Tag Archives: Central Vermont Railway

Central Vermont at Palmer, Massachusetts—July 1986.


I exposed this view of Central Vermont GP9s on Kodak 120 Tri-X Professional, a film that came with an ISO rating of 320 compared with 400 for the off-the-shelf variety.

This was CV’s southward road freight number 444 which terminated at the Palmer yard, south of the crossing with Conrail’s former Boston & Albany.

I made this image on July 23, 1986; the previous day Conrail began its single track operation of the Boston Line by cutting-in CP83 and CP92, removing one track from service and thus ending directional double-track operation (rule 251) between those two points.

Close examination of this photo will show that the old westward main track is cut short of the CV crossing.

This is a much enlarged scan of the above photo to better illustrate the single-track section over the Palmer diamond.

This was one of many photos I made around Palmer during the single tracking of the B&A route. Today the CV route is operated by New England Central, and the Boston & Albany line is CSX. There were far fewer trees by the tracks back in 1986.

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New England Central 608 Cross-Lit at Plains Road.

South of Stafford, Connecticut, the former Central Vermont Railway runs along Plains Road, before crossing it to continue its path along the Willimantic River.

This is a favorite morning location for me, but a week ago Tuesday I opted to catch the southward 608 in the last rays of winter sun.

These are 12mm wide-angle views exposed with the FujiFilm XT1 and 12mm lens.

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New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs—Part 4.

Last Tuesday was another sunny afternoon, and so another opportunity to photograph 608 New England Central rolling through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut!

This time I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

As the train eased through town I made my way to another location for an additional photograph. Stay tuned!

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Vintage Chrome: Millers Falls High Bridge—Then and Now.


You’ll need to click on Tracking the Light to see the vintage photo.

On January 25, 2019, Pat Yough and I were aiming to catch New England Central 611 on the Millers Falls high bridge over the Millers River. This stunning 1905 pin-connected deck truss has been one my favorite spans to photograph in Massachusetts.

New England Central 611 at Millers Falls, Massachusetts on January 25, 2019 Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 27mm pancake lens.

I made my first photographs of the bridge nearly 33 years ago: On May 14, 1986, I’d followed Central Vermont 447 north from Amherst (where I was enrolled at Hampshire College). The train was running at an abnormal time, which gave me the opportunity to make a late afternoon photo at Millers Falls.

Although I made some nice sun lit photographs on Kodachrome 64 of the CV GP9s and CN M-420 diesel working across the bridges, two problems vexed me and resulted in these slides spending more than three decades in the ‘seconds file’.

As the train rattled across the bridge, a huge flock of pigeons soared in the sky, which at the time ruined the image for me, since many of the birds looked like dark blobs that resembled dust on the emulsion. The other difficulty was more serious.

Central Vermont Railway 447 northbound at Millers Falls at 4:50PM on May 14, 1986.

I was using an old Leitz 50mm collapsible Summitar  lens which had a loose front element and had lost its critical sharpness. Although on a small scale the photos made with this lens appear ok, when enlarged they are unacceptably soft. I’ve electronically sharpened the photo here to make it more appealing for internet presentation.

Ultimately, I discontinued the use of the soft lens, but it took me several months before I recognized and accepted the problem, and found funds to rectify it.

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EMD’s Racing the Sun at East Northfield.


After catching New England Central’s local freight at White River Junction (featured in Friday’s Tracking the Light), I figured we had time to zip down I-91 to Brattleboro, Vermont and catch road freight 611 on its run south to Palmer, Massachusetts.

Rolling down Cotton Mill Road, I spied 611 led by five vintage EMD diesels pulling across the causeway south of Brattleboro Yard.

Pat Yough, visiting from Pennsylvania, wanted to try for a photograph at the Junction in East Northfield, on the Vermont-Massachusetts state line, so after a cloudy day photograph near Vernon, we overtook the slow moving freight.

Shortly before the train arrived, the clouds parted for a few moments, and a brilliant ‘sucker hole’ illuminated the tracks.

Working with my 18-135mm zoom lens, I quickly adjusted my composition to make the most of this sunny opportunity. And made several nice sunlit telephoto shots.

By the time the train rolled below us, the clouds had dampened the morning light. Yet, the chase was on . . .

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White River Junction in the Snow!


Last week, Pat Yough and I drove to White River Junction, Vermont, seeking photographs of Buffalo & Pittsburgh 3000, a classic EMD-built GP40 that works the New England Central (NECR) local freight based there.

We found the engine, and shortly after we arrived a snow squall allowed us to exposed some very wintery images.

It had been several years since my last visit to White River Junction, which historically was among the busiest freight locations in Vermont.

Why is a Buffalo & Pittsburgh engine on the New England Central? My short answer: since both B&P and NECR are Genesee & Wyoming railroads it seems logical that engines from one railroad might be loaned or conveyed to another. However, the detailed particulars of the B&P 3000 arrangement are beyond my knowledge at this time.

Finding B&P in White River was only the beginning of our day photographing NECR operations; Stay tuned for more!

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Monday, January 14, 2019: New England Central at Eagleville Dam (Part 1).

In the last light of a winter’s evening, I exposed this view of New England Central’s southward 608 as it approached Eagleville, Connecticut.

Which is the subject of the photo: the train or the waterfall?

Exposed digitally using a FujFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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New England Central 608 Stafford Springs—Part 3.


As New England Central 608 approached downtown Stafford Springs on January 14, 2019, I set my Nikon F3 to expose a textured image.

The old buildings adjacent to the tracks are as much of a visual attraction as the train itself.

Working with an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed three frames of Kodak Tri-X.

To process the film, I used my custom tailored split process, that uses two developers, followed by selenium toning of the fixed negatives. This maximizes the tonality of the film, while giving me glossy highlights. A secondary effect of the toner is the slight lavender hue.

After processing, I scanned the negatives in color using an Epson V750 scanner.

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Orcuttville in the Fog, New England Central 608 on the Roll.

A thick layer of fog in Stafford, Connecticut made for an excellent environment for dramatic photos.

New England Central 608 (Willimantic – Palmer way freight) was on its northward leg, when I caught it approaching Connecticut Route 319 at Orcuttville.

A lone GP38 was at work this day with more than 20 cars in tow.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1. The tricky part of this photo was balancing the exposure of the headlight/ditchlights with ambient light. I prefer the overall exposure slightly on the darkside for greater drama. Compare with the Lumix LX7 image below.

New England Central 608 with GP38 3845 approaches the crossing at Orcuttville. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

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400mm view at Stateline Summit.

Using my Canon 7D with a 100-400mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of New England Central 608 approaching Stateline Summit on the Connecticut-Massachusetts boundary.

