Tag Archives: NECR

More New England Central GP38s-Four Photos!

For the last month, New England Central’s 608 (Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts and back) has continued to run with a  pair of GP38s.

(I missed the day when 608 ran with three!)

What’s so special about this?

These locomotives began with New England Central when it commenced operations in February 1995, and have continued to work the railroad in the same paint (if not the same numbers) ever since.

A classic view of 608 running northward near Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.
A classic view of 608 running northward near Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.

Originally there were a dozen, but the ranks have thinned.

New England Central has changed owners twice since 1995; it was originally a RailTex property, then RailAmerica, today Genesee & Wyoming.

NECR has acquired or borrowed many other diesels over the years.

Yet for me the few surviving blue and yellow GP38s offer a sense of continuity, and also represent a throw-back to when EMD’s 645 diesels were dominant on American railroads.

How much longer will New England Central continue this vintage railroading?

A view of 608 running northward passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 90mm telephoto lens.

Will these GP38s see G&W corporate colors? Will they be reassigned elsewhere on the expansive G&W railroad family? Will newer locomotives assume their duties?

Never take anything on the railroad for granted; eventually everything changes.

Change makes old photos more interesting.

A 12mm view with my Zeiss Tuoit lens fitted to the FujiFilm X-T1.

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Extra! Extra train on New England Central.

We’d heard there was an extra move.

We didn’t know what it was.

I got a bit confused as to where the extra was in relation to the regular northward New England Central 611 (that runs weekdays from Brattleboro to Palmer and back).

After being out of position, and some quick driving to recover, we managed to get the extra on the move at Vernon, Vermont.

This consisted of the lone New England Central former Southern Pacific ‘tunnel motor’ (SD40T-2 number 3317) hauling some ballast cars.

This isn’t Donner Pass! Here’s a former SP tunnel motor working long-hood forward leading a ballast extra at Vernon, Vermont. In the background is the decommissioned Vermont Yankee Nuclear generating station.

Unusual to say the least!

The regular freight followed about an hour later.

Both photos were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens.

NECR 611 on its northward run from Palmer, Massachusetts at Vernon, Vermont.

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When East is West: Two Trains at the Junction.

I’ve been making photos at the Junction at East Northfield since the 1980s.

The other day, on the third visit in two weeks to this iconic New England location (where New England Central’s line connects with Pan Am Railway’s Conn River route), I had a reckoning.

It occurred to me that railroad timetable ‘East Northfield’ is actually north and west of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts.

How is this possible?

Some Highway maps show railroad ‘East Northfield’ in West Northfield.

This timetable location has been called ‘East Northfield’ since the steam era,  and the present NECR sign reflects this historic geographic incongruity.

New England Central’s northward 611 (running from Palmer to Brattleboro) holds south of the junction at East Northfield for Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, led by P42 number 59. (Don’t get me started on train numbers versus engine numbers!)
Amtrak 56 accelerates away from the junction at East Northfield, clearly identified by the New England Central sign at left. Back in the old days, there was a railroad station on the right side of the tracks, and that was the ‘East Northfield Station’.
After Amtrak 56 completed its station stop at Brattleboro and cleared railroad location at West River, NECR’s dispatcher gave northward freight 611 permission to proceed. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.

No doubt at some point in the future, the geography will be retro-actively re-written to accommodate this oversight on the part of historic railroad timetable writers. What will they make of my captions!

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Spring at Cushman: New England Central’s northward 611.

During the last few days everything’s gone green in central Massachusetts.

I was driving north and overtook New England Central’s 611 on its run from Palmer back to Brattleboro.

At Cushman in Amherst, Massachusetts the spring greenery and flowers combined with soft early afternoon light made for a pleasant setting.

After a wait of just 20 minutes, the NECR freight hit the crossing and I exposed a sequence of digital images using my FujiFilm X-T1. From there the chase was on!

Exposed at ISO 250 f6.4 1/500 18-135mm lens set at 18mm.

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Frosty Morning Stafford Springs; White Balance.

I made these views of New England Central job 608 working timetable northward at Stafford Spring, Connecticut.

It was about 7:30am, and the sun was just tinting the eastern sky.

