Tag Archives: Massachusetts

News Flash! Massachusetts Central’s Recently Acquired GP38 makes First Revenue Run

 A Clear Autumn Day to Photograph a Shiny Blue Bird.

Today, Massachusetts Central assigned one of two recently acquired GP38s to its weekday Palmer-South Barre local freight. Although Mass-Central received the two locomotives earlier this year, it is my understanding that today’s train is the first regular revenue service run to use one.

Blue Bird
Mass-Central 1751 leads the northward freight at Forest Lake, north of Thorndike, Massachusetts on October 24, 2013. Canon 7D photo.

The train departed Palmer this morning with the GP38 leading Mass-Central’s 2100 and 960. The second two locomotives were left in Ware, while the freight continued up the Ware River Valley on the former Boston & Albany branch.

Both of the Massachusetts Central’s GP38s have been beautifully painted in a livery inspired by the classic Boston & Maine ‘Blue Bird’ scheme. Although most of Mass-Central’s current route uses former Boston & Albany tracks, the railroad began as a switching operation on vestiges of  Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line around Ware.

Historically, the Central Massachusetts was a Boston & Maine route between Boston and Northampton, although it hasn’t served as a through route since the 1930s. Massachusetts Central still operates a few segments of old B&M trackage, notably in Ware.

Mass-Central.
Mass-Central 1751, 2100 and 960 lead the northward freight near Ware, Massachusetts on October 24, 2013.
Mass-Central arrives at Ware Yard on October 24, 2013. Canon 7D.
Mass-Central arrives at Ware Yard on October 24, 2013. Canon 7D.
Mass Central 1751 works toward South Barre, Massachusetts on October 24, 2013.
Mass Central 1751 works toward South Barre, Massachusetts on October 24, 2013.

 

 

 For today’s regularly scheduled post see: Hot Spot: Palmer, Massachusetts, October 17, 2013 

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

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

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

 

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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.

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

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Sunrise at East Deerfield Yard, October 18, 2013


Applying an Old Technique with Today’s Technology.

The other day I arrived at Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine East Deerfield Yard shortly after sunrise. Although not a wheel was turning, there was some nice light and I made a selection of images.

My challenge was in the great contrast between the ground and sky. With my Lumix LX3, I found that if I exposed for the track area, the dramatic sky was washed out (too light), and if I exposed for the sky the tracks area was nearly opaque.

Railway yard.
East Deerfield Yard, Massachusetts at Sunrise. Unmodified ‘in camera Jpg’. Lumix LX3 photo exposed using the ‘V’ (for Vivid) setting.

With black & white film, I would have compensated my exposure and film development to maximize the information on the negative, then dodged and burned critical areas on the easel in the dark room to produce a nicely balanced print. I’d done this thousands of times and had my system down to fine art.

I applied this same basic philosophy the other morning at East Deerfield. I made several exposures from different angles. In one of these I slightly overexposed the sky to retain some detail in the track area.

The in-camera Jpg from this still appears both too dark and too contrasty (from my perspective having witnessed the scene). Rather than be content with this inadequate photograph, I took a copy of RAW file that I exposed simultaneously (one the benefits of the LX3 is it allows both a Jpg and a RAW to be exposed at the same time) and imported it into Photoshop. (I always work from a copy and I NEVER manipulate or alter the original file).

Under the ‘Image’ menu, I selected ‘Adjustments’ and then ‘Curves’; I then adjusted the curve to produce a more balanced over all exposure. This is possible because the RAW file has more information (detail) in it than is visually apparent.

While this improved the image, I still wasn’t satisfied. So I selected the ‘Dodge and Burn tool’ (which appears in the tool bar as a angled gray lollipop). Using the ‘Dodge’ function, I very slightly and selectively lightened track areas and foliage that I felt appeared too dark.

Then I used the ‘Burn’ function to selectively adjust the sky areas. If I’ve done this successfully, the scene should appear very close to the way I saw it. Similar techniques can be used to make for surreal and unnatural spectacular landscapes. While I may do that later, that’s not my intent today.

East Deerfield, Massachusetts.
The same image as above, but from a modified RAW file using Photoshop to adjust contrast (both across the entire image and locally). Lumix LX3 photograph.

While modern tools, like those of the traditional darkroom, allow for improvement over in-camera images, the effort does take time. I estimate I spent 10-15 minutes adjusting this photograph.

Because this adds time to the work on the photograph, I don’t want to have to do this any more often than necessary. Most of my photographs are ready to go ‘in-camera’ (as it were).

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

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

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

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Conrail SD80MACs on the Boston & Albany, October 11, 1996.

Looking Back 17 Years.

Conrail SD80MACs
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 color slide film using a Nikon F3T with 28mm Nikkor lens.

