If you are not viewing this on post on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link or you’ll miss the panoramic photo.
Last Friday (July 19, 2019), we traveled on Conway Scenic Budd-built RDC 23 Millie east toward Redstone, New Hampshire on the former Maine Central. On the return we paused at Pudding Pond so that I could make some photographs.
Once I was off the car, by arrangement it moved forward so the front of the RDC was catching the sunlight.
In addition to conventional photos, I also made this panoramic composite using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. The camera has a panorama preset that requires you to make an even sweep across the scene while holding the shutter release. The camera sews together the images and outputs them as a completed panorama.
On Select Fridays, Conway Scenic operates an RDC trip for children out on its Redstone Line—former Maine Central Mountain Division running east from Mountain Junction. Last Friday, July 19, 2019, I took the opportunity to travel with the crew on this run.
At Mountain Junction we cleared for the Valley Train led by GP7 573 that was on its return run from Bartlett to North Conway, New Hampshire.
When the Valley Train passed us, I made this view from the cab of Conway Scenic’s former Susquehanna (originally New Haven Railroad) RDC number 23, named Millie.
You know, I could have named this post: The Valley Meets Millie at Mountain Junction.
Last week at North Conway, New Hampshire hot humid afternoon gave way to rain forest-like torrential rains.
In the twilight of early evening, I exposed this raining view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.
The slight blurred effect is a combination of the cascading downpour and relatively slow shutter speed. For me the combination of heavy rain, dusk, and slight camera blur makes for a painterly effect that helps transcend the decades.
Wednesday evening July 10, 2019, I made this sunset view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s dinner train at Bartlett, New Hampshire.
The dinner train uses largely the same consist as the railroad’s Notch Train, but operates in the evening from North Conway to Bartlett and return.
Owing to the extreme exposure contrast between the darker areas of the car’s undercarriage and the highlights in the sky, I carefully balanced my exposure using the camera’s histogram to retain the maximum amount of detail, and later adjusted the RAW file in Lightroom in post processing to allow for the most pleasing image.
The other evening I exposed this trailing view of Conway Scenic’s RDC number 23, Millienear Glen-Jackson on its evening run up to Attiash .
On of the best kept secrets among Conway’s scheduled trains are its RDC runs for Attitash that depart North Conway on select evenings at 6pm.
I like the RDC, a typical Budd Car, that was common to New England passenger services when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s.
For this photo, I was working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto. The camera color profile was set to Velvia (see photo above), but ultimately I worked with the camera-RAW file in Lightroom to adjust color temperature, contrast and saturation (see photo below).
Friday (July 5, 2019), I was rambling about with my cousin Stella—visiting from California—when we paused at Bardwell’s Ferry,.
The ferry is long gone. Instead a well-preserved pin-connected lenticular truss bridge carries the road over Massachusetts’ Deerfield River.
While we were photographing the bridge and river, I thought my ears tricked me; the rushing water sounded remarkably like a distant freight.
Since this wasn’t a serious rail-photo excursion, I hadn’t brought my scanner.
I went back to the car to get my omnipresent notebook, when I heard a whistle!
The flashers on Bardwell’s Ferry road illuminated, and sure enough there was an eastward Pan Am Southern freight approaching!
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, I exposed this series of photos.
I assume that this was symbol freight 16R which forwards Norfolk Southern traffic from Enola (Pennsylvania) and East Binghamton (New York) to Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard. Without a scanner or positive confirmation, guess is all I can do.
Toward the end of June 2019, I visited New England Central’s yard at Brattleboro, Vermont.
It was the first time in many months that I used my old Canon EOS-7D, which I’d fitted with a 200mm telephoto lens.
As the 611 crew was getting organized to take Brattleboro to Palmer turn south, I made these photos.
I’ve always like the Canon color palate, which I believe is a function of their lenses and sensor. This is decidedly different than the digital photos I make with either my FujiFilm XT1 or Lumix LX7. Playing with a long telephoto is always fun, although in recent years I’ve shied away from very long lenses, as I’ve found that they tend to be overused.
Conway Scenic’s Valley Train makes its station stop at Attitash.
The station is just a flag stop on the Valley run that serves the Attitash Mountain Resort. It has a short platform with benches, railings, a classic enamel metal sign with blue and white letters, and the requisite yellow line.