Rather than set my camera with ‘auto white balance’ (a typical default setting), I opted to fix the white balance with the ‘daylight’ setting.

Auto white balance arbitrarily selects a neutral color balance and adjusts the balance based on the conditions at hand. This is a useful feature in some situations, such as photography under incandescent lighting, or in situations with mixed lighting, such as in a museum or subway.

However, auto white balance settings have the unfortunate effect of minimizing the colorful effects of sunset and sunrise and so using the ‘daylight’ setting is in my opinion a better alternative.

But there’s really much a more complex problem; the way that digital cameras capture images is completely different to the ways the human eye and brain work in fixing visual stimuli. You could write a book on that!

Downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

 

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Is the closer view better?

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Difference of Seasons: July versus January—Two Views.

Here are two views of the same train: led by the same locomotive, at the same location, more or less at the same time of day, exposed using the same camera with the same lens.

Both photos show New Engand Central job 608 led by GP38 3845 working northward in the morning along Plains Road in Willington, Connecticut (south of Stafford Springs).

Photos were exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. The slight difference in angle may be attributed to the inconvenience of a mushy snow bank along the road in winter view that was not a problem in the summer.

New England Central 3845 north on July 28, 2017.
New England Central 3845 north on January 9, 2018.

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Big Orange & Black Diesel; When Color Works.

Since Genesee & Wyoming took over Rail America, gradually the fleets of diesels operated by the component railways have been repainted into G&W’s corporate livery of orange and black with yellow highlights.

This traditional paint scheme had been used by the original G&W short line railroad for decades.

 

Here I’ve put the brightly colored diesels in scene that makes the most of the scheme.

New England Central 611 is southbound at Northfield, Massachusetts with locomotive 3475 in the lead. A cloud has briefly diffused the morning sun.

To make the most of the lighting and the scene, I made this telephoto view looking down a road, visually placing the orange and black locomotive in front of a yellow house.

The dominance of orange and yellow for the primary subjects works well in the late autumnal scene, as these colors mimic the muted foliage and grasses associated with the season.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Connecticut River Crossing—Contrast Adjustment.

Last week I exposed this view of New England Central 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer) crossing the Connecticut River at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

New England Central 611 crosses the Connecticut River at East Northfields, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Fuji Film XT1.

To compensate for the back lit high-contrast scene, I made a few necessary adjustments in post processing.

Working with the Camera RAW file, I applied a digital graduated filter across the sky and locally lowered highlight density, while altering the contrast curve and boosting saturation.

I then made global adjustment to contrast and saturation across the entire image, while brightening the shadow areas. The intent was to better hold detail in the sky.

To make this possible, it was necessary to expose for the sky, and allow the train and bridge to become comparatively dark. I did this knowing I’d make adjustments after the exposure.

For more detail on this photographic technique see: Irish Rail 085 with Ballast Train at Sunset—lessons in exposure and contrast adjustment. 

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New England Central 611—Two Exposures.

Picking the best exposure is an important part of photography.

Today with modern metering, computer guided exposure aids (program modes) and automatic lenses, most photographers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about exposure details.

It might surprise some Tracking the Light readers that in most instances I set my exposures manually, and I only use camera metering in an advisory capacity (In other words I look at the camera meter but don’t necessarily accept its advice).

While I often use my Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode, I routinely over-ride the camera’s exposure advice using manual controls. With my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon digital cameras (and film cameras), I almost always set my exposure manually.

Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 I made these views of New England Central freight 611 working south of Brattleboro, Vermont. The stunning scenic setting of the Connecticut River backwater combined with dramatic morning cross-lighting and a dark background makes for an excellent illustration of a difficult lighting situation.

Here, many camera automatic modes might grossly overexpose the scene in a misguided attempt to compensate for the dark background.

I’ve metered manually and gauged exposure using the camera’s histogram (set up to show the distribution of pixels in regards to exposure.) I’ve offered two variations here, exposed 1 full stop apart.

A ‘stop’ is a standard increment of exposure. The amount of light reaching the sensor or film doubles/halves with each change of one stop. So going from an aperture setting of f4 to f5.6 (one stop) cuts the light by half. Likewise, a shutter speed change from 1/250 to 1/500 will also cut the amount of light by half.

