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.
I was working with three cameras. Previously I’ve published color views exposed with my Contax G2 rangefinder and Nikon N90S single-lens reflex, however until today most of my black & white photos remained unpublished and unseen.
I made my black & white photos using a Rollei Model T twin-lens reflex (120 size film camera). So, rolling along at about 30 mph east of Tallinn, I made this view of a Riga-built Tallinn-area electric suburban train.
Significantly,I made this image by using the Rollei’s field-finder— which is nothing more than a pair of open squares that allow you to frame up a photo while holding the camera at eye-level.
Normally, I’d focus using the camera’s built in magnifying glass on the waist level viewer (which supplies a view through the top lens arrangement that projects onto a Fresnel screen. The down side of this viewing mechanism is that you must look down into the camera and the image is in reverse.
So exposing photos from a moving locomotive cab using the waist-finder is not only impractical, but can lend to sea-sickness.
Another advantage of the field-finder is that you are actually looking at your subject without any distortion caused by a lens. In today’s photography it rare that you actually see your subject at the time the shutter is released. You’d be amazed how this direct viewing can improve composition.
Also, the Rollei’s mechanical shutter release is virtually instantaneous.
These modern locomotives have been on the move in New England for a few months now, but they managed to elude me. Or my camera anyway. (I saw one in Worcester some weeks ago.).
The Tier 4 are the most modern high-horsepower freight locomotives offered by General Electric. They are designed to meet EPA’s Tier IV emissions standards.
While similar in appearance to other late model GE freight locomotives, they have a distinctive large capacity radiator and vents at the back. This provides increased heat exchange area in the radiator cab is required to meet the stricter Tier 4 exhaust emission requirement using by using Exhaust Gas Recirculation
On Tuesday, January 26, Bob Arnold, Paul Goewey and I found CSX 3308 working symbol freight SEPO (CSX Selkirk Yard to Portland, Maine) at Ayer, Massachusetts.
I always like to catch new power on the move and we caught this freight at several locations.
What about a classic three-quarter ‘roster view’ you ask? Well, I exposed that on color slide film, of course!
In April 1988, I was exploring locations along Conrail’s former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’ west of Dunkirk, New York. Parallel to this line was the old Nickel Plate Road.
Where the former New York Central Line was a highly engineered grade-level route and crossed the terrain on high earthen fills, Nickel Plate was built to a lighter standard and used plate girder viaducts over the valleys of rivers and streams.
Lighter engineering often results in more interesting photographs.
I caught this Norfolk Southern freight working toward Buffalo over a tower-supported plate-girder trestle near Westfield, New York.
At the time, Norfolk Southern had recently purchased a fleet of General Electric C39-8s and tended to work these long hood first. I found this arrangement fascinating and so I made a variety of images of the big GE diesels working ‘hammer head’ style.
I’d been out along the former Erie Railroad since before dawn that day. The tracks had been alive with freight. By early afternoon, I was down at Gang Mills Yard, near Corning, which served as a local hub for freight.
Back then General Electric B23-7s were a common locomotive. I’d grown up with these diesels working locals and road freights on the Boston & Albany route. I always like their classic GE style and their great sound. My B&A engineer friends despised them because of their ‘slow loading,’ ‘low cab doors,’ and other perceived inadequacies.
I made this photo at the engine terminal. I liked all the Conrail signage behind the locomotive. There’s nothing especially unusual about this scene, it was as ordinary as it got for the time, but today this really says, “Conrail” as I remember it.
Conrail ended independent operations at the end of May 1999, fifteen years ago. Between 1976 and 1999, I exposed thousands of views of Conrail. In 2004, Tim Doherty & I authored an illustrated book on Conrail for MBI.
The old New York Central Mohawk Division is an enigmatic stretch of railroad. It’s very old. It has lots of history. It passes through some stunning scenery. It carries lots of traffic. And it can be really difficult to photograph.
Access to the line is limited, elevation is often in the wrong places, and trains seem to run in the wrong direction or at the wrong times. Or, following holidays, it seems that trains are absent altogether. Yet, when driving the New York State Thruway, it seems that every time you look across at the tracks there’s a train racing along.
