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.
Sometimes electrical wires are placed in inconvenient positions.
In this photograph from a highway overpass near Port Cartier, Quebec, road-side electrical cables resulted in an unfortunate visual obstruction to what would otherwise be an ideal vantage point looking toward the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
I made this image on my photography adventure to the Cartier Railway with George Pitarys and Bill Linley in July 1997.
A loaded iron ore train was headed from the mines toward the port for trans-loading on to ships. Low evening light accentuated the hues of the water in the distance. The distant searchlights and ship on the water provide added interest.
Last night, I was inspecting scans of some black & white negatives from last summer that are stored on my hard drive.
These are some photos from a Sunday morning in early August at North Conway, New Hampshire of locomotive 7470.
All of these are from a roll of Fuji Acros 100, exposed with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens and processed with split-bath/multi-stage development using a weak bath of HC110 followed by Rodinal for primary development.
On October 12, 1992, my father and I traveled on the Pittsburgh Light Rail, traversing both the 47 Shannon and Drake Shuttle routes where vintage PCC cars still roamed. Both lines are now defunct. Later in the day, my brother Sean and I revisited these lines by road to make a few more photos.
On that trip, I exposed this Kodachrome slide with my Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens.
While I was aiming to fill the frame with the rarely photographed PCC car, in retrospect I wished that I’d allowed a little more space around the streetcar.
I’m happy to have made this photo, since it was my only photographic adventure with the Pittsburgh PCCs.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been closely involved with the filming of training videos at the Conway Scenic Railroad.
This ‘still’ shot was exposed last week. And today we are continuing with the filming process. Of course there’s no actual film, as we use video that is stored digitally on cards and then downloaded to a computer for editing.
In February 1999, I made a day trip from Brussels to Antwerp, Belgium.
While in Antwerp, I took the number 2 tram to its terminus at Hoboken.
You mean there’s another Hoboken Terminal? In a manner of speaking, yes. But no copper clad Bush train sheds at this one.
When I saw this PCC departing for central Antwerp, I was amused by the National Car Rental advertisement at the back of the car. That same day I expose a view of a similar tram advertising ‘Diesel’ apparel.
Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) with an Nikon N90S probably fitted with a 80-200 Nikon zoom.
All was quiet last Sunday when we passed through the once busy railroad hub at St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Vermont Rail System services the former Canadian Pacific (née Boston & Maine) north-south line, but there was no sign of activity during our brief visit. However, on my previous trip to the town, I rolled by the southward VRS freight, and featured this further down the line in a series of Tracking the Light posts. See:
Fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino and I focused on the large railway station building that is a centerpiece of the town, then went to explore the nearby former Maine Central truss over the Passumpsic River that represents the far west end of the old Mountain Division—the railroad line utilized by Conway Scenic Railroad over Crawford Notch.
I’d photographed this bridge many years ago, but wanted to re-explore it, as it now has greater relevance for me.
The light was flat, and although dull, this seemed appropriate for the circumstances. In additional to these digital photos, I also exposed some black & white film that I intend to process at a later date.
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.
My April 3rd, 2020 post featured a Kodachrome slide that I’d exposed at Whitefield, New Hampshire back in October 1992.
At the time I made that image, Whitefield was on the periphery of my photographic territory. I was visiting New England from California where I’d been living for more than three years. I arrived at Whitefield to inspect the famous ball signal, and I was fortunate to catch the New Hampshire & Vermont working with an Alco RS-11.
I never thought that I might be based in New Hampshire in 28 years time and that Whitefield would be in easy reach.
Looking back, I find it fascinating to locate these old chromes and revisit the locations today. It’s a pity that there is much less activity on some lines now. So while the tracks remain at Whitefield, there is virtually no traffic and train movements are exceptionally rare.
Last week photographer Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Whitefield so that I could make a ‘now’ view at the same spot as my 1992 photo. Using my iPhone to access Tracking the Light, I brought up my April 3rd posting and used that to help re-establish my earlier vantage point. The tracks remain in place, although it doesn’t appear that anything has used them in recent times and the crossing protection has been removed.
However, except for the ill-fated Alco RS-11, most of the remaining elements of the scene are still in place.
My friend Dan Howard researched the RS-11 and reported, ‘it went to the Lake State Railway where it became their 1195 and was subsequently scrapped.’
I used my Lumix LX7 to approximate the angle of the 1992 slide, which was exposed with my old Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
I’ll need to try this again, since the lighting was flat in my contemporary view, and my positioning was only about 98 percent correct.
Complicating this comparison is that my notes from the day are in Monson, Mass., which has me guessing on some details.
Just now I was searching for another photo, and I came across this scan from a 35mm black & white negative that I exposed in June 1989.
This was on a routine trip to East Deerfield. It was a foggy morning, as mists clung to the Connecticut River Valley and over Boston & Maine’s sprawling yards behind me.
I was standing at the famous ‘Railfans Bridge’ where countless thousands of photos were exposed over the years (and that’s just my personal collection, not to mention all the photos made by countless other photographers).
I was working with my father’s M3 fitted with a 90mm Leitz telephoto.
At the time, a long-hood forward SD45 at this common location probably didn’t rate my A-list. Yet any SD45 on the move would have warranted my attention.
Look at the old B&M phone box to the left of the locomotives.
When I revue my old photos, I am routinely surprised how the common has become cool.
