Tag Archives: Mass-Central

Mass-Central at Thorndike, January 3, 2018—See Tracking the Light for Six Snowy Views.

On the previous day, CSX B740 had interchanged a healthy cut of cars for Mass-Central at Palmer, Massachusetts. So I surmised that this would be a good time to catch Mass-Central working both of its GP38-2s together.

Paul Goewey and I arrived in Palmer early, and once we were sure Mass-Central was ready to head north up their line toward Ware (old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch), we began scoping photo locations.

Although brisk and cold, the sun was clear and bright and there was a good amount of snow on the ground.

We set up at the Main Street Crossing along the valley’s namesake river. We didn’t have to wait long before we heard the train coming up the line.

Into the sun. Post processing adjustment was necessary to maximize the detail captured in the Fuji RAW file.
A telephoto view at the same location looking timetable north.
An exposure adjustment gave me this photo.
Mass-Central’s northward train approaches Main Street in Thorndike. Camera JPG.
Adjusted file with wide-angle view point at Main Street Thorndike, Massachusetts.
Post processing adjusted RAW of the train trailing on the crossing.

These views were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

 

Mass-Central at Gilbertville—an example of digital photography.

I find one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to carry a high-quality imaging machine with me at all times. Also, other than the initial investment, the relative cost of individual photos is inconsequential.

As result, I’m unhindered by weight or cost in the seeing and making of photos.

Does this make for better images? Not necessarily, but it facilitates me to make a more complete record of my travels and capture ordinary scenes such as this view of the Mass-Central at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on a brilliant October 2014 afternoon.

Looking south on the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on October 14, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

“That Train Keeps a Rolling . . .

The other day my music-guru Dennis LeBeau phoned from East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

“Come on down to the South Barre Rod & Gun Club on Sunday, my sons and I are playing a gig!”

Where?

“You know it, it’s just across the Mass-Central line south of the Barre/South Barre town line. We’ve got some great bands. Real talent. You’ll like it!”

Lively live music clip

[Click on the video clip (above) for an inspired interpretation of Johnny Cash.]

Mass-Central's line from Palmer to South Barre passes right in front of the South Barre Rod & Gun Club (located off Route 32).
Mass-Central’s line from Palmer to South Barre passes right in front of the South Barre Rod & Gun Club (located off Route 32).

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As it turned out, I was well familiar with the crossing. Over the years I’ve worked this location for photographs of Mass-Central freights.

Mass-Central is a weekday operations, so my Sunday visit was strictly about the music.

Country music has its railway influences, and in the end this tied together nicely.

Dave Pike and the Good Old Boys. That's Dave in the cow boy hat, and music guru/railway photographer Dennis LeBeau on bass.
Dave Pike and the Good Old Boys. That’s Dave in the cowboy hat, and music guru/railway photographer Dennis LeBeau on bass.

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Dave Pike & the Good Old Boys, The Franklin County Sweethearts, and The Jays, were all playing. These bands have some crossover and were all helping each other out. You can find them on Facebook.

The audience was more lively than these beasts.
The audience was more lively than these stuffed  beasts.

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The Franklin County Sweethearts; Rosie Porter playing bass and singing with Tommy LeBeau.
The Franklin County Sweethearts; Rosie Porter playing bass and singing with Tommy LeBeau.
The Franklin County Sweethearts; Rosie Porter playing bass and singing with Tommy LeBeau and Lexi Weege.
The Franklin County Sweethearts; Rosie Porter, Tommy LeBeau and Lexi Weege.

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The Franklin County Sweethearts; Rosie Porter playing bass and singing with Tommy LeBeau, and Lexi Weege.
The Franklin County Sweethearts; Rosie Porter playing bass and singing with Tommy LeBeau, and Lexi Weege. (Here I’ve de-saturated the color for a period look).
Rosie Porter steps in for a song or two with Dave Pike and the Good Old Boys.
Rosie Porter steps in for a song or two with Dave Pike and the Good Old Boys.

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Three LeBeaus (Dennis on bass, Tommy on drums, and Paul on guitar) backing Rosie Porter.
Three LeBeaus (Dennis on bass, Tommy on drums, and Paul on guitar) backing Rosie Porter.

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Tracking the Light Posts New Material Daily.

Ten Alternative Views: Mass Central—Going South, South Barre to Palmer

Sometimes small operational anomalies on a railroad will combine to benefit the photographer by opening up different angles or opportunities.

Last Wednesday, delays on Mass-Central’s northward run (owing in part to congestion at Palmer Yard that resulted in a later than usual departure) combined with operation of engine 1750 with a southward facing cab opened some different winter angles on the old Ware River Branch.

I was traveling with Bob Arnold and Paul Goewey and we made the most of the variations in winter lighting along the route.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, over the last three decades, I’ve made many photos along this line. So, I’m always keen to find new viewpoints of this operation.

Low clear sun in January makes for rich colors and wonderful contrast, but also posed problems caused by long shadows.

It is true that carefully placed shadows can augment a scene, but random hard shadows too often do little more than add distractions and disrupt a composition.

Below are a few of the more successful angles I exposed on this southward trip.