On this day, I was driving west under sunny skies. I joined the Mohawk at Amsterdam, New York where I found Conrail B23-7 1999 working a local freight—hard out of the morning sun. A blanket of lake effect snow covered the ground. Hmm.
Very little else was moving, but I caught one of Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains at Fonda. Then took my time to explore locations.
At Little Falls, I again caught up with this Conrail B23-7. At the time it was the booby prize, but I’m glad I took the time to make photographs.
Ten years later, Conrail faded into history. My dad and I made photographs along the Mohawk on Conrail’s final day.
For me the old Boston & Albany West end is hallowed ground. This was the first true mountain mainline in the modern sense. The line was surveyed in the mid 1830s and by 1839 trains were working over Washington Summit.
Over the last 30 years I’ve made countless trips to photograph this line and it remains one of my favorites. Yet, I rarely come up here in the winter.
On Friday, February 7, 2014, my father and I went up to Huntington to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449. Not far behind was CSX’s Q427.
This freight runs daily between Portland, Maine and Selkirk, New York via Ayer and Worcester, Massachusetts. This day it had a pair of General Electric Evolution-Series diesels of the type that have come to characterize modern freight operations on the Boston & Albany route.
Since the train wasn’t making great speed, we pursued it on Route 20, stopping to make photos at opportune locations. At CP 123 (where the line goes from single track to two-main track) Q427 met an eastward freight holding at the signal. We continued upgrade ahead of the train.
I remembered that there’s a gap in the hills at Chester which allows for a window of sun on the line that lasts late in the day. So we zipped ahead of the train.
At Chester, Pop set up his tripod to make a hi-resolution video of the train climbing. I positioned myself with my Canon EOS 7D with a telephoto lens to make use of the window of sun against a dark background.
As the train grew closer I also exposed more conventional views with my Lumix LX3. The heavy train took more than two minutes to pass.
I made this photo when I was a senior in high school. Paul Goewey and I’d planned to meet some friends at Springfield Station, and then drive north to photograph Boston & Maine at Deerfield.
While we waited for the others to arrive, I exposed a series of images of Conrail on the former Boston & Albany mainline. At the time, Conrail regularly stored locomotives between runs on track 2A in the station (at right). On the left is a set of light engines led by Conrail 6608, one of ten C30-7s.
More interesting is the locomotive trailing 6608, a relative-rare former Erie-Lackawanna SDP45.
The trip to the B&M was very successful and I exposed two rolls of 35mm Kodak Panatomic-X ASA 32 (Kodak Safety Film 5060) with my Leica 3A, and a couple of rolls of 120 B&W with my dad’s Rolleiflex. I processed all the film in the kitchen sink, using a crude formula of Microdol-X. I sleeved the negs and made 3×5 size proof prints.
The 120 negatives have been in my files for three decades, but the 35mm negatives had vanished. I have a photo album from 1985, with many of these images, but for years was vexed by the loss of the 35mm negatives. As a rule, I don’t throw photographs away.
The other day, I found a carton with school papers and photographs. There, at the bottom was an unlabeled crumpled manila envelope. What’s this? Ah ha!
It was chock full of negatives from 1984-1985. All missing for decades, many of them unprinted.
I scanned these negative strip on my Epson V600 scanner. Using Photoshop I cleaned up a few minor defect and made necessary contrast adjustments, then exported a reduced file size for display here. A photo lost for nearly three decades can now be enjoyed in through a medium I couldn’t have foreseen when I exposed it.
In July 1983, on one of my first solo-trips by automobile, I visited Bangor & Aroostook’s yards at Northern Maine Junction. My friend Bob Buck had recommended this location because at the time the railroad was very accommodating of photographers.
You could sign a release and pretty much have the run of the place—so long as you stayed out of the roundhouse. The railroad had a guestbook and a gift shop. The employees were friendly and would answer questions.
I think I was there on a weekend, because the Bangor & Aroostook was quiet. There was dead line filled with F3A and BL2s that garnered my attention, but nothing was moving.
I asked one of the railroaders if there was anything running; he replied there wasn’t, but he’d find out if anything was coming on Maine Central. A short time late he came back to me and said there was an eastbound close.