Yesterday, I described how my SD card disintegrated and how I was able to ultimately retrieve the photos stored on the card.
Below are some of the photos from the card that may have been lost forever.
These represent the more or less routine scenes around Conway Scenic Railroad during last week while we were filming videos for crew training purposes.
The railroad has had to postpone its April reopening because of restrictions imposed to help contain the on-going pandemic. So railroad’s core-staff are using down-time to prepare for re-opening when conditions allow for it.
My Lumix LX7 gets a lot of use. I carry it with me everywhere. Last week while filming training videos at Conway Scenic, I’d been using it to make still photos. However, on Wednesday when I went to download the card to my Macbook, the unexpected occurred.
I removed the card from the Lumix and went to insert it into my card reader. When I did this the plastic split and crumbled and the card broke into several pieces!
This was a first for me!
I tried to reassemble the card and get it back into the card reader, but this didn’t work well enough to allow my computer to read the data stored on the card.
Then I thought I’d try something a bit riskier. I closely examined the remaining pieces of the card (several bits and crumbs had fallen away, including a number of the dividers on the contact portion of the card), and I returned the card to the Lumix. My concern was that I might not be able to get the pieces out again.
I have a cord that allows me to connect the Lumix directly to the MAC. Locating the cord was part of the challenge, and I was hoping this wasn’t among accessories I may have left in Dublin. However after a thorough search, I located the elusive cord and plugged the Lumix in.
To my delight, I was able to check the card on the camera and ultimately successfully download all of the images stored on the defective card.
The lessons from this disaster:
1) SD Cards are fragile.
2) You can retrieve the data from a broken card even when the plastic disintegrates.
3) It helps to have more than one means of retrieving data from your SD card.
4) Using a cord to directly download the card to the computer puts less stress on this ephemeral media storage system.
5) Always back up your SD Cards and download them often.
In the late 1990s, Seattle-based tour operator Great Train Escapes employed me to provide on-board contextual narration to their guests during their autumn rail-based New England excursions.
Part of the journey were trips over the St. Lawrence & Atlantic former Grand Trunk line in Maine and New Hampshire.
On several occasions we boarded the train eastbound at Gorham, where I took the opportunity to expose Fujichrome color slides.
Last week I revisited the old Grand Trunk station and environs at Gorham with fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino, where we met Andrew Dale who reminded me of my earlier visits to the town. This inspired me to dig into the archives to find these vintage photos.
The modern images were expose using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit, while the vintage photos were made with a Nikon.
The Ponte Dom Luis 1 is one of two magnificent Eiffel bridges spanning the Douro in Porto, Portugal.
On this day (April 5th), 2014, I worked with my Canon EOS 7D to make this photograph of a Eurotram crossing the bridge.
Porto is a remarkable and extraordinarily picturesque city.
Fellow photographer Denis McCabe and I were exploring Porto during a week-long photographic journey around Portugal. While the weather was good in the south of the country, it was foggy, raining and overcast in the north.
Portugal is among the countries prominently features in my book; Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe by Kalmbach Books see:
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?
On May 14, 1985, I photographed this Conrail GP10 with a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose working as a local freight toward its interchanged with Pioneer Valley Railroad at Westfield, Massachusetts.
The location is just west of milepost 107 in Westfield. At the right is my father’s 1978 Ford Grenada, which was the car I drove a lot before getting my own set of wheels in 1986.
At the time of this photograph, Conrail rarely assigned GP10s to its New England Division locals, which makes this a relatively unusual photo in my collection.
My new book Conrail and its Predecessors published by Kalmbach Books will be available soon!
It was just a year ago, March 30, 2019, that I exposed this digital image of a Comboios de Portugal (national railway of Portugal) passenger train winding along the picturesque Douro Valley near Aregos .
Denis McCabe and I had spent a week documenting Portuguese railways. Fine weather and excellent scenery combined to make this an enjoyable and successful Iberian adventure.
For this photo, I worked with my compact Lumix LX7. This compact camera produces outstanding results, owing in part to its Leica Vario-Summilux lens. Previously on Tracking the Light I published some of my Douro Valley photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.
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.
Yesterday, David Swirk issued a statement explaining why the Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operations as planned in April. I’ve included an excerpt of the statement below.
In recent weeks, I’ve been continuing to photograph, video record, and prepare advertising materials for the railroad. I’ve included a few photos of the way things appeared at North Conway on March 20, 2020.
We continue to plan for our delayed reopening.
Excerpt of Friday’s statement.
Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operation as planned in April 2020. This is in compliance with the recently issued New Hampshire Stay-at-Home order that is going into effect ll:59 PM Friday, March 27, 2020. This order is in response to the unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that is aimed to end the spread of the disease by restricting public movement and preventing non-essential businesses from opening. Conway Scenic Railroad will continue to closely watch the unfolding events relating to the containment of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
On May 14, 1985, I exposed this photo of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s stored RS-3 203 at the railroad’s Westfield, Massachusetts yard.
PVRR was one of the Pinsley-owned railroads.
In 1985, my photographic efforts were supported by a shoe-string budget. I’d buy bulk 100-foot rolls of 35mm black & white film to roll my own cassettes. At the time I was working with a 1938-vintage Leica 3A with a screw-mount Cannon f1.8 50mm lens.
I’d process the film at college using Kodak D76.
Three decades later I’d scan the negatives. I have hundreds of rolls from that era picturing thousands of scenes, most of which can never be repeated.