Tag Archives: Millers Falls

Millers Falls High Bridge—Revisited.

The early 20thcentury pin-connected deck truss over the Millers River at its namesake Millers Falls, Massachusetts is one of my favorite places to picture New England Central freights.

On our chase of New England Central last week (Thursday April 25, 2019) photographer Mike Gardner and I arrived at Millers Falls several minutes ahead of 611 on its return run to Bellows Falls, Vermont from Palmer, Massachusetts.

We set up on the sidewalk of the Route 63 highway bridge over the river. For these views I opted for a more southerly position on the road bridge in order to feature budding trees that indicates the arrival of Spring in the Millers valley.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed several digital views as the train’s leading locomotives eased over the antique spans. To me, the SD45/SD40 style locomotives  seem out of proportion with the steam era bridge, which of course is half the attraction, long may it last!

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Vintage Chrome: Millers Falls High Bridge—Then and Now.

You’ll need to click on Tracking the Light to see the vintage photo.

On January 25, 2019, Pat Yough and I were aiming to catch New England Central 611 on the Millers Falls high bridge over the Millers River. This stunning 1905 pin-connected deck truss has been one my favorite spans to photograph in Massachusetts.

New England Central 611 at Millers Falls, Massachusetts on January 25, 2019 Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 27mm pancake lens.

I made my first photographs of the bridge nearly 33 years ago: On May 14, 1986, I’d followed Central Vermont 447 north from Amherst (where I was enrolled at Hampshire College). The train was running at an abnormal time, which gave me the opportunity to make a late afternoon photo at Millers Falls.

Although I made some nice sun lit photographs on Kodachrome 64 of the CV GP9s and CN M-420 diesel working across the bridges, two problems vexed me and resulted in these slides spending more than three decades in the ‘seconds file’.

As the train rattled across the bridge, a huge flock of pigeons soared in the sky, which at the time ruined the image for me, since many of the birds looked like dark blobs that resembled dust on the emulsion. The other difficulty was more serious.

Central Vermont Railway 447 northbound at Millers Falls at 4:50PM on May 14, 1986.

I was using an old Leitz 50mm collapsible Summitar  lens which had a loose front element and had lost its critical sharpness. Although on a small scale the photos made with this lens appear ok, when enlarged they are unacceptably soft. I’ve electronically sharpened the photo here to make it more appealing for internet presentation.

Ultimately, I discontinued the use of the soft lens, but it took me several months before I recognized and accepted the problem, and found funds to rectify it.

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Millers Falls High Bridge—Two Views.

Why make one photo and when you can get two?

I like to work with more than one form of media.

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.

And that is why I do both.

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Zoom Lens at Millers Falls.

A ‘zoom lens’ is a lens with adjustable focal length. Often the term is confused with a telephoto. Where a zoom lens may be a telephoto, it isn’t necessarily so.

In the case of my 18-135mm Fujinon lens, this is a wide-angle to medium telephoto range zoom.

I used this to good advantage the other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts to make a sequence of photos of New England Central’s southward road freight 611.

Both of these photos were exposed from the same vantage point. All I did was adjust the focal length of the zoom as the train approached.

Telephoto view; 18-135mm zoom lens set at 116mm (equivalent of 174mm on a 35mm film camera).

Wide angle view from the same vantage point. 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens set to 23.3mm (equivalent to a 35mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.) Incidentally; when making these comparisons it is crucial to distinguish between historic  film size and the focal length of the lenses. Both photos were exposed digitally.

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Sunburst on the Boston & Maine.

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?

You could

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.

12mm Zeiss Touit, ISO 800, f22 at 1/125th of a second.

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Millers Falls High Bridge—October 2015.

When in doubt, try again. Earlier in the week Mike Gardner and I had missed the New England Central at Millers Falls, Massachusetts. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but we’d misqued, got caught in traffic, and just not been at the right place at the right time. This happens.

It was a bright morning. From recent experience I knew that New England Central job 611 departs Brattleboro Yard for Palmer sometime after 8 am.

The former Central Vermont Railway Millers Falls high bridge. A pin-connected deck-style Pratt truss built in 1906.
The former Central Vermont Railway Millers Falls high bridge—a pin-connected deck-style Pratt truss built in 1906.

I drove directly to Millers Falls, I did not pass Go, I did not collect $200. I parked and walked (I fought my way through thicket and briars) to a known good spot on a rock near the shore of the Millers River and there I waited.

This was my reward. And yes, I also exposed a color slide.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera.

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DAILY POST: Vermonter at Dusk

Ethereal View at Millers Falls, January 2014.

Tim Doherty asked me a few weeks back, “Have you ever tried a shot from the north side of the Millers Falls high bridge?” I’d looked a this several times, but was discouraged by the row of trees between the road and the railroad bridge.