Maine Central’s line bisected Bangor & Aroostook’s facilities, and I waited on the south side of the main line to favor the sun. After a little while, a lone former Rock Island U25B hauling two piggyback flats rolled by with its bell ringing and strobe lights flashing; this was the East Wind (New Haven, Connecticut to Bangor, Maine).
I made several image with my Leica 3A, but I wasn’t impressed. One engine? Two cars? Four piggyback trailers? No caboose?! I said to the Bangor & Aroostook man who had waited with me, ‘Not much of a train, was it?’ He just shrugged. I don’t think he was impressed either.
What I had witnessed was Guilford’s early 1980s effort at capturing high(er) value piggyback traffic. The theory behind trains such as Maine Central’s East Wind was that by speeding schedules and lowering operating costs, the railroad could compete with highways for more lucrative time-sensitive shipments, rather than merely settle for low-priority low-value bulk-commodity traffic.
In retrospect, although the train didn’t impress me at the time, I made a valuable record of that early period after passage of the 1980 Staggers Act, when railroads were trying to break into new markets. It was also the first caboose-less train I’d seen, and gave me a hint of what was to come in the future. The U25B? That was a bonus.
CN’s Latest Alternating Current Traction Diesels ply the old Wisconsin Central.
There’s nothing like a shiny new locomotive; It will never look any better. Best of all, it’s really something new, not just the ‘same-old, same-old.’
Last week, Chris Guss and I were working CN’s former Wisconsin Central Limited lines in Illinois and Wisconsin where CN’s latest locomotives were plying the rails.
Until very recently, CN was the last major North American freight railroad to refrain from AC traction technology. First used on wide-scale by Burlington Northern beginning in 1993, by the late-1990s most big railroads had at least sampled AC traction diesels. Yet, CN kept ordering DC traction. But not anymore; today AC’s are the latest thing even on CN!
CN’s new ES44DCs look good working in pairs in the rolling Midwestern countryside.
Here’s a few photos I made over a two-day period in early November 2013.
On our second day, Pat Yough joined us for some of the photos and we also met up with Iowa-based Craig Williams near Fond du Lac while waiting for southward CN ES44ACs to emerge from some trees.
We were all on our way to one of the Midwest’s premier railway photography venues: Beecherfest (held near Milwaukee every year).
Southbound CN Stacks work the old Soo Line, November 8, 2013.
Between July 1994 and October 1996, I lived within walking distance of the former Soo Line station at Waukesha, Wisconsin.
At that time the railroad was owned and operated by Ed Burkhardt’s Wisconsin Central Limited (a 1980s regional carved from the old Soo Line after Soo Line merged with the largely parallel Milwaukee Road)
I’ve long since moved to new horizons and in the meantime, the ever-expanding Canadian National empire assimilated the WCL. The line through Waukesha that had once been part of the Canadian Pacific family is now a CN route.
Today’s CN has a very different operating style than that of WCL in mid-1990s.
Where WCL ran a tightly scheduled railroad with frequent but relatively short freights connecting Shops Yard at North Fond du Lac with various Chicago-land terminals, CN leans toward enormous rolling land-barges, many of which now take an Elgin, Joliet & Eastern routing around Chicago to reach the former Illinois Central or other connections.
Like the WCL, EJ&E and IC are now part of the CN empire.
On November 8, 2013, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I photographed CN’s southward intermodal train symbol Q11651-04 led by SD70M-2 8800 passing the old Waukesha Soo Line station. At the back of the train was a modern General Electric working as a ‘distributed power unit’ (a radio-controlled remote locomotive controlled from the head-end).
This is a big change from the pairs of SD45 leading strings of 50 foot box cars or Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range ore jennies that I regularly saw in the 1990s. And, by the way, DM&IR is also another of CN’s railroads.
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.
A Broadside Pan of Modern Locomotives with Autumn Foliage.
Early in the morning of October 22, 2013, I noticed that CSX’s Q422-22 was working the east end of Palmer yard. It was too dark to make a conventional image, and the location of the train not suited to make a night photograph, so I headed east.
