Category Archives: railroads

New Hampshire & Vermont Alco RS-11 at Whitefield.

It seems like another age when I drove to Whitefield, New Hampshire on spec to photograph the famous ball signal in October 1992. As a bonus, I caught this New Hampshire & Vermont Alco RS-11 working the yard.

In this view the RS11 crosses Union Street-Route 3 on the former Boston & Maine line to Wells River via Littleton.

I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with a 50mm Summicron.

The ball signal still stands at Whitefield, but the tracks are almost never used. I wonder what happened to this RS-11?

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Central Vermont at Palmer—May 17, 1985.

This was a common scene in the mid-1980s; Central Vermont’s southward road freight with a large collection of GP9s crossing the Palmer diamond.

What I find remarkable looking at this image is how few trees were around the tracks back then as compared with today.

At the bottom is a view of the New England Central at the same location a few weeks ago.

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Top of the Boston & Albany—May 1985.

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.

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Wrestling with a Tripod in the Rain.

New York’s Canisteo Valley was among my favorite places to photograph in the late 1980s. The lure of the Erie Railroad and the old Union Switch & Signal Style S signals had captivated my interest.

On the morning of July 19, 1988, my old pal TSH and I were on one of our annual summer rail-photo adventures. We had started before dawn, and picked up a westward Conrail OIBU rolling though the Canisteo toward Hornell, New York.

Trains moved right along on the former Erie Railroad mainline and racing ahead of it in a Dodge Dart, I parked and leaped out of the car at a preselected location at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) and began to set up my photograph.

I was working with equipment I borrowed from my father. The Leica M2 loaded with PKM (Kodachrome 25 professional) was mine, but the 200mm Telyt mounted with a bellows on a Leica Visoflex viewfinder and positioned on a antique Linhof tripod were his.

In our hasty chase, I’d cut my set up time too fine. It was lashing rain and I was struggling to set up and level the tripod, while trying to focus the camera using the Rube Goldburg Visoflex arrangement. My exposure was about f4 1/8 of a second.

Conrail’s BUOI came into view before I had time to refine my composition: this imperfect photo was the result. I recall the frustration of fighting with the equipment as the roar of the train intensified and the rain obscured my vision.

Let’s just say, that at the time I wasn’t impressed with my image. I’d cropped too much of the foreground and the whole image is off level. So for 30 years, it sat in the Kodak yellow cardboard slide box that it had been returned to me from lab in.

Last year, I scanned it. Ironically, this damp-day silhouette closely captures the spirit of Conrail’s Canisteo Valley that had captivated my photographic interest. The reflection of the headlight on the glossy codelines is the finesse that I didn’t manage to capture in most of brighter-day photography.

I’m glad I didn’t throw the slide away.

This morning I cropped and leveled the image in an effort to correct for my failings in 1988. I’m not sure I improved it any.

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Bright Morning in Palmer.

For more than 25 years, New England Central’s gold and navy GP38s have worked the former Central Vermont line. These have been a common site around the railroad’s Palmer, Massachusetts hub.

I thought of that bitterly cold February 1995 morning when I made my first New England Central photos as I exposed these views last week under decidedly more pleasant conditions.

New England Central’s 608 with GP38 3854 at Palmer, Massachusetts in March 2020.
Faded but still working!

I wonder what another 25 years will bring to New England Central at Palmer?

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Paris Metro Line 6

In March 1999, I made a day trip to Paris from Brussels on the Thalys.

Among my visions for the day was to duplicate views of Metro Line 6 with the Eiffel Tower similar to those that my father made back in 1960.

Working with my Nikon N90S, I exposed this wideangle view from above the banks of the Seine.

While the sun was out, dark clouds would soon pelt hail across the Parisian landscape.

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Running Extra

I made these views from the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s 1630 Snow Train during the final days of operation last week.

I’d drafted the Snow Train timetable during early planning for the trains and I was keen for them to operate in a timely manner.

All trains were run as ‘extras’ under Conway Scenic Railroad’s tradition rulebook using timetable and train order rules.

Extra trains must display white flags by day and white lights by night.

The trains proved very popular with Conway Scenic’s guests and ridership exceeded expectations!

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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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Toronto Transit Commission—Two Photos from Ten Years Ago.

In February 2010, I visited Toronto, Ontario with photographers Pat Yough and Chris Guss.

It was extra cold, but we made some stunning photos in the clear frosty light.

These view of TTC CLRVs (Canadian Light Rail Vehicles) were exposed using a Canon EOS-3 and Fujichrome slide film.

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Barnet Road-Barnet, Vermont.

I’ve looked at this location several times over the years. Here, Barnet Road crosses the Connecticut River and the railroad south of the old station-location at Barnet, Vermont.

Either the light didn’t suit photography, or there was no train around.

On January 28th, 2020, I had ample time to set up since the southward Vermont Rail System freight I was following had stopped to switch at Barnet. 

I scoped a couple of different angles from the road bridge, and at the last minute settled on this view.

I exposed this sequence of photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

This view was panned slightly, which allows for a greater sense of motion while retaining sharpness on the leading locomotive.
Trailing view from the same bridge as the photos above.

