Shortly after arriving on the property at New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad last Spring, I asked owner David Swirk why he had an air-conditioner on his vintage Russel snow plow.
He laughed and said the plow was employed for various tasks. Later in the summer, my video editing studio was temporarily relocated to the plow, where I learned first hand of the importance of the air-conditioner!
Last week in preparation for commencement of February operations, Swirk decided it was time to send the Russel plow out to clear the line and widen the swath of snow made during previous plowing efforts using GP7 573.
So on Thursday, February 13, 2020 the plow was readied and dispatched by Train Order as a Work Extra 573 from North Conway Yard to Attitash pushed in traditional fashion by 573.
I hiked into the Whitaker Woods to document the plow at work, then followed along by road. Here are few of my photos.
I also made a video, which I posted on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page:
This also appears on the railroad’s Instagram page.
Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday February 11, 2020), I traveled with the Conway Scenic train crew on RDC 23 Millie that was performing a trial-run of our new Snow Train service that will begin this Saturday.
By arrangement, the crew dropped me at milepost 64 along the Saco River, so that I could make some video and still images of the RDC to be used in Conway Scenic promotions.
These images are low-res Jpgs downloaded from my FujiFilm XT1 to my iPhone via WiFi.
I made a variety of other digital images that I hope to download soon.
Between February 15th to 29th, Conway Scenic Railroad will be running seven trains a day on an 90 minute interval between North Conway and Attitash. This is something new for the railroad!
Friday, February 7, 2020, Conway Scenic dispatched former Maine Central GP7 573 as a work extra to clear the line to Attitash (near Bartlett, NH).
Icy rain and sleet had been falling throughout the day and it was beginning to turn to snow. Temperatures were expected to drop and by morning the snow would be like cement. Clearing the line while the snow was still slushy was imperative or this relatively small task could become an epic one.
Conway Scenic normally shuts its lines from early January until April. This year the railroad is planning a series of special trips during the last two weeks of February beginning with Cupid’s Express Valentines Day trains on February 14th, followed by Snow Trains that will run from North Conway to Attitash on a 90 minute interval beginning at 7:30 am.
The interval was my idea and I’ve planned a timetable for the event.
I traveled with the engine crew on 573 to document the day’s events and make notes. Near Mountain Junction (where the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch connects with the old Maine Central Mountain Division) 573 paused for the crew to clear a crossing. I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
During last month’s Steam in the Snow event at the Conway Scenic Railroad sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, I made a lot of digital photos and some video footage in my capacity as the railroad’s Manager, Marketing and Events.
But that wasn’t all.
Working with my Nikon F3 and a 50mm lens, I also exposed some Fomapan 100 Classic black & white film.
I first sampled this film on a trip to the Czech Republic in October 2016. I like the tonality and classic black & white appearance of this emulsion when processed in Ilford ID11 1-1. To boost shadow detail, I let the film pre-soak in a very weak bath of HC110 and Kodak Photoflo before primary processing.
Here’s a sample of my images.
Coming up soon, Conway Scenic will be running more trains in the snow. The railroad plans to run seven round trips a day from February 15th to 29th using Budd RDC number 23 Millie. The first trip departs North Conway at 730am and trains will run every 90 minutes to Attitash.
Friday, January 17, 2020, I joined the Conway Scenic train crew of a light engine sent west on the old Mountain Division to inspect the line and clear snow and as far as Rogers Crossing east of Bartlett, New Hampshire.
It was clear, cold afternoon, which made for some magnificent views along the Saco River and looking toward Mount Washington.
My primary intent was to document the move and gather some video footage of the railroad operating in the snow.
using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens, I made these views at milepost 62 west of Intervale.
One photo inspires another. A few days ago my friend Wally Hill posted a view from the back of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Gertrude Emma—1898-built Pullman open observation—featuring steam locomotive 7470 passing former Maine Central 501 on its march toward the North Conway, New Hampshire station from the coal dock.
His photo inspired me to make similar images, and so working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens, I stood in Wally’s footprints and made these photographs.
Does anyone remember the spoof newspaper ‘Not the New York Times’?
Anyway, at first glance this nocturnal photo might be mistaken for a mid-1950s view of a New York Central EMD GP with a Bangor & Aroostook boxcar.
Of course there are lots of hints to the contrary. If you look carefully, the GP9 in this view has ditch lights (a feature of the 1990s and later). The paint scheme, while inspired by the ‘New York Central’ lightning stripe, isn’t really like anything actually used by the railroad on a GP9. And, of course this engine has dynamic braking grids (just barely visible at the top of the long hood), , which as everyone knows(to quote a phrase) isn’t representative of New York Central’s GP9s, since none had dynamic brakes.
Last June, while working with the Conway Scenic Railroad I exposed this view of fresh green foliage at the Frankenstein Trestle on the line over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
I was working with an antique Nikon FTN Nikkormat with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens.
