The other day I was digging around for some Boston & Albany negatives that I’d exposed back in the 1980s in preparation for a program that I’m putting together for the Mass Bay RRE.
Among the negatives I found was a roll of Kodak TMY (T-Max 100) black & white film that I’d exposed with my father’s Rollei Model-T on December 28, 1987.
I’d followed the Mass-Central freight from Palmer up to Ware in a light snow fall. The train had stalled on Ware Hill, but eventually got where it was going.
In this view Mass-Central’s GP9 7015, a former Conrail unit, was holding the mainline, while Mass-Central’s CF-7 2443 switched at the southend of the yard.
It was a gray day, but well suited to the subtle tonality of the Kodak black & white film. I scanned the negatives using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software. I made some nominal adjustments to contrast to improve presentation here.
I made my first photos of the railroad scene in Palmer, Massachusetts back in 1977 using a Leica 3C rangefinder on Black & White film.
I made my first Nikon Z6 digital photos of Palmer on Saturday. (January 23, 2021). Kris Sabbatino and I passed through this old haunt of mine during a visit to Monson, Massachusetts. Time was short, so we paused trackside for just a few minutes.
Although the railroads were quiet, and not a steel wheel turned, I made the opportunity to record the railroad scene with my latest camera. A pair of New England Central locomotives were in the yard, and made for subjects to capture digitally.
This morning, I processed these photos using Adobe Lightroom. For me this was an exercise in learning how I see in this long photographed place with my new camera, which I purchased in September 2020.
Today’s photo is in honor of my late-friend, Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts, who would have turned 91 today (October 12, 2020).
In the 1940s, Bob Buck made priceless photos of New York Central’s Boston & Albany around Warren, and elsewhere across the railroad. For most of his life he ran Tucker’s Hardware, later Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, which was a gathering point for those interested in railroads.
On December 6, 1992, I exposed this photo of an eastward Conrail freight, probably SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester RR) climbing through Warren behind six General Electric B23-7s.
I had Kodachrome 25 film loaded in my Nikon F3T and I used a 35mm PC (Perspective Control) lens, all neatly leveled out on a Bogen 3021 tripod with ball head.
The pronounced chugging of multiple FDL diesel engines powering these locomotives as they ascended the grade through Warren would have announced the approach of the freight several minutes before the headlight appeared west of the old Warren Station.
The making of this image would have coincided with one of my countless visits to Tucker’s Hobbies in the 1980s and 1990s.
I scanned some negatives the other day. These were exposed with my Leica 3A on Ilford FP4 and processed in D76.
I’d driven to Chester, Massachusetts where I photographed several eastward Conrail trains on the Boston & Albany line. This was before Conrail single-tracked the route and it was still directional double track with automatic block signals under rule 251.
This view shows an eastward TV (trailvan) freight waiting for a green signal after crossing over from the westward to the eastward main. It had just come down the hill, against the current of traffic, on the westward main to Chester, while a test train led by SD50 6703 had worked east on the eastward main. (Parallel eastward moves).
Conrail’s GE-built C30-7A (6594) and C32-8 (6614) diesels were less than a year old.
The test train (not pictured) was a ballast train with caboose that provide a load for SD50 6703 equipped with flange lubricators which spent several months working back and forth on the B&A route.
So what’s the tragedy?
My negative envelope has minimal information; just the locations and ‘April 1985’. I have my notebook from 1985, but this trip isn’t mentioned. My photo album is also scant on the details from the day. I believe the specific note-page from this day has ‘gone missing’ and so I’ve had to recall the details from memory. This is a problem, since I cannot recall the exact date, and I’m unsure as to specifics such as train symbols.
Just imagine the roar! Conrail C30-7 6600 leads three former Erie-Lackawanna 20-cylinder EMDs!
So far as I can remember, this was the only time I caught an SDP45 (second unit) hard at work on the Boston Line.
I made these views of an uphill BAL (Ballast train) at Middlefield, Massachusetts on a day’s photography with my old pal TSH on a beautiful spring evening in June 1984. I was a week away from my high-school graduation.