This was a favorite location of mine on the old Boston & Albany west end. The curve and cutting were built as part of a line relocation in 1912 aimed at reducing curvature and easing the westward climb toward the summit at Washington, Massachusetts.

There are several commanding views from the south side of the rock cutting near milepost 129, west of Chester, Massachusetts. My friend Bob Buck had showed me these locations back in the early 1980s, and I’ve made annual pilgrimages ever since.

Conrail was still going strong in 1996, although the forces were already in play that would see the line divided between CSX and Norfolk Southern. In less than three years time, this route would become part of the CSX network, and has remained so to the present day.

Conrail’s SD80MAC were new locomotives and several pairs were routinely assigned to the B&A grades east of New York’s Selkirk yard.

What makes this image work for me is that the foliage has just begun to turn and has that rusty look. Also, the train is descending on the old westward main track, which allows for a better angle.

After Conrail reworked the B&A route in the mid-1980s, bi-directional signaling on this section allowed them to operate trains in either direction on either track on signal indication. The result is that moves such as this don’t require unusual attention on the part of either dispatchers or train crews.

This photo appeared in my article on Conrail’s SD80MACs that was published in RailNews magazine about 1997.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 color slide film using a Nikon F3T with 28mm Nikkor lens.

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Zoar, Massachusetts, October 7, 2003.

On This Day, Ten Years Ago.

CP Rail SD40-2s
Canadian Pacific SD40-2s roar west on Guilford Rail System’s former Boston & Maine Fitchburg main line at Zoar, Massachusetts on October 7, 2003.

It was a brilliant clear afternoon ten years ago, when Tim Doherty, Pat Yough and I followed Guilford Rail System’s EDMO (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard, Schenectady, New York) freight westward into the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Rich blue skies, rusty foliage and a great sunlight make October a great time to photograph in New England.

I exposed this image on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 28mm Biogon lens. At the time Canadian Pacific Railway EMD SD40-2s were commonly assigned to this run, which made it a popular photographic choice.

 

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Pioneer Valley Railroad at Westfield, Massachusetts, October 1984.


Alco S-2 106.

Alco switcher
Among Pioneer Valley’s early locomotives was Alco S-2 switcher number 106 which came to the line from sister Pinsly road Frankfort & Cincinnati. On October 12, 1984 it stands at Westfield, Massachusetts engine house ready for its trip to Holyoke and back.

I exposed this view of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s Alco S-2 switcher with my old Leica 3A on black & white film on October 12, 1984. On the same day, I’d arranged with the railroad to ride this locomotive to Holyoke and back.

It was a memorable trip. In Holyoke we worked the Graham branch that followed the banks of old canals. Several times we had to stop to open and close gates across the line.

I featured this photo in my recent book North American Locomotives that features railroad by railroad locomotive profiles of many different lines. In addition to the Class 1 carriers, I also profiled a variety of smaller lines, many of which are my personal favorites.

 

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Quiet Day at Palmer Yard, 1979.

Kid with a Camera.

Central Vermont Alco RS-11
Looking south at Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts Yard in spring 1979. The Rocket was loaded circus style using a ramp in the yard. RS-11s were typically assigned to this train.

In spring 1979, my dad and I visited Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts yard. At the time Palmer activity tended to be nocturnal. A lone RS-11 for The Rocket (Palmer-St Albans, Vermont piggyback) was the only locomotive in town.

I made a few exposures on Kodachrome 64 with my Leica 3A. At the time I was in 7th grade at Monson Junior-Senior High School. Admittedly my photographic skills were rudimentary. The photos are passable, but a decent record of the scene.

I wish I’d made more photos of CV’s piggyback trains. By the time I understood what it was about, it had stopped running. I have a few images of The Rocket on the road, but not very many.

Alco RS-11

Detail view of CV RS-11 3611 at Palmer in spring 1979. RS-11s were among my favorite diesels and I’d see them regularly at Palmer.

 

 

 

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Conrail SD80MACs Near Middlefield, Massachusetts.

Twenty Cylinder Monsters Roar West on July 19, 1997.

General Motors SD80MACs
On July 19, 1997, a pair of Conrail SD80MACs is roaring westward (but progressing at crawl) on the 1.67 percent climb just passed Milepost 130 near the old Middlefield Station location. It is here that the 1912 line relocation rejoined the original 1840s Western Rail Road alignment. (seen disappearing into the trees immediately to the left of the SD80MACs) Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s and Nikon 80-200mm zoom lens.

Between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, I made many trips to the old Boston & Albany ‘West End.’ I often focused on the east slope of Washington Hill, where the combination of scenery, ruling grade and traffic patterns was especially conducive to my photography.

In 1995, Conrail ordered a small fleet of SD80MAC diesels from General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division. These were Conrail’s first AC traction locomotives and specially painted in a new white and light blue livery. (Later also applied to a small order of SD70MACs).

