The old Beechers Falls Branch was a vestige of Maine Central’s foray into Quebec that survived on Maine Central’s system in later years as a truncated appendage accessed by trackage rights over Boston & Maine and Grand Trunk lines.
After Maine Central gave up, various short lines had operated the trackage. Today the line to Beechers Falls, Vermont is a trail.
Beechers Falls itself is a curiosity on a narrow strip of land wedged tightly between New Hampshire and Quebec.
On Saturday (May 23, 2020) Kris Sabbatino and I explored this abandoned line.
I made these photos where the Branch crossed the upper reaches of the Connecticut River at Canaan, Vermont.
Working with a Nikkormat FT with an f2.8 24mm Nikkor lens, I exposed Ilford HP5 400 ISO black & white film.
Although I intended to process this in Ilford ID11, yesterday, I realized that I was all out of that developer, so instead I worked with Kodak HC110, which I mixed as ‘dilution B’ (1-32 with water). Before my primary process, I mixed a very weak ‘presoak’ (1-300 with water and Kodak Photoflo) and soaked the film for five minutes, then introduced my primary developer for 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Last night Kris and I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner with Epson’s provided software.
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While the New CT Rail trains tend to capture most of attention on the Springfield-New Haven route (now branded as the ‘Hartford Line’), Amtrak continues to run its shuttles and through trains on the same route.
I made this view last week of Amtrak 490 working northward to Springfield, Massachusetts as it crossed the Connecticut River between Windsor Locks and Warehouse Point.
I like the distant vantage point, using a telephoto lens to feature the small train on the big bridge.
On the afternoon of November 14, 2018, I exposed this view from the east bank of the Connecticut River looking across toward Windsor Locks as Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossed the circa 1906 New Haven Railroad-built bridge.
To help balance the contrast and better retain detail in the sky, I used an external graduated neutral density filter made by Lee Filter.
This is a 0.9ND or three stops grad filter.
In addition, I adjusted the camera RAW file to maximize highlight and shadow detail, control contrast and improve saturation.
On the morning of November 14, 2018, I made these views of Pan Am Railway’s EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland, Maine manifest freight) crossing the Connecticut River as it left it’s western terminus on the old Boston & Maine Railroad Fitchburg route.
This side-lit scene benefitted from diffused directional light and a textured sky.
I exposed the photos using my FujiFilm XT1 and processed the RAW files to reveal maximum shadow and highlight detail while emphasizing the rich morning light.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian Solomon is Traveling.
Tracking the Light aims to Post new material Daily.
After intercepting Amtrak’s southward Vermonter on the Connecticut River Line, I drove to Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard(near Greenfield, Massachusetts) to see if anything was moving.
Fortuity and patience combined enabled me to make photos of Pan Am Railways POED crossing the Connecticut River Bridge (immediately east of the yard).
In the lead was 7552, one of two (soon to be three) former CSX DASH8-40Cs wearing Pan Am Railways paint, plus one of the railroad’s last remaining 600-series six motor EMDs (619, that began its career as a Southern Pacific SD45) still in traffic.
Catching this pair of locomotives together is a coup. I’ve always found transition periods make for interesting photographs; during the last year, these second-hand GE’s have sidelined many of Pan Am’s older locomotives.
Will this be the last time I catch one of the 1980s era GEs working together with a 1960s era six-motor EMDs in Pan Am blue paint?
For nearly 35 years, locomotives have worn Guilford gray and orange paint. The scheme is has been out of vogue since introduction of the new Pan Am liveries about ten years ago, yet a few of the locomotive are still working in the old paint.
I made these views of GP40 316 working local freight ED4 hauling state-owned ballast cars southward at Hillside Road in South Deerfield.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens. I opted for the ‘darkside’ angle in order to better feature the hills in the distance (that make this a distinctive location) as well as the tie-piles that indicate the improvement to the track is on-going.
At 8:08 AM on April 27, 2018, New England Central 611 was on the move south from Brattleboro, Vermont.
Bright hazy sunshine made for excellent conditions for photography.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, I exposed this view looking across the Connecticut River backwater south of Brattleboro yard.
To make the most of this contrasty scene, I imported the Fuji RAW file into Lightroom and made minor adjustments to highlight and shadows to improve the appearance of the image, then slightly boosted saturation to make for a more pleasing photograph.
NECR freight 611 was on the move toward Palmer, Massachusetts and a bright morning on hand, so the chase was on!
In October I called up to one of my favorite places and made these two views of the GATX slug-set that Pan Am Railways uses to work the East Deefield hump.
