Saturday, on the final stage of our move from the White Mountains to Pennsylvania Dutch Country, we drove to the White Mountain College for Pets in Holderness, NH to collect Boomer the Dog from his training.
It’s a long drive and we budgeted plenty of time to get there. I used the padding in our schedule to explore a few places on the old B&M Boston, Concord & Montreal route, including the station at Plymouth, NH.
It has been an age since Plymouth was an important place on the old B&M, but the rails, albeit rarely traveled, remain in place. The station building is now occupied by the local seniors center.
The sky was swollen and spitting rain, when I made these photos using my Lumix LX7. (RAW files adjusted in Lightroom)
Strangely, while this was the first time I’d photographed at the Plymouth Station, I had a distinct sense of de ja vu. I can’t explain why.
Yesterday, November 25, 2020, we brought a light engine to Conway, NH to help decorate Conway Scenic Railroad for the holiday season.
At Conway, as we were finishing our decorating, I set up to capture the scene with my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm lens, I heard the characteristic honk!-honk!-honk! of migrating geese . . .
I quickly repositioned and readjusted my zoom to incorporated the V-formation of the birds.
After I arrived back in North Conway, I downloaded the files to my MacBook Pro and adjusted this one to post it on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page and for transmission to the Conway Daily Sun for an up-coming article.
It was a dull day back in April when Kris Sabbatino & I explored the abandoned Boston & Maine right of way near Lisbon, New Hampshire.
This is now a trail.
I recall back in the early 1990s, when short line operator New Hampshire & Vermont was still running trains on this line.
All just a memory now.
I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3.
I then processed the negatives using my special ‘split development’ as previously described on Tracking the Light (two development baths; one hot and weak and active, the other cool and strong to maximize tonality.)
Afterwards, I toned the negatives in a selenium bath mixed 1-9 with water.
On the morning of November 14, 2018, I made these views of Pan Am Railway’s EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland, Maine manifest freight) crossing the Connecticut River as it left it’s western terminus on the old Boston & Maine Railroad Fitchburg route.
This side-lit scene benefitted from diffused directional light and a textured sky.
I exposed the photos using my FujiFilm XT1 and processed the RAW files to reveal maximum shadow and highlight detail while emphasizing the rich morning light.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian Solomon is Traveling.
Tracking the Light aims to Post new material Daily.
History ( and knowing that history) was key to solving the problem, since the answer wasn’t visible in any of the three photos.
To make things a bit more difficult, I didn’t caption the images, however I did offer an array of hints to assist with solving the problem.
I had several very thoughtful guesses, some of which were quite interesting.
Michael Walsh, a regular Tracking the Light viewer, was the first to submit the correct answer along with his explanation.
This is what he wrote:
I reckon the theme may be Pan Am Railways.
The first picture shows the Pan Am building on Park Avenue in New York, which stands behind Grand Central Station. The name, colours and logo of the defunct Pan American World Airways were purchased by Guilford Rail System in 1998 and applied to their rail New England operations in 2006.
The third picture is of exceptional interest. It shows 1926-built combination car 16 of the Springfield Electric Railway, now preserved at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor CT. The 6.5 mile long Springfield line became a subsidiary of the Boston and Maine and was later de-electrified. In 1983, it became part of Guilford, along with the B&M.
The second picture is of North Conway station, on the Conway Scenic Railway. North Conway was near the north end of a lengthy B&M branch from Rochester NH, which connected with the Mountain Division of the Maine Central at Intervale, 7 miles beyond North Conway. The B&M branch and the MC Mountain Division were abandoned by Guilford, but some 50 miles, comprising portions of both lines, survive as the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Michael’s answer is spot on: I have just one small correction and a comment; the north end of B&M’s Conway branch (pictured) was sold before Guilford acquired the B&M. I mention this because in each of the three photos, the subject predates their respective company’s role with Pan Am Railways (just to make the puzzle extra tricky). Also, Springfield Terminal has played an important role in operations across the Guilford/Pan Am Railways system.
Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDBF (East Deerfield to Bellows Falls) working the Connecticut River line at Bernardston, Massachusetts.
I like the technological and geometrical contrasts of boxy General Electric diesels on the 19thcentury stone arch viaduct.
A week ago, Rich Reed, Paul Goewey and I were making a survey of Pan Am/MBTA operations around Fitchburg, Massachusetts, when we came across intermodal freight 22K stopped east of Fitchburg yard.
