Last summer I interviewed career railroader Mike Lacey on his experiences working for Erie Lackawanna and Conrail as part of my ‘Conversations with Brian Solomon’ podcasts with Trains Magazine. This is episode 39 in the series.
Mike is a fifth generation railroader.
You can listen to my Trains interview:
I have the pleasure of learning from Mike, who is now the Road Foreman of Engines and Train Master at Conway Scenic Railroad.
I made these photos in the last week of Mike in the cab of locomotive 1751, a former Baltimore & Ohio/Chesapeake & Ohio GP9.
Mike is also featured in my June 2020 Trains Magazine column.
In decades-old railroad tradition, Conway Scenic’s steam locomotive 7470 is largely painted black. While in winter, the environment around the railroad is largely snow covered (at least we hope it is) .
Why steam in the snow?
The cold air contributes to spectacular effects from condensation tinted with smoke from the firebox.
Here are a few of my Lumix LX7 color digital photos from Saturday’s (January 4, 2020) Steam in the Snow excursion sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on Conway Scenic’s operation over the former Maine Central Mountain Division.
(And yes, maybe I made a few classic black & white images of this trip on film!)
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.
On Select Fridays, Conway Scenic operates an RDC trip for children out on its Redstone Line—former Maine Central Mountain Division running east from Mountain Junction. Last Friday, July 19, 2019, I took the opportunity to travel with the crew on this run.
At Mountain Junction we cleared for the Valley Train led by GP7 573 that was on its return run from Bartlett to North Conway, New Hampshire.
When the Valley Train passed us, I made this view from the cab of Conway Scenic’s former Susquehanna (originally New Haven Railroad) RDC number 23, named Millie.
You know, I could have named this post: The Valley Meets Millie at Mountain Junction.
I’d spied some rocks high on Mount Willard above the old Maine Central trestle at Willey Brook.
Conway Scenic’s Lisa King offered to bring me on a hike to those rocks for a commanding view of New Hampshire’s famous Crawford Notch.
“We’ll start at Crawfords Station. It takes about an hour!”
So last Saturday, we departed North Conway about an hour ahead of the Notch Train, and drove to Crawfords, where I was surprised to find about 100 cars parked along the road.
I was astounded to ‘discover’ that one of New Hampshire’s most impressive views attracts hundreds of hikers on bright warm weekend mornings!
We walked up through the forests, fording streams, avoiding bugs, dodging potential encounters with bears (we didn’t see any, but I’ll bet some saw us, since, earlier in the week, I’d spotted a bear cub on the line).
At the top, Lisa brought me a great view looking down the valley, and down onto the famous Willey Brook bridge.
I’m saving the bridge photos for a rainy day.
Next Saturday, June 29, 2019, Conway Scenic has scheduled a special Notch Train to be led by its steam locomotive 7470. This will depart Conway at 9am and run over the Notch and beyond to Hazen’s Crossing near the White Mountains Regional Airport for an event called Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
(I’m told tickets are still available, but get yours soon!)
Call: 603-356-5251 or check Conway Scenic’s website:
Earlier this week, Dave Swirk, president and general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, enlisted my skills to help promote the railroad’s June 29, 2019 special steam trip over Crawford Notch to the Trains, Planes & Automobiles event near Whitefield, New Hampshire.
Dave explained how this excursion is a rare opportunity to see Conway’s only operating steam locomotive reach Crawford Notch—which is beyond its typical operating territory— but also offers the opportunity to travel all the way to Hazen’s Crossing at the western limit of Conway Scenic’s operation of the former Maine Central Mountain Division. The Airshow / Carshow is an extra bonus!
Using my FujiFilm XT1 camera with 12mm Zeiss Touit, I recorded Dave speaking about the railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 that was recently restored to operations and its role in the special June 29th trip.
I edited the video output from the camera using Apple software on my Macbook.
This event is a big deal for Conway Scenic. It has been nearly five years since 7470 regularly worked Conway Scenic’s excursions, so this trip represents an exciting opportunity and there’s no one better than Dave himself to capture the enthusiasm for this special event.
Locomotive 7470 is a heavy 0-6-0 built in 1921 by the Grand Trunk for service in Canada. It is significant as the first locomotive to provide service on the Conway Scenic and of great personal significance for Dave.
On June 29th, the special Notch Train will depart North Conway behind steam at 9am.
To book tickets for this event call: 603-356-5251.
On June 1, 2019, after several years of slumber, Conway Scenic Railroad’s 0-6-0 7470 made its first steps, moving under its own power around the railroad’s North Conway , New Hampshire yard.
The sights and sounds of this former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 have delighted visitors and residents of North Conway since the early 1970s, so having the locomotive back under steam represents a milestone event for the railroad’s 2019 operating season.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7.
Among the challenges of photographing excursion railroads is working with high-summer light. Operations favor the schedules of the majority of the visiting public, and during summer often this tends coincide with the dreaded midday sun.
Black steam locomotives make for an extra challenge as the drivers and other reciprocating gear tend to be masked by the inky shadows of the highlight.
In this circumstance high-thin clouds diffused high-sun and resulted in better contrast than on a completely clear day. Working with my RAW files in Lightroom I made further adjustments to shadow areas in order to make my images more appealing.
Here’s two photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s former Maine Central GP7 573 running around the Valley Trainat Bartlett, New Hampshire on the old Mountain Division.
One was made from the train on a cloudy day, the other from the road near the section house as the engine was cutting off from the train.
Some contrasts: Cloud versus sun; vertical versus horizontal; traditional versus interpretative; road versus rail.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
Some viewers commented that they were unable to see the ‘cloudy’ photo. For this reason, I’ve rescaled and re-uploaded a version of the original vertical photo plus an EXTRA horizontal image from the same sequence.
History ( and knowing that history) was key to solving the problem, since the answer wasn’t visible in any of the three photos.
To make things a bit more difficult, I didn’t caption the images, however I did offer an array of hints to assist with solving the problem.
I had several very thoughtful guesses, some of which were quite interesting.
Michael Walsh, a regular Tracking the Light viewer, was the first to submit the correct answer along with his explanation.
This is what he wrote:
I reckon the theme may be Pan Am Railways.
The first picture shows the Pan Am building on Park Avenue in New York, which stands behind Grand Central Station. The name, colours and logo of the defunct Pan American World Airways were purchased by Guilford Rail System in 1998 and applied to their rail New England operations in 2006.
The third picture is of exceptional interest. It shows 1926-built combination car 16 of the Springfield Electric Railway, now preserved at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor CT. The 6.5 mile long Springfield line became a subsidiary of the Boston and Maine and was later de-electrified. In 1983, it became part of Guilford, along with the B&M.
The second picture is of North Conway station, on the Conway Scenic Railway. North Conway was near the north end of a lengthy B&M branch from Rochester NH, which connected with the Mountain Division of the Maine Central at Intervale, 7 miles beyond North Conway. The B&M branch and the MC Mountain Division were abandoned by Guilford, but some 50 miles, comprising portions of both lines, survive as the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Michael’s answer is spot on: I have just one small correction and a comment; the north end of B&M’s Conway branch (pictured) was sold before Guilford acquired the B&M. I mention this because in each of the three photos, the subject predates their respective company’s role with Pan Am Railways (just to make the puzzle extra tricky). Also, Springfield Terminal has played an important role in operations across the Guilford/Pan Am Railways system.