Yesterday I met fellow photographer Mike Gardner at the Steaming Tender restaurant in the old Palmer Union Station for lunch.
I had iced tea and the Reuben.
Except for the New England Central switching all was quiet for the first couple of hours.
Just after 2 pm, I said “Let’s head outside, I have a feeling it’s all about to happen.”
Luck, intuition or experience, call it what you like.
At first the trains didn’t favor the light. A New England Central local crossed the diamond northbound. CSX B740 was working deep in the old Boston & Albany yard. The Mass-Central came down from Ware long-hood first. Then everything stalled.
“I’ll bet everything is waiting for the Lake Shore.”
At 3pm Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited appeared at the east end of the long tangent on the old Boston & Albany. On queue Mike announced, ‘Headlight!’
I made a series of photos of enthusiasts on the old station platform rolling the train by.
After the Lake Shore, the illusion of a lull continued, and most everyone else got bored and left. CSX B740 had pulled up and was poised waiting for signal. Mike and I decided to hold on. And sure enough 15 minutes behind the Lake Shore was a westward CSX freight—Q427.
After this passed, B740 pulled ahead through CP83 and then reverse back into the yard, meanwhile the Mass-Central was getting ready to head back north again.
All in all in was a very successful day in Palmer. But the keys to our success were timing and patience. If you left after the Lake Shore rolled west, you missed most of the show.
In late 2017, I got lucky and caught this heritage locomotive on several occasions, after years of it eluding me entirely.
This afternoon (April 24, 2019), thanks to a tip from my friend Paul Goewey, I caught old 156 again, albeit second unit out, on today’s westward Amtrak Lake Shore Limited (Boston section), train 449.
The view is from the bridge over the railroad and Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts.
Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens set to the Velvia color profile. Files exported from the camera as JPGs and scaled using Lightroom for internet presentation. No adjustments to contrast, color or exposure.
NOTE: This post originally appeared on July 17, 2018, but owing to unknown technical faults the photos would not display properly. There should be four images displayed below with captions.
Tracking the Light is about process and not every photograph is a stunning success.
This post is part of my on going series of exercises photographing Amtrak’s Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited that is running with extra sleepers as result of the temporary suspension of the New York section owing to Penn-Station repair.
Last week, my father and I drove to West Warren, Massachusetts, this time to photograph the eastward train, Amtrak 448.
The benefit of West Warren is the relatively open view with identifiable features. As mentioned previously, summer photography on the Boston & Albany has been made difficult by prolific plant growth along the line that has obscured many locations.
In this instance, I worked with two cameras; my old Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm zoom, and my FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.
Admittedly, the Canon combination isn’t the sharpest set up, but it allows me to play around with a very long telephoto.
The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.
Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.
This summer Amtrak 448/449, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, is the onlysection of the Lake Shore Limited!
Construction at Penn-Station New York has encouraged Amtrak to cancel the New York section of this popular train, and reassign its Viewliner sleeps to the Boston section.
A clear afternoon had me searching for locations. My first choice was the Tennyville Bridge in Palmer (Rt 32 bridge), but a large quantity of freight cars in Palmer yard discouraged me. My next choice was the field east of Palmer off Rt 67, but I vetoed this place because of excessive brush.
Brush and trees are real problem this time of year along the old Boston & Albany. Not only do the obstruct views of the tracks, but they cast impenetrable dark shadows.
So, I ended up at my standard fall back location at West Warren. Although, I’ve photographed Amtrak 449 here dozens of times, it had several advantages.
It’s a relatively short drive; it has elevation and an unobstructed view of the line from both sides of the tracks; its east-west orientation makes for nice early afternoon lighting; and the waterfall and mills make for an iconic and readily identifiable backdrop.
So, West Warren it was. Again.
I made this sequence with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Two difficulties; the nosy angle of the sun made it difficult to get an acceptable broad side angle on the train, so the three sleepers at the back are visually marginalized. Secondly, the wedge angle of the Amtrak P42 front-end kicked back the sun with harsh ‘nose glint’.
