Back in the mid-1980s, my friends and I made trips to Mechanicville, New York where the adjacent Boston & Maine and Delaware & Hudson yards lent to lots of action and a great variety of diesel locomotives.
The yard was an early casualty of Guilford’s short lived consolidation of B&M and D&H operations. By 1986 the yard was a ghost town.
In more recent times a small portion of the yards were redeveloped for intermodal and auto-rack facilities, but very little of the sprawling trackage remains
In December, I returned to Mechanicville with a Leica IIIA and Sumitar loaded with Kodak Tri-X in an effort to recreate the angles of photos I exposed in November 1984 using the same camera/film combination.
To aid this exercise, I scanned my old negatives and uploaded these to my iPhone. The viewfinder of the Leica IIIA presents difficulties as this is just a tiny window and not well suited to precision composition. (Topic for another day).
Also complicating my comparisons was the fresh layer of snow in the 2017 views.
In some places the only points of reference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ views are the electrical lines crossing the yard.
As a fan of the Erie, I’m drawn to Port Jervis out of curiosity.
Historically this was an important place on the old Erie Railroad. The Erie passed into history years ago, and now Port Jervis is little more than a minor commuter train terminal.
Today, it’s Erie heritage is honored at several locations in the town.
The old turntable west of the Metro-North station was restored in the 1990s. Former Erie E8A locomotive 833 is displayed in Erie paint on the table, with a former Delaware & Hudson RS-3 in a near-Erie livery (lettered for owner New York & Greenwood Lakes) rests nearby.
Several blocks away is the restored Erie Depot and a nearby business styled as the Erie Hotel [http://theeriehotel.com/hotel] that boasts historic links with to Erie passenger travel.
I visited Port Jervis the other day and made these digital photos with my Lumix LX7.
I also a exposed a few color slides and some black & white film (pending processing).
Someone in the administration office at Monson High School may have noted my absence.
But the freshly fallen snow and Alco RS-11s working the road freight to New London distracted me. Really now, I think that making this sequence of photographs was more important than sitting around in some old classroom.
Now, 34 years later I still don’t think I was wrong. Do you?
It was my second visit to Eagle Bridge, New York inside a week.
On this visit, We’d driven here on spec looking for Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction). No luck with that this time, but on arrival I’d noted that there were loaded grain cars on the interchange for the Battenkill Railroad.
Well, the Battenkill is known to run on weekdays; this was a Friday, its interchange had been delivered, but as of 1:30pm the Battenkill hadn’t come down to collect it yet.
The Battenkill’s primary attraction is its continued operation of vintage Alco RS-3 diesels. While the RS-3 was among the most common types built in the 1950s, only a scant few survive in traffic today outside of museums. (Perhaps a reader can supply a list?).
Typically when I post photos under the ‘Classic Chrome’ heading, I use this to infer photos made from decades past.
Sometimes what was good then is good now.
I made these slides earlier this month (February 2016) using my Canon EOS-3 and Fujichrome Provia 100F. The slides arrived back from the lab and I promptly scanned them using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000.
The common qualities of all four images, in addition to the way they were made, is that they feature classic American diesel locomotives in the snow near Eaglebridge, New York.
It was one of those days where I was following my instincts.
As profiled yesterday, we’d started out after the New England Central; diverted to Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, then focused on the westward freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction).
More than 30 years ago, I’d travel to East Deerfield in search of antique locomotives in regular service. My friends and I would delight in finding old EMD switchers, plus GP7s, GP9s, and the rare GP18s at work.
Better were run through freights with Delaware & Hudson Alco diesels. If we found an interesting consist on a westward freight, we’d follow it up toward the Hoosac Tunnel and beyond into Vermont. A good chase would bring us clear to the Hudson River Valley at Mechanicville.
The catch phrase ‘to the River!’ has come mean a day-long chase to the Hudson.
So when Paul Goewey and I started west after the EDRJ on Tuesday February 9, 2016, it was my hope to re-live and re-create one of those great 1980s chases. And, after all this train essentially had a 1970s era lash-up of engines and was well suited to the spirit of the exercise.
After photographing EDRJ at the East Portal of Hoosac Tunnel, we followed the narrow switchback road up the mountain to Route 2, and then drove west from North Adams. We’d heard on the radio that EDRJ was to work at Hoosick Junction and meet the eastward intermodal train symbol 22K.