Driving up to the head-end, we were surprise to find that the train was led by three BNSF Railway GE diesels, with one of the ‘C4’ (model ES44C4; a six-axle/four-motor riding on a variation of the A1A truck) in the lead.
The train was stopped just west of MBTA’s North Leominster platforms to allow the morning commuter rush to pass unimpeded. This gave us ample opportunity to make photographs.
I was keen to show these BNSF locomotives (nearly 1,000 miles from home rails) operating in Boston suburban territory.
Simply photographing the train/engines really wasn’t good enough, since without some geographically identifying feature, these images could be anywhere.
While I made some close photos of the engines for the record, but I also made a point of exposing images that included station signs and other features to positively identify where we were.
One the commuter rush cleared, 22K got permission to proceed and continued east toward its terminus at Ayer, Massachusetts, leading to more photographic opportunities. Stay tuned!
One of MBTA’s HSP-46 diesels leads a mid-morning westward commuter train approaching its station stop in Ayer.
Making effective Midday backlit shots requires challenging photographic techniques.
In this instance, I took an elevated view, slightly over exposed Kodak Tri-X to allow for greater shadow detail while completely cropping the sky to avoid the visual distraction from excessive highlight brightness.
Processing the film was my key for achieving better balance and rich tonality.
Working with Ilford ID-11, I used a 1 to 1 mix with water and lowered the recommended process time for Tri-X from 11 minutes to 7 minutes 45 seconds (at 68.5 degrees F). This lowered the contrast and prevented excessive processing in the highlight areas.
After processing, I toned the negatives with a selenium solution, which give the highlights a slight silvery snap, just enough to make for richer tonality without blowing out all the detail.
My goal was to make the most of the reflections off the rails and the top of the train.
At the end of December 2017, I revisited Mechanicville, New York with an aim of making some contemporary photos at the same angles as images I’d made back in November 1984.
Then and Now comparisons are common enough, but what makes these photos significant is that I’ve exposed both the historic photos as well as the modern images using the same type of film and equipment (a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar loaded with Kodak 35mm Tri-X).
These pairs of photos show the Hansen Road Bridge east of Reynolds, New York, which is just a couple of miles from XO Tower at Mechanicville. In the 1984 views, my friends and I were following an eastward Boston & Maine train.
Back then the B&M route was much busier than it is today, although the line still carries a good share of freight.
Double track from Mechanicville extended east to an interlocking (which I believe was called ‘Schneiders’) east of Reynolds and near Schaghticoke. The main tracks were grade separated on approach to the interlocking, which made this a distinctive location.
In the 33 year interval between photos, the Hansen Road bridge was replaced, which slightly alters the angle for photography.
Back in the mid-1980s, my friends and I made trips to Mechanicville, New York where the adjacent Boston & Maine and Delaware & Hudson yards lent to lots of action and a great variety of diesel locomotives.
The yard was an early casualty of Guilford’s short lived consolidation of B&M and D&H operations. By 1986 the yard was a ghost town.
In more recent times a small portion of the yards were redeveloped for intermodal and auto-rack facilities, but very little of the sprawling trackage remains
In December, I returned to Mechanicville with a Leica IIIA and Sumitar loaded with Kodak Tri-X in an effort to recreate the angles of photos I exposed in November 1984 using the same camera/film combination.
To aid this exercise, I scanned my old negatives and uploaded these to my iPhone. The viewfinder of the Leica IIIA presents difficulties as this is just a tiny window and not well suited to precision composition. (Topic for another day).
Also complicating my comparisons was the fresh layer of snow in the 2017 views.
In some places the only points of reference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ views are the electrical lines crossing the yard.
Yesterday was pretty frosty when I arrived at Eagle Bridge, New York.
I was just passing though, but made time to expose these photos. Not a wheel was turning, so I made these atmospheric images of the derelict Boston & Maine station and environs, demonstrating that you can make interesting railroad photos without a train.
The old Boston & Maine Railroad’s Fitchburg route hugs the Millers River east of Millers Falls as it ascends toward Erving and Athol.
Last week, Paul Goewey and I followed Pan Am’s slow moving eastward unit grain train destined for Ayer, Massachusetts. This had been delayed by telemetry communication problems with its tail end.
A radio telemetry unit is used in place of a caboose on most North American freight trains. This communicates air pressure information relating to the air brake system, and can allow the engineer to set train brakes from the rear end in event of an emergency.
Four former CSX GE-built DASH8-40Cs were leading the train.