The darker image was exposed at f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400; while the lighter image was exposed at f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400. (In other words the only the aperture setting was changed.)

FujiFilm XT-1 with 90mm lens set at: f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400
FujiFilm XT-1 with 90mm lens set at: f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400

Both exposures are acceptable, but you may have a preference for one versus the other. The photos here have not been altered for density, color balance or color temperature  in post processing; both are scaled versions of the camera produced JPGs.

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Sunrise on the New England Central—Working with RAW.

A side-benefit for me of transatlantic jet lag is that I’m wide awake for sunrise.

The other day, I drove to Stafford Springs, Connecticut as the sun was rising.

Typically New England Central 608 passes the village between 7 and 730 am. On this day it appeared about 724 am.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Tuoit lens, I made a series of images of the freight passing.

I carefully exposed my RAW files to retain some sky detail, intending to adjust exposure, contrast and color in post processing.

It would be fallacious to suggest that the RAW file represents reality. It doesn’t.

It is important to understand that the camera RAW file is an equivalent of a ‘negative’ in film photography. The RAW file simply represents the raw data as captured by the camera sensor. This data requires interpretation to produce an image that resembled what the human brain perceives.

I made a series of small adjustments to highlights, shadows, color temperature, and color balance, while working with masks in the sky to control detail and color.

My only regret is that my graduated neutral density filters were still packed away in my luggage, as these would have been useful in this situation by allowing for improved sky detail by effectively selective expanding the dynamic capture of the sensor.

I’ve included both the RAW file (scaled for internet) and my interpreted post-processed JPG. To give hints as to what I’ve done, I’ve also included screen shots of the Lightroom work windows.

This the uninterpreted image. It is a JPG because this necessary for internet presentation. My RAW file was about 33MB which is far too large for presentation here. Significant to my interpretation is that there is greater detail stored in the RAW file than immediately evident in its presentation on the computer screen. Specifically, there is more color and detail in the sky than displayed here.
This is a screen shot of the Lightroom work window of my RAW file. The red blotch in the sky indicates a loss of data in that area owing to over exposure.
This is my finished image following post processing in Lightroom.
Screen shot showing the alterations on the sliders in the Lightroom work window. Notice the relative placement of data in the histogram (graph at upper right).

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New England Central—Southward with 608 on May 17, 2017.

Earlier in the month I’ve highlighted various photographic adventures with New England Central 608 (freight that works from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back). Today’s post focuses on the southward journey.

Over the years, I’ve photographed many trains climbing the former Central Vermont Railway grade over State Line Hill, and beyond into Connecticut, so this chase is old hat for me.

Yet, I’m always looking for a new angle, or to place today’s train in a classic setting that I may have captured years ago.

These views are all from the morning of May 17, 2017 and exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Do you have any favorites?

New England Central 608 at Bunyan Road in Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 from Academy Hill/Main Street Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 at Stateline looking toward Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central tracks at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
Tight telephoto view of NECR 608 at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
South of Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central 608 viewed from the Track 9 Diner in Willington, Connecticut.

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Brattleboro in the Snow: Documenting the Documenting.

Last week I traveled with fellow photographer Mike Gardner to Brattleboro, Vermont to make images of the New England Central Railroad.

In this view, I photographed Mike photographing the train as it works the south end of Brattleboro yard.

Filtered morning sun, snow and hoar frost all added to the atmosphere.

This was exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Leica IIIA with 50mm Summitar lens—the camera & lens combination with which I made thousands of photos between 1977 and 1986.

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New England Central at Stafford Springs—August 23, 2016.

The familiar sound of 645 thunder down in the valley spurred me into action.

A southward New England Central freight was climbing Stateline Hill in Monson, Massachusetts. This is an old routine (and yes, I’ve written about this before.)

When I hear a train coming through Monson, I have a few minutes to get organized. In this instance, a brilliant clear blue dome with nice morning light was the deciding consideration.

En route, I heard the southward train get its ‘paper’ (radio–issued track authority) to proceed toward Willimantic, Connecticut. In this instance, I was alerted to the location of the train; south of milepost 55 (near the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line).

I headed for my preferred spot in downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut south of milepost 49.

