Last week I learned, much to my surprise, that the old Boston & Maine station at Berlin, NH is still standing. So yesterday (31 July 2021), Kris Sabbatino and I drove to the east side of this old New Hampshire milltown to investigate.
I made these photos from the street using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
I’ve seen stations in better shape than this one. Also, it has been without regular passenger service for about 60 years. The tracks have been lifted and its a long walk from the center of town. But it has a ‘For Sale’ sign out front! (If you are interested).
It was a dull day back in April when Kris Sabbatino & I explored the abandoned Boston & Maine right of way near Lisbon, New Hampshire.
This is now a trail.
I recall back in the early 1990s, when short line operator New Hampshire & Vermont was still running trains on this line.
All just a memory now.
I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3.
I then processed the negatives using my special ‘split development’ as previously described on Tracking the Light (two development baths; one hot and weak and active, the other cool and strong to maximize tonality.)
Afterwards, I toned the negatives in a selenium bath mixed 1-9 with water.
In the late 1990s, Seattle-based tour operator Great Train Escapes employed me to provide on-board contextual narration to their guests during their autumn rail-based New England excursions.
Part of the journey were trips over the St. Lawrence & Atlantic former Grand Trunk line in Maine and New Hampshire.
On several occasions we boarded the train eastbound at Gorham, where I took the opportunity to expose Fujichrome color slides.
Last week I revisited the old Grand Trunk station and environs at Gorham with fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino, where we met Andrew Dale who reminded me of my earlier visits to the town. This inspired me to dig into the archives to find these vintage photos.
The modern images were expose using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit, while the vintage photos were made with a Nikon.
It seems like another age when I drove to Whitefield, New Hampshire on spec to photograph the famous ball signal in October 1992. As a bonus, I caught this New Hampshire & Vermont Alco RS-11 working the yard.
In this view the RS11 crosses Union Street-Route 3 on the former Boston & Maine line to Wells River via Littleton.
I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with a 50mm Summicron.
The ball signal still stands at Whitefield, but the tracks are almost never used. I wonder what happened to this RS-11?
There’s more than one Swift River. In fact, in Massachusetts, I know of at least two. The river discussed here is the Swift River in New Hampshire that passes through Albany and Conway.
My railroad photography has been light since the end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Trains on February 29, so I thought I put up something a little different.
Last weekend, fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino offered to show me some interesting photo locations in the Conway area and we drove to the Swift River Bridge at Albany.
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In addition, I exposed a few frames of black & white film, which at the rate I’m moving on processing might not get processed until the leaves are on the trees.
The style of bridge intrigued me. While I’m familiar with the Howe Truss, this was something different. Later I looked it up on-line, and it was described as a ‘Paddleford type with added arches’.
Does anyone remember the spoof newspaper ‘Not the New York Times’?
Anyway, at first glance this nocturnal photo might be mistaken for a mid-1950s view of a New York Central EMD GP with a Bangor & Aroostook boxcar.
Of course there are lots of hints to the contrary. If you look carefully, the GP9 in this view has ditch lights (a feature of the 1990s and later). The paint scheme, while inspired by the ‘New York Central’ lightning stripe, isn’t really like anything actually used by the railroad on a GP9. And, of course this engine has dynamic braking grids (just barely visible at the top of the long hood), , which as everyone knows(to quote a phrase) isn’t representative of New York Central’s GP9s, since none had dynamic brakes.
Last June, while working with the Conway Scenic Railroad I exposed this view of fresh green foliage at the Frankenstein Trestle on the line over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
I was working with an antique Nikon FTN Nikkormat with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens.
I like the ‘fast’ 105 because it allows for very shallow depth of field at its widest aperture, while offering exceptional sharpness on the area of focus.
This effect is especially appealing as a contrast to many modern digital systems that offer razor sharp images with great depth of field in most circumstances. Focus, like other qualities, may be most effective when applied judiciously.