Three-quarter lighting at South Barre, allowed for nice illumination of the railroad's logo on the side of GP38-2 1750, while showing the old Mill that is now home to the Wildwood Reload. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Three-quarter lighting at South Barre, allowed for nice illumination of the railroad’s logo on the side of GP38-2 1750, while showing the old Mill that is now home to the Wildwood Reload. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Beautiful afternoon light near Barre Plains makes for great contrast that brings out the texture in the foreground grasses. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Beautiful afternoon light near Barre Plains makes for great contrast that brings out the texture in the foreground grasses. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I could make this view of the old Mills at Hardwick any day of the week, and I've been meaning to drive up one of these days to make the most of the light. So as I was walking into position to make my set on the far side of the Ware River at Gilbertville (featured below, I exposed this view with my 12mm Zeiss Touit. The old Boston & Maine line that ran parallel to the B&A Ware River Branch had run behind these mills. The tracks were lifted in the 1930s, although the Hardwick station survives. Mass-Central's present line is behind me.
I could make this view of the old Mills at Hardwick any day of the week, and I’ve been meaning to drive up one of these days to make the most of the light. So as I was walking into position to make my set on the far side of the Ware River at Gilbertville (featured below, I exposed this view with my 12mm Zeiss Touit. The old Boston & Maine line that ran parallel to the B&A Ware River Branch had run behind these mills. The tracks were lifted in the 1930s, although the Hardwick station survives. Mass-Central’s present line is behind me.
The sun had swung around at Gilbertville, so we tried this angle to feature the buildings alongside the tracks. I've cropped this 12mm view to eliminate the horse shadows in the foreground.
The sun had swung around at Gilbertville, so we tried this angle to feature the buildings alongside the tracks. I’ve cropped this 12mm view to eliminate the harsh shadows in the foreground.
Must all railroad photos be serious? Mass-Central's crew are friendly, so we gave them a passing wave. I was multitasking, by waving and photographing at the same time. Photo exposed with my Zeiss 12mm Touit.
Must all railroad photos be serious? Mass-Central’s crew are friendly, so we gave them a passing wave. I was multitasking, by waving and photographing at the same time. Photo exposed with my Zeiss 12mm Touit.
A telephoto view south of the Church Street crossing Ware off State Route 32. Exposed with my 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
A telephoto view south of the Church Street crossing Ware off State Route 32. Exposed with my 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
Same location as above but with a wide-angle setting on my zoom lens to take in the Ware River Valley. At one time B&M's line was located on the opposite side of this narrow valley.
Same location as above but with a wide-angle setting on my zoom lens to take in the Ware River Valley. At one time B&M’s line was located on the opposite side of this narrow valley.
Afternoon lighting at Ware made for some nice texture on the old coal sheds along the Boston & Albany. In summer these tend to be obscured by foliage.
Afternoon lighting at Ware made for some nice texture on the old coal sheds along the Boston & Albany. In summer these tend to be obscured by foliage.
South Street in Ware was lit nicely. This is the same location (albeit from a different angle) featured on Tracking the Light on Thursday January 7, 2016, but in those images viewed from St. Mary's Cemetery.
South Street in Ware was lit nicely. This is the same location (albeit from a different angle) featured on Tracking the Light on Thursday January 7, 2016. In  those earlier  images I was standing in St. Mary’s Cemetery. See: Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context. (link below).

Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context.

Sometimes the shadows conspire against making the desired view of the train. By the time Mass-Central arrived at Thorndike, the shadows had covered the tracks. Oh well, a challenge for another day.
Sometimes the shadows conspire against making the desired view of the train. By the time Mass-Central arrived at Thorndike, the shadows had covered the tracks. Oh well, a challenge for another day.

 

Not happy with these? I’ll try again on another day when the freight runs a bit earlier, or in a softer day, when there are no harsh shadows.

Tracking the Light explores new angles; New Posts Daily!

Railroad Photography: Breaking the Rules: Aiming into the Sun!

 

Someone once said, ‘never photograph by aiming directly into the midday sun’. And, this advice has been melded into the cardinal rules of good railway photography.

The other day, while photographing along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, I opted to violate this basic premise of good photography.

Three considerations;

  1.  Over the years (35 of them) I’ve exposed a great many images of the Mass-Central on its former B&A branch. (A fair few of these images, I feel are indeed quite good, and perhaps border the category of ‘above average’.) So, if I end up making a bad photo (or two), who cares?
  2. My 12mm Zeiss Touit lens is an unusual piece of equipment. Owing to the nature of its design and exceptional high quality glass, I can make photos that frankly wouldn’t work so well with more conventional equipment.
  3. By selecting a very small aperture (f22), I can create a sunburst effect in a clear polarized sky while continuing to retain shadow detail.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera's histogram, I've optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I've attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera’s histogram, I’ve optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I’ve attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I've taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I’ve taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. This is a camera produced Jpg, unaltered except for scaling necessary for internet presentation.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I've also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I’ve also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas. In this instance, I have not applied any external filters.

So, are these photos good? Will I be fined by the aesthetics police? That’s up to you to decide!

But, honestly, what else would you have me do with a northward train coming directly out of the midday sun? I could have made no photos, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting post, now would it?

Tracking the Light Posts Something New Every Day!

Thursday Extra Post: Follow up view!

In relation to this morning’s post; Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context, I’ve received several comments (and email) suggesting that a view in between the two I originally presented might be a superior alternative.

I don’t concur, but I am willing to offer this photo as a potential third alternative.

The third option.
The third option.

I had had my FujiFilm X-T1 set  to  ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous fast) and so exposed a great many images  in rapid successionat this location.

Sometimes Tracking the Light posts more often than once per day!

Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context.

Winter is an excellent time to photograph Mass-Central former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

The lack of foliage and a dearth of heavy underbrush opens up angles for photography obscured during the warmer months.

My challenge is to find new views on this railroad that I’ve often documented over the last 35 years.

On Monday, January 4, 2016, I made these views of the southward Mass-Central freight descending Ware Hill on its return run to Palmer.

Here I present two of the sequence of images. Compositionally, I feel the first image works better as it allows the eye to wander from the locomotive at right to the other subjects. The second image places too much emphasis on the left side.

Mass-Central 1750 leads the railroad’s southward freight near South Street in Ware, Massachusetts on January 4, 2016. Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.)
Mass-Central 1750 leads the railroad’s southward freight near South Street in Ware, Massachusetts on January 4, 2016. Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.)
Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.) Both images exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.) Both images exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

Which do you prefer?

 

Tracking the Light Explores Photographic Technique Daily!

Ware River Valley Vignettes‑Mass Central at Gilbertville.

Early November is a great time to explore the Ware River Valley. The trees are largely bare, yet a few colored leaves still cling to higher branches.

Vestiges of old industries survive, as the old Boston & Albany branch meanders up the valley. This is a railroad that was left for dead nearly 40 years ago, and only survived through the dedication and hard work of a handful of local people.

At least once every autumn, I make a photographic study of the line.

The old B&A station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.
The old B&A station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.
Northward Mass-Central local freight. The ghostly vestiges of an old mill loom silently beyond the trees.
Northward Mass-Central local freight. The ghostly vestiges of an old mill loom silently beyond the trees.

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Using my FujiFilm X-T1 I exposed these views at Gilbertville— a village in the town of Hardwick, where the old B&A station remains as a restaurant.

This building is one of many stations featured in my new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published this year by Voyageur Press. Don’t miss out! Order your copy today!

Mass-Central local freight at Gilbertville.
Mass-Central local freight at Gilbertville.

Most week days, Mass-Central’s local freight departs Palmer after 7 am and works its way up to South Barre and back serving its customers along the way. On this day I found the train working in Ware.

Tracking the Light posts every day!

 

Massachusetts Central on a July Evening.

On the evening of July 6, 2015, I arrived in Palmer in time to find Mass-Central’s daily freight getting ready to head up the Ware River Line.

I relocated to a favorite location on the branch along Route 181 to make this image of the Mass-Central freight on the branch.

Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. 32 years ago, I made a photograph from a similar angle of Mass-Central 2100 working a freight.
Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. 32 years ago, I made a photograph from a similar angle of Mass-Central 2100 working a freight. Today the track has never looked so good on the branch!

Mass-Central at the Crossing, Autumn 1984.

It was an exciting time. Mass-Central had just recently acquired a former Santa Fe CF7, which to me seemed like a really exotic locomotive, and was running excursions over the old Boston & Albany line from Ware to Palmer, and Ware to South Barre.

My friend Bob Buck of Warren got involved with publicity while I made a point of both riding some of the trains and photographing them from the ground.

 Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3a with 50mm Summitar; exposure calculated with the aid of a Weston Master III photo cell. Film processed in D76.

Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3a with 50mm Summitar; exposure calculated with the aid of a Weston Master III photo cell. Film processed in D76.

This image was probably exposed on a Saturday afternoon in late September or early October. I’m not sure of the exact date because the individual negative strip has been separated from its original sleeve and my notes from the time are a bit minimal (and filed about 4,000 miles away). However judging by the foliage on the trees, it wasn’t too late in the season.

I’d followed the train down from Ware. It made a spirited run and approached each crossing with the bell ringing and horn blaring. Here a man has jumped off the engine to flag the difficult Route 181 crossing in Palmer, Massachusetts, where the tracks cut across the road at a difficult angle.

I’ve always liked this location because the line angles toward the road down a gently curving ramp with a row of trees beyond that makes the whole scene seem like a big diorama.

Back then, my photography was entirely inspired by the spirit of the moment and I didn’t put a lot of forethought into details such as location, lighting and composition. My mode was to ‘get ahead of the train then jump out and grab a photo or two.’

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Mass-Central 2100, Ware, Massachusetts.

Hello Old Friend.

On, October 15, 2014, I was giving a tour to some visitors from France, and we passed through Ware on our way from the Quabbin Reservoir to West Brookfield’s Salem Cross Inn.

Earlier in the week, I’d noticed that Mass-Central had parked its rare Electro-Motive Division model NW5 2100 in Ware yard near the Route 9/32 overpass. So, we made a quick diversion so that I could make a photograph of the locomotive.

Mass-Central 210 rests at Ware yard on former Boston & Albany trackage on October 15, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Mass-Central 210 rests at Ware yard on former Boston & Albany trackage on October 15, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

I’ve written about this before, but it was about 1981, when I rode my bicycle from Monson to Ware, specifically to photograph this locomotive, which had then just recently been delivered to Mass-Central.

When I think about all the locomotives that have come and gone in that time, I can’t help but smile. Old 2100 has nine lives, and then some! And it’s not that I need another photograph of it, but I make them anyway.