‘We’ll drive directly to Eaglebridge (New York) and intercept the 22K there.’
When we crested a hill near Eaglebridge, I pointed out the little used tracks of the Battenkill Railroad. Paul said, ‘looks like something has been over the line recently’
And then I saw a wisp of blue smoke (not Merle Travis).
“It’s an Alco!”
Indeed it was. We’d stumbled on to the Battenkill local working with a pure former Delaware & Hudson RS-3.
I’d photographed the Battenkill on various occasions over the years, but always with elaborate planning and careful arrangements. Since neither of us had been to Eaglebridge in many years (at least four for me), to arrive in time to catch this elusive operation was a true find.
The caveat: if we’d stayed with EDRJ we’d missed the Battenkill.
Soon we were ambling up the Hoosic Valley making photographs of one of New York State’s more obscure railways.
Rochester & Southern’s yard at Brooks Avenue was just a ten minute drive from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
When I was in college, I had an open arrangement with the railroad to make photographs, and during the late 1980s I often dropped by to exercise my cameras.
In April 1989, I made these photographs of Genesee & Wyoming Alco C-424M 62 on the Brooks Avenue scale track.
The Alco Century’s well-balanced cab design made these among my favorite classic diesels. I’d photographed the C-424Ms on Delaware & Hudson, Genesee & Wyoming, Guilford, and finally on Livonia, Avon & Lakeville’s Bath & Hammondsport line.
Here I’ve worked the yard office into my composition that makes for nice juxtaposition of shapes. Black & White film handles the backlit situation well and retained detail in shadows and highlights.
Sometimes finding the train is more than half the challenge. On Saturday October 17, 2015, Pat Yough and I had been following the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline with an awareness that Genesee Valley Transportation’s Delaware-Lackawanna was operating its ‘Portland turn’ to interchange with Norfolk Southern.
Finally, we found the train as it was arriving at Slateford Junction.
The attraction of D-L’s freights is that they operate with antique Alco diesels. Alco exited the American locomotive business more than 46 years ago, so finding these old machines hard at work remains a real treat.
While D-L’s portion of the freight movement tends to be well documented in recent years as a function of the Alcos, the Norfolk Southern connection is often ignored. As an historian this bothers me.
I have to admit that I too have been guilty of this photographic censorship. While I’ve photographed the Portland turn on several occasions, I haven’t made much of an effort to seek out the NS portion of this run. That is, until last Saturday.
Pat and I agreed, that if the D-L’s connection with NS were to be moved, photos of the NS at Portland would be a rare commodity indeed. So, while we made a point of catching the Alcos at work, we also went after NS H-76, which featured a nice collection of vintage EMD diesels.
All around it was a successful afternoon. It was also the first time that I’ve photographed the D-L using digital cameras. A fair few years had passed since my last visit!
I made this photograph on April 13, 1984. It was a Friday, and I was then in my final months of my Senior year of High School.
If I recall correctly, in this instance I wasn’t ‘absent’ as Seniors were allowed to leave the school if they didn’t have a class, and there was an even greater freedom permitted on Fridays.
Anyway, I think the Palmer diamonds, where Central Vermont’s line crossed Conrail’s east-west Boston & Albany route was a better place for me to be on that Friday the 13th.
However, this negative was left in the ‘seconds’ file for many years. Not because of the subject matter, or any grave instance caused by the unlucky day. But rather because my processing skills were not yet up to par.
In addition to careless over-processing the negatives in Kodak Microdol-X (which in my view led to a grainy appearance coupled with slightly unpleasant contrast), I managed to add a few strategic scratches and water spots when drying them. Just basic poor handling on my part.
While the scene is fascinating to me now, as it reveals just how much Palmer has changed over the 31 year interval, at the time it was common. It was easier to return to Palmer and expose more negatives, than worry about correcting my processing faults.
Ultimately, I refined my black & white process. Today, using Lightroom, I spent some time to rid the flaws in the original negatives including spots, scratches, contrast, and put the image on level.
I’ve presented four variations beginning with the raw unmodified scan. The fourth represents the most amount of manipulation in post processing.