My only regret is that I didn’t have better photography skills and better equipment.
November 26, 2019 was one of those very productive days.
Following my earlier successes last Thursday with New England Central at Stafford Springs, and CSX at Palmer and West Warren, Mike Gardner and I went to breakfast at Girly’s Grille in Palmer, timing our departure so that would could intercept Mass-Central freight on its way up the Ware River Line to South Barre.
We caught up with the train at Gilbertville, one of my favorite locations along the old Boston & Albany branch.
I’d spotted this puddle in the parking lot near the station, which made for an excellent reflective surface to picture the passing train.
Key to making this image is the adjustable rear-screen display on my FujiFilm XT1, which among other features has a leveling bar.
Tracking the Light sometimes Scores on Thursdays in November!
CSX Q264 is a unit autorack train that terminates at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, I was waiting at CP83 in Palmer for fellow photographer Mike Gardner to arrive. To the west, I could hear the distant roar of a heavy eastward train.
Long ago I learned to use my ear. Listening, and knowing what you are hearing can make the difference between finding a train and missing one.
Mike pulled in and I signaled to him there was in eastbound on the diamond (crossing at Palmer between New England Central and CSX’s Boston Line).
I was delighted because low rich November sun illuminated CP83 and there weren’t any automobiles in the parking lot in front of the Steaming Tender restaurant (that occupies that the old Palmer Union Station).
As Q264 rolled through, I said to Mike, “quick, jump in! The train is limited to 30mph at the diamond, we’ll get him down the line.”
And we were off in hot pursuit!
Up to West Warren, a recent and long-time favorite location of mine for railroad photography. We pulled over where the Boston Line is adjacent to Route 67, and I exposed another sequence of photos.
That was two trains, on two lines in less than two hours, but it was only going to get better! Tuesday was a very good day!
More to come!
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day, sometimes twice!
At 8pm on December 27, 1997, I exposed this view looking west at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Mike Gardner and I were returning from one of our all day photo adventures in the Albany area and we decided to make a few more photos before heading home.
The signals lit and there was a green on the mainline, indicating a westward train was near.
This back in Conrail days, when the Boston & Albany route was still very busy with freight. It was years before the old Union Station was transformed into the Steaming Tender restaurant. And there were a few more buildings and businesses on Palmer’s main street.
It was more than a decade before I bought my first digital camera and I exposed this using my Nikon N90S on Provia 100F color slide film.
Yesterday I met fellow photographer Mike Gardner at the Steaming Tender restaurant in the old Palmer Union Station for lunch.
I had iced tea and the Reuben.
Except for the New England Central switching all was quiet for the first couple of hours.
Just after 2 pm, I said “Let’s head outside, I have a feeling it’s all about to happen.”
Luck, intuition or experience, call it what you like.
At first the trains didn’t favor the light. A New England Central local crossed the diamond northbound. CSX B740 was working deep in the old Boston & Albany yard. The Mass-Central came down from Ware long-hood first. Then everything stalled.
“I’ll bet everything is waiting for the Lake Shore.”
At 3pm Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited appeared at the east end of the long tangent on the old Boston & Albany. On queue Mike announced, ‘Headlight!’
I made a series of photos of enthusiasts on the old station platform rolling the train by.
After the Lake Shore, the illusion of a lull continued, and most everyone else got bored and left. CSX B740 had pulled up and was poised waiting for signal. Mike and I decided to hold on. And sure enough 15 minutes behind the Lake Shore was a westward CSX freight—Q427.
After this passed, B740 pulled ahead through CP83 and then reverse back into the yard, meanwhile the Mass-Central was getting ready to head back north again.
All in all in was a very successful day in Palmer. But the keys to our success were timing and patience. If you left after the Lake Shore rolled west, you missed most of the show.
Monday afternoon, August 19, 2019 was hot and humid as I rambled through Massachusetts’ Quaboag Valley completing errands.
Driving west on Route 20, I reached the flying junction with Route 67, where I saw the head-end of CSX Q264 roar below me with two modern GEs in the lead.
