Category Archives: News

Happy Birthday Conrail!

Conrail began operations on April 1, 1976.

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!

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

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May TRAINS Features Conway Scenic.

May 2020 Trains Cover.

My epic 8-page article on the Conway Scenic Railroad appears in the May 2020 Trains Magazine.

Months of research and personal experience contributed to my writing and illustrating this feature.

It was my hope to distill the railroad’s history, operations and spirit into these 8 pages.

Ironically, the magazine arrived the week following the railroad entering its unplanned period of dormancy owing to the on-going COVID-19 crisis and New Hampshire’s mandates in reaction to the crisis.

The photo below shows the waiting room on Friday afternoon with the first of several coats of fresh polyurethane in anticipation of the 2020 operating season.

12mm view with XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit.

Although ‘cocooned,’ with its operations postponed, Conway Scenic will continue to make preparations to reopen when the time is right to do so.

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Unfolding Situation at North Conway

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.

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Elegant Paint at Okayama.

On April 24, 1997, my father and I paid a brief visit to Okayama, Japan, arriving and departing the same day by Shinkansen.

Okayama had a compact two-prong streetcar system with colorfully painted street cars (it seemed that each car was in a different livery).

Traditional colors on this modern boxy car.

Kodachrome in Fuji-land!

I made these photos with my Nikon N90S.

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Tram at the Basel Hbf

Working from a ground level angle, I exposed this view of a tram paused at the Basel, Switzerland main station (seen behind the tram platforms).

Basel, like all of Switzerland, benefits from world-class public transportation including heavy rail and light rail networks. I first visited Basel in 1999.

This photo was exposed during a brief visit on April 21, 2016. Although I made several digital photos, I exposed this frame on Fuji Provia 100F slide film using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

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Snow Plow Action

Yesterday forecasts of snow were dashed when rain fell instead.

Last week the story was a different one, and as previously reported on Tracking the Light, Conway Scenic Railroad sent a plow extra west to Attitash.

I made this view using my Lumix LX7, while recording the action using the railroad’s video camera.

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O’Connell Street in the Rain.

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.

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Snow Train Trial.

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.

Westbound at Milepost 64 near Glen & Jackson, New Hampshire.
Eastbound at Milepost 65.
Laying over at Attitash.

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!

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White Flags: Extra 573 Clearing Snow Near Mountain Junction.

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.

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Monochrome: Steam in the Snow on Czech Film

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.

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20 NEW photos of the BIG Show—Friends and Trains.

On Day 2 of last weekend’s BIG Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, I spent more time making photos of the people than of the trains.

When I wasn’t meeting friends, fans and guests at the Conway Scenic Railroad booth, I took my Lumix LX7 and wandered the halls snapping away.

Here’s just a few views!

And yes, I’ve included a few photos of the models too.

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Rail Transit Photo Marathon

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.

One two occasions, I’ve photographed streetcars at Mainz, Germany. This view was made of a route 52 car in September 2019.

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).

Trolley bus systems are not included in my final count. SF Muni Potrero garage October 1990.

Chicago’s CTA ‘L’ lines are cool—systems like this make the list! Howard Street Line July 5, 1995.
I’ve photographed in numerous cities across Eastern Europe. In 2003, I made this color slide in Zagreb, Croatia.

I’ve been photograph Boston’s rail transit for more than 47 years! (Eeek!) So I have more coverage of the MBTA than many other systems. Park Street Station on the Green Line back in the day. (December 1980).

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).

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Colm O’Callaghan’s Irish Traction Book.

My old friend Colm O’Callaghan has recently published his first book.

This features a selection of his finest color photos of Irish Rail diesels in action.

Below is information on the book and how to obtain it.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Irish-Traction-Iarnród-Colm-OCallaghan/dp/1445688441/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3IBT62VUXEKCA&keywords=irish+traction&qid=1577407995&sprefix=%2Caps%2C195&sr=8-1

https://www.bookdepository.com/Irish-Traction–Iarnrod-Eireann/9781445688442

I exposed this photo of Colm on his 46th birthday standing along side a British Class 46 diesel at a Crewe open house. At the time I was working with Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO).
Colm recently retired after many years working for An Post, the Irish postal service. About ten years ago, I made this view of Colm and his famous green van on the South Circular Road in Dublin.

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February 2020 Trains Magazine.

I’ve received my author’s advance copy of the February 2020 Trains Magazine.

This features both my monthly column and my article on railroad locomotive and signal suppliers.

In my column (pages 16-17), I discuss on-going changes in the North American railcar fleet.

These freight car photos represent some of my initial outtakes for my column prior to submission, but show the size differences between modern boxcars and the older standard cars now being phased out.

Box cars at Brattleboro, Vermont. Lumix LX7 photo.
Southern Railway 50 foot boxcars at Washington, Massachusetts. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Conway Scenic December 17, 2019—A Spin and a Surprise Twist

In a world of splashy announcements, bold publicity stunts and loud pronouncements, occasionally subtlety, allusion and understatement still have a place.

Also, I’m always curious to learn who’s paying attention and who just looks at the pictures. (Sometimes the long posts with allusive titles offer the most important messages).

Yesterday, as I was standing in the snow to record Boston & Maine F7A 4268 that was brought out of Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway roundhouse for a spin on the turntable, my friends Dave and Rhonda Swirk quietly announced that I was taking on a full-time position at the railroad in Marketing and Event planning.

And there’s the surprise twist!

Clear signals for exciting things coming down the line! (Bigger bolder pronouncements later).

Tracking the Light will continue to post daily!