They were also the only modern GM diesel locomotives delivered domestically with the 20 cylinder 710 engine.

From early 1996 until CSX assumed operation, pairs of SD80MACs were common on the old B&A route. I made a concerted effort to make images of these machines. I exposed this color slide in the summer of 1997 when the locomotives were still relatively new.

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Electro-Motive Switcher in Holyoke, Massachusetts August 1987.

Capturing an Engine in its Environment.

Enthusiasm counts for a lot. I had just recently purchased a second-hand Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron, and I was seeing photos everywhere I looked.

I often poked around Holyoke, where the mix of 19th century mill buildings and decaying railroad infrastructure offered endless possibilities for photography.

EMD SW1
Springfield Terminal 1401 switches a carload of scrap metal at the north-end of Holyoke Yard on August 20, 1987. Exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.

At that time, Guilford Transportation Industries was the big show in town. In addition to several through freights and a local, a switcher was often on duty drilling the Boston & Maine yard.

On August 20, 1987, I found this former Boston & Maine SW1, recently repainted and renumbered as Springfield Terminal 1401. I exposed this image from the street, across from the old passenger station. For me it captures the feel of Holyoke at the time.

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MBTA at Walpole, Massachusetts, March 2, 1988

New EMD F40PH-2C with Classic Semaphore.

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.

Walpole, Massachusetts.
MBTA F40PH-2C crosses the diamond at Walpole. In 1988 this was still protected by New Haven-era semaphores. Exposed on Koadchrome 25 film using a Leica M@ and 35mm Summicron lens.

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.

 

 

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West Warren, Massachusetts, October 2000.

Another Exercise with 120 Size Transparency Film.

In yesterday’s post, I told about working with a Hasselblad and 120 Kodachrome. Although, 35mm slide film was my stable format for more than 25 years, I’ve periodically dabbled in larger formats.

CSX main line along the Quaboag River.
The former Boston & Albany mainline along the Quaboag River in October 2000, exposed with a Rolleiflex Model T on 120 Fujichrome Velvia 50.

I made this image of CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts in October 2000 using a Rolleiflex Model T with f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens to expose 120 size Fujichrome Velvia 50.

While I have many images of trains at West Warren, this remains among my favorite. The trees and brush had been cleared from the north side of the tracks, opening up a angle on the tracks not often possible here. I’ll like the stumps too. My grandfather would have approved.

The lack of train allows for good juxtaposition between the railway, waterfall, and old mill buildings on the far side of the Quaboag River. If I’d let a train into the scene, it would either cause a distraction or block the waterfall. One solution to this puzzle is to work from the other side of the tracks, but that loses the timeless quality offered by this angle.

Nearly peak autumn color is a nice touch, while soft overcast light adds to the autumnal atmosphere.

Caption: The former Boston & Albany mainline along the Quaboag River in October 2000, exposed with a Rolleiflex Model T on 120 Fujichrome Velvia 50.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited East of Palmer, Massachusetts

 Difference of Decades

About four miles east of the center of Palmer (Depot Village) CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline passes a bucolic setting at the bottom of a broad sweeping field as it heads up the Quaboag River Valley. This is best viewed from Route 67, not far east of the split with Route 20.

One summer’s evening more than 30 years ago, my father and I stood out in the field to make a photo of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (train 449). Since that time I’ve returned many times to photograph trains.

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited.
On March 15, 1986, Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited heads toward Worcester and Boston on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany main line. Exposed on 120 sized black & white film using a Rollei Model T equipped with an f3.5 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.

I’ve paired two sets of images here. The black & white photograph was made on March 15, 1986 (‘Beware the Ides of March!’). The color images I exposed a week ago Sunday (July 14, 2013).

Among the changes to the scene over the years has been an increase in undergrowth. A more dramatic change was the recent installation of a voltaic farm (solar panels) on the northside of the field. This alteration has greatly changed the character of the place.

According to an article in a recent Palmer Journal Register, perimeter fencing may soon encircle the voltaic farm. Undoubtedly this progress will further improve the photographs made here beyond all previous measures of aethetic virtue.

Passenger train with voltaic farm.
Approaching CP79 (at the east end of the Palmer controlled siding)Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited—train 448, catches the golden glow of evening as it passes the field along Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens.
Amtrak with solar panels.
The recently installed voltaic farm adds a lovely rustic quality to this bucolic New England scene. Soon electricity will be pulsing from these panels to the electric power grid reducing all forms of polution in the region.

 

Friday Night in Palmer, Massachusetts, July 12, 2013

 

Another Train Intensive Evening

Friday evening  July 12, 2013 represented my latest opportunity to watch and photography trains after sundown as this familiar location. In previous posts I’ve outlined my connections to Palmer (see: Palmer, Massachusetts, Friday Night, June 28, 2013, also Foggy Night in Palmer 28 Years Ago . . ., and Drowning the Light.

