Years ago, the view from the road bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts was more open than it is today.
The trees have grown up making it more challenging to expose photos of trains at the junction between former Boston & Maine and former Central Vermont lines here.
At one time, a century or more ago, B&M’s Conn River route crossed the CV here. B&M’s line continued across the Connecticut River and rejoined the CV at Brattleboro.
Later, the two routes were melded in a paired track arrangement. However, by the time I started photographing here in the 1980s, the B&M route north of East Northfield was no longer functioning as a through line.
On the morning of April 27, 2018, I made this view of New England Central freight 608 led by a former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 ‘tunnel motor’ diesel.
The light was spot on for a series of three quarter views featuring a vintage GRS searchlight signal that protects the junction.
Last week I made this digital portrait of New England Central 3476 using my FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens.
Soft cross lighting combined with a wide aperture made for pleasing photographic conditions to picture this engine against a backdrop of Vermont colorful autumn trees and distant New Hampshire hills.
The locomotive was working New England Central’s Brattleboro (Vermont) to Palmer (Massachusetts) turn freight, job 611, and was among many images I exposed that day.
This old EMD-built locomotive has a long history, having worked for Southern Pacific and Union Pacific before coming east to New England. I wonder if I crossed paths with it up on Donner Pass, in the Tehachapis, or on former Rio Grande lines in Colorado and Utah?
In March 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide of Genesee & Wyoming GP38 number 51 leading an empty salt train arriving at P&L Junction (P&L infers Pittsburgh & Lehigh) near Caledonia, New York.
At that time Genesee & Wyoming was a New York state short line that had just recently expanded with the creation of the Rochester & Southern to operate the former Baltimore & Ohio (nee Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg) 4th Subdivision between Rochester and East Salamanca, New York via Ashford Junction. (R&S had trackage rights on CSX from Ashford Jct. to East Salamanca).
This train was arriving from interchange with the Delaware & Hudson at Silver Springs. (D&H had trackage rights over the former Erie Railroad line to Buffalo.) It would reverse direction at P&L Junction and head southward on G&W’s own line (seen in the immediate foreground) to Retsof, where G&W served a massive salt mine.
Back then G&W 51 had no special significance, but it does for me today.
In early February, I was running a few last minute errands before my Trans-Atlantic journey.
Crossing the Boston & Albany on South Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts, I saw a New England Central local approaching with an impressive cut of interchange.
In the lead was clean New England Central GP38-2 2048 in Genesee & Wyoming corporate paint. Although I’ve made countless hundreds of photographs from this location over the years, I won’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.
So for the sake of a couple of minutes detour, I made these images at CP83 using my Lumix LX7.
Rochester & Southern’s yard at Brooks Avenue was just a ten minute drive from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
When I was in college, I had an open arrangement with the railroad to make photographs, and during the late 1980s I often dropped by to exercise my cameras.
In April 1989, I made these photographs of Genesee & Wyoming Alco C-424M 62 on the Brooks Avenue scale track.
The Alco Century’s well-balanced cab design made these among my favorite classic diesels. I’d photographed the C-424Ms on Delaware & Hudson, Genesee & Wyoming, Guilford, and finally on Livonia, Avon & Lakeville’s Bath & Hammondsport line.
Here I’ve worked the yard office into my composition that makes for nice juxtaposition of shapes. Black & White film handles the backlit situation well and retained detail in shadows and highlights.
The names and the paint have changed, but the machinery?
Back in Central Vermont days in the 1980s and early 1990s, it was common enough to see in Palmer, Massachusetts run-through Canadian National GP40-2L locomotives (some people prefer the alternate designations ‘GP40-2W,’ ‘GP40-2LW’ take your pick, I don’t mind).
Fast forward a few decades: Canadian National is no longer ‘national.’ New England Central has replaced Central Vermont, and New England Central has passed through a series of corporate ownerships. Today, the railroad is part of the Genesee & Wyoming family, making it one of more than 110 lines world wide under this orange and yellow flag.
Yet, despite all this, after more than 40 years on the move, some old former CN safety cabs GP40-2s (NECR 3015 is now listed on the cab as a GP40-2CU) still routinely work former CV rails in Palmer.
I wonder if I have photographs of these very same locomotives in Canadian National paint?
Does anyone even remember friction bearings? By the 1990s, these were all but a forgotten technology, replaced with the omnipresent roller bearings. Southern Pacific’s season sugar beet racks were once of the few exceptions and continued to work until about 1992 with the old technology.
However, prior to that in January 1988, I had a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) that involved making photos of railroad workers. I’d arranged through the Rochester & Southern to spend time around Brooks Avenue Yard.
I spent a lot of time there, relative to what was required of me for the class.
At one point the general manager, or someone in the know, directed me to a rip track where workers were packing friction bearings. This was really an arcane aspect of railroading.
