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.
Conway Scenic’s David Swirk asked if I could be available to photograph Lego model builder Dawson Santoro, who had built the Lego model of Conway Scenic’s excursion train that is displayed at the North Conway, New Hampshire station.
On the spur of the moment, I decided to make a short documentary video of Dawson’s visit. Members of the Conway Scenic railroad assisted by moving Dawson’s skillfully built model train into the yard, where we posed it alongside a Conway Scenic consist specifically assembled to resemble the model.
I felt like Bob Dylan, composing a song, singing, playing guitar and harmonica all the same time. I was arranging two tripods, two video cameras, and three still cameras pretty much simultaneously, all the while trying to interview Dave and Dawson and stage manage the relative positioning of the model and scale train. I did have some help carrying the tripods in between shots.
Complicating my filming was the July heat, plus gusty winds and the cacophony of noise that characterize operations around North Conway, not to mention some complicated lighting.
Sometimes we just have to do these things when the opportunity presents the time!
Adam Bartley assisted in post production, and in little more than a week we produced a very short video about Dawson, his train and the Conway Scenic prototypes. We put this up on Conway Scenic’s YouTube channel yesterday.
If you are not viewing this on post on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link or you’ll miss the panoramic photo.
Last Friday (July 19, 2019), we traveled on Conway Scenic Budd-built RDC 23 Millie east toward Redstone, New Hampshire on the former Maine Central. On the return we paused at Pudding Pond so that I could make some photographs.
Once I was off the car, by arrangement it moved forward so the front of the RDC was catching the sunlight.
In addition to conventional photos, I also made this panoramic composite using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. The camera has a panorama preset that requires you to make an even sweep across the scene while holding the shutter release. The camera sews together the images and outputs them as a completed panorama.
Last week at North Conway, New Hampshire hot humid afternoon gave way to rain forest-like torrential rains.
In the twilight of early evening, I exposed this raining view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.
The slight blurred effect is a combination of the cascading downpour and relatively slow shutter speed. For me the combination of heavy rain, dusk, and slight camera blur makes for a painterly effect that helps transcend the decades.
Near the summit of the former Maine Central Mountain Division at Crawford Notch, the line passes through a deep rock cutting in a natural low point in the mountains known as the Gateway.
Conway Scenic’s normal operations of its Notch Train to Crawford’s Station finds the train passing the Gateway at the peak of high sun. In other words, one of the most difficult times for photography using natural lighting.
Fires in the West resulted in particulate matter and haze, which last week provide a great degree of diffusion, making these condition an ideal time to catch the Notch Train on its uphill run.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view from the railroad east end (compass south) of the famous cutting. Having locomotive 1751 in the lead was an added bonus.
Wednesday evening July 10, 2019, I made this sunset view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s dinner train at Bartlett, New Hampshire.
The dinner train uses largely the same consist as the railroad’s Notch Train, but operates in the evening from North Conway to Bartlett and return.
Owing to the extreme exposure contrast between the darker areas of the car’s undercarriage and the highlights in the sky, I carefully balanced my exposure using the camera’s histogram to retain the maximum amount of detail, and later adjusted the RAW file in Lightroom in post processing to allow for the most pleasing image.
The other evening I exposed this trailing view of Conway Scenic’s RDC number 23, Millienear Glen-Jackson on its evening run up to Attiash .
On of the best kept secrets among Conway’s scheduled trains are its RDC runs for Attitash that depart North Conway on select evenings at 6pm.
I like the RDC, a typical Budd Car, that was common to New England passenger services when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s.
For this photo, I was working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto. The camera color profile was set to Velvia (see photo above), but ultimately I worked with the camera-RAW file in Lightroom to adjust color temperature, contrast and saturation (see photo below).
On Saturday, June 29, 2019, I used my FujiFilm XT1 to film a short video of Conway Scenic’s historic excursion over Crawford Notch to the far western end of its line at Hazen’s, near the White Mountain Regional Airport in Whitefield, New Hampshire.
The trip represented steam locomotive 7470’s public debut since its recent restoration to service and its first trip leading an excursion all the way to the end of the line. It was also the first public trip using recently acquired Budd dome car Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor), which can be seen directly behind the locomotive in the video.
I planned to this as a follow-up to earlier Conway Scenic shorts, including an interview with Conway Scenic President and General Manager, David Swirk which has attracted more than 40,000 views on Facebook.
So far, this most recent video has had about 6000 views on Facebook and is now also available on Conway Scenic’s NEW YouTube channel. (See link above.)
These videos are part of a strategy designed to promote the railroad using social media.
Conway Scenic’s Valley Train makes its station stop at Attitash.
The station is just a flag stop on the Valley run that serves the Attitash Mountain Resort. It has a short platform with benches, railings, a classic enamel metal sign with blue and white letters, and the requisite yellow line.
On Sunday, the Valley Train dropped off seven passengers who had traveled from North Conway via Bartlett. They were among many passengers traveling round trip to Bartlett.
To my disappointment no passengers boarded for the run back to North Conway.
With permission of the operating crew I disembarked with Lumix in hand to expose this photo. The train’s conductor is at right logging the move in the station register.
Among the mix of photos and video I exposed on Saturday June 29, 2019, was this Lumix LX7 view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 leading the Trains Planes and Automobiles rare mileage excursion west of Crawford Notch near Fabyans, New Hampshire.
To preserve the sense of motion, I manually selected a small aperture and slow ISO (80) to allow for a comparatively slow shutter speed, while making a slow full body sweep keeping parallel with the forward motion of the locomotive.
I continued this technique for some of the passing cars as well.
I’ve often found that the panning technique can be an effective way to compensate for an overcast situation.
I’ve just scratched the surface reviewing the many photos I made yesterday (June 29, 2019) of Conway Scenic’s Trains, Planes and Automobiles steam excursion over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
This was the first public excursion with Conway’s new Budd-dome Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor) as featured on Tracking the Light. And the first time the car was teamed up with steam locomotive 7470.
I made this view of the iconic Willey Brook Trestle on the return run in the afternoon where the steam locomotive was trailing.
For years I’d admired photos from the vantage point on the rocks above the bridge, which has been used to photograph the railway since it was constructed in the 1870s.
I never realized how difficult it was to get up there until I had to make the ascent myself, with all my gear in tow.
This view was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit mounted on a Gitzo tripod. I used an external Lee graduated filter to help improve sky detail.
By working in the vertical-oriented portrait format, I was better able to show the distance of the stream below the bridge and the great verticality of the entire scene. I’m specifically mimicking a 19thcentury glass plate view, while remembering a Kodachrome slide my friend Brian Jennison exposed here of a Maine Central freight.
On Friday, June 21, 2019, Conway Scenic sent locomotive 1751 to Crawfords, New_Hampshire in order to position an excavator that had been working west of the summit.
This was 1751’s first assignment on the Mountain since repairs at North Conway earlier in the week.
Later the locomotive was sent west to Hazen’s at the far reaches of Conway Scenic’s operations on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
I made these views from highway 312 using my Fujifilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In post processing, I digitally applied a graduated neutral density filter to make for better sky detail on the gray day.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019. Conway Scenic has a special Notch Train planned. This will run with steam locomotive 7470 all the way from North Conway over Crawford Notch to Hazen’s to participate in the Trains Planes and Automobiles special event.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I made this view of Conway Scenic’s lower quadrant semaphore in the fading light of evening.
This is an example of a Union Switch & Signal Style-B mechanism powering twin lower quadrant blades was an early type of signal used in automatic block service and once common on Boston & Maine and Maine Central lines in New England.