FujiFilm XT1 digital photo.
FujiFilm XT1 digital photo.

One advantage of Stafford Springs is that the railroad makes an east-west twist through the village on its otherwise north-south run. This favors the morning light for a southward train.

The other advantage is Stafford’s quaint and distinctive New England setting.

Here's the trailing view that shows the village.
Here’s the trailing view that shows the village.

Photos exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1

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NECR Tunnel Motor at State Line.

The other day down in the valley I heard the roar of a train ascending the old New London Northern grade to State Line.

EMD diesels working hard.

“Hmm. That’s odd. Daylight move on the New England Central?”

In recent months, New England Central’s freight south of Palmer, Massachusetts has been largely nocturnal.

I thought I’d best investigate, I hopped in my car and headed south to intercept.

Driving toward Stafford Springs, Connecticut I heard a telemetry hit on my scanner. (That’s the FRED—the end of train device the sends a signal reporting air-brake pressure from the tail end of the train to the engineer’s cab.) I knew the train was close.

Then, chatter on the radio: engineer to conductor. They were working the ground. The train was switching.

I altered my path and went to the south switch at State Line siding at Crow Hill Road, Stafford.

There I found the train: An NECR local freight from Palmer putting cars in the siding.

View from Crow Hill Road, Stafford, Connecticut. Lumix LX7 photo. I manually underexposed by 2/3s of a stop to compensate for the snow.
View from Crow Hill Road, Stafford, Connecticut. Lumix LX7 photo. I manually underexposed by 2/3s of a stop to compensate for the snow.

Sixteen loads and five empties.

At one end was a GP38 that’s nearly as old as I am. At the other end was NECR’s Tunnel Motor, engine 3317. A former Southern Pacific engine.

After dropping its cars on the siding, the crew of NECR's local freight pulled across and prepared to head back north to Palmer. This allowed me to take a good look at the Tunnel Motor.
After dropping its cars on the siding, the crew of NECR’s local freight pulled across and prepared to head back north to Palmer. This allowed me to take a good look at the Tunnel Motor—so-called because of its specially designed air-flow arrangement originally configured for high-altitude operation in tunnels and snow sheds on Southern Pacific’s rugged line over Donner Pass in the California Sierra.

That’s neat. I’d never seen NECR’s Tunnel Motor south of Palmer before.

Sorry, did I mention that New England Central’s reporting marks are NECR?

NECR's conductor sets the derail on the siding. Lumix LX7 photo.
NECR’s conductor sets the derail on the siding. Lumix LX7 photo.
I drove to the north-end of the siding which begins just north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts line. Look to the right of the engines and you'll see the crudely cut granite marker for the border.
I drove to the north-end of the siding which begins just north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts line. Look to the right of the engines and you’ll see the crudely cut granite marker for the border.
Not so many years ago, six-motors were banned from operation south of Palmer. These days its not so unusual. However, daylight moves don't occur on a regular basis. Lumix LX7 photo.
Not so many years ago, six-motors were banned from operation south of Palmer. These days it’s not so unusual. However, daylight moves don’t occur on a regular basis. Lumix LX7 photo.

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611 with Rainbow Consist plus a Bus at Amherst.

That’s New England Central job 611. (A turn that runs from Brattleboro, Vermont to Palmer, Massachusetts).

All I want to know is what Emily Dickenson might say about all this? Hmmm?

PVTA bus crosses the old Central Vermont at Amherst, Massachusetts.
PVTA bus crosses the old Central Vermont at Amherst, Massachusetts.
Connecticut Southern 3771 leads NECR job 611 south at Amherst, Massachusetts on July 6, 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Connecticut Southern 3771 leads NECR job 611 south at Amherst, Massachusetts on July 6, 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Leased CEFX 1016 on its way to Providence & Worcester.
Leased CEFX 1016 on its way to Providence & Worcester.

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DAILY POST: Campaign Train, Aug 2010.


New England Central at Montpelier Junction, Vermont.

Brian Dubie's campaign train
Dubie campaign train approaches Montpelier Junction, Vermont on the afternoon of August 28, 2010. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

A freshly scrubbed GP38 led a pair of Pennsy passenger cars in a classic old-school whistle-stop campaign tour of Vermont.

