Tag Archives: Boston

MBTA Green Line at Cleveland Circle.


Last Saturday evening (May 11, 2019), I exposed these digital photographs of Boston’s MBTA Green Line.

At this location three routes effectively converge which makes it an ideal location for shops and car storage.

Decades ago I’d photograph MBTA’s classic PCCs here. With in a few years of my making those images the PCCs were all but banished to the Red Line Mattapan-Ashmont extension. The PCC’s have since become an icon of that route.

Soon MBTA’s streetcar fleet will undergo another transition that will make last week’s photos seem historic.

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Last Saturday evening (May 11, 2019), I exposed these digital photographs of Boston’s MBTA Green Line.

Bus Meet on Digital Black & White.

Here’s something different. I had my FujiFilm X-T1 set up to record monochrome with a digitally applied red filter to alter the tonality.  Working with a Zeiss 12mm lens, I made this view at Arlington, Massachusetts of two MBTA buses passing on Massachusetts Avenue.

This digital black & white image is unaltered from the camera-produced JPG except for scaling for internet presentation.

How does this black & white compare with film?

It is a lot easier, but is it better?

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Train to Wonderland; Auto Balance.

For real.

I was going to call this Boston Blue Line. But the “Train to Wonderland” sounded more evocative.

Boston’s Blue Line subway offers a great example of when to make good use of a digital camera’s ‘auto white balance’ feature. This is in contrast to yesterday’s post describing when to avoid ‘auto white balance’.

Lumix LX7 set in ‘A’ mode with ISO200 and auto white balance.

Auto white balance is a good tool when exposing photos under fluorescent lighting, where the color balance varies with the color temperature of the bulbs. With this setting the camera will automatically select a neutral white that avoids unnatural tints caused by color-spikes in the bulb’s spectrum. These artificial bias-tints are typically invisible to the eye but produce a strong color cast in photos.

Lumix LX7 set in ‘A’ mode with ISO200 and auto white balance.

Lumix LX7 set in ‘A’ mode with ISO200 and auto white balance.

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Puzzle Revealed: MBTA at South Station.

The other day I posted:

An Unusual Scene: MBTA at South Station, Boston December 2017.

 

With a photo similar to the one below.

What makes this ‘unusual’?

On MBTA, the normal operating practice is have push-pull train-sets with the locomotive on outward end of the train. Thus the locomotives should face away from Boston. This has been the standard practice since the 1990s.

In my photo a locomotive is facing South Station, and that is unusual. While not necessarily unheard of, nor ‘rare’, this is not the usual practice.

I’m not an every day visitor to South Station, but this is the first time I recall seeing an MBTA road-locomotive facing the station since the early 1980s.

What isn’t evident from my photo is that there are actually locomotives on BOTH ends of the train. Which is also unusual. The bottom photo shows the same train set at Worcester, and focuses on the outward facing locomotive.

Quite a few Tracking the Light readers guessed my puzzle correctly. One reader asked why the locomotive is facing the station. I’ll be honest, I don’t know why. However, I can guess. Maybe you can too.

Worcester, Massachusetts.

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An Unusual Scene: MBTA at South Station, Boston December 2017.

I made this night photo at South Station with my Lumix LX7.

Recently I was looking through a MENSA puzzle book that contains nearly impossible puzzles. It inspired me to post this image.

This is an unusual scene for Boston. Keen observers of MBTA operations should be able to spot what makes this an uncommon view. What’s at my back is an important clue.

Do you know what makes this an uncommon photo?

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Nocturnal View—South Station on Atlantic Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

The other night I made this digital photograph of Boston’s South Station.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Touit, I set the ISO to 1600 and handheld the camera at ¼ sec.

I calculated exposure manually using the camera meter, and then intentionally increased the exposure by about ½ stop. (In otherwords I let in more light to the sensor than recommended by the meter).

In post processing, I adjusted contrast and exposure to control highlights and lighten the night sky in order to overcome two of the common failings of night photographs: blasted highlights and excessive inky blackness.

Boston’s South Station facing Atlantic Avenue.

Here’s a screen shot of my reduced Jpg with the EXIF data. This shows how the camera was set. Notice ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, and white balance fields.

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Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017.

On May 6, 2017, I made a few rainy afternoon photos of Boston’s Green Line streetcars along Beacon Street.

These were exposed old school; a Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5, exposure calculated using a hand-held Minolta Mark IV light meter.

In these views, I’ve divided up my frame to account for the white sky and the effect of contrast and tonality. Do you think these photos would work in color?

Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017. Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).

Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).

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MBTA Gone Retro—Looking Back at Park Street.

Yesterday’s post featured contemporary views of MBTA’s Park Street Station in Boston. See: http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4Pk

Today’s post goes back in time.

I made this view of an Arborway-bound PCC car about 1980. I’d exposed the photo using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar, probably on Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.

I  scanned this from a print I made back in the day. During that period (1978-1982) I often traveled with my father to Boston and I made a lot of photos of MBTA transit operations. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep precise notes on this print.

Here’s one of the photos displayed yesterday for comparison.

Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

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Lumix Underground; MBTA Park Street—Boston, Massachusetts.

Earlier in the month, I changed from the Red Line to the Green Line at Park Street, reminding me of visits to Boston decades earlier.

I don’t ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway often anymore so it’s something of a novelty when I visit.

These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 with the white balance set to ‘auto’ (key to help balancing the variety of artificial light in the station).

