Tag Archives: New England

Gilbertville: Mass-Central, the old Mills, and the Boston & Albany Station.


It was a scene made for black & white; Monochrome in the Ware River Valley.

Last week, I exposed these views on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 105mm Nikkor prime telephoto (not a zoom) at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.

I processed the film with two stage development to my custom tailored process and scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.

Psssst! Don’t be too disappointed, but I also made a few digital photos in color!

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New England Central 611 at Three Rivers, Massachusetts.


Thursday, April 25, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I convened at Palmer’s Steaming Tender for lunch. Afterwards we drove northward in search of New England Central’s road freight, 611.

New England Central’s clean locomotives in parent company Genesee & Wyoming’s orange, yellow and black paint, make for handsome subjects, and a welcome change to the days when patched faded liveries of the locomotive’s various former owners predominated.

Anticipating catching 611’s northward run from Palmer, we paused at Three Rivers to check some photo locations and were surprised to hear a southward train approaching.

Lo and behold! It was 611 on its southward run.

Lucky bonus.

After photographing the southward move, we continued our drive north to inspect locations . . . Stay tuned for more!

Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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CSX at Warren, Massachusetts—Lessons in Composition Revisited—Six views.

Yes, I’ve done this before.

Warren, Massachusetts is a favorite place to photograph, but also a tricky one.

I used Warren as an example for a similar compositional conversation in Trains Magazine, published about two years ago and  featured photo of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited.

Yesterday (December 29, 2017), I arrived in Warren just in time to set up and catch CSX’s late-running Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield) race up the grade and pass the recently restored former Boston & Albany station.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens, I exposed a burst of images.

I’ve selected three of these, and then annotated versions of the image that I like the best so that you may benefit from my compositional considerations.

I prefer this view over the two closer images. I think the composition works better (as illustrated in the annotated versions) and it emphasizes the station, which personally I find more interesting than the train.

This view was made seconds after the one above. Although the train is closer, most of the interesting elements of the old station have been obscured.

This is a nice photo of CSX’s Q264, but it could be anywhere on the Boston & Albany line. Why bother going to Warren if the station and town are cropped?

There’s no correct answer to composition; in this instance I prefer the more distant view of the train because it better features the old passenger station and the town of Warren; here’s why I feel the composition works:

Important, yet subtle compositional elements at work. Look at the position of the locomotive cab where it visually intersects the station building. It does this as cleanly as possible, without obscuring the dormer window or resulting in visual confusion. The similar color of the locomotive cab and clock tower make for interesting counterpoint. What if the tower was red brick and the locomotive cab was blue?

Here I’ve highlighted several areas of interest. These are points that naturally attract the eye and are focal points to the composition,  providing both  interest and balance.

Here’s is general outline of the composition. The trees provide visual support and context, but are not central subjects. Would this image work as well without them?

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The Lost Waterfall at Bernardston.

You never know what’s going to change.

Photo exposed using 120 size Ektachrome film. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell (light meter).
Photo exposed on 120 size Ektachrome film. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell (light meter).

I exposed this view twenty years ago using a Speed Graphic with 120 size roll film back that I’d borrowed from Doug More.

A decade earlier, fellow photographer Brandon Delaney had showed me this bridge at Bernardston, Massachusetts on the Boston & Maine’s Connecticut River Line.

The bridge survives much as pictured here;  today it serves as the route of Amtrak’s Vermonter. However the old mill dam with accompanying waterfall were destroyed sometime after I made this December 1996-view.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a contemporary angle of the bridge.

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CSX Intermodal catches the First Rays of Sunshine—Middlefield, Massachusetts.

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.

Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

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).

 

Conrail versus CSX; West Warren on the Boston & Albany Then and Now.

Ok, how about then and when? (click on the link to Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light to see the modern view).

These photos were exposed 28 years apart from essentially the same place in West Warren, Massachusetts.

One view was made of an eastward Conrail freight in March of 1984; the other of an CSX freight at almost the same spot on November 15, 2012.

In both situations I opted to leave the train in the distance and take in the scene.

Conrail eastward freight grinds upgrade on a dull March 1984 morning. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summicron lens.
Conrail eastward freight grinds upgrade on a dull March 1984 morning. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

CSX Q264 (carrying auto racks for delivery in East Brookfield, Massachusetts). Exposed using a Lumix LX3 with Leica Vario-Summicron lens.
CSX Q264 (carrying auto racks for delivery in East Brookfield, Massachusetts). Exposed on the morning of November 15, 2012 using a Lumix LX3 with Leica Vario-Summicron lens.

Over the years I’ve worked this vantage point with a variety of lenses, but I’ve chosen to display these two images to show how the scene has changed over the years.

In the 1984 view notice the code lines (the ‘telegraph poles’) to the left of the train and the scruffy trees between the railroad and the road. Also in 1984, the line was 251-territory (directional double track).

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Pan Am Railways on the Boston & Albany—February 2016.

In the last few months I’ve been lucky to catch a variety of the more obscure operations on the Pan Am Railways system.

Last week, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon around North Adams, Massachusetts.

EDRJ arrived with two locomotives to drop for local freight AD-1.

Pan Am AD-1 is seen on the Boston & Maine mainline at North Adams. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens.
Pan Am AD-1 is seen on the Boston & Maine mainline at North Adams. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens.

Boston & Albany on the left, Boston & Maine on the right. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 70-000mm lens.
Boston & Albany on the left, Boston & Maine on the right. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 70-200mm lens.

Although, we had high hopes of following EDRJ west toward the Hudson River Valley (uttering the now-famous battle cry, ‘To the River!’), Pan Am had other ideas.

History will forgive them.

So instead we followed AD1 down the old Boston & Albany North Adams branch to Zylonite.

Zylonite on the old Boston & Albany, now Pan Am's Adams branch. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Zylonite on the old Boston & Albany, now Pan Am’s Adams branch. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

Who would have thought a high-hood GP40 would be working the old North Adams Branch! This was once the territory of Alco road switchers. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Who would have thought a high-hood GP40 would be working the old North Adams Branch! This was once the territory of Alco road switchers. Exposed with a Lumix LX7

Pan Am local freight AD-1 on the Adams Branch at Zylonite.
Pan Am local freight AD-1 on the Adams Branch at Zylonite. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

Looking north toward North Adams.
Looking north toward North Adams.