On August 28, 2010, my dad and I drove to the Georgia high bridge (near St. Albans, Vermont) to intercept a New England Central special train hired by gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie.

It was a sunny warm summer’s day, and we made numerous photos of the special as it worked its way south.

This pair of images was exposed at Montpelier Junction, where the train made a stop for the candidate to make a speech to his supporters. Traditionally, this was where Central Vermont met the Montpelier & Barre.

I used a telephoto for these views in order to emphasize the bunting and flags that marked the train’s distinctive qualities. Several of my photographs of the train appeared in Private Varnish.

B Dubie 4 govnr campaign train at Montpelier Jct IMG_4331

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New England Central January 10, 2013

New England Central GP38 3850
Southward New England Central freight along Plains Road, near Sweetheart Lake, south of Stafford, Connecticut shortly after sunrise on January 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm ‘Pancake’ lens; ISO 200 f4.5 at 1.500th second—intentionally ‘underexposed’ and adjusted in post processing using Photoshop to maintain desired detail and balance in highlight and shadow areas.

One of the benefits of my visits to Monson, Massachusetts, is being within ear-shot of the former Central Vermont Railway, now operated by New England Central (NECR). Yesterday morning (January 10, 2013), I awoke to the sounds of a southward freight clawing its way up Stateline Hill (so-named because it crests near the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line). NECR freights take their time ascending the grade and on a clear day I can hear them climbing from about the time they depart the Palmer Yard. As a kid I’d count the crossings: CV’s GP9s whistling a sequence of mournful blasts for each one. Yesterday morning I dithered for a few minutes. Should I go after this train? Or, should I keep my nose to grindstone, writing? Clear skies forced the answer: GO!

My hesitation caused me to miss the opportunity for a photograph in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. This was blessing in disguise, since I’ve often caught the train here and then broke off the chase before getting deeper into Connecticut. Having missed Stafford Springs, I pursued further south, and caught the train four times at various points between Stafford and Willimantic. This a relatively easy chase, as Route 32 runs roughly parallel to the line.

Three elements made yesterday’s chase a satisfying exercise:

1) The train was operating at a suitable time of the morning for southward daylight photography (lately, NECR’s trains seem to have headed south either way too early or too late in the day for my photographic preferences—I’ve been photographing this line for more than 30 years, first chasing it with my Dad in the early 1980s, so I can be unusually choosy).

2) It was a ‘clear blue dome’—sunny, bright, and cloudless, always a great time to make morning photographs.

3) As it turned out, one of New England Central’s yellow and blue GP38s was leading. As I’ve mentioned previously, while this was once NECR’s standard locomotive, in recent years the type has become comparatively scarce on NECR, with many of the locomotives working the line wearing paint of former operators (Conrail, Union Pacific, Florida East Coast, and others).

I was also eager for a clear day to test some recently acquired equipment, especially my new Canon 40mm Pancake Lens, which arrived on Monday. I’ll make this lens the detailed topic of future posts.

New England Central GP38 3850.
New England Central’s southward freight approaches Mansfield Depot, Connecticut. Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO f5.6 at 1/1000 second, ‘Landscape’ ‘picture style’ (no adjustments except for scaling).

After abandoning NECR at Willimantic, I made a few photographs of the town, which still has some wonderful old mill buildings, then continued south to New London where I focused on Amtrak for a while.

Since New England Central is among properties recently acquired by Genesee & Wyoming, I’m anticipating change and wondering when I’ll photograph the first orange & black locomotives

See my recent published book North American Locomotives for more information on New England Central’s and Genesee & Wyoming locomotives.

Railroad at Willimantic Connecticut
New England Central at Willimantic Yard as viewed from the famous footbridge (must be famous, it has its own plaque). NECR shares this yard with Providence & Worcester with which it interchanges traffic. Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO f8 at 1/640 second, ‘Landscape’ ‘picture style’ (no adjustments except for scaling).
Willimantic, Connecticut.
Old thread mills at Willimantic, Connecticut. Exposed using Canon 7D with 40mm ‘Pancake’ lens; f9.0 at 1/500th second, no adjustments except for scaling.

 

 

 

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