On March 16, 1986, I hiked west of milepost 84 on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route to photograph Amtrak train 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited(Boston section).
This was just a few months before Conrail single tracked the line between Springfield and Palmer, Massachusetts.
I was keen to document the Boston & Albany’s line that passed through the northern reaches of my home town, Monson, Massachusetts, in the railroad’s traditional directional double track configuration.
This lone image is part of my much more extensive project to document the Boston & Albany route on film.
I exposed the photo on 120 roll film using my father’s Rollei Model T. In May 2019, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. For presentation here, I adjusted contrast and exposure using Lightroom.
On June 1, 2019, after several years of slumber, Conway Scenic Railroad’s 0-6-0 7470 made its first steps, moving under its own power around the railroad’s North Conway , New Hampshire yard.
The sights and sounds of this former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 have delighted visitors and residents of North Conway since the early 1970s, so having the locomotive back under steam represents a milestone event for the railroad’s 2019 operating season.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7.
Among the challenges of photographing excursion railroads is working with high-summer light. Operations favor the schedules of the majority of the visiting public, and during summer often this tends coincide with the dreaded midday sun.
Black steam locomotives make for an extra challenge as the drivers and other reciprocating gear tend to be masked by the inky shadows of the highlight.
In this circumstance high-thin clouds diffused high-sun and resulted in better contrast than on a completely clear day. Working with my RAW files in Lightroom I made further adjustments to shadow areas in order to make my images more appealing.
Here’s two photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s former Maine Central GP7 573 running around the Valley Trainat Bartlett, New Hampshire on the old Mountain Division.
One was made from the train on a cloudy day, the other from the road near the section house as the engine was cutting off from the train.
Some contrasts: Cloud versus sun; vertical versus horizontal; traditional versus interpretative; road versus rail.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
Some viewers commented that they were unable to see the ‘cloudy’ photo. For this reason, I’ve rescaled and re-uploaded a version of the original vertical photo plus an EXTRA horizontal image from the same sequence.
North from White River Junction the former Boston & Maine line runs toward Wells River and Newport, Vermont.
It’s been nearly a century since B&M conveyed the line north of Wells River to Canadian Pacific, but I’m old enough to remember B&M operations White River to Wells River, although I don’t have many photos to show for it.
Last week I followed Vermont Rail System’s freight operating northward from White River Junction. Unfortunately for photos, many of my preferred locations were suffering from excessive vegetation.
Here’s a few photos exposed digitally. More to come.
Several days ago, I posted a view of a dusty diamond in the Bellows Falls, Vermont yard that I exposed way back in 1978. Tracking the Light readers wrote in and wondered if this disused section of track survived, and one suggested that it did still exist.
So, the other day, I stopped over in Bellows Falls while driving northward and searched for the old diamond at the southeast area of Vermont Railway’s former B&M/Rutland yard.
I’ll admit that I drove over the section of track in question before I finally spotted it, well buried in dirt and partially covered by a puddle.
Making matters difficult, was that in my youthful focus on the diamond, I completely cropped the building next to it, which if I had included in my earlier photo, would have made finding the location easier.
Below are several comparison views plus a scan from the original slide.
On April 18, 1984, I was photographing Conrail’s Boston & Albany at Warren, Massachusetts, an activity that undoubtedly coincided to a visit with my friend Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies.
Early in the afternoon, I caught a westward train with three (then new) SD50s rolling by the old Boston & Albany Warren station.
This was in double-track days, when Conrail still operated train in the current of traffic in accordance with rule 251 and the long established automatic block signals that protected movements on the line.
Cabooses were still the norm on through freights, but not for much longer. Within a few months caboose-less freights would become standard practice on the B&A route and across the Conrail system.
I made this view on Kodak 5060 safety film (Panatomic-X) using my 1930s-era Leica 3A with 50mm f2.0 Summitar lens. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using Kodak Microdol-X and then made the unfortunate choice of storing the negatives in a common paper envelope, which is where they remained until last week.
Panatomic-X. Now if there was one great black & white film, that was it. Slow as molasses, but really great film. It was rated at 32 ISO (or ASA as it was called in those days) and tended to result in some thin negatives, but it gave great tonality, fine grain, and scans very well.
