During the last week, Maine Central GP38 252 has been working Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley trains that run daily from North Conway railroad east to Conway and North Conway railroad west to Bartlett.
While 252 is more than capable of working these trains, it is typically been assigned to the run to Crawford Notch.
I took the opportunity to make photos of 252 working the 1910-1920s-era heavy steel cars that comprise our Valley train set.
These photos were made using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
The other day, positioned in the South Tower of the North Conway, New Hampshire Station, I caught former Maine Central GP38 252 leading Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley train on its return run from Conway.
Although backlit, the contrast nicely separates the train from its setting.
Soon this scene will change: the old Fire Station to the left of the railroad is going to be demolished and a new, larger station will be built to replace it.
Yesterday, July 3, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated an Extra out the Redstone Branch as a training exercise.
This gave engineer trainee Adam some throttle-time working with freight cars, and two trainmen experience switching and flagging.
I used the opportunity to make photos of our crews at work.
This was the first time I’d seen GP35 216 out on the branch.
The Redstone Branch is the route of the former Maine Central Mountain Division east of Mountain Junction in North Conway, NH running toward the border with Maine. Portions of the line along the North-South Road in North Conway were relocated when this bypass highway was built a few years ago. It is some of the finest track on the railroad.
I adjusted camera RAW files exported from my FujiFIlm XT-1 into Lightroom for final adjustment for presentation here. This included minor changes to contrast, localized exposure, saturation and color balance.
June 27, 2020 was the Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer debut!
This was the big day!
I organized banners for the locomotive . . .
And a ribbon-cutting photo-op with Dave and Rhonda Swirk at North Conway, New Hampshire.
The guests were boarded.
I departed ahead of the train by road and hiked in to the Frankenstein trestle where I caught the train on film and video. Then, I laid chase to intercept it again at Crawford, NH. A neat trick considering all the equipment I was carrying.
At the end of the day, I was interviewed on the radio for broadcast Monday.
The other day, in preparation for debut of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer, the railroad operated a work extra with locomotive 1751. This ran up the former Maine Central Mountain Division to clear debris and rocks that had fallen on the line.
To move the heaviest rocks, railroad president and general manager Dave Swirk personally operated an excavator.
I traveled with the train to document its work.
On the return run, I posed a sequence of photos at the famous Frankenstein bridge.
Photos exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Today, Saturday June 27, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad the Mountaineer will make its inaugural run between North Conway and Crawford Notch.
On Sunday June 21, 2020, I traveled to Bartlett, NH on our afternoon train from North Conway that boards at 1230.
My primary concern was to diagnose the sound quality on the train’s public address system. However when we arrived at Bartlett, I arranged with the train crew to jump off and make a few photos while the locomotive (former Maine Central GP38 252) cut off and ran around the train.
A thunder storm was brewing to the northwest, which made for a dramatic sky, despite sun on the rails at Albany Avenue in Bartlett.
Later, I learned there had been some fierce weather on Mount Washington.
I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7. These files are from the in-camera JPGs, other than scaling for internet presentation, I made no alterations digitally in regards to color balance, color temperature, contrast, or exposure.
Yesterday, June 20, 2020, Conway Scenic finally commenced its Spring/Summer season. Our opening was more than two months later than originally planned owing to restrictions imposed to contain the Cover-19 Pandemic.
We had warm weather and nearly sell-out attendance.
To provide extra seats we put on RDC Millie in the afternoon for an ‘extra’ run to Conway.
In total we operated four trains!
Conway Scenic will be open seven days a week through the summer.
I kept my FujiFilm XT1 busy, in addition to my other duties.
It has been six months since I was hired as Conway Scenic Railroad’s Manager, Marketing & Events.
At the end of March, the State of New Hampshire’s ‘Stay at Home’ order changed Conway Scenic’s plans. Employees were sent home and the railroad temporarily shuttered. Soon afterward the railroad was allowed to bring back a skeleton staff to maintain the property and equipment, prepare training materials and advertising.