During the course of its duties the East Deerfield hump engine routinely pulls cuts of freight cars out onto the Connecticut River Bridge, which makes for ample opportunity to expose photographs.
Sometimes one view doesn’t give you the full picture.
I like the old bridge in this bucolic setting, and this also a great place to picture equipment. I’ve photographed dozens of trains here over years.
One view was exposed with my 12mm Zeiss Touit (wide angle) lens; the other with my Fujinon 90mm telephoto. The wideangle view takes in the scene; the telephoto photo focuses more tightly on the locomotive. By presenting both you get a more complete picture.
Amtrak’s Vermonter passing an old Tobacco Barn in the Connecticut River flood plain north of Northampton, Massachusetts.
Sunday, June 25, 2017, Amtrak’s mobile App indicated that train No. 54, the Sunday Vermonter had departed Northampton about 7 minutes past the advertised.
Tim suggested we try the location pictured here (right off Massachusetts Route 5). It’s the same spot that about a month earlier we caught Pan Am Railway’s office car special returning from Springfield.
This setting reminds me of locations in Illinois and Iowa, looking across farm fields with old barns as props. In the mid-1990s, I made many photos along those lines.
Ok: Pan Am Railways (which takes its name from the old Pan Am Airways, the name that the railway’s parent organization acquired some years back) bought an old Wabash Railroad stainless steel dome.
Wabash was neither acronym nor a monicker.
Back in the day (before 1964 when the company was melded into the Norfolk & Western), the Wabash Railroad Company operated a Midwestern North American network that connected Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha and Kansas City gateways.
The Connecticut is the north-south river that bisects New England, and which forms the boundary between New Hamshire and Vermont while crossing the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut. (Sorry, I don’t know if the state was named for the river or vice versa).
I made this photograph from the west bank of the river at East Deerfield, Massachusetts last August (2016.)
On June 15, 2016, I posted two views of Pan Am Railway’s leased Slug Set working in East Deerfield hump service and paused on the Connecticut River Bridge east of the yard.
I asked readers to voice an opinion on their preferred image, while explaining that one was exposed on black & white film the traditional way and the other exposed digitally as a monochrome image.
I’ve weighed the comments, email and Facebook messages and found that the response was more or less evenly split, with a slight leaning to the top image (film). One respondent voiced a dislike of both images (see comments).
Below are the two vertical images with details of how they were made.
Both images were scaled for internet presentation using Lightroom.
Below is a comparison between two photos; one exposed digitally and one made with film. (Hint: click on Tracking the Light to see both).
I made these the other day of Pan Am’s hump engine working on the Connecticut River Bridge at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.
I won’t bore you with excessive detail, but one was made as a black & white image with a digital camera . The other was exposed in a traditional manner on black & white film, processed chemically and then scanned and scaled.
So: which image do you prefer? (number one or number two).
Oh, and by the way, it is up to you to decide which was made with film and which was not.
Here I’ve displayed several images all exposed individually within a few minutes of each other as a means of exploring the effect of each of the color profiles. Other than scaling for internet presentation, I have not altered the color, contrast or sharpness of these images and the effect is essentially how it appears in the camera-produced Jpg file.
Back in the day, Kodak used the term ‘Panchromatic’ to distinguish its latest black & white films from the older ‘orthochromatic’ emulsions.
Today, we might take for granted that a photographic medium will reproduce all the colors as we see them, but old black & white emulsions were really pretty limited and some colors were not reproduced accurately (or at all), leading to a variety of unusual imaging effects.
Orthochromatic plates were largely sensitive to blue light. Among other effects of this limited spectral sensitivity was the tendency to overexpose the sky in relation to the rest of the scene. So, instead of the appropriate shades of grey, sky-blue tended to appear white. This is why so many glass plate photos appear to have been made on cloudy days. It is also one reason why sunset ‘glint’ photos were much harder to expose.
FACT: There are very few 1900-era glint photos of 4-4-0s.
‘Panchromatic’ means a film with full-spectrum sensitivity. But, I’m using the term in regards to my Fujifilm X-T1 Digital Camera. This, of course isn’t a film-camera at all, despite being the only camera I’ve ever owned that had the world ‘film’ in printed bold letters on the view-finder.
One of the great things about the X-T1 is its built in color profiles that emulate Fuji’s classic film types: Provia, Velvia, Astia, and some color print films.
It also has several black & white pre-sets, that offer the effects of using green, yellow and red filters and the appropriate spectral response.
