Tag Archives: Santa Fe Railway

Three Santa Fe’s at Hubbardston.

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.

“Great show!”

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.

Late November sun illuminates Providence & Worcester’s southward GRWO as it rolls southward across the east shore of Moosehorn Pond.
Late November sun illuminates Providence & Worcester’s southward GRWO as it rolls southward across the east shore of Moosehorn Pond.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily



DAILY POST: Santa Fe in the Tehachapis, 1993.

Warbonnets among Iridescent Rolling Hills.

Santa Fe Railway
The head-end of Santa Fe’s second 199 works Southern Pacific rails in the Tehachapis between tunnel 1 and 2 near Bealville, California at 7:45am on April 3, 1993. I exposed this photo on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Nikon F3T with 35mm lens at f4.5 1/125 second. Here’s a secret: the F3T has a removable prism; and to make this image, I pre-focused then took the prism off and held the camera close to the ground. Incidentally this means I composed the image in reverse. At the time, my camera didn’t have a motor drive, so this was a one shot effort. Take careful notice of the lighting and focus points.

California’s rolling Tehachapi mountains south of Bakersfield is one of the West’s great places to watch and photograph trains. Here through creative use of scale, depth-of-field and backlighting, I’ve made a real railroad look like a model!

In the early 1990s, I made several productive trips there. In Spring 1993, Brian Jennison and spent a few great days making images of SP and Santa Fe trains. On this morning we were joined by local photographers Bruce Perry and the late David Burton.

On the morning of April 3, 1993, I climbed a grassy hill near Bealeville to make this  image of Santa Fe’s westward second 199 winding its way downgrade between tunnels 1 and 2.

Working with my Nikon F3T and 35mm PC lens, I played with focus and scale to make an image that looks like one exposed on a model railway. This was my way to cope with some difficult lighting on a photogenic subject and following in the California tradition, I’ve micturated on established ‘rules’ of conventional railroad photography.

I’ve always liked the purple lupin in the foreground.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!




Enhanced by Zemanta

Santa Fe at West Pittsburg, California, November 1990.

EMD SD45-2 Under a Blue Dome.

I’ve posted this image as another example of my work with a perspective control lens. This was a tool I made excellent use of in the early 1990s. On the recommendation of J.D. Schmid, I bought a Nikon 35mm PC ‘Shift’ lens for my Nikon F3T.

Among the advantages of a perspective control lens is the ability to shift the front element. This can be used to keep vertical lines from converging, but also to alter the image in subtle ways.

Santa Fe freight
Santa Fe SD45-2 5809 thunders east with a freight at West Pittsburg, California in November 1990. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 film with a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens at f4 1/500th of a second.

It was a clear Saturday morning in the Bay Area, and Brian Jennison and I were on one of our jaunts looking at area railroads. We stopped near the old station location at West Pittsburg (no ‘h’), California. (I believe the palm trees in the distance are an indication of where the building once stood.) Here we photographed several trains.

For this eastward freight, I positioned the camera relatively low to the ground and raised the front element of the 35mm PC to near its maximum. I didn’t quite keep the camera level. The result includes a large amount of crystal blue sky, while minimizing the foreground and keeping the vertical elements of the lead locomotive nearly parallel with the image frame.

I feel the subtle effect allows the locomotive visually surge forward, seeming to charge along. This was my intent. Santa Fe 5809 is an SD45-2, a machine powered by EMD’s 3,600 hp 20-cylinder diesel.

In their heyday these were powerful machines that produced an awe inspiring low-base sound in the high-throttle positions. I hoped to convey that power visually while making use of the California sky.

Tracking the Light posts new material daily. Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!



Enhanced by Zemanta

Santa Fe at Christie, California, March 18, 1993.

Santa Fe Railway in Franklin Canyon
: In the 1990s, Santa Fe’s line through California’s Franklin Canyon featured jointed rail, searchlight block signals, and traditional code lines strung from poles along the right-of-way. The sun sets on the track at the west switch at Christie. Exposed with Nikormat FT3 and 105mm f1.8 lens on Fujichrome 100 slide film.

In the mid-1990s, I often photographed Santa Fe in the bucolic splendor of Franklin Canyon. While I made many images of Santa Fe’s trains, for me this atmospheric image captures the wonderful quality of the place and I featured it in my big book on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway published by MBI Publishing in 2005. (Out of print)