Tag Archives: #Boston&Albany

Conrail at Warren, Massachusetts.

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.

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Conrail at Twin Ledges—27 Years Ago.

On October 3, 1993—27 Years Ago Today—I made this Kodachrome slide of a Conrail eastward freight on the former Boston & Albany.

I’d set up with a Nikkormat FTN fitted with a Nikon AF28mm lens.

I wanted to exemplify the deep rock cuttings and so made use of the afternoon shadows.

The lit marker lamps on the lead locomotive was an unusual and unanticipated detail that make this photo more interesting.

Twin Ledges is a pair of rock cuts on a double S-bend in the Berkshires timetable west of the old Middlefield Station on the Boston & Albany mainline.

Kodachrome 25 slide scanned using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 powered by VueScan software. Tif file adjusted using Adobe Lightroom and scaled for internet.

My late friend Bob Buck of Warren, Massachusetts, had first shown me this iconic location in 1982, and I’ve made countless visits back to this spot over the years.

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Conrail in Worcester—1997.

Here’s another photo from my Classic Conrail Kodachrome Files.

Photographer Mike Gardner and I had spent December 2, 1997, photographing Conrail operations around Worcester, Massachusetts.

Early in the day, we dropped E6 slide film at E.B. Luce for processing and then occupied our time documenting the parade of Conrail trains on the former Boston & Albany line.

In this view at CP44 at the east end of Worcester Yard, I photographed some SD50s that had arrived with an eastward train and cut off to make a drop and were running ‘light engine’ past the signals.

It was clear, cool and crisp. Perfect weather for Kodachrome 25!

My book Conrail and its Predecessors is now available from Kalmbach Media. Click the link below.

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

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Conrail C32-8s August 13, 1988.

On the evening of August 13, 1988, I visited Conrail’s West Springfield Yard (Massachusetts) after a day on the old Boston & Albany ‘West End’.

At the time, General Electric six-motor diesels were standard power for road freights on the Boston Line.

Among the locomotives common to the Boston Line in the 1980s were the ten pre-prototype GE C32-8s that featured the ‘Classic’ curved roof cab and hump-back body style.

Significantly, these were among the first road-units with microprocessor controls.

I’ve covered these locomotives in several of my books over the years, and most recently in my new title Conrail and its Predecessors now available from Kalmbach Media.

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

These photos of Conrail 6618 were exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) color slide film and scanned using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 digital scanner operated with VueScan software.

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Conrail’s CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts—October 1998.

This was just an ordinary scene at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts in October 1998.

Amtrak’s Vermonter was holding on the interchange track as C30-7A rolled east on to the controlled siding, and a westbound with SD80MACs waited on the mainline.

I made this view on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S with 28mm lens.

At the time I made this image, Conrail’s class 1 operation had less than a year remaining.

I recall Conrail’s 23 years of operation in my new book; Conrail and its Predecessors published by Kalmbach Media. 

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

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The Tragedy of my Missing Notes.

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.

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Sound of Power: Conrail Ballast Train June 1984

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.

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Mass-Central Reflections—Gilbertville, Massachusetts November 26, 2019.

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.

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30 Years ago in CTC Board

In November 1989, I had my first CTC Board Cover Feature on Conrail’s Boston & Albany.

Ironically, I received my contributor’s copy a few weeks after I’d moved to California.

I found a copy of the magazine yesterday while digging around for a missing notebook from the 1980s.

Cover photo exposed using my Leica M2 with 35mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film—Conrail TV8B at CP-79 east of Palmer, Massachusetts.

Sometimes when you look for one thing, you find something else!

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On the Roll with CSX’s Q264—Five Photos.

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!

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CSX Q022 on the Roll at West Warren—November 25, 2019.

November sun and a little elevation is a good start.

I’d spotted CSX’s Q022 rolling across the Palmer diamond as I departed the old union station, where I’d pulled in to see if anything was happening!

(No scanner and poor timing on my part!)

Not a bother. I drove post haste west on Route 20 and Route 67 to West Warren.

CSX’s Q022 had a decent size train, but with nearly 9,000 hp leading in the form of a pair of GE Evolutions, the train made good progress climbing eastward through the Quaboag River Valley.

I had time to park at West Warren, Massachusetts and walk briskly to the South Street Bridge, an old standby vantage point where I’ve made countless railroad photos in the last 35 years.

I exposed these views using my Lumix LX7.

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Clear Signal CP83—December 27, 1997.

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.

CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts on December 27, 1997.

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Busy Afternoon at Palmer, August 22, 2019.

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.

Amtrak 449 westbound.
CSX Q427.
CSX B740.
Massachusetts Central 1751 with interchange traffic.

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CSX Before the Storm.

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.

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No DPU (mid-train remote control locomotive) on this train. Just about a mile and a half of loaded auto racks bound for the East Brookfield & Spencer at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

CSX Eastbound at East Brookfield: Two Views.

As a follow-up to recent posts on CSX’s Boston Line, I offer this pair of photos of an eastward Intermodal train passing CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

I’d photographed this train arriving in Palmer [CSX: EARLY MORNING INTERMODAL—FIVE VIEWS AND THE SPIRIT OF RAVENNA, then zipped up to West Warren to intercept a westbound [CSX West Warren Waterfall- http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2019/07/02/csx-west-warren-waterfall/].

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.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

Lumix LX7 photo.

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CSX: Early Morning Intermodal—five views and the Spirit of Ravenna.


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.

Stay tuned!

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Mass-Central at Palmer, Massachusetts.

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.

Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto.


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Palmer, Massachusetts—CSX B740: Three GP40-2s and calendar lighting.


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 exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Worcester Union Station—Architectural Classic.

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.

I exposed these views in July using my Lumix LX7.

A view from Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at platform level.

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New Signals at Dusk—working with high ISO.

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.

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Signals in Transition.

Over the last few weeks, CSX has been installing new signaling in Palmer in conjunction with preparation for Positive Train Control.

Hooded traffic light configuration color-light signal heads have been installed to replace the Conrail-era triangular pattern light signals.

The Conrail-era signals were activated in July 1986 when the single-tracking of the Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield. The interlocking at Palmer was then designated CP83.

Lumix LX7 photo at Palmer, Massachusetts.

Looking north on the New England Central toward the Palmer diamond. New signals at left. Canon EOS7D with 100-400mm lens.

New and old signals at dusk at CP83. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

Amtrak 448 splits the signals at CP83 in Palmer. Dusk is a good time to photograph signals since the ambient light levels more closely match those of signal lamps. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

After nearly 32 years of service these old signals will soon be retired. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

CSX’s new signals haven’t been activated yet and I’ve been making photos of the transitional between old and new hardware.

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