Tag Archives: #Conway Scenic Railroad

Storm Light at North Conway

Yesterday evening a series of thunderstorms swept over the White Mountains making for a show of lightening and dramatic clouds.

Near the end of daylight, I made this photograph of the North Conway, New Hampshire yard. I was with Kris Sabbatino on the way to collect my car.

I was working with my Lumix LX7. This is a JPG file scaled without manipulation from the in-camera jpg. In other words I made no changes to exposure, contrast, color balance, focus or sharpness.

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Maine Central 252 on the Valley.

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.

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July THunderstorm at North Conway, NH.

Yesterday evening (July 8, 2020), Tom Carver said to me, ‘get some shots in this cool light’.

It was sunny when I left the North Conway, NH station and cloudy by the time I’d walked the length of the platform. A thunderstorm was rapidly descending.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 18-135mm lens, I made these images of the approaching storm.

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View from the South Tower

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.

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Extra on the Redstone Branch—Six Photos.

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.

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Work Train Views

Last week, spending the full day with a Conway Scenic Railroad Work Extra enabled me to make many hundreds of photos.

I published a few in my earlier post Work Extra at Frankenstein (see: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/06/27/work-extra-at-frankenstein-four-photos-and-a-big-rock/).

Having finally made the time to review and process the full day’s take, I’ve found some more choice images for presentation here.

All of these images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera

Redstone Branch.
Sawyers River.

Frankenstein
Below mp80.
Sawyers River.
Sawyers River.

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Mountaineer Climbs the Mountain!

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.

Dave Swirk cuts the ceremonial ribbon for the first Mountaineer!
Mountaineer at Frankenstein.
Mountaineer arriving at Crawford station. Maine Central 252 is the locomotive that hauled the last revenue road freight over the Mountain Division back in 1983, and had the honor of leading the first Mountaineer from North Conway to Crawford.

George Small, Rhonda and Dave Swirk, and Bob Marquardt with the Mountaineer Banner at Crawford.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s president and general manager Dave Swirk (left) with Mountaineer’s first narrator, Steve Nickless at Crawford Station.

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Work Extra at Frankenstein! Four Photos (and a BIG Rock).

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.

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Bartlett under Stormy Skies.

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.

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A Few Views from Opening Day!

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!

First passengers of the 2020 Summer Season!

Conway Scenic will be open seven days a week through the summer.

I kept my FujiFilm XT1 busy, in addition to my other duties.

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Conway Scenic Reopening Saturday.

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!

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Conway Extra—Monday June 15, 2020.

Yesterday, we ran an extra train to Conway.

‘Extra’ in the traditional sense:


Since this was not a scheduled train; its authority was granted using train orders and thus operated as a ‘extra’, which must display white flags.

I organized small banners on the short hood of the locomotive to advise observers of our opening date.

On Saturday, June 20th Conway Scenic will commence its Summer 2020 operating season.

Trains will board for Conway at 930am and 3pm; and for Bartlett at 1230pm.

Trains depart 30 minutes after boarding.

I exposed this photo with my Lumix LX7. To compensate for midday light I adjusted contrast, shadows, highlights and saturation using Lightroom.

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Monochrome Millie—Four Photos

Conway Scenic Railroad’s Budd Company RDC-1 is named ‘Millie’.

A month ago, I organized a training exercise and publicity trip with this single-unit self propelled car.

In addition to digital photos and video, I exposed a few black & white photos of the car in the yard at North Conway.

For these images I used Fomapan 100 Classic loaded in a Nikon F3 with f1.8 50mm lens.

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Good News from Conway Scenic Railroad.

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.

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BAR Reefer on the Move at North Conway—three photos!

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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.

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Conway Scenic Work Extra: Tuesday’s Training Special.

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.

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Photographing the Big Fill

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.

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Conway Scenic 1751 Works the Yard—three photos.

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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Spring at the Swift River Truss; Focus, Perspective and Composition—Four photos.

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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Mount Webster from the Time Before.

In August 1984, on my first solo visit to Montreal I spent an afternoon at Central Station hanging around in the tower and photographing train-movements in and out of this busy terminal.

Among the numerous fascinating photos I made that day was this view of CN multiple unit 6749 with a commuter train to/from Duex Montagnes, Quebec.

Today, old CN 6749 is Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mount Webster, a snack car known to employees as ‘the table’ car since it was retrofitted with tables and a snack counter.