Here’s my holiday card. Amtrak’s westward 449 led by heritage locomotive 156 passes West Warren, Massachusetts, Sunday December 10, 2017.
Amtrak 156 has been on my list for a long time. Of all the Amtrak paint schemes over the years, this is by far my favorite.
Although I caught 156 second unit out three days earlier (see yesterday’s Tracking the Light), this locomotive had eluded my photography for years. Apparently it had been assigned to the Vermonter for a month a few years ago, but I was out of the country.
Every other time it was some place, I was some place else.
But finally everything came together; first snow of the season, Amtrak 156 in the lead, and soft afternoon sun at one of my favorite former Boston & Albany locations; the engineer gave me a friendly toot of the horn, and I’m pleased with the outcome of the photos.
I hope you have a great holiday season and you find your 156 in the new year.
Tracking the Light wishes you Seasons Greetings too!
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed a camera RAW file of Amtrak’s 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts on May 31, 2017.
This location is old hat for me. I’ve made dozens of images of Amtrak here over the years.
Here I’m presenting two versions.
The top is the completely un-modified camera RAW (no changes to color, contrast, shadow or highlight detail) that I converted in Lightroom to a JPG for internet presentation
On the bottom is a modified RAW file (saved as a Jpg for internet presentation). Here, using Lightroom I’ve applied a mask to the sky area to improve the exposure and better pulling in cloud detail, while adjusting for color and saturation.
I applied a small circular mask on the front of the locomotive to reduce the effects of glare. In addition, I made overall changes to contrast, while boosting saturation, and lightening shadows slightly.
The end-effect is a more saturated and pronounced sky, lighter shadows, a slight warming of overall color temperature, and better controlled highlight areas.
If you don’t like these, you can try it yourself sometime. Amtrak 449 passes West Warren daily between 245 and 310 pm
Here’s another view from my ‘lost negative file’. It captures Amtrak 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited approaching the Quaboag River bridge between Palmer and Monson, Massachusetts.
I exposed it in mid-December 1983. It was on the same roll as a group of photos from a Monson High School dance that I’d made for the yearbook and members of the band.
Since the envelope read ‘Monson High Dance,’ it was too easily ignored in later years. Also, and more to the point, it was mixed in with another hundred or so rolls that had been misplaced during one of my periods of extended travel in the late 1980s. For years all I could find was a lonely proof print of this scene.
I’m improving my filing system now, but it’s taken a few years!
In my family we have a forty year old tradition of going to photograph the Lake Shore Limited.
The other day my brother arrived up from Philadelphia for the holidays, and I asked, “would you like to go up to West Warren to see the Lake Shore? It has some specially painted engines today?”
So my brother, father and I went to the bridge over the line near milepost 75. We timed our arrive very well. After only a 5 minute wait, Amtrak train 449 with two specially painted General Electric Genesis diesels rolled west along the Quaboag.
Sean said, “Wow, it came by really fast!”
I couldn’t help by find his comment ironic, since I recently composed an opinion piece for Trains Magazine on the topic of the trains operating too slowly. But that’s the topic for another time . . .
Yesterday’s (August 25, 2016) Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited carried an American classic: the streamlined Budd-built observation car Babbling Brook, a former New York Central car of the type that operated on the New England States (Boston-Chicago).
My dad and I made photos of Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited (train 448) by the recently restored Warren, Massachusetts railroad station.
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1. Pop exposed a Fujichrome color slide with his Leica M.
I can’t say its a first; but it is the first time in awhile that I’ve been on Amtrak 448 (Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited) when it departed Albany-Rensselaer station precisely on schedule—3:05pm.
Things have certainly improved. Hooray for Amtrak!
I made these views using my Lumix LX7 this morning east of Cleveland, Ohio on the old New York Central Water Level Route from Amtrak 48, the Lake Shore Limited.
I up-loaded them to my laptop, processed in Lightroom (to add my name and scale the file) and transmitted them to Tracking the Light a few minutes ago while riding on the train over the Boston & Albany.
