Tag Archives: Central Vermont

Three Years Ago Today: New England Central at Belchertown, Massachusetts

It was July 6, 2015, three years ago, that Paul Goewey and I photographed New England Central at Springfield Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

Our vantage point is from the old Central Massachusetts Railroad right of way—a line that was abandoned in the early 1930s, when Boston & Maine obtained trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont (now New England Central) line.

On this Day, July 6, 2015, I caught Connecticut Southern 3771 leading the southward New England Central 611 at Springfield Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

I made this view using my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Vestiges of the Central Vermont Railway.

Last Sunday was dreary and damp. I inspected the old Central Vermont Railway Palmer Subdivision main track at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, where I was delighted to find these vestiges from the steam era.

The tie plate below the rail date from the 1940s and still bear evidence of the CV, a company gone since 1995, when New England Central assumed operation of the line.

Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens. To make the raised lettering on the tie plate more visible in the photo, I needed to adjust my angle in regards to the reflection of the sky in the water on top of the plate. The water acted both to highlight and obscure the lettering  depending on how the it reflected the light.

I wonder how many times CV’s classic 2-8-0 steam locomotives pounded over these plates in years gone by? Not to mention carrying the passage of CV’s later era locomotives such as the GP9s and Alco RS-11s that I grew up around.

How much longer will these vestiges survive? A welded rail train arrived a couple of days later, so it’s anyone’s guess.

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East Northfield, Massachusetts: a Junction; a Tunnel Motor; A Searchlight and Three Quarter Light.

Years ago, the view from the road bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts was more open than it is today.

The trees have grown up making it more challenging to expose photos of trains at the junction between former Boston & Maine and former Central Vermont lines here.

At one time, a century or more ago, B&M’s Conn River route crossed the CV here. B&M’s line continued across the Connecticut River and rejoined the CV at Brattleboro.

Later, the two routes were melded in a paired track arrangement. However, by the time I started photographing here in the 1980s, the B&M route north of East Northfield was no longer functioning as a through line.

On the morning of April 27, 2018, I made this view of New England Central freight 608 led by a former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 ‘tunnel motor’ diesel.

New England Central 611 approaches the junction at East Northfield, Massachusetts. The lead locomotives have just crossed the Vermont-Massachusetts state line. The old Boston & Maine line once continued to the right of the present NECR alignment (and to the left of the dirt road), running northward across the Connecticut River and beyond via Dole Junction, New Hampshire toward Brattleboro.

The light was spot on for a series of three quarter views featuring a vintage GRS searchlight signal that protects the junction.

Perfect morning light makes for a calendar view from the road bridge at the junction.
NECR 611 continues south toward Palmer, Massachusetts on the old Central Vermont Railway, the old Boston & Maine route diverges to the left toward Greenfield and Springfield, Massachusetts.

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Central Vermont Railway Ended 23 Years Ago Today (February 3, 2018)

On February 3, 1995, Canadian National Railway’s American affiliate Central Vermont Railway ended operations.

 

Shortly thereafter, the newly created RailTex short line called New England Central assumed operation of the former CV route. Since that time, New England Central became part of Rail America, which was then acquired by Genesee & Wyoming.

 

Despite these changes, a few of New England Central’s start-up era GP38s are still on the move in the classy blue and yellow livery.

Central Vermont GP9 4442 leads freight 562B upgrade at Maple Street in Monson, Massachusetts on December 23, 1986.
New England Central approaches its 23 anniversary. Another view at Maple Street in Monson.

Although exposed more than 30 years apart. This pair of ‘then and now’ photos at Maple Street in Monson, Massachusetts, helps delineate my appreciation for New England Central and Central Vermont.

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Palmer— Then (again) and Now.

I’d mentioned that among the top ten reasons that I wanted to make photographs in 2018 was to revisit old places to make dramatic then and now comparisons.

This is a work in progress. And I’ve published similar comparisons for Palmer previously.

Below are several views looking west from the Palmer station toward the diamond crossing.

Over the decades I’ve made hundreds of photos here.

The vintage photo dates from Spring 1984. This view works well for modern companions because I conveniently left lots of room to the right of the locomotive while including details such as the code lines.

The color New England Central views were exposed on January 3, 2018.

These are imperfect comparisons because I’m not working from precisely the same angle, nor am I using equivalent lenses.

