In the 1940s, New York Central photographer Ed Nowak often posed trains near Breakneck Ridge (north of Cold Spring, New York. In the 1960s, my dad made photographs of lightning stripe E-units here. I first visited with my dad and brother in the early 1980s. Back in 1989, I used USGS topographical maps to suss angles from the ridge.
On January 20, 2015, I parked near the north portal of the famous tunnels and followed the designated trail up the side of the ridge. It had been a fair few years since I was here last.
The clouds began to part in the west and for about 45 minutes there was low filtered sun on the rail. I exposed a few color slides and digital images of passing Metro-North and Amtrak trains.
I kept thinking about all the Hudsons, Niagaras, and Mohawks, the General Motors E unit and Alco PA diesels, and even the classic former New Haven FL9s that passed this famous location in former times.
In an era when so many places have changed beyond recognition, it’s nice to be able to visit a spot that looks more or less the way I expect. Even if the locomotives have changed, and the operators are different; the scenery remains some of the finest in the East, and the line is still busy!
It was a hot and humid day. TSH and I were on a New York Central Hudson Division kick. I was working with my father’s Rolleiflex Model T loaded with Verichrome Pan black & white negative film to emulate the style images exposed here decades earlier.
Where in the 1940s, New York Central photographer Ed Novak had made photos of 4-6-4 Hudson and 4-8-4 Niagara type steam locomotives, and in the early 1960s my father had captured New York Central’s E-units with stainless steel streamlined cars, on this day, we had to settle for more modern trains.
I’ve always made it a point to make the most of whatever comes along. We were hoping to make photos of Metro-North’s FL9s, which were then the most interesting locomotives on the line, so far as I was concerned.
When this three-unit set of Budd-SPV2000s rolled by on a shuttle from Poughkeepsie, I framed up the classic view and released the shutter. No regrets now. I Processed the film in D76 using stainless steel tanks. 25 years later I scanned the negatives.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Amtrak Turbotrain Races Southward Along the Hudson
I made this view from a hiking trail on Breakneck Ridge along the Hudson River in August 1989. At the time my standard camera was a Leica M2 that I tended to use with Kodachrome 25. Turbotrains were standard equipment on Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains making for common sights along the Hudson.
While common on this route, Amtrak’s Turbotrains were an anomaly in American operating practice, making them an unusual and worthy subject for photography. These reminded me of the original streamlined trains of the 1930s such as Burlington’s Zephyrs, Illinois Central’s Green Diamond, and New Haven Railroad’s Comet.
Today I’m happy to have a nice selection of these trains at work, but I regret not having traveled on them. I was always puzzled when my fellow photographers opted not to make photos of them. Perhaps Turbotrains seemed too common?