Amtrak‘s northward Vermonter crosses the Millers River on January 12, 2014.

So, on January 12, 2014, at the end of the day (light), Tim and I went to this location with the aim of making images of Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossing the aged Central Vermont span.


As there was only a hint of light left, I upped the ISO sensitivity of my Canon EOS 7D and I switched the color balance to ‘tungsten’ (indoor incandescent lighting which has the same effect as using tungsten balance slide film (such as Fujichrome 64T), and so enhances the blue light of the evening.


A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) confirmed the train was on-time out of Amherst. Running time was only about 20 minutes (a bit less than I thought) but we were in place, cameras on tripods, several minutes before we heard the Vermonter blasting for crossings in Millers Falls.

The result is interpretive. The train’s blur combined with view through the trees and the deep blue color bias makes for a ghostly image of the train crossing the bridge.

Click to see related posts: Dusk on the Grand CanalAmtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

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DAILY POST: Pan Am Southern at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 2013

Along the old Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg Mainline.

At Millers Falls, New England Central and Pan Am Southern run parallel for a short distance. In this view Pan Am’s westward freight symbol 190ED with a pair of leased SD40-2s (wearing old Burlington Northern paint) has just passed the junction with New England Central. (NECR’s mainline is immediately to the left.


Pan Am Southern symbol freight 190ED passes Millers Falls, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Pan Am Southern symbol freight 190ED passes Millers Falls, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Bright overcast autumn days can be one of the most rewarding times to photograph trains. Soft warm light accentuates the fading foliage, while the lack of directional sun allows more freedom to select angles that favor railway operations.

Had the sky been completely clear, I’d have been fighting the sun, which would have shadowed the train and put harsh light on the colored trees in the distance.

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Amtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

Unusual Locomotives Cross the Millers High Bridge.

There’s something very ‘October’ about Millers Falls. It’s just a bit spooky and has an air of decay and rust about it. The village has seen better times, but it’s a great place to photograph trains.

Downtown Millers Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed on October 23, 2013 with a Lumix LX3.
Downtown Millers Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed on October 23, 2013 with a Lumix LX3.

On October 22, 2013, Amtrak ran a set of light engines on New England Central from Palmer to North Walpole.

Amtrak GP38-2TCs
These are unusual locomotives: built as model GP40TC for Canada’s GO Transit they were acquired by Amtrak and later converted into ‘GP38-2TCs’ by Altoona shops. (Thanks to Rich Reed for help in identifying locomotive’s lineage). Amtrak tends to assign them to maintenance trains. They are rare visitors to the New England Central at Millers Falls. Canon 7D photo.

I spent the morning at Millers Falls photographing New England Central and Pan Am Railways freights, and culminated my efforts with this image of Amtrak’s engines crossing the Millers River on the high bridge.

This pin-connected deck truss dates from the early 20th century and like just about everything in Millers Falls has a look that harks back to another time.

I exposed the image of the bridge with my Canon 7D fitted with a f2.0 100mm lens. I made some minor adjustments to the RAW file in post-processing to adjust color balance, saturation and contrast to improve the look of the silver locomotives against colorful autumn trees, then converted the file to a relatively small Jpg for display here.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution Amtrak and the North America rail network.

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New England Central at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, December 9, 2012

New England Central at Millers Falls, Massachusetts.
New England Central SD40-2 722 pauses on the former Central Vermont Railway bridge over the Millers River at Millers Falls, Massachusetts on December 9, 2012. Canon 7D 28-135mm lens at 135mm, ISO 200, f5.6 1/400th second.

This morning (December 9, 2012), New England Central 603 worked north from Palmer, Massachusetts to the Pan Am Railways interchange at Millers Falls. To pick up and drop cars, the train worked a north-facing switch that required it to pull out onto the high bridge over the Millers River. The span is classic; a pin-connected Pratt deck truss built in 1905 by the American Bridge Company of New York. The contrast of New England Central’s former Union Pacific SD40-2 on the 107 year old truss looks more like a model railroad diorama than a scene typical of modern American freight railroading. Here the soft early-afternoon sun accentuates the diesel’s details, while offering a stark view of the bridge structure against the backdrop of late-autumn trees. In the summer fully foliated trees tend to minimize the impact of the bridge’s cross members.

I’m mindful of pending change. New England Central is a Rail America railroad, and if the Surface Transportation Board approves Genesee & Wyoming’s bid to acquire Rail America, New England Central’s operations and locomotive colors may soon be different. The implications for photography are impossible to gauge, but the wise photographer will capture the scene as it is today and make the most of every opportunity, for each may be the last.