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.
Today, May 9, 2015 has been deemed ‘National Train Day’.
My participation with this event was to mark the passage of Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited.
So, with this in mind, a little while ago I positioned myself along Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts at a time-honored location along the Boston & Albany route. (Time-honored = I’ve made photos here many times before).
What I’d hoped would only take a few minutes, soon extended into an hour. So it goes when waiting for trains, even scheduled moves.
This was my first view of one of Amtrak’s new baggage cars.
Sometimes familiar locations work best. In the past, I’ve made many photographs along the Boston & Albany at West Warren, the combination of easy of access, scenic environment, identifiable scene, and excellent afternoon lighting continue to make it one of my favorite places to photograph Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, train 449.
The afternoon of October 12th was clear and bright with hints of autumn color tinged in the trees. My father and I opted to intercept 449—one of the few trains running at that time of the day on a Sunday—and so we put ourselves in position on the road bridge near the old mill race. After a short wait the train came into view.
I worked with my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX7, my father exposed a photo using his vintage Rolleiflex Model T on a Gitzo tripod, and used his Lumix LX7, plus Minolta Mark IV light meter and various other bits and pieces.
This maintained our long tradition of going out to photograph the Lake Shore Limited that dates back to the 1970s.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
A hot and hazy late summer evening, and Amtrak 48 the Lake Shore Limited was running late.
In the lead was FL9 489. I exposed this cross-lit Kodachrome slide to show the train with the Hudson in the background.
This, after all, is the former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’. It was here that the famed 20th Century Limited rolled up the miles between Chicago and Grand Central Terminal behind J3A Hudsons, S1 Niagaras, and Electro-Motive E-units in lightning stripe paint.
All before my time.
I was just happy to catch an Amtrak FL9 roaring along in the late light.
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.
Here we have an instance where everything came together nicely.
On Friday January 24, 2014, I’d got word that Amtrak’s heritage locomotive number 822 was working the westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449
This was the second time in a ten-day span that I’d be alerted to a heritage locomotive on this run. As noted in my January 18, 2014 post, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the weather wasn’t cooperative on my previous attempt at catching an Amtrak heritage locomotive.
By contrast on January 24th it was clear but very cold. I opted to make the photo at West Warren, where it’s nice and open and there’s a distinctive landscape.
Normally, Amtrak 449 passes East Brookfield at 1:30pm, and Palmer about 1:50pm. West Warren is roughly halfway between them, so I aimed to be there no later than 1:35pm
As it happened, 449 was delayed on Charlton Hill and passed more than 15 minutes later than I’d anticipated. Other than resulting in my nose getting a bit cold, this delay produced little effect on the photograph.
I opted for a traditional angle because I wanted to feature the locomotive as the primary subject this scenic setting. I picked a spot on the road bridge over the Quaboag River where I could make a view that included the old mills and waterfall, as well as a side view as the train got closer.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens, I set the motor drive to its fastest setting, and exposed three bursts of images as the train rolled east on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline.
Since the camera’s buffer will quickly become saturated when making multiple photos in rapid succession, I was careful to wait until the train was nearly where I wanted it in each of the three sets.
Amtrak 449, in sun and rain; one day and the next. Last week, I was over in East Brookfield visiting the LeBeaus to do some videography for a music video. Dennis LeBeau lives a block from the Boston & Albany (CSXT’s Boston Line).
I said to Dennis, “I’m just going to nip down to the bridge to catch 449. It should be getting close.”
“Passes here every day at one-thirty. I’ll join you in a minute.”
I phoned Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent: 1-800-USA-RAIL) to find out if 449 as on time out of Worcester. As it turns out, it departed Worcester Union Station 4 minutes late.
Worcester is at CP45, East Brookfield is CP64. It takes 449 about 25-30 minutes to run the 19 miles.
