Category Archives: railroads

Work Train Views

Last week, spending the full day with a Conway Scenic Railroad Work Extra enabled me to make many hundreds of photos.

I published a few in my earlier post Work Extra at Frankenstein (see: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/06/27/work-extra-at-frankenstein-four-photos-and-a-big-rock/).

Having finally made the time to review and process the full day’s take, I’ve found some more choice images for presentation here.

All of these images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera

Redstone Branch.
Sawyers River.

Frankenstein
Below mp80.
Sawyers River.
Sawyers River.

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St. Lawrence & Atlantic at Lewiston Junction, Maine.

Last week, Kris Sabbatino and I drove east along the old Grand Trunk and paid a visit to Genesee & Wyoming’s small yard at Lewiston Junction, Maine.

Shortly after we arrived, a pair of EMD SW1500 switchers lettered for G&W’s Quebec Gatineau pulled into the engine facility and tied down.

Pretty neat to catch these antiques working in bright afternoon sun!

Later I looked up the details of these locomotives and was pleased to learn that they were both former Conrail, originally Penn Central locomotives. I’ll need to see if I have them in blue or black! Stay tuned.

Exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135 Fujinon zoom lens.

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Bartlett under Stormy Skies.

On Sunday June 21, 2020, I traveled to Bartlett, NH on our afternoon train from North Conway that boards at 1230.

My primary concern was to diagnose the sound quality on the train’s public address system. However when we arrived at Bartlett, I arranged with the train crew to jump off and make a few photos while the locomotive (former Maine Central GP38 252) cut off and ran around the train.

A thunder storm was brewing to the northwest, which made for a dramatic sky, despite sun on the rails at Albany Avenue in Bartlett.

Later, I learned there had been some fierce weather on Mount Washington.

I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7. These files are from the in-camera JPGs, other than scaling for internet presentation, I made no alterations digitally in regards to color balance, color temperature, contrast, or exposure.

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Conrail in Worcester—1997.

Here’s another photo from my Classic Conrail Kodachrome Files.

Photographer Mike Gardner and I had spent December 2, 1997, photographing Conrail operations around Worcester, Massachusetts.

Early in the day, we dropped E6 slide film at E.B. Luce for processing and then occupied our time documenting the parade of Conrail trains on the former Boston & Albany line.

In this view at CP44 at the east end of Worcester Yard, I photographed some SD50s that had arrived with an eastward train and cut off to make a drop and were running ‘light engine’ past the signals.

It was clear, cool and crisp. Perfect weather for Kodachrome 25!

My book Conrail and its Predecessors is now available from Kalmbach Media. Click the link below.

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

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Santa Fe at Cadiz, Calif.

On January 22, 1991, I exposed this Kodachrome of an eastward Santa Fe doublestack train with brand new GE-built DASH8-40BW diesels in the lead wearing fresh warbonnet paint.

I was traveling with SP dispatcher JDS on an epic exploration of the old Needles District in the Mojave Desert.

For this photo he lent me his Nikon 300mm lens. I still recall the very smooth focus of that amazing piece of glass. At the time the longest lens I owned was a 200mm.

This photo appeared in Trains Magazine many years ago.

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Irish Rail Weedspraying Train at Limerick Check.

Between 2000 and 2007, I made more than 1,000 images of the Irish Rail weedspraying train on its annual campaign around the system.

In my early days focusing on this one of kind train (there have been many weed spraying trains, but this one was unique!), I aimed to catch it in unusual places.

On this day in April 2000, I was traveling with intrepid photographer Mark Hodge, and we drove cross-country from Tipperary to County Limerick to intercept the train on the then rarely-traveled Foynes Branch.

Later in the morning, I caught the train coming off the branch at Limerick Check.

The day was wet and dark, but I’m very glad I exposed these photos, despite the fact that over the coming years I made numerous sunny day views of the train.

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Wiscasset, Maine—August 1986.

On the evening of August 22, 1986, I exposed this pair of Kodachrome 25 slides on the Maine Central’s Rockland Branch at Wiscasset, Maine.

At the time traffic on the branch was almost nil.

I used a 21mm Leica Super Angulon lens which offered a distinct perspective of  this rustic scene. My interest was drawn to the two rotting schooners in the westward view, while in the eastward view I was aiming to show the vestiges of the piers for the long defunct Wiscasset, Waterville  & Farmington 2-foot gauge.

Wiscasset looking west.
Wiscassett looking east.

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Rochester & Southern—Example of a Multiple Pass Scan.

This morning working with a Nikon Super Coolscan5000, I scanned this vintage Kodachrome 25 color slide.