On Sunday, the Valley Train dropped off seven passengers who had traveled from North Conway via Bartlett. They were among many passengers traveling round trip to Bartlett.
To my disappointment no passengers boarded for the run back to North Conway.
With permission of the operating crew I disembarked with Lumix in hand to expose this photo. The train’s conductor is at right logging the move in the station register.
Last Tuesday, June 25, 2019, I’d photographed an eastward CSX intermodal train at Palmer, Massachusetts that took the controlled siding at CP83 and then eased up to the east end of the siding at CP79.
I took a chance and drove expeditiously to West Warren in anticipation of a westward freight. I was rewarded for my efforts.
The lighting was tricky but colorful. The sunrise was heavily tempered by clouds rolling in from the west.
To make the most of the contrasty scene, I used a Lee graduated neutral density filter over the front of my lens to reduce exposure in the sky, and then underexposed the entire scene by about two thirds of a stop. I used the in-camera histogram to gauge my exposure by aiming to obtain minimal loss of detail in highlight and shadow areas. To the eye, my RAW files seem a little dark, but this is by intent.
In post processing, I lightened shadow areas while controlling highlights in an effort to replicate scene as I saw it.
Such are the challenges with modern photography. With black and white film, I would have exposed for the shadows and printed for the highlights, but that technique won’t work with digital photography. Where black & white film could hold great detail in dense highlights, but suffered from thin and detail-less shadow regions, digital sensors have the opposite sensitivity range.
Tuesday Morning (June 25 2019), I made my way to Palmer, Massachusetts to see how fared the old Boston & Albany.
Not long after I arrived at the old freight house location (the building was unceremoniously demolished by Conrail 30 years ago), I heard ‘Limited Clear CP83’ on my scanner. This transmission indicated that a train was about to take the controlled siding.
Modern six-motor GEs (an Evolution and a Tier IV—standard CSX road power on the Boston Line) rolled east with a short intermodal train, probably Q012 or Q022.
The trailing locomotive was CSX’s Louisville & Nashville heritage locomotive, identified by a tiny L&N logo on the cab and ‘Spirit of Ravenna’ in script. Lucky bonus to catch that in Palmer!
I made my photos at the west end of the yard, working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto lens and my Lumix LX7.
This was just the beginning of the morning’s photography.
Over the last few weeks, Conway Scenic has been working its former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 on short runs in preparation for the summer season and for its big outing over Crawford Notch to the end of the line at Hazen’s Crossing near Whitefield on June 29, 2019.
Last Saturday (June 22), I was up early to catch 7470 working the yard at North Conway. Call me a purist, but I found watching this 0-6-0 switching freight and passenger cars in preparation for its daily excursion work more enchanting than the excursions themselves.
First of all, as an 0-6-0, engine 7470 was intended for switching, so what better assignment could it have?
Secondly, the crisp morning with rich low June sun made for nearly ideal photographic conditions.
I made these digital images using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.
This week, I’ll be scoping places on the old Maine Central Mountain Division looking for the best photographic vantage points to catch 7470 on its ascent of Crawford Notch. The train is scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.
If you are interested, tickets are still available for the trip, which includes rare mileage from Fabyans to Hazens.
Nineteen Years ago, I was traveling with Denis McCabe and Tony Gray to photograph Railway Preservations Society of Ireland’s annual ‘Two Day Tour’.
We stopped along the N25 opposite the water from Cobh, Junction, Glounthaune, Cork, where I used a telephoto lens to expose this view of former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) steam locomotive 171 hauling Irish Rail Cravens carriages on a trip to Cobh.
At the time, an overcast day photo of 171 working tender first didn’t excite me much, and I left this slide with the other ‘seconds’ from that trip
However, in May of this year (2019)—almost 19 years to the day after I exposed the photo—I rediscovered this slide. It was still in the original box in which it was returned to me from the lab. Time has improved my photo and I think it’s pretty neat now.
I scanned it using an Epson V750 Pro flat bed scanner and processed the file using Lightroom.
I’d spied some rocks high on Mount Willard above the old Maine Central trestle at Willey Brook.
Conway Scenic’s Lisa King offered to bring me on a hike to those rocks for a commanding view of New Hampshire’s famous Crawford Notch.
“We’ll start at Crawfords Station. It takes about an hour!”
