Tag Archives: Palmer

Palmer, Massachusetts—Track Changes soon! (Four views on Tracking the Light)


On the way back from some errands this morning (May 18, 2019), I stopped at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts


Although not a wheel was turning, I was fascinated to discover some brand new points waiting for installation near the famous ‘diamond’ crossing (where CSX crosses New England Central) .

Using my Lumix LX7 digital camera I made these views of what appear to be a power derail.

Stay tuned!

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Mass-Central along Route 181 in Palmer.


On the way toward the interchange in Palmer, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch follows and crosses state Route 181.

So often I have driven this way.

Catching a train here isn’t especially difficult since it runs southbound most weekday afternoons, but making a photo without any highway traffic in the way can be really challenging.

All it takes is one truck or a school bus to pull up to the crossing at the last minute and the whole scene changes, and usually not for the better!

On this May day, we were lucky!

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Central Vermont at Palmer, Massachusetts—July 1986.


I exposed this view of Central Vermont GP9s on Kodak 120 Tri-X Professional, a film that came with an ISO rating of 320 compared with 400 for the off-the-shelf variety.

This was CV’s southward road freight number 444 which terminated at the Palmer yard, south of the crossing with Conrail’s former Boston & Albany.

I made this image on July 23, 1986; the previous day Conrail began its single track operation of the Boston Line by cutting-in CP83 and CP92, removing one track from service and thus ending directional double-track operation (rule 251) between those two points.

Close examination of this photo will show that the old westward main track is cut short of the CV crossing.

This is a much enlarged scan of the above photo to better illustrate the single-track section over the Palmer diamond.

This was one of many photos I made around Palmer during the single tracking of the B&A route. Today the CV route is operated by New England Central, and the Boston & Albany line is CSX. There were far fewer trees by the tracks back in 1986.

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Mass-Central at Palmer, Massachusetts.

In theory, on any given weekday you ought to be able to make a representative photograph of Mass-Central’s local freight arriving in Palmer.

This goes on duty in the morning at Mass-Central’s Palmer yard, makes its run up the Ware River Valley and returns, typically dropping its interchange for CSX and New England Central at CSX’s former Boston & Albany yard.

However, catching a locomotive with the cab-facing south and at the correct end of the train can be more difficult. It’s luck of the draw to get the locomotive facing south. And for operational reasons, the locomotive may be placed in the middle or at the end of the interchange when passing the old Palmer Union Station.

I was lucky a couple of weeks ago, when I made this view at CP83 with Mass-Central GP38-2 1750 leading the train. All that’s missing is the sun.

Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto.


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Brian Solomon’s Conrail Slide Show—Wednesday January 9, 2019.

In Early October 1997, Conrail C30-7As lead a westward freight on the old Boston & Albany at Muddy Pond near Washington Summit at Hinsdale, Massachusetts.


At 730 pm this coming Wednesday, January 9, 2019, I’ll be presenting a slide show on Conrail to the Amherst Railway Society in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.

The year 2019 marks the 20thanniversary of the divide of Conrail operations between CSX and Norfolk Southern so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on Conrail’s operations.

The program will feature some of my finest vintage slides; Kodachrome and otherwise.

Amherst Railway Society’s Clubhouse is located in the old Palmer Grange Hall on the south side of South Main Street near the intersection with Route 32, a stone’s throw from the old Tennyville Bridge over CSX’s former Conrail—Boston & Albany—mainline. Ample parking is available.

See Amherst Railway Society’s page for details:

http://www.amherstrail.org/ARS/meeting-Jan2019.php

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Palmer, Massachusetts—CSX B740: Three GP40-2s and calendar lighting.


Some weeks ago, I had a few minutes before running an errand. I stopped in at CP83 near the old Palmer Union Station.

My timing was nearly perfect. Not long after I arrived, I heard a familiar roar to the west.

The air was clear, and the sounds of EMD 645 diesels were resonating as they worked eastbound.

I thought, ‘must be the B740’ (the CSX local freight that typically arrives in Palmer about mid-morning to work the interchange.)