I selected this perspective to illustrate the undulating grade profile of the former Central Vermont Railway approaching Stateline Summit. The train is crossing the ‘false summit’ while the top of the grade is the rise in tracks near the switch stand.

I’m standing north of the state line looking south; the train is in Connecticut.

Looking south toward the northward New England Central 608 at Stateline.

While this camera-lens combination doesn’t represent my sharpest equipment, it is useful for photos like this one.

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Central Vermont at the Palmer Diamond—1977.

This was one of several photos I exposed with my father’s Leica 3C in Palmer, Massachusetts on Labor Day weekend 1977. I started 6th grade a couple of days later.

Significantly, it was the first time I made a photo from this location at the Palmer Diamond, where Central Vermont crossed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line. From near this spot, I’ve since made many hundreds of photos—more than I dare to count.

Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail's former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super angulon.
Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super-Angulon.

Compare this 1977 view with my recent images of a CSX eastward intermodal train. (I posted these the other day, but have also included them below.)

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In November 2016 a CSX intermodal train crosses the Palmer Diamond. This view is made from a spot immediately to the east of my 1977 view.

csx_q012_palmer_p1550722Looking back, I wonder why it took me so long to decide to make photos here. But realistically, prior to summer 1977 my railway photographic efforts were infrequent events.

For my birthday that year, my dad gave me my own Leica, a model 3A, which I carried everywhere for the next seven years and with which I made thousands of images from the Maine coast to southern California, and from Quebec to Mexico.

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Snow and Old EMD Diesels: Stafford Springs February 1985.

It was a great day for black & white photography.

Fluffy snow had been falling all morning. Central Vermont’s freight arrived in Palmer and quickly organized to continue south.

I followed the train’s steady progress over State Line Hill, then set up in downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut where I made these photos on Ilford FP4 black & white negative film using my Leica 3A with 50mm lens.

Central Vermont southward freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut on February 2, 1985.
Central Vermont southward freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut on February 2, 1985.

Trailing view of the same train crossing Route 32 in Stafford Springs.
Trailing view of the same train crossing Route 32 in Stafford Springs.

For me this pair of images does a great job of exemplifying my experience with Central Vermont in the mid-1980s when three, four, five, six, and sometimes seven vintage GP9s would work tonnage freights. The sounds of those old diesels still resonates in my memory.

Would these images have be improved by modern color digital photography? Would they survive for 31 years with virtually no attention from me? For that matter, where will these old negatives or the scans be in another 31 years?

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Palmer Diamond (s) Then and Now.

As a follow up to the black & white variations I posted the other day showing Central Vermont Railway RS-11s crossing the Palmer diamonds, I exposed this view made at precisely the same location.

In 1984, Conrail’s directional double track line crossed Central Vermont. Today, CSXT’s single track line crosses Genessee & Wyoming’s New England Central.

New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015.
New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015.

New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015.
New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.

Here I may have over done it. What do you think?
Palmer April 13, 1984.

More than just the tracks, names and locomotives have changed.

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Central Vermont Alco RS-11s Cross the Palmer Diamond.

I made this photograph on April 13, 1984. It was a Friday, and I was then in my final months of my Senior year of High School.

My raw unmodified scan of the original 35mm B&W negative. This was exposed using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. The film was processed in the kitchen sink. I made a few proof-prints, then filed the negative away, not to be looked again for decades.
My raw unmodified scan of the original 35mm B&W negative. This was exposed using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. The film was processed in the kitchen sink. I made a few proof-prints, then filed the negative away, not to be looked again for decades.

If I recall correctly, in this instance I wasn’t ‘absent’ as Seniors were allowed to leave the school if they didn’t have a class, and there was an even greater freedom permitted on Fridays.

Anyway, I think the Palmer diamonds, where Central Vermont’s line crossed Conrail’s east-west Boston & Albany route was a better place for me to be on that Friday the 13th.

However, this negative was left in the ‘seconds’ file for many years. Not because of the subject matter, or any grave instance caused by the unlucky day. But rather because my processing skills were not yet up to par.

 

In addition to careless over-processing the negatives in Kodak Microdol-X (which in my view led to a grainy appearance coupled with slightly unpleasant contrast), I managed to add a few strategic scratches and water spots when drying them. Just basic poor handling on my part.

 

While the scene is fascinating to me now, as it reveals just how much Palmer has changed over the 31 year interval, at the time it was common. It was easier to return to Palmer and expose more negatives, than worry about correcting my processing faults.

 

Ultimately, I refined my black & white process. Today, using Lightroom, I spent some time to rid the flaws in the original negatives including spots, scratches, contrast, and put the image on level.

Nominal correction to remove spots, scratches and improve level.
Nominal correction to remove spots, scratches and improve level.

This represents more intensive correction to smooth out spots, minimize scratches, and make both localized and overall contrast adjustments.
This represents more intensive correction to smooth out spots, minimize scratches, and make both localized and overall contrast adjustments.

Here I may have over done it. What do you think?
Here I may have over done it. What do you think?

I’ve presented four variations beginning with the raw unmodified scan. The fourth represents the most amount of manipulation in post processing.

Which do you like the best?

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White River Junction, Vermont on June 15, 1985.

It was 30 years ago today that I made this photograph on the platform at White River Junction, Vermont.

The conductor on Central Vermont freight 447 is waiting for his train to pull forward so that he can get on the caboose.

Exposed with a Leica 3A on black & white film.
Exposed with a Leica 3A on black & white film.

That morning T.S. Hoover and I met Ed Beaudette on the platform. Ed supplied us with a line-up, and we made good use of the information. (Thanks Ed!)

After chasing CV 447 north, we returned to White River Junction and followed a southward Boston & Maine freight toward Bellows Falls.

At the end of the day we met George C. Corey at Springfield Union Station (Massachusetts) on the Boston & Albany and photographed the Conrail Office Car Special that was in town for Superintendent E.C. Cross’s retirement.

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Classic Kodachrome: Montreal-built at State Line Crossing.

In the mid-1980s, Canadian National Railway’s Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s were commonly operated on its Central Vermont Railway subsidiary.

It might seem odd in retrospect, but I wasn’t keen on these peculiar locomotives when they were common. Although they were derived from an Alco design, and I was big fan of Alco, I thought they were ugly and not ‘real’ Alcos. I much preferred Central Vermont’s own Alco RS-11s.

  Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex.
June 25, 1986, State Line Crossing, Monson, Massachusets. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex.

My ill-founded prejudices never stopped me from making photographs of the M-420s. And even back in 1986, I was pleased to catch this one leading Central Vermont’s freight 562 across Route 32 in Monson, Massachusetts (immediately north of the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line).