I exposed a series of black & white negatives in the 645 format using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T. It was a dull cold day. I think I was using Verichrome Pan (rated at 80 ISO) to get a period effect. I used a wide aperture, probably f3.5, which gave me shallow depth of field.
Verichrome was a difficult material to work with in low light and my negatives were very thin.
To make the most of these photos I used an unusual printing technique: I intentionally printed the photo darker than normal, then used a potassium-ferrocyanide solution to bleach the highlights. I did this both across the print in a tray, and using a cotton swab on select areas such as the around the journal boxes.
The result is more or less as you see it here. This print has been in a box since 1988 and has hardly ever seen the light of day. (Incidentally, in case the name doesn’t suggest it to you, potassium-ferrocyanide is decidedly unhealthy, so use it cautiously, if you must.)
I don’t think my professor was especially impressed with my results. What did he know about bearings anyway?
Among my favorite locomotives are Electro-Motive’s classic end-cab switchers, of the sort introduced in the mid-1930s with EMC model SC.
I became familiar with this type as a result of an O-Gauge Lionel NW-2 dressed for Santa Fe that my father bought for me about 1972. Later, I watched and photographed full scale switchers on Penn-Central, Conrail and Boston & Maine.
This type in effect emulated the shape of the common steam locomotive, allowing the engineer to look down the length of the hood, instead of a boiler. Electro-Motive wasn’t first to use this arrangement, which Alco introduced in the early 1930s. But, it was the Electro-Motive switcher that I found to have a classic sound and shape.
When I was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1980s, Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard was just a few minutes away. I routinely stopped by the yard to see what was going on.
At that time, R&S 107—a former Southern Pacific SW1200—could be routinely found drilling cars. Over the years, I made a number of images of this old goat.
I left Rochester in 1989. I wonder what has become of this switcher? Does it still sport the SP-order oscillating lights?
In November 1986, Kodak supplied me with a free roll of TMax 100 black & white film as part of a ‘care package’ of new products for students in the Photographic Illustration programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology .
The T-Max black & white films were brand new at the time. They were significant because they used a new ‘T’ grain that featured flat silver halide grains that were supposed to reduce the visual granularity in the film (and lower the film’s silver content).
On this bright sunny morning, I went trackside in Rochester to expose my free film. I had Kodachrome 25 in my Leica M2, so I borrowed my roommate’s Canon A1 for the film test.
I photographed a variety of Conrail trains on the former New York Central Water Level Route. I made this image of Rochester & Southern’s Belt Line local crossing the former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh bridge over Water Level Route at Lincoln Park, west of downtown Rochester. (In 1986, Genesee & Wyoming’s Rochester & Southern assumed operation of the former BR&P 4th Sub-division from CSX’s Baltimore & Ohio.)
Leading R&S’s local was Alco RS-3m 211 leased from the recently formed Genesee Valley Transportation.
The locomotive has a long and colorful history. It featured both a large steam generator and dynamic brakes (thus the high short-hood) and was one of only five RS-3s were built this way: four served Western Maryland, while this one went to the Pennsylvania Railroad but later was traded to the Lehigh Valley, becoming its 211. After 1976, Conrail replaced 211’s original Alco-244 diesel with a recycled 12-cylinder EMD 567 engine.
While several locomotives have been painted in the new corporate colors (or rather, G&W’s traditional paint scheme), many of New England Central’s locomotives remain in various former liveries, including the railroad’s original blue and yellow.
On Monday October 28, 2013, New England Central job 610 (a turn that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts) sported a pair of nicely painted G&W locomotives.
My dad and I made chase of this train on its southward run. I exposed digital still photographs, while Pop made some video clips with his Lumix LX7.
The sun was playing tag with us, but the locomotives were so bright and clean it hardly mattered if the sun was out or not.
In recent months, New England Central’s operations have been altered. This has benefits for photography. Since the times trains tend to run have changed, different locations have opened up for photographic possibilities.
For many years, New England Central operated a southward freight from Palmer, Massachusetts in the early morning (typically as job 608), this worked into Connecticut (to Willimantic and beyond) and returned in the afternoon or early evening.
Now, on many days, the railroad runs a turn from Willimantic to Palmer (often as job 610), that goes on duty at Willimantic in the morning, runs northward to Palmer, and returns. From my experience the return times vary considerably.
Once I was aware of this change, I began thinking about various places to make photographs based on afternoon lighting angles. Last week, I heard 610 working south from Palmer. I was in luck as a pair of vintage GP38s in the railroad’s original scheme (the locomotives were painted by Conrail in preparation for New England Central’s February 1995 start up).
Track speeds south of Palmer make following a train easy enough. My first location was Stafford Springs, where I’ve often exposed photographs of New England Central. From there I followed southward.
My final location of the day was at the Connecticut Eagleville Preserve, where the line passes an old Mill dam (I’m not well versed on the specific history of this dam, but the arrangement is common enough in New England, where in the 19th century water powered local industries. For more information on the park and area see: http://www.willimanticriver.org/recreation/pg_park_eagleville-preserve.html).
