Tuesday Morning (June 25 2019), I made my way to Palmer, Massachusetts to see how fared the old Boston & Albany.
Not long after I arrived at the old freight house location (the building was unceremoniously demolished by Conrail 30 years ago), I heard ‘Limited Clear CP83’ on my scanner. This transmission indicated that a train was about to take the controlled siding.
Modern six-motor GEs (an Evolution and a Tier IV—standard CSX road power on the Boston Line) rolled east with a short intermodal train, probably Q012 or Q022.
The trailing locomotive was CSX’s Louisville & Nashville heritage locomotive, identified by a tiny L&N logo on the cab and ‘Spirit of Ravenna’ in script. Lucky bonus to catch that in Palmer!
I made my photos at the west end of the yard, working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto lens and my Lumix LX7.
This was just the beginning of the morning’s photography.
After intercepting Amtrak’s southward Vermonter on the Connecticut River Line, I drove to Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard(near Greenfield, Massachusetts) to see if anything was moving.
Fortuity and patience combined enabled me to make photos of Pan Am Railways POED crossing the Connecticut River Bridge (immediately east of the yard).
In the lead was 7552, one of two (soon to be three) former CSX DASH8-40Cs wearing Pan Am Railways paint, plus one of the railroad’s last remaining 600-series six motor EMDs (619, that began its career as a Southern Pacific SD45) still in traffic.
Catching this pair of locomotives together is a coup. I’ve always found transition periods make for interesting photographs; during the last year, these second-hand GE’s have sidelined many of Pan Am’s older locomotives.
Will this be the last time I catch one of the 1980s era GEs working together with a 1960s era six-motor EMDs in Pan Am blue paint?
A week ago, Rich Reed, Paul Goewey and I were making a survey of Pan Am/MBTA operations around Fitchburg, Massachusetts, when we came across intermodal freight 22K stopped east of Fitchburg yard.
Driving up to the head-end, we were surprise to find that the train was led by three BNSF Railway GE diesels, with one of the ‘C4’ (model ES44C4; a six-axle/four-motor riding on a variation of the A1A truck) in the lead.
The train was stopped just west of MBTA’s North Leominster platforms to allow the morning commuter rush to pass unimpeded. This gave us ample opportunity to make photographs.
I was keen to show these BNSF locomotives (nearly 1,000 miles from home rails) operating in Boston suburban territory.
Simply photographing the train/engines really wasn’t good enough, since without some geographically identifying feature, these images could be anywhere.
While I made some close photos of the engines for the record, but I also made a point of exposing images that included station signs and other features to positively identify where we were.
One the commuter rush cleared, 22K got permission to proceed and continued east toward its terminus at Ayer, Massachusetts, leading to more photographic opportunities. Stay tuned!
The old Boston & Maine Railroad’s Fitchburg route hugs the Millers River east of Millers Falls as it ascends toward Erving and Athol.
Last week, Paul Goewey and I followed Pan Am’s slow moving eastward unit grain train destined for Ayer, Massachusetts. This had been delayed by telemetry communication problems with its tail end.
A radio telemetry unit is used in place of a caboose on most North American freight trains. This communicates air pressure information relating to the air brake system, and can allow the engineer to set train brakes from the rear end in event of an emergency.
Four former CSX GE-built DASH8-40Cs were leading the train.
We set up near Farley’s, located at a grade crossing a few miles timetable west of Erving, where I made these photos of the train working the grade.
Back-lighted conditions accentuated the drama of the ascent by illuminating the locomotive exhaust.
I made this view of a pair of Pan Am Railway’s recently acquired four-motor GE diesels at East Deerfield Yard.
When they were new in the 1980s, these locomotives were intended for moving intermodal trains at top speed.
Conrail’s B40-8s (DASH8-40B) were routinely assigned in sets of three to trailvan and double stack trains on the Water Level Route, while Susquehanna’s similar locomotives would work its double stack trains on the old Erie Railroad ‘Southern Tier Route’
So, I find it odd to see them now in faded CSX paint at Pan Am’s East Deerfield.
Perhaps, its an appropriate photographic metaphor to picture them in fading afternoon light passing the shell of the old tower.
Was it January 11th 2015, when word came over the wire?
Fellow photographer Pat Yough said to me, and I repeat, ‘the Golden Swoosh has been sighted at Buffalo and is heading this way.’
‘The what?’ said I.
‘The Golden Swoosh! It’s all the rage. Something about the black swoosh is yellow on one of the BNSF GE’s.’
‘Whoa. Back the trolley up. What’s all this about?’
So far as I can determine, sometime ago a four-lettered shoe company produced a special runner (that’s an ‘athletic shoe’ in American parlence). And, this deluxe edition shoe carried a yellow tinted zinger on the side and was known as ‘the Golden Swoosh’.
This curious term, it seems, was then transferred to a BNSF Railway General Electric Evolution-Series locomotive painted in a one of a kind variation of the company’s livery.