While other businesses were gradually allow to reopen, until last week no date or specific conditions for tourist railroad operations had been forthcoming.
Then, eight days ago, we learned via the media that the railroad would be allowed to open from the following Monday provided that it adheres to a variety of conditions designed to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 and help protect guests and employees from infection.
At that moment we chose Saturday June 20th as the date to reopen our railroad to the public and resume scheduled excursions. In the interval, we have been preparing for Saturday.
The world we lived in 2019 has changed. Procedures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, including now-common social distancing protocols have complicated the way we must handle visitors and in ways we could not have previously anticipated. This has necessarily altered the railroad schedule to reflect new boarding practices.
In the last week we have run several test runs to help train crews and evaluate equipment, which providing me with the opportunity to make photographs fro advertising. It is those photos I present here.
Starting tomorrow, Conway Scenic Railroad will be operating seven days per week. Trains to Conway board at 0930 and 1500; trains to Bartlett board at 1230.
Bi-weekly Mountaineer excursions to Crawford Notch are planned to begin on June 27.
Owing to the uncertainty of the volumes of guests and the length of time it will take to issue tickets and safely seat our guests in adherence with the new guidelines and requirements, Conway Scenic now stresses train boarding times rather than departure times, to help insure that trains operate on schedule.
It will be great to have visitors on our trains again!
Mark June 20, 2020 on your calendar. On that day, Conway Scenic Railroad will commence its 2020 operating season!
Yesterday, I was down in the yard making photos of 470 Club’s F7A 4268 that Louis and Jordan were transferring from stall four in the roundhouse to its new location behind stall 1, where it now sits back to back with sister B&M F7A 4266 (for continued restoration work), when I heard this news:
The State of New Hampshire is planning to lift the conditions that have restricted Conway Scenic Railroad from operating public excursions.
These were posted to: covidguidance.nh.gov.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been assisting with planning for our delayed reopening, including mapping the seating arrangements for our passenger cars, helping to draft training materials, working on schedules, and learning some nuts and bolts of real railroading, along with marketing activities.
Among the complications of our reopening are the conditions that still remain in place to minimize the spread of Covid-19 that require us to limit passenger car capacity, enforce social distancing, maintain sanitary conditions etc.
These have resulted in much longer boarding processes, and at least initially we will need to begin boarding guests 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure times.
We have to limit the numbers of guests in our station, and set up new procedures for our crews.
I’ll be a busy guy over the coming days. Since we only received the particulars of the new ruling yesterday many of the details still need to be worked out.
Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s Photography Blog.
Finding freight cars on the move on Conway Scenic is a relatively rare event.
Other than a tank car converted to the role of water tender for steam locomotive 7470, most of the other freight cars on the property are either reserved for maintenance work or to star in photo charters and special events that typically operate in the autumn.
Last week GP9 1751 switched out North Conway’s North Yard to collect Bangor & Aroostook refrigerated boxcar 7765 for movement to the shop in anticipation of its repainting by the 470 Club.
This made for photographic opportunity, both to make unobstructed views of the car and picture it on the move behind a locomotive. Road Foreman of Engines, Mike Lacey was in his element switching the freight car with the GP9!
I was working with the crew to expose these images, which were exposed using a FujiFilm XT-1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
Although Conway Scenic Railroad is presently prevented from opening public excursions owning to restrictions necessitated to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, last Tuesday, May 26, 2020, we organized a special work extra led by GP9 1751. This was a training special to give our engineer trainees an opportunity to learn first-hand how to operate a locomotive and train under the supervision of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Road Foreman of Engines and Train Master, Mike Lacey.
As the railroad’s Manager for Marketing and Events, I helped plan this extra train, and organized several media stops during the runs in order to film and photograph the train for the company’s media archives. These stops and run-bys gave our trainees experience in using the air brake system to control the movement of the train and bringing it safe stop.
