I have a zillion photographs in Palmer, Massachusetts.
‘Zillion’ inferring an undetermined non-specific large quantity.
So why chase CSX’s Q263 down the Valley?
We arrived at the site of the old Boston & Albany freight house at the west end of Palmer yard just in time to catch Q263 (empty autorack train from East Brookfield) passing Mass-Central’s local freight.
Mike Gardner and I had photographed CSX’s loaded autorack train Q264-21 (as featured with ‘DPU’ the other day on Tracking the Light) and were waiting for the crew to take the empty autorack Q263-23 west.
For more than an hour we waited at milepost 67 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
As recommended, I made several test shots with my Fujifilm XT1 as the lighting conditions changed.
Then finally Mike announced ‘HEADLIGHT!’
I exposed a test burst of photos CSX Q263-3 in the distance and then . . .
[insert expletive here]
With a 32GB card, I can store hundreds of images. So many that I forget to even check how many I have left. And so at this critical moment, I’m left pixel-less.
Well, thankfully I had my Lumix LX7 around my neck and so managed a close-up photograph anyway. But there’s a lesson for you in this story. And for me too!
In recent months CSX has adopted the practice of using distributed power on the former Boston & Albany.
Distributed power is essentially the application of radio-remote controlled locomotives positioned deep in a freight train and/or at its end to reduce drawbar stress and improve starting and braking characteristics with very long/heavy trains.
The concept dates to the 1960s, but much improved radio-controlled remote technology was introduced by GE-Harris in the 1990s where it has become standard operating practice, and the remote locomotives being known as distributed power units (DPUs)
Still, to me it seems like a novelty on the Boston & Albany route.
Yesterday (May 23, 2019), I made my first photographs of a CSX train with a DPU working east of Palmer.
Mike Gardner and I caught Q-264 (the loaded autorack train destined to East Brookfield) from the field of Route 67 near CP79.
By B&A standards, this was an enormous train for just two modern GE diesels.
I exposed these photographs using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens.
Monday, May 6, 2019, we set up at the classic location on the bridge at the junction East Northfield, where the New England Central and Boston & Maine lines come together, immediately south of the Vermont-Massachusetts state line.
Paul Goewey, John Peters and I had convened in Palmer and traveled north along the New England Central hoping to catch 611 on its southward run toward Palmer, which it does most weekday mornings.
We caught it several times, as pictured in Tracking the Light on May 7, 2019, before proceeding to this location.
Elevation and soft morning sun made for an excellent setting to picture the train in action. I made these views using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.
We didn’t rest here, and continue south with the train to make more photographs.
In late April, after an interlude to photograph Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, Mike Gardner and I resumed our photo chase of New England Central’s northbound 611 (Brattleboro, VT to Palmer, Massachusetts and return), that would soon follow Amtrak’s train on it way north toward Brattleboro.
We arrived at the west end of the old Central Vermont Railway bridge over the Connecticut River (near the junction with Pan Am’s Boston & Maine at East Northfield) shortly before the freight crossed it.
Mike assumed a position at the classic location on the south side of the bridge, while I improvised with a view on the north side.
Why photograph from the ‘dark side’?
In this instance, I feel that the north side of the bridge offers a superior view of the setting, while cross lighting the train adds a sense of drama.
I exposed this view of Central Vermont GP9s on Kodak 120 Tri-X Professional, a film that came with an ISO rating of 320 compared with 400 for the off-the-shelf variety.
This was CV’s southward road freight number 444 which terminated at the Palmer yard, south of the crossing with Conrail’s former Boston & Albany.
I made this image on July 23, 1986; the previous day Conrail began its single track operation of the Boston Line by cutting-in CP83 and CP92, removing one track from service and thus ending directional double-track operation (rule 251) between those two points.
Close examination of this photo will show that the old westward main track is cut short of the CV crossing.
This was one of many photos I made around Palmer during the single tracking of the B&A route. Today the CV route is operated by New England Central, and the Boston & Albany line is CSX. There were far fewer trees by the tracks back in 1986.
Classic photo from my archives: In the late 1980s, I’d buy film from Frantek in South Hadley, Massachusetts. This was across the Connecticut River from Holyoke.
Typically on my way back with a fresh load of film, I’d seek out the Boston & Maine, which would often have a switcher working the Holyoke yard or on industrial sidings.
Guilford had just repainted this old Boston & Maine SW1 into its company livery and lettered it for its operating entity Springfield Terminal. The SW1 was colloquially known as a ‘Pup’ because it was a small switcher type.
The view is looking toward Springfield with B&M’s Connecticut River bridge just beyond the factories.