Since it was nice bright afternoon, I opted for a broadside view that shows a few of the houses in town. At 1:39, Dennis shouted to me from the road bridge, “He’s around the bend.” I was poised to made my photograph with my Lumix LX3.
This can be tricky since there’s really only a split second to get the train in the right place. If the camera isn’t cued up, all I’ll get is a photo of the baggage car. But I was ready, and put the train precisely where I wanted it.
The train glided through town. I turned to make a few going away views with my Canon, and said to Dennis, “You know that never gets old. I’ve been photographing that train since the 1970s.”
Dennis said to me, “I’ve been watching it since it was the New England States Limited, with New York Central E8s!”
A day later, I was in Palmer (CP83). The word was out that Amtrak 145 (one of the Genesis P42s in heritage paint) was working 449. The weather was foul, but since I was in town anyway, I figured I’d give the train a roll by.
It was stabbed at CP83 by a southward New England Central freight going into the yard, which allowed ample time for photos. Such a contrast in days. Pity the heritage P42 hadn’t worked west a day sooner.
Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited with E8As near Palmer.
For my eleventh birthday my father gave me a 1930s-era Leica 3A and a role of film (with more to follow).
Every so often Pop would gather my brother Sean and I into the car and head over the Boston & Albany (then Conrail) to wait for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Back then, the train was still running with heritage equipment and typically hauled by fairly tired E8As.
If we were really lucky we might catch freight too.
On this day in summer 1978, we drove to Palmer. I think we’d started up the Quaboag River Valley, but realized we might not have time to reach Warren before the westward Lake Shore came roaring down the valley. So we reversed and picked a spot near milepost 81, not far from the Route 20-67 split (east of town).
We didn’t wait long. I could hear pairs of twin 12-567s working before the headlight a appeared at the bend near the old barn. And then there it was!
“I see it!”
I made several exposures with the Leica. Unfortunately, in my panic to capture the train passing I shook the camera, so the head-on view is a bit blurred.
I processed the negatives from this adventure in the kitchen sink and made prints that I placed in a homemade photo album. The negatives were well processed and have survived in good order. I scanned them a few weeks ago. My notes from the day appear to have gone missing though.
I don’t remember making my first night photo in Palmer. But I do recall spending Friday evenings there in the 1980s with Bob Buck and company, watching and photographing Conrail and Central Vermont. See: Drowning the Light
The Friday evening tradition was maintained on June 28, 2013, when a group of us convened, as we have for many years, near the old station. A few weeks earlier, I posted some photos made on exceptionally wet Friday night. By contrast, June 28th was warm, dry and very pleasant. And busy too!
The variances of railway freight operations make it difficult to pin point precisely when trains will pass or arrive Palmer. Complicating matters on the week of June 28, was on-going undercutting on CSX’s B&A route (see: Ballast Train East Brookfield), and the after effects of a serious derailment on the Water Level route near Fonda, New York a few days earlier.
However, these events appear to have benefited us on the evening of the 28th. I arrived at CP83 (the dispatcher controlled signals and switch at west end of the controlled siding, 83 miles from Boston) just as CSX’s westward Q437 was rolling through.
New England Central had no less than three trains working in Palmer, jobs 604, 606, and 611, and these entertained us for the next couple of hours. In addition, we caught more action on CSX, including a very late train 448, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX3 and my father’s Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. Some of the exposures required the shutter to remain open for 25 seconds or longer.
A few weeks back, I traveled to West Brookfield to meet with my friend Dennis LeBeau—East Brookfield’s musical godfather and preeminent historian. Dennis had organized for me an informal tour of the former Boston & Albany station—now a local history museum.
Our timing was neatly suited to catch the passing Amtrak’s 449, the westward Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited. A phone call to Amtrak’s Julie (the computerized information voice) advised us that the train was a few minutes late out of Worcester.
I was playing with a Pentax ZX-M 35mm camera fitted with an f1.4 50mm Pentax lens and loaded with Velvia 50 color slide film. While not my regular combination of equipment and media, I like to vary my approach and experiment with different types of cameras.