I walked up to the South Main Street bridge. As the train approached Palmer, it enters a short down grade, so the roar quieted. This change in pitch might confuse a novice visitor, who might become discouraged at the very moment a train is about to pass.

Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, CSX B740 rolled into view and took the switch at CP83 onto the controlled siding.

Perfect low and clear December sun over my left shoulder made for a calendar scene.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Palmer Station in Paranormal Poster

Palmer, Massachusetts’s Steaming Tender restaurant has featured my photo in a recent poster advertising a Paranormal Interactive Investigation to be held at the old Union Station building on February 5, 2019.

Steaming Tender’s advertising poster. My photo was reproduced with permission.

I made the original photo on Kodachrome in 1992 using my Nikon F3T with 105mm Nikkor lens mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod.

This scan of the original color slide was used to promote my Silver & Steel photo exhibition.

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Old Signals: My Last Photos?

I was running a few final errands before heading to the airport.

CSX had been working on making CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts compliant with positive train control requirements, which has coincided with commissioning new signal hardware.

By the time I return, the old signals will likely have been retired and the new system up and working.

Crossing the South Main Street bridge in Palmer, I spotted a New England Central local working the diamond, and a CSX intermodal train (Q022) waiting to the west.

This gave me enough time to set up and made a few final photos of the transitional arrangement at CP83 in Palmer.

Old signals to the left, new heads on the right; CSX Q022 holds to the west of the Palmer diamond.

A moment of sun as Q022 begins to pull forward. Modern signaling equipment is in the silver box at right.

Working with an 18-135mm zoom lens gave me needed flexibility to adjust the focal length as the train pulled forward.

Changeable lighting made for patches of direction sun under a partial blanket of cloud. I tried to use these sunny spots to my best advantage since the train was moving slowly through the interlocking.

 

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New Signals at Dusk—working with high ISO.

Saturday evening I used my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit to photograph CSX’s westward Q437 (Framingham, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York) at Palmer, Massachusetts passing the new signals at CP83.

They’ve yet to be activated and the new signals are in place alongside the Conrail-era signals installed in 1986.

It was dusk and the light was fading fast. I pushed the camera ISO to 2500, and exposed this action shot at 1/250th of a second at f2.8.

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Signals in Transition.

Over the last few weeks, CSX has been installing new signaling in Palmer in conjunction with preparation for Positive Train Control.

Hooded traffic light configuration color-light signal heads have been installed to replace the Conrail-era triangular pattern light signals.

The Conrail-era signals were activated in July 1986 when the single-tracking of the Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield. The interlocking at Palmer was then designated CP83.

Lumix LX7 photo at Palmer, Massachusetts.

Looking north on the New England Central toward the Palmer diamond. New signals at left. Canon EOS7D with 100-400mm lens.

New and old signals at dusk at CP83. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

Amtrak 448 splits the signals at CP83 in Palmer. Dusk is a good time to photograph signals since the ambient light levels more closely match those of signal lamps. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

After nearly 32 years of service these old signals will soon be retired. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

CSX’s new signals haven’t been activated yet and I’ve been making photos of the transitional between old and new hardware.

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Palmer’s Rare Move—June 22, 2018.

Here’s the follow up to my June 25thposting Palmer’s Busy Bright Morning [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5Az].

A lone loaded auto-rack was spotted in CSX’s Palmer Yard.

CSX’s local freight B740 had arrived from West Springfield Yard.

B740’s crew discussed arrangements with the dispatcher to reverse out of the yard (westward) with the auto-rack on the interchange track and then pull forward onto the controlled siding at CP83.

CSX B740 shoves back on the interchange track at Palmer, Massachusetts.

The reason for this was to avoid using the normal freight connection from the controlled siding into the yard because of the length of the auto rack was at risk of derailing over the tight switches.

The crossover at CP83 from the interchange track to the controlled siding was installed in 1995 to facilitate Amtrak’s Vermonter, which was then operating via Palmer and changed directions here to go between CSX and New England Central’s route on its Springfield, Massachusetts-St Albans, Vermont portion of the run.

