Tag Archives: Boston & Albany

Correcting a Camel Crossing the Connecticut

At 11:35am on August 18, 1988, I photographed Conrail C32-8 6616 leading MBSE (Middleboro to Selkirk, otherwise known as ‘The Queen’) across the former Boston & Albany bridge over the Connecticut River.

The C32-8s were among the GE’s known as ‘Camels’ because of their humpback appearance.

These were called ‘Classics’ by the folks at GE to distinguish them from the more Spartan DASH-8s produced later.

I’d parked my Dodge Dart in the riverside lot off Route 5, and made my way down to water level, where I exposed this Professional Kodachrome 25 slides.

However, in trying to get as close to the water as possible (without falling in), I managed to lose my sense of level, and the resulting image was several degrees off-axis.

For many years this slide was relegated to binder of my ‘seconds’.

The other night I scanned the slide, corrected the level and improved the color balance. (Professional Kodachrome had a tendency to shift toward the red).

The SD50—my first glimpse

In January 1984, I’d driven my parent’s 1978 gray Ford Grenada to Palmer, Massachusetts.

A set of Conrail light engines blitzed past me, and I chased after them.

In consist was a couple of brand-new EMD SD50s and a few new GE B36-7s.

This was pretty exciting stuff! I was 17 at the time.

I chased east on Routes 20 and 67. At Kings Bridge Road east of Palmer I turned toward Conrail’s Boston & Albany line, but the Conrail engines were too close for me to get a lineside photo. So, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, raised my 1930s-era Leica IIIA and shot through the windshield of the Ford.

My camera was loaded with Kodak Tri-X— film that I later processed in Kodak Microdol-X developer.

Conrail GP40 number 3214 leads a set of eastbound light engines at Kings Bridge Road. This is near the location that later became Conrail’s CP79, about three miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts yard. Kodak Tri-X with Leica IIIA.
I was very excited to catch a glimpse of Conrail 6703, a brand new EMD SD50!
I was very impressed by the length of the SD50s compared with Conrail’s older EMD diesels, including SD40 6268 seen trailing SD50 6718.
At the rear of the set of light engines were these three B36-7s.

Tracking the Light Looks Back 40 years!

Classic Kodachrome—Conrail 6717 leads TV9 at milepost 123.

If I wrote: ‘6717 WB w TV9 mp123 11-13-92’ would it mean anything to anyone but me?

It was a clear morning in November 1992. I’d set up west of Huntington, Massachusetts on Conrail’s Boston Line—the former Boston & Albany mainline grade over Washington Hill.

At that time, intermodal freight TV9 (Beacon Park, Boston to Chicago) routinely made its westward passage through the Berkshires in the morning.

On this particular day, the train was led by SD50 6717. While not unheard of, this was uncommon power for TV9, as in the early 1990s Conrail typically assigned sets of three and four GE C30-7A, C32-8 and C36-7 diesels to most of its Boston Line road freights.

Kodachrome 25 was my standard film. This traditional emulsion made it possible to expose dramatic backlit photos such this one. The nature of the grain structure and Kodachrome process, allowed the film to retain a degree of highlight detail while maintaining a clean edge between light and dark, even in high contrast situations such as this one.

Working with the locomotive exhaust and headlight, I made this dramatic silhouette of the train ascending the grade against a stark autumnal background.

I was working with my Nikon F3T with Nikkor 200mm lens set to f5.6 at 1/125th of second. To minimize flare, I shaded the front element of the lens with my notebook.

Today, the lack of ditchlights really dates the image. By the mid-1990s, ditch lights were standard on most locomotives.

The time was 8:10am. Conrail’s westbound TV9 met the eastbound SEFR near CP123 (just around the bend from my location). The eastbound passed me nine minutes later.

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Amtrak 448 at the Warren Crossovers—1983.

This was a just a routine scene from 40 years ago: Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited (Boston section) train 448 at the Warren Crossovers.

Back in the days when Conrail’s former Boston & Albany was still operated as a traditional directional double-track mainline (under rule 251), there were manual cross-overs at strategic locations, including Warren, Mass.

Historically (pre-1960), the Warren Crossovers also served the Warren Yard and the long unsignaled eastward running track from West Warren that had allowed slow moving freights to keep out of the way of faster eastward trains.

These crossovers were removed after Conrail installed TCS signals and single-tracked the B&A east of Palmer in 1986.

