I was just a kid with a camera. Luckily, the camera was a Leica 3A.
I’d loaded it with Tri-X and exposed a few views around the Rockland, Maine roundhouse during a visit there with my family in August 1980.
Months later I processed the film in Microdol-X (not the best choice of developers, but it’s what I used at the time) and made a few tiny prints. Then I put the negatives in a paper envelope and mostly forgot about them.
Two years ago, when looking for some other photos, I re-discovered the negatives in a big batch of missing photos, and scanned them at high-resolution with an Epson flatbed scanner.
This photo required a little post processing adjustment to improve tonality and even out contrast, while removing a few dust specs.
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.
I spent a pleasant and memorable week photographing in Maine in August 1986.This was shortly before I began my studies at the Rochester Institute of Photography, and represented a moment of visual freedom, unburdened by demands of professors, intellectual assumptions, or assignment deadlines.
On August 29th, Brandon Delaney and I had photographed the Maine Central. At Burnham Junction we stumbled upon the Belfast & Moosehead Lake working the Maine Central interchange.
Although this wasn’t my first experience with B&ML, I was delighted to catch this elusive operation at work. We chased the train back toward Unity. I made this image featuring a classic farm with barn and silos.
I exposed it on 35mm Kodachrome slide film using a Leica M2 with 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto lens mounted with a bellows using a Visoflex viewfinder arrangement on a compact Linhof Tripod. Although cumbersome, this was my standard arrangement for making long telephoto views. Exposure was calculated manually using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld light meter (photo cell).
As a kid, I’d travel with my family to coastal Maine for visits with grandparents who owned a summer home south of Newcastle. At that time, Maine Central operated freights on the Rockland Branch on a weekday basis.
On rare occasions as we were driving, I’d see a train wandering up or down the branch. I recall my exceptional frustration when passing the Rockland roundhouse a group of Maine Central GP7s and GP38s basked in evening sun, but family priorities precluded even a short stop for photography (I think we were going to dinner).
By the time I made visits to Maine in the mid-1980s with aims at making railroad photographs, the old Rockland Branch was all but dormant.
The line experienced a revival in the 1990s and 2000s. Today it hosts freight and passenger trains operated by Maine Eastern. This greatly pleased my late-friend Bob Buck, who had experienced the line in steam days and had watched its gradual decline during the diesel era.
It was a great thrill for him to be able to board a passenger train again at Rockland and ride along the coast inlets toward Brunswick.
In August 2004, I was among several friends visiting with Bob at his summer home on the Maine Coast. During this trip, Neal Gage and I spent a productive morning photographing Maine Eastern’s cement train, which made a series of short turns between the cement factory at Thomaston and a pier in Rockland.
This included photographing the short spur (branch) to the pier that had been rebuilt during the revival period to facilitate movement of cement by barge. This line winds through back yards of Rockland and curls around to the waterfront.
Caption: In August 2004, a Morristown & Erie C-424 leads a short empty cement train up from the Rockland Pier on the rebuilt former Maine Central spur running between the pier and the Rockland yard. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T and 24mm lens.