Six years ago, I made this trailing view of an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner bound for Los Angeles Union Station at Simi Valley, California.
The on-platform infomational signs were scrolling an ominous message about a Metrolink train that had been cancelled because of a mechanical issue. That’s a modern way of saying; ‘the train failed enroute and your going to be late’.
May 4, 1997: I exposed this Fujichrome slide of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (Boston section), train 449 rolling down the Quaboag River Valley near the former Boston & Albany station at West Brimfield, Massachusetts.
This was at a time when the train was carrying a fair amount of freight and mail on the head and tail ends of the passenger consist, and shortly before Amtrak replaced the old EMD F40PHs with new Genesis P42 diesels.
It was just about two years before Conail’s class 1 operations were divided and the old Boston & Albany was conveyed to CSX.
Earlier this month I exposed this view of Amtrak train 57 on the move crossing a fill on the Connecticut River Backwater just south of Brattleboro, Vermont.
There was soft directional lighting with a textured sky. To better balance the exposure I worked with an external graduated neutral density filter positioned over the front element of the lens with the darkest portion of the filter ever the sky.
I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, but the filter helped.
Luckily, I also exposed a black & white photo that I hope to process with my next batch of film!
I was sifting through some old 120 black & white negatives yesterday and found these photographs from a morning’s photography along the old New Haven Railroad in Connecticut from June 1986.
I started the morning in South Norwalk, then moved down to Westport.
Most of the photos from the morning were exposed on Kodachrome slide film, but I made a few select images on Kodak Tri-X using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T using a 645-size ‘superslide’ insert to obtain a rectangular crop.
Most interesting to me now are the views of Amtrak’s eastward mail train behind AEM-7 904. This carried a group of baggage cars at the back including some from VIA Rail.
While I have detailed photographic notes from the day, what I don’t have recorded were my thoughts on the experience at the time. This was one of several similar trips I made to former New Haven electrified territory in the summer of 1986.
I made this telephoto view of a northward Amtrak shuttle (running from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts) using a Nikon F3 with a 105mm lens and loaded with Fuji Acros 100 black & white film.
I like the way the Amtrak train glints in the morning sun.
To maximize tonality and detail, I used a split-development process, first soaking the film in a very dilute mixture of Kodak HC110, then using a more concentrated mix of Rodinal for primary development.
I was having dinner last night at Palmer’s Steaming Tender. I wanted to photograph Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited and hoped only to invest the minimum amount of time away from my meal.
I brought up Amtrak’s App on my iPhone and clicked the ‘status’ icon, then entered ‘Springfield’ in the slot for ‘station’ and under ‘train number’ I entered ‘448’ (the number for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.
The first time I did this, it estimated 448 departing about 4 minutes late. So I checked again in ten minutes. By that time 448 had departed Springfield about 7 minutes late.
I then switched to the asm.transitdocs.com site that offers a ‘live map’ of Amtrak and VIA Rail trains across the continent, and clicked the window for 448. Among the features of this app is that it will show you the actual speed of the train at the time of its last update. The program updates about every five minutes.
I learned that about four minutes after departing Springfield Station 448 was traveling just under 60 mph (it’s maximum allowed speed on the Boston & Albany to Palmer).
From experience, I know that it takes 448 about 18 minutes to reach Palmer from Springfield if nothing unusual occurs. So 15 minutes after its Springfield-departure, I excused myself from dinner and casually walked to my preferred location near the diamond at the westend of the station.
Yesterday I met fellow photographer Mike Gardner at the Steaming Tender restaurant in the old Palmer Union Station for lunch.
I had iced tea and the Reuben.
Except for the New England Central switching all was quiet for the first couple of hours.
Just after 2 pm, I said “Let’s head outside, I have a feeling it’s all about to happen.”
Luck, intuition or experience, call it what you like.
At first the trains didn’t favor the light. A New England Central local crossed the diamond northbound. CSX B740 was working deep in the old Boston & Albany yard. The Mass-Central came down from Ware long-hood first. Then everything stalled.
“I’ll bet everything is waiting for the Lake Shore.”
At 3pm Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited appeared at the east end of the long tangent on the old Boston & Albany. On queue Mike announced, ‘Headlight!’
I made a series of photos of enthusiasts on the old station platform rolling the train by.
After the Lake Shore, the illusion of a lull continued, and most everyone else got bored and left. CSX B740 had pulled up and was poised waiting for signal. Mike and I decided to hold on. And sure enough 15 minutes behind the Lake Shore was a westward CSX freight—Q427.
After this passed, B740 pulled ahead through CP83 and then reverse back into the yard, meanwhile the Mass-Central was getting ready to head back north again.
