Category Archives: News

Reading Vista from the Vista Cruiser.

In August 1981, my family and I were on a loosely mapped vacation in Pennsylvania.

On the second day of our trip, we were driving from Hazelton to Strasburg to visit the famous Strasburg Rail Road.

Fast forward 41 years: yesterday, if you’d asked me if I’d ever photographed Conrail running freight on the old Reading Company, I’d have been hard pressed to come up with an answer.

And, yet here is a Conrail caboose crossing PA 501 near Prescott, PA exposed on the move from the rear window of our 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser!

Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens-Kodak 5063 (Tri-X) processed in Microdol-X developer.

I scanned the negative a little while ago. Unsure as to the location, I enlarged the photo. Thinking back, I recalled a train crossing over us enroute, but as a teenager wasn’t good with my Pennsylvania geography. Looking a the photo, I noticed the Route 501 sign, which gave me the needed clue.

A quick Google search placed this location near Prescott (where 501 ducks under the former Reading Company Crossline route). Looking a Google Earth, I’ve nearly confirmed the location.

Ironically, the next few frames on the roll show static cabooses at Strasburg’s The Red Caboose caboose-themed motel. Ironic, because in 1981, cabooses (of all colors) were still common on most America freight trains.

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Springfield Monochrome

March 1985: working with Ilford FP4 black & white film, I made this view of Amtrak’s Charter Oak paused for its station stop at Springfield Union Station, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Amtrak F40PH 228 leads the westward Charter Oak at Springfield Union Station in March 1985.

I processed the film in Kodak D76.

As was too often the case back in the mid-1980s, I over processed my film which resulted in excessively contrasty negatives. This is easily corrected with today’s technology.

Last week I scanned the 37-year old negative using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner. I made some nominal adjustments to exposure and contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Tunnel Inn View

In mid-November , this was the view looking west from our room at Gallitzin’s Tunnel Inn located adjacent to Norfolk Southern’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line near the tunnels under the Allegheny Divide.

I made this photo with my Nikon Z6 with f4.0 24-70mm zoom lens.

Kris & I spent two days and two nights at this excellent railroad themed bed & breakfast while exploring the old Main Line & environs.

I was impressed that some of my titles were on the shelf!

Neat place.

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Crossing Tender Bangor, Maine

During a week-long vacation to coastal Maine in July 1983 to visit my grand parents, I was given the keys to the family Ford for the day. On the recommendation of my friend Bob Buck, I visited a host of interesting railroad locations in Maine.

My forth stop was at Bangor, where I photographed the Maine Central yard and a local freight switching there using my Leica 3A.

The negative for this black & white image had resided in a marked envelope until last week when I finally scanned it.

In 1983, my photographic processing abilities were rudimentary, and frankly I wasn’t very good at developing black & white film. Only recently, I was able to overcome some of the technical failings in this image by adjusting the scan I made using Adobe Lightroom.

Adjusted and altered scan at Bangor Yard. Photo expsoed in July 1983.
Version ‘B’ with additional adjustments.

Unlike some of my photos displayed on Tracking the Light that only receive minor corrections to tweak contrast or exposure, in this image I needed to make some fairly substantial corrections to contrast and exposure, while eliminating a host of spots.

There’s virtually nothing in this scene remaining today, and now manned crossings are nearly extinct.

Just for comparison, this is an un-modified version of the same scan (scaled for internet presentation). Hard midday backlighting made for a difficult photo, poor processing on my part made it worse. Yet, the subject matter is interesting.

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Sun, Snow and Shadows at Attitash.

Yesterday, I was up early to help prepare for Conway Scenic Railroad’s first Snow Trains of the season.

I’d arranged a two-hourly interval schedule, based on a 930am boarding for the first train at North Conway.

It was clear and cold with a blue polarized sky.

I traveled with the head-end crew on the first two trains, and used the layover at Attitash as an opportunity to make photographs.