Former Canadian National Railways GP40-2L wears a nice shade of blue. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Former Canadian National Railways GP40-2L wears a nice shade of blue. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

I was familiar with the run, since my father and I traveled over it back in October on the Berkshire Scenic RDC (see: Berkshire Scenic’s Hoosac Valley—A Dozen Photos!)

After a taste of this surviving segment of B&A’s extension to North Adams, we followed the abandoned vestige of the line that runs southward to Pittsfield, then made the most of the late afternoon on the former B&A mainline!

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CSX Monday Traffic: Snow, Cold and Being There—a Dozen New Photos.

 

Back to the old,  ‘f5.6 and be there’. (While paying close attention to the signals and scanner).

Lately CSX’s freight operations on the old Boston & Albany have been largely nocturnal.

Mondays on the other hand can prove busy in the morning.

February 8, 2016: I wasn’t out for the day, but rather running some errands. As always, I had my Lumix at the ready. Snow was forecast and it was beginning to flurry.

On my way through East Brookfield, I took the time to check the signals at CP64.

These were lit: “Limited Clear” westbound. I knew a train must be close.

Soon I could hear the clatter of cars descending Charlton Hill. Then affirmation on the radio, ‘Q427 clear signal main to main CP60’.

CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.
CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.

I made my photographs. But a few minutes later I heard that Q427 had stopped west of milepost 72 owing to difficulties with the locomotives.

That’s Warren, 72 miles west of South Station, Boston.

I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.
I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.

 

Q427 had to meet two eastward trains at CP83 (Palmer).

I continued to follow west, while making photographs along the way. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.

My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.
My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.

The old Palmer freight house location.
The old Palmer freight house location.

It's been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.
It’s been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.

 

I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.
I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.

I made a few photos of the first meet, then opted to head back up the Quaboag Valley rather than stay put.

CSX_Q427_meet_w_eb_CSX_stacks_Palmer_Ma_tight_P1370806

Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.
Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.

The snow was now getting heavy and it wasn’t getting any warmer.

At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).
At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).

This was a heavy train. And despite the snow, it was easy enough to follow up the grade to Warren.

The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.
The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.

It was just 18 degrees at the Warren station.

That’s good enough for my morning errands!

All photos nominally adjusted for contrast and saturation in post processing.

CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.

This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?
This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?

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Boston & Albany West End-Conrail in the Berkshires.

Sunday, September 22, 1985.

This photo was product of one of dozens of trips I made to the old Boston & Albany west end in the mid-1980s.

The west end is the railroad west of Springfield over the Berkshires of Massachusetts toward Albany, New York.

Exposed on 120 black & white film using a Rollei Model T. Exposure calculated using a GE hand held light meter. Film processed in D76 1:1, and scanned with an Epson V750.
Exposed on 120 black & white film using a Rollei Model T. Exposure calculated using a GE hand held light meter. Film processed in D76 1:1, and scanned with an Epson V750.

On this morning I waswest of Chester, Massachusetts perched on the top of an rock cutting  that dated to the time of the line’s construction circa 1839-1840.

This Conrail eastward train was slowly making its way east. It was serenely quite in these hills and I’d hear the freight making its descent of Washington Hill miles before it finally appeared.

Imagine this setting one hundred and forty years earlier when it was the old Western Rail Road (precursor to the Boston & Albany). A time when one of  Winan’s peculiar vertical boiler 0-8-0s would have led a train of primitive four wheel freight cars over this same line.

Fewer trees then. And no cameras!

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This is an adjusted version of the same image. I've slight altered contrast and exposure to make it appear better on a computer screen.
This is an adjusted version of the same image. I’ve slight altered contrast and exposure to make it appear better on some computer screens. On my screen this looks closer the way I would have printed the negative back in 1985 by using a cold head (diffusion) enlarger.

Thursday Extra Post: Follow up view!

In relation to this morning’s post; Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context, I’ve received several comments (and email) suggesting that a view in between the two I originally presented might be a superior alternative.

I don’t concur, but I am willing to offer this photo as a potential third alternative.

The third option.
The third option.

I had had my FujiFilm X-T1 set  to  ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous fast) and so exposed a great many images  in rapid successionat this location.

Sometimes Tracking the Light posts more often than once per day!

Amtrak 449 with Autumn Foliage

I exposed this view of Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited, from a favorite field off Route 67 near Palmer, Massachusetts.

Since 1980, I’ve made hundreds of views from this field. If I put up one new image every day, we’d still be looking at them come summer!

Yet, I still like to make photos from this field, and a few weeks ago it offered a classic vantage point to catch the Lake Shore Limited with autumn color. Sometimes its best to go with what you know!

Amtrak_449_with_engine107_at_CP79_DSCF5606

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera set for ‘Velvia’ color profile.

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Ware River Valley Vignettes‑Mass Central at Gilbertville.

Early November is a great time to explore the Ware River Valley. The trees are largely bare, yet a few colored leaves still cling to higher branches.

Vestiges of old industries survive, as the old Boston & Albany branch meanders up the valley. This is a railroad that was left for dead nearly 40 years ago, and only survived through the dedication and hard work of a handful of local people.

At least once every autumn, I make a photographic study of the line.

The old B&A station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.
The old B&A station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.

Northward Mass-Central local freight. The ghostly vestiges of an old mill loom silently beyond the trees.
Northward Mass-Central local freight. The ghostly vestiges of an old mill loom silently beyond the trees.

Mass_Central_w_old_mill_at_Gilbertville_DSCF6162

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 I exposed these views at Gilbertville— a village in the town of Hardwick, where the old B&A station remains as a restaurant.

This building is one of many stations featured in my new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published this year by Voyageur Press. Don’t miss out! Order your copy today!

Mass-Central local freight at Gilbertville.
Mass-Central local freight at Gilbertville.

Most week days, Mass-Central’s local freight departs Palmer after 7 am and works its way up to South Barre and back serving its customers along the way. On this day I found the train working in Ware.

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Boston & Albany: November Morning 2015

November light in New England; fleeting shafts of low sun, heavily textured skies; images with brown, burnt and amber hues mixed with shades of slate and blue.