I made these photos on Kodachrome using my Leica 3A during the second week of October 1983.

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More Classic Conrail-‘Look Ma No Ditchlights!’

Recently I retrieved several cartons of slides long stored out of sight.

Most of these were in their original yellow Kodak boxes. By-in-large these are the slides that didn’t meet my exacting standards at the time of exposure.

As I’ve illustrated in previous episodes of Tracking the Light, today these boxes contain lost gems.

A photograph that I rejected 30 years ago for a minor defect may look pretty good today.

This view of Conrail C30-7A No. 6550 eastbound at Palmer, Massachusetts caught my attention. Not only is this the class-leader for one of my favorite Conrail locomotives, but it was exposed in bright October sun in a style much the way I’d like to photograph the train today.

So what was wrong with this photo? Why did this sit in the dark for 33 years? Three points come mind.

One: the photo is ever so slightly off level, probably about 1 degree. Back in the 1990s I was very sensitive about maintaining level. I typically carried a line-level with me at all times and almost always used a tripod to help ensure level. This is less of a problem today because my Nikon Z series and Lumix LX7 both feature a level in the heads up display.

Two: My composition is ever so slightly ‘off’. All things being equal, I should have positioned the camera slightly lower to the ground so that I could see a gap above the top of the rail to more clearly show the wheels better. Also this may have minimized the trees behind the locomotives.

Three: I was a film snob in 1990. Normally, I used Kodachrome 25. But for some season I loaded my camera with Kodachrome 64. I found this film did a poor job of rendering the sky which tended to appear as a greenish blue ‘aqua’ shade rather than the bluer ‘azure’ that was common with K25.

While I can’t do much about problem No. two, fixing the level and adjusting the color profile are easily accomplished in post processing. The top photo is my unaltered original; the bottom is my adjusted version, and I altered the sky to appear more like it would with K25.

Scan from my original Kodachrome 64 slide. This is unaltered (without correction). Exposed using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 Nikkor 200mm lens.
This my corrected version of the orginal scan. My goal was to make it look more like a Kodachrome 25 slide.

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Locomotives—August 27, 2016

Seven years ago today, I caught up with photographer Mike Gardner for a morning of photography near Palmer, Massachusetts.

It was a beautiful and clear sunny New England day. I made these photos using my old FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

New England Central 3039, a former Canadian National GP40-2L at Palmer, Mass. Fuji XT1 w 18-135mm lens set at 104mm f9 1/500, ISO 400.
CSX Q422 eastbound at Warren, Mass. Fuji XT1 w 18-135mm lens set at 123mm f5.6 1/500, ISO 400.
CSX Q422 eastbound at Warren, Mass. Fuji XT1 w 18-135mm lens set at 18.5mm f7.1 1/500, ISO 400.

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CSX RAW and Adjusted

Daybreak on June 15, 2016: I set up in West Warren, Massachusetts to wait for CSX’s westward Q009 intermodal train out of Worcester.

On the long days it was possible to catch this priority train in daylight.

I opted for West Warren to make the most of the scenery in Quaboag River valley.

Shortly after the first rays of sun tickled the old Boston & Albany line, the headlights of Q009 appeared.

I made a burst of photos using my FujiFilm XT1.

Since I made those images eight years ago, I’ve learned to work with the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom and really get the most out of my files.

Below I’ve displayed the unadjusted Fuji RAW file and my adjusted file. Notice the differences in highlight and shadow areas and subtled differences to color saturation.

This is the scaled but otherwise unmodified Fuji RAW file. Notice the highlight and shadow areas. Compare this view with my modified version below.
Working with Adobe Lightroom, I adjusted highlights and shadows to improve detail, while modifying color saturation and color temperature, warming the scene slightly and making the most of mist over the river. I also adjusted the level to correct for my slight tilted original view.

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EMD SW8 at Zylonite

Last night, I interviewed some of my friends at the Berkshire Scenic Railroad via Zoom for an article I’m planning for Trains Magazine.

Among the items on the agenda was a bit of history behind SW8 8619.

Kris and I photographed this historic former New York Central locomotive last May on a trip with the New York Central System Historical Society.

I made this image on Ektachrome slide film with my vintage Nikon F3 during a planned runby at Zylonite, Massachusetts on a vestige of the former Boston & Albany Adams Branch operated on weekends by Berkshire Scenic.

