In late 2017, I got lucky and caught this heritage locomotive on several occasions, after years of it eluding me entirely.
This afternoon (April 24, 2019), thanks to a tip from my friend Paul Goewey, I caught old 156 again, albeit second unit out, on today’s westward Amtrak Lake Shore Limited (Boston section), train 449.
The view is from the bridge over the railroad and Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts.
Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens set to the Velvia color profile. Files exported from the camera as JPGs and scaled using Lightroom for internet presentation. No adjustments to contrast, color or exposure.
I’d called up to Tucker’s Hobbies at closing time. Bob Buck met me at the door. “The CSX Business train passed Worcester westbound more than 20 minutes ago!”
We made a hasty departure for Palmer. And halfway down the Quaboag River Valley between West Warren and Palmer, I hear CSX’s dragging equipment detector at West Warren report, ‘no defects’.
“It’s about 3 minutes behind us,” I said, as I accelerated the car.
We pulled into the yard at Palmer, near the site of the old freight house. It was wet, the light was fading. I prepped my Lumix as the train came into view, and popped off a few pan photos as it raced west. Bob was delighted! I made a few prints for him.
In early summer 1986, Conrail was weeks away from converting the Boston & Albany route from a traditional directional double track mainline to a single-track line under the control of CTC-style signals with cab-signal. The first section to be cut-over to the new control system was between Palmer to Springfield, Massachusetts.
Among the results of this change was the abandonment and eventual lifting of the old westward main train west of Palmer.
I was well aware of this pending change and had been documenting Conrail’s work in the area over the preceding months.
On the evening of June 17, 1986, I focused on the westward main track at the Quaboag River bridge just west of the Palmer diamond as Conrail’s eastward SEBO-B dropped down the short grade toward the Palmer yard.
While the train adds interest to the scene; my main focus was the track in the foreground that would soon be gone. I made a variety of images in this area on the weeks up to Conrail’s cut-over day.
Photographing directly into the clear summer sun produced a painterly abstraction. I’ve allowed some flare to hit the camera’s lens which obscures shadow detail and makes for a dream-like quality.
Years after I exposed this frame, I moved to California where I met photographers that had perfected this photographic technique. Interestingly, railroad photographers had been using backlighting to good advantage for a long time. In searching through archives I’ve come across fine examples of Fred Jukes’ and Otto Perry’s works with similar backlighting effects.
Autumn Color and Mirror-Like River Make for a Diorama-Like Setting.
The rugged unsettled Quaboag Valley between Palmer and West Warren is a beautiful place, but difficult to work with photographically. Access is limited and the narrow valley combined with heavy overgrowth shadows the line much of the day.
My favorite vantage-point is this twin stone-arch bridge near West Warren. Since my last visit, logging efforts have opened the vista a bit more, allowing a slightly higher view of the tracks.
On October 23, 2013, I learned that CSX’s Q022 (eastward Intermodal container train destined for Worcester) was about an hour away, so I put myself in position to make a photograph.
The season’s leaves were just past peak, which is my preferred time to make autumn images of trains. Why? I’ve found that when almost all the trees are orange, brown and yellow, with hints of red, images seem more autumnal than when some trees are their most brilliant shades of red and orange but others remain green.
A stroke of luck was the very still day: there was virtually no wind while relatively low water-levels in the Quaboag allowed for a mirror like reflection of the bridge and train. This effect is much harder to achieve when the sun is out causing light breezes that tend blur the surface of the water.
In yesterday’s post, I told about working with a Hasselblad and 120 Kodachrome. Although, 35mm slide film was my stable format for more than 25 years, I’ve periodically dabbled in larger formats.
I made this image of CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts in October 2000 using a Rolleiflex Model T with f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens to expose 120 size Fujichrome Velvia 50.
While I have many images of trains at West Warren, this remains among my favorite. The trees and brush had been cleared from the north side of the tracks, opening up a angle on the tracks not often possible here. I’ll like the stumps too. My grandfather would have approved.
The lack of train allows for good juxtaposition between the railway, waterfall, and old mill buildings on the far side of the Quaboag River. If I’d let a train into the scene, it would either cause a distraction or block the waterfall. One solution to this puzzle is to work from the other side of the tracks, but that loses the timeless quality offered by this angle.
Nearly peak autumn color is a nice touch, while soft overcast light adds to the autumnal atmosphere.
Caption: The former Boston & Albany mainline along the Quaboag River in October 2000, exposed with a Rolleiflex Model T on 120 Fujichrome Velvia 50.
Yesterday (July 10, 2013), I posted night photos I made in Palmer on June 28, 2013. I mentioned that my night photography efforts were part of a long standing tradition. So I dug up this image of the Palmer station exposed nearly three decades earlier.
This was undoubtedly made on a Friday evening. A thick fog from the Quaboag River had enveloped the valley. In the station parking lot, and out of sight, Bob Buck is holding court.
That night I made several views of the Palmer station in silhouette. All were exposed with my old Leica 3A and a 50mm lens, probably a Canon screwmount which I favored at the time. I was using my father’s Linhof tripod to support the camera. Exposure was calculated strictly from experience, and was probably about 30 seconds at f2.8.
Interestingly, just the other day (July 9, 2013) I had the opportunity to interview Jim Shaughnessy about the night photography techniques he used to capture steam locomotives on film back in the 1950s. While similar to mine, his approach was very different and he perfected it more than three decades before my image was exposed.
Where I used 35mm film and strictly ambient light for this image, Jim tended to use a 4×5 camera and a skilled combination of ambient and artificial flash.
Of course, I was well acquainted with Jim’s work by the time I made this photo. There has been a copy of Donald Duke’s 1961 book Night Train on our shelf for as long as I can remember! This features Jim’s work among that of other well-established practitioners of the art of railway night photography.