This is the top of State Line Hill and it was all downgrade from here. I’m standing on a pile of ballast for elevation.

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Brian Solomon’s Night Photo Challenge-Part 1.

In response to my recent nomination by Phil Brahms and Blair Kooistra for the Facebook Night Photo challenge, I’ve selected five groups of photos that I feel might be interesting to review on Tracking the Light.

I have to admit, I’m not clear on the rules for this challenge. As a result, I’ll follow my standard policy and just wing it. Who needs rules anyway?

Among the difficulties in selecting photos for this challenge has been simply finding them. For the most part I’ve not organized images in regards to the time of day they were exposed. A related problem is the large number of night views that I’ve attempted over the years.

Lastly, what makes for a successful night photo?

Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of night photos at Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed this image on an exceptionally foggy May 1985 evening. My subject was the old Palmer Union Station near the crossing of Conrail’s Boston & Albany line and the Central Vermont Railway. Today this old station has been restored and serves as the Steaming Tender restaurant. Tracking the Light viewers will find it a familiar subject, as I’ve often featured images in and around this building. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of night photos at Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed this image on an exceptionally foggy May 1985 evening. My subject was the old Palmer Union Station near the crossing of Conrail’s Boston & Albany line and the Central Vermont Railway. Today this old station has been restored and serves as the Steaming Tender restaurant. Tracking the Light viewers will find it a familiar subject, as I’ve often featured images in and around this building. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

More than 11 years later, I exposed this view at Palmer. Here I'm looking west with the station at my back. A southward New England Central freight is waiting to cross the diamonds. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100F. December 6, 1996.
More than 11 years later, I exposed this view at Palmer. Here I’m looking west with the station at my back. A southward New England Central freight is waiting north of the diamond. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100F. December 6, 1996. Color is an added complication for night work. Would this photo be more effective as a black & white image? Or would the effect of the red signal lights be lost?

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Stay tuned for more ‘Night Photo Challenge’ images . . .  

 

Happy Birthday to Tracking the Light!

It has been two years today (July 19, 2014) since Tracking the Light’s first Post (July 19, 2012).

The first installment featured this image on the Central Vermont Railway crossing the Connecticut River.

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.
Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted on July 19, 2012.

Click HERE to check out the inaugural post.

Tracking the Light has been posting daily since March 2013.

To date, the most popular item was posted January 20, 2013: TRACKING THE LIGHT NEWS FLASH: Photos of Philadelphia Schuylkill River Bridge Derailment. This alone received more than 800 views.

In the last two years of Tracking the Light, I’ve covered a variety of themes, posted thousands of images, and visited many places.

What was your favorite Tracking the Light story?

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Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

 

Four years ago today: John Gruber with his vintage Nikon F on a restored North Shore car at the Illinois Railway Museum. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.
Four years ago today: John Gruber with his vintage Nikon F on a restored North Shore car at the Illinois Railway Museum. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

N&W 611 surrounded by the enemy.
N&W 611 surrounded by the enemy.

Photographers_at_night_PRR_and_C&O_at_night_sideview_P1030770Sou_WAB_DL&W_tight_night_100_IMG_6252

CSX Q423 (or L423) was working Palmer yard. In this view it pulls passed CP83 to double its train out of the yard. I exposed several telephoto views with the LX-7. By keeping the camera relatively low to the ground, I've minimized foreground distractions while allowing for a more dramatic perspective on the locomotives.
CSX Q423 (or L423) was working Palmer yard. In this view it pulls passed CP83 to double its train out of the yard. I exposed several telephoto views with the LX-7. By keeping the camera relatively low to the ground, I’ve minimized foreground distractions while allowing for a more dramatic perspective on the locomotives.

Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.
Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.

CN Tower at Night Toronto P1060978

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Irish Rail 220 leads Monday's Dublin-Ballina IWT liner seen west of Kildare, near Cherryville Junction. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Irish Rail 220 leads Monday’s Dublin-Ballina IWT liner seen west of Kildare, near Cherryville Junction. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

A closer horizontal view with the same camera-lens combination. I adjusted the exposure by a one-third stop, opening to f8.0 to compensate for the lack of sky in the image. Locomotive 085 features a variation of the gray and yellow paint scheme introduced last year. This features the traditional three-digit locomotive number in larger fonts on the cab. This in addition to the recently introduced European multiple number printed in tiny type elsewhere on the engine.
A closer horizontal view with the same camera-lens combination. I adjusted the exposure by a one-third stop, opening to f8.0 to compensate for the lack of sky in the image. Locomotive 085 features a variation of the gray and yellow paint scheme introduced last year. This features the traditional three-digit locomotive number in larger fonts on the cab. This in addition to the recently introduced European multiple number printed in tiny type elsewhere on the engine.

This car works interlaced track where up-hill and down hill lines overlap. Canon EOS 7D.
This car works interlaced track where up-hill and down hill lines overlap. Canon EOS 7D.

Foggy_night_Porto_IMG_2517

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400 image stabilization zoom lens set at 135mm; f8 at 1/500th of second, ISO 200.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400 image stabilization zoom lens set at 135mm; f8 at 1/500th of second, ISO 200.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated manually.
Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated manually.

Locomotive 461 works west along the Royal Canal near Enfield on March 23, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 20mm lens and firmly mounted on a Bogan tripod. Focus and exposure set manually.
Locomotive 461 works west along the Royal Canal near Enfield on March 23, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 20mm lens and firmly mounted on a Bogen tripod. Focus and exposure set manually.

I'd only had my Canon EOS 7D for a few weeks when I made this study of geometric shapes. Metra F40PHs at Harvard made for a colorful subject. Exposed with my Canon 200mm lens handheld at f13 1/250th of a second.
I’d only had my Canon EOS 7D for a few weeks when I made this study of geometric shapes. Metra F40PHs at Harvard made for a colorful subject. Exposed with my Canon 200mm lens handheld at f13 1/250th of a second.

The unusual curved York train shed was built between 1871 and 1877. A Virgin Cross Country HST pauses at York on 4 July 1999. This was led by one of the less-common varieties of the Class 43 power units that featured buffers. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia using a Nikon N90S with 24mm lens.
The unusual curved York train shed was built between 1871 and 1877. A Virgin Cross Country HST pauses at York on 4 July 1999. This was led by one of the less-common varieties of the Class 43 power units that featured buffers. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia using a Nikon N90S with 24mm lens.

16mm Hologon view of Cincinnati Union Station.
16mm Hologon view of Cincinnati Union Station.

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

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.

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Here's the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established 'picture style'. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the 'landscape' style Jpg had interpreted the image.
Here’s the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established ‘picture style’. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the ‘landscape’ style Jpg had interpreted the image.