 

Mass-Central NW5 2100 is one of 13 such locomotives built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division between 1946 and 1947. It was originally bought by Southern Railway, but has worked Mass-Central’s Ware River Branch since the early 1980s. Exposed with a Lumix LX7 using the 'Vivid' color profile. Compare with the high dynamic range (HDR image below.
Mass-Central NW5 2100 is one of 13 such locomotives built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division between 1946 and 1947. It was originally bought by Southern Railway, but has worked Mass-Central’s Ware River Branch since the early 1980s. Exposed with a Lumix LX7 using the ‘Vivid’ color profile. Compare with the high dynamic range (HDR image below.)
My Lumix LX7 has a HDR setting that makes three images at different exposure settings in rapid succession and then combines them in-camera to create a single image with greater highlight and shadow detail than possible with a single digital exposure. Notice how this effect mutes the color and lowers contrast. Which image is better? You decide. Lumix LX7 photo.
My Lumix LX7 has a HDR setting that makes three images at different exposure settings in rapid succession and then combines them in-camera to create a single image with greater highlight and shadow detail than possible with a single digital exposure. Notice how this effect mutes the color and lowers contrast. Which image is better? You decide. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Massachusetts Central, July 10, 2014—Retro Views

Black & White in the Modern Age.

Here are a few views I made with my Rolleiflex Model T of Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany branch on July 10, 2014.

Why black & white? Why film? Why in 2014?

Mass-Central GP38 1751 crosses the Route 32 bridge in Ware, Massachusetts on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Mass-Central GP38 1751 crosses the Route 32 bridge in Ware, Massachusetts on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Former Boston & Albany freight house at Gilbertville, Massachusetts along the Mass-Central's Ware River Branch on July 10, 2014.
Former Boston & Albany freight house at Gilbertville, Massachusetts along the Mass-Central’s Ware River Branch on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. The film was processed in Kodak HC110, dilution B (1 part developer to 32 parts water) at 70 degrees F, for 6 minutes using three agitation inversions every 30-60 seconds.
Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. The film was processed in Kodak HC110, dilution B (1 part developer to 32 parts water) at 70 degrees F, for 6 minutes using three agitation inversions every 30-60 seconds.
Mass-Central 1751 works north of Gilbertville on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Mass-Central 1751 works north of Gilbertville on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

There’s no question, digital photography is easier. If I desire a square black & white image, all I have to do is set my Lumix LX7 to a 1:1 aspect ratio using a switch on the camera, and set the ‘photo style’ to ‘monochrome’ using the function button.

This set up procedure takes just a few seconds, and I can switch back to color quickly and easily whenever I choose.

Working with the Rolleiflex is more cumbersome; the camera is klutzy to load, it only makes 12 frames per roll of film, and the film takes about an hour to process in the darkroom (dry to dry). Then I need to cut and sleeve the negatives and then scan them for presentation here.

Yet, I still do this. Not for every photograph, not on every outing, but I still go through the motions of using black & white film.

Why? I have five reasons:

1)    I like it.

2)    It gives me a subtle ‘retro’ quality that I can’t really get from digital.

3)    It allows me visual continuity: I’ve been making black & white railroad photos since the 1970s. Why stop now?

4)    I can still do it: I have the cameras, the film, the darkroom and the skills to get great results.

5)    The B&W film medium is known to be archival. I process my film using a two bath fixer, permawash and rinse for 15 minutes in clean running water. They are stored in archival sleeves. Barring the unforeseen, the negatives I processed should still be in good condition for viewing in 50 to 100 years, maybe longer. They will need no extra attention regarding ‘back up’, except to store them in a safe dry place.

This last point is not true with digital photos.  I make three backup copies of every digital image and store them in separate locations, but digital remains an ephemeral media. Hard drives, DVDs and all other existing means of commercially-available digital storage will, in time, go bad. Hard drives can fail, suddenly, completely and without warning. The information will be lost. The photos will vanish. Like the tide coming in on a child’s sandcastle, the images in their digital form will be washed away, forever.

Mass-Central at South Barre, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Mass-Central at South Barre, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
A cropped section of the above photo, enlarged to show detail. One of the flaws with WordPress web media is that images are automatically compressed which lowers the quality for ease of display.
A cropped section of the above photo, enlarged to show detail. One of the flaws with WordPress web media is that images are automatically compressed which lowers the quality for ease of display.

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Tomorrow: Colorful consist on a bridge!

 

Massachusetts Central, July 10, 2014

Palmer to South Barre, Massachusetts.

Trying to see the railroad differently; I’ve been photographing the former Boston & Albany Ware River branch for more than 30 years, so finding new angles is a bit of a challenge.

On July 10, 2014, I met Mike Gardner, Paul Goewey and Brian Jennison in Palmer with the expressed goal of following Mass-Central’s daily freight northbound.

It was a bright morning following a night of heavy rain and mist still clung to the valleys. Mass-Central was working with GP38 1751, one of two locomotives acquired last year and custom painted into a variation of the 1950s-era Boston & Maine ‘Bluebird’ livery.

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Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Thorndike, Masschusetts on the morning of July 10, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
Thorndike, Masschusetts on the morning of July 10, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

After the train passed Thorndike, (a few miles from Palmer yard), it slowed to a craw then stopped unexpectedly. Trees had fallen on the line. This delayed it while crews cut the trees with chain saws. In the mean time, Paul showed me an angle near Forest Lake that I’d never seen before.

Track speed on the line is a casual 10 mph. The trick isn’t trying to keep up with the train, it’s trying to stay focused on the subject. In addition to the slow running, Mass-Central spends a lot of time switching freight cars, and often in places that aren’t conducive to summer-time photography.