Lumix set at 80 ISO.

Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

There are not many subways where you are allowed to cross the tracks at grade.

Waiting for a southbound Red Line train.

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South Station, Boston, Massachusetts—in B&W and Color.

I rarely travel with just one camera.

These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.

On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.

So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

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Cleveland Circle-A Moment in Time.

In March 1982, I exposed these photographs of MBTA Green Line PCCs taking the corner at Boston’s Cleveland Circle.

The relative proximity of three Green Line trolley routes at Cleveland Circle made this an ideal place to photograph streetcars since there was lots of trackage and variety of action.

The streetcars pictured had just finished their run and were turning into the storage/staging area at the end of Green Line’s ‘C’ route.

By this time MBTA’s old PCC cars were nearing the end of their regular service on Green Line routes, which made them an added attraction for me. The cars were tired and battered from decades of hard service yet soldiered on.

A tired old Presidents’ Conference Committee car has just finished its outbound run.

Check out the ad at the back of the trolley.

Today, it’s the period signs that make the photos interesting. Look at the ad for ‘Peoples Express’ on the back of one of the streetcars. Also, the cinema is advertising ‘Chariots of Fire’ among other films from 35 years ago.

Here’s an enlargement of the above photo that better shows the cinema sign.

I exposed these images on Ilford HP5 using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. Unfortunately, I processed the film in Kodak Microdol-X. This developer offered very fine grain, but at the expense of tonality. It was tricky to get the timing right, and in this case I left the film in the developer too long. The result is that negatives display excessive contrast and blocked up highlights.

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Is this the Slowest Light Rail Line in North America?

My father and I were surprised at the glacial speed of MBTA’s Commonwealth Avenue line when we rode from Park Street to Boston College and back last May.

Must Boston’s streetcars travel so slowly? By comparison take Prague’s nimble trams that whisk passengers through the city’s streets. There’s a lesson to be learned.

Pedestrians observe MBTA streetcars near the Boston College terminus in June 2016. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.
Pedestrians observe MBTA streetcars near the Boston College terminus in June 2016. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

prague_12_oct_2016brian_solomon_331698
Tata Tram in Prague, Czech Republic, October 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 (ISO 400) using a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

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MBTA at Dusk, South Station, Boston 1978.

On an evening in 1978 my father and I visited South Station, Boston.

It was very different then; much quieter, low level platforms, no electrification, mechanical semaphores controlled movements on the approach to platforms.

I’d fitted my dad’s 21mm Super Angulon to my Leica 3A. I exposed several Kodachrome slides by resting the camera on something solid and making a 1 second exposure (or so).

I didn’t understand the concept of reciprocity failure, and so even though I’d taken the light reading of the hand-held Weston Master V literally, most of the slides were underexposed (too dark).

This one was the best of the lot, and in my early years was among my favorite railway photos.

In the interval since I made this image, I’ve perfected my night photography technique.

mbta_1004_south_station_1978_kr_21mm_briansolomon589779
MBTA F40PH 1004 was nearly new at the time of this 1978 photograph. I’ve lightened the shadows a little bit for improved presentation here. This slide projects well despite its age, and my formative understanding of the peculiarities of exposing Kodachrome in low light.

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Green Line Elevated; The Way It was.

Among my themes in Tracking the Light has been; Anticipating Change and Acting on it.

It is easy to sit back in your easy chair and pontificate about the potential for change. Or go from day to day without ever thinking about the effects of change.

Yet, looking back at old photos, what so often catches our interest is how things have changed.

When I was a kid, I’d look back at my father’s photos, exposed 10-20 years earlier and marvel at the changes that had transpired. Amtrak had ended the age of privately operated passenger trains. Conrail and other mergers had swept away many of the classic railroads that appeared in those old images.

Having only lived a few years, it was my mistaken belief that all change was in the past.

Fast forward to 1999. My friend Mike Gardner dropped me in Boston. I was on my way to London and had several hours before my flight. Tim Doherty suggest I make some photos of the Green Line elevated near North Station, which was then due to be replaced.

At the time I thought, “Hmm, but I have plenty of photos of the old El.” True, but these images were already more than a decade out of date. Green Line had introduced a new livery, and most of my views featured PCCs and 1970s-era Boeing-Vertol LRVs.

I made the effort and exposed several color slides of Green Line cars squealing along the old elevated line. I’m glad I did; as predicted the El was removed and these views can never be repeated.

Sometime after I made this slide of Green Line cars on the El, MBTA discontinued operation of the old elevated line in front of North Station. Today the scene is completely changed. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon.
Sometime after I made this slide of Green Line cars on the El, MBTA discontinued operation of the old elevated line in front of North Station. Today the scene is completely changed. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon.

Look around you, anticipate change and make photographs. What you see today may soon be different. Sometimes change is easy to predict; other times it occurs with little warning.

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Boston Green Line Déjà vu.

After a long interval (33 years), I took a spin out the full length of MBTA’s Commonwealth Avenue Line.

On this most recent trip, my father and I rode from Park Street to the end of the line, made a few photos and returned to Copley.

The trip was longer than I remember; did the trolleys always crawl along the way they do now?

Here are two views from the front of the cars, exposed 33 years and a couple of blocks apart.