This is one of three former New York Central SW8s that I photographed last Spring!

Exposed on Kodak Ektachrome slide film with a Nikon F3 and 24mm Nikkor Lens—May 2022.

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MBTA at CP 4-Allston, Mass

In preparation for my Keynote speech on the history of New England Railroading to the New England Rail Club last night, I culled through hundreds of representative images.

Ulimately, I displayed 67 slides, including a variety of 19th century views and maps, along with more than a dozen of my own images.

Among the photos that I didn’t display was this photo of an MBTA train taking the crossover on the Boston Line at CP4 near Allston, Massachusetts on October 6, 2011.

My talk was attended by several hundred members of the club and well-received.

Exposed using my Canon 7D with 200mm f2.8 lens.


iPhone photo by Kris Sabbatino

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On This Day; Sunburst & Contrail at Muddy Pond.

On the afternoon of February 28, 2016, I made this wintery view at Muddy Pond near CSX’s summit of the Boston Line.

This is the old Boston & Albany main line, which was once the principal lifeline from Boston to the West.

I wonder where that jet was headed?

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1.

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Conrail at West Warren-from the forgotten chrome file.

Last night I found a box of Kodachrome 25 slides from January 1998 exposed using my original Nikon N90s of trains in New England and Quebec. These were in order of exposure having never been labeled or projected.

The film was processed by A&I Lab in Los Angeles.

I made this view from the South Street bridge in West Warren, Massachusetts of Conrail light engines running west on the Boston Line. To the right of the train is the Quaboag River.

The photo was made in the late light of the day and the shadow from the bridge can be seen in the foreground.

Scan made using a Nikon LS-5000 Scanner driven by VueScan software.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using an Nikon N90S with 50mm Nikkor lens. January 1998.

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Happy 2023!

Tracking the Light wishes you a Happy New Year!

I’m including two photos to usher in 2023. The first is one of the last photos that I made in 2022: a telephoto image of Mount Washington that I made from the viewing area off Route 302 near Bretton Woods yesterday afternoon when Kris and I were returning from Littleton, New Hampshire.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire, as photographed on December 31, 2022. Notice the route of the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

The second image is from a scan that I made yesterday evening of a vintage Kodachrome 25 color slide . I’d exposed this view of Conrail’s PASE (Palmer to Selkirk) on the afternoon of June 1, 1989. This is among my classic chromes and shows Conrail’s 6611, one of ten distinctive GE-built C32-8s that regularly operated over the Boston Line (former Boston & Albany main line) beginning in 1984. My slide had remained in the yellow Kodachrome box from the time it was processed until yesterday.

Conrail PASE was a short-lived symbol freight that forwarded traffic from Palmer, Massachusetts to Selkirk Yard near Albany, New York. This view was made at milepost 84, located within the town of Monson, Mass., just over the Quaboag River from Palmer, which can be seen in the distance.

The BIG event for me on New Year’s Eve was the arrival of my latest camera! I hope to feature photos from this picture making machine over the coming weeks. I’ll reveal details about this new camera in upcoming posts during 2023! Stay tuned . . . .

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Moment in Time-August 14, 1988.

Conrail and the town of Palmer, Massachusetts were replacing the old South Main Street Bridge immediately east of the signals at CP83.

I made this view from the old bridge that was in its final weeks. New retaining walls had just been installed and machinery was working near the old Palmer Union station as Conrail’s eastward SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) took the conrolled siding to make a meet with a set of westward light engines holding on the main track.

The old bridge featured classic wooden decking and makes for an interesting foreground. To make the most of the bridge and railroad code lines, I framed the scene with my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with an f2.0 35mm Summicron.

A Central Vermont local freight was working the interchage track to the right of the Conrail freight.

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Light Matters.

Photography is about light. The quality of light makes a difference.

Below are two photographs made at the same location on the same day and of two very similar trains but under very different lighting condtions.

These were exposed on the same roll of Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon N90S near milepost 130 on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline (less than a mile from the old Middlefield Station).

The first shows a pair of SD80MAC leading symbol freight SEBO (Selkirk to Boston) in bright morning sun at 7:59am. The second shows Conrail symbol freight SESP (Selkirk to West Springfield yard) at 9:56am.

My notes from the day spelled out the difference in one word; “cloud.”

Kodachrome did not handle overcast situations well. Both photos are scaled RAW scans without any adjustment to color, exposure, contrast or sharpness.

