It was on the evening of August 5, 1984 that I exposed this photo in the tradition of Richard Steinheimer, Jim Shaughnessy and the legendary Mr. Link.
I’d admit it was a long day, but that never stopped me. Bob Buck and I had set out from Tenants Harbor, Maine in the morning. As per tradition, we’d called into Northern Maine Junction and signed releases with the Bangor & Aroostook.
The railroad was very friendly and advised us of a northward freight heading to Millinocket. This had an F-unit in consist (number 42, just in case you needed to know).
We spent our daylight hours making photos along the way.
Then in the evening we returned to Northern Maine Junction.
My father had lent me a large Metz electronic photo strobe. I was perfecting my night flash technique, where I’d carefully blend existing light with strategically placed strobe bursts.
I was particularly interested in Bangor & Aroostook’s rare BL2 diesels.
This view focuses on engine 54, while the famed American Railfan, engine 557 that had been repainted into its as-built scheme, lurked in the darkness beyond.
A few key pops with the flash sorted that out.
Did you know that Tracking the Light posts something different everymorning?
In July 1983, on one of my first solo-trips by automobile, I visited Bangor & Aroostook’s yards at Northern Maine Junction. My friend Bob Buck had recommended this location because at the time the railroad was very accommodating of photographers.
You could sign a release and pretty much have the run of the place—so long as you stayed out of the roundhouse. The railroad had a guestbook and a gift shop. The employees were friendly and would answer questions.
I think I was there on a weekend, because the Bangor & Aroostook was quiet. There was dead line filled with F3A and BL2s that garnered my attention, but nothing was moving.
I asked one of the railroaders if there was anything running; he replied there wasn’t, but he’d find out if anything was coming on Maine Central. A short time late he came back to me and said there was an eastbound close.
Maine Central’s line bisected Bangor & Aroostook’s facilities, and I waited on the south side of the main line to favor the sun. After a little while, a lone former Rock Island U25B hauling two piggyback flats rolled by with its bell ringing and strobe lights flashing; this was the East Wind (New Haven, Connecticut to Bangor, Maine).
I made several image with my Leica 3A, but I wasn’t impressed. One engine? Two cars? Four piggyback trailers? No caboose?! I said to the Bangor & Aroostook man who had waited with me, ‘Not much of a train, was it?’ He just shrugged. I don’t think he was impressed either.
What I had witnessed was Guilford’s early 1980s effort at capturing high(er) value piggyback traffic. The theory behind trains such as Maine Central’s East Wind was that by speeding schedules and lowering operating costs, the railroad could compete with highways for more lucrative time-sensitive shipments, rather than merely settle for low-priority low-value bulk-commodity traffic.
In retrospect, although the train didn’t impress me at the time, I made a valuable record of that early period after passage of the 1980 Staggers Act, when railroads were trying to break into new markets. It was also the first caboose-less train I’d seen, and gave me a hint of what was to come in the future. The U25B? That was a bonus.