View from the front of a Boeing-Vertol LRV on June 19, 1983. Exposed on Ektachrome using a Leica 3A.
View from the front of a Boeing-Vertol LRV on June 19, 1983. Exposed on Ektachrome using a Leica 3A.

View at Boston College on June 25, 2016. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.
View at Boston College on June 25, 2016. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

Hmm.

Today, Tracking the Light Looks Back!

Conrail Classic: Beacon Park Yard, November 1987.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.

This Kodachrome slide represents a memory of how things were:

Back when Conrail operated the old Boston & Albany.

Back when Boston’s Beacon Park was an active yard.

I passed this location on the Logan Express bus from Framingham the other day. It is much changed

The tracks at CP4 were being re-aligned.

A few years back CSX had come to an arrangement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and agreed to close the yard.

Now at Beacon Park the remaining yard tracks are weed grown and vacant.

Intermodal trains now only run as far east as Worcester where a new, expanded yard was constructed during 2011-2012 to take the place of Beacon Park.

What little carload freight CSX has in Boston is handled by a local freight.

I’d be willing to bet that today more freight moves through the interchange at Palmer than is generated in Boston.

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Providence & Worcester on the Boston, Barre & Gardner—February 11, 2016.

The old Boston, Barre & Gardner Railroad was a 19th century line that ran from Worcester, Massachusetts to Peterboro, New Hampshire.

Today, the bottom portion of the line serves Providence & Worcester’s through connection with Pan Am Railways at Gardner.

Last fall I explored this line between Holden and Gardner looking for locations.

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Mike Gardner and I arrived at Gardner in time to find Pan Am’s ED-8 making a drop for the P&W. Earlier, another train, probably symbol 28N had dropped autoracks, so the yard was nearly full of cars.

Based on past experience, I quickly surmised that the P&W hadn’t arrived from Worcester yet. So after a quick lunch, we started working our way south against the train.

Looking toward Worcester at Old Colony Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Looking toward Worcester at Old Colony Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

North of Princeton, Massachusetts there are several grade crossing with nicely curving track. The snow covered ground made for Christmas card scene.

Mike and I didn’t have to wait long before P&W’s symbol freight WOGR (Worcester to Gardner) came charging northward. We were impressed by the length of the train. One unit was at the head-end with a second locomotive at the back of the train.

P&W's northward WOGR blasts for the rural crossing. This was an impressive freight carrying mixed freight and auto racks for interchange with Pan Am.
P&W’s northward WOGR blasts for the rural crossing. This was an impressive freight carrying mixed freight and auto racks for interchange with Pan Am.

P&W_WOGR_w_4005_at_Old_Colony_Road_north_of_Princeton_MA_DSCF1182

Old Colony Road. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Old Colony Road. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Trailing view of the General Electric B39-8 at the back of the train. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

P&W works at Gardner to put together its southward freight. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
P&W works at Gardner to put together its southward freight. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

Southbound the train was even more impressive, but it required about 3 hours of switching to put it all together.

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MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont PCCs in the Digital Era.

 

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s Tracking the Light post featuring vintage Ektachrome slides of Boston’s MBTA Mattapan-Ashmont PCCs from the late 1970s, I thought I’d present some of the images of this classic transit operation that I’ve made in the digital era.

I’ve featured this colorful trolley line about a once a year in Tracking the Light, but since the topic is timely as operation of the historic cars now appears to be under threat, I thought a Mattapan-Ashmont PCC review might be of interest.

Looking toward Ashmont from Cedar Grove. The Mattapab-Ashmont trolley line serves as an extension of MBTA's Red Line. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
Looking toward Ashmont from Cedar Grove. The Mattapab-Ashmont trolley line serves as an extension of MBTA’s Red Line. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.

A classically painted PCC approaches Cedar Grove. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast adjusted in post processing.
A classically painted PCC approaches Cedar Grove. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast adjusted in post processing.

Milton was the station I featured in Wednesday's post showing the old trackage arrangement. This showed some PFE refrigerator cars delivered by Conrail on freight trackage that is now just a memory. Canon EOS7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
Milton was the station I featured in Wednesday’s post showing the old trackage arrangement. The 1979 view showed some PFE refrigerator cars delivered by Conrail on freight trackage that is now just a memory. Canon EOS7D with 40mm Pancake lens.

A Mattapan bound car approaches Central Avenue. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
A Mattapan bound car approaches Central Avenue. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.

On an overcast May day, an MBTA PCC crosses Central Avenue. I like the contrast between the six decades old streetcar with modern automobiles. How much longer will scenes like this be possible on MBTA? Lumix LX7 photo.
On an overcast May day, an MBTA PCC crosses Central Avenue. I like the contrast between the six decades old streetcar with modern automobiles. How much longer will scenes like this be possible on MBTA? Lumix LX7 photo.

Careful inspection will reveal vestiges of the old New Haven Railroad freight trackage that ran parallel to the trolley line. Lumix LX7 photo.
Careful inspection will reveal vestiges of the old New Haven Railroad freight trackage that ran parallel to the trolley line. Lumix LX7 photo.

Mattapan is on the Red Line, served via vintage PCCs—at least for now.
Mattapan is on the Red Line, served via vintage PCCs—at least for now. Lumix LX7 photo.

It's an era steeped in history, so it will be shame to see the old cars go. This is Boston's equivalent of San Francisco's Cable Cars—antique streetcars maintained for a modern application. LX7 photo.
It’s an era steeped in history, so it will be shame to see the old cars go. This is Boston’s equivalent of San Francisco’s Cable Cars—antique streetcars maintained for a modern application. LX7 photo.

