On cool winter afternoon, three CSX General Electric diesels idle at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
These locomotive had worked an eastward Q264 and are waiting to return with its westward counterpart, working westward across the Boston Line to New York’s Selkirk Yards and beyond.
I exposed these digital images using a Lumix LX7. Working with the camera-RAW files in Lightroom, I lightened the shadow areas improved the contrast and made a slight enhancement to the overall saturation.
Knowing I had a few minutes while east and westward trains made their meet at CP79 east of Palmer, I explored locations at Warren and West Brookfield. I concluded that summer-time brush along the line made many of my traditional photo locations un-workable.
So, I went over to East Brookfield, where the overhead bridge offered a clean view of the tracks. One photo was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 the other with a Lumix LX7.
A week ago, on Wednesday February 6, 2019, Paul Goewey and I caught CSX’s Q-264 rolling through CP64, the interlocking at East Brookfield near the train’s terminus on the East Brookfield & Spencer Railroad (the local short line switching railroad that unloads the autoracks for regional distribution).
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm lens, I exposed this view at ISO 800.
It was an arctic evening at East Brookfield when we crossed the bridge over the tracks near CP64.
There it was, making an alien roar: the Loram rail-grinder in the old sidings.
Hard snow on the ground and the moon rising.
‘This will just take a couple of minutes’.
We were on our way to a gig at Dunny’s Tavern, but I wanted to make a few photos of this machine. Interestingly, it was my old friend Dennis LeBeau that both invited us to the gig and alerted me to the Loram grinder.
I tried a few photos using my Lumix LX7 in ‘night mode’. But the extremely low light levels didn’t make for great results.
So then I balanced my LX7 in the chain-link fence, dialed in 2/3s of a stop over exposure, set the self-timer to 2 seconds, pressed the shutter and stood back.
I did this several times until I made an acceptably sharp photo.
I manipulated the RAW files in Lightroom to better balance the information captured during exposure.
I know someone will moan about the tree at left. There’s nothing I can do about that, it’s part of the scene. Sorry 2001-fans, no black slab! So far as I can tell, anyway.
It was about 4 degrees Fahrenheit at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, when I made this view at 9:38pm on December 31st looking west toward CP64.
The signal had just changed from all red (stop) to red over flashing green (Limited Clear) on the main track.
I exposed the photograph with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens with the camera mounted on a Gitzo tripod.
Using the ‘A’ mode with aperture set to f2.8, the exposure value boosted by about 2/3rds of a stop, and ISO set to 400, my effective shutter speed was about 5 seconds. A length of time that seems like forever when you are standing alone in the dark with an icy wind in your face.
I checked my exposure and focus and thought to myself ‘good enough’. Which means that if it were warmer, I’d make another image.
CSX’s Q007 was lined west. But opted not to wait for it.
On June 28, 2017, I made a sequence of digital photos of CSX’s Worcester, Massachusetts-bound intermodal freight symbol Q012 passing CP64 (dispatcher’s control-point 64 miles west of Boston) at East Brookfield.
This was one of several exposures made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
(If you are not viewing Tracking the Light, please click on the post to see the variations from Dark to Light.)
Kodachrome was a great film but it had its failings. It’s spectral sensitivity tended to render blue too dark in relation to the other colors.
An unfortunate result of this sensitivity was that at times of high sun, when there is a greater amount of ambient blue light, Kodachrome was both less sensitive and produced an unacceptably constrasty result that over emphasize the already unflattering light of midday.
For this reason, I often put the camera away during midday, or switched to black & white.
This slide is an exception. On June 29, 1989, I photographed an eastward Conrail freight with C32-8(a model known colloquially as a ‘Camel’) passing the old Boston & Albany station at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
I have many better photographs of these unusual locomotives and superior views of the old station, both of which are now gone. Yet, I’m glad I made this slide.
For years, it remained in its yellow box as returned to me by Kodak. Although sharp, it wasn’t up to par with my slides from the time and so I’d deemed it unworthy of projection.
Today this is a pretty interesting image and through the comparative ease of digital processing, I can compensate for some of the failings of the film.
Using Lightroom, I’ve been able to adjust the contrast, exposure and color balance to make for a more acceptable image.
I’ve presented three variations: the above image is the unmodified scan (scaled for internet presentation); the other two have various levels of adjustment aimed at producing a more pleasing image.
My recently published Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals highlights railway architecture around the world, including Helsinki, Tokyo, and London.
As an author, I always like to add a personal touch to my books, and when possible include items of local and special interest. If you scour my pages, you’ll often find photos made in Palmer, Massachusetts and Dublin, among other favorites.
Among the topics covered in the recent effort is a small section on the former Boston & Albany station at East Brookfield, Massachusetts. I’d photographed and researched this building over the years. Sadly, it was destroyed in an arsonist attack five years ago.