1984 view exposed with a Leica IIIA with 50mm Summitar. Central Vermont northward local freight crossing Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line.
For point of reference the old eastward Boston & Albany mainline is in the same place, as are the rails used to hold the old Palmer sign in the black & white photo that is now a white box with a yellow stripe near the second locomotive in the color view.
Compare the track arrangements between the 1984 and 2018 views.
Enlarged version of the 1984 view. The old westward main was removed from service in summer 1986, and later lifted.

The 1984 views were made with a 50mm Leica Summitar, while the more recent views were exposed digitally using a Fujinon 90mm lens. However, I also made a few color slides using a 40mm Canon lens. But those are pending processing.

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Classic Angle at the Diamond.

I knew it as the Boston & Albany and Central Vermont diamond in Palmer (diamond describes the shape of rails made by the angled level crossing of the two lines). I made my first photos at this location before I entered 6th grade.

Fast forward to January 2, 2018. I stepped out of the car at Palmer and with the crisp winter air I could hear a train approaching eastbound.

So often my ears have alerted me to a train. In this case the two-cycle roar of classic EMD 645 diesels.

I ambled toward the diamond and made these views. Over-the-shoulder light, with rich mid-morning sun, at a readily identifiable location; nearly perfect.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images designed to mimic the angle I’d used here many years earlier.

There are more trees here now than in years gone by. Yet I’d made vertical views here before to emphasize the signal.
CSX GP40-2s lead B740 eastbound over the famous diamond.
CSX local freight B740 was carrying cars of pipe to be interchanged at Palmer Yard with the Mass-Central. That gave an a idea for the following day.

 

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Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

New England Central’s grade over State Line Hill climbs through Monson, Massachusetts. When I’m in Monson—where I live for part of the year—I can hear the trains as they pass through town.

In recent posts, I’ve focused my cameras on New England Central’s weekday freight, job 608, that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back.

In the long days, the present schedule for 608 finds it in a number of classic locations that are well-lit for photography.

I can go after the train on any given morning, as often as I choose, and this allows me the freedom to explore different angles, photographic techniques, and visit locations repeatedly to make more interesting images.

I like to work in black & white and I choose to use traditional film cameras with which I can craft images in the old school. I process the film myself using custom-tailored recipes, and then scan for presentation here.

Why black & white film? First of all it’s not simply monochrome. My black & white photography is the culmination of decades of experimentation. This shouldn’t imply that the photos are inherently better than simple digital snap shots, but infers that I’ve put more thought and energy into achieving my end result.

Here I’ve displayed three variations of a black & white image I exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens at Bridge Street in Monson. I’ve adjusted the contrast and tonal range producing subtle differences in each interpretation. For comparison, I’ve also supplied a similar digital color view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7.

I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film image variations?

My first post-processed variation of New England Central’s 608 climbing at Bridge Street, Monson, Mass.
Here I’ve lowered the over-all contrast, which allows for greater shadow and highlight detail, but overall produces a softer tonality.
My third variation; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality and deeper blacks.
Is color better? Chime in with your opinion in the comments section.

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New England Central—Making the Most of a Sunny Morning.

Lately, New England Central’s (NECR) Willimantic-Palmer freight 608 has been running on favorable schedule for photography.

If you’ve been following Tracking the Light lately, you might have gleaned the mistaken impression that New England Central’s northward freight can only be photographed hard out of the sun at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

In fact  on its present schedule there are many nicely lit photographs of the northward run between Willington, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts, this time of year.

And, when the crew turns quickly at Palmer, there can be a host of very nicely lit locations in the southward direction.

It helps to know where and when to go. I’ve been at this a while. Back in Central Vermont Railway days (precursor to New England Central) and before I could drive, I’d chase this line on my bicycle. By the time I was 15 I knew all the best angles.

These views are from one productive morning a few weeks ago. More to come!

Leica view on black & white film—Ilford HP5 rated at 320 ISO, processed in Ilford Perceptol developer and toned with selenium. NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo using in-camera. Velvia color profile.
Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NER 608 about to cross Rt319 north of Stafford Springs.
A few minutes later at Stateline (on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border). Note the passing siding. I’m standing on Route 32 looking southward.
Leica view at Stateline.
Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts, near the site of the old Central Vermont Railway Monson Station (gone more than 60 years).
Leica view on HP5 at Washington Street.

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Central Vermont RS-11s on this Day in 1983.

Someone in the administration office at Monson High School may have noted my absence.

But the freshly fallen snow and Alco RS-11s working the road freight to New London distracted me. Really now, I think that making this sequence of photographs was more important than sitting around in some old classroom.