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Summer 1988!

Friday evening a winter storm intensified dropping feet of heavy wet snow at Center Conway, New Hampshire. This knocked out electricity and internet, while straining the already inadequate cell phone signal in our area.

Thankfully, Kris invested in a propane fueled external electrical generator which has supplied our house with heat and electricity for the duration of the electrical outage. As I am writing this we still do not have internet and my mobile phone signal can barely support a telephone call, let alone data. So if you are reading this, either internet service was restored or I found an alternative way to transmit.

While enduring the wintery outages, I sorted slides, which has been an on-ongoing project for the last few months. This morning (Sunday December 18, 2022), I found this unusual image.

On July 3, 1988, I was driving west of East Brookfield, Massachusetts on Rt 67 in my 1974 Dodge Dart, when I spotted an eastbound set of Conrail light engines (GE C30-7As) approaching CP64. My Leica M2 fitted with a 90mm Elmarite and loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film was around my neck, so I made this image from the open car window. 

I tried to pan the locomotives, which were going the opposite direction as my car. What I ended up doing was effectively panning the corn in the field between me and the engines, so the foreground and background are blurred, the train is also blurred but at a different rate while there’s a band of corn in the middle ground that is comparatively sharp owing to my efforts to pan the train.

Regardless, this blurred image from nearly 35 years ago captures the Spirit of Summer in my 21st year, a feeling that goes a long way right about now! 

Kodachrome 25 slide from July 3, 1988.

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May 1978-Amtrak 448 Passes Palmer.

In May 1978, my father drove us to Palmer, Massachusetts to watch the passage of the eastward Lake Shore Limited (train 448). I made a series of photos using my pre-war Leica IIIA rangefinder on Kodacolor II color negative film.

This trailing view looks east toward the old South Main Street Bridge and Conrail’s Palmer yard. It looks like something nasty happened to the westward signal (at right). A pair of E8s led the train.

Despite their age, these old color negatives have held up reasonably well. I scanned them in 2016 using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

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Amtrak 448 catches the Glint in Palmer.

Yesterday evening at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts in time-honored tradition, Kris and I rolled by Amtrak 448—the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited

I made these photos with my Lumix LX7. Working from the camera RAW, I made necessary adjustments in Lightroom to control highlight detail, color balance and contrast.

August 12, 2022.
August 12, 2022.

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Amtrak 449 on the eve of Change

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.

Exposed using a Nikon N90S with 80-200mm Nikon zoom.

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June 21, 2011-Crew Change at Palmer, Mass.

Eleven years ago, I made this end of daylight view on the longest day of the year at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

CSX’s westward freight Q423 had stopped to change crews. In those days, Q423 ran from Worcester, Mass., to Selkirk, NY. I cannot recall why the crew was on short time.

I made the exposure using my Canon EOS-7D at 6400 ISO at 1/3 second, f3.5 using a prime 28mm lens.

The Canon 7D is an excellent camera. I’ve had mine for a dozen years and exposed thousands of digital photos with it. It’s higher ISO settings are weak compared with modern cameras. Here the 6400 ISO setting appears relatively pixelated. Yet at the time I was delighted to the ability to use such a fast ISO setting at the twist of a dial.

File adjusted in Lightroom from the Canon 7D camera RAW file. Color, contrast and exposure were modified during post processing.

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Conrail at Electric Light Hill

East of the station and yard at Palmer, Massachusetts, Conrail’s former Boston & Albany passed the abutments of the Southern New England—a pre-World War I railroad scheme aimed at connecting Palmer with Providence.

Bob Buck referred to this location (milepost 81.81/81.82) as Electric Light Hill. It was near a electric substation, and not far from where the old interurban electric line crossed the Quaboag River.

I made these photos on a Spring 1982 evening. Conrail freights had backed up at the block signals, likely because the Central Vermont was occupying the Palmer diamond to the west..

While I recall relatively little about the events, I do remember the excitement of seeing a second headlight to the east after the first westbound had passed me.

I made these photos with my Leica 3A on black & white film, probably Kodak Tri-X, which I would have processed in Kodak Microdol-X. In those days, I had a tendency to over process the film which made for some pretty dense highlights and relatively grainy photos.

Looking west at milepost 81.81; notice the old abutments built to carry the Southern New England.
A second westbound freight was right on the heals of the first.

Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

Berkshire Scenic at Zylonite

Last weekend, Kris and I visited the Berkshire Scenic Railway with the New York Central System Historical Society.

We boarded the BSRy excursion train at Adams, Massachusetts for a short spin up to North Adams and back.

The railway had arranged several photo stops for us. The first of these was at Zylonite, where we paused at the old Boston & Albany station. Clouds parted and the sun emerged. BSRy ran their mixed consist of a former New York Central SW8 diesel hauling two former Lackawanna commuter cars and a Budd RDC. This performed several photo run-bys for passengers.

I exposed these images using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series Nikkor zoom lens. Files were processed and adjusted in Lightroom, where I made nominal corrections to constrast, color temperature, and saturation.

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November Sunshine at South Barre; Mass Central GP38s Working the Old Spur.

Here’s another pair of photos from ‘Super Tuesday’—November 26, 2019.

Fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I mopped up a few nice photographs on the north-end of the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

These images were made on the spur that connects the branch with the Wildwood Reload on the far side of Route 32 at South Barre, Massachusetts.

I made both images using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

November sun; when it shines, it’s brilliant!

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Conversations with Brian Solomon features Scarlet Lamothe.

Steaming Tender general manager Scarlet Lamothe.
Palmer’s Steaming Tender railroad theme restaurant.

My Trains Magazine podcast-series Conversations with Brian Solomon posted its most recent episode, which features Steaming Tender’s general manager Scarlet Lamothe, whom I interviewed in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.

Steaming Tender is the popular railroad themed restaurant located in the old Palmer Union Station near the diamond crossing of CSX’s Boston Line and New England Central.

I speak with Scarlet about the history of the restaurant as a New England Central freight switches nearby.

http://trn.trains.com/photos-videos/2018/09/conversations-with-brian-solomon

Interior view of the Steaming Tender. Lumix LX7 photo.

Steaming Tender at Christmas.

This is my 29thpodcast for Trains Magazine!

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Steaming Tender’s Scarlet Lamothe

Scarlet Lamothe

Yesterday (August 23, 2019) I interviewed Steaming Tender General Manager Scarlet Lamothe for upcoming Trains Magazine podcasts. 

Steaming Tender is the popular railroad themed restaurant located inside the former Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station at the diamond crossing between CSX’s Boston Line and New England Central.  It is open Wednesday to Sunday and is a great venue to enjoy lunch and dinner while watching trains.

See: http/:steamingtender.com

Link to my Trains podcasts:

http://trn.trains.com/photos-videos/2018/09/conversations-with-brian-solomon

I made this photograph using my Lumix LX7 with natural light.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited in the 1980s.

Amtrak 448 approaching milepost 84 in Monson, Massachusetts. March 1986.

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.

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Conrail Classic: Caboose Rolls West.

Check out my selection of Conrail photos on Flicker at:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/163833022@N05/n8ua9g

Conrail westward freight passing the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts. Notice the old freight house at the left. Today there’s a lot more vegetation around the railroad than back in 1984.

On April 18, 1984, I was photographing Conrail’s Boston & Albany at Warren, Massachusetts, an activity that undoubtedly coincided to a visit with my friend Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies.

Early in the afternoon, I caught a westward train with three (then new) SD50s rolling by the old Boston & Albany Warren station.

This was in double-track days, when Conrail still operated train in the current of traffic in accordance with rule 251 and the long established automatic block signals that protected movements on the line.

Cabooses were still the norm on through freights, but not for much longer. Within a few months caboose-less freights would become standard practice on the B&A route and across the Conrail system.

I made this view on Kodak 5060 safety film (Panatomic-X) using my 1930s-era Leica 3A with 50mm f2.0 Summitar lens. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using Kodak Microdol-X and then made the unfortunate choice of storing the negatives in a common paper envelope, which is where they remained until last week.

Panatomic-X. Now if there was one great black & white film, that was it. Slow as molasses, but really great film. It was rated at 32 ISO (or ASA as it was called in those days) and tended to result in some thin negatives, but it gave great tonality, fine grain, and scans very well.

I’m glad I have these negatives, ignored and stored inappropriately for all these years. If only there was still a Conrail, cabooses on the roll, and Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies to tell you all about it!

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Check out my selection of Conrail photos on Flicker at:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/163833022@N05/n8ua9g

Meet at the Diamond!