Freight cars at night.
A headlight illuminates freight cars at New England Central’s Palmer Yard on Friday July 12, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Although Palmer is a relatively small town, it has long been the focus of railway activity. Today, it hosts yards for both New England Central and CSX, as well as nominal terminal facilities for Mass-Central.

CSX has a four-mile dispatchers controlled siding the runs from CP79 to CP83 (the numbers are based loosely interpret mileage from South Station, Boston). Just past the west switch at CP83 is the level crossing with New England Central—colloquially known as the Palmer Diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant occupies the old Union Station between the two lines.

Palmer Diamond
New England Central home signal at the ‘Palmer Diamond’ on July 12, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Palmer Diamond.
New England Central 606 heading north across CSX’s former Boston & Albany main line. Lumix LX3 photo.

After 10pm, trains converged on CP83. A CSX westbound on the main track met an eastward freight running via the controlled siding, as New England Central’s northward job 606 was looking to cross CSX to double its train together before heading toward Vermont.

The awkward nature of the former Central Vermont yard at Palmer complicates operations over the CSX diamond. Not only is the yard too short to hold long trains, but the yard was built on a grade which crests at the CSX (former Boston & Albany crossing).

Palmer, Massachusetts.
A CSX westward freight holds at CP83 as New England Central 606 heads north. The Steaming Tender is located in the old Palmer Union Station. Lumix LX3 photo.

Challenges for railroaders produce opportunities for photography, especially in the evening hours. As the railroads weaved their trains through Palmer, I made a series of photos.

However, time was catching me up: I’d had a long day and by 11pm, I needed a bit of that elusive commodity—sleep. As Bob Buck would have said, I was the ‘hero’, and departed as more trains were focused on Palmer. The approach lit signals at CP83 were still lit when I hit the road. The regular gang can report on what I missed!

 

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Happy Birthday Tracking the Light!

 

Tracking the Light’s first full year.

Benburb Street LUAS Crash
Benburb Street LUAS Crash

 

It was exactly one year ago (July 19, 2012) that Tracking the Light made its debut.

In the last year this site has had nearly 24,000 visits.

Of the nearly 235 posts, the following topics have been the most popular:

1)    Gallery Post 1: Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012 

2)    LUAS Tram Crash on Benburb, Street Dublin September 10, 2012 

3)    Installment 1: Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont

4)    Gallery Post 2: Looking Back on Irish Railways 1998-2003

5) Tracking the Light Extra! Breaking Views!

Irish Rail 0117077 leads a wagon transfer over the River Liffey at Islandbridge at 4:25pm on April 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Irish Rail 0117077 leads a wagon transfer over the River Liffey at Islandbridge at 4:25pm on April 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Among the posts that drew the least interest:

1) Sunset at Bonn, Germany, August 1998

2) Chicago & North Western Station, Chicago August 1984

 

Deutche Bahn InterCity train 522 Berchtesgadener Land (Berchtesgaden—Hamburg) catches the glint of the setting sun at Bonn, Germany. Compare this view with that of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986. (posted December 7, 2012). Exposed on Fuji Sensia II (ISO 100) slide film using a Nikon F3T fitted with f2.8 135mm lens. Exposure calculated manually with a handheld Sekonic Studio deluxe light meter (approximately f8 1/500 sec).
Deutche Bahn InterCity train 522 Berchtesgadener Land (Berchtesgaden—Hamburg) catches the glint of the setting sun at Bonn, Germany. Compare this view with that of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986. (posted December 7, 2012). Exposed on Fuji Sensia II (ISO 100) slide film using a Nikon F3T fitted with f2.8 135mm lens. Exposure calculated manually with a handheld Sekonic Studio deluxe light meter (approximately f8 1/500 sec).
Chicago, August 19, 1984. Exposed on Kodak Safety Film 5063; bulk loaded Tri-x 400, exposed at ISO 400, processed in Microdol-X.
Chicago, August 19, 1984. Exposed on Kodak Safety Film 5063; bulk loaded Tri-x 400, exposed at ISO 400, processed in Microdol-X.

As a result of my careful marketing analysis, I’ve determine the best ways for Tracking the Light to go viral are:

1)   Encourage Sperry to plan a safely staged ‘derailment’ on Dublin’s LUAS route (to demonstrate the dangers of hidden rail fractures, perhaps) using former a Central Vermont Railway switcher painted in Irish Rail grey and then photograph it on a dull day using my Lumix LX-3. (Along the lines of the theatrically arranged ‘cornfield meets’ of the late Victorian era.)

2)    Hire a Korean guy with sunglasses to dance around near the tracks. (Gangnam Style) —hey, with more than 1.5 Billion hits, something must be working, right??

