Last May (2016), I made this view of an eastward CSX stack train descending the old Boston & Albany grade over Washington Hill.
I was just east of the old Middlefield Station (long defunct), where my late friend Bob Buck had exposed some classic images of B&A’s A1 Berkshires.
A hill behind me blocks the rising sun, until after 6:30am in May. I could hear the train descending as the first rays of sun tickled the iron. Morning clouds waft across the sky making for inky shadows.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is on auto pilot.
Tracking the Light attempts to post daily! (even when plagued by technical faults, internet outages, and an ambitious travel schedule).
Since 1841, the rails of the old Western Rail Road (later Boston & Albany, and for the time-being CSXT’s Boston Line) have served as a conduit of commerce through the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.
I made this photograph at sunrise using my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens and a graduated neutral density filter to control contrast.
My friend Mel Patrick has often posed the question: ‘must all railroad photos show trains?’
This morning (May 16, 2016), I was out on the Boston & Albany (CSX Boston Line) for the Ringling Bros circus extra. While waiting word came over the wire that a Norfolk Southern intermodal train for Ayer, Massachusetts was detouring on CSX.
A derailment near Charlemont, Massachusetts (on NS/Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine route) on Saturday resulted in a traffic disruption and thus this very unusual move.
A CSXT SD40-2 led the Norfolk Southern consist, presumably because of the cab signaling requirements on the Boston Line .
All photos exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 near milepost 129 east of Middlefield, Massachusetts.
Years ago, the former Boston & Albany ‘West End’ was among my favorite places to photograph. The cosmic qualities of the railroad’s east slope of Washington Hill seemed to offer unlimited vantage points.
This can be a serene place, especially in the early morning.
On one of the longest days of the year, I made my way trackside, and revisited places that I haven’t been to in several years.
At Middlefield, I met fellow railroad photographer Don Pasquarelli and we compared experiences.
These days, the old B&A route is not as busy as I recalled it from Conrail days in the 1990s. Back then a traffic swell had the railroad alive with trains in the morning. Based on my old photo notes, I’d expect to see as many as ten trains between dawn and lunch time.
By contrast, on this June morning we saw five moves over the railroad, which was two more than I expected. But today’s trains are only part of the story. For me, the B&A West End is now more about the place than about what passes through it.
Twenty Cylinder Monsters Roar West on July 19, 1997.
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.
Sunday, October 3, 1993 was a fine autumn day. I was visiting New England, after some eight months in California, and met my friend Bob Buck along the Boston & Albany route at Palmer. He was reading his Sunday paper, and looked up, “Are you interested in going to the West End?”
Silly, question! Bob had introduced me to the old B&A West End a dozen years earlier, and as the living expert on the B&W, there was no better guide for my favorite line. So off we went in Bob’s Ford van, via the Mass-Pike to Westfield and then up the mountain. The railroad wasn’t especially busy that day, but we saw a few trains.
Our first stop was Chester. Then we went up to Middlefield, a location that Bob had found way back in 1946. On that day he’d watched B&A’s mighty A1 class Berkshires on freight. Those days were long gone, but Bob spoke of them as if they were yesterday! We walked west to the famed Twin Ledges where Bob had made many great photos of steam power, then as the daylight faded returned to the old Middlefield Station location (the building was demolished decades earlier).
Middlefield is a peaceful bucolic place and an idyllic setting to watch and photograph trains. Toward the end of sunlight, we heard a eastward train descending. Since I’d made dozens of photographs at this location over the years, I thought to try something a little different, and so I framed the train with these leaves around it.
Shafts of rich afternoon sun illuminated the golden foliage, casting a bit of golden glint light on the rail. It was a stunning scene. But, just as the Conrail train crawled into view, clouds obscured the sun. Poor show.
Not withstanding, I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 with my Nikon F3T, making a last second exposure compensation; f2.8 1/125. K25 was a forgiving film, but this wasn’t enough exposure, and the slide came back from Kodak looking dark and uninviting. Not much use in a slide show. I put it away and haven’t looked at it since. Until today that is.
Yesterday’s photographic folly has become today’s project. I can’t exactly catch a set of Conrail C30-7As working the Boston & Albany route anymore, and this image retains strong composition despite its flaws. What was merely a dark slide in 1993, can now be adjusted with Adobe Photoshop.
Below I’ve displayed four images. The original ‘Dark’ image. Plus three altered scans. Option 1 involves little more than a quick adjustment with the ‘curves’ feature to compensate for under exposure, while Options 2 and 3 involved varying degrees of manipulation to compensate for exposure, color balance and apparent sharpness. I’ve used various masking, layering and other types of selective adjustment. Which is the best image? You decide. I make no apologies, It’s an old dark slide, there’s no right or wrong.