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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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Irish Rail 084 at BlackHorse Avenue—Dublin.

As it rains ice outside my window in Conway, New Hampshire, I was thinking back to greener warmer times last summer in Ireland!

It was toward the end of August 2019, when I made this view of Irish Rail 084 working an up-IWT Liner from Ballina, Co. Mayo to Dublin’s North Wall approaching Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with a 90mm lens.

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Vermont Rail System—East Barnet.

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.

Vermont Rail System at East Barnet, Vermont. Expose using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm lens.

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!

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New England Central on the Roll!

After departing Greenfield, where I’d had the fortuity to catch a westward Pan Am empty grain train (Thursday’s posting on Tracking the Light), I drove to Millers Falls, Mass. My friends Tim and Pat were photographing the northward New England Central 611 turn on its run from Palmer back toward Brattleboro, Vermont.

I phoned Pat when I arrived at Millers Falls. “Where are you?”

“We’re in South Amherst, 611 is passing Amherst now.”

That was just the information I needed.

I knew it would be cutting it a bit fine (in other words; with the wind a my back, I’d barely make it) but I was going to try to run against this freight and intercept it at Leverett (north of Amherst on the old Central Vermont).

I’m no novice at following trains on this line. I recall a spirited chase of CV freight from Amherst to Millers Falls back in Spring 1986!

I had a clear shot to Leverett (I didn’t get stuck behind a school bus). I pulled in, grabbed my FujiFilm XT1, jumped out of the car and listened.

I could hear multiple 16-645E3 diesels working in run 7 or 8. They were very close.

I needed to change lenses and had just enough time to switch from a 27mm pancake lens to my fixed focal length ‘prime’ 90mm telephoto.

As I set my exposure, the freight roared around the bend! I exposed a burst of images and then laid chase back north again. At one point, I gazed in my rear-view and saw that my friends were behind me. Classic train chase!

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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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January 2020_Amherst Railway Society’s BIG Railroad Hobby Show.

This year instead of merely wandering the annual Amherst Railway Society’s BIG Railroad Hobby Show as a free agent, I spent most of my time there working for Conway Scenic Railroad.

But, I did wander the show making photos as I have in the past.

I also signed a few books, answered lots of questions, spoke with countless friends, and researched details for a number of upcoming articles.

I made these photos Saturday January 25, 2020 using my Lumix LX7.

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Otto with Otto beer and old NY&SW replica locomotive.



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Queens, New York April 1979—Seeking GG1s.

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.

Sunnyside Yard, Queens, NY April 1979.

Amtrak GG1 927 was dressed in platinum mist with a red stripe. Very 1970s.

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.

Here’s an adjusted scan from my original 35mm black & white negatives. Old 4876 was in a prominent position for photography.

I enlarged this scan to bring in the famous Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

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.

Here’s another enlarged view that shows a Long Island Rail Road local switching. There’s a lot to digest in this view. Exciting stuff for a 13 year old obsessed by locomotives, epic urban city scapes, and post industrial settings.

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Conrail 6619 on the Boston & Albany.

I made this image while hiking the line toward Middlefield, Massachusetts from Chester. The freight was descending the grade near where the 1912-line relocation joined the original Western Rail Road alignment (seen to the left of Conrail 6619) at milepost 129 (as measured from Boston’s South Station).

Conrail’s ten General Electric C32-8s were delivered in September 1984 and in their early years largely work out of Selkirk Yard on the old Boston & Albany route.

GE assigned these unique pre-production DASH8  prototypes to Conrail for evaluation in preparation for wide-scale DASH-8 production that began a few years later. 

I had countless encounters with the C32-8s on the Boston & Albany during the mid-1980s, but never had the opportunity to travel on one.

Later this year Kalmbach Media will release my new book titled Conrail and its Predecessors.

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Pan Am Railways at Greenfield, Massachusetts on January 12, 2014.

It was on this day six years ago (January 12, 2014) that I made this close-up view of Pan Am Railways 616 as it worked west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at 400ISO at f3.5 1/400th of a second.

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Old 204 at Enfield!

I like vague titles.

My Irish friends might wonder, since Irish Rail class 201 number 204 in unlikely to have ever reached Enfield, County Meath on the Sligo Line—although the older C-Class diesel with the same number probably did pass that point (before my time).

Amtrak F40PH-2 204 almost certainly passed Enfield, Connecticut on the former New Haven Railroad’s Springfield-New Haven Line, a route now described as the ‘Hartford Line’. While I have various photos in the 1980s of the 200-series F40PH-2s, it is unlikely that I have a photo of 204 at Enfield.

Then there’s an extremely remote possibility that I have a photo in my collection of a Boston & Albany 4-4-0 with that number passing Enfield, Massachusetts on the Athol Branch. I’ll have to review my B&A roster to confirm they actually had a locomotive with that number and if it ever ran up the branch.

So!

How about Guilford Rail System’s high-hood GP35 204 working the Maine Central with MABA at Enfield, Maine?

Regular Tracking the Light readers might understand my connections to this engine.