3)    Offer free Twinkies to all Tracking the Light subscribers.

4)    Plan a merger with LeakyWiks.

5)    Encourage everyone who enjoys the site to spread the word (and links) with their friends and urge regular visitors to subscribe! (there’s a box for comments toward the bottom of the posts and a box to tick that enables the subscription feature—admittedly this is a bit Kafkaesque, and hopefully I’ll find a better means of enabling subscriptions soon!)

 

Incidentally, my elaborate plans to import a German electric for demonstration were to be aborted, unfortunately Amtrak didn’t get the memo! 😉

Thanks again for checking Tracking the Light!

Brian Solomon

 

railroad tracks.
Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Omaha mainline at sunset.
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Central Vermont Railway, Three Rivers, Massachusetts May 1984

My Rare Photo of a CV Switcher. 

 

Central Vermont 1510
Central Vermont SW1200 1510 works the Tampax Factory spur at Bridge Street in Three Rivers, Massachusetts back in May 1984. Exposed on Ektachrome 200 with a Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens. Scan modified in post processing to improve contrast and exposure and minimize dust spots.

The other day, I was showing Tim Doherty some photo locations around Three Rivers, Massachusetts. I described to him how the railroad once had a spur into the old Tampax factory.

The spur (siding) had a switch off the mainline near the station (demolished many years ago), then crossed Main Street and made  a sharp curve behind the liquor store before crossing Bridge Street. There’s still vestiges of this track today.

Back in 1984, Dan Howard was visiting from Needham and he and I drove around the Palmer area making railway photos (as you do). The prize of the day, was this photo of CV’s SW1200 1510 working the Tampax factory spur on the Bridge Street Crossing.

It is one of the few photos I have of a CV switcher working in the Palmer area, and one of the few times I caught a rail movement on the Tampax spur. (Might creative minds develop some accompanying humor  ??)

This photo was exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 200 slide film with my Leica 3A using my 50mm Summitar lens. It was a sultry dull day, and not the best for photography. While this is not a world class image, it captures a scene never to be repeated.

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Central Vermont Railway at Stafford Springs, Connecticut

Spring 1984

I made this image during my senior year of high school. I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but on that day I’d followed Central Vermont Railway’s southward freight from Palmer to Stafford. I made photos of it south of downtown Monson off Route 32, and at the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line.

Central Vermont at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in Spring 1984.
Shortly before the train came into view a cloud conveniently softened the sun. Central Vermont GP9s ease toward a grade crossing at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. With a carefully composed vertical in my rangefinder’s view, I released my Leica’s shutter with an audible snap. Many years later I scanned the negative.

This view in downtown Stafford Springs has always intrigued me. The railroad runs tight to a row of buildings along the main street in town. Today, the brick building featured in the photograph hosts a trendy coffee shop where I sometimes meet my friend Roger Ingraham to wait for trains to pass and discuss photography.

In 2013, New England Central operates the railroad, but the scene hasn’t changed all that much. I still make photos here from time to time.

I exposed this image with my old Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens, and used a Weston Master 3 light meter to assist in exposure calculation. I processed the film myself in Microdol-X. Typically, I used a weak formula to save money. By doing so, I inadvertently avoided over developing my negatives (which was a flawed inclination of mine at the time).

I made a few minor contrast modifications in post processing and cleaned up a few small spots and scratches on this nearly 30 year-old 35mm negative.

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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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CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, June 26, 2013

 

Ballast Train at Work

On the evening of June 26, 2013, I arrived at East Brookfield to find Dennis LeBeau observing CSX’s undercutting operations immediately east of CP64.

CSX ballast train.
CSX ballast train in the East Brookfield yard. Exposed with Canon 7D and 28-135mm lens. RAW file modified in post processing to adjust for contrast and exposure with mild sharpening.

Over the last few years, CSX has been improving its former Boston & Albany route between Selkirk Yards (near Albany, New York) and its Worcester, Massachusetts terminal.

Conrail improved clearances on the line in the mid-1980s and began running international containers on double-stack trains in 1989 (I first photographed an eastward Conrail double-stack in Spring 1989). However, CSX’s desire to run larger domestic containers on double stack trains has required further clearance improvement.

Once complete, the Boston & Albany route will be clearance compatible with most of CSX’s former Conrail mainline, which should allow for more traffic to be sent to Worcester. The clearance improvements are coincident with the recent closure of Beacon Park Yard at Alston, Massachusetts in favor of expanded facilities in Worcester.

On Wednesday evening, CSX had every track in East Brookfield occupied, as it cleared equipment from the mainline to allow east and westbound freight to pass (Amtrak had cancelled train 448 (Boston section of Lake Shore Limited). Once traffic had passed, work crews resumed their re-ballasting of the recently undercut mainline.