I exposed this image on Ilford HP5 400ISO 35mm black & white film. I hand processed the film. After a presoak with very dilute HC110 for about 5 minutes, I introduced my primary developer, Ilford ID11 developer mixed 1 to 1 with water, for 6 minutes and 15 seconds at 70F. By raising the temperature slightly and using a relatively dilute solution I controlled contrast while increasing shadow detail.
Elwyn of North Conway’s Moose Safari invited me to join him on one of his nocturnal tours searching for New Hampshire’s elusive Moose.
I say elusive, because in the nearly three months I’d spent in New Hampshire, including considerable time roaming the old Maine Central Mountain Division searching for locations and waiting for trains, I’d not seen any moose.
Elwyn knows the roaming patterns of these great animals and brings visitors to see them on a nightly basis. Like finding freight trains in New England, finding moose requires a detailed understanding of their patterns and paths. He explained that its not about simply waiting for the moose, but actively going to find them.
I joined Elwyn’s Moose Safari on the night of the full moon in front of Conway Scenic’s North Conway Station.
After a few hours of scouring New Hampshire’s highways and byways, we spotted a pair of moose. Elwyn illuminated the roadside with lights mounted to his tour vehicle and using that light, I made this photo using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera was set at ISO 6400; f2.0 1/30thof a second.
On August 4, 1974, Conway Scenic carried its first revenue passengers from its historic North Conway, New Hampshire station south to Conway on the old Boston & Maine Conway branch. Locomotive 7470, then carrying abbreviated number ‘47’, did the honors.
Today, August 4, 2019 is a special day for the railroad and steam locomotive 7470.
Next weekend, August 3rd and 4th, will represent Conway Scenic Railroad’s 45thanniversary of steam operations and revenue services.
To mark the occasion of the railroad’s first 45 years carrying revenue passengers and as an invitation to visit the railroad on Sunday August 4th, 2019, I put together a very short promotional video. This includes some rarely seen archive materials.
This was posted to Conway Scenic’s new YouTube channel and to its Facebook page yesterday.
If you listen very carefully, you can hear me making the still photograph that appears here.
Last night I ventured along the banks of the Saco River to make this sunset view of Conway Scenic’s dinner train on its westward run toward Bartlett from North Conway, New Hampshire.
Why a back lit view?
Two reasons: Backlighting helps illuminate the trees, create greater contrast on the rocks in the Saco, and helps to better illustrate the bridge.
But, more important to this photo: I’d intended to try for a more traditional view, but was unable to find an easily reachable and suitable location on the far side of the bridge in the few minutes of set up time before the train arrived. Complicating matters was that I was also working with a video camera and carrying lots of equipment along the riverbank was limiting my agility.
Last week at North Conway, New Hampshire hot humid afternoon gave way to rain forest-like torrential rains.
In the twilight of early evening, I exposed this raining view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.
The slight blurred effect is a combination of the cascading downpour and relatively slow shutter speed. For me the combination of heavy rain, dusk, and slight camera blur makes for a painterly effect that helps transcend the decades.
Near the summit of the former Maine Central Mountain Division at Crawford Notch, the line passes through a deep rock cutting in a natural low point in the mountains known as the Gateway.
Conway Scenic’s normal operations of its Notch Train to Crawford’s Station finds the train passing the Gateway at the peak of high sun. In other words, one of the most difficult times for photography using natural lighting.
Fires in the West resulted in particulate matter and haze, which last week provide a great degree of diffusion, making these condition an ideal time to catch the Notch Train on its uphill run.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view from the railroad east end (compass south) of the famous cutting. Having locomotive 1751 in the lead was an added bonus.
Last Saturday’s excursion atop Mount Washington lent to some precipitous views of the line.
Over its 150 years, I imagine that every inch of this short but steep railway has been photographed.
Not withstanding that, I’ve added my FujiFilm XT1 photos to the mix. Here’s a selection as we rode up on the train. Special thanks to our brakemen on the way up who allowed me to make a few photos from the door at the end of the car.
Tracking the Light Rode the Mt. Washington Cog Railway!
The other evening I exposed this trailing view of Conway Scenic’s RDC number 23, Millienear Glen-Jackson on its evening run up to Attiash .
