Yesterday (September 13, 2022) I returned to Goves, where the old Maine Central Mountain Division ducks under Route 302 east of Bartlett, NH, to again photograph Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer on its westward run to Crawford Notch.
The other day in my Tracking the Light Post, ‘Poles and Wires Conundrum,’ I described my compositional frustrations with this location.
Working with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens, I selected a slightly lower position that was a bit closer to the tracks.
On this attempt, the Mountaineer had two units and seven cars, which made for a more photogenic train. Also, it was brightly overcast, which helped to minimize the poles and wires, and I opted for a tight crop.
On Monday, March 28, 2022, Conway Scenic began the process of clearing the former Maine Central over Crawford Notch.
Last year, the railroad reached the summit on March 31st, which was something of a early record for Conway Scenic. In a normal year, the line might remain closed through April.
Former Maine Central 255, a GP38 acquired from the Vermont Rail System late last year, was chosen to make the clearing run West.
Where last year I traveled on engine 573, this year I pursued the first train on the road, and departed about two hours after it left the North Conway yard.
The crew on first movement over the line west of Attitash (the limits of Snow Train operation) expects to find obstructions. During the winter fallen trees, rocks and ice accumulation routinely block the line.
I knew Extra 255 was west of Bartlett, so at various places beyond Bartlett, I inspected the track. Near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing, I contacted the engine crew via train radio to find their location.
They had made it as far as the rock cutting west of the Frankenstein Bridge, where the engine was blocked by a significant ice fall.
I hiked up to the bridge and made photos of the engine returning east.
One of the privileges of working for Conway Scenic is the ability to request a lift back down hill. The brief engine ride saved me another half mile hike in freezing temperatures. When I got back to my car it was just 23F.
This was the first rail movement across Frankenstein of 2022.
During a week-long vacation to coastal Maine in July 1983 to visit my grand parents, I was given the keys to the family Ford for the day. On the recommendation of my friend Bob Buck, I visited a host of interesting railroad locations in Maine.
My forth stop was at Bangor, where I photographed the Maine Central yard and a local freight switching there using my Leica 3A.
The negative for this black & white image had resided in a marked envelope until last week when I finally scanned it.
In 1983, my photographic processing abilities were rudimentary, and frankly I wasn’t very good at developing black & white film. Only recently, I was able to overcome some of the technical failings in this image by adjusting the scan I made using Adobe Lightroom.
Unlike some of my photos displayed on Tracking the Light that only receive minor corrections to tweak contrast or exposure, in this image I needed to make some fairly substantial corrections to contrast and exposure, while eliminating a host of spots.
There’s virtually nothing in this scene remaining today, and now manned crossings are nearly extinct.
When I was in high-school, the Monson (Mass) Summer Theater group rehearsed and performed the play Brigadoon that is based on a mythical Scottish village that only comes to life once a century.
Near the western extremities of Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central Mountain Division route is a junction in the forest where the line running northward via Beecher Falls, Vermont to the Province of Quebec had deviated from the main stem to St Johnsbury.
A century ago Quebec Junction was a pretty important place on the Mountain Division.
This year some of our employees took it upon themselves to clear the undergrowth around Quebec Junction, New Hampshire, while the railroad’s Master Carpenter George Small restored the original shanty that had traditional stood here. The shanty had been privately owned and stored off railroad property for many years.
I worked with George and other members of the 470 Club to plan their annual outing over the Conway Scenic, and Quebec Junction was to be one of the highlights of the trip.
Working from photos that George had sent me and carefully gauging sun angles, I helped arrange for the train to arrive when the locomotives at the east end of the consist would be well lit by the sun. I also hoped to amply illuminate the long-disused diverging line to the left of the engines where speeder car TC 470, painted for Maine Central, was carefully positioned.
So for a few minutes, Quebec Junction was like Brigadoon.
Monday afternoon, Conway Scenic operated a work train out along the Redstone Branch in North Conway, NH.
After the train left the yard, I walked from my office in the North Conway station a few blocks east to the North-South Road that runs parallel to the Redstone line to make a few photos of the train on the branch.
The next day I sent them to the Conway Day Sun.
Yesterday, December 16, 2020, I was greeted by my photo on the front page of the paper! (Complete with credit and quote).
So I went back over to the newspaper’s offices to make a few photos of the newspaper boxes with the railroad in the distance, and then gave a copy to Dave Swirk, president & general manager of the railroad. I posed him in front of steam locomotive 7470, and then posted this to our facebook.
If all goes well, 7470 may be next up for its day in the Sun!
All photos were made using a FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55 Fujinon zoom lens.
On October 17, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated the annual 470 Club Special. This ran from North Conway to Mountain Junction, then made a side trip down the Redstone Branch to Pudding Pond, before proceeding west over Crawford Notch to Fabyan, New Hampshire.
I helped organize the photo stops.
