Among my themes in Tracking the Light has been; Anticipating Change and Acting on it.
It is easy to sit back in your easy chair and pontificate about the potential for change. Or go from day to day without ever thinking about the effects of change.
Yet, looking back at old photos, what so often catches our interest is how things have changed.
When I was a kid, I’d look back at my father’s photos, exposed 10-20 years earlier and marvel at the changes that had transpired. Amtrak had ended the age of privately operated passenger trains. Conrail and other mergers had swept away many of the classic railroads that appeared in those old images.
Having only lived a few years, it was my mistaken belief that all change was in the past.
Fast forward to 1999. My friend Mike Gardner dropped me in Boston. I was on my way to London and had several hours before my flight. Tim Doherty suggest I make some photos of the Green Line elevated near North Station, which was then due to be replaced.
At the time I thought, “Hmm, but I have plenty of photos of the old El.” True, but these images were already more than a decade out of date. Green Line had introduced a new livery, and most of my views featured PCCs and 1970s-era Boeing-Vertol LRVs.
I made the effort and exposed several color slides of Green Line cars squealing along the old elevated line. I’m glad I did; as predicted the El was removed and these views can never be repeated.
Look around you, anticipate change and make photographs. What you see today may soon be different. Sometimes change is easy to predict; other times it occurs with little warning.
Boston gets some great light and evening can be one of the best times to make photographs.
Sunday October 27th was clear in the morning, but clouded up a bit during midday. Towards evening the clouds melted away and a rich golden light prevailed.
Tim Doherty and I photographed operations out of North Station as well as the north end of the Orange Line rapid transit, then went toward Boston College, where the Commonwealth Avenue branch of the Green Line crosses over the former Boston & Albany mainline.
The fading light of evening made for a dramatic skyline. I didn’t have my tripod with me, so instead racked up the ISO on my digital cameras. With my 7D I can work with a 4000 ISO rating and still get some very presentable images.
My memories of the Commonwealth Avenue line extend back more than 40 years, and my photography of the line nearly that long.
In the late-1970s, I made a point of exposed Kodachrome slides of the PCC’s that were then waning on that route. I never could have guessed than in 2013 some PCC’s would survive in daily service on the Mattapan-Ashmont line.
Boston’s two primary passenger terminals have no scheduled service between them. Historically, South Station served Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroad lines, while North Station served Boston & Maine’s. Both represented consolidations of older terminals. Today, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority provides suburban service, while Amtrak operates long distance trains from both stations.
To move equipment between North and South Stations (and their respective repair and maintenance facilities), MBTA normally uses the former B&A Grand Junction Branch which crosses the Charles River and passes through Cambridge, thus forming the only Boston-area link between North- and South-side networks.
Some months ago a problem was discovered with the Charles River Bridge. So now MBTA and Amtrak equipment transfers must travel a roundabout route via Worcester (from South Station over the old B&A mainline) then north via Clinton to Ayer, and eastward via the former B&M Fitchburg line toward North Station.
Equipment transfers operate as needed, and I’ve been fortunate to catch several of them over the last few months. On Wednesday, June 5, 2013, I got lucky and stumbled into position just in time to catch one without even trying!
Rich Reed and I had traveled to Ayer to photograph Pan Am Southern’s westward intermodal train 23K. After making successful images of the train, we drove back through Ayer and over the bridge just east of the Station, where I spotted a high-green (clear) signal at AY interlocking for an eastward movement.
I guessed that since this is a controlled signal, it would only be lined if something was due and we set up on the bridge in anticipation. This was the exact location where we’d photographed Norfolk Southern GEs switching a week earlier. See last week’s post: Ayer, Massachusetts, Wednesday May 29, 2013.
As it turned out, the clear signal was for an eastward MBTA commuter train, which arrived shortly and paused for its Ayer station stop. As passengers were boarding we were surprised to spot a second MBTA train coming off the wye from Worcester! This was an equipment transfer, led by MBTA GenSet locomotive 3249 hauling avariety of locomotives and cars.
By shear dumb luck we just happened to be in precisely the right place at the right time.
Had we known this train was coming we’d probably picked a different location to intercept it. Sometimes not knowing what’s going on can earn you a better photo than knowing too much.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.