Also see:

Boston’s Time Machine. Step back 30, 40, 50 years!

MBTA-Boston: Traction Orange PCCs.

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PCCs on MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley—Looking Back.

Recently, the TRAINS Newswire published a story on MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley line warning of the possible demise of the historic PCC cars and possibly of the trolley line itself. (The ‘bus’ word was uttered!)

So, the word is out, if Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley is something you want to see, DON’T Wait.

I recalled an early visit to this line with my father on a May Sunday in 1979. This was back when former Dallas double-ended PCCs dominated operations on the line, and the cars were largely painted red to reflect their operation as an extension of the Red Line.

Today, I find it fascinating to look back on these photos. I couldn’t have anticipated back then that more than 36 years later, old PCCs would still be working the line, albeit with different cars.

This old Type 3 car caught my attention. I'd seen these on the Green Line years earlier and always want to inspect one up close.
This old Type 3 car caught my attention. I’d seen these on the Green Line years earlier and always want to inspect one up close.

Since my 1979 visit MBTA eliminated the classic trolley shelter at Mattapan and sent many of the double-ended cars to the scrapper.
Since my 1979 visit MBTA eliminated the classic trolley shelter at Mattapan and sent many of the double-ended cars to the scrapper.

However, from strictly a photographic point of view, what is now most interesting to me is that I knew virtually nothing of the ‘rules of photography’ , other than a rudimentary understanding of how to work my father’s Weston Master III light meter and translate the settings it offered to my Leica 3A.

No one had ever told me about three-quarter angles, or where the sun was ‘supposed to be’. Front-lighting, back-lighting, and side-lighting were foreign words. I was blind as to the relative importance of foreground and background, and I didn’t known that ‘good’ photos were only made with Kodachrome, and I knew nothing about the compositional ratios of 2/3s, or any of the other stuff that later influenced my photography.

Here were trolley cars and lots of them. What's that Green car doing back there I wondered?
Here were trolley cars and lots of them. What’s that Green car doing back there I wondered?

Honestly, as record of the scene, my raw unfettered, uninformed approach has a great appeal to me today. Had I known those things, I may have exposed less interesting images.

What you see here are the inspired views of an enthusiastic 12-year old exposed using a Leica with a 50mm Summitar lens on Ektachrome film.

Another view of the snow plow. Too much foreground? Lighting all 'wrong', just pitch this one in the bin.
Another view of the snow plow. Too much foreground? Lighting all ‘wrong’, just pitch this one in the bin.

If the cars were double-ended, why do they spin them around on a loop. I couldn't make heads or tails of this.
If the cars are double-ended, why do they spin them around on a loop. I couldn’t make heads or tails of this.

I might not have known what I was doing, but I was visionary. I was fascinated by the 'heavy rail' tracks on both sides of the trolley line. Here is evidence that Conrail was still serving the former New Haven branch as far as Milton. There's virtually no evidence of the freight operation today, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure out where the tracks were. Notice that I didn't allow a PCC to interfere with the scene: this was about the PFE refers!
I might not have known what I was doing, but I was visionary. I was fascinated by the ‘heavy rail’ tracks on both sides of the trolley line. Here is evidence that Conrail was still serving the former New Haven branch as far as Milton. There’s virtually no evidence of the freight operation today, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure out where the tracks were. Notice that I didn’t allow a PCC to interfere with the scene: this was about the PFE refers!

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Historic Relic; old Railway Station at Holden, Massachusetts.

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.

The old Boston & Maine station at Holden is a reminder of earlier times. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
The old Boston & Maine station at Holden is a reminder of earlier times. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

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.

Providence & Worcester's southward freight symbol GRWO shakes the walls of the old station. Don't wait here for a 4-4-0 with combine coach on the 4:15 pm train to Winchendon. (It doesn't run any more).
Providence & Worcester’s southward freight symbol GRWO shakes the walls of the old station. Don’t wait here for a 4-4-0 with combine coach on the 4:15 pm train to Winchendon. (It doesn’t run any more).

My book, Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals features a variety of railway stations in New England, across America and around the world. It was published by Voyageur Press this year and is available from Amazon and other outlets.

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In all these Years, We’d Never seen this before!

It is always a delight to stumble upon something relatively unusual and have the foresight and knowledge to make the most of the opportunity.

The old Boston, Barre & Gardner was among the railroads gobbled up by the growing Boston & Maine during the golden years of American railroads. The line primarily extended from Worcester to Gardner and beyond to Peterboro, New Hampshire.

Historically, the route crossed B&M’s Fitchburg line on a set of diamonds in front of the Gardner station. Back in 1880, three passenger trains a day served the 27 miles between Worcester and Gardner.

By the 1950s, one lonely train covered the run, and this made its final journey on March 7, 1953. Check out Robert Willoughby Jones’ book Boston & Maine: Forest, River and Mountain for photos.

These days, the line between Worcester and Gardner is operated by Providence & Worcester, and I’ve featured it on several occasions on Tracking the Light, while a short vestige of the north end of the route extends from a connection with Pan Am Southern in Gardner to a shipper a short distance away.

A vestige of the old Boston, Barre & Gardner makes for a little bit of living history.
A vestige of the old Boston, Barre & Gardner makes for a little bit of living history.