The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

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Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.

The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.
The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.

Cumbres & Toltec former Denver & Rio Grande Western three-foot gauge line, Colorado.
Cumbres & Toltec former Denver & Rio Grande Western three-foot gauge line, Colorado.

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Central Vermont GP9s, Palmer, Massachusetts, August 1989.

A Different Angle.

Over the years, I’ve made countless images of the Central Vermont Railway, and its modern day successor, New England Central at Palmer.

It was a warm August evening, the light was nice, and a pair of CV GP9s were working the Conrail interchange.

  Exposed on Kodachrome with a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens.

Exposed on Kodachrome with a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens.

Rather than simply make another close-up trackside-view, I opted for this unusual angle south of the old Union Station. I put CV’s tracks in the foreground, while framing the locomotives in the canopy supports of the station. For me this tells a story while putting a less common perspective on a familiar place.

This was 15 years before the station was restored and transformed into the Steaming Tender Restaurant. Now the station is again vibrant, while CV and Conrail are many years gone.

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Amtrak’s Vermonter on New England Central

Federal Street in Belchertown, May 25, 2014.

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Amtrak train 57, the southward Vermonter rolls across Federal Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts on May 25, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Amtrak train 57, the southward Vermonter rolls across Federal Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts on May 25, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.

Since 1995, Amtrak’s Vermonter has operated via Palmer and Amherst, Massachusetts. This requires a 13-mile jog over CSX’s former Boston & Albany from Springfield to Palmer, where the train reverses direction and heads north on New England Central’s former Central Vermont main line.

Presently, Pan Am Southern’s former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line is being upgraded between Springfield and the Massachusetts-Vermont Stateline at East Northfield. This will allow a restoration of passenger service to the traditional route north of Springfield.

The Vermonter is expected to switch to the former B&M routing via Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield by the end of this year. As a result, I’ve been making photographs of Amtrak’s train at various places between Palmer and East Northfield, while the service still operates that way.

Several years ago, my late friend Bob Buck and I, were following a northward New England Central freight. Bob had been making photos on the Central Vermont since steam days.

We were just a few minutes ahead of the freight as we passed Belchertown.

We turned on Route 9 toward Amherst. After a couple of minutes Bob pointed, ‘take a left, there on Federal Street.’ We found the tracks and I made a photo of Bob rolling the freight by the crossing.

It was here I chose to capture the Vermonter, while I still can.

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Related articles

Central Vermont, Willimantic, Connecticut.

November 21, 1987.

At 10:45 am I exposed this view on Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron at f5.6 1/125th of second.
At 10:45 am I exposed this view on Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron at f5.6 1/125th of second.

Making the most of  a clear bright autumn morning, I’d driven to New London, where I visited Central Vermont’s waterfront yard, located below the massive Thames River bridges for I-95. CV’s local was getting ready to head north.

While I was waiting for the CV to get moving, I made photographed Amtrak’s late running Night Owl and its southward Colonial train 95.

The CV local had three GP9s, standard locomotives for that run. In the lead was a personal favorite, engine 4442.

What was special about 4442? Nothing, that’s why I liked it. It had been working CV rails as long as I’d been making photographs, and it seemed like it was always around. I liked 4442 simply because it was familiar. It looked good, and sounded great.

I followed CV’s northward local toward Willimantic, Connecticut, making photos along the way. This was one my best efforts for the day. It’s something of an icon in my collection of CV photos. At the time it was a grab shot. I barely had to time to jump out of my Plymouth Scamp and release the shutter.

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Tomorrow, a random slide from the file!

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DAILY POST: Vermonter at Dusk


Ethereal View at Millers Falls, January 2014.

Tim Doherty asked me a few weeks back, “Have you ever tried a shot from the north side of the Millers Falls high bridge?” I’d looked a this several times, but was discouraged by the row of trees between the road and the railroad bridge.

Amtrak
Amtrak‘s northward Vermonter crosses the Millers River on January 12, 2014.

So, on January 12, 2014, at the end of the day (light), Tim and I went to this location with the aim of making images of Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossing the aged Central Vermont span.

 

As there was only a hint of light left, I upped the ISO sensitivity of my Canon EOS 7D and I switched the color balance to ‘tungsten’ (indoor incandescent lighting which has the same effect as using tungsten balance slide film (such as Fujichrome 64T), and so enhances the blue light of the evening.

 

A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) confirmed the train was on-time out of Amherst. Running time was only about 20 minutes (a bit less than I thought) but we were in place, cameras on tripods, several minutes before we heard the Vermonter blasting for crossings in Millers Falls.

The result is interpretive. The train’s blur combined with view through the trees and the deep blue color bias makes for a ghostly image of the train crossing the bridge.

Click to see related posts: Dusk on the Grand CanalAmtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

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DAILY POST: Lucky Afternoon

I went to the Post Office and Scored a Train.

The other day, I had a few packages to send out. I’d delayed going to the post office until after the school buses were out, using the logic that if I waited, I wouldn’t get stuck behind one on the way back.

On the way into the PO, I heard a distant whistle. And while at the desk, a train rumbled by.

New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line runs on a slightly elevated gradient behind the Monson, Massachusetts PO. This is on the climb up State Line hill, and heavy trains make a good racket coming though town. This freight, however, wasn’t very heavy and the engines weren’t working too hard.

I made an expeditious exit after mailing my packages, and started south on Route 32. No sooner than I was south of town, I found myself looking at the back of a school bus!

And this bus then stopped, as required, at the South Monson grade crossing.

I could hear the southward climbing. It had already gone through. Fortunately, once over the tracks, the bus driver kindly pulled in to let traffic around. I sailed southward, and arrived at State Line crossing. Once out of the car, I could hear the train working.

New England Central's daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.
New England Central’s daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.

Although the light was fading, there was enough to work with. While, I’d left most of my cameras at home, I had my Lumix LX3 in my coat pocket. I set up a shot immediately south of the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, and included the granite marker at the left of the image.

After the train passed, I followed it to Stafford Springs, where I made a few more photos. As it turns out, these NECR images are my first railway photos for 2014.

New England Central's GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.

NECR
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the afternoon of January 9, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.

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DAILY POST: Amtrak’s Vermonter at Three Rivers, Massachusetts.

On October 24, 2013, Amtrak’s southward Vermonter is south of Three Rivers in Palmer, Massachusetts. I’ve often favored this view along the old Central Vermont Railway where the tracks run along the side of the road. The train is approaching Palmer’s yard limits and is trundling along at a casual pace.

Amtrak's southward Vermont rolls along south of Three Rivers, Massachusetts on the former Central Vermont Railway. October 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak’s southward Vermont rolls along south of Three Rivers, Massachusetts on the former Central Vermont Railway. October 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 200mm lens.