Three trains at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
On the evening of June 26, 2013, East Brookfield was a hot bed of railway activity. Dennis downplayed the scene, ‘I’ve seen it like this before . . .with Conrail in the 1980s!’. Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX intermodal train.
A General Electric Evolution-series diesel leads an eastward intermodal freight through the work-zone east of CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Decades ago Boston & Albany had three main tracks between East Brookfield and Charlton. A tower near the location of today’s signals controlled the plant. Today, the line is dispatched remotely from Selkirk, New York. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX Intermodal train East Brookfield_
Wide view: A General Electric Evolution-series diesel leads an eastward intermodal freight through the work-zone east of CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. The old B&A station once stood to the right of the mainline. This burned to the ground in 2010. Lumix LX3 photo.

I was one of a half-dozen civilians observing the activity. Late in the day, the sun emerged from a cloudbank to provide some soft lighting and I kept three cameras busy, documenting the changes.

East Brookfield, Mass.
Observing the on-going work at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Recording changes on CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Recording changes on CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

 

CSX's westward Q427 eases over freshly ballasted track at a walking pace as it approaches CP 64 at East Brookfield. The signals showed 'red over flashing green' —Limited Clear. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX’s westward Q427 eases over freshly ballasted track at a walking pace as it approaches CP 64 at East Brookfield. The signals showed ‘red over flashing green’ —Limited Clear. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
East Brookfield, Mass.
Dennis LeBeau rolls by Q427. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

CSX ballast train at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
CSX ballast train at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Ballast train at work.
Discharging ballast on the former Boston & Albany at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Ballast train at work.
Discharging ballast on the former Boston & Albany at East Brookfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
SD40-2 detail.
CSX SD40-2 8854 works at ballast train at East Brookfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
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Amtrak’s Springfield—New Haven Shuttle at Berlin, Connecticut

 

Two Years Ago Today, June 20, 2011.

Amtrak in Connecticut
Amtrak shuttle approaches Berlin. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens

 

Exactly two years ago, I delivered my brother Sean to the Amtrak station in Berlin, Connecticut. He was on his way back to Philadelphia after a brief visit to Massachusetts.  Amtrak’s Berlin agent, Bill Sample, is always very friendly and helpful,  so we prefer Berlin over some of the closer stations.

I made this image of the southward shuttle train using my Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. There’s a lot of history in this simple photo. The train is led by a cab-control-car rebuilt from one of the old Budd-built Metroliner multiple units. Today’s single main track doesn’t tell much of a story, but Berlin was once a busy junction.

While Pan Am Southern’s route toward Plainville and Waterbury diverges here (at the left), this only sees about one round trip per week. Historically there was a diamond crossing here between New Haven Railroad lines. Also, one of New Haven Railroad’s earliest experimental electrified schemes reached Berlin, but I’m not sure if that would have been in this scene or not.

If all goes according to plan, the double track to Springfield, Massachusetts will someday be restored.

Related articles

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Ayer Massachusetts, June 5, 2013

 

MBTA Surprise.

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.

MBTA Ayer Mass.

MBTA train 420 pauses for passengers at Ayer on June 5, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.

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.

MBTA equipment train at Ayer.
An MBTA equipment move is coming off the Ayer wye on tit journey from South Station to North Station via Worcester, Clinton and Ayer. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.
CP AY
MBTA trains at Ayer, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.

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.

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Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

 

Lacking Skill but Enthusiastic

In1982, I was visiting my friend Dan Howard in Needham, Massachusetts. We’d made a day of riding bicycles to Framingham and back to photograph trains. (Neither of us were old enough to hold a valid driving license).

At the time, I was very enthusiastic about the railroad, and eager to capture it on film. Yet, I had very little conception of how to make photos. Furthermore, while I had a reasonably high quality camera, this was entirely dependant on my ability to set it properly (aperture, shutter speed, and focus)

I was using a 1930s-era Leica 3A with an f2.0 Summitar lens. This didn’t have the crutches provided with most cameras today: no auto focus, no auto exposure, no zoom-lens, and no instant response digital display window.

Simply getting film in the camera required the aid of a Swiss Army knife. While focusing the Leica using the rangefinder was a bit abstract. To gauge exposure, I used at Weston Master III light meter. With this camera I exposed  Kodachome slides, and black & white 35mm film that I processed in the kitchen sink.

Framinham, Mass.
Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens on Kodak black & white negative film; scanned with an Epson V600, and processed digitally using PhotoShop (to enhance contrast, and remove blemishes.

To simply get a photo of any kind, I had base level camera-operating skills,  but no sense for how to make real railroad photos. I didn’t appreciate conventional angles, nor did I know what to crop out or what  to feature. I knew precious little about working with light or how to make optimum use of the film media. My chemical processing skills were rudimentary, at best.