On January 5, 1983, CV RS-11s  work a southward freight at Chestnut Street in Monson, Massachusetts. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar.
Look! A school bus. Ha!

Now, 34 years later I still don’t think I was wrong. Do you?

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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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611 with Rainbow Consist plus a Bus at Amherst.

That’s New England Central job 611. (A turn that runs from Brattleboro, Vermont to Palmer, Massachusetts).

All I want to know is what Emily Dickenson might say about all this? Hmmm?

PVTA bus crosses the old Central Vermont at Amherst, Massachusetts.
PVTA bus crosses the old Central Vermont at Amherst, Massachusetts.
Connecticut Southern 3771 leads NECR job 611 south at Amherst, Massachusetts on July 6, 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Connecticut Southern 3771 leads NECR job 611 south at Amherst, Massachusetts on July 6, 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Leased CEFX 1016 on its way to Providence & Worcester.
Leased CEFX 1016 on its way to Providence & Worcester.

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Canadian National Caboose passing Monson Semaphore.

This old upper quadrant semaphore was located in Monson, Massachusetts about a mile from the Palmer diamond. It served as a fixed distant to the absolute signal protecting the crossing and was always in the diagonal position indicating ‘approach’.

I made this image on July 20, 1986 of a northward Central Vermont freight (probably job 562).

Purists may note that Canadian National referred to its cabooses as ‘Vans’. More relevant was that by this date, cabooses were becoming unusual in New England. Conrail began caboose-less operation on through freights a few years earlier.

Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.
Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.

Even rarer in New England were semaphores. Yet this one survived until very recently, when Central Vermont successor New England Central finally replaced it with a color-light. See earlier post: Monson Semaphore Challenge.

A minor point regarding this composition; I’d released the shutter a moment too soon, and so the left-hand back of the caboose visually intersects with the semaphore ladder. This annoys me. Sometimes I like a bit of visual tension in an image, but in this case it doesn’t work.

 

Not that I can go back and try it again, as much as I’d like to!

 

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DAILY POST: Campaign Train, Aug 2010.


New England Central at Montpelier Junction, Vermont.

Brian Dubie's campaign train
Dubie campaign train approaches Montpelier Junction, Vermont on the afternoon of August 28, 2010. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

A freshly scrubbed GP38 led a pair of Pennsy passenger cars in a classic old-school whistle-stop campaign tour of Vermont.

On August 28, 2010, my dad and I drove to the Georgia high bridge (near St. Albans, Vermont) to intercept a New England Central special train hired by gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie.

It was a sunny warm summer’s day, and we made numerous photos of the special as it worked its way south.

This pair of images was exposed at Montpelier Junction, where the train made a stop for the candidate to make a speech to his supporters. Traditionally, this was where Central Vermont met the Montpelier & Barre.

I used a telephoto for these views in order to emphasize the bunting and flags that marked the train’s distinctive qualities. Several of my photographs of the train appeared in Private Varnish.

B Dubie 4 govnr campaign train at Montpelier Jct IMG_4331

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Amtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

Unusual Locomotives Cross the Millers High Bridge.

There’s something very ‘October’ about Millers Falls. It’s just a bit spooky and has an air of decay and rust about it. The village has seen better times, but it’s a great place to photograph trains.

Downtown Millers Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed on October 23, 2013 with a Lumix LX3.
Downtown Millers Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed on October 23, 2013 with a Lumix LX3.

On October 22, 2013, Amtrak ran a set of light engines on New England Central from Palmer to North Walpole.

Amtrak GP38-2TCs
These are unusual locomotives: built as model GP40TC for Canada’s GO Transit they were acquired by Amtrak and later converted into ‘GP38-2TCs’ by Altoona shops. (Thanks to Rich Reed for help in identifying locomotive’s lineage). Amtrak tends to assign them to maintenance trains. They are rare visitors to the New England Central at Millers Falls. Canon 7D photo.

I spent the morning at Millers Falls photographing New England Central and Pan Am Railways freights, and culminated my efforts with this image of Amtrak’s engines crossing the Millers River on the high bridge.

This pin-connected deck truss dates from the early 20th century and like just about everything in Millers Falls has a look that harks back to another time.

I exposed the image of the bridge with my Canon 7D fitted with a f2.0 100mm lens. I made some minor adjustments to the RAW file in post-processing to adjust color balance, saturation and contrast to improve the look of the silver locomotives against colorful autumn trees, then converted the file to a relatively small Jpg for display here.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution Amtrak and the North America rail network.

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Quiet Day at Palmer Yard, 1979.