I’m glad I have these negatives, ignored and stored inappropriately for all these years. If only there was still a Conrail, cabooses on the roll, and Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies to tell you all about it!
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!
Check out my selection of Conrail photos on Flicker at:
At the end of the day (no, really, like the sun was setting and everything) photographers Pat Yough, Tim Doherty and I set up at Coolidge Corner on MBTA’s Green Line Beacon Street route.
Soft golden glint made for some nice light.
I made these images with my Lumix LX7 in RAW format, imported the files into Lightroom where I made adjustments to lighten the shadow areas and soften the contrast, then exported as small Jpg files for internet presentation here.
I have a zillion photographs in Palmer, Massachusetts.
‘Zillion’ inferring an undetermined non-specific large quantity.
So why chase CSX’s Q263 down the Valley?
We arrived at the site of the old Boston & Albany freight house at the west end of Palmer yard just in time to catch Q263 (empty autorack train from East Brookfield) passing Mass-Central’s local freight.
Here’s another photo from the darkest depths of my archives, hidden away for decades and scanned on Monday.
From a technical standpoint it is not a great photo. It was never meant to be.
I exposed this view in 1978. I was aged 12 and the diamond on a curved section of track caught my interest so I photographed what I saw. The making of this image is not more complicated than that.
As I remember it: this view shows some disused industrial/yard trackage on the periphery of the former Boston & Maine/Rutland yard in Bellows Falls, Vermont. I exposed the photo on trip to visit Steamtown and Bellows Falls with my family. I seem to remember insisting that my parents stop the car so I could make the picture.
I’m happy that I had the foresight to expose this photo, but I wish that I could have documented this odd scrap of track in a more effective way. Yet that’s a lot to ask of a 12 year old with a camera!
Not every photo wins a prize, but some age better than others!
Or should I say ‘A diamond meet’? This slide sat for more than 33 years in a box.
At the time of exposure it didn’t seem remarkable; just a back lit view of Conrail B23-7s and Central Vermont Railway GP9s at the Palmer, Massachusetts diamond.
This was a common every day occurrence and the locomotives were among the most frequently seen in the Palmer area in 1985.
I didn’t have the best lens and my exposures were lacking refinement.
Conrail’s SBSE (South Braintree to Selkirk) works west as Central Vermont local 561 waits to cross the Palmer diamond on the morning of June 25, 1985. This was 13 months before Conrail single-tracked its former Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield.
In 1998 on a visit to the Irish Railway Record Society Dublin premises, I took a few minutes to photograph from the far end of platform five. I recall, that at the time, this area was accessible without the need to pass through the main station nor transit a ticket barrier. This was four years before construction of platforms six, seven and eight.
Working with a Nikon F3T fitted with an old non AI f2.8 135mm lens, I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia (ISO 100) colour slide of a two-piece 2600 ‘Arrow’ departing Heuston for Kildare.
The Spring evening sun was setting on the north side of the tracks and heavy particulates in the air made for a red-orange tint.
I exposed the slide for the highlights by carefully examining the overall lighting situation with my handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter and setting the camera manually. This prevented gross overexposure and loss of highlight detail, while making for a relatively dark slide.
Recently, I made a multiple pass scan using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 operated with Vue Scan software, and then imported the high resolution TIF into Lightroom to adjust shadow areas for greater visual detail.
My intent was not to negate the effect of shadows, but simply to reduce the impenetrable inky effect and allow for better separation in the darker areas.
It was just an ordinary day when I made this impromptu view of Irish Rail 225 working a Mark 3 push pull set on Dublin’s Loop Line crossing over Gardner Street Lower.
What was common in 1998 seems pretty neat today. I’m glad I exposed the slide!
To make the most of this photograph, I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Scoolscan5000 then imported the TIF file into Lightroom for contrast and exposure refinement plus colour balance and colour temperature adjustment.
For today’s Tracking the Light, I fished out a pair of slides I made back in October 2004 during a chase with New England Central 608 south from Palmer, Massachusetts.