Everyday scenes like this one are easy enough to find, yet tend to hold their interest over time. Items such as the trash cans on the left and the car on the road may someday garnish greater interest than the P42 leading the Vermonter.

Yet, someone interested in trains in the future may see this and exclaim, ‘You mean that way back in 2013, they ran the Vermonter via Three Rivers? No way! Why?’

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New England Central Job 610—Genesee & Wyoming Style

A Pair of Pumpkins on the Move.

Genesee & Wyoming
New England Central job 610 crosses the CSX diamond at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 28, 2013. Canon EOS 7D 200mm lens.

Genesee & Wyoming acquired Rail America some months back and so now New England Central is one of the many G&W family railroads.

While several locomotives have been painted in the new corporate colors (or rather, G&W’s traditional paint scheme), many of New England Central’s locomotives remain in various former liveries, including the railroad’s original blue and yellow.

On Monday October 28, 2013, New England Central job 610 (a turn that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts) sported a pair of nicely painted G&W locomotives.

My dad and I made chase of this train on its southward run. I exposed digital still photographs, while Pop made some video clips with his Lumix LX7.

The sun was playing tag with us, but the locomotives were so bright and clean it hardly mattered if the sun was out or not.

Genesee & Wyoming
The view from Smith’s Bridge on Stafford Hollow Road in Monson, Massachusetts where Bob Buck exposed dramatic photos of Central Vermont steam more than 60 years ago. New England Central job 610 climbs the grade toward State Line. Canon EOS 7D fitted with 20mm lens.

Genesee & Wyoming's New England Central.
Richard J. Solomon (at left) exposes a short video clip as New England Central job 610 passes Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Canon EOS 7D fitted with 20mm lens.

Genesee & Wyoming's New England Central.
New England Central job 610 works south of Stafford, Connecticut on October 28, 2013. Canon EOS 7D fitted with 20mm lens.

See yesterday’s post: New England Central at Eagleville Dam, Connecticut

Also check out previous posts: Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction, November 4, 1987Two Freights 24 Hours ApartSeeking the Elusive Orange Engine(s)New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut on May 21, 2013, and New England Central at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, December 9, 2012.

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New England Central at Eagleville Dam, Connecticut

Classic Locomotives at Scenic Spot.

In recent months, New England Central’s operations have been altered. This has benefits for photography. Since the times trains tend to run have changed, different locations have opened up for photographic possibilities.

For many years, New England Central operated a southward freight from Palmer, Massachusetts in the early morning (typically as job 608), this worked into Connecticut (to Willimantic and beyond) and returned in the afternoon or early evening.

Now, on many days, the railroad runs a turn from Willimantic to Palmer (often as job 610), that goes on duty at Willimantic in the morning, runs northward to Palmer, and returns. From my experience the return times vary considerably.

Once I was aware of this change, I began thinking about various places to make photographs based on afternoon lighting angles. Last week, I heard 610 working south from Palmer. I was in luck as a pair of vintage GP38s in the railroad’s original scheme (the locomotives were painted by Conrail in preparation for New England Central’s February 1995 start up).

Track speeds south of Palmer make following a train easy enough. My first location was Stafford Springs, where I’ve often exposed photographs of New England Central. From there I followed southward.

New England Central GP38s
New England Central GP38s lead freight 608 southward at Eagleville, Connecticut on October 21, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

My final location of the day was at the Connecticut Eagleville Preserve, where the line passes an old Mill dam (I’m not well versed on the specific history of this dam, but the arrangement is common enough in New England, where in the 19th century water powered local industries. For more information on the park and area see: http://www.willimanticriver.org/recreation/pg_park_eagleville-preserve.html).

Afternoon sun favors this location, and I made the most of the light, waterfall and autumn foliage as well as the GP38s.

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Boston & Maine at North Walpole, New Hampshire, October 21, 1997.


Autumnal Scene, 16 Years Ago Today.

It was 16 years ago that Mike Gardner and I drove to New Hampshire to photograph Guilford Rail System’s WJED (White River Junction, Vt., to East Deerfield, Mass.) freight. It was a clear October day and the foliage was nearing its peak.

EMD GP40 diesel
Boston & Maine 340 leads WJED at North Walpole, New Hampshire on October 21, 1997. Exposed with an Nikon N90S with f1.4 50mm lens. Slight back lighting accentuates the autumn leaves and nicely illuminates the side of the locomotive.

We found the train near Claremont Junction and followed it south to North Walpole, where I exposed this color slide.

Leading the train was GP40 340 lettered for Guilford’s Boston & Maine component. I like this trailing view because the color of the tree above the train mimics the orange band on the engine. Also the three-head General Railway Signal searchlight at the left offers a hint of the Boston & Maine from an earlier era.

Here, Autumn offers multiple connotations. At one time the White River Junction to Springfield, Massachusetts Connecticut River Line was a busy Boston & Maine route, handling more than a half dozen passenger moves and several freights daily, plus those of Central Vermont Railway. By 1997, Guilford’s operations on was limited to just a few weekly trains.

 

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Central Vermont Railway, Three Rivers, Massachusetts May 1984

My Rare Photo of a CV Switcher. 

 

Central Vermont 1510
Central Vermont SW1200 1510 works the Tampax Factory spur at Bridge Street in Three Rivers, Massachusetts back in May 1984. Exposed on Ektachrome 200 with a Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens. Scan modified in post processing to improve contrast and exposure and minimize dust spots.

The other day, I was showing Tim Doherty some photo locations around Three Rivers, Massachusetts. I described to him how the railroad once had a spur into the old Tampax factory.

The spur (siding) had a switch off the mainline near the station (demolished many years ago), then crossed Main Street and made  a sharp curve behind the liquor store before crossing Bridge Street. There’s still vestiges of this track today.

Back in 1984, Dan Howard was visiting from Needham and he and I drove around the Palmer area making railway photos (as you do). The prize of the day, was this photo of CV’s SW1200 1510 working the Tampax factory spur on the Bridge Street Crossing.

It is one of the few photos I have of a CV switcher working in the Palmer area, and one of the few times I caught a rail movement on the Tampax spur. (Might creative minds develop some accompanying humor  ??)

This photo was exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 200 slide film with my Leica 3A using my 50mm Summitar lens. It was a sultry dull day, and not the best for photography. While this is not a world class image, it captures a scene never to be repeated.

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Central Vermont Railway at Stafford Springs, Connecticut

Spring 1984

I made this image during my senior year of high school. I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but on that day I’d followed Central Vermont Railway’s southward freight from Palmer to Stafford. I made photos of it south of downtown Monson off Route 32, and at the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line.