It was always tough with film because of the subtlety of light, but how about using digital media?

The other morning I went out to some familiar locations and made some photos. I’ve imported these into Lightroom and made some minor adjustments to contrast, color temperature and saturation.

This is an exercise in lighting and texture. The photos are more about the places and the quality of light than about the specific railroad elements.

November sunrise looking east at Palmer. LX7 photo.
November sunrise looking east at Palmer. LX7 photo.

West Warren, Massachusetts. LX7 photo.
West Warren, Massachusetts. LX7 photo.

Sunrise at West Warren, Massachusetts. LX7 photo.
Sunrise at West Warren, Massachusetts. LX7 photo.

Looking west at West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
Looking west at West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.

CSXT Q019 passes milepost 81 east of Palmer, Massachusetts. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
CSXT Q019 passes milepost 81 east of Palmer, Massachusetts. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.

CSXT Q019 westbound. LX7 photo.
CSXT Q019 westbound. LX7 photo.

I can return tomorrow to these same places, but I’ll get different images because the quality of November light is so subtle and always changing, like drops of mud spilt into a pond.

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Pan Am Heritage Locomotives Cross the Connecticut—July 9 2015

In the early 1980s, I made trips to Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard to catch the waning days of the old GP7s, GP9s, and GP18s.

More than 30 years later, some of those old goats are still on the move, hauling freight and now in heritage paint!

On the morning of July 9, 2015, photographer Mike Gardner and I stopped into East Deerfield and found the Pan Am Railways GP9s getting ready to work east with a ballast train. I made this view of the colorful old locomotives crossing the Connecticut River east of the yard.

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

Boston’s Coolidge Corner—Sunday Afternoon in mid-May.

MBTA’s Beacon Street line to Cleveland Circle is a classic median running trolley route. Coolidge Corner is situated on a gradient and a gentle curve with a traditional traction shelter and lots of trees that help make it a cool place to photograph.

On our whirlwind tour of Boston transit a few weeks ago, Pat Yough and I spent a little while making photos here. The streetcars pass often, so in a relatively short period of time we were able to make a variety of angles.

An outbound MBTA Green Line train on the Beacon Street line near Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.
An outbound MBTA Green Line train on the Beacon Street line near Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.

Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.
Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.

This is one of the Green Line routes and some of the cars are in the 1970s-era green and white livery, while others are in a more modern teal and silver. I find the older livery photographs better.

Personally, I preferred the days when the PCC’s ruled this route, but those days are long gone. It’s still an interesting place to experiment with different camera-lens combinations.

Using my Lumix LX7 I made this very low-angle view of an outbound streetcar. The Lumix offers great depth of field, which allows for photos like this.
Using my Lumix LX7 I made this very low-angle view of an outbound streetcar. The Lumix LX7 offers great depth of field, which allows for photos like this. I like the blade of grass at the far lower right.

Vertical view of an outbound car exposed with my Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Vertical view of an outbound car exposed with my Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

The classic transit shelter provides added interest and a bit of historical context. This isn't a modern light rail line, but rather a traditional trolley route operating modern cars. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
The classic transit shelter provides added interest and a bit of historical context. This isn’t a modern light rail line, but rather a traditional trolley route operating modern cars. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.

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May 23, 2015; Clear Morning on the old Boston & Albany.

I’d learned via Facebook that it was Railroad Illustrated’s annual ‘Day in North America.’ The day dawned cloudless and bright, and while I had a full schedule of events for the day, I opted to make the most of the first part of the morning.

I’d stopped into Palmer, where I’d found a couple of New England Central locomotives in the yard. Then opted to travel up the Quaboag River Valley.

This landed me at my familiar spot in the old Warren, Massachusetts yard. My knowledge goes back a good long time. While there’s not been a switch in the Warren ‘yard’ in my lifetime, although I can recall when the line was double track, and the old Warren Crossovers were around the corner to the east.

Way back in the day (and that day was more than 60 years ago) Warren was served by a local freight. Go back even further and there was really quite the complex of tracks at Warren.

Now a carwash occupies part of the property. Yet the old passenger and freight stations survive, and someone has put some effort into fixing up the windows in the passenger station.

I contemplated all of these things while patiently waiting for a wheel to turn.

Then the phone rang . . .

Doug Moore, a loyal Tracking the Light reader (and sometimes proofreader and fact checker) said to me, “there’s an eastbound piggyback train through West Warren, it should be to you shortly! I’d seen your car parked there by the station.”

Hooray for good information! (Thanks Doug).

Without a moment to waste, I sprung into action, made my test photos, when the train roared into view, I exposed these photos with my Fuji X-T1 (and also a super-wideangle view on Provia with my EOS 3).

An eastward CSX intermodal train, probably Q012, approaches Warren. Exposed with a Fujifilm XT1 digital camera.
An eastward CSX intermodal train, probably Q012, approaches Warren. Exposed with a Fujifilm XT1 digital camera.

A closer, more traditional view  from the same location. Exposed with a Fujifilm XT1 digital camera.
A closer, more traditional view from the same location. Exposed with a Fujifilm XT1 digital camera.

The Boston & Albany yard may be gone, but the mainline lives on.

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Canadian National Caboose passing Monson Semaphore.

This old upper quadrant semaphore was located in Monson, Massachusetts about a mile from the Palmer diamond. It served as a fixed distant to the absolute signal protecting the crossing and was always in the diagonal position indicating ‘approach’.

I made this image on July 20, 1986 of a northward Central Vermont freight (probably job 562).

Purists may note that Canadian National referred to its cabooses as ‘Vans’. More relevant was that by this date, cabooses were becoming unusual in New England. Conrail began caboose-less operation on through freights a few years earlier.

Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.
Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.

Even rarer in New England were semaphores. Yet this one survived until very recently, when Central Vermont successor New England Central finally replaced it with a color-light. See earlier post: Monson Semaphore Challenge.

A minor point regarding this composition; I’d released the shutter a moment too soon, and so the left-hand back of the caboose visually intersects with the semaphore ladder. This annoys me. Sometimes I like a bit of visual tension in an image, but in this case it doesn’t work.

 

Not that I can go back and try it again, as much as I’d like to!

 

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Grab Shot: Conrail November 1984.