I just really wanted to make railway pictures! And, honestly, it’s a miracle that I got any results at all.

Thankfully on that day, Dan & I met a friendly and helpful grade crossing gate keeper, who manually worked the gates where former Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroad lines crossed the main street. He chatted with us and shared knowledge about when trains were coming. (Incidentally, I made a color slide or two of him working the gates, which seemed like the thing to do).

Toward the end of the day, a Conrail local departed Framingham’s North Yard, heading across the street and over the diamonds with the B&A on its way toward the Attleboro and beyond. I made this image ‘against the light’ looking into the setting sun, with a GP15-1 leading the local (which is about to cross the street) and some MBTA Budd cars in front of the old station.

Sometimes raw and unchecked enthusiasm produces a more interesting image than one crafted by skill, but hampered by ambivalence (or over thinking the photographic process.) Modern photographic scanners allow for me to interpret what I captured more than 30 years ago on film, and compensate for my lack of technical skill.

 

 

 

 

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Ayer, Massachusetts, Wednesday May 29, 2013

 

Three views of Norfolk Southern General Electric Dash-9s.

Often I look to put trains in their environment by trying to find angles that show context. Not every railway scene is scenic. And, in the North East, more often than not, the environment around the railway is pretty rough looking.  But that is the scene, isn’t it?

Street scene at Ayer, Massachusetts.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; exposed at 1/400th sec at f.5.6 ISO400, exposure set manually.

On Wednesday May 29, 2013, Rich Reed and I were making photos of trains on former Boston & Maine lines around Ayer, Massachusetts. Rich has lived in the area for many years and is well versed on the history of the area.

Among the trains we saw was this Pan Am Southern local switching a set of autoracks. In the 1970s, a GP9 would have often worked Boston & Maine’s Ayer local. Today, Pan Am Southern runs the railroad, and the local is a pair of Norfolk Southern GE six-motor DASH-9s working long hood first.

I made several images east of the Ayer station. One of my favorites is the view looking down the street that features a parked postal truck and cars with the train serving as background instead of the main subject. It’s an ordinary everyday scene, yet it’s part of the history, and someday it will be different. Everything changes.

Norfolk Southern DASH9-40CW 9647 at Ayer.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; exposed at 1/400th sec at f.5.6 ISO400, exposure set manually.
NS GE diesels in Ayer, Mass.
Exposed with a Lumix LX3 set on Aperture Priority Mode; f2.8 at 1/200th second, ISO 80.

Which of these images will be more memorable in 50 years time? Someone might wonder why the Post Office needed a delivery truck, or what all the wires were for. You just never know.

Learn more about Norfolk Southern diesels: see my book North American Locomotives.

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Drowning the Light

 

 

Something a Bit Darker:  Enigmatic or just playing around?

Palmer in Gloom and Rain, May 24, 2013.

Friday evening May 24, 2013 wasn’t the driest night in recent days. I was in Palmer, Massachusetts to meet some friends for dinner. On the way in, I timed my arrival to intercept CSX’s westward Q437 (Worcester, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York). I’d learned that one of the specially painted ‘Diversity in Motion’ AC4400CWs was leading.

The day was in its final moments with just a hint of blue in the sky. The signals at CP 83 (dispatchers control point, measuring 83 miles from South Station, Boston) lit up moments after I arrived. That gave me about six minutes to think up a photo solution. Since the car-park (parking lot) at Steaming Tender was comparatively empty, I opted for a broadside pan. All I had to work with was my Lumix LX3.

Pan photo of CSX.
CSX Q437 rolls through CP83, Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX3 photo.

I set the LX3 for 200 ISO, switched ‘off’ the image stabilizer (I’ve found this tends to interfere with long pans), and selected ‘aperture priority’ with f2.6 and +1/3 exposure compensation. Then I set the focus manually and waited. There’s a slow order through Palmer, and Q437 passed traveling not faster than 30mph. I made a long pan and the camera selected a shutter speed of 1/3.2 seconds. A long exposure, but not long enough. I still needed to lighten the image in post processing using the program’s ‘curve’s’ feature.

After dinner, it was raining steadily. Rich Reed, Bill Keay & I returned to CP 83 to observe the arrival of a southward New England Central freight. I made a couple of more long pans in the gloom of night. Then, I placed the camera on an old railroad tie to make one final exposure of the train in the rain.

New England Central freight arrives at Palmer yard. Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6 1.3 seconds, panned hand held in the rain.
New England Central freight arrives at Palmer yard. Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6 1.3 seconds, panned hand held in the rain.
New England Central freight arrives at Palmer yard. Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6 1.6 seconds, panned hand held in the rain.
I grabbed a second pan shot, as with the previous image, this one was with the Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6. Slightly longer exposure: 1.6 seconds, also panned hand held in the rain.
Rain at Palmer yard. May 24, 2013. New England Central freight . Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.5 1/1.6 seconds.
Rain at Palmer yard. May 24, 2013. New England Central freight . Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.5 1/1.6 seconds.