The passenger crossover at CP83 has been rarely used, since Amtrak’s Vermont returned to the more direct routing in December 2014 (running north of Springfield on the Boston & Maine Connecticut River line via Greenfield to East Northfield).

CSX’s crewman lines the switch for the controlled siding on the now rarely used crossover. Notice the rust on the rail.

CSX B740 pulls forward through the crossover and will soon head east on the Boston & Albany to East Brookfield. Notice how the CSX crewman on the ground is illuminated by the sun shinning through the gap between the locomotives and the auto rack.

It was a fortuitous situation to catch this rare move in nice morning sun.

B740 then continued east to East Brookfield, where CSX autoracks are unloaded on the East Brookfield & Spencer.

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CSX Intermodal on the Edge of Spring.

On my way through Palmer, Massachusetts, I noticed New England Central’s northward 608 blocked at the diamond crossing with CSX’s Boston Line.

That was a good indication that a CSX train might be close.

After a very short wait this eastward CSX intermodal train came into view. It was probably Q012;‑one of several daily trains that runs to Worcester for unloading.

The trees are still bare, but the sun was bright. In just a few more days the trees will begin to leaf, the grass will become green, and Spring will be in the air.

Exposed digitally with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 90mm Fujinon telephoto. I’ve composed the image to take in the old Union Station, now Palmer’s Steaming Tender restaurant, while positioning the lead locomotive between the control signals at CP83, and keeping the horizon in view.

Mid morning light in Palmer, Massachusetts, April 2018.

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CSX in the Snow.

Just an ordinary winter’s day at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.

I made this view of CSX’s B740 using my Lumix LX7 .

Exposing for snow can be tricky. Remember the camera doesn’t know what’s supposed to be white.

One of the advantages of digital photography is the ability to check the exposure on-site. Although this scene had a tricky exposure, I was able to gauge my result at the time of exposure.

Consider the dynamic range of exposure in the this image: note the headlights on the locomotive (which appear brighter than the snow on the ground) and the sky (which is slightly darker than the snow).

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Icy Morning with CSX Q022—Variations on a Location

It was a bitterly cold morning just after sunrise when I made these views looking across a field off Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts (near CP79, the control point 79 miles west of South Station, Boston, that controls the switch at the east-end of the control siding at Palmer.)

All were made from the same vantage point.

I was working with two cameras. My FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, and my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake.

The exposure, color profiles and color temperature of the cameras were set up differently, which explains the slight difference in overall density and tint.

Do you have a favorite? And why?

Digitally exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 90mm telephoto.

Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

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Palmer— Then (again) and Now.

I’d mentioned that among the top ten reasons that I wanted to make photographs in 2018 was to revisit old places to make dramatic then and now comparisons.

This is a work in progress. And I’ve published similar comparisons for Palmer previously.

Below are several views looking west from the Palmer station toward the diamond crossing.

Over the decades I’ve made hundreds of photos here.

The vintage photo dates from Spring 1984. This view works well for modern companions because I conveniently left lots of room to the right of the locomotive while including details such as the code lines.

The color New England Central views were exposed on January 3, 2018.

These are imperfect comparisons because I’m not working from precisely the same angle, nor am I using equivalent lenses.

1984 view exposed with a Leica IIIA with 50mm Summitar. Central Vermont northward local freight crossing Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line.

For point of reference the old eastward Boston & Albany mainline is in the same place, as are the rails used to hold the old Palmer sign in the black & white photo that is now a white box with a yellow stripe near the second locomotive in the color view.

Compare the track arrangements between the 1984 and 2018 views.

Enlarged version of the 1984 view. The old westward main was removed from service in summer 1986, and later lifted.

The 1984 views were made with a 50mm Leica Summitar, while the more recent views were exposed digitally using a Fujinon 90mm lens. However, I also made a few color slides using a 40mm Canon lens. But those are pending processing.

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Classic Angle at the Diamond.

I knew it as the Boston & Albany and Central Vermont diamond in Palmer (diamond describes the shape of rails made by the angled level crossing of the two lines). I made my first photos at this location before I entered 6th grade.

Fast forward to January 2, 2018. I stepped out of the car at Palmer and with the crisp winter air I could hear a train approaching eastbound.