We set up near Farley’s, located at a grade crossing a few miles timetable west of Erving, where I made these photos of the train working the grade.
Back-lighted conditions accentuated the drama of the ascent by illuminating the locomotive exhaust.
In March 1984, I borrowed my father’s Rolleiflex Model T and exposed a roll of 120-size Ektachrome of Boston & Maine freights in the Connecticut River Valley.
The Rollei was an old camera and there was nothing electronic on it. Setting the camera was entirely up to the photographer. I was still in high school and my skills at using a hand-held light meter were less than perfect.
In short, the combined effect of snow on the ground and my lack of experience left me with some seriously underexposed medium format transparencies.
I was disappointed with my results and left the uncut film in the box that it was returned to me from the lab. I left them there for 33 years and only re-discovered them a few weeks ago. (Try that with your digital photos. No actually, don’t try that!).
With the technology now at hand I decided to see what I could do to make these photos presentable despite serious underexposure (suffering from receiving insufficient light).
Working with an Epson V750 flatbed scanner, I scanned the transparencies (positive color film) using VueScan 9×64 (version 9.5.91) software.
Scanning, like photography, is an art and I’ve found to make the most effective scans often requires a bit of knowledge and skill.
I’ve worked with both the Epson and VueScan software, and while both produce excellent results, for this effort I chose VueScan because it allowed me greater control of the scanning process.
To extract more information from these difficult photos, I opted to make multi-pass scans, which do a better job of capturing detail in high-lights and shadows. The software combines the data in the final file.
Once scanned, I then imported the Tif files into Lightroom for post processing adjustments. The photos presented here are scaled from the original tif files (which are far too large for internet presentation).
The results are not perfect, but vastly superior to the muddy, dense original chromes.
To allow you to better understand how I’ve set up the scanner with the VueScan software, I’ve included screen shots (above) of the various sub-menus which show the various options and parameters I used.
There is more than one way to make a scan, and I’m sure if I continue to play with these chromes I may get an even better result. However, I have thousands of photographs that need scanning, and I’m limited to 24 hours a day.
Alternatively, I could call this Tracking the Light post, ‘28N at Millers Falls.’
Whichever you like.
So what do you do in a situation where a train is coming directly out of the midday sun?
1) give up.
2) go for a sandwich.
3) take up plane spotting.
4) all of the above.
Or you can try something different.
The other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts I exposed these views looking timetable west on the old Boston & Maine. Train 28N is an eastward autorack destined for Ayer, Massachusetts.
Using a super wide-angle 12mm Zeiss Touit, I set the aperture to the smallest setting (f22), which produces a sunburst effect. To make the most of this effect, I positioned an autumn branch between the camera and the sun.
Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.
The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
Last week, Mike Gardner and I positioned ourselves at Keets Road south of Greenfield, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDPL (East Deerfield Yard to Plainville, Connecticut) had departed East Deerfield and was idling on the Deerfield Loop track waiting to head south.
Finally, the train received the signal to proceed and began its southward trek. In the lead was GP40 352, one of several Pan Am diesels equipped with cab-signal equipment for operation over Amtrak south of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Once on the Connecticut River mainline the engineer opened the throttle to accelerate and his locomotives erupted with an dramatic display of noise and effluence.
Here are two of the views I exposed; a color view made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 fixed telephoto lens, and a black & white view exposed with a Leica on Kodak Tri-X.
This is the third in my series of farewell posts on the famed East Deerfield ‘Railfan’s Bridge.’
The McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era. Work has begun to replace this old span with a new bridge to be located about 40 feet further west.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve exposed a disproportionate number of photos here. Yet, it has remained a good place for railroad photography for several logical reasons:
It’s at a hub; because of the bridge’s location at the west-end of Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, there tends to be a lot of action and opportunities to witness trains here. While waiting along the line can become tiresome, if not tedious, but there’s often something about to happen at East Deerfield.
The location above crossovers at the throat to the yard, this combined with yard leads and engine house tracks, plus the junction with the Deerfield Loop (that connects with the Connecticut River Line) west of the bridge make for some fascinating track work.
Elevation is always a plus.
There’s ample parking nearby.
The light in early morning and late evening here can be excellent. I’ve made some wonderful fog photos here, as well countless morning and evening glint shots. How about blazing foggy glint? Yep done that here too. And about ten days ago I got a rainbow.
The afternoon of June 29, 2017 was dull and overcast. Mike Gardner and I had arrived in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N (carrying autoracks and JB Hunt containers). We’d also heard that its counterpart 287 (empty autoracks from Ayer, Massachusetts) was on its way west.
