Yesterday, September 18, 2020, I traveled on the headend of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer to scope autumn view points for publicity photos.
The trees have hints of the autumn palette and I noted a variety of places near the top of the mountain where I hope to revisit over the coming weeks.
It looks like some of the best color will be near the famous Willey Brook Bridge and Mount Willard Section House in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. We’ll have to wait and see how the autumn colors manifest this season.
I made these views from GP35 216 using my Lumix LX7.
These days a morning eastward train is a relatively rare event on Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central Mountain Division route.
On Friday evening, our work train returning from work at Crawford Notch had tied up on the siding at Bartlett. So, on Saturday morning (September 12, 2020) a train crew went out to bring it back to North Conway.
I drove to Bartlett to make a few photos in the crisp morning light.
These photos were made digitally using my both Lumix LX7 and Canon EOS 7D (with 100mm lens).
After Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer arrived at North Conway, New Hampshire on Sunday September 6, 2020, I picked a new spot in the golf course adjacent to the big fill (on approach to Conway Scenic’s yard) to catch the train as it was being stowed for the evening.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view in RAW and then processed the file in Adobe Lightroom.
I made two variations of the processed image.
The top has lower contrast; the bottom features higher contrast and increased saturation (see the screen shot of the Lightroom work window below)
Last Saturday, September 5, 2020, the second of our Railfan photo freights operated from North Conway to Conway on the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch.
We stopped the freight at several locations during the journey, and made a pick up at Conway.
I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with my 18-135mm Fujinon Zoom lens. Unfortunately, upon arriving back at the North Conway yard, my lens suffered a failure with the linkage inside the lens that controls the range of view, leaving me to work with my Canon EOS 3 film camera for the remainder of the evening.
Yesterday, Saturday September 5, 2020, was clear, sunny and bright.
I’d helped organized Conway Scenic Railroad’s Railfan’s Day photo freights. Train crew inlcluded: Road Forman/Train Master Mike Lacey, Engineer Adam Bartley,and Conner and Cullen Maher. Various others assisted with operations, especially working the crossing gates on the Redstone Branch.
The event was a huge success.
I made these photos of the 10am Photo Freight using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
This train worked out to Mountain Junction and then east on the Redstone Branch to Pudding Pond.
Most of the year, Conway Scenic Railroad’s historic freight cars quietly reside in the railroad’s North Yard, although few cars, such as our ballast hoppers are assigned to maintenance service.
Today, Saturday September 5th, we plan to operate a pair of demonstration photo freights for our scheduled Railfan’s Day event.
In preparation, we needed to spot cars at key locations in order to make pick-ups, just like a traditional local freight. In conjunction with this work, we needed to position two flatcars used for our weekly work train, and I wanted to scope locations and remove brush.
Working with former Boston & Maine F7A 4266 and our GP35 216 we gathered cars and make our positioning moves.
Today’s photo freights should be led by 4266 plus former Maine Central GP7 573 which share the traditional EMD-inspired maroon and gold paint scheme.
These are among the photos I exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 (scaled for internet presentation). I also made a few color slides for posterity.
This week I’ve been preparing for Conway Scenic’s annual Railfan’s weekend—traditionally held on Labor Day weekend.
This year the conditions relating to the containment of Covid-19 have imposed a host of constraints that will make our Railfan’s Weekend a more subdued affair than in previous years. Sadly this is unavoidable. However rather than cancel the event, we decide to move forward with it for the benefit of our fans and loyal supporters.
We’ve placed 470 Club’s Boston & Maine F7A 4266 back in service and this will work photo freights on Saturday (boarding at 10am and 2pm at North Conway) and on Sunday it will lead a special Photographers Mountaineer (that will make photo stops on its journey to Crawford Notch).
The railroad hopes to have a variety of its equipment on display, including several pieces that have been sheltered by the roundhouse for most of 2020.
Below are just some of the photos that I’ve made this week, while helping to organize the Railfan’s event.
Yesterday, Boston & Maine F7A 4266 led the Mountaineer westbound to Crawford Notch.
This may not seem like a big deal for long time observers of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, as it has occurred in previous years. However, it was the first time I’d ever witnessed this locomotive outside of the yard, and the first time I’d photographed it working a train. (This locomotive is owned by the 470 Club, which also owns sister B&M F7A 4268 that is undergoing an operational restoration.)
I thought it was pretty cool to finally see this antique on the move!
All going well, 4266 will work the train again today as well as the 930am Conway run.
This coming weekend, September 5th and 6th, Conway Scenic will host its annual Railfan’s Weekend. Owing to constraints imposed by the on-going Covid-19 epidemic, the event will necessarily be scaled back from previous years. However, 4266 is scheduled to work a pair of photo-freights on Saturday, and an Extra Photographers Special Mountaineer on Sunday.
The Photo freight has space for a few passengers, and tickets may be ordered online or from the CSRR ticket office (603-356-5251).
The other day was bright, but overcast, leading a color temperature quandary. Should I set the white balance to ‘auto’ or something else.
Working with my 10-year old Canon EOS 7D with 20 year old 100-400mm zoom, I made a series of photos of Conway Scenic’s 930am train at Conway, New Hampshire as it prepared for its return run to North Conway.
Significantly, I altered the white balance setting between these two images. For the first: the zoom was set at 170mm, and the white balance was at ‘auto white balance’; in the second image the zoom was set to 180mm, and the white balance was manually adjusted to ‘overcast’ which warms the scene.
Both images are scaled for internet presentation from in-camera JPG without adjustments to color temperature, color balance, exposure, contrast or saturation.
Someone may ask which white balance setting is ‘true’, and unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. Each of us sees color slightly differently and our brains provide an automatic white balance. There is no one right answer, only an approximate compromise.
Yesterday morning, August 20, 2020, offered near-perfect late summer light.
I traveled on the 0930 train from North Conway to Conway and made photographs of the locomotive, a former Norfolk & Western GP35 that is painted to resemble a classic Maine Central locomotive and lettered for Conway Scenic Railroad.
Although, I rarely post classic ‘three-quarter’ locomotive roster photos on Tracking the Light, I thought I’d do so here, along with other angles. All were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
On August 12, 2019—one year ago—I’d organized a special publicity run over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch to make photos and video of Conway Scenic’s then ‘Notch Train’—the train soon to be rebranded as the ‘Mountaineer’.
This departed Crawford eastbound just after sunrise.
I had preselected scenic locations along the former Maine Central Mountain Division where we stopped the train for static photos and organized roll-bys for video.
I was working with three still cameras that day, while Adam Bartley worked with the company video camera.
Our operating crew was Mike Lacey and Joe Costello.
These photos were made with my Lumix LX7. Several images from this run have since appeared in Conway Scenic advertising and in magazine articles.
On July 3, 2020, Conway Scenic sent engine 216 out on the Redstone Branch to collect a Boston & Maine boxcar I’d been using for advertising.
I documented the move with digital photos, as previously presented, and also on film.
For these images, I worked with a Nikon F3 with f2.5 Nikkor 105mm lens and Fomapan Classic 100 black & white film. I first sampled Fomapan on a trip to the Czech Republic in 2016.
Operating 216 was Adam, a Conway Scenic engineer trainee.
I processed the film using customized split-development that begins with a very dilute solution of HC110 with PhotoFlo as a presoak followed by primary development with Ilford ID11. After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner then imported the scans into Lightroom for final adjustment and scaling for presentation.
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!