In February 2010, I was traveling with Chris Guss and Pat Yough when I exposed this Fujichrome slide of Western New York & Pennsylvania’s Driftwood Turn (known as ‘the DFT’) on its northward ascent of the former Pennsylvania Railroad grade over Keating Summit.
Finding an interesting locomotive is always an opportunity for photography. Finding a rare locomotive in crisp October sunshine is a great opportunity!
In October 2008, Pat Yough, Tim Doherty and I found Western New York & Pennsylvania Alco C-430 number 430 at the Olean Yard in Allegany, New York.
I think this locomotive has had more owners than I’ve had automobiles. It began as one of ten C-430s on New York Central, giving that railroad more of this rare model than all the other buyers of the type put together.
The C-430 is an attractive machine and I used the sunshine to good advantage. Here are a few of the studies I made of 430 on that bright morning.
Delaware-Lackawanna shops, Scranton, Pennsylvania, October 13, 2005.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: I was researching and photographing for my book Working on the Railroad, when I made this image in the rain at Scranton.
The former British Columbia Railroad Alco Century was my primary subject. Here the combination of raw unpleasant weather, harsh sodium lighting, and a scene festooned with junk, litter and tired look side tracks meets all the aesthetical requirements for a great photo. No?
On the afternoon of February 6, 2010, Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I were photographing along the former Pennsylvania Railroad at Emporium, Pennsylvania. This route is operated by the Western New York & Pennsylvania, a short line famous for its late-era use of Alco Century diesels.
I was primarily photographing on Fujichrome using my pair of Canon EOS-3, however, I was experimenting with my relatively recently acquired Panasonic Lumix LX3.
Western New York & Pennsylvania’s westward Driftwood Turn (the ‘DFT’) was switching near a grade crossing in nice winter sun. This gave me ample opportunity to try various modes with the Lumix, so I varied the aspect ratio (the parameters of the frame) and sampled various built-in color profiles.
I was curious to see how the camera handled backlighting and flare, so I made a few cross-lit silhouettes to push the limits of exposure. These are a few of my results. The files are unaltered except for scaling for internet display. I haven’t adjusted color or exposure in post processing, nor have I cropped them.
As regular readers of Tracking the Light are aware, since that time, I’ve made great use of the LX3. I wore it out, and a few months ago I replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, which is an even better camera.
In early July 1995, Sean Graham-White and I spent several days working with the Belt Railway of Chicago for an article on Clearing Yard for Pacific RailNews.
At the time, I was PRN’s Associate Editor and Sean was among our regular contributors.
Sean had organized with the railroad for us to interview employees and make photographs. BRC assigned an Assistant Yardmaster to drive us around and provide introductions.
Among the facilities we toured was the KCBX Terminal (a bulk commodity trans-loading facility for barges) that was routinely served by a BRC local.
On July 2, 1995, the local was worked by a pair of BRC’s vintage Alco C-424 diesels. These locomotives were very popular with railway enthusiasts, but could be a bit elusive and hard to find running, unless one was very familiar with Chicago-land operations.
I made a number of images of the Alcos and the facility, but most of these did not run in the magazine article, which instead focused on BRC’s Clearing Yard rather than the Alcos or the KCBX terminal.
In October 2005, I arranged through official channels at Genesee Valley Transportation to ride Delaware-Lackawanna’s trains PT98/PT97, and interview railroaders about their work as part of research for my book Working on the Railroad (published by Voyageur Press in 2006).
On the morning of October 13, 2005, I joined the crew in Scranton for their run to Slateford Junction near Portland, Pennsylvania. After a bit of switching we were on the road. The weather started out dark and damp, and didn’t improve any throughout the day.
The primary emphasis of my trip was the crew and many of my photographs from the day depict engineer Rich Janesko and conductor Shawn Palermo at work. These were featured in the book.
On the return run, I opted to ride in the second locomotive for a little while to make images of the train climbing west through the Delaware Water Gap on the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline. It was on this section that my father had photographed Erie-Lackawanna’s Phoebe Snow more than 40 years earlier.
We departed Slateford Junction in early evening. I exposed this image from the fireman’s side of former Lehigh Valley Alco C-420 number 405. Leading is a former Erie-Lackawanna C-425 (running back on home rails thanks to GVT’s policy of Alco acquisition).