Pan Am Railway's F1-1 is a local based out of Fitchburg and works this rarely used section of line as required.
Pan Am Railway’s F1-1 is a local based out of Fitchburg and works this rarely used section of line as required.

Last week, Bob Arnold, Paul Goewey and I were photographing in Gardner when we noticed the flange ways were clear on this rarely used stub branch. ‘There’s got to be an engine up the line,’ I said, and we went to investigate.

We found our quarry, and waited for the locomotive to return.

A lone GP40 eases its way down the branch passed a furniture store.
A lone GP40 eases its way down the branch passed a furniture store.

The locomotive crosses Main Street in Gardner, near the corner of Chestnut.
The locomotive crosses Main Street in Gardner, near the corner of Chestnut.

The Furniture Center is among the buildings that feature in old photos of the branch crossing B&M's Fitchburg Division mainline. This image required a bit of post processing contrast adjustment to retain detail in the deep shadows of the charcoal painted locomotive and the bright highlights of the building beyond.
The Furniture Center is among the buildings that feature in old photos of the branch crossing B&M’s Fitchburg Division mainline. This image required a bit of post processing contrast adjustment to retain detail in the deep shadows of the charcoal painted locomotive and the bright highlights of the building beyond.

As I explained to a friend later: this operation might happen every Monday, or only on odd number days following a full moon in months ending in the letter ‘R’, but in more than 30 years of photography in the area, none of us had ever seen it before.

Hooray for fortuity!

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Providence & Worcester’s former Santa Fe DASH8-40BW catches the Autumn Sun.

Common on the Class 1 carriers, but still relatively rare on regional and short line roads; North American Safety Cab diesels.

On October 30, 2015, I exposed these images of Providence & Worcester’s symbol freight GRWO (Gardner to Worcester) working south at Union Street in Gardner on the old Boston, Barre & Gardner line.

P&W GRWO approaches Union Street in Gardner, Massachusetts.
P&W GRWO approaches Union Street in Gardner, Massachusetts.

P&W_GRWO_Union_St_Gardner_vert_DSCF6040
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

Cross lighting favored the ‘widenose’ cab, which is brightly lit against a backdrop of late season autumn color. The dark shadow of the train makes for stark contrast and helps draw attention to the main subject.

Since the train was moving relatively slowly, I had ample time to compose several views of it, working both in the horizontal and vertical formats.

Would views from this angle have the same impact with the older styles of locomotive cabs?

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Brian’s Boston Blue Line Views

I hadn’t explored Boston’s Blue since 1999, so the other day while waiting for a flight at Logan airport I took a spin over the length of the line.

History lessons are on display at many Blue Line stations.
History lessons are on display at many Blue Line stations.

Blue Line train at Airport Station.
Blue Line train at Airport Station.

The Blue Line has its origins with one of America’s most unusual suburban railways, the narrow gauge Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn. At one time, beyond living memory, this was operated using a fleet of Mason Bogie engines, a peculiar type derived from the English Fairlie.

Later the route was electrified.

Historic views posted in MBTA’s modern station and architectural details hint at this once wonderful railway.

It remains a peculiar operation because of its blend of third rail and electric overhead. At the airport station you can witness the transition between electrical systems.

I found train frequency excellent, with cars passing in both directions about every four minutes.

These photos exposed with my ever versatile Panasonic Lumic LX7.

The connection from Blue Line's Airport Station to Logan involves one of these vehicles.
The connection from Blue Line’s Airport Station to Logan involves one of these vehicles.

A train to Wonderland arrives at the Airport Station drawing current from the overhead lines. I didn't meet Alice at Wonderland. No white rabbit either. However a few passengers could consider hatting as a trade.
A train to Wonderland arrives at the Airport Station drawing current from the overhead lines. I didn’t meet Alice at Wonderland. No white rabbit either. However, a few Blue Line passengers may consider  millinery (hatting) as a trade.

State Street Boston. A good service on the Blue Line. Not so good on the Orange Line, though.
State Street Boston. A good service on the Blue Line. Not so good on the Orange Line, though.

Nice new cars.
Nice new cars.

Beachmont Station incorporates visual elements that hark back to steam days on the BRB&L.
Beachmont Station incorporates visual elements that hark back to steam days on the BRB&L.

MBTA_Blue_Line_Beachmont_Station_details_P1280092

Beachmont.
Beachmont.

Someone somewhere is being cute: the Blue Line cars are in the 0700-series. This one is 0707. I also noted 0727, 0747, and etc. Funny these cars don't run to Riverside!
Someone somewhere is being cute: the Blue Line cars are in the 0700-series. This one is 0707. I also noted 0727, 0747, etc. Funny these cars don’t run to Riverside!

0707 at the Airport Station. I've a nice photo of an old Boeing at Rochester, New York. Perhaps for a future post.
0707 at the Airport Station. I’ve a nice photo of an old Boeing at Rochester, New York. Perhaps for a future post.

SERVICE NOTICE: Brian is presently traveling and Tracking the Light may post at irregular times as a result.

Tracking the Light normally posts original content on a daily basis!

MBTA Green Line Revisited.

Some of my earliest memories of the Green Line and the Boston Museum of Science

Much has changed since the days when I used to stare in wonder at Boston & Maine 3713 on display out front of the museum while trains of 2-3 old PCCs hummed along the elevated structure across the street.

