of a westward Conrail double-stack container train on the former New York Central Waterlevel Route passing the Amtrak Station at Rochester, New York.
The old New York Central era tower was still standing, and the station platforms, complete with the old ‘Rochester’ signs dated from the New York Central era.
In the lead was a twenty-year old former New York Central GP40, and I was just short of my twentieth birthday.
Yet, this double stack train was unlike anything ever seen on the old New York Central. Among the big changes imposed under Conrail was a clearance improvement program that allowed for much taller trains.
My book Conrail and its Predecessors is available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.
In August 1985, on a drive through Holyoke, Massachusetts on my way from collecting film from Frantek (a local photographic supplier in South Hadley), I stopped at the old Boston & Maine station, where I photographed Boston & Maine SW1 1124 working the north-end of the yard.
Holyoke was a fascinating post-industrial setting, where vast empty brick mill buildings told of time long gone.
The station hadn’t seen a passenger train in years.
Even the EMD SW1 was a relic of former times.
These diminutive switchers, rated at just 600 hp, were known as ‘Pups’.
I exposed this view using a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon f1.8 50mm lens.
When I was young, my brother and I would take the train from Springfield or Hartford to visit my grandparents in the Bronx. Starting in 1977, I’d always carry my vintage Leica 3A fitted with 50mm Summitar lens and loaded with Kodak black & white film.
We typically traveled on an Amtrak Budd RDC or SPV-2000 self-propelled railcar to New Haven, where we would change for a through train to either Rye, New York or Grand Central. My parents would buy us tickets and I’d usually take care of the travel logistics.
I don’t recall the specifics of this trip. These images were on an isolated strip of negatives stored in a glassine negative envelop with only ‘1980, Amtrak/C-Dot New Haven Line’ to identify it.
I doubt that I was photographing through the glass—If you know what I mean.
I would have processed the film in the sink at home in Massachusetts using Kodak Microdol-X developer.
On July 3, 2020, Conway Scenic sent engine 216 out on the Redstone Branch to collect a Boston & Maine boxcar I’d been using for advertising.
I documented the move with digital photos, as previously presented, and also on film.
For these images, I worked with a Nikon F3 with f2.5 Nikkor 105mm lens and Fomapan Classic 100 black & white film. I first sampled Fomapan on a trip to the Czech Republic in 2016.
Operating 216 was Adam, a Conway Scenic engineer trainee.
I processed the film using customized split-development that begins with a very dilute solution of HC110 with PhotoFlo as a presoak followed by primary development with Ilford ID11. After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner then imported the scans into Lightroom for final adjustment and scaling for presentation.
Back on April 3, 2020, I exposed a handful of photographs on Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400) at the old Grand Trunk Railway station in Gorham, New Hampshire.
This was on a photo adventure in the White Mountains with Kris Sabbatino.
Last month I processed the film using specially tailored split development by first soaking the film in a very dilute HC110 solution, then using a more active solution of ID11. After stop, and dual fixing baths, I washed the film, rinsed in permawash, and washed for a full ten minutes before toning the still wet negatives in a selenium solution for 7 minutes. After rewashing, and drying, I cut the negatives and stored them in archival polypropylene sleeves.
Yesterday, I scanned them using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson software.
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.
The common-carrier Maine two-foot gauge railroads vanished from the scene many moons ago.
A couple of months back, Dwight Smith pointed me to photo hanging on the wall of the North Conway ticket office that shows himself on a Bridgton & Harrison train. “That was taken of me eighty years ago when I was 15.” Well that sort of puts things in perspective!
So on a recent photography adventure with Kris Sabbatino, we paused at Harrison, Maine, the most northerly point on the defunct Bridgton & Harrison. Using my smart phone, I summoned a vintage USGS topographical map from the University of New Hampshire collection and used this to locate where the railroad had been.
We checked a few locations, before I spotted this old causeway and bridge abutments.
I’d left San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning and drove to the Sierra.
In the early hours of July 14, 1991, an SP eastward freight ascending Donner Pass had stalled near Alta. This resulted in a pair of following eastward freights being held; one at Colfax and one near Alta.
This was the second of two following freights, which developed its own difficulties at Gold Run when the train went into ‘emergency’.
I made the most of SP’s difficult time, by photographing the procession of trains at various points on The Hill (as Donner was known).
As the summer sun approached midday, I drove to Troy, where I’d previously scoped out this high vantage point with a commanding vista.
My project for the day was to find ways of suitably using the harsh high light in the Sierra, conditions that had been vexing me.
This was among my more successful images. Working with my old Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron, I exposed Ilford FP4 that I later processed using Edwal FG7 developer. At the back was a two unit helper. The sounds of EMD 645 diesels toiling in ‘Run-8’ (full throttle) was impressive and not soon forgotten.
Many of my other images from the day were exposed on Kodachrome 25, some using a circular polarizing filter as a means to mitigate the effects of Sierra high light. I’ll save those for another day.
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Last night, I was inspecting scans of some black & white negatives from last summer that are stored on my hard drive.
These are some photos from a Sunday morning in early August at North Conway, New Hampshire of locomotive 7470.
All of these are from a roll of Fuji Acros 100, exposed with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens and processed with split-bath/multi-stage development using a weak bath of HC110 followed by Rodinal for primary development.
Just now I was searching for another photo, and I came across this scan from a 35mm black & white negative that I exposed in June 1989.
This was on a routine trip to East Deerfield. It was a foggy morning, as mists clung to the Connecticut River Valley and over Boston & Maine’s sprawling yards behind me.
I was standing at the famous ‘Railfans Bridge’ where countless thousands of photos were exposed over the years (and that’s just my personal collection, not to mention all the photos made by countless other photographers).