As it happened the two trains met just east of the bridge.
I exposed a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 21mm Super Angulon lens, while simultaneously working in digitally color with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.
Too many photos here? Undoubtedly. But I bet they age well. Especially when the old vantage point has finally been demolished.
Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s daily blog focused on the nuts and bolts of Railway Photography.
Today’s post explores the former Boston & Maine yard at Shelburne Falls (technically Buckland, but I’ll let the pundits argue that privately), now home to the modest Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. See: http://sftm.org
Last week Mike Gardner visited the site to make photographs of Pan Am Railway’s eastward autorack train symbol 28N. While waiting, I exposed a few views of the disused yard tracks parallel to the old Boston & Maine, now Pan Am, mainline.
Tracking the Light posts something different every day!
June can be a challenging time to make photographs. There can be wonderful rich sun for couple of hours in the morning, and again in the evening, while during the day high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows. (Topics for future posts)
Last week, Rich Reed, Paul Goewey, Felix Legere and I arrived at Ayer, Massachusetts in good morning light.
MBTA and Pan Am Railways kept us busy for a little while. And I made these images using my FujiFilm X-T1.
I gauge my digital exposure using the camera’s histogram (a graph displayed in-camera that shows pixel distribution), and as a result I aim to capture the maximum amount of data by balancing the highlight and shadow areas.
If need be I can then adjust the exposure and contrast in post processing to make for the most visually appealing image without sacrificing the amount data captured
I’ve listed my exposures below each photo to provide a frame of reference.
It always surprises me when I find some vestige of former times that I’ve managed to overlook.
Last week my on the advice of Felix Legere, we explored the old Nashua, Acton & Boston Railroad right of way near Forge Village east of Ayer, Massachusetts.
This 24-mile 19th century railroad was among the lines melded into the Boston & Maine system. In 1875, it carried three passenger trains daily between Nashua and Concord Junction. Near Forge Village it crossed the Stony Brook railroad and a trolley line on an overpass.
The NA&B was an early casualty of Boston & Maine retrenchment and abandoned about 1925.
Today, part of the right of way is maintained as Tom Paul Rail Trail. Felix led our expedition to the railroad’s vintage stone arch bridge over Stony Brook (for which the Stony Brook Railroad was named).
I made the color photos with my FujiFilm X-T1, and the black & white with a Leica IIIa with 50mm Summitar lens.
Three freight railroads, plus Amtrak share the tracks at Bellows Falls. Yet on the morning of my visit last week not a wheel was turning.
I worked with the cosmic morning light to make a few photos of the old station building and the railway environment.
Not all great railway photos need trains. And Tracking the Light is more about the process of making railway photos than simply the execution of ‘great train pictures’.
For these images I worked with my Lumix LX7 (color digital photos) and a Leica 3a with screw-mount 35mm focal length Nikkor lens (black & white photos exposed on Kodak Tri-X and processed in Ilford Perceptol).
I have my favorites. Can you guess which these are?
Two weeks ago, my friend Tim and I made photos of Pan Am Railway’s EDPL crossing the Connecticut River at Holyoke, Massachusetts.
A short history: Back in 1982, Conrail spun off some New England routes, including a group of former New Haven Railroad lines in Connecticut. Providence & Worcester and Boston & Maine were among the lines that picked up former Conrail routes.
A vestige of this acquisition, is Pan Am Railway’s (which operates the old Boston & Maine) East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut freight.
Since this Pan Am freight works over Amtrak’s cab signal equipped Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line, the leading locomotive must be fitted with cab signal equipment on that portion of the run.
Since Pan Am only has a few locomotives so fitted (including MEC 352 seen trailing in this view), so today’s train was led by (leased or borrowed?) Providence & Worcester GP38-2 2009 that has the necessary cab signaling (installed for use on P&W’s North East Corridor freight assignments.)
This has been a common occurrence in recent years. Significantly, P&W has been acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming family, and it will be interesting to see how much longer locomotives will operate in the older P&W livery.
For the record: this photo was made on former Boston & Maine trackage, which is not cab-signal equipped. (Cab signal territory will begin about a dozen miles to the south of this location, once on Amtrak trackage)
Last week, on my way to Greenfield, Massachusetts, I learned there were a pair of westward freights heading over the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) was nearly ready to depart East Deerfield yard, while empty autorack train symbol 287 (coming from Ayer, Massachusetts) was to run around it and proceed west first.
