Classic photo from my archives: In the late 1980s, I’d buy film from Frantek in South Hadley, Massachusetts. This was across the Connecticut River from Holyoke.
Typically on my way back with a fresh load of film, I’d seek out the Boston & Maine, which would often have a switcher working the Holyoke yard or on industrial sidings.
Guilford had just repainted this old Boston & Maine SW1 into its company livery and lettered it for its operating entity Springfield Terminal. The SW1 was colloquially known as a ‘Pup’ because it was a small switcher type.
The view is looking toward Springfield with B&M’s Connecticut River bridge just beyond the factories.
Two weeks ago, my friend Tim and I made photos of Pan Am Railway’s EDPL crossing the Connecticut River at Holyoke, Massachusetts.
A short history: Back in 1982, Conrail spun off some New England routes, including a group of former New Haven Railroad lines in Connecticut. Providence & Worcester and Boston & Maine were among the lines that picked up former Conrail routes.
A vestige of this acquisition, is Pan Am Railway’s (which operates the old Boston & Maine) East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut freight.
Since this Pan Am freight works over Amtrak’s cab signal equipped Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line, the leading locomotive must be fitted with cab signal equipment on that portion of the run.
Since Pan Am only has a few locomotives so fitted (including MEC 352 seen trailing in this view), so today’s train was led by (leased or borrowed?) Providence & Worcester GP38-2 2009 that has the necessary cab signaling (installed for use on P&W’s North East Corridor freight assignments.)
This has been a common occurrence in recent years. Significantly, P&W has been acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming family, and it will be interesting to see how much longer locomotives will operate in the older P&W livery.
For the record: this photo was made on former Boston & Maine trackage, which is not cab-signal equipped. (Cab signal territory will begin about a dozen miles to the south of this location, once on Amtrak trackage)
Back in the 1980s, I’d buy my film at Frantek in South Hadley, and then return via Holyoke, where I’d almost always find the Boston & Maine switching. Back then the old Connecticut River line was busy with through and local trains.
On a typical day, there would be between three and four freights daily, plus the nocturnal Amtrak Montrealer.
Holyoke itself generated a fair amount of traffic, and the yard there was always full of cars. Pioneer Valley Railroad interchanged with B&M at the south end of the yard. During the day it wasn’t uncommon to find one of PVRR’s EMC SW1s or Alcos working Holyoke industrial trackage.
Sunday, June 22, 2014, I revisited Holyoke. The railway scene is very much changed from the 1980s. Most of the yard is gone, as are the majority of the customers it once served. The Montrealer hasn’t operated in decades, and the volume of mainline freight is now carried by Pan Am Railway’s lone symbol freights EDPL/PLED (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut).
Now, Holyoke is on the eve of rail revival. It will soon host a new station for the Knowledge Corridor, and in a few months time will be a stop on Amtrak’s re-routed Vermonter. Hopefully, an increase in freight traffic will soon follow.
The old mills and factories in Holyoke make for a fascinating post-industrial setting.
I exposed this view of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s Alco S-2 switcher with my old Leica 3A on black & white film on October 12, 1984. On the same day, I’d arranged with the railroad to ride this locomotive to Holyoke and back.
It was a memorable trip. In Holyoke we worked the Graham branch that followed the banks of old canals. Several times we had to stop to open and close gates across the line.
I featured this photo in my recent book North American Locomotives that features railroad by railroad locomotive profiles of many different lines. In addition to the Class 1 carriers, I also profiled a variety of smaller lines, many of which are my personal favorites.
On August 20, 1987, I found this former Boston & Maine SW1, recently repainted and renumbered as Springfield Terminal 1401. I exposed this image from the street, across from the old passenger station. For me it captures the feel of Holyoke at the time.