This is a scaled version of the original scan without post processing color or contrast adjustment.

I used Hamrick’s VueScan software which allows me considerable control over the scanning process.

This has the ability to make a multiple pass scan that can obtain greater detail from highlight and shadow areas by scanning the same image several times and combining the scans.

It has a color setting specifically tailored to Kodachrome film and allows white balance fine-tuning.

VueScan work window for controlling color and exposure during scanning. Notice that I’ve used the Kodachrome profile.

VueScan Input control window where I have selected ‘Fine mode’, 3 samples, and multiple exposure features. I outputted the scan as Tif file at 4050dpi, then scaled in post processing for internet presentation.

This is a much enlarged section of the unadjusted raw scan (scaled for internet).

In post-processing, I used Lightroom to make fine adjustments to improve color balance and contrast before scaling for internet presentation.

I made the original photograph on April 19, 1989, showing a northward Rochester & Southern freight with former New York Central GP40s crossing a road at Scottsville, New York.

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Alco at Meadville, Pennsylvania.

In the June 2020 Trains Magazine my monthly column features an interview with career railroader Mike Lacey, who started with Erie Lackawanna in 1968 and cut his teeth at the former Erie yards at Meadville.

I made this view on a visit to Meadville with fellow photographers Pat Yough and Tim Doherty on October 12, 2008.

Western New York & Pennsylvania’s former New York Central C-430 3000 was working the yard with engineer Chris Southwell at the throttle.

Exposed with Fujichrome Velvia100F using a Canon EOS-3.

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Washington Metro and Tower K.

It was a gray December 1997 day when I exposed this telephoto view of a Washington DC Metro train and Union Station’s Tower K using my Nikon N90s with f2.8 80-200 Nikon zoom lens.

Really it was the rows of colored position light signals displaying ‘stop’ that caught my attention.

Although the f2.8 8-200 lens offered convenience, and was both fast and sharp, it had its failings. When used wide open it tended to vignette slightly (darker exposure in the corners), but more serious was that it made me visually lazy. Instead of seeking the best vantage point and an optimal composition, I could get a pretty good angle by merely adjusting the focal length of the zoom.

My film was Fujichrome Provia 100F.

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The Old Groveton Station-four recent photos.

The old Groveton (New Hampshire) station building stands where the former Boston & Maine met the old Grand Trunk. Today the GT route is operated by Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic (known by its reporting marks SLR) while the B&M line is the very lightly used New Hampshire Central route to Hazens, Whitefield and beyond toward Littleton.

On visits here in the 1990s, I’d found the now defunct New Hampshire & Vermont switching the old paper mill at Groveton. But the mill is now a memory. The once imposing structures dwarfed the little brick station building.

I made these digital photos on a recent visit with photographer Kris Sabbatino. All were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and adjusted for shadows/contrast in post processing with Lightroom.

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TRAXX at Lorch, Germany

DB (German Railways) class 185 electrics are members of Bombradier’s TRAXX Family of locomotives.

These are a common type for freight service.

Last September, I made this view of a Class 185 leading a southward tank train rolling along the Rhein near Lorch at Im  Bachergrund using my FujiFilm XT1.

Autumn sun was softened by thin high clouds that made for almost ideal lighting.

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Boston & Maine Station—Morning and Evening

This is my office.

On April 15, 2020, I made photos as I arrived and as I departed to show the light at the respective times of day.

In my recent article on the Conway Scenic Railroad in May 2020 TRAINS Magazine, I discussed the railroad’s North Conway station in detail, but didn’t picture the iconic structure.

This will be rectified in an upcoming issue, but I thought I’d present these recent photos on Tracking the Light.

I’ve always focused on my immediate surroundings, photographing the ordinary, the common as well as the unusual and the extraordinary.

Over time, the common scenes often have the best staying power.

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Big Alcos in northern Quebec.

The other day, Adam Bartley and I were discussing railway operations and locomotives in Canada, which reminded me of an epic trip I took with George Pitarys and Bill Linley back in 1997.

We drove to Port Cartier, Quebec, a port on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, and spent several days photographing the isolated Cartier Railway, which moved exceptionally heavy iron ore trains using vintage six-motor Alco and MLW diesels.

Tracks traversed a Canadian National park and this was as close to true wilderness as I’d been up to that time. Other than the railroad and a dirt road that ran parallel, there was virtually no other human activity. No houses, no towns, no restaurants, stores, or anything.

This view of a southward loaded train was exposed on Kodachrome 25 at milepost 21 (as measured from the port). At the time I was using a Nikon N90S with an f2.8 80-200mm Nikon zoom lens.

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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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