All in all in was a very successful day in Palmer. But the keys to our success were timing and patience. If you left after the Lake Shore rolled west, you missed most of the show.
On our rambles on Friday July 5, 2019, we paused at the trackside grave yard in West Northfield, Massachusetts (railroad south of the junction at East Northfield), to roll by Amtrak 54, the northward Vermonter.
I was giving my cousin Stella a tour of New England curiosities, sights, and infrastructure.
We’d hoped to catch New England Central’s northward 611, a train that we spotted a few minutes earlier, but we ran out of time before it crossed the Connecticut Bridge (located less than a mile from this spot on NECR’s line that runs between Palmer and East Northfield.)
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
On March 16, 1986, I hiked west of milepost 84 on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route to photograph Amtrak train 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited(Boston section).
This was just a few months before Conrail single tracked the line between Springfield and Palmer, Massachusetts.
I was keen to document the Boston & Albany’s line that passed through the northern reaches of my home town, Monson, Massachusetts, in the railroad’s traditional directional double track configuration.
This lone image is part of my much more extensive project to document the Boston & Albany route on film.
I exposed the photo on 120 roll film using my father’s Rollei Model T. In May 2019, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. For presentation here, I adjusted contrast and exposure using Lightroom.
In late April, Mike Gardner and I made visit to the old graveyard at West Northfield, Massachusetts (south of the junction at East Northfield on the old Boston & Maine), to photograph Amtrak 56 (the Vermonter) on its way to St Albans, Vermont.
Light cloud softened the afternoon sun, which was slightly back-lit at this location for a northward train. To make the most of the old stones and put the entire train in the picture, I opted for my 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
I made minor adjustments to the RAW file in Lightroom to present better contrast in the JPG image presented here.
In late 2017, I got lucky and caught this heritage locomotive on several occasions, after years of it eluding me entirely.
This afternoon (April 24, 2019), thanks to a tip from my friend Paul Goewey, I caught old 156 again, albeit second unit out, on today’s westward Amtrak Lake Shore Limited (Boston section), train 449.
The view is from the bridge over the railroad and Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts.
Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens set to the Velvia color profile. Files exported from the camera as JPGs and scaled using Lightroom for internet presentation. No adjustments to contrast, color or exposure.
Check out my most recent TRAINS Podcast—Conversations with Brian Solomon, where I engage in a lively spontaneous discussion with Trains Magazine editors Angela Pusztai-Pasternak. We talk about Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, CSX and other topics, often taking unexpected tangents.
While the New CT Rail trains tend to capture most of attention on the Springfield-New Haven route (now branded as the ‘Hartford Line’), Amtrak continues to run its shuttles and through trains on the same route.
I made this view last week of Amtrak 490 working northward to Springfield, Massachusetts as it crossed the Connecticut River between Windsor Locks and Warehouse Point.
I like the distant vantage point, using a telephoto lens to feature the small train on the big bridge.
The other evening at the modern Amtrak station in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I set up to photograph Hiawatha Corridor trains during their station stops.
The southward train arrived first, and featured one of the former F40PH diesels, now a cab-control/baggage car in the lead. These are colloquially known as ‘cabbages’, and this one was painted to honor American veterans.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 27mm lens, I set the camera to ISO 6400 and panned the train as it arrived to allow for the effect of motion.
Friday afternoon January 18, 2019, Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I visited Duplainville, Wisconsin to catch Amtrak’s westward Empire builder, train number 7, as it split the signals in a snow squall.
I was delighted to see that the Milwaukee Road-vintage searchlight signals that I remember from my days in Wisconsin (now more than two decades ago) are still active.
The third locomotive in the Builder’s consist was the elusive Amtrak 156, ‘the bloody nose’—so named for its wearing of the 1970s-era Amtrak paint scheme.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto. White balance set to ‘daylight’.
Many years ago, my old pal T.S. Hoover and I would make a project of photographing the old New Haven Railroad during the holiday season.
This past New Years Eve (December 31 2018), I maintained this tradition, although that wasn’t my intent!
I was transferring from Amtrak 405 from Springfield to Amtrak 195 from Boston. Let’s just say the Boston train wasn’t holding to the advertised and I had ample time to wander around and make photographs of the passing action.
New Haven isn’t pretty, high level platforms combined with a plethora of poles, catenary masts, catenary, signs, garbage, stray wires and other visual clutter hasn’t improved this classic setting, but there’s a great variety of equipment on the move.
No GG1s, RDCs, FL9s, E8s or other relics that made this a fascinating place when I was a teenager. For that matter there weren’t any E60s, AEM-7s, F40s or SPV-2000s either.