I was working with my father’s M3 fitted with a 90mm Leitz telephoto.
At the time, a long-hood forward SD45 at this common location probably didn’t rate my A-list. Yet any SD45 on the move would have warranted my attention.
Look at the old B&M phone box to the left of the locomotives.
When I revue my old photos, I am routinely surprised how the common has become cool.
On May 14, 1985, I photographed this Conrail GP10 with a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose working as a local freight toward its interchanged with Pioneer Valley Railroad at Westfield, Massachusetts.
The location is just west of milepost 107 in Westfield. At the right is my father’s 1978 Ford Grenada, which was the car I drove a lot before getting my own set of wheels in 1986.
At the time of this photograph, Conrail rarely assigned GP10s to its New England Division locals, which makes this a relatively unusual photo in my collection.
My new book Conrail and its Predecessors published by Kalmbach Books will be available soon!
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.
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.
Dublin November 4, 2019:.I was heading to Drumcondra to meet the lads for an evening of railroad photography.
At O’Connell Street, I needed to change from one bus to another.
It was dusk.
The swollen winter sky opened and a cold rain cascaded down like a tsunami.
Working with a Nikon F3 fitted with a 50mm lens and loaded with Rollei Retro 80S, I made a single exposure.
This is it.
There’s something about the split composition, the depth afforded by the exceptional glossy wet evening, the shadowy figures with umbrellas, and the looming bus that works for me like few photos emanating from my camera in a long time.
Since mid-November, I’ve had this as the opening photo on my Facebook page.
During last month’s Steam in the Snow event at the Conway Scenic Railroad sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, I made a lot of digital photos and some video footage in my capacity as the railroad’s Manager, Marketing and Events.
But that wasn’t all.
Working with my Nikon F3 and a 50mm lens, I also exposed some Fomapan 100 Classic black & white film.
I first sampled this film on a trip to the Czech Republic in October 2016. I like the tonality and classic black & white appearance of this emulsion when processed in Ilford ID11 1-1. To boost shadow detail, I let the film pre-soak in a very weak bath of HC110 and Kodak Photoflo before primary processing.
Here’s a sample of my images.
Coming up soon, Conway Scenic will be running more trains in the snow. The railroad plans to run seven round trips a day from February 15th to 29th using Budd RDC number 23 Millie. The first trip departs North Conway at 730am and trains will run every 90 minutes to Attitash.
We were fascinated by the antique streamlined electrics.
Remarkably, in 1979 many of the steam-era former Pennsylvania Railroad behemoths were still in traffic.
Amtrak and New Jersey Department of Transportation both had GG1s on their active roster.
Sunnyside Yard was a great place to see these once magnificent machines.
Most fascinating was motor 4876, which on January 15, 1953 had led the Federal Express into Washington Union Station—a famously spectacular runaway that sent the GG1 crashing through the station; sinking through the concourse floor and into the basement of the station. The accident was pictured in newspapers across the nation. And in 1979, the old beast was awaiting assignment.
Working with my Leica, I exposed a variety of photos around Sunnyside yard on a visit with my family. Never mind Disney, I though Sunnyside Yard was the coolest place to be.
While I’ve run one or two of these photos previously, those images were taken from prints. I’ve recently located more the negatives from that day, nearly 41 years ago, and scanned them.
Notice the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers to the left of 4876. Kind of a cool juxtaposition.
My memories of riding the Metro City Metro with my uncle Mark 40 years ago contrast sharply with these photos that I made during that same visit.
Having grown up traveling on the New York City and Boston subways, I was astounded by the crush-loading in Mexico City.
I recall being swept along a platform holding my uncles hand as tightly as I could as we squeezed into an already sardine capacity train.
In reality, those conditions weren’t conducive for a 13 year-old Gringo to make photographs.
In retrospect, I’m amazed that I got anything at all.
Apologies for the relatively poor condition of these images. My negatives were hand processed without concern for archival concerns and stored in a paper envelope in an attic for the better part of four decades. I scanned them last month.
I scanned some negatives the other day. These were exposed with my Leica 3A on Ilford FP4 and processed in D76.
I’d driven to Chester, Massachusetts where I photographed several eastward Conrail trains on the Boston & Albany line. This was before Conrail single-tracked the route and it was still directional double track with automatic block signals under rule 251.
This view shows an eastward TV (trailvan) freight waiting for a green signal after crossing over from the westward to the eastward main. It had just come down the hill, against the current of traffic, on the westward main to Chester, while a test train led by SD50 6703 had worked east on the eastward main. (Parallel eastward moves).
Conrail’s GE-built C30-7A (6594) and C32-8 (6614) diesels were less than a year old.
The test train (not pictured) was a ballast train with caboose that provide a load for SD50 6703 equipped with flange lubricators which spent several months working back and forth on the B&A route.
So what’s the tragedy?
My negative envelope has minimal information; just the locations and ‘April 1985’. I have my notebook from 1985, but this trip isn’t mentioned. My photo album is also scant on the details from the day. I believe the specific note-page from this day has ‘gone missing’ and so I’ve had to recall the details from memory. This is a problem, since I cannot recall the exact date, and I’m unsure as to specifics such as train symbols.
Christmas Day 1979, I embarked on a great adventure. At age 13, I flew unaccompanied from JFK in New York City to Mexico City to visit with my uncle Mark.
I exposed this view using a Leica 3A from my window on an Eastern Airlines L-1011 as it taxied for take-off at JFK.
My notes on the negative strip simply read ‘Airport 1979’.
I exposed hundreds of black & white and color photos on this trip, although not all of them remain in my collection. I also made detailed notes, of which only a few pages survive. After takeoff, I wrote:
“There was a really good view of New York City, New Jersey, etc. We flew past Philadelphia but I didn’t see much account of the clouds”