CSX’s Q422 is not a train I often see. This is a carload train that runs from Selkirk Yard (near Albany) over the former Boston & Albany main line to Worcester. It is one of many symbol freights on the B&A route that tends to be nocturnal.
When I was photographing in the 1980s, Conrail operated a similar train which carried the symbol SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester). This tended to run in the mid-morning and normally followed the intermodal parade.
I made many images of the old SEPW, which back in 1984 typically operated with sets of four GE B23-7s (rated at 2,250 hp each).
Memories of those days flashed through my mind as I drove east toward daylight. I followed the line up the Quaboag River Valley, as I have many times in the past. At West Warren, there was a glow in the eastern sky, but it was still pretty dark, so after a few test shots I continued eastward.
I considered a favorite location at Brookfield, near milepost 67, but decided against it because it was too head on (stay tuned for an image at this location in an upcoming post).
I’ve found that in very low light, it helps to photograph trains off-axis to minimize the effect of locomotive headlights. When ambient light levels are low (at dawn, dusk, and very dull days) the relative brightness of headlights can result in undesirable flare which can be especially annoying with digital photography.
Recent undercutting work at East Brookfield resulted in clearing of a small hill that has made for a great broad-side photo location. This is set back from the tracks and provides good elevation. Here, I set up and waited.
Before long I could here the chug of General Electric diesels across the Brookfield flats and then my scanner chirped something to the effect of: “CSXT Q422-22, Clear Signal CP64.”
To get the effect of speed and set the locomotives off from the background foliage, I exposed this image at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.
As CSX’s Q422 ascended Charlton Hill on it last leg of the trip to Worcester, I headed in a north-westerly direction toward Millers Falls. I’ve learned that make the most of a New England autumn, it helps to keep moving.
Boston gets some great light and evening can be one of the best times to make photographs.
Sunday October 27th was clear in the morning, but clouded up a bit during midday. Towards evening the clouds melted away and a rich golden light prevailed.
Tim Doherty and I photographed operations out of North Station as well as the north end of the Orange Line rapid transit, then went toward Boston College, where the Commonwealth Avenue branch of the Green Line crosses over the former Boston & Albany mainline.
The fading light of evening made for a dramatic skyline. I didn’t have my tripod with me, so instead racked up the ISO on my digital cameras. With my 7D I can work with a 4000 ISO rating and still get some very presentable images.
My memories of the Commonwealth Avenue line extend back more than 40 years, and my photography of the line nearly that long.
In the late-1970s, I made a point of exposed Kodachrome slides of the PCC’s that were then waning on that route. I never could have guessed than in 2013 some PCC’s would survive in daily service on the Mattapan-Ashmont line.
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.
Brand New General Electric Locomotives at a Classic Location.
On the morning of July 9, 2013, I visited State Line Tunnel on CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline. This is a favorite place to catch trains in action on the line.
The air was heavy with moisture and as a result sound carried exceptionally well. I arrived at my location at 6:48 am. At 6:54, I could hear an eastward train blowing for a crossing near Chatham, New York, approximately 10 miles to the west (as per the timetable). At 6:56, the train reported a ‘clear’ signal aspect over the scanner.
Since the only signal in the area is located at CP 171 (the control point east end of the siding at East Chatham) I knew the train was about to cross the New York State Thruway. I then could trace the progress of the train as it sounded for various crossings in Canaan. By 7:04 am, I could cleared hear the engines working upgrade.
A 7:08, CSX’s intermodal train Q012 came into view. In the lead were three factory-clean General Electric ‘Evolution-Series’ diesel-electrics in the 3100-series (model ES44AC). As modelers might say, ‘right out of the box.’ Nice!
The train roared into the tunnel below me as I exposed a sequence of images with my Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens. I’d brought a tripod, but opted not to use it, as hand held gave me greater flexibility.
About 40 minutes later, I heard a westward train sounding for Stateline crossing. I relocated, and made images of CSX light engines exiting the west portal of the tunnel.
Until late-1988, this line had directional double track. Since then, just a single main track passes through the tunnel. The railroad uses the 1912-era bore, leaving the older 1840s-era bore void of track.