A plow warning signal near a crossing at Forest Lake. Mass-Central still retains many of these simple steam-era signals. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A plow warning signal near a crossing at Forest Lake. Mass-Central still retains many of these simple steam-era signals. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Mass-Central at Forest Lake where the water is covered with lilly pads and other growth. Thanks to Paul Goewey for showing me this angle. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Mass-Central at Forest Lake where the water is covered with lilly pads and other growth. Thanks to Paul Goewey for showing me this angle. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Where? Ware. That's right. Mass-Central 1751 crosses the old bridge over Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.
Where? Ware. That’s right. Mass-Central 1751 crosses the old bridge over Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.
The Whistle Stop was closed so I opted to feature the station building that is often blocked with cars. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
The Whistle Stop at Gilbertville was closed so I opted to feature the station building that is often blocked with cars. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Or, for an alternate view. . . .
Or, for an alternate view. . . .
Pastoral scene near Barre Plains. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Pastoral scene near Barre Plains. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

South Barre is as far as the Mass-Central goes. Beyond that the old B&A branch is abandoned. Having done well with the northward run, we opted for lunch, then moved on to other lines.

I worked with three cameras; my Lumix LX7 and Canon 7D, plus my old Rolleiflex Model T. (This isn’t the same old Rollei, that I used back in the 1980s, but one similar to it.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t functioning perfectly in the morning, and I missed a few photos before I got it working. Now, to process the film!

South Barre, where Mass-Central reaches the old mills by way of a spur that crosses Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.
South Barre, where Mass-Central reaches the old mills by way of a spur that crosses Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Hot Spot: Palmer, Massachusetts, October 17, 2013

Trains Converge on Palmer; 2 Hours of Non-stop Action.

New England Central
At 2:02 pm, New England Central GP38 3855 works CSX’s Palmer yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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.

A southbound New England Central local approaches the Palmer diamond at 2:33 pm. Canon EOS 7D photo.
A southbound New England Central local approaches the Palmer diamond at 2:33 pm. Canon EOS 7D photo.
At 2:49 pm Mass Central's freight from South Barre looks to work the interchange track to reach the CSX yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.
At 2:49 pm Mass Central’s freight from South Barre looks to work the interchange track to reach the CSX yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.
New England Central 3809 has gone across the diamond to collect southbound train 611 and is now returning with the train and looking to re-cross CSX . Canon EOS 7D photo.
New England Central 3809 has gone across the diamond to collect southbound train 611 and is now returning with the train and looking to re-cross CSX . Canon EOS 7D photo.
Having dropped its interchange and collected its cars from CSX's yard, Mass-Central 960 returns west on the interchange track at 3:23 pm. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Having dropped its interchange and collected its cars from CSX’s yard, Mass-Central 960 returns west on the interchange track at 3:23 pm. A New England Central local with engine 3855 can be seen in the distance working the yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Photographer Paul Goewey focuses on Mass-Central as the train reverses over the interchange. Lumix LX3 photo.
Photographer Paul Goewey focuses on Mass-Central as the train passes over the interchange. Lumix LX3 photo.
Paul inspects his results.
Paul inspects his results.
At 3:37pm Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter crosses the Palmer diamond and enters the controlled siding at CSX's CP83. Canon EOS 7D photo.
At 3:37pm Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter crosses the Palmer diamond and enters the controlled siding at CSX’s CP83. Its locomotive, P42 153 is shoving at the back. The Steaming Tender is in the old station building on the left. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Amtrak and New England Central.
With Amtrak 56 tucked in on the controlled siding, New England Central’s local passes on the interchange track at 3:40 pm. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 56 has pulled forward onto the interchange and then reversed back again to make room for its southward counterpart to access the switch that connects the interchange track with CSX's controlled siding. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 56 has pulled forward onto the interchange and then reversed back again to make room for its southward counterpart to access the switch that connects the interchange track with CSX’s controlled siding. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak's southward (left) and northward (right) Vemonters are nose to nose at Palmer. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak’s southward (left) and northward (right) Vemonters are nose to nose at Palmer. Lumix LX3 photo.
At 408pm, both Vermonters depart Palmer. The train on the left leading with P42 number 153 is heading north to St Albans, Vermont, while on the right the southward train will exit CSX's controlled siding and head west toward Springfield before continuing south to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Lumix LX3 photo.
At 408pm, both Vermonters depart Palmer. The train on the left, leading with P42 number 153, is heading north to St Albans, Vermont, while on the right the southward train will exit CSX’s controlled siding and head west toward Springfield before continuing south to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Lumix LX3 photo.

Not bad for one afternoon! Yet, not a CSX train in sight. These days much of CSX’s business passes Palmer in darkness.

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

See my Dublin Page for images of Dublin’s Open House Event in October 2013.

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http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

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Mass-Central on the Central Massachusetts, June 26, 2013

 

An Antique NW5 Works Obscure Trackage.

On June 26, 2013, a variety of errands that brought me to Ware, Massachusetts. I knew the Mass-Central’s daily freight ought to be in the area, but I wasn’t sure where it was. (Pardon pun).

I checked Ware yard; not there. So I drove north along the line. Since it is my understanding that the railroad is expected to acquire some nicely painted GP38s, I was curious to see what engines were working that day.

No sign of the train at Gilbertville, so I continued northward along Route 32 toward Creamery. My sixth sense was tingling. I knew the train was close.

