In my younger days, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s. I viewed them as ugly derivations of my favorite Alco RS-11s and C-420s.
That irrational bias never prevented me from photographing the M-420s at work. Since both Central Vermont and Providence & Worcester operated M-420s, they seemed common enough to me when I was photographing in southern New England in the 1980s.
I found this P&W M-420 getting ready for a day’s work near the diamond crossing at Plainfield, Connecticut in June 1986.
I exposed this view on Kodak black & white 120 size film using my father’s Rollei model T.
Notice the article ‘a’ rather than ‘the’. For today’s Tracking the Light, I am posting a view literally made from across a pond, rather than taking a metaphorical view from ‘across the pond’ (used as an ironic understated allusion for the North Atlantic Ocean).
You know, just in case there was any confusion!
This photograph was exposed last Tuesday afternoon, on Providence & Worcester’s former Boston & Maine Worcester to Gardner, Mass., route, and features the daily northward freight heading for interchange with Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern at Gardner.
Interestingly, I was traveling with Mike Gardner (no relation to the town), and this represented the fourth railroad I’d photographed on that Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Pretty neat! And with a cool pond too!
Years ago I’d ride my ten-speed bicycle to the Stafford Hollow Road Bridge in Monson, Massachusetts. I’d wait for Central Vermont’s freight to New London.
If I was lucky, I’d catch CV working upgrade with GP9s/Alco RS-11 making a healthy roar as they approached Stateline Summit.
On the morning May 31, 2017, I was leaving the Monson Post Office (having just mailed a letter to Ireland) when I heard New England Central 608 (running south from Palmer to Willimantic) tackling the grade in town.
I was surprised to see a Providence & Worcester GP38-2 in the lead. I supposed since New England Central and P&W are now both in the Genesee & Wyoming family it makes sense that the locomotives of these two connecting lines would get a bit mixed up.
Regardless, I knew that this would make for an interesting photograph. Among the places I caught 608 was at my old Stafford Hollow Road location.
My late friend Bob Buck had photographed here since the 1940s and always called the location ‘Smith’s Bridge’. I know he would have been delighted to see these photos of a P&W GP38-2 leading the southward freight.
Two weeks ago, my friend Tim and I made photos of Pan Am Railway’s EDPL crossing the Connecticut River at Holyoke, Massachusetts.
A short history: Back in 1982, Conrail spun off some New England routes, including a group of former New Haven Railroad lines in Connecticut. Providence & Worcester and Boston & Maine were among the lines that picked up former Conrail routes.
A vestige of this acquisition, is Pan Am Railway’s (which operates the old Boston & Maine) East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut freight.
Since this Pan Am freight works over Amtrak’s cab signal equipped Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line, the leading locomotive must be fitted with cab signal equipment on that portion of the run.
Since Pan Am only has a few locomotives so fitted (including MEC 352 seen trailing in this view), so today’s train was led by (leased or borrowed?) Providence & Worcester GP38-2 2009 that has the necessary cab signaling (installed for use on P&W’s North East Corridor freight assignments.)
This has been a common occurrence in recent years. Significantly, P&W has been acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming family, and it will be interesting to see how much longer locomotives will operate in the older P&W livery.
For the record: this photo was made on former Boston & Maine trackage, which is not cab-signal equipped. (Cab signal territory will begin about a dozen miles to the south of this location, once on Amtrak trackage)
Yesterday (December 23, 2016) dawned clear and bright. Everything fell into place nicely, and without too much effort on my part, I made some nice photos of a New England Central (NECR) empty ethanol extra rolling through Monson.
Lately it seems that the elusive loaded ethanol trains tend to reach Stateline Hill in darkness. Over the last few weeks I’ve heard a number of these heavy trains laboring up the grade.
So, I was happy to catch this move. Not only was it the longest train I’ve photographed on the NECR in Monson, but it was my first time catching Providence & Worcester’s relatively new SD70M-2s.
Now that P&W and New England Central are both part of the Genesee & Wyoming family, perhaps these big locomotives will make more frequent appearances on the NECR line over Stateline Hill.
Sometimes railway locomotives mean more than power for today’s train.