We made three runs from North Conway to Conway and return on the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch.
I made video with the company’s Sony video cameras and exposed still digital photos using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens. In addition, I also made a few 35mm color slides on Provia 100F using my old Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
The weather provided some ideal photographic conditions. During photo stops, the train’s conductor assisted me with train positioning.
I deemed the day as a great success. Here are a few of the digital still photos.
Clearing the big fill on the approach to North Conway yard has opened up some excellent photographic potential.
However, since the railroad is closed because of business restrictions imposed by the State of New Hampshire to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, I have had to organize a few special moves (without passengers) over the fill to make photos/video for Conway Scenic marketing purposes.
I exposed these views last week in cooperation with Conway Scenic operating crews.
Yesterday, May 19, 2020, we started up Conway Scenic Railroad GP9 1751 to work the North Conway Yard. This was the first time this engine has turned a wheel since the conclusion of our Snow Trains at the end of February.
It was glorious sunny day, with a cool breeze and warm weather; ideal conditions for photography!
I made these views using my Lumix LX7.
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Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time studying railway imagery, observing and analyzing hundreds of thousands of individual photos.
Among the most striking are the works of Japanese photographers.
Some of their most successful photos cleverly use focus and depth of field to place the railway in its environment. In some situations this is accomplished with a single image; in others with a sequence of photos.
Last week, I emulatted the style embraced by my Japanese counterparts to produce this sequence of images at the Swift River Bridge on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Conway Branch.
Here I’m working with three primary subjects; the truss bridge, Budd rail diesel car Millie and a flowering tree. All were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
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Last night, I was inspecting scans of some black & white negatives from last summer that are stored on my hard drive.
These are some photos from a Sunday morning in early August at North Conway, New Hampshire of locomotive 7470.
All of these are from a roll of Fuji Acros 100, exposed with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens and processed with split-bath/multi-stage development using a weak bath of HC110 followed by Rodinal for primary development.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been closely involved with the filming of training videos at the Conway Scenic Railroad.
This ‘still’ shot was exposed last week. And today we are continuing with the filming process. Of course there’s no actual film, as we use video that is stored digitally on cards and then downloaded to a computer for editing.
Yesterday, I described how my SD card disintegrated and how I was able to ultimately retrieve the photos stored on the card.
Below are some of the photos from the card that may have been lost forever.
These represent the more or less routine scenes around Conway Scenic Railroad during last week while we were filming videos for crew training purposes.
The railroad has had to postpone its April reopening because of restrictions imposed to help contain the on-going pandemic. So railroad’s core-staff are using down-time to prepare for re-opening when conditions allow for it.
Yesterday, David Swirk issued a statement explaining why the Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operations as planned in April. I’ve included an excerpt of the statement below.
In recent weeks, I’ve been continuing to photograph, video record, and prepare advertising materials for the railroad. I’ve included a few photos of the way things appeared at North Conway on March 20, 2020.
We continue to plan for our delayed reopening.
Excerpt of Friday’s statement.
Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operation as planned in April 2020. This is in compliance with the recently issued New Hampshire Stay-at-Home order that is going into effect ll:59 PM Friday, March 27, 2020. This order is in response to the unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that is aimed to end the spread of the disease by restricting public movement and preventing non-essential businesses from opening. Conway Scenic Railroad will continue to closely watch the unfolding events relating to the containment of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Thursday, February 20, 2020, for the second time in about a week, Conway Scenic dispatched its vintage Russell Snow plow to clear the line to Attitash.
I arrived at the North Conway station at 0545 and was prepared for a chase of the plow westbound. Complicating my efforts was that I had a TV interview with White Mountain TV16 scheduled at 0845.
I cut it a bit fine, but arrived at the studio in ample time to chat with host Rob Clark on air. I don’t think too many viewers copped-on that I’d been freezing in the field making photos only minutes before stepping on set. (I’d changed hats in the interval).