Conrail: End of Days, May 29 1999.

Morning at Fonda, New York.

On the eve of assumption of operations by Conrail in Spring 1976, my father and I had explored railway operations in the New York City area. Twenty-three years later, we spent a long weekend in New York’s Mohawk and Hudson Valleys photographing the last days of independent Conrail operations before the railway was divided between its new owners CSX and Norfolk Southern.

General Electric C32-8.
I exposed this on Fuji Astia (100 ISO) using a Canon Elan 7e with a 100-400mm lens (extended to its maximum focal length). Canon’s auto-focus and/or image-stabilization system were temporarily confounded the harsh morning light, resulting in unanticipated ‘fluttering’ as the camera tried to compensate for the circumstances. In the end, I made a split-second decision to switch off the auto-focus. I’ve made a few minor adjustments in Photoshop to correct color-balance and other nominal defects in the original slide.

On the morning of May 29, 1999, I made this dramatic image of a westward Conrail double-stack train blasting along the former New York Central Water Level Route at Fonda, New York.

Evidence of the old New York Central can be seen in the wide right of way left over from its four-track days, and the steam-era signal bridges with classic General Railway Signal searchlights. In the last few years, CSX has replaced most of the NYC-era signals with modern hardware.

Leading the train was one of Conrail’s ten C32-8s, a pre-production model built by General Electric in 1984, unique to Conrail (although nearly identical in appearance to the slightly more powerful C39-8, bought by Conrail and Norfolk Southern). This one was dressed in Conrail’s short-lived ‘Ballast Express’ livery.

A variation of this image was published by RailNews, shortly before that magazine concluded operations. Hard to believe that both Conrail and RailNews have been gone nearly 14 years.

Conrail is among the railroad covered in my book North American Locomotives available from the Qbookshop.

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