In mid-May 2015, Pat Yough and I went for a Green Line spin to Lechmere and back, stopping over at the Science Park station for a few photographs.

Boston's Science Museum is on the left. Exposed digitally with a Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon 18-135mm lens
Boston’s Museum of Science is on the left. Exposed digitally with a Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon 18-135mm lens

In-bound Green Line train near the Science Park station. Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. 18-135mm lens.
In-bound Green Line train near the Science Park station. Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. 18-135mm lens.

Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera with Pat Yough's 32mm Carl Zeiss lens with Fuji X-mount. Sharp!
Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera with Pat Yough’s 32mm Carl Zeiss lens with Fuji X-mount. Sharp!

Roughly the same angle of an outbound Green Line train exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Roughly the same angle of an outbound Green Line train exposed with my Lumix LX7 with offers a wider view than the 32mm Zeiss lens.

The steel-girder elevated that once extended toward North Station was replaced years ago by a new tunnel with a steep ramp up to the concrete-faced elevated that still passes the museum.

Lechmere looks much the way that I remember it.

Some places never seem to change . . . and then one day all of sudden they are unrecognizable . That day may be soon approaching. Afterward memories fill the gap where photographs leave off.

LX7 photo at Lechmere.
LX7 photo at Lechmere.

Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. 18-135mm lens.
Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a 32mm Carl Zeiss lens with Fuji X-mount.

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Boston’s Red Line—Hooray for Digital Photography!

Way back, in the dim past of my formative years in photography, I’d travel the Boston subway Leica 3A in hand and try to make photos.

My camera skills were rudimentary, my spelling was atrocious, and trying to make photographs underground with Kodachrome film really wasn’t the most practical approach to making successful images.

But that didn’t deter me, and I’d try anyway.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had an occasion to regularly ride Boston’s Red Line subway. But, in the interval I’ve discovered that one of the advantages to modern digital photography is in the realm of subterranean urban rail imagery. (Digital spell chek helps greatly with the words too.)

Park Street Station, Boston. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with Carl Zeiss f1.8 32mm lens.
Park Street Station, Boston. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with Carl Zeiss f1.8 32mm lens.

Park Street Station, Boston. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with Carl Zeiss f1.8 32mm lens.

The other day Pat Yough lent me his recently acquired Carl Zeiss f1.8 32mm lens. This fast sharp piece of glass combined with the excellent sensor on my Fuji X-T1 is an ideal combination for making subway images. Here’s just a few.

So where in the 1970s and early 1980s, I’d made dark slides and thin black & white images, today the photographs at least properly exposed!

Harvard Square at f1.8.
Harvard Square at f1.8.

Zeiss at Harvard.
Zeiss at Harvard.

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Tomorrow: Underground with a Lumix with some valuable tips!

Streetcars of America by Brian Solomon and John Gruber

A New Book

Streetcar book cover©Brian Solomon 899170
Cover photo by Richard J. Solomon. Exposed on Kodachrome film.

Beginning in the mid-1950s my father, along with many of his friends, made a project to document streetcars on film. Since then he has traveled to many cities in the United States and Canada (as well as overseas) and exposed thousands of color slides.

I began traveling with him as soon as I could stand, and some of my earliest recollections involve trips on streetcars and subway trains.

My latest book Streetcars of America, co-authored with John Gruber, is now available through Amazon and other retailers. John and I wrote this compact 64-page soft-cover volume in 2013. It is priced at under $10

This is a Shire Publications production and features a concise look at streetcars in North America. It reproduces a variety of vintage and contemporary images, including many historic views made by Richard J. Solomon on Kodachrome film. Readers will find that John and I have covered a lot of territory in just a few pages.

Although I didn’t select the cover image, I feel it’s fitting since it features a Boston PCC car.  As a child, I lived in Newton Centre, just a few blocks from MBTA’s Riverside Line and here I often watched, traveled on, and photographed Boston PCCs with my father.

This is one of many photos by Richard J. Solomon in my new book, co-authored with John Gruber.
This is one of many photos by Richard J. Solomon in my new book, co-authored with John Gruber.

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Conrail Trailvan along the Mass-Pike

December 1987.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25, using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25, using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.

Scenes like this were once common: piggyback trains on their final lap to Boston running along traffic on the adjacent Massachusetts Turnpike. But, not any more.

A few years ago, CSX finally closed its yards at Beacon Park, having expanded its intermodal facilities in Worcester and West Springfield.

I made this view on bright, brisk clear afternoon at Newton, Massachusetts. Polarized sunlight can be typical Boston weather in early winter.

It’s nice to get clear sunny days, yet the area’s low humidity combined with other elements can make the light too contrasty. Not all sunlight has the same qualities, and I’ve found that sunlight can vary greatly from region to region and at different times of the year.

But when autumn fades to winter, more changes than just the leaves. In eastern Massachusetts stark midday wintery lighting presents its own of visual challenges.

The cold razor’s edge Boston’s winter sunlight makes for blinding bright highlights and opaque shadows. But is it too harsh? I’m much fonder of softer mid-autumn sun.

Stark light, not withstanding, I’m happy to have made this view of a Conrail piggyback train on the Boston & Albany. The Conrail Trailvan trailer behind the locomotives makes it a more interesting image.

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Departing South Station, Boston.

November 1991.

It was a windy rainy afternoon when Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited departed South Station. I was riding on the rear platform of private car Caritas with Clark Johnson Jr. and my father.

