Grain Train! Drama Along the Millers River.

The old Boston & Maine Railroad’s Fitchburg route hugs the Millers River east of Millers Falls as it ascends toward Erving and Athol.

Last week, Paul Goewey and I followed Pan Am’s slow moving eastward unit grain train destined for Ayer, Massachusetts. This had been delayed by telemetry communication problems with its tail end.

A radio telemetry unit is used in place of a caboose on most North American freight trains. This communicates air pressure information relating to the air brake system, and can allow the engineer to set train brakes from the rear end in event of an emergency.

Four former CSX GE-built DASH8-40Cs were leading the train.

We set up near Farley’s, located at a grade crossing a few miles timetable west of Erving, where I made these photos of the train working the grade.

Back-lighted conditions accentuated the drama of the ascent by illuminating the locomotive exhaust.

Telephoto view: Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
Wide-angle perspective from the same vantage point. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
Sneaky tip: we removed a few wayward branches from the foreground of the scene prior to arrival of the train to minimize unwanted visual distractions in the composition of our photos.

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5 comments on “Grain Train! Drama Along the Millers River.

  1. Michael Walsh on said:

    I like Flashing Rear End – it could have another interpretation.

  2. Thank you Robert!

  3. This is a stunning image! The lighting and angles are so wonderfully dramatic. The cold blue winter light is beautifully captured. Bravo, Brian.

  4. On the rare occasion I get out to chase, this is one spot I to catch eastbounds working hard to split the searchlights.

  5. Those devices are called, ETO’s (End of Train device), or FRED’s (Flashing Rearend Device) or several names that are not fit for friendly conversation when they malfunction. When the headend looses comm with the ETO, most will give it a chance to reestablish that comm but many times the train must stop to determine the reason. The same sequence of events can occur when the train has a DPU (Distributed Power Unit). When a DPU itself looses comm it goes the idle which adds what, 240,000 +++ lbs. to the drawbars and knuckles in the train ahead causing the train to stall on a steep incline.

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