At the end of December 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I, paid a brief visit to the Mount Washington Cog Railway, where I made this photo of a pair of bio-diesel powered excursion trains near the base station.
The Mount Washington Cog was the worlds first cog railway. Although uncommon in North America, mountainous cog railways are relatively common in the Alps where there are numerous examples in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
In 2002, I traveled on a cog line at Strba, Slovakia, but that’s a photo for another day.
Lost in the woods of northern New Hampshire is this relic of an era—all but lost to time.
The long-abandoned Maplewood Station served resort traffic on Boston & Maine’s Bethlehem Branch, a short railway built as narrow gauge in the late 19th century and later converted to four foot eight and a half inches.
By the 1920s, New England railroading was already in decline, and this branch was one of the earliest class I abandonments. Yet the old station building survived.
On the advice of Wayne Duffett, Kris Sabbatino and I made a foray into the forest to find this hollow spectre of railroading, languishing like a sad old ghost, and soon to crumble back into the earth.
I made these digital photos variously using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom.
In late July 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I were returning from a wander around far northern Vermont, when we paused at Lancaster, New Hampshire.
This was shortly before sunset. I had HP5 loaded into a Nikkormat FTN.
I made these images using ambient light, then processed the film using a custom tailored two stage development recipe:
Before primary processing, I presoaked the film in HC110 diluted 1-300 for 6 minutes; then for primary development I used Ilford ID11 1-1 at 70F for 7 minutes, followed by ‘stop’, ‘first fix’ ‘2nd fix,’ 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse and final wash.
I scanned these negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.
On the advice of Ed Beaudette My pal TSH and I started the day at White River Junction, Vermont, where we spent several hours photographing the parade of trains.
By midday, Boston & Maine’s CPED was headed south toward East Deerfield, Massachusetts and we followed it to make photos.
The sights and sounds of four Boston & Maine GP9s working in multiple will always stick with me.
At the time we weren’t well versed with the lay of the land, and did our best to follow the Connecticut River line with little more than a basic map.
At Claremont, New Hampshire we stumbled upon the famous high bridge, just moments before the southward CPED rolled across.
Working with my father’s Rollei Model T loaded with 120-size Kodak Verichrome Pan roll film, I exposed a single frame of the freight in silhouette crossing the bridge.
I processed this in Kodak D76. My processing skills were only slightly better than my ability to find locations on the fly. In retrospect, I should have used a different developer, or at least used a more dilute solution, because my resulting negative was over developed and lacking in broad tonality.
In later years, I refined my photographic skill, however I can’t go back to catch four B&M GP9s on the bridge, so I have to work with the existing negative.
For presentation here: after scanning the original negative, I imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom, where I implemented a variety of contrast and exposure adjustments to make for a more visually pleasing image and then outputted a scaled lo-res scan for internet presentation here.
On July 3, 2020, Conway Scenic sent engine 216 out on the Redstone Branch to collect a Boston & Maine boxcar I’d been using for advertising.
I documented the move with digital photos, as previously presented, and also on film.
For these images, I worked with a Nikon F3 with f2.5 Nikkor 105mm lens and Fomapan Classic 100 black & white film. I first sampled Fomapan on a trip to the Czech Republic in 2016.
Operating 216 was Adam, a Conway Scenic engineer trainee.
I processed the film using customized split-development that begins with a very dilute solution of HC110 with PhotoFlo as a presoak followed by primary development with Ilford ID11. After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner then imported the scans into Lightroom for final adjustment and scaling for presentation.
During the last week, Maine Central GP38 252 has been working Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley trains that run daily from North Conway railroad east to Conway and North Conway railroad west to Bartlett.
While 252 is more than capable of working these trains, it is typically been assigned to the run to Crawford Notch.
I took the opportunity to make photos of 252 working the 1910-1920s-era heavy steel cars that comprise our Valley train set.
These photos were made using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Mark June 20, 2020 on your calendar. On that day, Conway Scenic Railroad will commence its 2020 operating season!
Yesterday, I was down in the yard making photos of 470 Club’s F7A 4268 that Louis and Jordan were transferring from stall four in the roundhouse to its new location behind stall 1, where it now sits back to back with sister B&M F7A 4266 (for continued restoration work), when I heard this news:
The State of New Hampshire is planning to lift the conditions that have restricted Conway Scenic Railroad from operating public excursions.
These were posted to: covidguidance.nh.gov.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been assisting with planning for our delayed reopening, including mapping the seating arrangements for our passenger cars, helping to draft training materials, working on schedules, and learning some nuts and bolts of real railroading, along with marketing activities.
Among the complications of our reopening are the conditions that still remain in place to minimize the spread of Covid-19 that require us to limit passenger car capacity, enforce social distancing, maintain sanitary conditions etc.
These have resulted in much longer boarding processes, and at least initially we will need to begin boarding guests 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure times.
We have to limit the numbers of guests in our station, and set up new procedures for our crews.
I’ll be a busy guy over the coming days. Since we only received the particulars of the new ruling yesterday many of the details still need to be worked out.
Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s Photography Blog.
The old Groveton (New Hampshire) station building stands where the former Boston & Maine met the old Grand Trunk. Today the GT route is operated by Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic (known by its reporting marks SLR) while the B&M line is the very lightly used New Hampshire Central route to Hazens, Whitefield and beyond toward Littleton.
On visits here in the 1990s, I’d found the now defunct New Hampshire & Vermont switching the old paper mill at Groveton. But the mill is now a memory. The once imposing structures dwarfed the little brick station building.
I made these digital photos on a recent visit with photographer Kris Sabbatino. All were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and adjusted for shadows/contrast in post processing with Lightroom.
Yesterday, David Swirk issued a statement explaining why the Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operations as planned in April. I’ve included an excerpt of the statement below.
In recent weeks, I’ve been continuing to photograph, video record, and prepare advertising materials for the railroad. I’ve included a few photos of the way things appeared at North Conway on March 20, 2020.
We continue to plan for our delayed reopening.
Excerpt of Friday’s statement.
Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operation as planned in April 2020. This is in compliance with the recently issued New Hampshire Stay-at-Home order that is going into effect ll:59 PM Friday, March 27, 2020. This order is in response to the unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that is aimed to end the spread of the disease by restricting public movement and preventing non-essential businesses from opening. Conway Scenic Railroad will continue to closely watch the unfolding events relating to the containment of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.