So last Saturday, we departed North Conway about an hour ahead of the Notch Train, and drove to Crawfords, where I was surprised to find about 100 cars parked along the road.
I was astounded to ‘discover’ that one of New Hampshire’s most impressive views attracts hundreds of hikers on bright warm weekend mornings!
We walked up through the forests, fording streams, avoiding bugs, dodging potential encounters with bears (we didn’t see any, but I’ll bet some saw us, since, earlier in the week, I’d spotted a bear cub on the line).
At the top, Lisa brought me a great view looking down the valley, and down onto the famous Willey Brook bridge.
I’m saving the bridge photos for a rainy day.
Next Saturday, June 29, 2019, Conway Scenic has scheduled a special Notch Train to be led by its steam locomotive 7470. This will depart Conway at 9am and run over the Notch and beyond to Hazen’s Crossing near the White Mountains Regional Airport for an event called Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
(I’m told tickets are still available, but get yours soon!)
Call: 603-356-5251 or check Conway Scenic’s website:
Earlier this week, Dave Swirk, president and general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, enlisted my skills to help promote the railroad’s June 29, 2019 special steam trip over Crawford Notch to the Trains, Planes & Automobiles event near Whitefield, New Hampshire.
Dave explained how this excursion is a rare opportunity to see Conway’s only operating steam locomotive reach Crawford Notch—which is beyond its typical operating territory— but also offers the opportunity to travel all the way to Hazen’s Crossing at the western limit of Conway Scenic’s operation of the former Maine Central Mountain Division. The Airshow / Carshow is an extra bonus!
Using my FujiFilm XT1 camera with 12mm Zeiss Touit, I recorded Dave speaking about the railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 that was recently restored to operations and its role in the special June 29th trip.
I edited the video output from the camera using Apple software on my Macbook.
This event is a big deal for Conway Scenic. It has been nearly five years since 7470 regularly worked Conway Scenic’s excursions, so this trip represents an exciting opportunity and there’s no one better than Dave himself to capture the enthusiasm for this special event.
Locomotive 7470 is a heavy 0-6-0 built in 1921 by the Grand Trunk for service in Canada. It is significant as the first locomotive to provide service on the Conway Scenic and of great personal significance for Dave.
On June 29th, the special Notch Train will depart North Conway behind steam at 9am.
To book tickets for this event call: 603-356-5251.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I made this view of Conway Scenic’s lower quadrant semaphore in the fading light of evening.
This is an example of a Union Switch & Signal Style-B mechanism powering twin lower quadrant blades was an early type of signal used in automatic block service and once common on Boston & Maine and Maine Central lines in New England.
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.
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!
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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.
Mike Gardner and I had photographed CSX’s loaded autorack train Q264-21 (as featured with ‘DPU’ the other day on Tracking the Light) and were waiting for the crew to take the empty autorack Q263-23 west.
For more than an hour we waited at milepost 67 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
As recommended, I made several test shots with my Fujifilm XT1 as the lighting conditions changed.
Then finally Mike announced ‘HEADLIGHT!’
I exposed a test burst of photos CSX Q263-3 in the distance and then . . .
[insert expletive here]
With a 32GB card, I can store hundreds of images. So many that I forget to even check how many I have left. And so at this critical moment, I’m left pixel-less.
Well, thankfully I had my Lumix LX7 around my neck and so managed a close-up photograph anyway. But there’s a lesson for you in this story. And for me too!
In August 1981, my family and I set off to Pennsylvania in our 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.
Among our holiday adventures was arriving at Enola on a sweltering hot afternoon.
The consensus was to find a place to stay. I wanted to see the famous railroad yard. The solution proved to be a motel called the ‘Summerdale Junction Inn’ (or something like that) which overlooked Conrail’s sprawling former Pennsylvania Railroad yards.
We requested a room trackside.
While the rest of the family relaxed by the pool, I attempted to make photos from the motel window using my father’s Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt.
At the time I was delighted to see so many locomotives, including a great many former PRR E44 electrics which had been recently stored owning to Conrail’s decision to discontinue its electric freight operations (long complicated story that will be addressed in my upcoming Conrail book).
This isn’t a great photo. There’s too many wires, too many bushes and the hazy light was less than ideal.
Glad I have it though. I may consider it for the book. Unless youhave a better view of all the stored electrics!
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.