Tag Archives: Batavia

Conrail SD70 Roars West at Batavia!

From late 1998 through early 2000, I was almost continuously on the road.

I made lots of photos, sent them for processing, plucked out a few choice slides for books, slide shows, etc, and then put the rest in a carton which I promptly mis-placed.

I recalled photographing this Conrail westward freight at CP406 in Batavia, New York in January 1999. I’d been traveling with GVT’s local freight with an Alco RS-11. Although one of the photos from this morning was recently published in September Trains Magazine as an illustration for my discussion on Alco diesels, I couldn’t locate the rest of roll, or most of the other photos from that trip! 

In fact many others from 1999 were also beyond reach.

So, Monday (Aug 26, 2019) in my continuing quest for Conrail images, I finally found the long lost box, in it were a great many photos that have remain unseen since the demise of Conrail at the end of May 1999. Twenty years ago.

Conrail’s ‘convention cab’ SD70s were short-lived on the Water Level route east of Cleveland. These were built to Norfolk Southern specs during the Conrail split, assigned NS numbers and then all went to NS following the divide (as intended). This view was one of the only photos I ever made of a Conrail SD70 on the CSX side of Conrail before the split.

It was the last of the Conrail SD70s and only about two months old when I made this photo in January 1999. I think it is safe to say that 2580 was the last New locomotive built for Conrail (as a Class 1 mainline carrier). Thoughts?

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.

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30 years ago today: Conrail Meet at Sunrise on the Water Level Route near Batavia, New York.


Looking at this Conrail photo makes me feel that March 23, 1989 wasn’t that long ago.

I’d left my apartment in Scottsville, New York before dawn and headed west on Rt33 in my white Toyota Corolla.

I knew I had a westbound climbing Batavia Hill—the nominal rise of the Water Level Route that ascended the Niagara Escarpment on the way toward Buffalo.

My Leica M2 was loaded with Kodachrome 200 ‘Fast Kodachrome’ (three stops faster than K25, which was my normal film in 1989).

I parked the car west of Batavia near CP406 (where New York Central’s 1950s track re-alignment to avoid downtown Batavia rejoined the historic railroad route). With time running short, I hike east beneath the code lines and set up my Leica with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto on my Bogen 3021 tripod.

I could hear the slow moving westbound as the sun glimmered above the horizon. But then behind me fast moving eastward stack train blasted for Donahue Road. . .

The headlight of the westbound appeared and over the next few seconds I captured a running meet between the two Conrail trains. K200’s warm color balance and grain structure made for the perfect combination to distill the moment.

Rolling sunrise meet on Conrail’s Water Level Route west of Batavia, New York.

I’ve run this photo in various publications and it’s one of my favorite Water Level Route views.

I spent the rest of the day photographing along the former Erie Railroad, which was alive with trains. I remember it all as if it was yesterday.

Also see my earlier post: ‘The Curse of the Code Lines’ http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2014/11/24/the-curse-of-the-code-lines/

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The Curse of the Code Lines.

Oh the Wonderful Wires!

In the 1980s, I often bemoaned the ‘telegraph wires’ as I called the code lines that lined most mainlines.

Conrail's fomer New York Central main line at Churchville, New York on April 10, 1987. The infamous code lines were lurking on the south side of the tracks. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.
Conrail’s fomer New York Central main line at Churchville, New York on April 10, 1987. The infamous code lines were lurking on the south side of the tracks. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.

It seemed like more often than not, railroads placed these multiple-tier code lines on the south side of their mainlines. This inevitably interfered with my photography and plenty of otherwise good photographic locations were fouled by the rows of poles and the wires between them.

In early 1989, when Conrail was cutting down the old code lines east of Buffalo. I thought, Hurray! Good riddance!

However, I quickly realized how wrong I’d been. In fact I’d been photographing the wires for years.

On the afternoon of February 25, 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide using my college roommates's Canon A1 with 50mm lens; f4.5 1/250th of a second. The poles and wires were my primary subject, the westward Conrail  intermodal train was included for incidental interest.
On the afternoon of February 25, 1987, at Churchville, New York I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide using my college roommates’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens; f4.5 1/250th of a second. The poles and wires were my primary subject, the westward Conrail intermodal train was included for incidental interest.

Yes, the code lines made for a visual challenge. And, undoubtedly these sometimes got in the way. But they were part of the railroad. Traditionally, they were key to its operations and often serving as a crucial part of the signaling system. They had been there since the steam era. After all, the railroad was more than just locomotives rolling along at speed.

It occurred to me how I’d often improved my photographs by working with the wires. The visual elements and patterns added by the army of time-worn polls connected by rows of cables made for more compelling images.

Conrail C30-7A 6593 leads symbol freight PXSE -9 eastbound at mp397 South Byron, New York. Exposed on K25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. 'Full sun setting'-240 foot candles according to my Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Camera set at: f4.5 1/250th of a second.
Conrail C30-7A 6593 leads symbol freight PXSE -9 eastbound at mp397 South Byron, New York. Exposed on K25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. ‘Full sun setting’-240 foot candles according to my Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Camera set at: f4.5 1/250th of a second. Here’s I’ve worked with the code line, using it to frame up the passing freight.

Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York finds PXSE rolling east and SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. For me the code lines and morning glint light made this a favorite sequence. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod. f6.3 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York finds PXSE rolling east and SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. For me the code lines and morning glint light made this a favorite sequence. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod. f6.3 1/250th of a second.

Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York with SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens at f8 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York with SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens at f8 1/250th of a second.

After the code lines were gone, the brush started to grow. And that’s now a much worse photo-hazard than the wires ever were.

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