Since there is no run around track at the Attitash Whistle Stop, Conway Scenic Railroad operates the train ‘top and tailed’ (to borrow a British phrase) with locomotives at each end of the train. GP38 252 was positioned at the westend, GP38 255 at the east. The locomotives are not operated in multiple.

After arrival at Attitash, the head-end crew cuts out the westward locomotive, then sets up the engine at the eastend.

My visual challenge is the high contrast situation at Attitash caused by bright sun on fresh snow and inky shadows. Complicating matter was slight back lighting.

Fortunately, my Nikon Z6 has great exposure latitude, which facilitates post processing adjustment to help mitigate the harsh lighting situation.

I made more conventional images of the east end of the train at North Conway.

First 2022 Snow Train at Attitash.
First 2022 Snow Train at Attitash.
First 2022 Snow Train at Attitash.
Mascot fireman.
GP38 255 on the Snow Train at North Conway.
GP38 252 on the Snow Train at North Conway.

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Palmer Yard—Spring 1985

Another choice image from my recently scanned roll of Ilford FP4 exposed in Spring 1985.

I made this view with a 50mm lens looking timetable west at the west end of Conrail’s old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. I had driven in behind Howlett’s Lumber to photograph a Sperry rail defect detection car that was stored near the B&A freight house.

Just about everything in this scene has changed. The freight house was demolished in Janaury 1989. The large building at right beyond burned down some years later. The code lines were removed after the B&A was re-signaled in 1986-1987.

I’ve posted two versions of this photo. The top is my unaltered and uncorrected scan. The bottom reflects a series of nominal adjustments using Adobe Lightroom.

Unadjusted sca&W negative. Back in the day, I suffered from a propensity to tilt my camera to the right, leaving many fine photos flawed by being off-level. I also had a tendency to over process my negatives, which led to ‘white skies’ and excessive highlight contrast.

In this view, I leveled the image by rotating it about 2 degrees clockwise. I then adjusted sky density and contrast and make overall changes to image contrast and density to improve tonality and detail..

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Amtrak 321 leading train 448 Eastbound at West Brookfield.

I scribbled locations and dates on an envelope back in the Spring of 1985, when ‘d processed this roll of Ilford FP4.

I’d bulk-rolled the film myself, thus allowing 39 frames on one roll of film, which I then exposed with a Leica 3A between March 31 and April 6 (my notes say April 5) 1985.

I recall the day, which was a Sunday. I started photographing in Palmer, Massachusetts, where I met Mike Tylick and his young son. I then followed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany route east in pursuit of a slow moving freight.

At West Brookfield, Massachusetts I caught up with my friend Bob Buck, who was train watching while reading his Sunday newspaper.

In this photograph, I’ve posed Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited, train 448, led by F40PH-2 #321, by the 1840s-era Western Railroad passenger station, which is among the oldest surviving railroad buildings in New England.

I’d borrowed my parent’s Chevy Impala (seen at the left) as I didn’t yet have my own car. The front of Bob’s green Ford van can be seen at the right.

Conrail’s B&A was still directional double track under rule 251 that governed movements in the current of traffic by signal indication.

My photo skills weren’t fantastic, but rapidly improving.

Last night I scanned this image using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner, and adjusted the RAW file from the scanner using Adobe Lightroom. This included cropping of the top of the frame to limit the amount of sky and the bottom of the frame to minimize foreground clutter.

The actual date of the photo confounds me. I know it was a Sunday, which was either March 31 or April 6. Somewhere I have a small six-ring orange notebook filled with my photo notes from 1985. This will likely solve my date quandary. But does anyone really care?

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EXTRA!! The Engine that Saved Itself.


LUCKY BREAK!

This morning (January 2, 2022) a fire started in the cab of Conway Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive 7470.

At this point the cause is believed to have stemmed from a fault with the engine radio. The fire damaged a spring in the whistle valve that set off the engine whistle. The shrieking whistle alerted our steam locomotive mechanic who called 911.