On Pages 82 and 83, I discuss East Brookfield and its demise as part of greater story on lost stations. In my text, I mention that a period photo of the old station still hangs in East Brookfield Pizza, a few blocks from CSXT’s former B&A mainline.
My friend Dennis LeBeau has helped preserve East Brookfield’s history, and has a collection of glass plate negatives exposed by William Bullard, a local photographer working from the 1890s through the World War I era. Several Bullard photos appear in the book.
The other day, I called into East Brookfield to give Dennis his contributor’s copy of Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals. We went down to East Brookfield Pizza to show the owners and staff the book, and I had Dennis and company pose with the Bullard photo of the station.
I phoned Julie—Amtrak’s automated agent, as you do when you’d like to know if a train is running on time. Amtrak 448, the Lake Shore Limited was a little more than an hour late leaving Springfield.
Dennis LeBeau, Wolfie the dog, and I waited at the bridge in East Brookfield, Massachusetts east of CP64. I said, “448 left Springfield 40 minutes ago. It’s about 25 minutes to Palmer, so it ought to be between Warren and Brookfield by now. We should be seeing a headlight in a couple of minutes.
Brookfield is milepost 66 on the old Boston & Albany. There hasn’t been a station there in my lifetime. East Brookfield is at the east end of long tangent, which provides lots of warning for eastward trains.
Dennis looked west, “There’s your headlight, just like you said.”
I wandered back and forth on the bridge trying to find the most suitable angle. Ultimately I settled on this spot to the north of the mainline. All things being equal, I wish I’d brought my Fuji X-T1; this would have made a nice 135mm view to bring in the green trees and track-ladder in the distance.
Engine 48 was leading train 448 at CP 64. Got all that? Great! Too often, I have to explain the fundamental difference between an engine number and train number.
To the uninitiated this seems like a trivial difference. But to those in railroad operations it could be life or death.
Really it’s a question of hardware versus software. The locomotive is the hardware, the train is a service. Today engine 48 leads 448, but tomorrow it will lead another train with another number. On the timetable, everyday train 48 and train 448 are combined as one between Chicago and Albany. And there’s the confusing coincidence. Train 48 and locomotive 48 are different; one being a service, and the other an engine.
Tracking the Light takes a diverging route: Cats, Lionel, Beer, and Rock and Roll. Take a look at my most recent production. I’ve filmed and edited a short music video.
The soundtrack is the song Rock and Roll Panic performed by The Big Gunz of East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Popular for their evening entertainment at Dunny’s Tavern, the Big Gunz are a classic trio consisting of Paul, Tommy, and Dennis LeBeau.
Rock and Roll Panic third rail mix was filmed with my Canon Eos 7D and Lumix LX3 cameras, and has a train in almost every scene!
On the Morning of October 25, 2009, I brought my brand new Lumix LX3 out for a test run. I had just received my first digital camera and this was a trial to see if it was any good.
I’d bought it on the recommendation of Eric Rosenthal. My initial hope for the camera was to use as a light meter and to make photos of friends.
That morning I drove to East Brookfield and made this image of the old Boston & Albany station. Two eastward trains came by and I photographed those on film, not trusting the new purchase for anything important.
I later drove around making photos of local architecture in the autumn color. I soon found that the LX3 was an extremely powerful tool capable of very sharp images and useful for making a great variety of railway photos.
Approximately 11 months later, I received a phone call from Dennis LeBeau of the East Brookfield Historic Society: the station had been torched by vandals and gutted. For another year or so the skeletal remains of the building remained trackside as a sad reminder of what had been.
This Lumix image is exactly four years old today. In the interval, since I made this image I’ve released the LX3’s shutter more than 15,000 times.
On the evening of June 26, 2013, I arrived at East Brookfield to find Dennis LeBeau observing CSX’s undercutting operations immediately east of CP64.
Over the last few years, CSX has been improving its former Boston & Albany route between Selkirk Yards (near Albany, New York) and its Worcester, Massachusetts terminal.
Conrail improved clearances on the line in the mid-1980s and began running international containers on double-stack trains in 1989 (I first photographed an eastward Conrail double-stack in Spring 1989). However, CSX’s desire to run larger domestic containers on double stack trains has required further clearance improvement.
Once complete, the Boston & Albany route will be clearance compatible with most of CSX’s former Conrail mainline, which should allow for more traffic to be sent to Worcester. The clearance improvements are coincident with the recent closure of Beacon Park Yard at Alston, Massachusetts in favor of expanded facilities in Worcester.
On Wednesday evening, CSX had every track in East Brookfield occupied, as it cleared equipment from the mainline to allow east and westbound freight to pass (Amtrak had cancelled train 448 (Boston section of Lake Shore Limited). Once traffic had passed, work crews resumed their re-ballasting of the recently undercut mainline.
I was one of a half-dozen civilians observing the activity. Late in the day, the sun emerged from a cloudbank to provide some soft lighting and I kept three cameras busy, documenting the changes.