Back in the summer of 1981, I took a Sunday drive with my family. Route 32 bisects Monson, Massachusetts, having come north from New London, Connecticut. On this day, we decided to follow this road north as far as it goes, which brought us to Keene, New Hampshire.
On the way we stopped in Ware and a few other towns.
At Keene, I was fascinated by the Boston & Maine SW1 laying idle in the old yard. At one time, decades earlier, Keene had been a been a B&M hub.
By the time I made these photos, Keene was effectively the end of branch served from the Connecticut River Line at Brattleboro, Vermont via Dole Junction.
Not long after this visit, B&M conveyed operations to the Green Mountain Railroad. Business was sparse and by the mid-1980s operations were discontinued altogether.
I wonder what this scene looks like today?
For years I also wondered what happened to these photographs. I recalled making them, but searches through my negatives failed to locate them. Admittedly my early photographs lacked logical organization.
Finally I found them in the ‘BIG BOX’ of missing negatives located last week.
One hundred and thirty five years ago, the railway station was key to many communities commerce and communications. It offered the connection to the world.
My 1880 Official Guide is a window on the past. The Boston, Barre & Gardner Railroad (among the companies later melded into the Boston & Maine network) schedule lists three trains a day in each direction stopping at Holden, Massachusetts.
Trains ran from Worcester to Winchendon stopping at Holden at 8:28 am, 4:15 pm, and 7 pm, and Winchendon to Worcester at 9:06 am, 1:22 pm, and 7 pm.
Obviously based on this schedule, there was a planned meet between northward and southward trains at the station.
In its heyday, back in 1880 Holden was an important station. It served as a telegraph office and as a transfer point for stagecoaches to Rutland (Massachusetts).
Today the old station is but a relic, the vestige of another time. Its train order signal is no longer part of the rules of operation; and the last passenger train passed in 1953. Yet the railroad remains active.
Providence & Worcester’s freights connect with Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern at Gardner and this has developed as a route for the movement of new automobiles and ethanol moving via the port of Providence, Rhode Island.
Digging through my older photographs, occasionally I come across something really interesting.
I’d exposed this black & white photograph using my father’s Rollei Model T at Bernardston, Massachusetts, where the railroad crossed an old mill dam on a classic stone arch bridge.
Brandon Delaney and I had gone up to Brattleboro, Vermont, where we found a pair of Boston & Maine GP9s working local freight ED-4. I made a number of images of engine 1736 working in the snow. Then we followed the train south into Massachusetts.
Brandon had previously explored this location at Bernardston and so we set up and waited.
For me this is a lesson in balance and composition: By placing the locomotive over the first pier of the bridge rather than allowing it to move further onto the bridge, I’ve created both visual tension and compositional balance.
The GP9 plays off the old mill at the bottom of the bridge to the left, while de-emphasizing the locomotive allows the eye to focus more on the bridge but never so long as to ignore the engine altogether. The bridge, after all, is the main subject, while the locomotive and mill are secondary to the scene.
I’ve been back here several times over the years and the scene has changed. The old mill and mill dam are history. I don’t know if they were washed away in a flood or were deliberately demolished. At the time they offered links to New England’s faded small-scale industrial past.
Today, because the dam is gone the bridge appears taller since the full length of the piers can be followed right in to the river-bed. Trees have encroached on both sides of the bridge, and even in winter, it can be difficult to get more than one locomotive on the structure. Yet, it can still be a great place to pose a train.
Yesterday, April 13, 2013, Pan Am Railways hosted a passenger excursion over the historic Boston & Maine route from Boston to Mechanicville. My father, Richard Jay Solomon, was among the passengers, and he sent me regular updates on his progress. This inspired me to revisit images such as this one.
Scouring the archives, I found this Kodachrome slide from the 1980s. It shows Guilford’s Boston & Maine mainline at Rices, near Charlemont, Massachusetts at 11:05 am on June 26, 1986. A westward freight led by B&M’s lone GP40-2 slug set (on left) is holding at the signals for an eastward train coming from Mechanicville, New York.
This image was never among my best photographs. At the time, I was using my old Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex reflex arrangement. To gauge exposure, I used an antique hand-held General Electric photo cell. The camera arrangement allowed for a sharp image but was awkward to use. More to the point, the meter wasn’t very accurate and my sense for exposure wasn’t highly tuned. As a result, this slide was overexposed, as were most of my efforts from the day.
Thankfully, my choice of film at the time was Kodachrome 64, which was relatively tolerant of inaccurate exposure. So while, this slide appears too bright when projected on screen, the emulsion retained sufficient detail to be recovered digitally. I scanned the slide using my Epson V600 scanner, then corrected for my flawed exposure with Adobe Photoshop by manipulating the ‘Curves’ function. The end result isn’t objectionable.
Exposed on Kodachrome using a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar via a Visoflex.
Picking photos for Tracking the Light can be a challenge. Everyday since March 2013 I’ve posted original photos to this site. That means, come rain or shine, I’ve selected photos and put words to them.
For this post, I though I’d try something a bit different. Rather than work from my semi-organized labeled material, I selected a random box of raw and unsorted slides and just plucked out a photo randomly.
While not the best picture in the box, frame 22 isn’t a bad photo.
I made it on the afternoon of October 13, 2001. Mike Gardner, Tim Doherty and I had been following an empty Mt Tom coal train since it left the plant near Northampton, Massachusetts. We caught it a multitude of locations on Guilford Rail System’s former Boston & Maine.
The last place we photographed this train was at Hoosic Falls, New York. My notes from the day read: “Hoosic Falls in a fascinating little American town—once prosperous, but on a decline . . . certainly worth some photography.”
And so there you go! Random Slide Number 22, displayed and explained.