Afternoon sun favors this location, and I made the most of the light, waterfall and autumn foliage as well as the GP38s.
Trains Converge on Palmer; 2 Hours of Non-stop Action.
In the 1980s, Trains Magazine occasionally ran articles that featured ‘hot spots’ illustrated by sequences of photos showing different trains passing the same place over the course of hours.
These always caught my attention. While the individual images ranged from pedestrian to interpretive, the collective effect produced an understanding of how a busy spot worked.
Trains tend to arrive in clusters. Hours may pass where nothing goes by except a track car, then trains arrive from every direction. The astute photographer has learned when to make the most of these situations.
Palmer, Massachusetts can be a busy place, if you’re there at the right time. CSX’s east-west former Boston & Albany mainline crosses New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line at grade. An interchange track connects the two routes and serves as connection to the former B&A Ware River Branch operated by Massachusetts Central.
Afternoon tends to be busy. Among the moves through Palmer are Amtrak’s Vermonters that use CSX’s line between Springfield and Palmer, and NECR’s line north of Palmer toward Vermont. There isn’t a direct connection to allow an eastward train on the CSX route to directly access the NECR’s line.
To compensate for this, Amtrak’s trains must use CSX’s controlled siding to access the interchange track, and this to reach the NECR. This requires trains to reverse direction. As a result, Amtrak trains either have locomotives on each end or run with a push-pull cab control car.
On the afternoon of October 17, 2013, the interchange track proved one of the busiest lines in Palmer and was used by a succession of NECR, Mass-Central, and Amtrak trains.
Complicating matters was Amtrak 57 (southward Vermonter) which was running more than an hour behind its scheduled time, and so met its northward counterpart at Palmer. New England Central was also busy with no less than three trains working around Palmer about the same time.
I’ve put the following photos in sequence with the approximate times of exposure. I stress ‘approximate’, since my digital camera’s clocks not only didn’t agree on the minutes passed the hour, but were set for different time zones as a function of recent travel.
It was a nice bright day too. Patrons at Palmer’s ever popular Steaming Tender restaurant (located in the restored former Palmer Union Station) were entertained with a succession of trains passing on both sides of the building.
Not bad for one afternoon! Yet, not a CSX train in sight. These days much of CSX’s business passes Palmer in darkness.
On the morning of November 4, 1987, I made a speculative foray to P&L (Pittsburgh & Lehigh) Junction near Caledonia, New York. At the time I was living in nearby Scottsville, and I’d occasionally check P&L to see if anything was moving.
P&L Junction had once been a very busy place. Here the original Genesee & Wyoming had connected with Lehigh Valley, Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, a branch of the Erie, and New York Central’s so-called ‘Peanut Line.’By 1987, the only railroads left were G&W and its Rochester & Southern affiliate.
I was fortunate to find a southward train and I made this image of a southward G&W salt train heading across the diamond with a vestige of the old Peanut Line (that G&W used to reach a couple of miles into Caledonia). A classic ‘tilt board’ crossing signal protected the diamond.
Today, it seems that G&W railroads are everywhere. I even saw a G&W company freight in Belgium a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined that this New York state short line would reach so far!
Orange Engine at Stafford Springs, Ct., and Irish Rail’s IWT Liner in Dublin.
Last week I made these photos, nearly exactly 24 hours apart (one in the morning, the other in the afternoon).
The first image shows New England Central’s freshly painted GP402-L 3015 leading a southward freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. I was delighted to finally get this elusive orange engine operating on a road-freight in daylight.
The next image was made in Dublin, after a trans Atlantic crossing courtesy of Aer Lingus. This shows locomotive 073 struggling along with the second IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin, Ireland.
Later, I heard through the grapevine that 073 failed a few miles down the line and require assistance.
Both images were made with my Canon EOS 7D. Also both feature 1970s-era General Motors diesels singly hauling freight under bright sunny skies.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 was a clear bright morning. I heard New England Central’s 608 climbing State Line Hill through Monson. I dithered briefly about heading out to photograph it. I’ve only photographed New England Central’s trains about a thousand times (metaphorically).
When I went to make myself a cup of tea I discovered to my horror that there wasn’t any milk! Poor show. So, I made the most of both problems. I drove to Stafford Springs, where I waited all of five minutes to score a few nice bright shots of a pair of New England Central GP38s. (I made a couple of slides too—just for ‘the record). Then stopped in at the shop in Stafford Hollow for milk before heading home again.
What I find interesting is that, 16 years ago I made similar images of the same GP38s in the same location! A lot has changed in that time. Back then New England Central was part of RailTex. Now, after a dozen years as a RailAmerica road, it’s a Genesee & Wyoming property.
Somehow, I doubt that in another 16 years I’ll still be able to make images just like these. But you never know. It’s nice having an interesting railway nearby.