I like the ‘fast’ 105 because it allows for very shallow depth of field at its widest aperture, while offering exceptional sharpness on the area of focus.
This effect is especially appealing as a contrast to many modern digital systems that offer razor sharp images with great depth of field in most circumstances. Focus, like other qualities, may be most effective when applied judiciously.
I exposed this image on Ilford HP5 400ISO 35mm black & white film. I hand processed the film. After a presoak with very dilute HC110 for about 5 minutes, I introduced my primary developer, Ilford ID11 developer mixed 1 to 1 with water, for 6 minutes and 15 seconds at 70F. By raising the temperature slightly and using a relatively dilute solution I controlled contrast while increasing shadow detail.
In Ireland I cannot access this website (for reasons beyond my knowledge it appears to be blocked), but perhaps my readers in the USA will be able to tune in.
Anyone who knows me must realize the irony of this post.
Although I’ve appeared on television a few times, I’ve never owned a television set and have only watched commercial TV on rare occasions. I’ll be curious as to the feedback on Conway Scenic’s portrayal on High Adventures.
One of the hidden gems of the Conway Scenic Railroad is their ‘Redstone Line’.
This is the former Maine Central Mountain Division trackage that runs compass east from Mountain Junction near Intervale, New Hampshire.
This summer I had several opportunities to catch RDC number 23 Millieworking Friday afternoon specials to Redstone.
I’m now 4,000 miles from Redstone, but this weekend will be a very rare opportunity to travel the full length of Conway’s Maine Central trackage on a special run scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.
This special Notch Train will run to the Saco River Bridge east of Redstone and then proceed back west to Mountain Junction and continue all the way over Crawford Notch to the west-end of Conway Scenic trackage at Hazens near Whitefield.
It will also be an opportunity to catch steam locomotive 7470 on the branch and over the mountain.
I’ll have to have one huge telephoto to catch the action from Islandbridge (in Dublin!!)
One week ago, I was sitting in the North Tower of Conway Scenic’s North Conway Station. To the west the sun was shining. To the east it was pouring rain, and the rain was still falling all around. I said to Conway’s operations manager, Derek Palmieri, ‘There must be a rainbow.’
And there was!
Briefly it was a full, but faint, double.
Outside I went, where I made a variety of photos with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.
This one is from the Lumix.
Sometimes where there’s a rainbow is a sign of change. A fortuitous signal for the future. And this is how I see it.
I’d been eying Conway Scenic’s wooden pile Moat Creek trestle as a good afternoon photo location since I arrived at the railroad in May.
While I’d made a variety of angles from West Side Road that runs parallel to the line, until last Friday (August 9, 2019) I hadn’t hiked into the bridge.
As discussed in yesterday’s post ‘Rare Move During My Signing—GP9 works the yard,’ the necessity to move a few old freight cars posed some unusual photographic opportunities.
When I learned that GP7 573 would be hauling a flatcar down to Conway, New Hampshire for storage, I decided this would make for my opportunity to catch a train in low afternoon sun on the Moat Creek Trestle.
Old 573 was whistling for a crossing just north of the bridge when I heard loud rustling in a tree opposite the tracks from my location. A sizeable bear climbed down out of the tree and ambled through the undergrowth about a car-length from my position.
Of course, I’d selected a prime 27mm lens to frame the train on the bridge and this lens was less than ideal for photographing the bear.
The photographs of the train and bear were exposed about a minute apart.
Sometimes when engaged with one task, something unexpected occurs that demands your attention.
Such was the situation last Friday while I was standing on the platform at North Conway, New Hampshire during my book signing event.
Conway Scenic’s GP9, 1751, still dressed in a New York Central inspired livery applied by former owner Finger Lakes Railway, was engaged to switch a few freight cars out of the North Yard.
In more than two months at Conway Scenic, the only freight car that I’d seen turn a wheel is a tank car that has been rigged up to supply water for steam locomotive 7470. So when I saw 1751 moving the two ancient flats in the yard, I excused myself from book signing tasks and made a few photos with my FujiFilm XT1.
There was gorgeous afternoon light bathing the North Conway station. The Valley excursion train was out on the line, so in one of the odd moments, the platform was almost empty and there few cameras in sight.
Later in the day, in a related incident I had a close encounter with an alarmingly large bear, but I’ll get to that in a future post.
Yesterday, Friday August 9, 2019, I traveled by train and signed books at the North Conway Station (New Hampshire).
I discovered that’s its pretty challenging to sign books while traveling on early 20thcentury steel coaches rolling over jointed rail on track ballasted with cinders!
Conway Scenic’s Derek Palmieri assisted me with selling the books, as did Amy from Conway Scenic’s Brass Whistle Gift Shop. The railroad’s Susan Logan, Alta Crouse and Cathy Trecarten helped organize and promote the event.
Thanks to Dave and Rhonda Swirk for hosting me and to everyone who stopped by for a chat and to buy books!