Over the years some old engines connect the dots.
A brisk wind was blowing across the water, as I listened to the distant whistle of a southward train approaching Moosehorn Pond in Hubbardston, Massachusetts. I thought back over the years . . .
In January 1991, under clear California skies, J.D. Schmid and I explored Santa Fe Railway’s Needles District between Barstow and Needles.
We were east of Ash Hill when the once a week Maersk double-stack from Richmond rolled by with brand new DASH8-40BWs in the lead. These were the only modern General Electric wide-cab four-axle diesel locomotives built for a freight railroad.
They were dressed in the classy classic red and silver Warbonnet livery designed by Leland Knickerbocker for Santa Fe’s early EMC diesels.
“A flash in the pan!’ He said, as we began our high-speed pursuit across the Mojave Desert. We caught them. And those photos have appeared in books.
Some 19 years later, one evening my late friend Bob Buck and I were having dinner at the Steaming Tender in Palmer, Massachusetts—located in the old station, near the crossing between CSX’s Boston & Albany and New England Central’s old New London Northern line.
It was dark and cascading rain outside, when a loaded unit ethanol train pulled across the diamond. Bob and I looked up to watch it pass. In consist were these former Santa Fe DASH8-40BWs that were being delivered to Providence & Worcester along with the ethanol train.
The train stopped.
As Bob ordered desert. I said, ‘let me find out the story on this.’
I dashed into the rain and inquired of the incoming crew when they expected to head south.
‘In about five minutes.’
Returning to the warmth of the restaurant, I relayed the message to Bob. “Would you like to follow it?” Bob’s enthusiasm for the chase was unchecked by weather or darkness.
Bob inhaled his dessert and paid his bill so quickly, you could see the draft of wind in the waitresses hair as we flew out to my car.
In the driving rain we followed the laboring train through Monson, Massachusetts as it ascended State Line Hill. The heavy train and wet rail made for slow progress. I exposed atmospheric night photos.
At Stafford Springs, Connecticut, I made time exposures with my Canon EOS 7D of Bob rolling by these Santa Fe GEs, some still in Warbonnet paint.
Afterwards we drove the length of Route 19, a highway that connects Stafford Spring with Bob’s home in Warren, Massachusetts.
It was still raining when we arrived and Bob had been telling me of his experiences with steam on the Central Vermont six decades earlier.
So back to the other day; I was traveling with my friends Pat Yough, Tim Doherty when we caught those same DASH8-40BWs leading a Worcester-bound train across the Moosehorn Pond in Hubbardston, Massachusetts.
The old Boston, Barre & Gardner Railroad was a 19th century line that ran from Worcester, Massachusetts to Peterboro, New Hampshire.
Today, the bottom portion of the line serves Providence & Worcester’s through connection with Pan Am Railways at Gardner.
Last fall I explored this line between Holden and Gardner looking for locations.
On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Mike Gardner and I arrived at Gardner in time to find Pan Am’s ED-8 making a drop for the P&W. Earlier, another train, probably symbol 28N had dropped autoracks, so the yard was nearly full of cars.
Based on past experience, I quickly surmised that the P&W hadn’t arrived from Worcester yet. So after a quick lunch, we started working our way south against the train.
North of Princeton, Massachusetts there are several grade crossing with nicely curving track. The snow covered ground made for Christmas card scene.
Mike and I didn’t have to wait long before P&W’s symbol freight WOGR (Worcester to Gardner) came charging northward. We were impressed by the length of the train. One unit was at the head-end with a second locomotive at the back of the train.
Southbound the train was even more impressive, but it required about 3 hours of switching to put it all together.
One hundred and thirty five years ago, the railway station was key to many communities commerce and communications. It offered the connection to the world.
My 1880 Official Guide is a window on the past. The Boston, Barre & Gardner Railroad (among the companies later melded into the Boston & Maine network) schedule lists three trains a day in each direction stopping at Holden, Massachusetts.
Trains ran from Worcester to Winchendon stopping at Holden at 8:28 am, 4:15 pm, and 7 pm, and Winchendon to Worcester at 9:06 am, 1:22 pm, and 7 pm.