Here’s another gem from my Conrail files. I have tens of thousands of Conrail photos, many of them exposed in black & white.

This image caught my eye. November 1984 was a busy month photographically, and I exposed almost all my photographs that month with an old Leica 3A. (My original camera had suffered a failure, so I was using one of my dad’s.)

This was exposed mid-month, probably on a Saturday. I was traveling with some friends. We’d seen Conrail PWSE (Providence & Worcester to Selkirk, New York) working the old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, and were heading west to find a location.

The train got the jump on us, and there was a panic as we saw the train racing west behind us: “There it is!” I made this grab shot looking down the road at North Wilbraham toward one of the few grade crossings on the B&A route west of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Conrail PWSE races across the grade crossing at North Wilbraham, Massachusetts in November 1984. Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summicron. Photo cropped to eliminate unnecessary foreground.
Conrail PWSE races across the grade crossing at North Wilbraham, Massachusetts in November 1984. Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. Photo cropped to eliminate unnecessary foreground. Notice my careful placement of the locomotives in relation to the trees and poles.

For me this captures the scene. North Wilbraham isn’t the most salubrious environment, but so what? Not every place is a park and it shows the way things were in the mid-1980s. I can hear ‘The Cars’ (Boston band) playing on the radio.

Need a close up of Conrail’s B23-7s? I have lots of those too.

Now wouldn’t this have been a cool angle 40 years earlier with one of Boston & Albany’s class A1 Berkshires hauling freight under a plume of its own exhaust?

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Foggy Morning, East Deerfield, Massachusetts, June 24, 1989.

Then, as now, east Deerfield was a favorite place to make photos and begin a trip to somewhere else.

To make the most of the long days of summer, I had an early start. At 6:19 am, I made this photo of eastward DHED led by a pair of former Norfolk Southern SD45 and an old Santa Fe SD26. For me the fog made the scene more interesting; it adds depth while providing a painterly chiaroscuro effect.

There’s something tragic, yet intriguing about the state of the line. The ghostly effect of the old double track signal bridge-sans signal heads and the weedy tracks tells of empire in decay. The railroad that forges forward in its own shadow.

You can imagine the low roar of the 20-645E3 diesels amplified and modulated by the morning mist. Perhaps I should have been making audio recordings . . .

 Using my dad’s Leica M3, I exposed this view on Kodak Plus-X. My exposure was between f4.5 and f5.6 at 1/60th of second.

Using my dad’s Leica M3, I exposed this view on Kodak Plus-X. My exposure was between f4.5 and f5.6 at 1/60th of second.

Since DHED had arrived at its eastward terminal, I opted to head west. My next photograph was at Schenectady, New York on the Delaware & Hudson some hours later. Fast forward more than 25 years

Pan_Am_352_East_Deerfield_w_100mm_IMG_9139
Compare the 1989 black & white view (top) with this one exposed in December 2014 from the same location, (previously displayed on Tracking the Light).

 

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Lots of Locomotives at East Brookfield Four Years Ago Today.

On this day in 2011 (January 31), I exposed this view of a CSX light-power move rolling westward through East Brookfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Albany mainline.

I used my trusty Lumix LX3, a camera with which I exposed many thousands of railway photos before it finally gave up the ghost.

ISO 200, f5.6 1/800th of a second.
ISO 200, f5.6 1/800th of a second. Notice that I’ve included the shadow of the lead locomotive at the far left of the frame. If cropped, this image would have less impact. 

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Vermonter at Three Rivers.

Only a Few Months to go.

Soon, Amtrak’s Vermonter will be detoured back to the traditional passenger route north of Springfield, Massachusetts, leaving the New England Central’s former Central Vermont line between Palmer and East Northfield, Massachusetts freight only for the first time in 25 years.

On the afternoon of October 27, 2014, fellow photographer Bob Arnold suggested that we make a photo of the southward Vermonter (train 55) at Three Rivers, where line crosses the Chicopee River on a plate girder bridge.

It was a nice clear sunny day and the foliage was splendid. Somehow the Vermonter managed to lose about 20 minutes in its short run down from Amherst, a station that will cease to serve as a regular stop with the route change.

Distant view at Three Rivers. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Distant view at Three Rivers. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

If you are interested in riding or photographing Amtrak’s Vermonter on this route, don’t delay, time is running out.

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Autumnal Massachusetts Saturday.

October 18, 2014.

We had a late start, the weather was a bit iffy, and there wasn’t much running, but my father and I set out anyway to make a few railroad photos in the fall foliage.

Since Amtrak’s Vermonter is in its final months of using the New England Central route between Palmer and East Northfield, Massachusetts, we made a point to intercept it in both directions.

A New England Central local freight was working the interchange track in Palmer. Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
A New England Central local freight was working the interchange track in Palmer. Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.

For more than 19 years, New England Central's blue and yellow GP38s have worked around Palmer. I wonder how much longer they will last? Lumix LX7 photo.
For more than 19 years, New England Central’s blue and yellow GP38s have worked around Palmer. I wonder how much longer they will last? Lumix LX7 photo.

Richard Solomon waves.
Richard Solomon waves.

Amtrak train 57, Saturday's Vermonter works south of Amherst at milepost 82. A hiking trail runs parallel with the line at this location. New welded rail has been laid along the line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak train 57, Saturday’s Vermonter works south of Amherst at milepost 82. A hiking trail runs parallel with the line at this location. New welded rail has been laid along the line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A stop by Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard found little moving except the hump engine.

The old Boston & Maine line was pretty quiet. This is the view looking west from East Deerfield where I've made a great many photographs in the last 30 plus years. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The old Boston & Maine line was pretty quiet. This is the view looking west from East Deerfield where I’ve made a great many photographs in the last 30 plus years. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A burst of sun at East Deerfield Yard. No less than four sets of road power were idling and the yard was full of cars, but not much was moving.
A burst of sun at East Deerfield Yard. No less than four sets of road power were idling and the yard was full of cars, but not much was moving.

Not everyday is busy in central Massachusetts, but I can always find photographs. Here’s just a few from our afternoon’s exploration.

A spin over to Montague found a GATX  slugset working the East Deerfield hump job. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A spin over to Montague found a GATX slugset working the East Deerfield hump job. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

I made this panned view of the GATX slug using my Lumix LX7.
I made this panned view of the GATX slug using my Lumix LX7.

Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 18, 2014.
Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 18, 2014.

Amtrak train 54 the northward Saturday Vermonter crosses the Millers River at Millers Falls. Canon EOS 7D with 200 mm lens. Image adjusted for contrast and color balance.
Amtrak train 54 the northward Saturday Vermonter crosses the Millers River at Millers Falls. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens. Image adjusted for contrast and color balance.

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Being There; Don’t Hate Me for My Luck!

Palmer, Massachusetts, June 22, 2014.

A wise photographer once wrote, ‘The secret to making photographs is f8 and be there.’

Back in the 1990s, my friend and fellow photographer Mike Gardner said, ‘All good trips begin and end in Palmer.’

Sunday, June 22, 2014 confirmed Mike’s wisdom. I’d headed to Palmer to meet my frient Tim Doherty. Before leaving the house, I searched in vain for my scanner, but departed without it. I was coasting on intuition.

Moments after stepping out of the car at CP83 in Palmer (where CSX crosses New England Central) to say ‘hello’ to Tim, I heard, above the dull roar of road traffic, the distinct sounds of eastbound train’s dynamic brakes.

I said to Tim, ‘There’s an eastbound train, and it’s very close.’ I flicked on the Lumix LX7 that was hanging around my neck and stepped promptly toward my preferred trackside location at CP83. As I did, I heard the lead axles of a six-motor GE rattling across the New England Central diamond a few hundred feet to my west.

I had just enough time to set the exposure and frame up a nice view of CSX Q012 passing CP83’s signals with the old Palmer Union Station (now the Steaming Tender Restaurant) to the left of the old Boston & Albany mainline.

Eastbound in the morning sun. CSX's Q012 has a clear signal at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Total elapsed time from my arrival in Palmer to the passage of this freight? Less than 2 minutes.
Eastbound in the morning sun. CSX’s Q012 has a clear signal at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Total elapsed time from my arrival in Palmer to the passage of this freight? Less than 2 minutes.

The Lumix L7 cycles relatively quickly, so I was able to make a second grab shot, just a few moments after the first.
The Lumix Lx-7 cycles relatively quickly, so I was able to make a second grab shot, just a few moments after the first.

There’s a 30 mph speed restriction on the diamond for freight. As the train rolled through, I said, ‘we can catch this again.’ And, off we went on the first of a long-day’s railway photography adventures.

Nearly 12 hours later, we returned to Palmer and, as it turned out, repeated the exercise in fortuity. Immediately upon our arrival, the signals lit at CP83 and these soon cleared to green on the main track. ‘We’ve got a westbound, and it can’t be far off.’

I knew this because CSX’s signals at CP83 are approach-lit, and only light when something has actuated the track circuits between CP83 and CP79 (located at the east-end of the controlled siding). Also, when a signal has been cleared, a train must close.

Again, we had just enough time to get in position for photography.

Walking toward the diamond, some diners leaving the Steaming Tender asked me, ‘Is a train coming?’

Not having time to waste more than a moment in conversation, I replied, ‘Yes, a westbound is very close. Less than four minutes away.’ A headlight appeared to the east as I made the comment.

“How did you know that?” The diners asked, as if I possessed some blind precognition. “The signal shows ‘clear’ for the main track,” was my honest reply, but I may as well answered in ancient Greek.

What's this? A westward piggyback train in the afternoon? On a Sunday? I'm not one to argue, but i was surprised to see it. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
What’s this? A westward piggyback train in the afternoon? On a Sunday? I’m not one to argue, but I was surprised to see it. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Customers at the Steaming Tender wave to the passing freight. Lumix LX-7 photo.
Customers at the Steaming Tender wave to the passing freight. Lumix LX-7 photo.

A tight view of CSX Evolution-series diesels rolling toward the Palmer diamond. Lumix LX-7 photo.
A tight view of CSX Evolution-series diesels rolling toward the Palmer diamond on the evening of Sunday June 22, 2014. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

My luck?—Being in the right place at the precisely the right times. However, I made my own luck. By keeping my ears open and my eyes on the signals, I knew to act quickly. Stop, look and listen, right? There’s no mystery there.

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Amtrak’s Vermonter on New England Central

Federal Street in Belchertown, May 25, 2014.

Vermonter_at_Federal_Street_1_P1020522

Amtrak train 57, the southward Vermonter rolls across Federal Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts on May 25, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Amtrak train 57, the southward Vermonter rolls across Federal Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts on May 25, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.

Since 1995, Amtrak’s Vermonter has operated via Palmer and Amherst, Massachusetts. This requires a 13-mile jog over CSX’s former Boston & Albany from Springfield to Palmer, where the train reverses direction and heads north on New England Central’s former Central Vermont main line.

Presently, Pan Am Southern’s former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line is being upgraded between Springfield and the Massachusetts-Vermont Stateline at East Northfield. This will allow a restoration of passenger service to the traditional route north of Springfield.

The Vermonter is expected to switch to the former B&M routing via Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield by the end of this year. As a result, I’ve been making photographs of Amtrak’s train at various places between Palmer and East Northfield, while the service still operates that way.

Several years ago, my late friend Bob Buck and I, were following a northward New England Central freight. Bob had been making photos on the Central Vermont since steam days.

We were just a few minutes ahead of the freight as we passed Belchertown.

We turned on Route 9 toward Amherst. After a couple of minutes Bob pointed, ‘take a left, there on Federal Street.’ We found the tracks and I made a photo of Bob rolling the freight by the crossing.

It was here I chose to capture the Vermonter, while I still can.

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Related articles

Freight among the Bricks—Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Guilford—May 1997.

It was a clear fresh May morning when I met my friend George S. Pitarys for a day’s photography. We were aiming to photograph the New Hampshire North Coast’s rock train, however, George said to me, ‘lad, we have a diversion.’

We set up at Boston & Maine’s heavy truss over the Merrimack River at Haverhill for a westward freight. The attraction was a trio of former Santa Fe SD26s in the lead.

A Guilford freight works west (compass south) at Haverhill, Massachusetts, the sounds of its EMD 645 engines permeating the morning air.
A Guilford freight works west (compass south) at Haverhill, Massachusetts, the sounds of its EMD 645 engines permeating the morning air.