(It’s a sister locomotive to former Maine Central 216 that now resides at Conway Scenic where I now work.)

Too many ephemeral and tenuous connections?

Just wait, I could make signaling allusions!

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Large Chrome at Cherryville!

On May 11, 2002, I worked with a Rollei Model T loaded with 120-size Fujichrome to make this view of Irish Rail 213 leading a Mark 2 set down road at Cherryville Junction, Co. Kildare (Ireland).

For the social media view I’ve cropped in on the original view, while for Tracking the Light, I’ve published the full un-cropped square.

Unfortunately in the original un-cropped version I centered up the front of the locomotive at the middle of the square. Poor composition!

I guess, I’ll have to go back and do it again!

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New England Central 437—White River Junction.

Yesterday, January 1, 2020, I paused at White River Junction, Vermont, a place I first visited to make railroad photographs nearly 35 years ago.

That first visit was a warm sunny summer’s morning. By contrast yesterday’s visit was a wintery, cold and gray afternoon with hints of color in the southern sky.

New England Central local was working with GP40-2 437,  a locomotive still wearing Florida East Coast colors.

Nutt Lane, White River Junction, Vermont. January 1, 2020.

Former Boston & Maine bridge over the Connecticut River. Viewed from White River Junction, Vermont. January 1, 2020.

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Welcome 2020!

Here’s a portrait view of Conrail B23-7 2020 that I made back in 1988 east of Chester, Massachusetts. (Not seeing portrait orientation? Click on Tracking the Light!).

Although I previously posted this image on Tracking the Light, I thought it was a cool way to welcome the New Year!

I wonder what happened to this old GE diesel?

The year 2020 will see my new book on Conrail and its predecessors which is expected in the Spring from Kalmbach Media.

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New Haven on New Years Day—1980.

Happy New Years 1980s-style!

Another view from 40 years ago: I’d just returned from Mexico City via JFK. My family and I were driving home from New York City and we stopped at New Haven, Connecticut.

I made several Kodachrome slides with my Leica 3A, including this view of former New Haven Railroad electric multiple units that were stored near the station.

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Window in Time: Lagrange Maine, 1984.

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.

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Santa Fe at Perris, California.

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.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikkormat FTN with Nikon 28mm AF wide-angle lens.

Santa Fe 2725 was a GP30u, which lost the characteristic semi-streamlined cab roof when rebuilt from a GP30 in the early 1980s.

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Steam Switcher in the Mist—four Photos.

Some of the most atmospheric moments at the Conway Scenic Railroad occur in the gloom of night after all the visitors have departed.

I made these photos last night as 0-6-0 7470 worked the yard following the last trip of the day.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 set at ISO 6400, I exposed these photos handheld. While trying to keep the ‘atmosphere’ off the front element of my lens.

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High Hood GP35 On a Cold Morning

Pure GP35s are rare in 2019. Pure high hood GP35s are rarer still.

Conway Scenic’s high-hood GP35 216, originally a Norfolk & Western locomotive, basks in the cold morning sun at North Conway, New Hampshire on Saturday, December 7, 2019.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7.

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Sunny Morning at Sunnyside—Queens, New York c1978.

I was on bright morning in 1978 that I made these black & white photos with my old Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.

I was standing with my father and brother on a Long Island Rail Road platform near Sunnyside yard. I was about 12 at the time.

My subject was the graffiti covered Flushing Line subway train.

30 years earlier my father made photos of New Haven Railroad EP4 electrics and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics from near this same spot!

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Sound of Power: Conrail Ballast Train June 1984

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.

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November Evening at Newbridge.

Last month I made this photograph of a down Irish Rail Intercity Railcar paused at Newbridge on the Dublin-Cork mainline.

I was changing trains on my way to Sallins.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7, file processed in Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation. To make the most of the nocturnal setting, I set my camera to overexpose by 1/3 of stop (+ 1/3 on my exposure compensation dial). This compensates for the specular highlights which tend to skew the camera meter toward underexposure.

In this situation under exposure would result in the image appearing too dark.

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Taking A Ride on the A-train: New York City Subway

It was about 1980, when I made this interior view of an R10 subway car during a trip with my father around New York City. Pop thinks this was on the 8th Avenue line in Manhattan. It was one of three photos I made of the Subway that day .

The cars were not air-conditioned and the open fans intrigued me.

This was in that unsavory era on the Subway when the subway cars were decorated inside and out with graffiti.

Exposed on black & white film with my old Leica 3A 35mm camera.

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New ENgland Central November Sunrise at Stafford Springs

Yesterday morning (November 26, 2019) was misty with a hint of orange in the sky.

New England November mornings can make for cosmic settings for railroad photos.

I made my way to downtown Stafford Springs to catch New England Central’s 608 winding its way through town.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I exposed this 90mm view of the northward freight as it crossed Route 32 in the center of town at 717am. (A little earlier than I expected).

Three GP38s in the classic New England Central blue and yellow (or navy and gold, if you prefer) paint scheme were in the lead.

It was the start of an auspicious and productive day of railroad photography!

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