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.
One October evening I set up on Duboce Avenue in San Francisco with my then new F3T and 35mm PC lens (perspective control lens, which allows for movement of the front element) and made this view using Kodachrome 25 color slide film.
Difficult to believe that was nearly 30 years ago!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
Forty years ago I had a fleeting glimpse of Mexico City’s streetcar system.
By the time of my December 1979 visit, all of the traditional streetcar lines in the downtown area were out of service. However, PCC cars remained in service on a pair of peripheral lines on the south-side of the city that connected at the end of a Metro Line.
I regret not having the opportunity to travel on the trolleys, but at least I got to see and photograph them.
For me this sunset view of Mexico City street trackage is a symbolic photograph, and yet one that has haunted my imagination for decades. Technically speaking it is a poor photo; under exposed and the last frame on a roll of Kodachrome with the right side effectively cropped by the tape used during processing. I’ve cleaned up the slide a little for better presentation here.
Sometimes those scenes we only glimpse stick in our imagination more than those that we were immersed in. Do you remember that 1960s song recorded by Vashti Bunyan ‘Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind’?
One photo inspires another. A few days ago my friend Wally Hill posted a view from the back of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Gertrude Emma—1898-built Pullman open observation—featuring steam locomotive 7470 passing former Maine Central 501 on its march toward the North Conway, New Hampshire station from the coal dock.
His photo inspired me to make similar images, and so working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens, I stood in Wally’s footprints and made these photographs.
On August 5, 1984, my late friend Robert A. Buck gave me an unforgettable tour of the Bangor & Aroostook in central Maine.
Among the stops on our trip was a brief visit to the disused tower at Lagrange. If you look to the right you can see Bob and his famous green van through the weeds.
I exposed this photo on Kodak Plus-X using an old Leica 3A with a Canon f1.8 50mm screw-mount lens. I processed the film in Kodak Microdol-X and stored the negatives for 35 years in an envelope. Last month I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 scanner.
In January 1994, my father and I paid a visit to Perris, California, where I made some photos of this pair of rebuilt Santa Fe EMD diesels, along with the railroad station before proceeding to the Orange Empire Railway Museum.
Santa Fe 2725 was a GP30u, which lost the characteristic semi-streamlined cab roof when rebuilt from a GP30 in the early 1980s.
Just imagine the roar! Conrail C30-7 6600 leads three former Erie-Lackawanna 20-cylinder EMDs!
So far as I can remember, this was the only time I caught an SDP45 (second unit) hard at work on the Boston Line.
I made these views of an uphill BAL (Ballast train) at Middlefield, Massachusetts on a day’s photography with my old pal TSH on a beautiful spring evening in June 1984. I was a week away from my high-school graduation.
My only regret is that I didn’t have better photography skills and better equipment.
Yesterday I scanned this 20-year old slide of an eastward CSX freight passing the signals at CPRJ—Rotterdam Junction, New York.
I’d exposed the slide using my first Nikon N90S on Fujichrome Sensia RA slide film.
I made great use of the Nikon N90S, and when I wore out the first one, I bought another.
Oddly, when reviewing my slides, I find that my work with the N90S wasn’t as refined as the photographs that I made with either my Nikon F3 (with which I used the same lens pool as the N90S) nor my Contax G2 rangefinder that had its own lenses.
I can’t really explain this phenomena, but I wish I’d recognized it sooner.
Notice the article ‘a’ rather than ‘the’. For today’s Tracking the Light, I am posting a view literally made from across a pond, rather than taking a metaphorical view from ‘across the pond’ (used as an ironic understated allusion for the North Atlantic Ocean).
You know, just in case there was any confusion!
This photograph was exposed last Tuesday afternoon, on Providence & Worcester’s former Boston & Maine Worcester to Gardner, Mass., route, and features the daily northward freight heading for interchange with Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern at Gardner.
Interestingly, I was traveling with Mike Gardner (no relation to the town), and this represented the fourth railroad I’d photographed on that Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Pretty neat! And with a cool pond too!
Two weeks ago when in Dublin, I went to see the motion picture Joker, a dark film in a fictional New York City setting of the early 1980s, portrayed in classic DC Comics fashion as ‘Gotham’.
Story-line and characters aside, the film’s scenes, setting and lighting recreated New York City, especially the Bronx, as I remember it from visits with my grandparents in the 1970s and 1980s. Portions of the Joker were filmed in my father’s old neighborhood. My memories were of that stark gritty dark time when graffiti covered subway cars were the norm.
Since arriving back in the USA, I’ve delved into my collection of early photos from New York City, some of which embody that fascinating apocalyptic darkness conveyed in the film, yet were merely the products of exploration of New York with my family.
However, where the film portrayed misery, mental illness, anger and extreme violence in brilliantly crafted cinema-graphic excellence, my photos were the product of child’s view to capture an exciting, albeit dark place, filled with urban wonders, railways, and visually captivating scenes.
Some of my early NYC photos were exposed on color slide film, others were on black & white. Almost all were made with my vintage 1930s Leica 3A.
These views were exposed on a very gray day in 1981, when exploring the former New Haven Railroad lines in the Bronx, my dad drove my brother and me to the NYCTA’s Westchester Yards off the Pelham Bay Line.
This was on the flight path to Laguardia Airport, and as I photographed the subway trains, my brother spotted the planes landing.