I was called shortly after 6am and proceeded to the roundhouse where I made these photos in my capacity as Manager of Marketing & Events for Conway Scenic Railroad.


While there is minor damage to engine 7470’s cab and minimal damage to the 1874-built roundhouse, the situation could have been much worse. You could write a story: ‘The engine that saved itself!”
Thanks to the North Conway Fire Department and everyone that assisted in preventing spread of the fire.


Conway Scenic’s ‘New Year’s Special to Sawyer River’ will proceed as advertised. Motive power will be former Maine Central diesels.
Boarding is at 12 noon today (January 2, 2022).

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Noctunal Views from the Tunnel Inn.

Among the features of staying at the Tunnel Inn in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania is the porch at the back of the building that over looks the Main Line.

This is equipped with lights designed to illuminate the railroad to aid in the views of passing freights.

On our second evening at the Tunnel Inn back in mid-November (2021), I exposed this sequence of eastward Norfolk Southern freight 36A (Conway Yard to Edgemore, Delaware).

This was an enormous freight. In addition to head-end power, there were both mid-train and tail-end distributed power units (remote control diesels).

I made all these photos using my Nikon Z6.

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Steam Twilight—7470 on the Three Percent.

Last night (December 30, 2021) Conway Scenic Railroad took 0-6-0 number 7470 for a test run.

The locomotive with crew and mechanics operated within the North Conway yard limits to the ‘Bottom of the Hill’ and returned up the three percent grade to North Conway station.

This was the first run of the steam locomotive since its repairs, and the first time it has been under steam since January (2021).

I was making a video sequence using my Nikon Z6. The camera allows for medium-resolution Jpg still photographs to be captured simultaneously with video.

This 1 MB image was exposed early in my extended video sequence. Minor adjustments to exposure and contrast were implemented in post processing.

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GP38-2 with WInter Sky . . .

. . . Sky ‘enhanced’, that is.

The other day on a brief visit to Palmer, Massachusetts,Kris and I paused for a minute to make a photo of this Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP38-2 at the New England Central’s former Central Vermont yard. (Both NECR and B&P are part of the Genessee & Wyoming family.)

I thought of the countless photos that I’ve made of locomotives here over the last 45 years. Yet, I had never seen this locomotive here before. (Or certainly not in its current guise anyway.)

I made the image toward the end of daylight. Rich winter light graced the late afternoon sky, while the locomotive was largely bathed in shadow.

Lumix LX7 photo. I arranged my composition to show more than just the locomotive, but also feature the road, yard tracks, freight cars, and of course the clouds. To minimize the effects of some distracting glint on therighthand number board on the locomotive, I took the photo from a relatively low angle.

To make for a more pleasing image, I balanced the highlights and shadows and made adjustments to color temperature and contrast using Adobe Lightroom. The Sky Mask tool sampled this work. I felt my initial edit was a bit heavy handed so I toned it down a bit for presentation here.

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Trackwork Monochrome

Last week I was part of a Conway Scenic crew involved with trackwork on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.

The light was December-dull, and the setting reminded me of trackwork scenes I’d photographed on black & white film back in the 1980s.

Working with my Nikon Z6 in a monochrome-mode, I made these digital images to capture the texture of the event.

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Blowin’ Snow

Yesterday morning (December 9, 2021) it was 11 degrees F when I arrived at the North Conway Roundhouse.

I was part of a crew to take a light engine west on the Mountain Division to clear crossings.

On the way out to our engine, I paused to make this photo of Matt H clearing snow from the turntable.

And yes, it was as cold as it looks!

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

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Santa’s Holiday Express

Yesterday, Friday November 26, 2021, Conway Scenic began operating its annual Santa’s Holiday Express.

It was a wet & dreary debut, but well attended.

I was focused on the details of the operation; the schedule, the decorations, and the narrations.

I traveled on the first run to Conway, and made photo of Santa’s arrival.

At Conway Scenic, Santa Claus rides in the caboose.

I’ll bet S. Kip Farrington would have something to say about that!