I used my Nikon F3T with an f2.8 24mm lens mounted firmly on a tripod in the cab and set the shutter speed at between ¼ and 1/8th of a second to allow the trees and ground to blur.
I was trying to emulate the effect that Richard Steinheimer achieved on his famous cab ride photos at night in a Milwaukee Road ‘Little Joe’ electric.
View from Delaware-Lackawanna’s westward PT97 at the Delaware Water Gap, west of Slateford Junction, Pennsylvania on October 13, 2005. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T and 24mm lens.
It was a cold and snowy day when I drove from Rochester to Binghamton, New York in December 1986. I photographed several trains along the former Erie Southern Tier route.
In the afternoon, I made this study of a New York, Susquehanna & Western Alco RS-1 at the railroad’s Binghamton yard.
I was using my dad’s Rollei Model T loaded with 120 Kodachrome 64. I had the camera fitted with a ‘Super Slide’ insert that gave me 16 rectangular frames per roll, roughly in the 645 format. Pop had bought the camera in Germany back in 1960.
I think its neat that my father had photographed Susquehanna’s RS-1s in passenger service more than 25 years earlier with the same camera. Since I was only 20 then, it seemed to me that the locomotives (and the Rollei) had been around since the dawn of time!
This batch of Kodak 120 Kodachrome had a tendency to color shift red, so after scanning I made some corrections in post processing. Other than that the image is extremely sharp. Scanned at 4800 dpi as TIF file this is nearly 250 MB. That’s an enormous amount of information.
I’ve always liked locomotive details. Some of my earliest efforts focused on engine shapes.
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By 1997, the QuebecCartier Railway was among the last places in North America where sets of six-motor Alco-designed diesels worked in heavy daily freight service.
This is a remote and isolated line in northern Quebec that extends north from Port Cartier on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence into the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.
George Pitarys and Bill Linley organized a pilgrimage to photograph this remote operation. Getting there from Massachusetts was half the adventure. The two hour drive to George’s place was the first leg. We rented Ford Explorer at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport, then drove north for about 16 hours.
Along the way we collected Bill and fellow photographer Ian at the ferry terminal at Baie-Comeau (they were coming from Nova Scotia.) We stayed at Port Cartier overnight. Our first full day wasn’t blessed with the finest weather, so we focused on some railway activities nearer to Port Cartier, including a tour of the shops of the Quebec, North Shore & Labrador.
After that the skies cleared. To reach the scenic areas of the Quebec Cartier Railway requires a long drive on dirt roads into forest largely populated by swarms of man-eating black flies, thirsty mosquitoes and the occasional moose, but very little else.
Yet, our efforts paid off. We spent several very productive days photographing loaded and empty iron ore trains in the rugged scenery of northern Quebec. This view was made on our second morning.
I exposed this view of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s Alco S-2 switcher with my old Leica 3A on black & white film on October 12, 1984. On the same day, I’d arranged with the railroad to ride this locomotive to Holyoke and back.
It was a memorable trip. In Holyoke we worked the Graham branch that followed the banks of old canals. Several times we had to stop to open and close gates across the line.
I featured this photo in my recent book North American Locomotives that features railroad by railroad locomotive profiles of many different lines. In addition to the Class 1 carriers, I also profiled a variety of smaller lines, many of which are my personal favorites.
In spring 1979, my dad and I visited Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts yard. At the time Palmer activity tended to be nocturnal. A lone RS-11 for The Rocket (Palmer-St Albans, Vermont piggyback) was the only locomotive in town.
I made a few exposures on Kodachrome 64 with my Leica 3A. At the time I was in 7th grade at Monson Junior-Senior High School. Admittedly my photographic skills were rudimentary. The photos are passable, but a decent record of the scene.
I wish I’d made more photos of CV’s piggyback trains. By the time I understood what it was about, it had stopped running. I have a few images of The Rocket on the road, but not very many.
Mike Gardner and I were poking around Scranton on October 14, 1997. Although the foliage was nearing its autumnal peak, the sky was dull, so we were mostly exploring locations.
We drove into this spot along the old Lackawanna triple-track mainline used by Steamtown excursions and Delaware Lackawanna freights. I was curious about the abandoned former Erie line that crosses in the distance on a truss.