So often my ears have alerted me to a train. In this case the two-cycle roar of classic EMD 645 diesels.

I ambled toward the diamond and made these views. Over-the-shoulder light, with rich mid-morning sun, at a readily identifiable location; nearly perfect.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images designed to mimic the angle I’d used here many years earlier.

There are more trees here now than in years gone by. Yet I’d made vertical views here before to emphasize the signal.

CSX GP40-2s lead B740 eastbound over the famous diamond.

CSX local freight B740 was carrying cars of pipe to be interchanged at Palmer Yard with the Mass-Central. That gave an a idea for the following day.

 

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January 2018 Sunrise—The Day was Only Beginning.

Red sunrise means you’re going to have a good day. Right?

Or was that a red sunset?

Anticipating drop-under at Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.

Looking east on the old Boston & Albany. Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.

And yes, it was cold.

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Amtrak in the Snow; f9 and be there.

Running errands again.

Amtrak 449 was only 2 minutes late leaving Worcester.

I stopped in at CP83 in Palmer between tasks (I had to mail a letter and visit the bank).

Signals lit westbound; first all red, then a high green on the main track.

“Clear signal CP83 main to main”

f9.0 1/500th of second at ISO 400.

With my ISO preset to 400, using the histogram in the camera, I set my exposure as follows; f9.0 1/500th of a second.

I like my snow white; but not blown out (over exposed).

F7.1 1/500th at ISO 400.

F7.1 1/500th at ISO 400.

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Bright Sun on CSX at Palmer.

The other morning I noticed the points at CP83 in Palmer on CSX’s former Boston & Albany line were set for the controlled siding.

Since CSX’s local freight B740 from West Springfield, Massachusetts often arrives at Palmer in mid-Morning, I thought it was likely I could make some photos.

Bright autumn sun in this classic location made for excellent conditions.

I didn’t have to wait long at the South Main Street overpass, when I heard the short freight dropping down grade toward the Palmer diamond.

I made this sequence using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon lens.

CSX local freight B740 takes the controlled siding at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. This will allow B740 to access the leads to Palmer yard and make its interchange.

The classic view of B740 arriving in Palmer. Trains on the controlled siding make for a more pleasing angle to photograph because they are further from south side of the cutting. October morning sun is pleasing light.

Is this view too close?

Trailing view looking toward the Palmer yard.

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Early Bird Gets the Worm or, as the case may be, the New England Central local freight!

During the long days of July, I made a point of being up and OUT as early as there was light in the sky.

Those trains that go bump in the night in Winter have a bit of light on them in July.

I made this view before 6 am of the New England Central local crossing the Palmer diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant is located in the old Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station station at left.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm lens.

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Day and Night at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

All to often I find myself in Palmer, Massachusetts.

It’s probably not what you think though.

Yes, I make railway photos there.

By often I arrive at CP83 only because I’m passing through. I might be on the way to the bank, or to get a haircut, or maybe do a bit of shopping.

In the daylight instance pictured I was about to cross the South Main Street Bridge with a financial transaction in mind, when I spotted a railway enthusiast poised with camera in hand.

I had my Lumix LX7 with me, so made a quick diversion. It was nearly 11am, and about the time that CSX’s Q022 often rolls east. Stepping out of the car, I immediately sensed that my guess was correct. I could hear the freight approaching the home signal for the Palmer diamond at CP83. Need I describe what happened next?

Lumix LX7 view of CSX’s Q022 passing CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. (CP83 is the railroad location-name  for the interlocking in Palmer, which is just over 83 miles west of Boston South Station.)

Less than 12 hours after the daylight view I made this photo of the signals at CP83 illuminated by the headlight of westward intermodal freight Q007.

It helps to have a tripod.
CSX Q007 rolls westward at CP83 in Palmer; at the right is the popular Steaming Tender restaurant.

Some hours later, I’d met Rich and Joyce Reed for dinner in Palmer, and as per a long standing Friday night tradition we reconvened after the meal at CP83. How different this place looks at night!