Kid with a Camera.

Central Vermont Alco RS-11
Looking south at Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts Yard in spring 1979. The Rocket was loaded circus style using a ramp in the yard. RS-11s were typically assigned to this train.

In spring 1979, my dad and I visited Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts yard. At the time Palmer activity tended to be nocturnal. A lone RS-11 for The Rocket (Palmer-St Albans, Vermont piggyback) was the only locomotive in town.

I made a few exposures on Kodachrome 64 with my Leica 3A. At the time I was in 7th grade at Monson Junior-Senior High School. Admittedly my photographic skills were rudimentary. The photos are passable, but a decent record of the scene.

I wish I’d made more photos of CV’s piggyback trains. By the time I understood what it was about, it had stopped running. I have a few images of The Rocket on the road, but not very many.

Alco RS-11

Detail view of CV RS-11 3611 at Palmer in spring 1979. RS-11s were among my favorite diesels and I’d see them regularly at Palmer.

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Tracking the Light!

 

Tracking the Light’s first full year.

Benburb Street LUAS Crash
Benburb Street LUAS Crash

 

It was exactly one year ago (July 19, 2012) that Tracking the Light made its debut.

In the last year this site has had nearly 24,000 visits.

Of the nearly 235 posts, the following topics have been the most popular:

1)    Gallery Post 1: Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012 

2)    LUAS Tram Crash on Benburb, Street Dublin September 10, 2012 

3)    Installment 1: Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont

4)    Gallery Post 2: Looking Back on Irish Railways 1998-2003

5) Tracking the Light Extra! Breaking Views!

Irish Rail 0117077 leads a wagon transfer over the River Liffey at Islandbridge at 4:25pm on April 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Irish Rail 0117077 leads a wagon transfer over the River Liffey at Islandbridge at 4:25pm on April 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Among the posts that drew the least interest:

1) Sunset at Bonn, Germany, August 1998

2) Chicago & North Western Station, Chicago August 1984

 

Deutche Bahn InterCity train 522 Berchtesgadener Land (Berchtesgaden—Hamburg) catches the glint of the setting sun at Bonn, Germany. Compare this view with that of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986. (posted December 7, 2012). Exposed on Fuji Sensia II (ISO 100) slide film using a Nikon F3T fitted with f2.8 135mm lens. Exposure calculated manually with a handheld Sekonic Studio deluxe light meter (approximately f8 1/500 sec).
Deutche Bahn InterCity train 522 Berchtesgadener Land (Berchtesgaden—Hamburg) catches the glint of the setting sun at Bonn, Germany. Compare this view with that of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986. (posted December 7, 2012). Exposed on Fuji Sensia II (ISO 100) slide film using a Nikon F3T fitted with f2.8 135mm lens. Exposure calculated manually with a handheld Sekonic Studio deluxe light meter (approximately f8 1/500 sec).
Chicago, August 19, 1984. Exposed on Kodak Safety Film 5063; bulk loaded Tri-x 400, exposed at ISO 400, processed in Microdol-X.
Chicago, August 19, 1984. Exposed on Kodak Safety Film 5063; bulk loaded Tri-x 400, exposed at ISO 400, processed in Microdol-X.

As a result of my careful marketing analysis, I’ve determine the best ways for Tracking the Light to go viral are:

1)   Encourage Sperry to plan a safely staged ‘derailment’ on Dublin’s LUAS route (to demonstrate the dangers of hidden rail fractures, perhaps) using former a Central Vermont Railway switcher painted in Irish Rail grey and then photograph it on a dull day using my Lumix LX-3. (Along the lines of the theatrically arranged ‘cornfield meets’ of the late Victorian era.)

2)    Hire a Korean guy with sunglasses to dance around near the tracks. (Gangnam Style) —hey, with more than 1.5 Billion hits, something must be working, right??

3)    Offer free Twinkies to all Tracking the Light subscribers.

4)    Plan a merger with LeakyWiks.

5)    Encourage everyone who enjoys the site to spread the word (and links) with their friends and urge regular visitors to subscribe! (there’s a box for comments toward the bottom of the posts and a box to tick that enables the subscription feature—admittedly this is a bit Kafkaesque, and hopefully I’ll find a better means of enabling subscriptions soon!)

 

Incidentally, my elaborate plans to import a German electric for demonstration were to be aborted, unfortunately Amtrak didn’t get the memo! 😉

Thanks again for checking Tracking the Light!

Brian Solomon

 

railroad tracks.
Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Omaha mainline at sunset.
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