Central Vermont at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in Spring 1984.
Shortly before the train came into view a cloud conveniently softened the sun. Central Vermont GP9s ease toward a grade crossing at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. With a carefully composed vertical in my rangefinder’s view, I released my Leica’s shutter with an audible snap. Many years later I scanned the negative.

This view in downtown Stafford Springs has always intrigued me. The railroad runs tight to a row of buildings along the main street in town. Today, the brick building featured in the photograph hosts a trendy coffee shop where I sometimes meet my friend Roger Ingraham to wait for trains to pass and discuss photography.

In 2013, New England Central operates the railroad, but the scene hasn’t changed all that much. I still make photos here from time to time.

I exposed this image with my old Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens, and used a Weston Master 3 light meter to assist in exposure calculation. I processed the film myself in Microdol-X. Typically, I used a weak formula to save money. By doing so, I inadvertently avoided over developing my negatives (which was a flawed inclination of mine at the time).

I made a few minor contrast modifications in post processing and cleaned up a few small spots and scratches on this nearly 30 year-old 35mm negative.

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Tracking the Light in Review

 

Light, Camera, Philosophy . . .Action! (Hopefully).

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.
Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted with Installment 1 on July 19, 2012.

About 10 months ago (July 2012), I started Tracking the Light. In the short time span since then I’ve had about 19,000 hits. While small numbers compared with Gangnam Style’s viral You-Tube dance video (with more than 1.7 billion hits), it’s a gratifying start. (BTW, there are some train scenes in Gangnam Style,  so it isn’t a completely random reference).

 

Reading Terminal clock
Reading Terminal clock on Market Street, Philadelphia. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens. Originally posted on January 4, 2013.

In my introductory post, I offered a bit of my background with a taste of my philosophy on the subject of railway photography; ‘There is no ‘correct way’ to make photographs, although there are techniques that, once mastered, tend to yield pleasing results. I hope to expand upon those themes in these Internet essays by telling the stories behind the pictures, as well as sharing the pictures themselves.’

Irish Rail trains
Irish Rail Intercity Rail Cars converge on Islandbridge Junction, May 2013. Lumix LX3 photo. I routinely post images of Irish railways. Check regularly for updates. Also, I have a special page on Dublin that is more than railway images. For more Irish Rail click here!

Irish Rail empty timber train.
An empty timber from Waterford near Donamon, County Roscommon, Ireland. Canon 7D with 100mm f2.0 lens.

What began as an infrequent opportunity to share work via the Internet has evolved into a nearly daily exercise. In the interval, I’ve learned a bit what makes for an interesting post, while working with a variety of themes to keep the topic interesting.

TTC Streetcar Toronto.
TTC Streetcar at corner of King and Queen Streets, Sunnyside, Toronto, February 8, 2010.
Lumix LX-3 set at ISO 80. Originally Posted February 8, 2013

Regular viewers may have observed common threads and topics. While I’ve made a concerted effort to vary the subject matter considered ‘railway photography,’ I regularly return to my favorite subjects and often I’ll post sequences with a common theme.

Occasionally I get questions. Someone innocently asked was I worried about running out of material! Unlikely, if not completely improbable; Not only do I have an archive of more than 270,000 images plus tens of thousands of my father’s photos, but I try to make new photos everyday. My conservative rate of posting is rapidly outpaced by my prolific camera efforts.

New England Central GP38 3850 leads train 608 at Stafford Springs on January 25, 2013. A series of difficult crossings in Stafford Springs is the primary reason for a 10 mph slow order through town. Especially difficult is this crossing, where the view of the tracks is blocked by a brick-building. Protection is offered by a combination of grade crossing flashers and traffic lights. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens; ISO 400 1/500th second at f8.0. In camera JPG modified with slight cropping to correct level and scaling for web. A RAW image was exposed simultaneously with the Jpg.
New England Central GP38 3850 leads train 608 at Stafford Springs on January 25, 2013. A series of difficult crossings in Stafford Springs is the primary reason for a 10 mph slow order through town. Especially difficult is this crossing, where the view of the tracks is blocked by a brick-building. Protection is offered by a combination of grade crossing flashers and traffic lights. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens; ISO 400 1/500th second at f8.0. In camera JPG modified with slight cropping to correct level and scaling for web. A RAW image was exposed simultaneously with the Jpg. Originally posted on January 26, 2013.

Someone else wondered if all my photos were ‘good’. I can’t answer that properly. I don’t judge photography as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Certainly, some of my images have earned degrees of success, while others have failed to live up to my expectations (It helps to take the lens cap ‘off’). Tracking the Light is less about my success rate and more about my process of making images.

Bord na Mona
A couple pair of laden Bord na Mona trains struggle upgrade, laying sand down as they ascend a short steep grade on the run back toward Mountdillon. This is the same stretch of track pictured in Irish Bog Railways–Part 2. Originally posted on March 4, 2013

I’m always trying new techniques, exploring new angles, while playing with different (if not new) equipment.

The most common questions regarding my photography are; ‘What kind of camera do you use?’ and ‘Have you switched to digital?’ I can supply neither the expected nor straight-forward responses. But, in short, I work with a variety of equipment and recording media. I aim to capture what I see and preserve it for the future. I try to have a nice time and I hope to entertain my friends.

 

Learn my secrets, click here. This image was made in Spring 2012 on Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with a Leica 3a and 21mm lens and processed for scanning.
Learn my secrets, click here. This image was made in Spring 2012 on Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with a Leica 3a and 21mm lens and specially processed for scanning.

Eastward Delaware & Hudson symbol freight 'Jet1' passes semaphores at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) east of Adrian, New York on May 14, 1988.
Semaphores are one of my themes. See my post from September 23, 2012. Eastward Delaware & Hudson symbol freight ‘Jet1’ passes semaphores at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) east of Adrian, New York on May 14, 1988.

Stay tuned for the details!

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Railroads at night in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Originally posted on December 1, 2013. CSX Q427 rolls through Palmer, Massachusetts, at 11:01 pm on November 30, 2012.
Notice the photographer’s shadow superimposed on the blur of the train. Single exposure with Panasonic Lumix LX-3 with Leitz Summicron lens, zoom set to 5.1mm, ISO 200, exposed in ‘A’ mode with +2/3 over-ride, f2.2 at 7 seconds.
Entirely exposed with existing light; no flash.

 

CSX General Electric Evolution-series diesels work west at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 17, 2013. Exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D.
CSX General Electric Evolution-series diesels work west at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 17, 2013. Exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D.

 

CSX Q264 at West Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 at West Warren, Massachusetts.