In addition to the digital color photographs previously displayed on Tracking the Light (and in the pages of Trains Magazine), I exposed a roll of Ilford HP5 black & white film using a vintage Nikkormat FTN.
Yesterday (Sunday, December 6, 2020), I processed the film using my custom-tailored split development technique that I’ve previously detailed on Tracking the Light). This is intended to give the film broad tonality when scanning for internet presentation.
After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner driven by Epson software. These scans were scaled using Adobe Lightroom without any adjustment to contrast, exposure, or sharpness.
Where better to photograph a train on Halloween than Frankenstein trestle?
This afternoon, Kris Sabbatino and I ventured to this iconic landmark to catch the eastward Conway Scenic Mountaineer.
Mount Washington seen to the right of the train was covered in fresh autumn snow.
The bridge is named for the nearby cliffs, which were named not for the characters of Mary Shelley’s fictional story, but rather for the family of German artists that painted landscapes of the Mount Washington Valley in the 19th Century.
Since 1983, I’ve been photographing EMD GP’s in the Guilford gray, white and orange.
A few weeks ago, when Kris Sabbatino and I went to chase Pan Am’s SAPPI locals on the old Maine Central Hinckley Branch, I was looking forward to catching Pan Am blue locomotives in Maine.
Yet, at this late date, finding a vintage Guilford engine on the move is a novelty. How many remain?
I made this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit at Shawmut, Maine. I converted the Fuji Raw file using Iridient software, which does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji data. I then imported into Lightroom for final processing.
On August 26, 1986, Art Mitchell was giving photographer Brandon Delaney and me a tour of Maine railways.
We had perfect Kodachrome weather.
Among our stops was Maine Central’s Bangor Yard, where I made this view of GP38 255 working an eastward freight.
I was fascinated by the antique switch lamp in the foreground, which was still part of the railroad’s functioning equipment and not merely a decoration.
I had Kodachrome 64 loaded in my Leica 3A, and I exposed this color slide with a 65mm Leitz lens mounted using a Visoflex (a Rube Goldberg-inspired reflex view-finder attachment) on the screw-mount pre-war (WW2) 35mm camera.
This somewhat awkward camera arrangement was my standard means for exposing color slides at that time. I made careful notes of my exposure, which was f8 at 1/200th of a second. (My Leica 3A used some non-standard shutter speeds.)
Today, I find the GP38 interesting because its sister locomotive, number 252, is a fixture at the Conway Scenic Railroad (although at present it is out of traffic and awaiting repairs).
On August 12, 2019—one year ago—I’d organized a special publicity run over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch to make photos and video of Conway Scenic’s then ‘Notch Train’—the train soon to be rebranded as the ‘Mountaineer’.
This departed Crawford eastbound just after sunrise.
I had preselected scenic locations along the former Maine Central Mountain Division where we stopped the train for static photos and organized roll-bys for video.
I was working with three still cameras that day, while Adam Bartley worked with the company video camera.
Our operating crew was Mike Lacey and Joe Costello.
These photos were made with my Lumix LX7. Several images from this run have since appeared in Conway Scenic advertising and in magazine articles.
The other evening, Kris Sabbatino and I stopped at the old Maine Central station at Crawford, New Hampshire shortly after moonrise to make night photos of the station.
I mounted my Lumix LX7 on a heavy Bogan tripod and set the ISO to 200. Working in manual mode, I set the camera to between 40 and 80 seconds and tripped the shutter manually (without using the self timer).
Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, I made slight adjustments to highlights and shadows.
Catching the stars in the night sky has always been a favorite effect of mine. I first tried this back in 1977 in my back yard in Monson, Massachusetts.
The other day I was scanning some vintage Guilford photos from my 1980s and 1990s file.
This photo came up in the rotation.
Photographer Mike Gardner and I had spent a productive May 1997 day photographing Guilford trains on former Boston & Maine lines.
Toward the end of the day, we caught EDLA (East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts) working eastbound upgrade near Farley, Massachusetts (east of Millers Falls).
I was working with my N90S fitted with an 80-200 Nikon zoom.
I remember the day well! But when I scanned the slide, I had an unexpected surprise.
Initially, when I saw the lead locomotive, I thought it was Guilford’s 352, a GP40 that has often worked out of East Deerfield Yard. It was only on second inspection that I notice what this engine’s true identity . . .
It was 252! Former Maine Central 252. In other words, Conway Scenic’s locomotive which I see everyday and have hundreds of photos working in New Hampshire.
Wow, that’s kind of cool, to suddenly find a vintage photo I made of this now familiar GP38, back when it was a common freight hauler and not a darling of the tourist trade.
The other day, positioned in the South Tower of the North Conway, New Hampshire Station, I caught former Maine Central GP38 252 leading Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley train on its return run from Conway.
Although backlit, the contrast nicely separates the train from its setting.
Soon this scene will change: the old Fire Station to the left of the railroad is going to be demolished and a new, larger station will be built to replace it.
June 27, 2020 was the Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer debut!
This was the big day!
