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.