So often I’ve heard the following lament, “I saw that once but I didn’t take a photo.”
The other day I was on my way to get a haircut when I passed under New England Central’s 611 departing Palmer, Massachusetts for Brattleboro, Vermont.
The weather was poor, the lighting bland and I had an agenda of things to attend to.
But I had my Lumix LX7 handy and I went after 611 anyway!
My head-on views were not worth describing here. Not today anyway. However, I like this trailing view at Barretts, Massachusetts of New England Central 721, still in Union Pacific paint (but with NECR lettering).
This captures some of the drama of the accelerating freight and makes reasonably good use of the lighting. Afterwards I resumed my mission to get a hair cut.
My point? Whenever possible, regardless of the weather and other things to do, I take the time to make photographs; of railroads and whatever else catches my interest.
We were heading for Ayer. We’d heard some non-descript chatter on the radio about Pan Am’s POED (Portland to East Deerfield). I had the MBTA schedules on my lap. The sun was shining brightly.
Bob Arnold was driving, Paul Goewey was riding shotgun, and I was in the back.
“There’s freight cars moving west!”
“It’s the POED, turn around”.
“The new SD40-2s are in the lead!”
These were the coolest engines in New England as this moment in time, and they’d handily presented themselves in nice light.
Our opportunity was narrow and before long we were saddled with waddler (a slow moving car that impeded our forward progress). However, the freight was only ambling up the grade, and we began to overtake it.
I rolled down my window, set my FujiFilm X-T1 to ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous high) with a 1/60th of a second shutter speed to ensure the effect of movement, and made bursts of images of the shinny blue engines on the move.
Despite the frustrations caused by our less than quick progress, we were soon ahead of the freight. At Shirley, Massachusetts the road and the old Boston & Maine are parallel. Bob asked “where should we stop.”
“Pull in short of the new signal bridge. . . Here, it’s open and clear.”
It was a fire drill as we bailed and assumed photographic stance trackside. POED was bearing down with its diesels roaring. We only a few moments.
I set my camera’s focus position, readjusted my shutter speed (to stop the action), set my zoom to a wide position to allow for more broadside on the engines, and looked to minimize poles, wires and extraneous brush. My shutter setting was still in ‘turbo flutter’.
I waited until the locomotives were close and exposed a prolonged burst of images, while aiming to position the lead locomotive nose at the upper left of the frame for maximum visual impact.
RJED—Rotterdam Junction to East Deerfield, a good ol’ fashioned carload freight.
Yesterday (Monday November 16, 2015), I heard the train working at Hoosick Junction and set up at Hoosick Falls. After a bit of a wait, I was rewarded by the roar of diesels.
The 3rd locomotive in consist was one of the former Quebec, North Shore & Labrador SD40-2 in fresh Pan Am Railways blue.
A batch of these handsome locomotives arrived on the property just last week, so I was keen to catch one, even if trailing.
The Boston & Maine west end is an old stomping ground, and I’m well-versed with locations and the chase route, so I made the most of a clear sunny afternoon. It helps to know where to go, where to park, when to zip ahead, and when to relax.
Fresh Pan blue paint, that’s pretty cool; and a freight with all EMD 645 diesels, sounded great!
It was a hot, humid and hazy morning. The sunlight was tinted by gauzy smog which softened the scene.
Bob Karambelas and I were exploring the junction at Hunter Tower in Newark, New Jersey, where the former Lehigh Valley crossed the old Pennsylvania Railroad electrified mainline.
A westward freight with a pair of SD40-2s was departing Oak Island yard and I exposed this view looking a down a grungy side street with a 200mm lens.
I’ve always been fascinated with urban images like this, where the railroad is prominent but not necessarily dominant, and passes through post industrial decay. Look at the grime on surface of the street and the great beat up old cars!
Along the old Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg Mainline.
At Millers Falls, New England Central and Pan Am Southern run parallel for a short distance. In this view Pan Am’s westward freight symbol 190ED with a pair of leased SD40-2s (wearing old Burlington Northern paint) has just passed the junction with New England Central. (NECR’s mainline is immediately to the left.
Bright overcast autumn days can be one of the most rewarding times to photograph trains. Soft warm light accentuates the fading foliage, while the lack of directional sun allows more freedom to select angles that favor railway operations.