 

Abandoned railroad.
Looking railroad east on the old Central Massachusetts line. This was once a through route from Boston to Northampton. Hush! Was that a whistle? Lumix LX3 photo.

At Creamery,  Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line once had a grade separated crossing with Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch, and when B&M retrenched in the early 1930s,  a connection was built between the two lines just to the north (east) of this crossing.  Further retrenchment over the following decades resulted in almost complete abandonment of the Central Massachusetts line in the area.

Today, a portion of the Central Mass route at Creamery is now a rail trail. I paused at the trail, inspected a bit of an old cross-tie and then listened. . .  wind rustled in the trees, then in the distance I heard a low air whistle. I turned my head. It was coming from the south. Had I overtaken the train, or had I missed it?

A second blast, confirmed my suspicions; I’d missed the train between Gilbertville and Creamery.  I jumped in my car and headed briskly back toward Ware. I overtook the train a mile north of town.

At Ware, Mass-Central had some work at Kanzaki Specialty Papers—a customer served by a short surviving section of the former B&M line that connects with the B&A route south of Ware Yard.

Mass-Central NW5 2100 at Ware.
Mass-Central 2100 and 960 shove boxcars toward Kanzaki Paper on a surviving segment of the Central Massachusetts line at Ware, Massachusetts. In the 1970s, Mass-Central was created as a switching railroad to operate Boston & Maine trackage at Ware. Later it expanded operations over the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch between Palmer and South Barre. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

I caught the train shoving down, then waited a few minutes for the locomotives to return. In this way I executed several  photos of the rare NW5 (one of just 13 built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division) on rare track

NW5 diesel.
Mass-Central on the Central Mass; NW5 2100 works toward Ware yard on June 26, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Mass-Central NW5 2100
At Ware, Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line ran parallel to Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch; both lines remain at this grade crossing south (west) of Ware Yard. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

I could tick off that errand for the day! Mass-Central NW5, check.

Mass-Central 960
Mass-Central 2100 and 960 work back toward Ware Yard. Notice the grade crossing warning in the distance for Mass-Central’s former B&A Ware River Line. Imagine the day, long ago, when you could have seen 4-4-0s with passenger trains on both lines. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

See more Tracking the Light on the Mass-Central:

Mass-Central: Monday May 13, 2013

Mass-Central: Monday November 19, 2012

Also see: my Mass-Central article in March 2010 Trains Magazine

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Mass-Central, Monday May 13, 2013.

 

Blue GP15-2 and Spring Greenery.

GP15-2
Detail of the GATX GP15-2 operating on Mass-Central. The GP15 model features an unusual airflow pattern. Canon 7D.

My brief encounter with Mass-Central’s borrowed GP15-2 on May 10, 2013 (see Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013  encouraged me to seek out this locomotive and spend some more time photographing it on the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

This branch is one of my longest running projects. Back in 1981, I rode my 10-speed bicycle from Monson to Ware to make photographs of Mass-Central’s recently acquired EMD NW5, number 2100. Now, more than 30 years later, that old engine is still on the property, and I’ve been up and down the line by road (and rail) dozens of times.

Despite this familiarity, at least once a year (if not once a season) I’ll take a photo-trip along the line. So, having a nice freshly painted locomotive against fresh spring leaves is a good excuse to get out and the exercise cameras.

GP15-2
Northward Mass-Central freight near Creamery on May 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 20mm lens.
Mass-Central crosses Rt 67 at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Mass-Central crosses Rt 67 at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Mass_Central_w_GATX_499_Barre_w_stream_P1480619
Mass Central at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Much of the line is on a southwest-northeast angled alignment; and since trains tend depart northbound in the morning from Palmer  and return after midday, I’ve found that the southward return chase can be the most productive for making clean locomotive images.

On Monday May 13th, I spent the morning writing and running errands. Then in late morning, I followed Mass-Central’s line up to Gilbertville where I waited for the weekday freight to pass on its northbound run. (Just to clarify; the weekday freight is all I’d ever expect to see. The days of Boston & Albany’s steam hauled mixed train and milk specials have long since passed!)

Albany station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013.
Former Boston & Albany station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013.

My timing was good, and after a little while the GP15-2 rolled through northbound with two cars. Not much of a train, but it collected a few more cars near Creamery and continued to South Barre where it worked for about an hour delivering and collecting freight cars.

As expected, the southward chase offered better angles and nicer train. Not only did the southward train have a decent consist of cars, but the sun made some well-timed appearances.

Mass-Central working the spur at South Barre. This light industrial branch diverges near the end of track on Mass-Central's line at South Barre.
Mass-Central working the spur at South Barre. This light industrial branch diverges near the end of track on Mass-Central’s line at South Barre. Canon 7D.
Mass-Central freight
Mass-Central freight near Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 20mm lens.

I made photos with both film and digital Canon bodies as well as my Lumix LX-3, while following all the way south to Palmer  (where Mass-Central interchanges with both CSX and New England Central).

Canon 7D.
Canon 7D.
Mass-Central crossing Rt 32 near Creamery, Massachusetts.
Mass-Central crossing Rt 32 near Creamery, Massachusetts.
Canon 7D.
Mass-Central catches the sun at the Rt 181
Mass-Central catches the sun at the Rt 181 crossing near Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D with 28-135 lens.