West Brookfield was once a place of great importance for Boston & Albany predecessor, Western Rail Road of Massachusetts. This was the mid-way point between Worcester and Springfield. Back in the 1830s and 1840s, all trains stopped here for water, while passenger trains also allowed time for a meal stop. It was a meeting point for local stage routes and so serving as an early transportation hub.
As late as the 1940s, water tanks were maintained east of the station and freights would often take water here after the long climb east from Palmer.
The original Western Rail Road station was replaced in the late 19th century with a stone building designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge (the architectural successors to the late H. H. Richardson who’s vision shaped station design on the B&A in the 1880s). The original station was relocated to the west side of the Long Hill Road crossing, and still stands today.
The brick building in the photograph on the far side of the tracks is the original Western Rail Road freight house, dating to the mid-19th century.
Today, the only functional track in West Brookfield is CSX’s mainline. There’s no switches, water tanks, or open railway stations. The surviving buildings are relics of an earlier age. No passenger train has called on West Brookfield since the early 1950s.
Just about 2pm, Amtrak 449 came into sight. I exposed two frames of Velvia. This is the closer of the two exposures. I scanned this with my Epson V600 scanner and adjusted the curve of the film to lighten mid tones and control contrast, and adjusted color balance. (Velvia 50 tends to shift red). Both corrected and raw scans are presented below.
Amtrak 449 at West Brookfield, Pentax ZX-M with f1.4 50mm lens; Velvia 50 corrected scan.
Last week I rode from Chicago Union Station over the former New York Central Water Level route to Albany and then via the Boston & Albany to Worcester, Massachusetts.
A familiar run, I first made this trip in August of 1983 and I’ve done it many times since. However, both my first trip and most recent have a commonality: I began these trips with some photography on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy ‘Triple Track’ near Aurora, rode a ‘scoot’ into Chicago and changed for the Lake Shore at Union Station.
While I enjoy train travel, I’m not especially keen on really long runs. My usual limit is about 8 hours. I make exceptions for the Lake Shore. For me this is one of the most interesting American runs.
The queuing process at Chicago Union leaves much to be desired. It reminded me of a recent experience with jury duty. Yet once ensconced in my seat in an Amfleet II coach I was happy enough.
We departed Union Station 3 minutes after the advertised and gradually lost more time over the course of the run. I don’t mind this especially, after all the train’s long standing nick-name is, “The Late for Sure Limited.’
Gliding east in the darkness, I squinted to pick out familiar landmarks, as this trip is the thread that really ties my recent posts together.
At 9:37 pm we eased over the 21st Street Bridge; a few minutes later we clattered across the diamonds with the old Rock Island at Englewood, and at 9:58 we raced through Hammond-Whiting, Indiana. I noted where Chris Guss and I had stood a week earlier to photograph both an EJ&E freight and NS’s Interstate Heritage Unit.
Northern Indiana was alive with trains. We passed a CSX stack train at Curtis on the adjacent former Baltimore & Ohio. East of Michigan City we overtook a South Shore freight led by a pair of GP38s roaring along under wire like an apparition from another era. I heard the Doppler blast as the South Shore hit a crossing alongside of us. It was just a momentary glimpse in the night and not far from a spot where Mike Danneman made photos on an icy February afternoon some 18 years ago.
A seeming endless parade of Norfolk Southern freights greeted us on the Water Level Route. Every few minutes a low base roar would precede locomotives blasting by on an adjacent main track. Although Conrail has been gone 14 years, I still find it odd that Central’s old Water Level Route is now run by two separate railroads.
I dozed off, waking briefly at Toledo to watch an oil train roll east, and empty hoppers used to move fracking sand clatter west. Somewhere between Toledo and Berea, Ohio we lost about an hour.
Near Berea we met the rising sun and passed the old tower—sacred ground visited by my late friend Bob Buck and countless other fans over the years. This is the divide, from here east we were rode on CSX tracks.