The train had a good roll-on, so I knew it was making a run for the grade up through Warren. I diverted from my path west, and drove post haste east on Route 67 to find a location to picture this eastward freight.
In the afternoon there aren’t a lot of options. The old B&A has become unpleasantly overgrown with brush, and the back lit summer sun doesn’t offer a flattering portrayal of modern GE diesels.
I opted for the overhead bridge at West Warren, where I made these views with my Lumix LX7.
Although it was still sunny, I could see the storm approaching from the west. Shortly after I arrived home there was lightning, thunder and a violent deluge.
Knowing I had a few minutes while east and westward trains made their meet at CP79 east of Palmer, I explored locations at Warren and West Brookfield. I concluded that summer-time brush along the line made many of my traditional photo locations un-workable.
So, I went over to East Brookfield, where the overhead bridge offered a clean view of the tracks. One photo was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 the other with a Lumix LX7.
Tuesday Morning (June 25 2019), I made my way to Palmer, Massachusetts to see how fared the old Boston & Albany.
Not long after I arrived at the old freight house location (the building was unceremoniously demolished by Conrail 30 years ago), I heard ‘Limited Clear CP83’ on my scanner. This transmission indicated that a train was about to take the controlled siding.
Modern six-motor GEs (an Evolution and a Tier IV—standard CSX road power on the Boston Line) rolled east with a short intermodal train, probably Q012 or Q022.
The trailing locomotive was CSX’s Louisville & Nashville heritage locomotive, identified by a tiny L&N logo on the cab and ‘Spirit of Ravenna’ in script. Lucky bonus to catch that in Palmer!
I made my photos at the west end of the yard, working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto lens and my Lumix LX7.
This was just the beginning of the morning’s photography.
In theory, on any given weekday you ought to be able to make a representative photograph of Mass-Central’s local freight arriving in Palmer.
This goes on duty in the morning at Mass-Central’s Palmer yard, makes its run up the Ware River Valley and returns, typically dropping its interchange for CSX and New England Central at CSX’s former Boston & Albany yard.
However, catching a locomotive with the cab-facing south and at the correct end of the train can be more difficult. It’s luck of the draw to get the locomotive facing south. And for operational reasons, the locomotive may be placed in the middle or at the end of the interchange when passing the old Palmer Union Station.
I was lucky a couple of weeks ago, when I made this view at CP83 with Mass-Central GP38-2 1750 leading the train. All that’s missing is the sun.
Some weeks ago, I had a few minutes before running an errand. I stopped in at CP83 near the old Palmer Union Station.
My timing was nearly perfect. Not long after I arrived, I heard a familiar roar to the west.
The air was clear, and the sounds of EMD 645 diesels were resonating as they worked eastbound.
I thought, ‘must be the B740’ (the CSX local freight that typically arrives in Palmer about mid-morning to work the interchange.)
I walked up to the South Main Street bridge. As the train approached Palmer, it enters a short down grade, so the roar quieted. This change in pitch might confuse a novice visitor, who might become discouraged at the very moment a train is about to pass.
Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, CSX B740 rolled into view and took the switch at CP83 onto the controlled siding.
Perfect low and clear December sun over my left shoulder made for a calendar scene.
I remember when Worcester Union Station was a ruin.
It was restored to its former glory during the late 1990s, and today is the terminal for MBTA services to Boston over the the old Boston & Worcester (later Boston & Albany/New York Central route).
I wrote about this station in relation to the building it replaced in my book Depots, Stations & Terminals.
The old Worcester (Massachusetts) Union Station was a solid Romanesque structure designed by architects Ware & Van Brunt. It was demolished to make way for Samuel Huckel’s new Worcester Union completed in 1911.
Saturday evening I used my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit to photograph CSX’s westward Q437 (Framingham, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York) at Palmer, Massachusetts passing the new signals at CP83.
They’ve yet to be activated and the new signals are in place alongside the Conrail-era signals installed in 1986.
It was dusk and the light was fading fast. I pushed the camera ISO to 2500, and exposed this action shot at 1/250th of a second at f2.8.