As the train approached the bridge, I was impressed by the view of the old brick buildings with the train looming to the left.

I exposed this image with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm lens. I also made a more traditional view of the locomotives on the bridge, but for me, this one better conveys railroading in a post-industrial New England scene.

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DAILY POST: Maine Central Alco in the Rain at North Walpole, New Hampshire

Taking in the Whole Scene.

My father taught me to make railway scenes, and not merely images of equipment. I did just that on this cold, wet, rainy day, when I photographed Maine Central Alco RS-11 crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire.

Mountain Railroad on November 25, 1983. It was raining hard when I exposed this view of it crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire using my Leica 3A loaded with Kodak Tri-X. For me, the rain, the locomotive and the highway were all part of the scene. I’ve framed the locomotive in the grade crossing signals. To the right is theMountain Railroad on November 25, 1983. It was raining hard when I exposed this view of it crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire using my Leica 3A loaded with Kodak Tri-X. For me, the rain, the locomotive and the highway were all part of the scene. I’ve framed the locomotive in the grade crossing signals. To the right is Green Mountain's former Boston & Maine roundhouse
Maine Central 802, one of the railroad’s two Alco RS-11’s was on loan to Green Mountain Railroad on November 25, 1983. It was raining hard when I exposed this view of it crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire using my Leica 3A loaded with Kodak Tri-X. For me, the rain, the locomotive and the highway were all part of the scene. I’ve framed the locomotive in the grade crossing signals. To the left is Green Mountain’s former Boston & Maine roundhouse.

I’d traveled with Paul Goewey to Bellows Falls on the morning of November 25, 1983, specifically to photograph this locomotive. For reasons I can’t recall (if I ever knew), Green Mountain had borrowed Maine Central 802 to work its daily freight XR-1, that ran to Rutland over the former Rutland Railroad.

Despite the gloomy conditions this was something of an event, and I recall that several photographers had convened at Bellows Falls to document 802’s travels.

Green Mountain’s roundhouse is in North Walpole, just across the Connecticut River from Bellows Falls, and I made this image from the east bank as the engine switched cars.

With this image I was trying to convey that this locomotive was in an unusual place by putting it in a distinctive scene.

Once XR-1 was underway, Paul and I followed it toward Rutland. The weather deteriorated and rain turned to snow. By the time we reached Ludlow, the snow had become heavy; we were cold, wet, and tired, having been up since 4:30 am, and so ended the day’s photography.

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Tomorrow:

Discussion of a contemporary color slide featuring a Canadian National ethanol extra!

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DAILY POST: Maine Central at East Deerfield Yard, September 1984.

An Unconventional View of the Ready Tracks.

I was interested to find this collection of Maine Central locomotives at Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard in September 1984. At the time, Guilford’s gray and orange livery was still a novelty.

Using my father’s 21mm Super Angulon on my Leica 3A, I composed this somewhat unconventional view of the ready tracks. This lens was a favorite of mine at the time. I still use it occasionally.

Boston & Maine's East Deerfield Yard
Maine central GP38 260 and a pair of U18Bs were the subjects of interest in my September 1984 black & white photograph. Today, the contrast of the steam-era infrastructure with the diesels makes for an unusual compelling railroad photo. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens.

The composition works despite being foreground heavy and exposed on the ‘dark side’ of the locomotives. The image nicely integrates the infrastructure around the locomotives while offering a period look.

At the time I was studying photography at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and made regular visits to photograph the Boston & Maine.

See my earlier post: Johnsonville, New York, November 4, 1984.  

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Tomorrow: A Bird, a Tram, A Canal!

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Daily Post: Westward Freight in Wink of Sun

CSX Q427 Claws Upgrade at Chester, Massachusetts.

For me the old Boston & Albany West end is hallowed ground. This was the first true mountain mainline in the modern sense. The line was surveyed in the mid 1830s and by 1839 trains were working over Washington Summit.

Over the last 30 years I’ve made countless trips to photograph this line and it remains one of my favorites. Yet, I rarely come up here in the winter.

On Friday, February 7, 2014, my father and I went up to Huntington to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449. Not far behind was CSX’s Q427.

This freight runs daily between Portland, Maine and Selkirk, New York via Ayer and Worcester, Massachusetts. This day it had a pair of General Electric Evolution-Series diesels of the type that have come to characterize modern freight operations on the Boston & Albany route.

Since the train wasn’t making great speed, we pursued it on Route 20, stopping to make photos at opportune locations. At CP 123 (where the line goes from single track to two-main track) Q427 met an eastward freight holding at the signal. We continued upgrade ahead of the train.

I remembered that there’s a gap in the hills at Chester which allows for a window of sun on the line that lasts late in the day. So we zipped ahead of the train.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.

The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

At Chester, Pop set up his tripod to make a hi-resolution video of the train climbing. I positioned myself with my Canon EOS 7D with a telephoto lens to make use of the window of sun against a dark background.

As the train grew closer I also exposed more conventional views with my Lumix LX3. The heavy train took more than two minutes to pass.

Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.
Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.

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 Tomorrow: step back 30 years with a visit to West Springfield.

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DAILY POST; West Warren Contrasts; 2010 and 2013

Difficulties of Photographing in the Spring and Summer.

That’s just what you want to read about right now, isn’t it!. Gosh, those awful warm months with the long days, soft sunlight and thick foliage.

Well, here I have two views, both made at about the same location off Route 67 in West Warren, Massachusetts at approximately the same time of the morning. Both views show a CSX eastward freight.

On July 31, 2010, an eastward CSXT intermodal train works the former Boston & Albany at West Warren, Massachusetts. At the time heavy line-side brush made photography challenging. Canon EOS 7D.
On July 31, 2010, an eastward CSXT intermodal train works the former Boston & Albany at West Warren, Massachusetts. At the time heavy line-side brush made photography challenging. Canon EOS 7D.

This sequence of photos was made at almost exactly the same location, but after CSXT performed undercutting work and brush cutting along the Boston & Albany route. These views were exposed on the morning of May 10, 2013.
This sequence of photos was made at almost exactly the same location, but after CSXT performed undercutting work and brush cutting along the Boston & Albany route. These views were exposed on the morning of May 10, 2013.