At Conway, I made photo of Santa waving from the railroad’s vintage former Central Vermont wooden body caboose using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom lens.

After exposure, I modified the NEF RAW file using Adobe Lightroom.

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Holiday Decoration Work Extra.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving—November 24, 2021, Conway Scenic called a work train for the Conway Branch to put up decorations for upcoming Santa’s Holiday Express Christmas themed trains.

I was on-board to assist with decorating while documenting the run. It was a perfectly clear bright sunny morning.

At Moat Brook I organized a special photo stop. At Conway we held for the regularly scheduled Valley train that was operating with RDC #23 Millie.

I made all of these photos using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Empire Builder—Part 1

The light was fading.

No 8 was running late.

Kris and I arrived at Duplainville, Wisconsin where the Canadian National’s former Wisconsin Central crosses Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road. We were there just in time to see that the signals were cleared for an eastward train.

We got into position, post haste, to roll by Amtrak’s eastward Empire Builder—train No. 8.

Amtrak No.8, the Empire Builder rolls toward Brookfield Wisconsin.

As No. 8 blitzed by, I made these images working with my Nikon Z6 mirror-less digital camera. I processed the images in Lightroom to make the most of the NEF files recorded by the camera.

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Elkhart Interlude

On our way west a week ago, Kris and I paused at the old New York Central hub at Elkhart, Indiana.

This brief visit coincided with the passage of Amtrak’s westward Capitol Limited that was making its station stop on the way from Washington D.C. to Chicago.

We also visited the small railroad museum located opposite Norfolk Southern’s main line from the old New York Central station, where former NYC Mohawk 3001 is a prominent static display. 

Curiously, that evening when we checked into our hotel in Wisconsin, we were assigned room 3001.

I made this selection of photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera fitted with a Z-series f2.8 70-200mm zoom lens.

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CNJ Station—Jim Thorpe, PA

Last week Kris & I stayed overnight at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. I was up early and made a big walk around town.

The old Central Railroad of New Jersey station is situated a very short distance from down town.

This architectural gem is the focalpoint of Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway’s season excursion service.

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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Reading & Northern Surprise at Tamaqua.

I was enjoying a prime rib sandwich at the Tamaqua Station Restaurant, taking in the well-preserved Victorian atmosphere with Kris, and marveling at the details, when I hear the unmistable sounds of an approaching train.

Lumix LX7 in hand, I headed for the door and arrived at the platform in time to make a sequence of photos of a Reading & Northern ‘hospital’ move of passenger equipment heading north on the old Reading Company.

I wasn’t expecting this unusual train, but delighted with the fortuity to catch it, and with nice autumn light and brilliant autumn foliage in the distance.

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On This Day in 2009

November 13, 2009, I was experimenting with my then new Lumix LX3 digital camera.

Standing at ‘The Box’ at Islandbridge Junction, I exposed this sequence in RAW format using the 16×9 aspect ratio of passing Irish Rail trains.

Locomotive 175 worked a wagon transfer from Inchicore towing a pair of the 2001-built Talgo container pocket wagons (CPWs).

It was one of only a scant few photos that I made digitally of an Irish Rail Bo-Bo at work. Most had finsihed by the time, yet old 175 survived.

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Boston & Albany Sunset

On this day five years ago (November 12, 2016), I made this sunset view at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts with my first Panasonic Lumix LX7.

Tonight, I am scheduled to present My Conrail, a multimedia slide presentation of my Boston & Albany photography to the 25th Beecherfest in Milwaukee.

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From 203 to 255—GP38 at North Conway

The other morning I was up early to make daylight of photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s latest arrival: former Vermont Railway System’s Clarendon & Pittsford GP38 203, originally Maine Central 255.

This heritage locomotive was deemed ideal for Conway Scenic because mechanically and electrically it perfectly matches the railroad’s GP38 number 252 . The two locomotive were part of the same order of GP38s from Electro-Motive Division back in autumn 1966.