I’ve learned to take advantage of unusual or new motive power on the branch, as things can (and do) change quickly. To use a cliché; it’s best to strike when the iron is hot! I was pleased with my results featuring the GP15-2 and I wonder what motive power I’ll find next time I follow the line?

CP 83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
CP 83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
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Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013

 

Anniversary of the Golden Spike.

Morning of May 10, 2013 finds heavy fog at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. This view looking south on New England Central's former Central Vermont Railway. Canon EOS 7D.
6:38 am on the morning of May 10, 2013 finds heavy fog at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. This view is looking south on New England Central’s former Central Vermont Railway. Canon EOS 7D.

May 10th holds symbolic railroad significance as the anniversary of completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1869—an event that had great national and international importance. Many other railway anniversaries can be linked to May 10 as well.

In 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleeps published by Voyageur Press.

Although this seems to be out of print, it remains a stunning photographic collection, which is especially impressive considering it was entirely accomplished within the limits of just one day!It’s hard for me to believe that six years have passed since that day.

Yesterday (May 10 2013), I got up early and aimed for Palmer, Massachusetts, with an aim of making a variety of railway images on this significant day. In the course of just a few hours, I’d photographed five train movements on three different railroads. I was home by 9:30 am. (Although, I was out again later in the day to investigate some changes to railway infrastructure).

When I began my photography there was thick fog clinging to the valleys; this gradually burned off leaving bright sun. Here’s a selection of my efforts.

Train in fog.
6:43 am. New England Central 608 led by GP38 3857 works south of Palmer Yard approaching Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. On May 10, 2013, the sun was out, just not here. Canon EOS 7D.
Tracks in forest.
7:49 am. The fog had begun to lift when I made this view along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch near Forest Lake, Palmer, Massachusetts. May 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D.
Here was a complete surprise for me; I was unaware that Mass-Central had borrowed a GATX GP15-2 locomotive until I saw it leading the northward freight. Some quick driving  on my part put me in position at this broadside view where the line crosses Forest Lake. I was pleased, that's a nice looking locomotive in fresh paint.
7:52 am. Here was a complete surprise for me; I was unaware that Mass-Central had borrowed a GATX GP15-2 locomotive until I saw it leading the northward freight. Some quick driving on my part put me in position at this broadside view where the line crosses Forest Lake. I was pleased, that’s a nice looking locomotive in fresh paint. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.
Crossing the mountain from the Ware River Valley to the Quaboag River Valley, I heard CSX Q264 call the signal at CP83 in Palmer. I altered my course to intercept it at West Warren, where recent undercutting and brush work has opened up a nice view for morning trains headed east. The sun was just emerging from the fog making for some rich soft light. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
Crossing the mountain from the Ware River Valley to the Quaboag River Valley, I heard CSX Q264 call the signal at CP83 in Palmer. I altered my course to intercept it at West Warren, where recent undercutting and brush work has opened up a nice view for morning trains headed east. The sun was just emerging from the fog at 8:15 am making for some rich soft light. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
EMD SD70MAC
8:29 am. Only a few minutes behind Q264 was this eastward intermodal train. The sun was out brightly in Warren and I could hear the roar of EMD diesels well before the train reached me. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens at 28mm.

 

 

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Locomotive Geometry: Part 1

Alco diesel detail
This image appears on page 49 of my book Vintage Diesel Power published by Voyageur Press in 2010. I exposed it on October 13, 2008, courtesy of Genesee Valley Transportation. GVT was operating the locomotive on its Falls Road Railroad between Lockport and Brockport, New York. This is a relatively rare Alco RS-32 built for New York Central. It often operated on the Falls Road for New York Central and later Penn Central. The photo was exposed with a Canon EOS-3 and 20mm f2.8 lens on Fujichrome film.

Locomotives have long been the subjects of photographic study. The earliest images are believed to be Daguerreotypes from the early 1850s. As early as the 1860s, locomotive manufacturers routinely photographed locomotives to document their construction and to help interest prospective buyers. The nature of the steam locomotive meant that a great deal about the machine could be gleaned by studying it from the outside. Railway enthusiasts were enamored with locomotives from the very beginning; sketches and drawings of engines date to the earliest days of railroading, while railway enthusiast photography certainly dates to at least the 1890s, if not earlier. While I’ve always been fascinated by railways, I didn’t routinely examine locomotives on film until I was about ten. My earliest railway photography tended to feature signals. If there were any locomotives in my pictures, these seemed to appear on the horizon in the form of a looming headlight. Later, I made a great many images of locomotives, sometime picturing them at work, other times resting between jobs, and often I examined them on a macro level; in other words, up-close and in detail. I’ve written a number of books on locomotives, and these chronicle their evolution and development, intended application and service, and performance. My body of locomotive photography has aided in illustration of these efforts. This selection of images is intended as the first installment in Tracking the Light of my exploration of locomotive geometry: the shapes of the machines. Later installments will focus on specific railway fleets, individual types, and perhaps some individual machines.

Rare Electro-Motive model NW5 at Palmer, Massachusetts.
Mass-Central NW5 2100 is an old favorite. Built for Southern Railway in 1947 to work the New Orleans Union Station, it found its way to Massachusetts when I was in junior high school. On the afternoon of October 18, 1983, my late friend Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren phoned to say that Mass-Central was on its way to Palmer to collect interchange from Conrail. I caught the antique Electro-Motive engine by the old Boston & Albany freight house. Exposed with Leica IIIA with Summitar f2.0 50mm lens on Kodachrome 64 slide film
Central Vermont GP9s.
I grew up to the sounds of Central Vermont GP9s roaring away in run-8 as they clawed their way up State Line Hill in Monson, Massachusetts. I often photographed these locomotives in my youth. By the time I made this photo on December 23, 1986, I had begun my photographic studies at Rochester Institute of Technology, and was back for Christmas Break. Old 4442 was a favorite machine. It is climbing State Line as it had countless times before. Leica IIIA fitted with a Leica Visoflex II and 65mm Elmar Lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.