A week ago, on Wednesday February 6, 2019, Paul Goewey and I caught CSX’s Q-264 rolling through CP64, the interlocking at East Brookfield near the train’s terminus on the East Brookfield & Spencer Railroad (the local short line switching railroad that unloads the autoracks for regional distribution).
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm lens, I exposed this view at ISO 800.
In this instance, New England Central’s southward 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer turn) was crawling across the antique Millers Falls Highbridge in its namesake Massachusetts town.
My vantage point was the 2007-built Route 63 highway bridge.
This is more than a century newer than the parallel railway span.
First I exposed a burst of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm lens. Then I made a single black & white photo on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.
By design the black & white view is textured. I realize that black & white doesn’t appeal to everyone, yet I’ve worked in black & white for my entire life, and I often find my traditional film photos more interesting to look at than the digital images.
Palmer, Massachusetts’s Steaming Tender restaurant has featured my photo in a recent poster advertising a Paranormal Interactive Investigation to be held at the old Union Station building on February 5, 2019.
I made the original photo on Kodachrome in 1992 using my Nikon F3T with 105mm Nikkor lens mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod.
It was July 6, 2015, three years ago, that Paul Goewey and I photographed New England Central at Springfield Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts.
Our vantage point is from the old Central Massachusetts Railroad right of way—a line that was abandoned in the early 1930s, when Boston & Maine obtained trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont (now New England Central) line.
It had been a very long time since my last visit to Middleborough, Massachusetts— decades.
I made these views of an outbound MBTA from the Route 28 overpass south (west?) of the old New Haven Yard.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm telephoto.
Dull summer overcast lighting is just as I remembered it, but the scene is so much changed there was little else to correlate this view with that in my memory, except for the old New Haven Railroad freight house in the distance (upper left).
The day dawned clear and bright. I spent an hour at CP83 in Palmer making good use of the light. The railroads cooperated and supplied a parade of eastward trains, and these favored the sun for classic views.
I’ve made countless thousands of photos at Palmer, Massachusetts, but it’s always nice to keep the files fresh.
Soon the scene is likely to change since CSX is installing new equipment for its positive train control signaling, and this will likely result in new signal hardware in place of the Conrail-era signals installed during single-tracking in 1986-1987.
Then something unexpected happened, and by shear luck I caught a rare move! Stay tuned for Part 2.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.
In November 2017, I returned to this location in advance of the approaching northward Housatonic freight NX-12 that featured two early 1960s-era GP35s in the lead followed by 32 cars (28 loads, 4 empties) and another GP35 at the back.
I find the railroad setting here fascinating. The combination of the traditional line with wooden ties and jointed rail in a setting of old factories, freight house and passenger station makes for a rustic scene out of another era.
Working with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens I made a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X. And, I also exposed a sequence of digital color photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.
Alternatively, I could call this Tracking the Light post, ‘28N at Millers Falls.’
Whichever you like.
So what do you do in a situation where a train is coming directly out of the midday sun?
1) give up.
2) go for a sandwich.
3) take up plane spotting.
4) all of the above.
Or you can try something different.
The other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts I exposed these views looking timetable west on the old Boston & Maine. Train 28N is an eastward autorack destined for Ayer, Massachusetts.
Using a super wide-angle 12mm Zeiss Touit, I set the aperture to the smallest setting (f22), which produces a sunburst effect. To make the most of this effect, I positioned an autumn branch between the camera and the sun.
Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.
The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.
A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.
I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.
My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.
I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.
I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.
Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.
This is the third in my series of farewell posts on the famed East Deerfield ‘Railfan’s Bridge.’
The McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era. Work has begun to replace this old span with a new bridge to be located about 40 feet further west.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve exposed a disproportionate number of photos here. Yet, it has remained a good place for railroad photography for several logical reasons:
It’s at a hub; because of the bridge’s location at the west-end of Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, there tends to be a lot of action and opportunities to witness trains here. While waiting along the line can become tiresome, if not tedious, but there’s often something about to happen at East Deerfield.
The location above crossovers at the throat to the yard, this combined with yard leads and engine house tracks, plus the junction with the Deerfield Loop (that connects with the Connecticut River Line) west of the bridge make for some fascinating track work.
Elevation is always a plus.
There’s ample parking nearby.
The light in early morning and late evening here can be excellent. I’ve made some wonderful fog photos here, as well countless morning and evening glint shots. How about blazing foggy glint? Yep done that here too. And about ten days ago I got a rainbow.
The afternoon of June 29, 2017 was dull and overcast. Mike Gardner and I had arrived in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N (carrying autoracks and JB Hunt containers). We’d also heard that its counterpart 287 (empty autoracks from Ayer, Massachusetts) was on its way west.
As it happened the two trains met just east of the bridge.
I exposed a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 21mm Super Angulon lens, while simultaneously working in digitally color with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.