CSRR will shortly renumber 203 back to 255. Initially it will operate in a modified version of the red and white livery pictured here.

As soon as it is practical to do so, the railroad will plan on applying green and gold paint to the locomotive to match 252.

I exposed these photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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My Conrail

Next Friday evening, (November 12, 2021) I’ll be presenting a mulitmedia program titled; ‘My Conrail,’ to the 25th Anniversary Beecherfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This is my tribute to the Boston & Albany with a selection of photography spanning nearly 30 years.

SEPA/PASE power in Palmer, Massachusetts in 1989. Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 and 35mm Summicron.

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Green Line Government Center

On our travels around Boston two weeks ago, Kris and I changed trains at MBTA’s Government Center station.

40 years ago I photographed MBTA’s PCCs squeeling through these subterranean tunnels. Those cars are largely a memory, as are the Boeing-Vertol ‘LRVs’ that replaced them.

So on the most recent visit to MBTA’s Green Line, I made these photos of more modern trolleys in the arificial light of the subway tunnels using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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NEW ENGLAND’s Railroad Brigadoon

When I was in high-school, the Monson (Mass) Summer Theater group rehearsed and performed the play Brigadoon that is based on a mythical Scottish village that only comes to life once a century.

Near the western extremities of Conway Scenic’s  former Maine Central Mountain Division route is a junction in the forest where the line running northward via Beecher Falls, Vermont to the Province of Quebec had deviated from the main stem to St Johnsbury.

A century ago Quebec Junction was a pretty important place on the Mountain Division.

This year some of our employees took it upon themselves to clear the undergrowth around Quebec Junction, New Hampshire, while the railroad’s Master Carpenter George Small restored the original shanty that had traditional stood here. The shanty had been privately owned and stored off railroad property for many years.

I worked with George and other members of the 470 Club to plan their annual outing over the Conway Scenic, and Quebec Junction was to be one of the highlights of the trip.

October 23, 2021
October 23, 2021
October 23, 2021

Working from photos that George had sent me and carefully gauging sun angles, I helped arrange for the train to arrive when the locomotives at the east end of the consist would be well lit by the sun. I also hoped to amply illuminate the long-disused diverging line to the left of the engines where speeder car TC 470, painted for Maine Central, was carefully positioned.

So for a few minutes, Quebec Junction was like Brigadoon.

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Tracking the Light—On Screen

Ten days ago, I presented my Power Point presentation titled ‘Tracking the Light’—named after this blog—to the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts in the Pearl Street Station restaurant in Malden, Massachusetts.

I was allowed to open the back door which faced the Orange Line and former Boston & Maine commuter rail tracks.

Inside the station were paintings depicting how the station used to be.

Dave Brown of the Mass Bay RRE helped me work the computer that projected my pre-recorded program that featured 196 photographs.

Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown works the projection computer.
Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown works the projection computer.

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Old Maine Central 255 in the Gloom of Night

Conway Scenic Railroad’s latest acquisition, former Maine Central GP38 255 is on the final legs of its journey to North Conway.

Last night (October 29, 2021) Kris and I drove up to the St Lawrence & Atlantic line to intercept westward freight 393 that was hauling Clarendon & Pittsford 203 in consist. (This red & white GP38 is former Maine Central 255.)

At Gorham, New Hampshire we rolled by the train at the old Grand Trunk station where there is a variety of historic equipment on display.

The plan was for 393 to drop the engine for interchange at Groveton, New Hampshire. In the coming days, CSRR will plan to collect it at the railroad’s only active interchange (at Hazens near Whitefield, NH) i

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 mounted on an old Bogen tripod.

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Chinese Orange Line Cars at North Station

Thursday, October 21, 2021, I had my first experience with MBTA’s new Orange Line subway cars built by Chinese firm CRRC in Springfield, Massachusetts.

It was odd for me because the ‘Old’ cars were delivered when I was in High School. I recall going on a Orange Line shop tour in 1983 with my old friend Dan Howard to see the ‘New Cars’ (now the ‘Old’ Cars). This had been organized by the Mystic Valley Railway Society.