Slightly closer view that nearly approximates the position of the train in the July 31, 2010 photo.
Slightly closer view that nearly approximates the position of the train in the July 31, 2010 photo.

The first was exposed on July 31, 2010; the second two views were made on May 10, 2013. While I’ve used one of these views in a previous post (see: Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013 ), I thought these made for an interesting contrast with the earlier image.

The primary difference is that in the interval between 2010 and 2013 CSXT cut the brush along the Boston line and performed undercutting work at West Warren. This is just one of many locations that benefited visually from such improvements.

A secondary difficulty about photographing when foliage is at its summer peak is selecting the optimum exposure. In the 2010 image, I took a test photo and allowed for some nominal overexposure of the locomotive front in order to retain detail in the foliage. I then made a nominal correction in Photoshop during post processing to make for a more pleasing image.

This is the 'unprocessed' camera-produced Jpg to show the slight 'over exposure' on the locomotive front.
This is the ‘unprocessed’ camera-produced Jpg to show the slight ‘over exposure’ on the locomotive front.

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Tomorrow: CSX in the snow!

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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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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
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: Amtrak Heritage P40 at West Warren, Massachusetts!


Light! Camera! Action!

Here we have an instance where everything came together nicely.

Amtrak heritage locomotive
Amtrak 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts, 2:03pm January 24, 2014. Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens exposed at ISO 200 f5.6 1/1000th of a second. Camera RAW file converted to a Jpeg in Adobe Photoshop.

On Friday January 24, 2014, I’d got word that Amtrak’s heritage locomotive number 822 was working the westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449

This was the second time in a ten-day span that I’d be alerted to a heritage locomotive on this run. As noted in my January 18, 2014 post, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the weather wasn’t cooperative on my previous attempt at catching an Amtrak heritage locomotive.

By contrast on January 24th it was clear but very cold. I opted to make the photo at West Warren, where it’s nice and open and there’s a distinctive landscape.

Normally, Amtrak 449 passes East Brookfield at 1:30pm, and Palmer about 1:50pm. West Warren is roughly halfway between them, so I aimed to be there no later than 1:35pm

As it happened, 449 was delayed on Charlton Hill and passed more than 15 minutes later than I’d anticipated. Other than resulting in my nose getting a bit cold, this delay produced little effect on the photograph.

I opted for a traditional angle because I wanted to feature the locomotive as the primary subject this scenic setting. I picked a spot on the road bridge over the Quaboag River where I could make a view that included the old mills and waterfall, as well as a side view as the train got closer.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens, I set the motor drive to its fastest setting, and exposed three bursts of images as the train rolled east on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline.

Since the camera’s buffer will quickly become saturated when making multiple photos in rapid succession, I was careful to wait until the train was nearly where I wanted it in each of the three sets.

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Amtrak_822_on_449_West_Warren_tight_view_IMG_4061
This tighter view offers a clean perspective on the equipment. I was aiming to feature both the heritage painted locomotive and the ancient baggage car. Word to the wise; get the old baggage cars while you can, they won’t be around forever.

Have you had luck catching Amtrak’s heritage locomotives?  Do you have a favorite? Let me know! There’s a venue for comments on this blog, scroll down.

 

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DAILY POST: Palmer Freight House Demolition

 

 25 Years Ago, Conrail Demolished Palmer’s Boston & Albany Freight House.

During the 1980s, Conrail demolished many disused structures along the Boston & Albany line. The East Brookfield freight house went in 1984, Worcester’s went in 1986. In January 1989, I noticed that the railroad was preparing to erase Palmer’s B&A landmark.

The wrecking machine was parked out in front and had already taken a bite out of the northeast corner of the steam-era red brick structure.

Boston & Albany Railroad
Palmer freight station on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.

I proposed a short article to the editor of Palmer Journal Register. The newspaper supplied me with a roll of black & white film and processed it for me. I photographed the building from every angle and wrote the article that appeared about a week later.

Conrail made short work of the old building, which had stood at the west-end of the yard near Haley’s Grain Store. Today there is almost no evidence of the building.

For me it had been tangible evidence of the old Boston & Albany—never mind Conrail or Penn-Central. While its usefulness to Conrail may have ended, I recalled speaking with the agent there on various occasions in previous years.

I still have the negatives that I exposed with my Leica M2 and I’ve scanned these using my Epson V600.

Palmer freight on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.
Palmer freight on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.

Palmer freight on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.
Palmer freight on the eve of demolition. Exposed with a Leica M2 in January 1989.

Corner_Brian_Solomon_235244

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Tomorrow: Tracking the Light takes a look a classic searchlight signal on Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine route.

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Amherst Railway Society’s Big Railroad Hobby Show—Part 1

West Springfield, Massachusetts, January 25, 2014.

NYC_F_unit_IMG_4092

This past weekend (January 25-26, 2014) was the annual Big Railroad Hobby Show sponsored by the Amherst Railway Society.

It fills four buildings at the Eastern States Exposition grounds at West Springfield, Massachusetts and attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

For railway enthusiasts it’s an epic event and an annual pilgrimage. The show is the living testimony of the late Bob Buck—long time show director and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies.

Through clever marketing, unceasing persistence and a life-long passion for trains of all scales, Bob built the show from a small railroad hobby event into a massive one.

This weekend’s show was another well-attended event. It was a virtual sea of trains and people. Here are a few photos of people I met at this year’s show and exhibits that I enjoyed.

Conrail_SD80MACs_IMG_4124

Otto Vondrak of Railfan & Railroad Magazine.
Otto Vondrak of Railfan & Railroad Magazine.

Scarlett promotes Palmer's premier railroad restaurant, the ever-popular Steaming Tender (located at the old Union Station).
Scarlett promotes Palmer’s premier railroad restaurant, the ever-popular Steaming Tender (located at the old Union Station).

 

Quabog Valley's Boston & Albany J-2 Pacific.
Quabog Valley’s Boston & Albany J-2 Pacific.

Jim_Beagle_and_company_P1600194

Berkshire Scenic.
Berkshire Scenic.

Model Station.
Model Station.

Phil and Rich.
Phil and Rich.

Rich Reed's Penn Central display.
Rich Reed’s Penn Central display.