My dad and I were only traveling to Springfield, Clark was going further.

I exposed this on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T with 35mmPC (perspective control—shift lens). By adjusting the front element, I maintained the verticals on the skyscrapers in the distance. I like the effect of motion; a train traveling through time.
I exposed this on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T with 35mmPC (perspective control—shift lens). By adjusting the front element, I maintained the verticals on the skyscrapers in the distance. I like the effect of motion; a train traveling through time.

Today, South Station is much different. Not only was a bus station built over the tracks, but the lines have been electrified for North East Corridor services.

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Boston Green Line Subway—Tracking the Light Daily Post.

Two Years ago Today—June 2, 2012.

I’d been making photos on Boston’s Green Line for 40 years. Albeit I was a bit shorter for my first efforts using my Dad’s M3 in the early 1970s.

Subway photos on Kodachrome were a real challenge. I never knew if I’d gotten anything at all until the film came back weeks later. But that didn’t stop me from trying.

Boston's Green Line Subway at North Station on June 2, 2012. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Boston’s Green Line Subway at North Station on June 2, 2012. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Digital photography technique is a real boon for subway images. For these photos I’d racked up the ISO setting to 2000 and worked with a telelphoto zoom. That was inconceivable in my film days.

Boston's Green Line Subway at North Station on June 2, 2012. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm image stabilization zoom lens.
Boston’s Green Line Subway at North Station on June 2, 2012. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm image stabilization zoom lens.

Boston’s subways have changed quite a bit since my early photos; modern cameras for modern images.

Happy 2nd Anniversary Tim & Leslie!

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Daily Post: Old Type 5 on both Film and Digital

On October 20, 2013, I stopped by the Connecticut Trolley Museum near East Windsor and made a variety of photos. The day was perfect; warm and sunny with a cloudless clear sky. A bit of autumn color clung to the trees.

This was an opportunity to experiment with my cameras and I’ve displayed here three images of former a Boston Type 5 streetcar that was working the line.

I exposed the top image on Fuji Velvia 50 color slide film with my father’s Leica M4 fitted with a 35mm Summicron. The bottom images were simultaneous files made with my Lumix LX3 (which features a Leica Vario-Summicron lens).

Connecticut Trolley Museum
MTA type 5 streetcar photographed at East Windsor, Connecticut on October 20, 2013 using a Leica M4 with 35mm Summicron and Fuji Velvia 50 slide film.

Lumix photograph; Camera RAW converted to a scaled JPG in two step post processing for internet display.
Lumix photograph; Camera RAW converted to a scaled JPG in two step post processing for internet display.

In-camera Lumix JPG exposed using the 'Standard' color profile. File scaled for internet display.
In-camera Lumix JPG exposed using the ‘Standard’ color profile. File scaled for internet display.

The Lumix allows me to make both a camera RAW file and a JPG at the same time. The Lumix software has a variety of color profiles for the JPG files that alter the appearance of the image. Typically, I use the “Standard” profile such as displayed here.

Although I’ve scaled all of the files and processed them for internet display, I’ve not made major changes to contrast, exposure or content. The color slide required a nominal color balance adjustment to remove the inherent bias associated with this film.

I scanned the slide using my Epson V600 scanner.

My father has some nice views of Boston’s Type 5s in revenue service exposed on Kodachrome in the 1950s.

All things being equal, I wonder which photographs will survive the longest? The 50+ year old Kodachromes? My Velvia slides exposed in October? Or the digital files exposed the same day? All the digital files (including scans) are preserved on at least three hard drives. While the slides are stored in a dark, cool dry place.

Any bets?

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Tomorrow: refining snow exposure.

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Daily Post; Washington Summit‑30 years After Exposure.

 Modern Technological Miracle: Post Processing.

In mid-July 1984, I heard the distinctive roar of EMD 20-cylinder engines working an eastward train on the west slope of Washngton Hill. My friends and I were positioned at the summit of the Boston & Albany route, as marked by a sign.

We often spent Sunday afternoons here. Rather than work the more conventional location on the south (west) side of the tracks, I opted to cross the mainline and feature the summit sign.

As the freight came into view, I was delighted to see that it was led by a set of Conrail’s former Erie Lackawanna SD45-2s! While these locomotives were more commonly assigned to helper duties at Cresson, Pennsylvania on the former PRR, during the Summer of 1984, all 13 of the monsters worked the Boston & Albany.

Conrail
In July 1984, Conrail 6666 leads an eastward freight on the Boston & Albany at Washington Summit, Hinsdale, Massachusetts. This photograph is unpublished and previously unprinted. It was exposed on 35mm Tri-X using a 1930s-vintage Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. Post processing allowed for localized contrast control to maximize the detail in the original negative.

I have a number of photos of these machines, both on the B&A and PRR routes. However this image of engine 6666 never made my cut. Back lighting and hazy afternoon light had resulted in a difficult negative. My preferred processing techniques of the period didn’t aid the end result, and at the time I dismissed the photograph as ‘unsuitable’.

The other day I rediscovered this unprinted view and decided to make a project of it. Now, 30 years later, I felt it was worth the effort. I scanned the negative and after about 30 minutes of manipulation using Adobe Photoshop, I produced a satisfactory image.