I organized banners for the locomotive . . .
And a ribbon-cutting photo-op with Dave and Rhonda Swirk at North Conway, New Hampshire.
The guests were boarded.
I departed ahead of the train by road and hiked in to the Frankenstein trestle where I caught the train on film and video. Then, I laid chase to intercept it again at Crawford, NH. A neat trick considering all the equipment I was carrying.
At the end of the day, I was interviewed on the radio for broadcast Monday.
Back in 1990, I got a good deal on a 100 foot roll of Agfa 400 speed black & white film. I took quite a few photos with this, mostly of street scenes in San Francisco, and processed it in D76 1-1, much the way I would have processed Kodak Tri-X.
That was a mistake.
Fast forward 30 years and I thought I’d give Agfa 400 black & white another go.
This time I used a more refined process.
On April 12, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I visited St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where we made a variety of photos around the former Maine Central truss bridge, located at the far west end of the old Mountain Division. I worked primarily with 90mm and 50mm Nikon lenses. The light was dull April overcast, which I thought would be a good test for Agfa 400.
Since I didn’t have access to my processing equipment and chemistry, I wasn’t able to develop the film until recently, but last weekend I finally souped the Agfa. I decided to try Rodinal Special (NOT to be confused with Rodinal) which is formulated for higher speed emulsions.
Before introducing the Rodinal Special (mixed 1-25), I presoaked the film for 5 minutes at 70 F in a very dilute bath of HC110 (mixed 1-300 with water and a drop of Photoflo-wetting agent). This was followed by the main development using my Rodinal Special mix for 4 minutes 30 seconds at 68 F; stop bath; twin fixer baths; rinse; permawash; first wash; selenium toner mixed 1-9 for 8 minutes; rinse and final wash.
There were a few hiccups in the washing. And as a result I ended up with precipitate on the negatives, so I ended up repeating the wash cycle yesterday morning, then soaked the negatives in distilled water with a drop of Photoflo before re-drying and scanning.
Now for the judgement. . . .
These are straight scans; only scaled for internet and without alterations to exposure, contrast, or sharpness.
The old Beechers Falls Branch was a vestige of Maine Central’s foray into Quebec that survived on Maine Central’s system in later years as a truncated appendage accessed by trackage rights over Boston & Maine and Grand Trunk lines.
After Maine Central gave up, various short lines had operated the trackage. Today the line to Beechers Falls, Vermont is a trail.
Beechers Falls itself is a curiosity on a narrow strip of land wedged tightly between New Hampshire and Quebec.
On Saturday (May 23, 2020) Kris Sabbatino and I explored this abandoned line.
I made these photos where the Branch crossed the upper reaches of the Connecticut River at Canaan, Vermont.
Working with a Nikkormat FT with an f2.8 24mm Nikkor lens, I exposed Ilford HP5 400 ISO black & white film.
Although I intended to process this in Ilford ID11, yesterday, I realized that I was all out of that developer, so instead I worked with Kodak HC110, which I mixed as ‘dilution B’ (1-32 with water). Before my primary process, I mixed a very weak ‘presoak’ (1-300 with water and Kodak Photoflo) and soaked the film for five minutes, then introduced my primary developer for 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Last night Kris and I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner with Epson’s provided software.
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On the evening of August 22, 1986, I exposed this pair of Kodachrome 25 slides on the Maine Central’s Rockland Branch at Wiscasset, Maine.
At the time traffic on the branch was almost nil.
I used a 21mm Leica Super Angulon lens which offered a distinct perspective of this rustic scene. My interest was drawn to the two rotting schooners in the westward view, while in the eastward view I was aiming to show the vestiges of the piers for the long defunct Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington 2-foot gauge.
All was quiet last Sunday when we passed through the once busy railroad hub at St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Vermont Rail System services the former Canadian Pacific (née Boston & Maine) north-south line, but there was no sign of activity during our brief visit. However, on my previous trip to the town, I rolled by the southward VRS freight, and featured this further down the line in a series of Tracking the Light posts. See:
Fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino and I focused on the large railway station building that is a centerpiece of the town, then went to explore the nearby former Maine Central truss over the Passumpsic River that represents the far west end of the old Mountain Division—the railroad line utilized by Conway Scenic Railroad over Crawford Notch.
I’d photographed this bridge many years ago, but wanted to re-explore it, as it now has greater relevance for me.
The light was flat, and although dull, this seemed appropriate for the circumstances. In additional to these digital photos, I also exposed some black & white film that I intend to process at a later date.
Friday, January 17, 2020, I joined the Conway Scenic train crew of a light engine sent west on the old Mountain Division to inspect the line and clear snow and as far as Rogers Crossing east of Bartlett, New Hampshire.
It was clear, cold afternoon, which made for some magnificent views along the Saco River and looking toward Mount Washington.
My primary intent was to document the move and gather some video footage of the railroad operating in the snow.
using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens, I made these views at milepost 62 west of Intervale.