Tucker's Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.
Tucker’s Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.

Did you attend? What was your favorite exhibit?

Stay tuned for more photos tomorrow!

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DAILY POST: Kodachrome Afternoon at West Springfield, February 1986


Making and old Slide Even Better.

Conrail
Conrail’s sunday TV9 departs West Springfield yard at 3:55 pm on February 9, 1986. The film had a decidedly red color bias (Kodachrome as it aged tended to shift towards the red). This has resulted in a pinkish cast that is especially noticeable in the snow. The image is also off-level. I corrected these problems and others after scanning the slide. See below.

Here we have a typically New England scene; a fresh blanket of snow has fallen and the sky has cleared to a clear blue dome. Perfect light right?

Not exactly. The great contrast between the brilliant bright snow and the shadow areas makes for a difficult exposure. Complicating matters was Conrail’s rich blue paint.

While I was fortunate to catch Conrail’s TV9 leaving West Springfield Yard, I faced an exposure conundrum. If I exposed for the train, I risked grossly over exposing the snow, furthermore if I simply set the camera based on the snow on the ground, I’d end up with a pretty dark slide.

In the end I compromised, and stopped down enough to retain detail in the snow, while leaving the rest of the scene reasonably exposed.

However, 28 years later I’m still not satisfied with the slide.

There are three problems. I was concentrating on the exposure and the moving train (while trying to manipulate two cameras simultaneously) and I missed the level by about two degrees. Secondly, the Kodachrome film had a decidedly red bias, which resulted in pinkish snow (hardly what my eye saw that day).

I was easily able to correct these flaws after scanning the slide. I imported it into Photoshop and made three changes.

1) I cropped and rotated the image to correct for level.

2) Using the red-cyan color balance sliders, I shifted the highlights and mid-tone areas to toward cyan to minimize the excessive red in the scene. (cyan is the color opposite of red)

3) I made a localized contrast adjustment on the locomotives by outlining the area I wanted to change and then making a slight change using the curves feature.

I’ve illustrated the original unmodified scan two intermediate steps and the final image.

Here I've corrected the level; and using the color balance sliders I've shifted the color balance in the highlight and mid-tone areas to eliminate the pink-cast.
Here I’ve corrected the level; and using the color balance sliders I’ve shifted the color balance in the highlight and mid-tone areas to eliminate the pink-cast.

The last step requires a subtle localized contrast adjustment. I selected the area to be adjusted and made a very minor change to the contrast and color balance. For this example I've grossly exaggerated the area selected strictly to illustrate where I've made the changes.
The last step requires a subtle localized contrast adjustment. I selected the area to be adjusted and made a very minor change to the contrast and color balance. For this example I’ve grossly exaggerated the selected-area strictly to illustrate where I’ve made the changes. Obviously the extreme contrast change looks absurd when viewed out of context.

Here's the final image. One last change require the use of the burning tool; I made a few light passes around the seem between the area of localized contrast change to minimize the effect. My feeling is that if you can quickly perceive the adjustment, then the effect is too extreme.
Here’s the final image. One last change require the use of the burning tool; I made a few light passes around the seam between the area of localized contrast change to minimize the effect. My feeling is that if you can quickly perceive the adjustment, then the effect is too extreme.

 

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Springfield, Massachusetts, April 2004

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DAILY POST: When the Common is Uncommon.


Remembering the SPVs!

They were Budd’s follow up to its successful stainless steel rail diesel cars built in the 1950s. But where Budd’s RDCs had established standards for self propelled diesel cars, Budd’s SPV-2000 didn’t measure up.

I think ‘SPV’ was supposed to mean ‘Self Propelled Vehicle,’ but all the railroaders I knew called them ‘Seldom Powered Vehicles.’

These were adapted from the original Budd Metroliner (MP85) car style and in the same family as Amtrak’s Budd-built Amfleet.

For a few years they were routinely assigned to Amtrak’s Springfield, Massachusetts-New Haven, Connecticut shuttle trains.

Amtrak at Springfield Station.
Silhouette of a Budd SPV2000 at Springfield Station on the morning of September 30, 1984. Exposed on 35mm Kodak Tri-X with a Leica 3A with 21mm lens.

On the morning of September 30, 1984, Conrail B23-7s lead  eastward freight SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) through Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station. A set of SPVs rests in the shadows. Although not the primary subject, I was sure to include the SPV2000s in my photograph. Exposed on Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 21mm lens.
On the morning of September 30, 1984, Conrail B23-7s lead eastward freight SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) through Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station. A set of SPVs rests in the shadows. Although not the primary subject, I was sure to include the SPV2000s in my photograph. Exposed on Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 21mm lens.

I admit now that I didn’t like the SPVs. I didn’t like them because they were new, and I much preferred the traditional RDCs. Also, at the time, I found the round car style un-photogenic.

Despite my dislike of the SPV’s, I photographed them anyway. While I wish that I’d made more photos of them, I’m very glad that I bothered to put them on film at all.

As it turned out, Amtrak appears to have disliked the SPV’s even more than I did! Their tenure on the Springfield run was short. By 1986, they’d been largely replaced with locomotive hauled consists. Other than my own photographs, I’ve seen very few images of these cars working on Amtrak.

A lone SPV2000 makes a station stop at Windsor Locks, Connecticut in May 1985. From my experience, it was relatively unusual to find single SPVs working in Springfield-Hartford-New Haven shuttle service. Exposed with a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon 50mm lens. Contrast controlled locally in post processing using Photoshop.
A lone SPV2000 makes a station stop at Windsor Locks, Connecticut in May 1985. From my experience, it was relatively unusual to find single SPVs working in Springfield-Hartford-New Haven shuttle service. Exposed with a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon 50mm lens. Contrast controlled locally in post processing using Photoshop.

Here’s an irony: in retrospect I’ve come to appreciate the SPV’s. They were a rare example of a modern American-built self-propel diesel car, and to my well-traveled eye, I now find them very interesting. So, what seemed new and common, now seems rare and peculiar!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

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

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Also see: Old Pointless Arrow and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

and: Springfield Station, March 31, 1984

The Amherst Railway Society ‘BIG RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW‘ is on this weekend (January 25 and 26, 2014) at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

See: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/

Brian Solomon will cover the train show in Tracking the Light.

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