We paused for Cleveland, then Erie, and for many miles we ran parallel to the former Nickel Plate Road, which now carries Norfolk Southern freight east of Cleveland. I was pleased to see many photographers line-side; my train’s journey was well documented!
At Buffalo, I had a pleasant surprise: instead of taking the normal route via CP Draw and CP FW, we were routed over the Compromise Branch that takes a more northerly (and slightly longer route) through Buffalo, rejoining the other line at CP 437 (the control point near the ghastly decaying remnants of Buffalo Central Terminal). Amtrak’s 48/448 serves the suburban Buffalo-Depew station instead of the old terminal.
Behind me a woman traveler was on the phone describing her trip on Amtrak from Oregon: “We live in such an amazing country! Crossing the plains I saw endless herds of wild Bison and red Indians on horseback! There were wagon trains crawling dusty trails against purple mountains and rainbows! And amber fields of grain! Is that wheat, do you think? And Chicago was like the emerald city, its towers scraping the sky. Such a skyline! And all through the Midwest big factories making the produce of America! It’s just wonderful!”
Indeed. Was she on number 8? Or perhaps one of those ‘Great Trains of the Continental Route’ as advertised in my August 1881 Travelers’ Official Guide?
At Rochester, my old friend Otto Vondrak came down for a brief visit. He and I share various Rochester-area experiences. Then eastward into ever more familiar territory.
At Schenectady, a Canadian Pacific freight overtook us on the Delaware & Hudson before we resumed our sprint to Albany-Rensselaer, where we then sat for an eternity waiting for station space. Here 48 and 448 are divided, with the latter continuing down the Hudson to New York City.
East of Rensselaer, I paid extra special attention to our progress. There are few railroads I know as well as the B&A. At 4:38pm we met CSX’s Q283 (empty autoracks) at Chatham. We paused at CP171 (East Chatham) to let pass our westward counterpart, train 449. At Pittsfield, CSX’s Q423 (Worcester to Selkirk) was waiting for us.
The highlight of the trip was the sinuous descent of Washington Hill’s west slope. There was test of the Westinghouse brakes near the deep rock cut east of Washington Station, and I continued my trip through time and space. Familiar places and landmarks blitzed by the glass; Lower Valley Road, Becket, Twin Ledges, old Middlefield Station, Whistler’s stone bridges along the valley of the Westfield’s west branch, the old helper station at Chester, and east through Huntington, Russell, and Woronoco.
At West Springfield we passed the old Boston & Albany yard. Watching the parade of trains in evening at the west end of the yard were ghosts of departed members of the West Springfield Train Watchers; among them founding member Norvel C. Parker, Stuart Woolley—retired B&A fireman, Joseph Snopek—photographer and author, and of course, Bob Buck—B&A’s greatest fan and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies. I waved and they waved back. (Hey, at least I wasn’t seeing herds of wild bison!)
After a stop at Springfield Station, I was on my final leg of this journey. We rattled over the Palmer diamonds—where I’ve exposed countless photos over the years, and raced up the Quaboag River Valley, through West Warren, Warren, West Brookfield, Brookfield, and East Brookfield—where my friend Dennis LeBeau and his loyal dog, Wolfie, were line-side to salute my passage.
At Worcester, my father, Richard J. Solomon was poised to collect me. And so concluded my latest Lake Shore epic. And, yes, 448 was indeed late: 1 hour 15 minutes passed the advertised. Tsk!
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.
On this warm May evening in 1986, I exposed a trailing view of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited as it hits the Central Vermont diamond at Palmer. The train radiates the glint of the setting sun. Between eastward and westward main-tracks, Conrail has installed the dispatcher controlled switch that in July 1986 became ‘CP83’ and resulted in the removal of the old westward main track on the Boston & Albany route between Palmer and Springfield (CP92). [The numbers of the control points signify the approximate distance from Boston’s South Station.] At the left is the canopy on Palmer’s Union Station which Conrail removed in November of 1986. Today the old station has been restored inside and serves as the popular Steaming Tender railroad-themed restaurant.