So often I’ve heard the following lament, “I saw that once but I didn’t take a photo.”
The other day I was on my way to get a haircut when I passed under New England Central’s 611 departing Palmer, Massachusetts for Brattleboro, Vermont.
The weather was poor, the lighting bland and I had an agenda of things to attend to.
But I had my Lumix LX7 handy and I went after 611 anyway!
My head-on views were not worth describing here. Not today anyway. However, I like this trailing view at Barretts, Massachusetts of New England Central 721, still in Union Pacific paint (but with NECR lettering).
This captures some of the drama of the accelerating freight and makes reasonably good use of the lighting. Afterwards I resumed my mission to get a hair cut.
My point? Whenever possible, regardless of the weather and other things to do, I take the time to make photographs; of railroads and whatever else catches my interest.
The other day, New England Central 611 was struggling. The train had departed Brattleboro, Vermont with a heavy consist. Complicating matters was that the locomotives weren’t cooperating and the rails were damp with lots of freshly fallen leaves.
While this made for a tough morning’s work for the 611 crew, it provided ample opportunities for me to make photographs (and gave good sound show too).
The sun was playing late-autumn hide and seek with the clouds, but at Leverett, Massachusetts I was rewarded by burst of sun.
Many years ago, before my time, there had been a grade crossing a Leverett. Today, Route 63 crosses on a modern concrete overpass fitted with narrow-mesh fences (no use for photography.)
I opted for a location below the bridge (near where the old grade crossing had been) in order to frame up the train in a tree that was still clinging to its rusty leaves.
This was one of burst of exposures I made with my FujiFilm X-T1 Digital camera.
Sometimes its nice to imply location in a photograph. Here, I was really just interested in making a dramatic image of the equipment. It’s not often you get to experience a modern 4-8-4 roaring at you at 40 mph!
Thanks to Pat Yough and Vic Stone for their assistance in finding this location along the Southern Railway.
I was looking for an angle. Actually I saw this view on my first pass through town with Pat Yough on the previous morning.
There were hundreds of folks trackside, dozens up on top of the parking garage, but no one along Grant Avenue in Manassas, Virginia.
Although impressive from every angle, I find that the 611 looks great in profile. Also, I wanted to photograph its train which consisted of several interesting heritage passenger cars.
Vic Stone dropped me on the corner, and I exposed this ordered sequence of images in downtown Manassas using my Fuji X-T1. The exposure was tricky owing to the dark locomotive and the bright morning sky.
While I anticipated the eventual need to adjust the image of 611, these photos were scaled directly from the in-camera Jpgs. I have reversed the order to convey the sense of the train moving forward.
Do you think I should have started this presentation with the tail car?
There’s something catchy about certain engine numbers. Norfolk & Western’s streamlined J-Class 4-8-4 611 is world famous.
A few months back I featured Chicago Metra’s 611, which is an EMD F40C diesel-electric.
So how about an electric with the number 611. Here’s one of Amtrak’s shiny new Siemens-built ACS-64 electrics, number 611, with train 161 at Branford, Connecticut.
It was noon at the Shore Line East station on January 10, 2015 when I exposed a rapid sequence of this modern locomotive.
The tricky part of making the photo was selecting the correct exposure for the window of sun between the overhead bridge and the platform. The sun was bright, but lighting from the side. I made several test photos before the train burst into the scene.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens; f4.5 1/1000th of a second, ISO 200.
For many railway enthusiasts, the number 611 immediately conveys mental images of Norfolk & Western’s magnificent streamlined 4-8-4 steam locomotive. But the number is shared with another interesting engine.
On clear morning in February 2003, I arrived in Chicago on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Marshall W. Beecher met me at Union Station and we set out to explore Chicago’s railroads.
We stopped in at A2 tower, a busy place where the former Chicago & North Western crosses the former Milwaukee Road lines from Union Station. In addition to mainline suburban trains, a yard between the two mainlines west of the tower produces a host of light engine and equipment moves.
Metra 611, one of only a few remain F40Cs, was on its way to the yard. The light was perfect and I made this portrait of the unusual locomotive. The F40C was built in 1974 for Milwaukee Road’s Chicago suburban service and the near cousin to Amtrak’s unsuccessful SDP40F. By 2003 only a few remained in service.
My most recent book Chicago: America’s Railroad Capital is a collaborative project with Michael Blaszak, John Gruber and Chris Guss, and features many one of a kind photographs. It is available now through Voyageur Press. This illustrated volume illustrates the history of Chicago’s railroad from the steam era through the present.
Take a look! Keen observers will find yet another 611 displayed in the book’s pages.
Among the stars of the Streamliner’s at Spencer event was Norfolk & Western 611, one of only a handful of preserved American streamlined steam locomotives. Here’s a sampling of the many images I made, and an excerpt of the text from my book Super Steam published by MBI (out of print), where I detailed the J class. Today the locomotive catches attention for its streamlined shrouds, but there’s a lot more to the N&W J than just good looks:
“Among the most impressive products of N&W’s Roanoke Shops were its 14 Class J 4-8-4s. These spectacular machines defied convention while settting record for performance and reliability. The first five J’s were built during 1941 and 1942, with N&W’s distinctive streamlined shrouds, and featured 27×32 inch cylinders, 70-inch drivers, 107.7 square foot firebox grate, and a huge boiler set for 275 lb. psi operation. As built these locomotives delivered 73,300 lbs. tractive effort. (N&W later increased the boiler pressure to 300 psi, and as result tractive effort was increased to 80,000 lbs.) The J class exhibited all of the trappings of modern locomotive, featuring roller bearings on all axles and reciprocating parts, one-piece cast steel frame, mechanical lubrication and light weight alloy-steel rods . . .”