SERVICE NOTICE: Tracking the Light will soon be undergoing an upgrade which may result in a temporary service disruption of a day or more.
This day, twenty four years ago, April 12, 1989, I sat in the morning sun at School Road in Batavia, New York, 399 miles from Grand Central Terminal. This was a favorite location to watch the Water Level Route on a weekend morning. At the time I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I lived south of Rochester at Scottsville, New York, and it was about a half and hour drive to this lightly used crossing. Here I’d read, write in my notebook, and document the passing parade of Conrail freights and the occasional Amtrak train. A talking equipment detector a few miles to the west would alert me to approaching eastward trains, but westward trains might creep up on me. These tended to be crawling, as there is a slight grade up the Niagara Escarpment known local as Byron Hill. ‘Hill’ is a relative term, since this grade seemed almost invisible to the eye. However, freights powered for the low-grade run from Selkirk to Buffalo would stagger up this nominal rise. On this morning, the distinctive chug of General Electric 7FDL diesel engines caught me ear above the twittering birds and the rush of a light breeze. Before I knew it the gates were motoring down and lo and behold, a westbound was coming down the hill.
My Leica M2 was fitted to an f4.0 200mm Leitz Telyt using the awkward Visoflex II attachment, which effectively transformed my rangefinder into a single-lens reflex. This entire contraption was positioned on my recently acquired Bogen 3021 tripod with ball-head. (The ball arrangement seemed like a good idea when I bought it, but I was forever fighting it to make fine adjustments with long lenses.) This morning, I had everything all set up and pre-focused; I exposed a couple frame of Kodachrome 25. Leading the train was one of Conrail’s unusual GE-built C39-8s, a favorite model because of its angular cab-arrangement.
Six weeks after I made this image, I graduated from R.I.T. and by end of September that year, I was on my way to California. The old crossing at School Road closed a number of years ago as part of a grade crossing elimination scheme. Last summer, I unexpectedly found a former Conrail C39-8s at Lansdale, Pennsylvania along with a few of its ilk in black Norfolk Southern paint, but that’s a story for another post.
On the eve of assumption of operations by Conrail in Spring 1976, my father and I had explored railway operations in the New York City area. Twenty-three years later, we spent a long weekend in New York’s Mohawk and Hudson Valleys photographing the last days of independent Conrail operations before the railway was divided between its new owners CSX and Norfolk Southern.
On the morning of May 29, 1999, I made this dramatic image of a westward Conrail double-stack train blasting along the former New York Central Water Level Route at Fonda, New York.
Evidence of the old New York Central can be seen in the wide right of way left over from its four-track days, and the steam-era signal bridges with classic General Railway Signal searchlights. In the last few years, CSX has replaced most of the NYC-era signals with modern hardware.
Leading the train was one of Conrail’s ten C32-8s, a pre-production model built by General Electric in 1984, unique to Conrail (although nearly identical in appearance to the slightly more powerful C39-8, bought by Conrail and Norfolk Southern). This one was dressed in Conrail’s short-lived ‘Ballast Express’ livery.
A variation of this image was published by RailNews, shortly before that magazine concluded operations. Hard to believe that both Conrail and RailNews have been gone nearly 14 years.
This image was part of a sequence aimed to fulfill a commission by Mark Hemphill when he was Editor of TRAINSMagazine. While one of the other images in the sequence eventually appeared in the magazine, a tightly cropped version of this photo appeared on page 160 of my book Modern Locomotives—High-Horsepower Diesels 1966-2000, published by MBI in 2002. My MBI caption reads: “Amtrak road No. 1 is a P42 GENESIS™ built by General Electric at Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1996. In October, 2000, it led Amtrak No. 449, the westbound Boston section of the Lakeshore Limited, at West Warren, Massachusetts. The locomotive wears Amtrak’s short-lived Northeast Direct livery that was discontinued with the introduction of the Acela livery in 2000.” It was exposed with Nikon N90S fitted with 80-200mm f2.8 zoom lens. I selected a relatively slow shutter speed, probably 1/60th second, and panned the front of the locomotive as it rolled by. Track speed is 60mph for passenger trains, so there was plenty of movement to allow for background blurring.