On of the best kept secrets among Conway’s scheduled trains are its RDC runs for Attitash that depart North Conway on select evenings at 6pm.
I like the RDC, a typical Budd Car, that was common to New England passenger services when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s.
For this photo, I was working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto. The camera color profile was set to Velvia (see photo above), but ultimately I worked with the camera-RAW file in Lightroom to adjust color temperature, contrast and saturation (see photo below).
Conway Scenic’s Valley Train makes its station stop at Attitash.
The station is just a flag stop on the Valley run that serves the Attitash Mountain Resort. It has a short platform with benches, railings, a classic enamel metal sign with blue and white letters, and the requisite yellow line.
On Sunday, the Valley Train dropped off seven passengers who had traveled from North Conway via Bartlett. They were among many passengers traveling round trip to Bartlett.
To my disappointment no passengers boarded for the run back to North Conway.
With permission of the operating crew I disembarked with Lumix in hand to expose this photo. The train’s conductor is at right logging the move in the station register.
Here’s two photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s former Maine Central GP7 573 running around the Valley Trainat Bartlett, New Hampshire on the old Mountain Division.
One was made from the train on a cloudy day, the other from the road near the section house as the engine was cutting off from the train.
Some contrasts: Cloud versus sun; vertical versus horizontal; traditional versus interpretative; road versus rail.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
Some viewers commented that they were unable to see the ‘cloudy’ photo. For this reason, I’ve rescaled and re-uploaded a version of the original vertical photo plus an EXTRA horizontal image from the same sequence.
A visit to New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad a few weeks ago was unusually rewarding.
We were invited to travel on a special chartered excursion that worked east on the old Maine Central Mountain Division, a portion of the railroad that only rarely sees trains.
It was my first time over that portion of the line.
We were treated to a spin on a former New Haven RDC, of the sort that I used to ride in Connecticut many years ago.
I made photos with my Lumix LX7, FujiFilm X-T1, and old Nikon F3 variously loaded with Fuji Provia and Kodak Tri-X.
The train crew was very accommodating in regards to photo stops, and suggested some great vantage points.
Overall our experience on the Conway Scenic was first class and we had a wonderful time! This is a really great preserved railroad. Thanks to Dave and Rhonda Swirk and all the employees of Conway Scenic!
Back in the summer of 1981, I took a Sunday drive with my family. Route 32 bisects Monson, Massachusetts, having come north from New London, Connecticut. On this day, we decided to follow this road north as far as it goes, which brought us to Keene, New Hampshire.
On the way we stopped in Ware and a few other towns.
At Keene, I was fascinated by the Boston & Maine SW1 laying idle in the old yard. At one time, decades earlier, Keene had been a been a B&M hub.
By the time I made these photos, Keene was effectively the end of branch served from the Connecticut River Line at Brattleboro, Vermont via Dole Junction.
Not long after this visit, B&M conveyed operations to the Green Mountain Railroad. Business was sparse and by the mid-1980s operations were discontinued altogether.
I wonder what this scene looks like today?
For years I also wondered what happened to these photographs. I recalled making them, but searches through my negatives failed to locate them. Admittedly my early photographs lacked logical organization.
Finally I found them in the ‘BIG BOX’ of missing negatives located last week.
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.
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.
It was 16 years ago that Mike Gardner and I drove to New Hampshire to photograph Guilford Rail System’s WJED (White River Junction, Vt., to East Deerfield, Mass.) freight. It was a clear October day and the foliage was nearing its peak.
We found the train near Claremont Junction and followed it south to North Walpole, where I exposed this color slide.
Leading the train was GP40 340 lettered for Guilford’s Boston & Maine component. I like this trailing view because the color of the tree above the train mimics the orange band on the engine. Also the three-head General Railway Signal searchlight at the left offers a hint of the Boston & Maine from an earlier era.
Here, Autumn offers multiple connotations. At one time the White River Junction to Springfield, Massachusetts Connecticut River Line was a busy Boston & Maine route, handling more than a half dozen passenger moves and several freights daily, plus those of Central Vermont Railway. By 1997, Guilford’s operations on was limited to just a few weekly trains.