 

Martinez, California, as viewed from Carquinez Scenic Drive. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400 mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Martinez, California, as viewed from Carquinez Scenic Drive. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400 mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.

The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

 

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Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013

 

Anniversary of the Golden Spike.

Morning of May 10, 2013 finds heavy fog at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. This view looking south on New England Central's former Central Vermont Railway. Canon EOS 7D.
6:38 am on the morning of May 10, 2013 finds heavy fog at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. This view is looking south on New England Central’s former Central Vermont Railway. Canon EOS 7D.

May 10th holds symbolic railroad significance as the anniversary of completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1869—an event that had great national and international importance. Many other railway anniversaries can be linked to May 10 as well.

In 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleeps published by Voyageur Press.

Although this seems to be out of print, it remains a stunning photographic collection, which is especially impressive considering it was entirely accomplished within the limits of just one day!It’s hard for me to believe that six years have passed since that day.

Yesterday (May 10 2013), I got up early and aimed for Palmer, Massachusetts, with an aim of making a variety of railway images on this significant day. In the course of just a few hours, I’d photographed five train movements on three different railroads. I was home by 9:30 am. (Although, I was out again later in the day to investigate some changes to railway infrastructure).

When I began my photography there was thick fog clinging to the valleys; this gradually burned off leaving bright sun. Here’s a selection of my efforts.

Train in fog.
6:43 am. New England Central 608 led by GP38 3857 works south of Palmer Yard approaching Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. On May 10, 2013, the sun was out, just not here. Canon EOS 7D.

Tracks in forest.
7:49 am. The fog had begun to lift when I made this view along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch near Forest Lake, Palmer, Massachusetts. May 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D.

Here was a complete surprise for me; I was unaware that Mass-Central had borrowed a GATX GP15-2 locomotive until I saw it leading the northward freight. Some quick driving  on my part put me in position at this broadside view where the line crosses Forest Lake. I was pleased, that's a nice looking locomotive in fresh paint.
7:52 am. Here was a complete surprise for me; I was unaware that Mass-Central had borrowed a GATX GP15-2 locomotive until I saw it leading the northward freight. Some quick driving on my part put me in position at this broadside view where the line crosses Forest Lake. I was pleased, that’s a nice looking locomotive in fresh paint. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.

Crossing the mountain from the Ware River Valley to the Quaboag River Valley, I heard CSX Q264 call the signal at CP83 in Palmer. I altered my course to intercept it at West Warren, where recent undercutting and brush work has opened up a nice view for morning trains headed east. The sun was just emerging from the fog making for some rich soft light. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
Crossing the mountain from the Ware River Valley to the Quaboag River Valley, I heard CSX Q264 call the signal at CP83 in Palmer. I altered my course to intercept it at West Warren, where recent undercutting and brush work has opened up a nice view for morning trains headed east. The sun was just emerging from the fog at 8:15 am making for some rich soft light. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.

EMD SD70MAC
8:29 am. Only a few minutes behind Q264 was this eastward intermodal train. The sun was out brightly in Warren and I could hear the roar of EMD diesels well before the train reached me. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens at 28mm.

 

 

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New England Central, Monson, Massachusetts, May 8, 2013

The ‘Pride of Palmer’ Climbs Stateline Hill.

Yesterday morning, jetlag had me awake and alert considerably earlier than I’m accustomed. By 7 am, I’d photographed three trains on two railroads in two states and was on my way home to get some work done. Crazy thing, jetlag.

Tracks in Monson, Massachusetts
New England Central’s former Central Vermont Railway line looking north toward Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts. Canon 7D with an f2.0 100mm lens.

The highlight of the morning’s impromptu photo excursion was this image of New England Central’s ‘Pride of Palmer’ (GP38 3851) climbing through Monson, Massachusetts with a short freight for Willimantic, Connecticut. This is passing Monson’s ‘tornado alley’, where, nearly two years ago a freak afternoon twister made splinters and memories of  many fine buildings and trees.

New England Central GP38 in Monson, Mass.
At 6:16 am on May 8, 2013, New England Central 3851 approaches the ‘Monson tunnel’, now nearly an underpass below Main Street. Canon 7D with an f2.0 100mm lens, ISO 400 exposed at f4.0 1/250th, white balance set for ‘cloudy.’

Train in Monson, Mass.
New England Central 3851 approaches Main Street, Monson. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200. Image modified with Adobe Photoshop to compensate for exposure extremes and to warm the color balance.

 

 

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New England Central January 10, 2013

New England Central GP38 3850
Southward New England Central freight along Plains Road, near Sweetheart Lake, south of Stafford, Connecticut shortly after sunrise on January 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm ‘Pancake’ lens; ISO 200 f4.5 at 1.500th second—intentionally ‘underexposed’ and adjusted in post processing using Photoshop to maintain desired detail and balance in highlight and shadow areas.

One of the benefits of my visits to Monson, Massachusetts, is being within ear-shot of the former Central Vermont Railway, now operated by New England Central (NECR). Yesterday morning (January 10, 2013), I awoke to the sounds of a southward freight clawing its way up Stateline Hill (so-named because it crests near the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line). NECR freights take their time ascending the grade and on a clear day I can hear them climbing from about the time they depart the Palmer Yard. As a kid I’d count the crossings: CV’s GP9s whistling a sequence of mournful blasts for each one. Yesterday morning I dithered for a few minutes. Should I go after this train? Or, should I keep my nose to grindstone, writing? Clear skies forced the answer: GO!

My hesitation caused me to miss the opportunity for a photograph in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. This was blessing in disguise, since I’ve often caught the train here and then broke off the chase before getting deeper into Connecticut. Having missed Stafford Springs, I pursued further south, and caught the train four times at various points between Stafford and Willimantic. This a relatively easy chase, as Route 32 runs roughly parallel to the line.

Three elements made yesterday’s chase a satisfying exercise:

1) The train was operating at a suitable time of the morning for southward daylight photography (lately, NECR’s trains seem to have headed south either way too early or too late in the day for my photographic preferences—I’ve been photographing this line for more than 30 years, first chasing it with my Dad in the early 1980s, so I can be unusually choosy).

2) It was a ‘clear blue dome’—sunny, bright, and cloudless, always a great time to make morning photographs.

3) As it turned out, one of New England Central’s yellow and blue GP38s was leading. As I’ve mentioned previously, while this was once NECR’s standard locomotive, in recent years the type has become comparatively scarce on NECR, with many of the locomotives working the line wearing paint of former operators (Conrail, Union Pacific, Florida East Coast, and others).

I was also eager for a clear day to test some recently acquired equipment, especially my new Canon 40mm Pancake Lens, which arrived on Monday. I’ll make this lens the detailed topic of future posts.