I was delighted when my old friend Bob Bentley came by to talk about railroads. He reminded me that GP9 1757, formerly of the New Hampshire Northcoast, was briefly a Mass-Central locomotive.
Tuesday’s Conway Daily Sun featured a short story about my books to highlight my book signing event tomorrow afternoon, Friday 9, 2019 at the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Although short, this article covered some of the highlights of my published work including my European Railway Guide, columns in Trains Magazine, and photos in the Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society!
Conway Scenic’s Susan Logan gave me a copy of the article, which I read while traveling on the 6 pm dinner train in preparation for a video/photo shoot this weekend.
For viewers on Facebook, you’ll need to click the link to Tracking the Light to get the view of the mountain.
Last night in the fading glow of a summer’s evening, Conway Scenic’s Adam Bartley and I made video and still of photos of the railroad’s Dinner train that was out on a demonstration run.
Adam worked the company video camera, while I used my Lumix, Fuji, Canon and Nikon cameras to make film and digital photographs.
Our final set for the evening was looking west at Intervale, where we caught the returning train led by former Maine Central 252, a classic GP38 and veteran locomotive on the line. I set my photograph to capture Mount Washington, New England’s tallest peak, looming large above the train.
These images were exposed using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. RAW files were adjusted for contrast, exposure, color balance and color saturation in post processing using Lightroom.
Sunday, August 4, 2019 was the 45thanniversary of Conway Scenic Railroad’s first revenue run.
To celebrate this event and to honor Conway Scenic’s founder, Dwight Smith, Conway Scenic’s president and general manager David Swirk presided over a short ceremony at the North Conway station to name locomotive 7470 after him.
In 1968, Dwight purchased former Canadian National 7470. Several years later he helped found the Conway Scenic, and in its early years this heavy 0-6-0 switcher was the heart and soul of the railroad.
Over the decades, Conway Scenic has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers, and locomotive 7470 has entertained countless visitors and is dearly loved by many people. Now it carries the name of the man who saved it and founded a railroad on which it could run.
North Conway, the State of New Hampshire, and the railroad’s many friends, guests and visitors are richer for Dwight’s foresight to preserve and present this precious bit of living history.
On August 4, 1974, Conway Scenic carried its first revenue passengers from its historic North Conway, New Hampshire station south to Conway on the old Boston & Maine Conway branch. Locomotive 7470, then carrying abbreviated number ‘47’, did the honors.
Today, August 4, 2019 is a special day for the railroad and steam locomotive 7470.
Among my assignments this past week on the Conway Scenic Railroad was to guide a TV production crew from Boston’s Channel 5 WCVB.
After they enjoyed a ride and a meal in dome car Rhonda Lee, I collected the crew midway up the mountain, and Conway Scenic’s President and General Manager Dave Swirk and I brought them to some of the most scenic vistas on the line to film the train.
They were able to benefit from my weeks of location scouting in order to film a segment on Conway Scenic that is expected to be broadcast in the coming weeks.
It was a beautiful bright day on the mountain, and they were able to get views of Mount Washington with Conway Scenic’s Notch Train.
On Friday August 9, 2019, I’ll be conducting an ‘on-train and at-the-station’ book signing on the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, New Hampshire.
The Conway Scenic’s Brass Whistle Gift shop will have a host of my titles for sale and ready to be signed by me.
My titles for sale will include:
Vintage Diesel Power
Electromotive E units & F units
Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe
Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals
GE & EMD Locomotives
Classic Railroad Signals
I only do a couple of book signings a year, so this is a great opportunity to travel on Conway Scenic’s Valley Trainand buy a signed book! (If you don’t want me to sign my name, I can sign another name instead!)
I’ll be on the 130pm departure to Conway with a pen in hand, and then at the Brass Whistle Gift Shop in the North Conway station from about 230pm until 5pm.
Next weekend, August 3rd and 4th, will represent Conway Scenic Railroad’s 45thanniversary of steam operations and revenue services.
To mark the occasion of the railroad’s first 45 years carrying revenue passengers and as an invitation to visit the railroad on Sunday August 4th, 2019, I put together a very short promotional video. This includes some rarely seen archive materials.
This was posted to Conway Scenic’s new YouTube channel and to its Facebook page yesterday.
If you listen very carefully, you can hear me making the still photograph that appears here.
Last night I ventured along the banks of the Saco River to make this sunset view of Conway Scenic’s dinner train on its westward run toward Bartlett from North Conway, New Hampshire.
Why a back lit view?
Two reasons: Backlighting helps illuminate the trees, create greater contrast on the rocks in the Saco, and helps to better illustrate the bridge.
But, more important to this photo: I’d intended to try for a more traditional view, but was unable to find an easily reachable and suitable location on the far side of the bridge in the few minutes of set up time before the train arrived. Complicating matters was that I was also working with a video camera and carrying lots of equipment along the riverbank was limiting my agility.