Obviously based on this schedule, there was a planned meet between northward and southward trains at the station.
In its heyday, back in 1880 Holden was an important station. It served as a telegraph office and as a transfer point for stagecoaches to Rutland (Massachusetts).
Today the old station is but a relic, the vestige of another time. Its train order signal is no longer part of the rules of operation; and the last passenger train passed in 1953. Yet the railroad remains active.
Providence & Worcester’s freights connect with Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern at Gardner and this has developed as a route for the movement of new automobiles and ethanol moving via the port of Providence, Rhode Island.
Common on the Class 1 carriers, but still relatively rare on regional and short line roads; North American Safety Cab diesels.
On October 30, 2015, I exposed these images of Providence & Worcester’s symbol freight GRWO (Gardner to Worcester) working south at Union Street in Gardner on the old Boston, Barre & Gardner line.
Cross lighting favored the ‘widenose’ cab, which is brightly lit against a backdrop of late season autumn color. The dark shadow of the train makes for stark contrast and helps draw attention to the main subject.
Since the train was moving relatively slowly, I had ample time to compose several views of it, working both in the horizontal and vertical formats.
Would views from this angle have the same impact with the older styles of locomotive cabs?
Every so often trains converge and pause, presenting opportunities to make interesting and dramatic images. Such was the case yesterday, December 5, 2012, at the junction known as ‘the Willows’ east of Ayer, Massachusetts (where the former Boston & Maine Fitchburg Mainline meets the B&M Stony Brook line). Where the Fitchburgh continues toward Boston, and now used by MBTA commuter trains, the Stony Brook serves as part of Pan Am Railway’s primary freight route. A pair of freights had come west over the Stony Brook and were waiting to continue over the Fitchburg line to Ayer, (where they would diverge and head southward on the former Boston & Maine line to Worcester).
On the left is Pan Am Railways’ POSE (Portland, Maine to Selkirk) with CSX (former Conrail) SD60M 8747 leading. (At Worcester this will become CSX Q427 for its journey over the former Boston & Albany toward CSX’s Selkirk Yard, see post Palmer, Massachusetts 11:01pm November 30, 2012). On the right is an empty coal train returning from the generating station at Bow, New Hampshire to the Providence & Worcester. This was led by a mix of P&W General Electric diesels, leading is former Santa Fe DASH8-40BW 582 in BNSF paint with P&W lettering. Both trains were waiting for an MBTA equipment move coming from Worcester (MBTA has been detouring equipment using the Worcester-Clinton-Ayer route as to bypass a damaged bridge on Boston’s Grand Junction Branch—which normally handles transfers between South-side and North-side operations.)
My friend Rich Reed and I arrived at the Willows to catch the unusual MBTA move with the hope of also seeing the pair of freights. This easily accessibly junction is split by a public grade crossing. When we found the two freights side by side this became the main photographic event. The day offered a changeable mix of sun and clouds and so my initial exposures were made under overcast conditions. Complicating my exposures were headlights and ditch lights on CSX 8747 which when photographed straight-on flared and proved too bright relative to the rest of the scene. To compensate I waited for the sun to come out (thanks sun!) and then made a few views off axis to minimize the effect of the ditch lights while taking advantage of the better quality of light. While this solved the difficulty of the flared lights, it wasn’t as dramatic as the head-on view and didn’t show the freight cars, just the locomotives.
Switching from a 28-135mm zoom to a 200mm fixed lens proved part of the solution by offering a more dramatic angle, but ,if anything, this exacerbated the difficulty of the engine lights. The longer lens forced me to move back from the locomotives in order to fill the frame. I made some test pictures, and analyzed them on-site while I waited for a moment when clouds partially diffused the sun. This allowed for bright light on the front of the locomotives, not only increasing the drama, but it offered the necessary compromise condition to better cope with locomotive lights (making them less objectionable). Another trick, I adjusted the white-balance in-camera for a slightly warmed tone (by setting the WB to ‘overcast’—pictured with a puffy cloud). After about 10 minutes, I could hear the MBTA special approaching from the West and shifted the focus of my photography. Soon after this passed, the coal train received a signal to proceed westward, and the whole scene changed.