Tag Archives: Piggyback

Classic Chrome: BNSF piggyback on the Rio Grande.

The ‘Ides of March’ 1997; Sagers, Utah along Union Pacific’s old Denver & Rio Grande Western mainline.

Fellow photographer Mel Patrick and I were traveling back from WinteRail ’97 (held in Stockton, California) and made a project of photographing trains in the Utah and Nevada deserts.

It was at 6:38 AM that I exposed this trailing view of a short BNSF piggyback train heading eastward toward Denver.

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

Conrail TV5, Springfield, Massachusetts.

It’s hard for me to believe these photos are nearly 30 years old!

Bob Buck and I were at Springfield Union Station on December 30, 1985, watching trains, as we often did back then.

Conrail TV5 pulled up and stopped. I used this opportunity to make a few black & white photos using my father’s Rollei Model T and Metz hand-held electronic flash.

I’d worked out a technique of blending existing light with electronic flash that retained the essential lighting of the scene.

TV5 was a rarely photographed train that carried intermodal trailers from Boston to St. Louis. It was one of several piggyback trains that rolled over the B&A route in darkness.

Scan of my original negatives.
Scan of my original negatives.

At the time, these seemingly mysterious night-time piggy back trains fascinated me, and I was very pleased to have captured this one on film

I made two exposures. The first is pretty good. The second suffered from a knock to the camera or tripod. Today, I’d have the opportunity to check my exposure and focus on site, back then all I could do was hope for the best.

I processed the film by hand.

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Alexandria, Virginia—May 20, 1985.

It was 30 years ago this morning that I exposed this black & white photo of a northward Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac piggyback train at Alexandria, Virginia.

RF&P was among the railroads melded into the CSX system.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with an old 50mm Elmar with non-standard f stop setting. Among the other challenges of using this lens was its lack of modern color coatings. However, it was a very sharp piece of glass.
Exposed on Kodak black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with an old 50mm Elmar with non-standard f stop settings. Among the other challenges of using this lens was its lack of modern color coatings. However, it was a very sharp piece of glass.

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DAILY POST: Maine Central’s East Wind

Short and Sweet, That’s It?

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).

U25B with piggyback
Maine Central’s hot intermodal train East Wind blows through Northern Maine Junction in July 1983. Exposed on Ektachrome film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. Although not a great photo, this documented a fleeting period of railroading, and I’m glad to have made it. While, catching the strobes lit was just pure luck.

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.


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Quiet Day at Palmer Yard, 1979.

Kid with a Camera.

Central Vermont Alco RS-11
Looking south at Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts Yard in spring 1979. The Rocket was loaded circus style using a ramp in the yard. RS-11s were typically assigned to this train.

In spring 1979, my dad and I visited Central Vermont’s Palmer, Massachusetts yard. At the time Palmer activity tended to be nocturnal. A lone RS-11 for The Rocket (Palmer-St Albans, Vermont piggyback) was the only locomotive in town.

I made a few exposures on Kodachrome 64 with my Leica 3A. At the time I was in 7th grade at Monson Junior-Senior High School. Admittedly my photographic skills were rudimentary. The photos are passable, but a decent record of the scene.

I wish I’d made more photos of CV’s piggyback trains. By the time I understood what it was about, it had stopped running. I have a few images of The Rocket on the road, but not very many.

Alco RS-11

Detail view of CV RS-11 3611 at Palmer in spring 1979. RS-11s were among my favorite diesels and I’d see them regularly at Palmer.




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