I made a variety of small and subtle changes by locally adjusting contrast and sharpness. These adjustments would have been difficult and time consuming to implement using conventional printing techniques, but are relatively painless to make digitally. I’m really pretty happy with the end result.

For details on this technique, click to see: Kodachrome Afternoon at West Springfield, February 1986.

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Tomorrow: Something completely different!

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DAILY POST; West Warren Contrasts; 2010 and 2013

Difficulties of Photographing in the Spring and Summer.

That’s just what you want to read about right now, isn’t it!. Gosh, those awful warm months with the long days, soft sunlight and thick foliage.

Well, here I have two views, both made at about the same location off Route 67 in West Warren, Massachusetts at approximately the same time of the morning. Both views show a CSX eastward freight.

On July 31, 2010, an eastward CSXT intermodal train works the former Boston & Albany at West Warren, Massachusetts. At the time heavy line-side brush made photography challenging. Canon EOS 7D.
On July 31, 2010, an eastward CSXT intermodal train works the former Boston & Albany at West Warren, Massachusetts. At the time heavy line-side brush made photography challenging. Canon EOS 7D.

This sequence of photos was made at almost exactly the same location, but after CSXT performed undercutting work and brush cutting along the Boston & Albany route. These views were exposed on the morning of May 10, 2013.
This sequence of photos was made at almost exactly the same location, but after CSXT performed undercutting work and brush cutting along the Boston & Albany route. These views were exposed on the morning of May 10, 2013.

Slightly closer view that nearly approximates the position of the train in the July 31, 2010 photo.
Slightly closer view that nearly approximates the position of the train in the July 31, 2010 photo.

The first was exposed on July 31, 2010; the second two views were made on May 10, 2013. While I’ve used one of these views in a previous post (see: Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013 ), I thought these made for an interesting contrast with the earlier image.

The primary difference is that in the interval between 2010 and 2013 CSXT cut the brush along the Boston line and performed undercutting work at West Warren. This is just one of many locations that benefited visually from such improvements.

A secondary difficulty about photographing when foliage is at its summer peak is selecting the optimum exposure. In the 2010 image, I took a test photo and allowed for some nominal overexposure of the locomotive front in order to retain detail in the foliage. I then made a nominal correction in Photoshop during post processing to make for a more pleasing image.

This is the 'unprocessed' camera-produced Jpg to show the slight 'over exposure' on the locomotive front.
This is the ‘unprocessed’ camera-produced Jpg to show the slight ‘over exposure’ on the locomotive front.

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Tomorrow: CSX in the snow!

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Daily Post: Amtrak Cities Sprinter Revenue Run, February 7, 2014

 Photos of Amtrak’s Latest.

Yesterday (February 7, 2014), after several months of testing, Amtrak’s new ACS-64 Siemens built ‘Cities Sprinter’ locomotive 600 made its first revenue run on Amtrak train 171 (Boston to Washington).

My dad and I went to Milford, Connecticut on the North East Corridor to catch the new electric. Pop made some B&W photos with his Leica M3 from the east end of the platform. I worked the curve at the west end with my Canons.

I popped off a couple of slides with the EOS 3 with a 100mm telephoto, and exposed two bursts of digital images using the Canon 7D with 20mm lens.

 

Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014.  Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.
Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014. Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.

Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

Amtrak_171_ACS_64_engine_600_at_Milford_trailing_1_IMG_4213

Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

By the way the 20mm on the 7D has a field of view equal to about a 35mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.

The new electric sure looked nice! I’ll be keen to see the B&W photos and slides when they are processed.

After 171 passed, I made a few photos of a Metro-North local, then Pop and I went over to inspect the recently opened Metro-North station at West Haven, where we made a few photos of passing trains.

Did you get to see Amtrak’s latest electric?

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News Flash: Amtrak ACS-64 Debut.

Today Amtrak number 600 worked train 171 from Boston.

Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014.  Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.
Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014. Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.

Click to see more photos: Amtrak Cities Sprinter Revenue Run, February 7, 2014

After several months of testing, new Amtrak ACS-64 ‘Cities Sprinter’ 600 made its first revenue run on Amtrak 171 (Boston to Washington).

My dad and I went to Milford, Connecticut on the North East Corridor to catch the new electric.

Snow and sun made for a nearly perfect morning.

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DAILY POST: Palmer Freight House Demolition

 

 25 Years Ago, Conrail Demolished Palmer’s Boston & Albany Freight House.

During the 1980s, Conrail demolished many disused structures along the Boston & Albany line. The East Brookfield freight house went in 1984, Worcester’s went in 1986. In January 1989, I noticed that the railroad was preparing to erase Palmer’s B&A landmark.

The wrecking machine was parked out in front and had already taken a bite out of the northeast corner of the steam-era red brick structure.

Boston & Albany Railroad
Palmer freight station on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.

I proposed a short article to the editor of Palmer Journal Register. The newspaper supplied me with a roll of black & white film and processed it for me. I photographed the building from every angle and wrote the article that appeared about a week later.

Conrail made short work of the old building, which had stood at the west-end of the yard near Haley’s Grain Store. Today there is almost no evidence of the building.

For me it had been tangible evidence of the old Boston & Albany—never mind Conrail or Penn-Central. While its usefulness to Conrail may have ended, I recalled speaking with the agent there on various occasions in previous years.

I still have the negatives that I exposed with my Leica M2 and I’ve scanned these using my Epson V600.

Palmer freight on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.
Palmer freight on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.