New England Central GP38 3850.
New England Central’s southward freight approaches Mansfield Depot, Connecticut. Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO f5.6 at 1/1000 second, ‘Landscape’ ‘picture style’ (no adjustments except for scaling).

After abandoning NECR at Willimantic, I made a few photographs of the town, which still has some wonderful old mill buildings, then continued south to New London where I focused on Amtrak for a while.

Since New England Central is among properties recently acquired by Genesee & Wyoming, I’m anticipating change and wondering when I’ll photograph the first orange & black locomotives

See my recent published book North American Locomotives for more information on New England Central’s and Genesee & Wyoming locomotives.

Railroad at Willimantic Connecticut
New England Central at Willimantic Yard as viewed from the famous footbridge (must be famous, it has its own plaque). NECR shares this yard with Providence & Worcester with which it interchanges traffic. Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO f8 at 1/640 second, ‘Landscape’ ‘picture style’ (no adjustments except for scaling).

Willimantic, Connecticut.
Old thread mills at Willimantic, Connecticut. Exposed using Canon 7D with 40mm ‘Pancake’ lens; f9.0 at 1/500th second, no adjustments except for scaling.

 

 

 

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Locomotive Geometry: Part 1

Alco diesel detail
This image appears on page 49 of my book Vintage Diesel Power published by Voyageur Press in 2010. I exposed it on October 13, 2008, courtesy of Genesee Valley Transportation. GVT was operating the locomotive on its Falls Road Railroad between Lockport and Brockport, New York. This is a relatively rare Alco RS-32 built for New York Central. It often operated on the Falls Road for New York Central and later Penn Central. The photo was exposed with a Canon EOS-3 and 20mm f2.8 lens on Fujichrome film.

Locomotives have long been the subjects of photographic study. The earliest images are believed to be Daguerreotypes from the early 1850s. As early as the 1860s, locomotive manufacturers routinely photographed locomotives to document their construction and to help interest prospective buyers. The nature of the steam locomotive meant that a great deal about the machine could be gleaned by studying it from the outside. Railway enthusiasts were enamored with locomotives from the very beginning; sketches and drawings of engines date to the earliest days of railroading, while railway enthusiast photography certainly dates to at least the 1890s, if not earlier. While I’ve always been fascinated by railways, I didn’t routinely examine locomotives on film until I was about ten. My earliest railway photography tended to feature signals. If there were any locomotives in my pictures, these seemed to appear on the horizon in the form of a looming headlight. Later, I made a great many images of locomotives, sometime picturing them at work, other times resting between jobs, and often I examined them on a macro level; in other words, up-close and in detail. I’ve written a number of books on locomotives, and these chronicle their evolution and development, intended application and service, and performance. My body of locomotive photography has aided in illustration of these efforts. This selection of images is intended as the first installment in Tracking the Light of my exploration of locomotive geometry: the shapes of the machines. Later installments will focus on specific railway fleets, individual types, and perhaps some individual machines.

Rare Electro-Motive model NW5 at Palmer, Massachusetts.
Mass-Central NW5 2100 is an old favorite. Built for Southern Railway in 1947 to work the New Orleans Union Station, it found its way to Massachusetts when I was in junior high school. On the afternoon of October 18, 1983, my late friend Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren phoned to say that Mass-Central was on its way to Palmer to collect interchange from Conrail. I caught the antique Electro-Motive engine by the old Boston & Albany freight house. Exposed with Leica IIIA with Summitar f2.0 50mm lens on Kodachrome 64 slide film

Central Vermont GP9s.
I grew up to the sounds of Central Vermont GP9s roaring away in run-8 as they clawed their way up State Line Hill in Monson, Massachusetts. I often photographed these locomotives in my youth. By the time I made this photo on December 23, 1986, I had begun my photographic studies at Rochester Institute of Technology, and was back for Christmas Break. Old 4442 was a favorite machine. It is climbing State Line as it had countless times before. Leica IIIA fitted with a Leica Visoflex II and 65mm Elmar Lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.

CV_4559_Palmer_Jan_1989_Brian_Solomon_444104©Brian_Solomon

New England Central GP38s.
In February, 1995, New England Central Railroad (NECR) assumed operations of the former Central Vermont Railway. By that time, CV’s GP9s had been gone a few years. NECR’s first locomotives (and the only ones painted for the line) were a fleet of handsome GP38s. By the late 1990s, these were an equivalent age as had been CV’s GPs when I knew them a decade earlier, yet somehow they didn’t seem so ancient. After all, age is largely perception. NECR GP38s rest in the afternoon sun at Palmer Yard in March, 1997. Nikon F3T with Nikon 24mm f2.8 Lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.

Former Boston & Maine Alco S4 1271 was on a siding at Middleborough, Massachusetts, on July 10, 1987. Warm afternoon sun was ideal for a study with Kodachrome, so I put my recently purchased Leica M2 and 50mm Leitz Summicron to work.
Former Boston & Maine Alco S4 1271 was on a siding at Middleborough, Massachusetts, on July 10, 1987. Warm afternoon sun was ideal for a study with Kodachrome, so I put my recently purchased Leica M2 and 50mm Leitz Summicron to work.

Baltimore & Ohio GP9 battery box door detail.
Baltimore & Ohio GP9 6145 worked on Rochester & Southern’s former B&O Brooks Avenue Yard in Rochester while I was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I made many photographs of this Electro-Motive diesel; this image exposed on October 22, 1987. with my Leica M2, 50mm Summicron and Kodachrome 25 slide film. If I knew why it was called “The Mighty Jumbo”, I’ve forgotten now.

 

See: Vintage Diesel Power by Brian Solomon at Voyageur Press.

Preserved Western Pacific diesels
Preserved Western Pacific diesels at Portola, California, on May 10, 2008 capture the spirit of another era. This image appeared in my 2009 title Railroads of California published by Voyageur Press. The photo was exposed on Fuji Velvia 100 slide film using a Canon EOS-3 and 100mm f2.0 lens. WP 608 is an Electro-Motive Corporation model NW2 built in 1940 for Union Pacific, and later acquired by WP. While WP 707 is a GP7 bought new by the railroad.

WC_F45_6656_May41996Brian_Solomon_444107©Brian_Solomon
I’ve always enjoyed intense sound produced by Electro-Motive’s 20-cylinder 645 diesel engine. That doesn’t translate to photography, except that I have a disproportionate number of images of diesels powered by that engine. On May 4, 1996, I made this photo inside Wisconsin Central F45 6656 to feature the big prime mover. Exposed using a Nikormat FT3 with Nikon 28mm AF lens, Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film, exposed manually.

See: EMD Locomotives by Brian Solomon at Voyageur Press.