Too many photos here? Undoubtedly. But I bet they age well. Especially when the old vantage point has finally been demolished.
These days most of CSX’s scheduled through car-load freights tend to traverse the east end of the old Boston & Albany during darkness.
True, there’s a couple of intermodal trains, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited during the day, but if you want to see an old-school freight train in daylight you’ll have a long wait.
Early in the morning of June 23, 2017, I went over to CP83 (control point 83 miles from South Station) on spec to see if I could catch some freight on the move.
I have a sixth sense or really good hearing (or both), because I stepped out of the car, and I could hear a distant freight with GE diesels laboring toward Palmer.
I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with my fast (f2.0) 90mm lens and walked up to the South Main Street bridge, where I’ve made hundreds of photos over the years.
As the train approached, I realized that it wasn’t an intermodal train, as I expected, but a carload freight. It was CSX’s Q422 (Selkirk, New York to Worcester, Massachusetts).
At 5:29am I made these photos with my camera set to ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld. The ability to raise the ISO to a faster (more sensitive) setting combined with my fast telephoto lens allows for photos like this one.
In my old Kodachrome 25 days, my exposure with my Nikon F3 and f2.8 135mm lens (offering an equivalent focal length to the 90mm with the small sensor on the X-T1) would have been: f3.5 at ¼ second. The resulting image of this moving train would have been dramatically different.
For the discerning photographer, summer midday high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows.
In my Kodachrome days, I’d put the camera away from 10 am to after 2 pm during June-July. Kodachrome’s palate and contrast didn’t work with midday high-light and the slides would suffer from inky shadows, exceptionally harsh contrast, and bleached highlights.
Using digital photography and post processing, I can overcome some of the difficulties presented by summer high sun by adjusting color temperature and carefully controlling highlight and shadow detail.
Another tool is the external graduated neutral density filter. By attaching one of these filters to the front of the lens, I can darken the sky to better hold highlight detail and color saturation, while lightening the lower portions of the image area to make for a better balanced exposure and increasing the relative amount of data captured.
Final adjustment is still required in post processing to lighten shadows.
Years ago I’d ride my ten-speed bicycle to the Stafford Hollow Road Bridge in Monson, Massachusetts. I’d wait for Central Vermont’s freight to New London.
If I was lucky, I’d catch CV working upgrade with GP9s/Alco RS-11 making a healthy roar as they approached Stateline Summit.
On the morning May 31, 2017, I was leaving the Monson Post Office (having just mailed a letter to Ireland) when I heard New England Central 608 (running south from Palmer to Willimantic) tackling the grade in town.
I was surprised to see a Providence & Worcester GP38-2 in the lead. I supposed since New England Central and P&W are now both in the Genesee & Wyoming family it makes sense that the locomotives of these two connecting lines would get a bit mixed up.
Regardless, I knew that this would make for an interesting photograph. Among the places I caught 608 was at my old Stafford Hollow Road location.
My late friend Bob Buck had photographed here since the 1940s and always called the location ‘Smith’s Bridge’. I know he would have been delighted to see these photos of a P&W GP38-2 leading the southward freight.
These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.
On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.
So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?
In October 2014, I photographed this old MBTA (Boston) PCC car at the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor, Connecticut.
Just a rusty old ruin; but the car and its Kenmore destination board, brought me back to the early 1970s when my family lived a few blocks from MBTA’s Riverside Line at Newton Centre.
This route had been the Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, and was converted to a trolley line in 1960.
As young child, I was permitted freedom to wander around the neighborhood. My fascination with railways naturally brought me to the trolley line.
One afternoon, I’d been watching the PCC’s coming and going in front of the old B&A station. I’d often traveled on the cars with my parents, and I understood how the system worked.
Taking a chance, I quietly boarded one of the cars through the back door. I rode to Kenmore Square, where I boarded another car and returned to Newton Centre. I might have been five at the time. More than 40 years passed before I told anyone of this adventure. 🙂
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.
An old favorite photo location is the Connecticut River bridge at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Earlier this month, photographer Mike Gardner and I caught two freights crossing this traditional span within just a few minutes of each other.
The first was eastward autorack train symbol 28T operating to Ayer, Massachusetts with Norfolk Southern locomotives. A few minutes later, Pan Am freight POED (Portland to East Deerfield) worked west with recently acquired former CSX General Electric DASH8-40Cs.
Historically this was the Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg line; B&M was melded into the Guilford system in the 1980s and in the mid-2000s . Today, Pan Am and Norfolk Southern are partners in operating Boston & Maine lines west of Ayer as Pan Am Southern.
Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.
Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.
The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.
With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.
This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.
As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.
The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.
I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:
Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.
My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.
I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.
For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).
Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.
No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!
Tracking the Light Discusses Photography Every Day!