Had the sky been completely clear, I’d have been fighting the sun, which would have shadowed the train and put harsh light on the colored trees in the distance.
New England is famous for its autumn foliage. When making railroad photos in the season, are the leaves the subject, the setting or simply background?
On the morning of October 17, 2013, I made a series of photographs of Pan Am Railway’s (Pan Am Southern) westward freight symbol 190ED between Erving and East Deerfield. Leading the train were a pair of SD40-2s in the latest corporate scheme.
I made my way to the former Boston & Maine bridge over the Connecticut River where there was some very colorful foliage in the foreground and background. Incidentally, this is the location of the ‘icon photo’ used to introduce Tracking the Light.
As the freight eased across the bridge, I had ample time to compose several images. Working with my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm lens, I exposed a non-conventional image focused on some foreground foliage, and used a low aperture to deliberately allow the locomotives to be out of focus.
I then changed my focus to the locomotives and bridge and exposed several more conventional images. I also had time to pop off a color slide with my dad’s Leica M4.
I realize that the image focused on the leaves won’t appeal to everyone. But I find it a bit evocative. It’s more about the foliage than the train, yet the train remains the subject. You cannot help but see the engine’s headlights, like evil eyes, peering from beyond the leaves.
As an aside, the lead locomotive interested me. Pan Am 606 is a variation of the SD40-2 produced with a longer than normal short-hood or ‘nose’ to house 1970s-era radio-control equipment. At this point in time this feature is a left over from an earlier time and its original owner. Pan Am neither has a need to use such locomotives in mid-train remote service, nor is the locomotive like to remain so equipped. But it is a visually distinguishing feature that sets it apart from other locomotives on the railroad.
John Gruber and I went over to Madison’s Lake Monona anticipating Wisconsin & Southern’s (WSOR) road freight heading to Janesville. I’m working against a deadline, so I brought the laptop with me to read, write and edit, while waiting for the train thus making dual use of my time. John said, ‘You’re putting me to shame!’ All he brought was a camera.
After a 40 minute wait, we heard a horn sounding for a crossing. But it wasn’t coming Madison as we expected. This wasn’t the southward train, but the northward run! So 20 minutes from sundown a pair of SD40-2s crawled across the causeway. It was here that Bill Middleton made some iconic photos more than 60 years ago. John remembered, “His first published picture in Trains; it featured the Dakota 400 crossing the bay.”
I exposed a few slides with my Canon EOS 3, and a flurry of digital images with my EOS 7D. Then we drove over to WSOR’s Madison yard, where we found another freight ready to leave. I made a few photos with my Lumix LX-3 in the fading light.
General Motors Electro-Motive Division SD40-2 is classic North American locomotive design. This rugged, powerful, and reliable model was built in the thousands between 1972 and the early 1980s. Its essential boxy utilitarian form shares the same functional appearance common to most of EMD’s American road-freight locomotives built from 1963 until the general proliferation of Safety-Cab designs in the early 1990s. Canadian Pacific ordered large numbers of SD40 and SD40-2s from General Motors Canadian subsidiary and these were its dominant road locomotive for the better part of two decades. In the early 2000s, they remained standard on CP’s Delaware & Hudson lines in New York and Pennsylvania.
On October 12, 2003, I made a series of photographs of Canadian Pacific SD40-2s on a southward/westward freight at Delaware & Hudson’s Bevier Street Yard in Binghamton, New York. Here the locomotives were paused in nice light giving ample opportunity to make photographs from different angles. I was working with a pair of Nikon F3s (one F3HP, one F3T), and a Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with an unusual super wide-angle lens. Displayed here are a few of my results. The broadside Contax view at the bottom of the post was among the images featured in my recently published North American Locomotives by Voyageur Press.
Finding static locomotives in nice light offers an opportunity to make studies of the equipment. Wisconsin & Southern operated a fleet of clean, well-maintained second-hand General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) diesels. These were representative of the classic models built at La Grange, Illinois, during the mid-20th century and dressed in a handsome red and silver livery. For me they were prime examples of GM’s finest American diesels, yet at the time I was photographing them, these locomotives were past their prime and harked back to an earlier era. General Motors locomotives, even their more utilitarian models, were characterized by well-balanced aesthetic designs, while their classic postwar streamlined locomotives are icons of American railroading. These images are a small selection focused on the locomotives.