On that day the freight was led by four GP38s, all facing southward, and I was seeking a location to capture this unusual event. (For the record, out of the photograph, there was a fifth GP38 in consist facing north).
Although imperfect, owing to clutter and brush in the foreground, I selected this elevated view north of Mansfield Depot.
I scanned the slides last night in preparation for this post. I don’t think they’d ever been out of the box before. Luckily I’d recorded the date and particulars on the slide box which saved me have to scan through my notebooks from 15 years ago.
I do recall that a friend of mine was visiting from across the pond and he was impressed by the ‘colletion of GMs’ as he called them, working that morning’s train.
Thirty three years ago I made this view of a northward Central Vermont freight crossing Route 32 in South Monson.
(Historically CV had a ‘station’ in South Monson, and another at State Line and these were distinct locations in the railroad’s timetable.)
I exposed this black & white photo with my father’s Rollei Model T set up with a 645-size ‘super slide’ insert and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
One of the challenges of working with the Rollei twin-lens reflex is that the view finder displays a mirror image. This made gauging when to release the shutter of the train especially difficult when it was rolling away, such as in this situation.
The result? I pressed the shutter release a split second sooner than I would have preferred. Of course I didn’t see the problem until after I processed the film
I scanned this negatives, along with others from the day last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. I scaled the file for internet presentation and adjusted contrast in post-processing using Lightroom.
Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.
Last Saturday evening (May 11, 2019), I exposed these digital photographs of Boston’s MBTA Green Line.
At this location three routes effectively converge which makes it an ideal location for shops and car storage.
Decades ago I’d photograph MBTA’s classic PCCs here. With in a few years of my making those images the PCCs were all but banished to the Red Line Mattapan-Ashmont extension. The PCC’s have since become an icon of that route.
Soon MBTA’s streetcar fleet will undergo another transition that will make last week’s photos seem historic.
Years ago among the treats of Friday freight operations in Ireland were the extra moves. One of my favorites was Friday’s Dublin-Waterford Norfolk liner, which tended to get unusual locomotives and operated down-road midday.
On this day, the train had been held in Kildare during a spell of bright sunshine, but when it finally got the signal to proceed down-road clouds dimmed the scene.
Working with a Nikon N90s and a borrowed 300mm lens I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide of Irish Rail 129 leading the Norfolk liner through the crossovers west of Kildare station. This was way back in May 2001—18 years ago!
Last Thursday, May 9, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I set up at the former New Haven Railroad stone arch viaduct over the Farmington River at Windsor, Connecticut to catch CT Rail ‘s southward commuter train number 4407 .
When we arrived a line of a half dozen fishermen were in position on the south bank of the river.
Shortly before the train was due to pass, most of them concluded fishing and began to pack up.
It turns out that the Farmington River bridge is more famous as a place to fish than as a place to picture trains. There’s a plaque about the fishing and everything! Who knew?
When I was a young child my family lived in Newton Centre, an historic suburb of Boston located on the old Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, a railroad that had been converted into a trolley line in 1960.
As a five year old, I’d watch MBTA’s PCC cars pass though, typically operated in multiple sets of two and three cars.
The old B&A railroad station was a relic from former times.
On Saturday, May 11, 2019, after dropping my father on the Logan Express bus for a trip to Portugal, I met some fellow photographers and we visited MBTA’s Newton Centre station on the Green Line.
This was the first stop on our photography of MBTA’s trolley car system.
It was a rare sunny day, and I made these digital photos of the trolley cars as they rolled between Boston and Riverside.
Last Monday, May 6, 2019, was the first properly sunny day after many days of gloomy overcast weather.
In the afternoon, Paul Goewey, John Peters and I followed the Mass-Central Railroad’s line northward toward South Barre. We intercepted the southward freight. This was led by GP38 1750 with the short hood in the lead.
At Ware, it worked a short surviving segment of the old Central Massachusetts, which had run parallel to the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch (the line that comprises most of Mass-Central’s present operation). This old line is used to reach Kanzaki Paper, one of several carload shippers in greater Ware.
I exposed these photos with FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.