Neither of us expected to see a train, but to our surprise this Delaware Lackawanna local returning from Moscow came down grade. Even with 100 speed Fujichrome Provia 100F my exposure was difficult. I think this image was made at f4.0 at 1/60th of second with my Nikon F3T and 80-200mm zoom.
Interestingly, a decade later I made a project of photographing Delaware-Lackawanna operations while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania published by Voyageur Press. Between 2005 and 2007, I traveled about a half dozen times to Scranton and had several very productive chases of trains PT97/PT98 on this route.
Here’s an excerpt from Railroads of Pennsylvania:
Visitors to Steamtown will be pleased to see the occasional passing of freight trains on the old Lackawanna mainline. These are not for demonstration but rather are revenue-earning for profit freight trains operated by Genesee Valley Transportation’s Delaware Lackawanna railroad. Since 1993, Delaware Lackawanna has provided regular freight service in Scranton. Today, the railroad operates on three historic routes. The most significant is eastward on the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline. Here D-L freights share the line with Steamtown excursions, much in the way the historic DL&W’s coal trains shared tracks with its famous Phoebe Snow. Three days a week D-L freights make a round trip eastward over the Poconos, through the Delaware Water Gap to a connection with Norfolk Southern at Slateford Junction near Portland, Pennsylvania.
A Fleeting Glimpse of a Maritime Alco Diesel Oasis.
I featured this image of westward Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia (say it five times fast) freight in my big book Locomotive, published by MBI in 2001. The concept of the book was very large photo reproduction of classic locomotives. There were three sections; steam, diesel and electric.
In July 1997, I made this image on trip with George Pitarys and Bill Linley. George and I had flown to Halifax from Boston. We spent three glorious days photographing in Nova Scotia and did exceptionally well with the CB&CNS. At the time the railroad ran its eastward road freight in the morning and westward train in the afternoon, which favored sun angles most of the day. George and Bill’s expert knowledge of the line allowed us to make the most of every train.
I was especially fascinated by the opportunity to photograph locomotives against the seemingly endless blue waterscape. This elevated location at Cape Jack overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence was one of the best places to make watery vistas. I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia 100F using my Nikon N90s and Nikon f2.8 80-200mm zoom lens. Exposure was calculated using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell and the camera’s internal matrix meter setting.
Here’s an excerpt from my text published in Locomotive:
The CB&CNS was created as the result of CN’s desire to spin-off lightly used feeder lines. Initially the CB&CNS was part of the RailTex family of short lines and acquired by Rail America in 1999. CB&CNS operated from Truro (in western Nova Scotia) to Sydney plus a few short branches. Until 1998, this railroad was one the final strongholds for big MLW-built Alco locomotives. These were regularly assigned to daily through freights. Most were painted in CB&CNS’s attractive black & yellow paint scheme with a large red lion to reflect the region’s Scottish heritage.
In October 1992, Tom Carver advised me to photograph Canadian Pacific’s Lyndonville Subdivision in Northern Vermont. At the time, traffic was down to two or three trains per week. Yet, these always operated with Montreal Locomotive Work’s diesels and despite their infrequency, departed the yard at Newport, Vermont on a predictable schedule.
At the time, I was on one of my extended autumn visits to the Northeast from California, and enjoying the cool air and anticipating the colored foliage characteristic of the season.
I departed Monson, Massachusetts at 4am and drove north on I91 directly to Orleans, Vermont, just a short distance from the yard at Newport. It was a crisp and clear morning. I expected the train to depart at 9 am, and sure enough, by 9:30 it made its appearance. I exposed some very satisfactory slides at Orleans and turned to chase (as per plan).
Although traffic had dwindled, track speed was still pretty quick, and I made a lively pursuit of the train to make more photographs. The single RS-18 was chortling along, belching the occasion puff of exhaust.
At Lyndonville, the train paused to switch, giving me ample opportunity to make photos. This was one of the images I made on Kodachrome 25 with my Nikon F3T.
In July 2012, George Pitarys and I repeated this adventure. This time chasing a Vermont Railway train running from Newport to White River Junction, again making the timed interception at Orleans. Track speeds were slower, and our chase was more relaxed. I’ve not yet made plans for my 2032 chase of the line.