Conrail’s SBSE (South Braintree to Selkirk) works west as Central Vermont local 561 waits to cross the Palmer diamond on the morning of June 25, 1985. This was 13 months before Conrail single-tracked its former Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield.

Or should I say ‘A diamond meet’? This slide sat for more than 33 years in a box.

At the time of exposure it didn’t seem remarkable; just a back lit view of Conrail B23-7s and Central Vermont Railway GP9s at the Palmer, Massachusetts diamond.

This was a common every day occurrence and the locomotives were among the most frequently seen in the Palmer area in 1985.

I didn’t have the best lens and my exposures were lacking refinement.

Conrail’s SBSE (South Braintree to Selkirk) works west as Central Vermont local 561 waits to cross the Palmer diamond on the morning of June 25, 1985. This was 13 months before Conrail single-tracked its former Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield.

Adjusted version of the above scan; color and contrast corrected for internet viewing.

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February Sunrise and Headlight on the Horizon.


This morning, February 6, 2019, my photography began with this westward view at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

‘Headlight!’ I announced, as I watched the sun tickling the distant hills.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

Paul Goewey and I anticipated the passage of an eastward CSX autorack train.

Sometimes the thrill of photography is that distant twinkle on the horizon and wondering how it will play out.

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Amtrak Lake Shore Limited—Autumnal Scene at West Warren.

Sometimes the classic view is too good to pass up.

The other day clear sunny skies led Mike Gardner and me to West Warren, Massachusetts to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited passing the old mills along the Quaboag River.

This is a scene I’ve often photographed.

Here I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens with the camera set for a Velvia color profile.

Amtrak train 449, the Lake Shore Limited, as seen passing West Warren, Massachusetts in November 2018.

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CSX on this day Five Years Ago-November 2, 2013.

Five years ago today, I made this view of a westward CSX autorack train on the old Boston & Albany near mp 67 from Route 148 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

This was exposed digitally using my Canon EOS 7D with a fixed focal length 200mm ‘prime’ lens. This view is the camera produced JPG, scaled for internet presentation.

November 2, 2013.

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Dusk and Telephoto: or Summer 2018 with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited Part 3.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on July 17, 2018, but owing to unknown technical faults the photos would not display properly. There should be four images displayed below with captions.

Tracking the Light is about process and not every photograph is a stunning success.

This post is part of my on going series of exercises photographing Amtrak’s Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited that is running with extra sleepers as result of the temporary suspension of the New York section owing to Penn-Station repair.

Last week, my father and I drove to West Warren, Massachusetts, this time to photograph the eastward train, Amtrak 448.

The benefit of West Warren is the relatively open view with identifiable features. As mentioned previously, summer photography on the Boston & Albany has been made difficult by prolific plant growth along the line that has obscured many locations.

In this instance, I worked with two cameras; my old Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm zoom, and my FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.

Admittedly, the Canon combination isn’t the sharpest set up, but it allows me to play around with a very long telephoto.

Exposed at ISO 1250 f5.6 1/125th of a second using a Canon 7D with 100-400 images stabilization zoom lens set at 400mm.

This view shows the headend, and the collection of Viewliner sleepers and a diner at the rear of the train, plus B&A milepost 75, but I missed the focus, and overall it suffers from low depth of field and poor sharpness owing to a variety of factors including high ISO and motion blur. Not a calendar contender!

The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.

Same train, same evening, same location; shorter, sharper and faster telephoto lens. But is this a better photo? The whole train is shown, but the image prominently features junk in the background. I’m not thrilled about this one either despite better technical quality.

Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.

Trailing view from the same overhead bridge at West Warren. Here a slightly shorter focal length lens may have better suited the scene. The biggest challenge is the overgrowth along the right of way that obscures the curve to the east and clutters the foreground limiting the view of the waterfall and river, etc. Over the last couple of years this location has really grown in.

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Amtrak, Nose Glint, Sleepers, and a Waterfall.

This summer Amtrak 448/449, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, is the onlysection of the Lake Shore Limited!

 Construction at Penn-Station New York has encouraged Amtrak to cancel the New York section of this popular train, and reassign its Viewliner sleeps to the Boston section.

A clear afternoon had me searching for locations. My first choice was the Tennyville Bridge in Palmer (Rt 32 bridge), but a large quantity of freight cars in Palmer yard discouraged me. My next choice was the field east of Palmer off Rt 67, but I vetoed this place because of excessive brush.