After a little while the signals cleared and CSX’s Q007 came into view. I made these time exposures of the westward Q007 passing the signals at CP83.

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Night and No Tripod, Improvise!

-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.

A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.

I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.

My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.

I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.

Long exposures hand-held are not easy.

I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.

Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.

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Close and Closer—Compositional Considerations: New England Central at Vernon, Vermont.

Mike Gardner and I had driven up from Palmer, Massachusetts with a plan to intercept New England Central’s morning freight 611 that runs south weekdays from Brattleboro, Vermont to Palmer and back.

As we crossed the Massachusetts-Vermont state line at East Northfield, we heard 611 approaching.

Having photographed trains here before, we opted to make our first set in a farmer’s field right off the road.

I exposed these two views with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm adjustable zoom lens.

On this morning I was delighted to find a unified orange locomotive consist.

Of these two images, one closer than the other, I’ve strategically positioned the orange locomotives in the frame.

Almost a ‘stardard view’. Compare the relative size of the barn with the train.

This wide-angle view alters the perspective on the locomotives a bit.

Considering the various elements—locomotives, barn, fields left and right and a pastel sky above—Which of these photos do you prefer?

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Foggy Morning, Palmer, Massachusetts.

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, I arrived in Palmer at about 5am. Although there was clear blue dome above me, a blanket of mist had filled the Quaboag Valley. This was just beginning to clear, when I heard CSX’s westward freight Q427 (Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York) approaching.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens, I exposed several bursts of digital images as the train rolled by the old Palmer Union Station (now the popular Steaming Tender Restaurant).

CSX freight Q427 (Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York) passes CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens at f3.2 1/500th of a second at 200 ISO. Photo scaled from an ‘in-camera’ Jpg made with Fuji’s Velvia color profile.

In this image, I manipulated the Camera RAW file using Lightroom. I lightened the shadow areas, specially on the locomotive. I also electronically applied a graduated neutral density filter to selectively control highlights, contrast and color saturation in the to 40 percent of the image. Compare this image from June 28, 2017,with the photo below, that I’d made here a week earlier (and previously presented on Tracking the Light.)

Originally posted on June 21, 2017: CSX Q019 at Palmer, Massachusetts. I’m pushing the limits of digital image date-capture: Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).

Consider that this is a lesson in lighting: even when you photograph trains at the same location, at the same time of day (but on different days) the results can be significantly different as result of ever changing lighting conditions.

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CSX Q422 at Palmer, Massachusetts

These days most of CSX’s scheduled through car-load freights tend to traverse the east end of the old Boston & Albany during darkness.

True, there’s a couple of intermodal trains, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited during the day, but if you want to see an old-school freight train in daylight you’ll have a long wait.

Early in the morning of June 23, 2017, I went over to CP83 (control point 83 miles from South Station) on spec to see if I could catch some freight on the move.

I have a sixth sense or really good hearing (or both), because I stepped out of the car, and I could hear a distant freight with GE diesels laboring toward Palmer.

I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with my fast (f2.0) 90mm lens and walked up to the South Main Street bridge, where I’ve made hundreds of photos over the years.

As the train approached, I realized that it wasn’t an intermodal train, as I expected, but a carload freight. It was CSX’s Q422 (Selkirk, New York to Worcester, Massachusetts).

At 5:29am I made these photos with my camera set to ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld. The ability to raise the ISO to a faster (more sensitive) setting combined with my fast telephoto lens allows for photos like this one.

ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.

ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.

In my old Kodachrome 25 days, my exposure with my Nikon F3 and f2.8 135mm lens (offering an equivalent focal length to the 90mm with the small sensor on the X-T1) would have been: f3.5 at ¼ second. The resulting image of this moving train would have been dramatically different.

 

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Making Sunrise—CSX near Palmer, Massachusetts.

Since 1986, the interlocking east of Palmer at the east-end of the dispatcher’s controlled siding has been known on the railroad as ‘CP79’ which describes it as a ‘control point (remote control power switches and signals) 79-miles west of Boston’.

Friday, morning (June 22, 2017), I anticipated a westward freight just after sunrise, and set up looking across the farmer’s field west of CP79, looking toward the rising sun.

