Tag Archives: branch line

Mainline now Branchline—Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.

This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.

Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.

On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with an 18-135mm zoom lens. File manipulated in post processing to balance exposure and improve color balance. Compare the contrast and color balance between this image and the others. Notice subtle differences and see how the alter the appearance of the locomotives in their environment.
This view features a cooler color-balance (tends more toward the blue).
Adjustments to contrast of the middle tones using the ‘clarity slider’ in Lightroom resulted in greater separation between the red and silver on the locomotive stripes.

To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Romantic Railway Poland

I exposed this timeless scene on a rural Polish branch line at Blotnica south of Wolsztyn on the 25th of April 2002.

John Gruber, Ross Valentine and I were on a week long photo escapade aiming to capture steam operations.

Some times the most effective railway photos don’t feature a train.

Exposed with a Nikon on Fujichrome film in April 2002. Contrast adjusted in post processing for improved presentation on the internet.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Belfast & Moosehead Lake, Unity, Maine, August 29, 1986



27 Years Ago Today.

I spent a pleasant and memorable week photographing in Maine in August 1986.This was shortly before I began my studies at the Rochester Institute of Photography, and represented a moment of visual freedom, unburdened by demands of professors, intellectual assumptions, or assignment deadlines.

Belfast & Moosehead Lake
A Belfast & Moosehead Lake General Electric 70ton diesel leads a short freight on poor track near Unity, Maine on August 29, 1986.

On August 29th, Brandon Delaney and I had photographed the Maine Central. At Burnham Junction we stumbled upon the Belfast & Moosehead Lake working the Maine Central interchange.

Although this wasn’t my first experience with B&ML, I was delighted to catch this elusive operation at work. We chased the train back toward Unity. I made this image featuring a classic farm with barn and silos.

I exposed it on 35mm Kodachrome slide film using a Leica M2 with 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto lens mounted with a bellows using a Visoflex viewfinder arrangement on a compact Linhof Tripod. Although cumbersome, this was my standard arrangement for making long telephoto views. Exposure was calculated manually using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld light meter (photo cell).

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Mass-Central, Monday May 13, 2013.


Blue GP15-2 and Spring Greenery.

Detail of the GATX GP15-2 operating on Mass-Central. The GP15 model features an unusual airflow pattern. Canon 7D.

My brief encounter with Mass-Central’s borrowed GP15-2 on May 10, 2013 (see Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013  encouraged me to seek out this locomotive and spend some more time photographing it on the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

This branch is one of my longest running projects. Back in 1981, I rode my 10-speed bicycle from Monson to Ware to make photographs of Mass-Central’s recently acquired EMD NW5, number 2100. Now, more than 30 years later, that old engine is still on the property, and I’ve been up and down the line by road (and rail) dozens of times.

Despite this familiarity, at least once a year (if not once a season) I’ll take a photo-trip along the line. So, having a nice freshly painted locomotive against fresh spring leaves is a good excuse to get out and the exercise cameras.

Northward Mass-Central freight near Creamery on May 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 20mm lens.
Mass-Central crosses Rt 67 at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Mass-Central crosses Rt 67 at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Mass Central at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Much of the line is on a southwest-northeast angled alignment; and since trains tend depart northbound in the morning from Palmer  and return after midday, I’ve found that the southward return chase can be the most productive for making clean locomotive images.

On Monday May 13th, I spent the morning writing and running errands. Then in late morning, I followed Mass-Central’s line up to Gilbertville where I waited for the weekday freight to pass on its northbound run. (Just to clarify; the weekday freight is all I’d ever expect to see. The days of Boston & Albany’s steam hauled mixed train and milk specials have long since passed!)

Albany station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013.
Former Boston & Albany station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013.

My timing was good, and after a little while the GP15-2 rolled through northbound with two cars. Not much of a train, but it collected a few more cars near Creamery and continued to South Barre where it worked for about an hour delivering and collecting freight cars.

As expected, the southward chase offered better angles and nicer train. Not only did the southward train have a decent consist of cars, but the sun made some well-timed appearances.

Mass-Central working the spur at South Barre. This light industrial branch diverges near the end of track on Mass-Central's line at South Barre.
Mass-Central working the spur at South Barre. This light industrial branch diverges near the end of track on Mass-Central’s line at South Barre. Canon 7D.
Mass-Central freight
Mass-Central freight near Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 20mm lens.

I made photos with both film and digital Canon bodies as well as my Lumix LX-3, while following all the way south to Palmer  (where Mass-Central interchanges with both CSX and New England Central).

Canon 7D.
Canon 7D.
Mass-Central crossing Rt 32 near Creamery, Massachusetts.
Mass-Central crossing Rt 32 near Creamery, Massachusetts.
Canon 7D.
Mass-Central catches the sun at the Rt 181
Mass-Central catches the sun at the Rt 181 crossing near Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D with 28-135 lens.

I’ve learned to take advantage of unusual or new motive power on the branch, as things can (and do) change quickly. To use a cliché; it’s best to strike when the iron is hot! I was pleased with my results featuring the GP15-2 and I wonder what motive power I’ll find next time I follow the line?

CP 83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
CP 83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
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