Something a bit different anyway and it cost me nothing but a few moments of my time (and suffering some gratuitous dampness.)

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CSX Freights on the former Boston & Albany in New York State.

Clear Blue Dome on May 17, 2013.

When possible I combine trips to take care of both business and errands, while leaving appropriate intervals for photography. Ideally, I’ll organizing my time so I can conduct business during the heat of the day, while leaving the mornings and evening free to make photos when light is the best.

Last Friday May 17, 2013 was a perfect execution of this philosophy. I’d arranged to meet my friend and fellow railway photographer, John Pickett at 10:30 am to review some material for up coming book projects. John lives near Albany, so I departed Massachusetts in the early hours and aimed to work the far-west end of CSX’s former B&A route west of the Massachusetts-New York State line.

My first location was State Line itself. This is conveniently accessed by a grade crossing within sight of the railroad’s state-line marker. I’d made a nice photograph of a Conrail eastbound here 25 years ago, and I wanted to repeat the effort with a CSX freight.

Mass Line
The former Boston & Albany mainline at the historic location on the Massachusetts-New York State Line on the morning of May 17, 2013.

Patience rewarded me with an eastward CSX intermodal freight, probably train Q022 (Columbus, Ohio to Worcester, Massachusetts), lead by former Conrail SD60M 8774. Since the line is a single main at this location, I moved west to Chatham, New York to wait for the westward Q019 (carries freight from Worcester to Chicago), and intermodal train that typically passes in the mid-morning. Along the way, I reviewed known locations, checking for places to photograph in the afternoon.

SD60M
I was happy to catch this Conrail-era EMD SD60M leading at State Line. Canon 7D fitted with 28-135mm lens.
CSX freight
Trailing view of the eastward freight passing the old State Line marker. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Chatham, NY.
CSX Q019 passes the former Boston & Albany passenger station at Chatham, New York on May 17, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

Old B&A railroad station
Old Boston & Albany station at Chatham, New York. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

After 5pm, having finished my business with John (which incidentally included some photography along the Hudson River that will be featured in a later post), I returned to Chatham, picking a favorite location mid-way along the dispatchers controlled siding that extends east of town to the old ‘Bottleneck Bridge’ where the line crosses the New York State Thruway Extension. Here, I waited for the westward Q423 (Worcester to CSX’s yard at Selkirk, New York), which passed shortly after 6 pm.

CSX SD70ACe
An SD70ACe leads CSX’s Q423 at milepost QB173.7 east of Chatham, New York on May 17, 2013. Canon EOS 7D w 28-135mm lens set at 105mm. Exposed manually: ISO 200 f7.1 at 1/500th sec.

I consider myself very fortunate that in this situation my past experiences combined with an appreciation for CSX’s contemporary operations actually produced results. Not every effort yields ideal results; so despite planning and knowledge, I may have been skunked if trains didn’t show up when I anticipated them.

 

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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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South Station Reflections November 23, 1988.

 

Stainless Steel Budd-Rail Diesel Car Catches the Light.

Rail Diesel Car.
Unmodified scan of a Kodachrome slide. MBTA RDC at South Station Boston, Massachusetts, November 23, 1988.

 

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.

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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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New England Central, Monson, Massachusetts, May 8, 2013

The ‘Pride of Palmer’ Climbs Stateline Hill.

Yesterday morning, jetlag had me awake and alert considerably earlier than I’m accustomed. By 7 am, I’d photographed three trains on two railroads in two states and was on my way home to get some work done. Crazy thing, jetlag.

Tracks in Monson, Massachusetts
New England Central’s former Central Vermont Railway line looking north toward Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts. Canon 7D with an f2.0 100mm lens.

The highlight of the morning’s impromptu photo excursion was this image of New England Central’s ‘Pride of Palmer’ (GP38 3851) climbing through Monson, Massachusetts with a short freight for Willimantic, Connecticut. This is passing Monson’s ‘tornado alley’, where, nearly two years ago a freak afternoon twister made splinters and memories of  many fine buildings and trees.

New England Central GP38 in Monson, Mass.
At 6:16 am on May 8, 2013, New England Central 3851 approaches the ‘Monson tunnel’, now nearly an underpass below Main Street. Canon 7D with an f2.0 100mm lens, ISO 400 exposed at f4.0 1/250th, white balance set for ‘cloudy.’
Train in Monson, Mass.
New England Central 3851 approaches Main Street, Monson. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200. Image modified with Adobe Photoshop to compensate for exposure extremes and to warm the color balance.

 

 

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