It was back on January 12, 2014, when I made this view of Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight EDMO (East Deerfield Yard, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard near Schenectady) in the Berkshire hills at East Portal.
To make these photos, I temporarily co-opted a mound of snow and ballast to gain added elevation for a better view of the bridge.
The famous Hoosac Tunnel is across the road behind me. Soon the train will enter its murky depths.
I’d followed the train on its ambling journey upgrade from East Deerfield, This is another age old tradition for me, dating back to the early 1980s.
Back in the day, the challenge would have been to stay with the train to Mechanicville, New York. “To the River!” As we’d declare. (The Hudson, that is).
Back in the 1980s, I’d buy my film at Frantek in South Hadley, and then return via Holyoke, where I’d almost always find the Boston & Maine switching. Back then the old Connecticut River line was busy with through and local trains.
On a typical day, there would be between three and four freights daily, plus the nocturnal Amtrak Montrealer.
Holyoke itself generated a fair amount of traffic, and the yard there was always full of cars. Pioneer Valley Railroad interchanged with B&M at the south end of the yard. During the day it wasn’t uncommon to find one of PVRR’s EMC SW1s or Alcos working Holyoke industrial trackage.
Sunday, June 22, 2014, I revisited Holyoke. The railway scene is very much changed from the 1980s. Most of the yard is gone, as are the majority of the customers it once served. The Montrealer hasn’t operated in decades, and the volume of mainline freight is now carried by Pan Am Railway’s lone symbol freights EDPL/PLED (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut).
Now, Holyoke is on the eve of rail revival. It will soon host a new station for the Knowledge Corridor, and in a few months time will be a stop on Amtrak’s re-routed Vermonter. Hopefully, an increase in freight traffic will soon follow.
The old mills and factories in Holyoke make for a fascinating post-industrial setting.