Instead of black lettering with angled underline (a ‘swoosh’ as it were), the ‘BNSF’ lettering and corporate underline logo was painted yellow thus creating a unique adaptation of the BNSF image on locomotive 7695.
And this curious painted variation was eastbound on CSX leading a laden oil train destined for Philadelphia.
The wire was live with reports. It was seen south of Selkirk and rolling down along the Hudson on CSX’s River Line.
But then, just as it seemed that this locomotive note-worthy for its yellow underline, was nearly upon us, word came in that it was at Kearny Yard where it was tied down and without a crew.
And so, another day passed, swooshless.
Finally, after long last, on the evening of January 13th the famed ‘golden swoosh’ was again on the move.
The weather was cold and the sky was dark. Pat and I visited Neshaminy Falls on the old Reading Company. No swoosh. Then to Langhorne where CSX’s Q417 passed in the gloom (144 axles led by engines CSX 8768 and 8836). This was followed by CSX’s Q191 led by 5359 and 509 followed by containers.
In the end we went to Woodbourne: finally a headlight appeared on the horizon. The catenary glistened. and the low chug of a GE engine shook the ground.
And there, leading a mighty train of oil, was the ‘Golden Swoosh.’
I racked up the ISO to make some effort to mark its passing.
‘There it is!’
And there it goes.
Sort of reminded me of the time Britain’s Queen Elizabeth waved to me on one of her trips through Dublin in 2011.
The afternoon of July 26, 1993 was one of those lucky times when everything falls into place.
Fellow photographer TSH and I had hired a Chevy van at the San Francisco airport and drove to the shore of the Great Salt Lake, then worked our way back following Union Pacific’s Western Pacific route across Nevada.
Near Wendover (on the Utah-Nevada line) we came across a struggling westward coal train. One of its locomotives had failed, and it was making poor progress. It had three manifest trains stacked up behind it.
Armed with this knowledge, and having the best light of the day ahead of us, we drove west to the famed Arnold Loop, where Western Pacific’s engineers had designed a sweeping curve to maintain steady elevation. (Running west from the Nevada-Utah line the railroad ascends a continuous 35-mile 1 percent grade, and crests at 5,907 feet above sea level, 15 miles beyond Silver Zone Pass.)
While not a complete circle, such as that used further west at the Williams Loop near Blairsden, California, this loop arrangement is an excellent place to photograph trains.
To the east is the wide expanse of desert punctuated by Pilot Peak some ten miles distant.
We got ourselves in position; cameras loaded with Kodachrome 25 and planted on tripods, and a clear blue dome above us. To the east we could make out the four trains in the distance, seeming to crawl over the landscape like tiny worms. Soon the first of the trains was upon us. These followed every ten minutes or so for the next 45 minutes.
I’ve used my images from this day in several books and calendars. This one slide is well published.
We were spoiled by the experience. The next day on the Western Pacific wasn’t as productive. Such is the luck of desert railroading!
Over the last few posts, I’ve alluded to this location at milepost 67. On the morning of October 26, 2013, I was up early. Before 8 am, I photographed at New England Central local at Palmer, and I suspected a CSX eastward intermodal train was getting close.
My feeling was confirmed when I heard that CSX Q012 was at CP 109 (near Westfield, Massachusetts). This was at least 40 minutes away, and I didn’t want to photograph this train at Palmer so I began driving east.
I looked a few old standby locations on my way toward Brookfield, but I was really intend on my location at milepost 67. Why?
On October 25, 2007, I’d caught CSX’s eastward autorack train (symbol Q264) at the Route 148 Bridge at milepost 67. This was a good angle and foliage was just how I like it, but the light was dull.
Move forward six years and the day was clear and bright and the rusty reddish leaves were clinging to selected trees making for a perfect autumn morning.
After a half and hour in the cold, which I used to make some test photos and vignettes of the old Boston & Albany line, I could hear the sound of General Electric diesels working eastbound. In short order the hot Q012 intermodal train came into view with relatively new Evolution-Series diesels.
I’ll tick that off in the ‘success’ category. Since the next eastward train hadn’t reached Pittsfield, I decided to get some writing done and called it a day.
Fortuitous Encounter with the Highest Numbered P42.
On June 26, 2012, I was changing trains at New Haven, Connecticut while on my way to Philadelphia. I’d come in on the Springfield-New Haven shuttle. This was a push-pull set consisting of a former Metroliner cab car and an Amfleet coach pushed by Amtrak 207.
While on the platform I made a few images of this General Electric locomotive using my Lumix LX3 and my dad’s Leica M4 (loaded with Fuji Acros 100 black & white film).
It was only later that it occurred to me that 207 is the highest numbered Amtrak Genesis P42.This nominal fact doesn’t make the photos any better, but I thought it was interesting and significant. Firsts and lasts have been long be marked by railway photographers.
What impressed me about 207 was that it was relatively clean and the paint was in good shape. This is a contrast with many of Amtrak’s P42s that have a battle-worn appearance.