On Thursday (December 19, 2013) I made these photos of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter trains on the old Fitchburg route.
For some 35 years, Electro-Motive F40PH diesels have worked these lines. MBTA’s early F40PHs supply head-end power from the 16-645E3 prime mover by running the engine at high rpms. The result is a high-pitched scream that has given these locomotives their nickname.
Replacement locomotives are on their way and the first have already arrived. How much longer will these old screamers work the Fitch? Bets anyone?
Boston gets some great light and evening can be one of the best times to make photographs.
Sunday October 27th was clear in the morning, but clouded up a bit during midday. Towards evening the clouds melted away and a rich golden light prevailed.
Tim Doherty and I photographed operations out of North Station as well as the north end of the Orange Line rapid transit, then went toward Boston College, where the Commonwealth Avenue branch of the Green Line crosses over the former Boston & Albany mainline.
The fading light of evening made for a dramatic skyline. I didn’t have my tripod with me, so instead racked up the ISO on my digital cameras. With my 7D I can work with a 4000 ISO rating and still get some very presentable images.
My memories of the Commonwealth Avenue line extend back more than 40 years, and my photography of the line nearly that long.
In the late-1970s, I made a point of exposed Kodachrome slides of the PCC’s that were then waning on that route. I never could have guessed than in 2013 some PCC’s would survive in daily service on the Mattapan-Ashmont line.
In the 1970s and 1980s, I spent many of my formative years in railway photography exploring greater Boston. My family lived in Newton Center from 1969 to 1973, while after that my father worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I have early memories of riding Green Line PCC cars, watching Penn-Central commuter trains from Star Market (positioned over the Mass-Pike with a view of the parallel Boston & Albany line) as well as later experiences exploring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s transit and suburban railway lines.
As my photography improved and matured and my interest in railways developed, I explored and photographed operations ever farther from those of my earliest days.
In recent years, trips to Boston have largely been focused on Logan Airport, and I’ve made only occasional photographs in the city. Most of my recent MBTA photographs have been exposed either at South Station or at the periphery of the commuter rail network.
Without exaggeration, I can say that today I’m more familiar with Dublin, London, Philadelphia Chicago and San Francisco than I am with Boston.
Thanks to Tim Doherty, on Sunday October 27, 2013, I was reacquainted with aspects of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in and around Boston, some of which I hadn’t seriously photographed in nearly 20 years. A bright day, fall foliage, and Tim’s detailed knowledge of Boston aided our marathon photographic journey. These are among my results:
More Boston photos in tomorrow’s Tracking the Light post!
In the late 1980s only a few active semaphores remained in New England. One of the best places to see them was at the crossing of former New Haven Railroad lines in Walpole, Massachusetts.
I made this photo of a new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority F40PH-2 leading an outward train on the Franklin Line on the afternoon of March 2, 1988. The attraction for me was the contrast between the new locomotive and the ancient signal.
A variation of this image appeared in TRAINS Magazine some years ago. I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 using my Leica M2 with a f2.0 35mm Summicron.The combination of clear New England light, Leica optics, and K25 film enhanced the scene.
Here’s an image from my early archives. I was wandering around Boston on a snowy day in January 1982. Among the other photos I made were views along the Green Line on Huntington Avenue. This one caught my eye the other day when I was reviewing my early work. It require a nominal crop. Many of my early photos tend to be off-level. This problem is easily fixed today.
South Station was the main passenger terminal for Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroads, and in the early years of the twentieth century was the busiest passenger station in the world (as measured in the number of daily train movements).
Boston’s two primary passenger terminals have no scheduled service between them. Historically, South Station served Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroad lines, while North Station served Boston & Maine’s. Both represented consolidations of older terminals. Today, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority provides suburban service, while Amtrak operates long distance trains from both stations.
To move equipment between North and South Stations (and their respective repair and maintenance facilities), MBTA normally uses the former B&A Grand Junction Branch which crosses the Charles River and passes through Cambridge, thus forming the only Boston-area link between North- and South-side networks.
Some months ago a problem was discovered with the Charles River Bridge. So now MBTA and Amtrak equipment transfers must travel a roundabout route via Worcester (from South Station over the old B&A mainline) then north via Clinton to Ayer, and eastward via the former B&M Fitchburg line toward North Station.
Equipment transfers operate as needed, and I’ve been fortunate to catch several of them over the last few months. On Wednesday, June 5, 2013, I got lucky and stumbled into position just in time to catch one without even trying!
Rich Reed and I had traveled to Ayer to photograph Pan Am Southern’s westward intermodal train 23K. After making successful images of the train, we drove back through Ayer and over the bridge just east of the Station, where I spotted a high-green (clear) signal at AY interlocking for an eastward movement.
I guessed that since this is a controlled signal, it would only be lined if something was due and we set up on the bridge in anticipation. This was the exact location where we’d photographed Norfolk Southern GEs switching a week earlier. See last week’s post: Ayer, Massachusetts, Wednesday May 29, 2013.
As it turned out, the clear signal was for an eastward MBTA commuter train, which arrived shortly and paused for its Ayer station stop. As passengers were boarding we were surprised to spot a second MBTA train coming off the wye from Worcester! This was an equipment transfer, led by MBTA GenSet locomotive 3249 hauling avariety of locomotives and cars.
By shear dumb luck we just happened to be in precisely the right place at the right time.
Had we known this train was coming we’d probably picked a different location to intercept it. Sometimes not knowing what’s going on can earn you a better photo than knowing too much.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.
Stainless Steel Budd-Rail Diesel Car Catches the Light.
On November 23, 1988, I exposed this Kodachrome slide of a former Boston & Maine (B&M) Budd RDC on the platforms at South Station. At one time this had been a self-propelled unit, but by this time, Boston-based Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) was hauling trains of old RDC’s with locomotives.
The classic welded stainless steel fluting was a trademark of Budd railcars. Polished stainless steel made for some beautiful trains, although this one was clearly showing its age. The Boston & Maine lettering was a remnant of B&M’s ownership of the car, which MBTA had acquired in the mid-1970s.
Look carefully and you’ll see another Budd-built product reflecting the in the window: one of Amtrak’s Amfleet cars built in the 1970s.
Kodachrome 25 slide film was an ideal material for capturing high-contrast scenes like this one. Look at the great detail in the highlights areas. I used my Leica M2 with f2.0 50mm Summicron. Today, I’d probably try to capture this with my Lumix LX3.