I spent Monday measuring and mapping this same car to prepare seating charts for Conway Scenic’s 2020 season.

I never could have imagined on that August day so long ago that I’d be working with 6749 in New Hampshire.

Same car; different time.

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CInders and a 567 diesel

Cinders is Conway Scenic Railroad’s roundhouse cat.

She lives in the roundhouse and supervises all activity including locomotive repair.

Her specialty is vermin control.

Last week she was inspecting the 16-567 diesel engine on locomotive 573 that was undergoing its 92- day inspection.

Photo exposed using my Lumix LX7.

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Clearing the Line.

Last week at the Conway Scenic Railroad we had a small crew out clearing brush from the former Boston & Maine Conway branch near the railroad’s North Conway yard.

Clearance will improve safety, allow guests traveling on the trains better views of the scenery, and may open up some vantage points for photography.

This brush clearance work is among the railroad’s investment in the future during down-time imposed by the reaction to the Covid-19 crisis.

Although Conway Scenic Railroad has postponed its Spring operation season, a core-group of employees are continuing to maintain, repair and other wise improve the railroad’s assets.

I exposed these images digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

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Boston & Maine Station—Morning and Evening

This is my office.

On April 15, 2020, I made photos as I arrived and as I departed to show the light at the respective times of day.

In my recent article on the Conway Scenic Railroad in May 2020 TRAINS Magazine, I discussed the railroad’s North Conway station in detail, but didn’t picture the iconic structure.

This will be rectified in an upcoming issue, but I thought I’d present these recent photos on Tracking the Light.

I’ve always focused on my immediate surroundings, photographing the ordinary, the common as well as the unusual and the extraordinary.

Over time, the common scenes often have the best staying power.

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Conway Scenic 7470 Gone Retro—August 2019.

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.

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Quiet on the SET!

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.

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Lost Lumix Files Revealed!

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.

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May TRAINS Features Conway Scenic.

May 2020 Trains Cover.

My epic 8-page article on the Conway Scenic Railroad appears in the May 2020 Trains Magazine.

Months of research and personal experience contributed to my writing and illustrating this feature.

It was my hope to distill the railroad’s history, operations and spirit into these 8 pages.

Ironically, the magazine arrived the week following the railroad entering its unplanned period of dormancy owing to the on-going COVID-19 crisis and New Hampshire’s mandates in reaction to the crisis.

The photo below shows the waiting room on Friday afternoon with the first of several coats of fresh polyurethane in anticipation of the 2020 operating season.

12mm view with XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit.

Although ‘cocooned,’ with its operations postponed, Conway Scenic will continue to make preparations to reopen when the time is right to do so.

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Unfolding Situation at North Conway

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.

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Shadow at 64

During Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Train season last month, I took this photo from engine 573 as it approached milepost 64 along the Saco River.

We were plowing snow ahead of the scheduled train. The sun was rising behind the engine and it made for an interesting juxtaposition.

Exposed digitally with my Lumix LX7.

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Running Extra

I made these views from the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s 1630 Snow Train during the final days of operation last week.

I’d drafted the Snow Train timetable during early planning for the trains and I was keen for them to operate in a timely manner.

All trains were run as ‘extras’ under Conway Scenic Railroad’s tradition rulebook using timetable and train order rules.

Extra trains must display white flags by day and white lights by night.

The trains proved very popular with Conway Scenic’s guests and ridership exceeded expectations!

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Snow Plow Action

Yesterday forecasts of snow were dashed when rain fell instead.

Last week the story was a different one, and as previously reported on Tracking the Light, Conway Scenic Railroad sent a plow extra west to Attitash.

I made this view using my Lumix LX7, while recording the action using the railroad’s video camera.

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Snow Train Arriving.

Conway Scenic Railroad 1751 leads the evening Snow Train over the Post Office crossing at North Conway last week.

Conway Scenic is operating Snow Trains between the North Conway Station and Attitash through February 29th.

Exposed in February 2020 using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Frosty Dawn

Last week the lights were lit on Gertrude Emma—Conway Scenic Railroad’s 1898-built Pullman open-end observation car—when I made this early morning view at the North Conway station.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7 mounted on a Bogen tripod.

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Clear Morning for Clearing Snow and a TV Appearance.

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).

See:  https://youtu.be/JmHALwifgTs