Kris and I were on our way to Malden, Massachusetts so that I could give a talk on Tracking the Light to Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the old Pearl Street Station.

I made these orange line images using my Nikon Z6 mirroless digital camera.

Old cars at the New North Station Orange Line station.
The new CRRC Orange Line subway cars.

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F from an F

Yesterday, Saturday October 23, 2021, Conway Scenic Railroad hosted 470 Club’s annual autumn trip.

This was led by former Maine Central GP7 573 and former Boston & Maine F7A 4266 with Conway Scenic’s GP35 216 at the back for assistance.

I assisted with planning and executing photo stops. However, I had some other work to do on the way up the mountain, so I rode in the cab of 4266 (trailing westbound).

The 470 Club had arranged to display its other F7A, 4268 on the North Conway turntable. This locomotive rarely sees the light of day. It is a treasured antique that is undergoing a full operational restoration and has spent most of the last year in stall four of the North Conway roundhouse.

As we were departing North Conway, I made this unusual view of 4268 from the cab window of 4266 using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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AMtrak E-Units at Brookfield.

Labor Day weekend 1978: my dad brought my brother and me out to roll by Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at the route 148 overpass in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Working with his ‘motorized’ (mechanical wind-up) Leica 3A, I made a rapid fire sequence of the train as it roared west behind E-units.

I processed the film in the kitchen sink and made a few prints, then for the next four decades the negatives rested quietly in the attic.

I used this Epson scan of one of the negatives from that day as one of the opening photos in my program titled ‘Tracking the Light’ that I presented live last night to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the Pearl Street Station in Malden, Massachusetts.

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Maine Central 255—August 26, 1986.

When I photographed Maine Central GP38 255 (and its sister 256) in the Bangor, Maine yard back in 1986, it was just another GP38.

Soon, if all plans come to fruition, it will become a regular sight in North Conway, New Hampshire, where it can again work Maine Central rails.

There’s a certain satisfaction in bringing the old locomotive back to home rails where it can rejoin its sister 252 to entertain legions of visitors on their travels through the Mount Washington Valley.

Bangor Yard and Kodachrome may have both gone the way of the Dodo Bird, but the 255 is still with us. I wonder whatever happened to 256?

Kodachrome exposed using a Leica 3A with 65mm Elmar attached with a Leica Visoflex.

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Open Access at Kralupy

Hey, I didn’t make this up.

On October 14, 2016 during our exploration of the Czech Republic, fellow photographer Denis McCabe and I caught this Metrans Container freight rolling through Kralupy.

I exposed this view as part of a sequence using my FujiFilm XT-1 digital camera.

A Bombardier TRAXX type of electric rolls through Kralupy with a container train in tow.

Kralupy is a busy junction to the north of Prague, wear we witnessed a steady parade of freights.

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Rare Move on Willey Brook Bridge.

Yesterday (October 8, 2021), the 470 Club collected its latest acquisition from the New Hampshire Central interchange at Hazens in Whitefield, NH.

The 470 Club had taken possesion of Boston & Maine GP9 1741 (later Springfield Terminal 72). This was collected by the club’s 4266, an active former B&M F7A, which towed the GP9 east.

On its journey to North Conway, New Hampshire, this short train crossed the famous Willey Brook bridge at Crawford Notch at about a quarter to two eastern time

I made this photo for the Conway Scenic Railroad using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera from a vantage point on some rocks high above the bridge.

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Frankenstein Foliage

Yesterday, I made this image of the Mountaineer descending at the Arethusa Falls grade crossing against a backdrop of autumnal foliage and the famous Frankenstein Cliff in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

A shaft of sun illuminated the front of GP35 216 which made for a tricky exposure.

I’d preset the camera settings in manual mode, anticipating the bright yellow front of the engine catching the wink of sun. Further adjustment of highlight and shadow areas was necessary in post processing.

Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom lens. NEF Raw file adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.

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