Brush and trees are real problem this time of year along the old Boston & Albany. Not only do the obstruct views of the tracks, but they cast impenetrable dark shadows.

So, I ended up at my standard fall back location at West Warren. Although, I’ve photographed Amtrak 449 here dozens of times, it had several advantages.

It’s a relatively short drive; it has elevation and an unobstructed view of the line from both sides of the tracks; its east-west orientation makes for nice early afternoon lighting; and the waterfall and mills make for an iconic and readily identifiable backdrop.

So, West Warren it was. Again.

I made this sequence with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.

West Warren, Massachusetts is an iconic location on the old Boston & Albany.

By the time Amtrak train 449 reached me, the sun had crossed over to the northside of the tracks. Notice the unfortunate nose-glint’ reflecting off the front of the engine. I tempered this in post processing with an adjustment to the highlight-level.

Here’s the three Viewliner sleepers at the back of the train.

Two difficulties; the nosy angle of the sun made it difficult to get an acceptable broad side angle on the train, so the three sleepers at the back are visually marginalized. Secondly, the wedge angle of the Amtrak P42 front-end kicked back the sun with harsh ‘nose glint’.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Classic Chrome: On this Day in 1988 I had 2020 Vision.

Ok, make that a vision of Conrail 2020.

It was just after 8am on May 27, 1988, when I exposed this portrait (vertical) view of Conrail BAL013 stopped at CP123 east of Chester, Massachusetts.

The sun was perfect and I used this opportunity to make several photos of the train as it held for westward Conrail intermodal freight TV9, which passed CP123 at 8:13am

This is a Kodachrome 25 slide (using the professional PKM emulsion) exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

I scanned the original Kodachrome slide with a Nikon Coolscan5000 scanner using VueScan. Later I scaled the file using Lightroom. I did not alter color balance, contrast, sharpness or other inherent characteristics. The original image has an overall cyan (blue-green) bias that was characteristic of Kodachrome from that period.

I calculated my exposure using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter, and set the camera at f6.3 (half way between the marks for f5.6 and f8) at 1/125thof a second. This was equivalent to my standard exposure for ‘full sun’.

I learned when I moved west that ‘full sun’ is brighter in the Western states than in New England. A bright day in the Nevada desert is a full stop difference than in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

CSX Intermodal on the Edge of Spring.

On my way through Palmer, Massachusetts, I noticed New England Central’s northward 608 blocked at the diamond crossing with CSX’s Boston Line.

That was a good indication that a CSX train might be close.

After a very short wait this eastward CSX intermodal train came into view. It was probably Q012;‑one of several daily trains that runs to Worcester for unloading.

The trees are still bare, but the sun was bright. In just a few more days the trees will begin to leaf, the grass will become green, and Spring will be in the air.

Exposed digitally with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 90mm Fujinon telephoto. I’ve composed the image to take in the old Union Station, now Palmer’s Steaming Tender restaurant, while positioning the lead locomotive between the control signals at CP83, and keeping the horizon in view.

Mid morning light in Palmer, Massachusetts, April 2018.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

CSX in the Snow.

Just an ordinary winter’s day at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.

I made this view of CSX’s B740 using my Lumix LX7 .

Exposing for snow can be tricky. Remember the camera doesn’t know what’s supposed to be white.

One of the advantages of digital photography is the ability to check the exposure on-site. Although this scene had a tricky exposure, I was able to gauge my result at the time of exposure.

Consider the dynamic range of exposure in the this image: note the headlights on the locomotive (which appear brighter than the snow on the ground) and the sky (which is slightly darker than the snow).

Tracking the Light posts daily.

Four Angles on the Same Freight—L427.

Mike Gardner and I stopped in at Hinsdale, Massachusetts and found CSX L427 (Portland, Maine via Pan Am to Selkirk< New York) stopped on the old Boston & Albany mainline waiting for a crew change.

This had a cool all-EMD locomotive consist; SD60M, SD40-2, SD60M. On a line that tends to be dominated by GE diesels, this symmetrical EMD arrangement is unusual.

We took the time to make photos from a variety of angles.

From the gazebo in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.

Hinsdale.

It brightened up briefly for this classic three quarter angle.

I actually exposed more than a dozen photos, but I like these the best.

Why settle for one view when you can have many?