CV_4559_Palmer_Jan_1989_Brian_Solomon_444104©Brian_Solomon

New England Central GP38s.
In February, 1995, New England Central Railroad (NECR) assumed operations of the former Central Vermont Railway. By that time, CV’s GP9s had been gone a few years. NECR’s first locomotives (and the only ones painted for the line) were a fleet of handsome GP38s. By the late 1990s, these were an equivalent age as had been CV’s GPs when I knew them a decade earlier, yet somehow they didn’t seem so ancient. After all, age is largely perception. NECR GP38s rest in the afternoon sun at Palmer Yard in March, 1997. Nikon F3T with Nikon 24mm f2.8 Lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.
Former Boston & Maine Alco S4 1271 was on a siding at Middleborough, Massachusetts, on July 10, 1987. Warm afternoon sun was ideal for a study with Kodachrome, so I put my recently purchased Leica M2 and 50mm Leitz Summicron to work.
Former Boston & Maine Alco S4 1271 was on a siding at Middleborough, Massachusetts, on July 10, 1987. Warm afternoon sun was ideal for a study with Kodachrome, so I put my recently purchased Leica M2 and 50mm Leitz Summicron to work.
Baltimore & Ohio GP9 battery box door detail.
Baltimore & Ohio GP9 6145 worked on Rochester & Southern’s former B&O Brooks Avenue Yard in Rochester while I was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I made many photographs of this Electro-Motive diesel; this image exposed on October 22, 1987. with my Leica M2, 50mm Summicron and Kodachrome 25 slide film. If I knew why it was called “The Mighty Jumbo”, I’ve forgotten now.

 

See: Vintage Diesel Power by Brian Solomon at Voyageur Press.

Preserved Western Pacific diesels
Preserved Western Pacific diesels at Portola, California, on May 10, 2008 capture the spirit of another era. This image appeared in my 2009 title Railroads of California published by Voyageur Press. The photo was exposed on Fuji Velvia 100 slide film using a Canon EOS-3 and 100mm f2.0 lens. WP 608 is an Electro-Motive Corporation model NW2 built in 1940 for Union Pacific, and later acquired by WP. While WP 707 is a GP7 bought new by the railroad.
WC_F45_6656_May41996Brian_Solomon_444107©Brian_Solomon
I’ve always enjoyed intense sound produced by Electro-Motive’s 20-cylinder 645 diesel engine. That doesn’t translate to photography, except that I have a disproportionate number of images of diesels powered by that engine. On May 4, 1996, I made this photo inside Wisconsin Central F45 6656 to feature the big prime mover. Exposed using a Nikormat FT3 with Nikon 28mm AF lens, Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film, exposed manually.

See: EMD Locomotives by Brian Solomon at Voyageur Press.

Mass-Central: Monday November 19, 2012

 

Autumnal scene on the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.
Mass Central 960 near Forest Lake, Massachusetts at 8:35 am on November 19, 2012. Exposed with Canon 7D, 28-135mm lens at 44mm, ISO 200 f7.1 at 1/500th second. Post-processing: minor contrast and saturation adjustments in Photoshop.

Between November 2008 and March 2009, I researched and wrote an article on Mass-Central for TRAINS Magazine that appeared in the March 2010 issue. I continue to photograph this short line which serves 25 miles of the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch between Palmer and South Barre, Massachusetts. While on some days, I’ll make a project of working the branch, making photos from a variety of angles, and staying with the train for the whole day. This morning, after finishing non-photographic business in Palmer, I opted to catch the morning freight on its way northward on the branch. Today, I was only interested in catching it near Forest Lake, where the line crosses a short fill. During the summer this tends to get too brushed in for a satisfactory image, but after the foliage has gone, the location opens up. The difficulty this time of year is working around harsh shadows. I exposed this image at 8:35 this morning using my Canon 7D fitted with 28-135mm zoom. Initially I was tempted to make a tighter image, focusing more on the locomotive, but in the end I settled for a wider view that takes in more of the setting. Had Mass-Central been using its rare EMD NW5 number 2100, I’d probably stayed with a tight view. Reviewing my images, I decided the contrast was too much, and the light on the engine resulted in slight over exposure. As a result, I made a nominal adjustment to exposure curve using Photoshop, while boosting the saturation slightly to give the water and sky a bit more snap. These subtle changes required just a few minutes to implement. Other than that, the image is presented here un-cropped and more or less as I exposed it. Since Mass-Central departs Palmer northbound most weekday mornings between about 7 and 8:30 am, I’ll probably make another attempt at this location before the leaves return. The remarkable thing about digital photography is that as I write and post this, the train is still out on its run.

Mass-Central at Thorndike, Mass.
Mass-Central tracks at Thorndike, Massachusetts at 8:16 am on November 19, 2012. Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany branch makes a near horseshoe through the village of Thorndike, just a few miles north of its interchange with CSX and New England Central at Palmer.