On May 24, 2015. I had the good fortune to arrive at the Boston & Maine Railroad bridge over the Connecticut River at East Deerfield shortly after freight POED (Portland to East Deerfield) paused here at a perfectly picturesque position on the span.
I used this opportunity to run through the gamut of color profiles and black & white settings on the X-T1. I also made a few panoramic composites, which could lead to the title for a posting ‘Panchromatic Pan Am Panorama,’ but I read somewhere that gratuitous alliteration is considered poor writing.
I realize that some pundits may argue about my application of ‘panchromatic’ to a digital image. So just for the record, I’d also exposed some Fuji Provia 35mm film at this same scenic setting. Satisfied? Super!
Telephoto View of today’s Amtrak Special crossing the Connecticut River.
See my earlier post on Tracking the Light for a panoramic view of the same train. Half an hour before the special crossed the bridge there was sunlight, but by the time the train arrived the clouds had rolled in.
We were waiting for Pan Am Southern’s westward empty autorack, train 206. This was just the gravy: Earlier Mike Gardner, Brian Jennison and I, had already had a productive summer’s day following the Mass-Central and caught Amtrak’s Vermonter in perfect light at Millers Falls.
As we waited for 205, Pan Am’s dispatcher routed its eastward counterpart, loaded autorack train 206 (destined for Ayer, Massachusetts), through the yard at East Deerfield to get it around a track gang.
This was an unexpected bonus! The train was led by a colorful consist of General Electric diesels. A Union Pacific Evolution-series was up front, followed by a curious former Conrail and/or LMS DASH8-40CW lettered for Canadian National and sublettered for CN’s subsidiary Illinois Central. Trailing was a common Norfolk Southern DASH9-40CW.
It’s just as well I shot this as a digital image and not as a color slide. I couldn’t have fit all this information on the slide mount! (Although I did exposed a frame of black & white film).
We never saw Pan Am’s 205 that day.
Nor did we catch the following unit grain train with BNSF locomotives leading. You can’t win all the prizes.
My father taught me to make railway scenes, and not merely images of equipment. I did just that on this cold, wet, rainy day, when I photographed Maine Central Alco RS-11 crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire.
I’d traveled with Paul Goewey to Bellows Falls on the morning of November 25, 1983, specifically to photograph this locomotive. For reasons I can’t recall (if I ever knew), Green Mountain had borrowed Maine Central 802 to work its daily freight XR-1, that ran to Rutland over the former Rutland Railroad.
Despite the gloomy conditions this was something of an event, and I recall that several photographers had convened at Bellows Falls to document 802’s travels.
Green Mountain’s roundhouse is in North Walpole, just across the Connecticut River from Bellows Falls, and I made this image from the east bank as the engine switched cars.
With this image I was trying to convey that this locomotive was in an unusual place by putting it in a distinctive scene.
Once XR-1 was underway, Paul and I followed it toward Rutland. The weather deteriorated and rain turned to snow. By the time we reached Ludlow, the snow had become heavy; we were cold, wet, and tired, having been up since 4:30 am, and so ended the day’s photography.
New England is famous for its autumn foliage. When making railroad photos in the season, are the leaves the subject, the setting or simply background?
On the morning of October 17, 2013, I made a series of photographs of Pan Am Railway’s (Pan Am Southern) westward freight symbol 190ED between Erving and East Deerfield. Leading the train were a pair of SD40-2s in the latest corporate scheme.
I made my way to the former Boston & Maine bridge over the Connecticut River where there was some very colorful foliage in the foreground and background. Incidentally, this is the location of the ‘icon photo’ used to introduce Tracking the Light.
As the freight eased across the bridge, I had ample time to compose several images. Working with my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm lens, I exposed a non-conventional image focused on some foreground foliage, and used a low aperture to deliberately allow the locomotives to be out of focus.
I then changed my focus to the locomotives and bridge and exposed several more conventional images. I also had time to pop off a color slide with my dad’s Leica M4.
I realize that the image focused on the leaves won’t appeal to everyone. But I find it a bit evocative. It’s more about the foliage than the train, yet the train remains the subject. You cannot help but see the engine’s headlights, like evil eyes, peering from beyond the leaves.
As an aside, the lead locomotive interested me. Pan Am 606 is a variation of the SD40-2 produced with a longer than normal short-hood or ‘nose’ to house 1970s-era radio-control equipment. At this point in time this feature is a left over from an earlier time and its original owner. Pan Am neither has a need to use such locomotives in mid-train remote service, nor is the locomotive like to remain so equipped. But it is a visually distinguishing feature that sets it apart from other locomotives on the railroad.