I opted for a different angle, deciding to make photos from the passenger platform built to serve Amtrak’s Vermonter in 2014.
I made these views with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with 18-135mm zoom lens.
Thin morning cloud/haze helped soften the effects of backlighting at this location.
Subtle control in post processing can really make a difference.
These images were adapted from the camera RAW files. I adjusted shadow contrast among other small changes to further balance for backlighting.
There’s nothing like a carefully executed panned photograph to convey a train at speed.
I’ve covered the panning technique a number of times on Tracking the Light; essentially this accomplished by using a comparatively slow shutter speed (in this situation I chose 1/60th of a second) and moving the camera with the subject as it passes through a scene.
The real trick is maintain smooth full-body motion and continue to pan after the shutter is released. Novice pan photographers often violate this rule and stop panning the moment they release the shutter, which tends to result in badly blurred photos.
Yesterday (May 18, 2017) I was traveling with Tim, a friend and fellow photographer, who suggested this location at North Hatfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River line.
Rather than make a conventional image, I opted for a series of panned views, of which this is but one in a sequence.
An old favorite photo location is the Connecticut River bridge at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Earlier this month, photographer Mike Gardner and I caught two freights crossing this traditional span within just a few minutes of each other.
The first was eastward autorack train symbol 28T operating to Ayer, Massachusetts with Norfolk Southern locomotives. A few minutes later, Pan Am freight POED (Portland to East Deerfield) worked west with recently acquired former CSX General Electric DASH8-40Cs.
Historically this was the Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg line; B&M was melded into the Guilford system in the 1980s and in the mid-2000s . Today, Pan Am and Norfolk Southern are partners in operating Boston & Maine lines west of Ayer as Pan Am Southern.
I exposed this view of Boston & Maine GP18 1753 using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar on Kodachrome 64.
The light was diffused by a thin layer of high cloud, which made for a relatively low-contrast scene.
This batch of K64 had a magenta bias resulting in a pinkish hue to the snow and sky.
Using Lightroom, I made several adjustments to scan. By altering the contrast, color temperature and color balance, I produced a JPG file that I feel has a more natural looking image—at least as it appears on my computer screen.
The little town of Eagle Bridge is a eerily fascinating place.
Here the old Boston & Maine station survives as a relic, complete with the mast for the old train order signal.
At Eagle Bridge the Battenkill Railroad’s former Delaware & Hudson line connects with Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine route via a steeply graded junction. The old station sits between the tracks.
I made these views the other day using my Rollei Model T (with Zeiss Tessar lens) loaded with Fomapan Classic (ISO 100).
I processed the film with a Jobo processing machine and Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1 with water) as my primary developer. For added shadow detail, presoaked the film in water-bath mixed with a drop of Kodak HC110.
This was the first time I tried Fomapan 100 in the 120 size format (the Rollei makes 2 1/4 inch square images). These negatives demonstrate great detail, but they needed some nominal adjustment in post processing using Lightroom to manipulate contrast/exposure.
All things being equal I like my chemical process to yield negatives that don’t require post–processing adjustments. However, that level of refinement usually requires a bit of experimentation when using an unfamiliar emulsion type.
Back in 1989, the DASH8-40C was the latest offering from General Electric. In April that year, I photographed some glistening Conrail units at Buffalo’s Bison Yard. Some months later I was delighted to catch a freshly painted CSX DASH8-40C working on the old Baltimore & Ohio at Deshler, Ohio.
Fast forward to 2017; reports of Pan Am’s recent acquisition of 20 former CSX DASH8-40Cs has interested New England railroad observers. I’ll admit, I find it strange that these locomotives causing such a stir.
On Thursday January 5, 2017, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I visited Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard (located near Greenfield, Massachusetts).
Upon our arrival, we saw road freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) getting ready for its westward journey. In the lead was a pair of the ‘New’ DASH8-40Cs.
I learned that this was the first run of these locomotives since arriving on Pan Am a few days earlier. Not to waste an opportunity we geared up for some photography.
And, yes, among the trains we photographed that day was EDRJ (always a favorite train to catch on the scenic westend of the old Boston & Maine). We followed it all the way to Eagle Bridge, New York, ‘new’ GEs in the lead.
Below are a few of the photos I made using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. While we made the most of these old ‘new’ locomotives, in truth we probably would have photographed Pan Am’s EDRJ regardless of its motive power.
Still, I’ll be keen to see these old goats painted in Pan Am blue and white.