Working with an external graduated neutral density filter, I carefully exposed a sequence of photos, including pictures with the train. Then working with the camera RAW files in Lightroom, I manipulated contrast, exposure, color temperature and color balance, to make for better balanced more pleasing photos.

With extreme lighting conditions I find that post processing is a necessary, if tedious, part of the photographic process.

Below are my results.

Here’s the equipment: FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens. It is fitted with an externally mounted Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter with an aftermarket filter holder. I can rotate the filter left or right, and adjust it up and down in order to meet my specific requirements. The 0.9 filter works out to be about 1 full stop at its darkest.

In anticipation of the westward CSX train, I made a series of photos to show changes in the lighting. The interesting part of the scene is also the most difficult part to make a acceptable exposure.

Changing lighting conditions makes for added challenges.

CSX Q009 rolls west toward Palmer, Massachusetts.

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Summer Solstice Special.

It was an early sunrise this morning; ruby red with feathered clouds.

Sunrise in Monson, Massachusetts on June 21, 2017. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Camera-JPG, no changes in post processing except to scale the image for internet presentation. That’s the sky how it looked this morning.

After catching the early glow, I wandered to Palmer, Massachusetts to make a few photographs along the old Boston & Albany route.

Although quiet during midday, CSX’s B&A route sees an intermodal train each way within about an hour or two of sunrise. Patience paid off.

Here’s a sample from this morning’s efforts (June 21, 2017).

CSX Q009 approaches CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.

CSX Q009 at Palmer, Massachusetts. I’m pushing the limits of digital image data-capture: Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).

A BNSF locomotive was trailing on the Q009. It’s rare that I’ve photographed a BNSF locomotive on the B&A route.

CSX Q009 tail-end at Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).

CSX intermodal train Q022 works east at Tennyville in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.

CSX Q022 passing below the ‘Tennyville Bridge’ (Route 32) in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.

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Sunset, CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts—June 7, 2017

It’s that time of year when the setting sun aligns with CSX’s  old Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts.

I made these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

The camera’s color profile was set to ‘Velvia’ mode. White balance at ‘A’ (automatic). While I exposed both a  Camera RAW and Jpg simultaneously, these views are strictly camera-produced Jpg files scaled for internet presentation.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. Exposure = 1/500 f7.1. Auto white balance.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 at f13 1/500th of a second at ISO 400.

Gauging my exposure with the in-camera matrix meter, I set the aperture and shutter speed manually leaning toward ‘under exposure’ to ensure good highlight detail.

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CSX at Palmer-Low angle gives the appearance of a model railroad photo.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1, I tilted and extended the rear display screen so that I could hold the camera close to the ground. By doing this I photographed from an unusual perspective with a telephoto lens.

Since the angle is very low, the foreground is blurred, and the verticals are kept perpendicular to the horizon, the effect makes the photo appear like those often made of model railroads.

One of the circumstances that made this image possible, was a complete lack of automobiles in front of the old Palmer (Massachusetts) Union Station—now the popular Steaming Tender Restaurant.

CSX GP40-2s, working local freight B740, reverse through the points at CP83 during a switching move in May 2017.

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Clean Orange Locomotive—an Easy Catch.

In early February, I was running a few last minute errands before my Trans-Atlantic journey.

Crossing the Boston & Albany on South Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts, I saw a New England Central local approaching with an impressive cut of interchange.

In the lead was clean New England Central GP38-2 2048 in Genesee & Wyoming corporate paint. Although I’ve made countless hundreds of photographs from this location over the years, I won’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.

So for the sake of a couple of minutes detour, I made these images at CP83 using my Lumix LX7.

New England Central 2048 at Palmer, Massachusetts in February 2017. Filtered winter sun makes for nice light to photograph locomotives.

The train was moving slowly, which allowed me time to make several images as it passed. This angle features GP38-2 2048 from a closer, more broadside angle, while retaining a good view of the old gas building, which is a prominent Palmer-area icon.  Lumix LX7 photo.

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In the Dark: 30 Seconds, Five Years Ago.

