Tag Archives: Montreal Locomotive Works

M-420 and a Diamond.

In my younger days, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s. I viewed them as ugly derivations of my favorite Alco RS-11s and C-420s.

That irrational bias never prevented me from photographing the M-420s at work. Since both Central Vermont and Providence & Worcester operated M-420s, they seemed common enough to me when I was photographing in southern New England in the 1980s.

I found this P&W M-420 getting ready for a day’s work near the diamond crossing at Plainfield, Connecticut in June 1986.

I exposed this view on Kodak black & white 120 size film using my father’s Rollei model T.

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Classic Kodachrome: Montreal-built at State Line Crossing.

In the mid-1980s, Canadian National Railway’s Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s were commonly operated on its Central Vermont Railway subsidiary.

It might seem odd in retrospect, but I wasn’t keen on these peculiar locomotives when they were common. Although they were derived from an Alco design, and I was big fan of Alco, I thought they were ugly and not ‘real’ Alcos. I much preferred Central Vermont’s own Alco RS-11s.

  Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex.
June 25, 1986, State Line Crossing, Monson, Massachusets. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex.

My ill-founded prejudices never stopped me from making photographs of the M-420s. And even back in 1986, I was pleased to catch this one leading Central Vermont’s freight 562 across Route 32 in Monson, Massachusetts (immediately north of the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line).

This is the top of State Line Hill and it was all downgrade from here. I’m standing on a pile of ballast for elevation.

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Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia, Cape Jack, July 24, 1997


A Fleeting Glimpse of a Maritime Alco Diesel Oasis.

Railway train with water
On July 24, 1997, a Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia freight rolls west at Cape Jack along the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.

I featured this image of westward Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia (say it five times fast) freight in my big book Locomotive, published by MBI in 2001. The concept of the book was very large photo reproduction of classic locomotives. There were three sections; steam, diesel and electric.

In July 1997, I made this image on trip with George Pitarys and Bill Linley. George and I had flown to Halifax from Boston. We spent three glorious days photographing in Nova Scotia and did exceptionally well with the CB&CNS. At the time the railroad ran its eastward road freight in the morning and westward train in the afternoon, which favored sun angles most of the day. George and Bill’s expert knowledge of the line allowed us to make the most of every train.

I was especially fascinated by the opportunity to photograph locomotives against the seemingly endless blue waterscape. This elevated location at Cape Jack overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence was one of the best places to make watery vistas. I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia 100F using my Nikon N90s and Nikon f2.8 80-200mm zoom lens. Exposure was calculated using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell and the camera’s internal matrix meter setting.

Here’s an excerpt from my text published in Locomotive:

The CB&CNS was created as the result of CN’s desire to spin-off lightly used feeder lines. Initially the CB&CNS was part of the RailTex family of short lines and acquired by Rail America in 1999. CB&CNS operated from Truro (in western Nova Scotia) to Sydney plus a few short branches. Until 1998, this railroad was one the final strongholds for big MLW-built Alco locomotives. These were regularly assigned to daily through freights. Most were painted in CB&CNS’s attractive black & yellow paint scheme with a large red lion to reflect the region’s Scottish heritage. 


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Napa Valley Wine Train, December 1990

Classic Diesels with Autumn Foliage.

Napa Valley Wine Train
Former VIA Rail FPA4s lead a northward Napa Valley Wine Train. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 300mm Nikkor Lens.

In 1989, Napa Valley Wine Train began public operations on a former Southern Pacific branch through its namesake valley. I first explored this railway in October 1989. A little more than a year later, Brian Jennison and I spent a very productive day photographing the line on Kodachrome.

Brian lent me a Nikon 300mm lens for this photograph. I’ve always like the image because the extreme compression offered by the long telephoto accentuated the classic lines of the Montreal Locomotive Works diesels (and the steam era bell on the top of the lead unit) while offering a pleasing juxtaposition between the train and the background foliage.