On February 25, 2012, I exposed this 30-second exposure at New England Central’s yard in Palmer, Massachusetts.

I mounted my Lumix LX7 on heavy tripod, and actuated the shutter using the self-timer to minimize vibration. Note the effect of the clouds moving.

This is a scaled JPG made from the unaltered Lumix LX3 JPG file.

By adjusting exposure and contrast in the RAW file I was able to produce this improved version. Notice the detail in the shadow areas that was lost in the JPG.

Despite the long exposure, the resulting digital image was still too dark and required work in post-processing using Lightroom.

In addition to lightening shadow areas, I also lightened the entire exposure by about full-stop, while controlling highlights and softening overall contrast.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.

Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.

The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.

With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.

This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.

As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.

CSX symbol freight Q427 rolls through Palmer on the morning of December 23, 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikkormat FT and 24mm lens. Notice how I’m just letting the sun peak past the station building. A small aperture (f11) aids with the starburst lighting.

I’ve always like the glint effect, and so I made this view of the second locomotive as it rolled by at 30mph. I realize that photographing the second locomotive at speed is a non-standard approach, but it makes for a nice image, does it not?

The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.

I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:

Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.

My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.

I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.

For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).

Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.

A cropped detailed view of the front of the leading locomotive. This view is intended to show that there is reasonable detail in the shadow areas. If I want to I can enhance the shadow contrast in post processing.

No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!

Tracking the Light Discusses Photography Every Day!

Lake Shore Limited Lost in the Dance.

Amtrak 448 approaches Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Leica IIIA and 50mm Summitar lens.

Here’s another view from my ‘lost negative file’. It captures Amtrak 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited approaching the Quaboag River bridge between Palmer and Monson, Massachusetts.

I exposed it in mid-December 1983. It was on the same roll as a group of photos from a Monson High School dance that I’d made for the yearbook and members of the band.

Since the envelope read ‘Monson High Dance,’ it was too easily ignored in later years. Also, and more to the point, it was mixed in with another hundred or so rolls that had been misplaced during one of my periods of extended travel in the late 1980s. For years all I could find was a lonely proof print of this scene.

I’m improving my filing system now, but it’s taken a few years!

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

From the Mists of Time; Amtrak in the Fog.

I made this photo sequence in January 1982.

My father and I were trackside near milepost 82 east of Palmer, Massachusetts to catch Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited.

 It wasn’t a nice day. But it was atmospheric.

A headlight pierces the fog.
A headlight pierces the fog.

Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens, negatives scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.
Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens, negatives scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.

In 1982 I tended to process my film using Kodak Microdol-X. This was a fine grain developer, but not great for overall tonality. By 1985, I'd switched to Kodak D76.
In 1982 I tended to process my film using Kodak Microdol-X. This was a fine grain developer, but not great for overall tonality. By 1985, I’d switched to Kodak D76.

I wonder why I didn't expose one more image of the tail lamps trailing into the mist?
I wonder why I didn’t expose one more image of the tail lamps trailing into the mist?

Tracking the Light posts every day!

Central Vermont at the Palmer Diamond—1977.

This was one of several photos I exposed with my father’s Leica 3C in Palmer, Massachusetts on Labor Day weekend 1977. I started 6th grade a couple of days later.

Significantly, it was the first time I made a photo from this location at the Palmer Diamond, where Central Vermont crossed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line. From near this spot, I’ve since made many hundreds of photos—more than I dare to count.

Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail's former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super angulon.
Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super-Angulon.

Compare this 1977 view with my recent images of a CSX eastward intermodal train. (I posted these the other day, but have also included them below.)

csx_q012_palmer_p1550721
In November 2016 a CSX intermodal train crosses the Palmer Diamond. This view is made from a spot immediately to the east of my 1977 view.

csx_q012_palmer_p1550722Looking back, I wonder why it took me so long to decide to make photos here. But realistically, prior to summer 1977 my railway photographic efforts were infrequent events.

For my birthday that year, my dad gave me my own Leica, a model 3A, which I carried everywhere for the next seven years and with which I made thousands of images from the Maine coast to southern California, and from Quebec to Mexico.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily