Thursday evening, Kris and I took a drive up to the former Grand Trunk Railway route, operated by Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic. We caught up with photographer Andrew Dale, and drove east to West Paris, Maine intercept the westward road freight 393.
A mix of old and new camera technologies allowed me to push the envelope of railroad night photography.
I attached my old Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens (which I retreived from storage in Dublin last month) to my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. This is a ‘fast’ lens, and a full stop and third faster than my 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Working with a mix of street lighting and a hint of dusk in the sky, I made a hand held pan photo of the lead locomotive crossing West Paris’s Main Street.
I bumped the camera ISO to 40,000, and set the 105mm to f1.8, this allowed me a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. I set the shutter speed, aperture and focus manually.
The long days of summer offer a rare opportunity to catch Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic through freights in daylight.
Last Friday, 25 June 2021, my fiancé Kris Sabbatino and I drove to Locke Miles, Maine, east of Bethel, where we set up along South Pond to wait for the westward freight, job 393.
The light was fading when we finally heard a distant whistle.
Our friend Andrew Dale had been keeping us updated as to the trains’s westward progress.
I made this image of the leading locomotives reflecting in South Pond using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. I set the ISO to 800, the aperture to f4.0 (my widest setting), and the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second.
After the train passed we pursued it West into the night.
In the 1990s, I chased the glint with Kodachrome in my cameras.
Sometimes on the remote chance of getting a one in a 10,000 shot, I’d set up on some lightly used section of track in the golden hour on the off chance that I’d be rewarded.
My chances were better than the lottery
Sometimes I got lucky.
Last Saturday, September 26, 2020, I was driving around western Maine with Kris Sabbatino. We stopped near Bethel to get bottles of water at a convenience store. Ahead of me in line was a woman who spent $81 on a six pack of beer and lottery tickets.
Personally, I feel that lottery tickets are a waste of money. Although my grandfather had phenomenal luck with cards and lottery tickets and sometimes won.
Instead of spending money on the lottery, we took a slight detour to the old Grand Trunk tracks. This is now Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic. Operations are infrequent and largely nocturnal. The number of daylight trains through Bethel in a year can be counted on one hand. This year I’ve been aware of only three.
Despite these remote odds, I set up in the glint light and waited for a few minutes.
I was only rewarded with this sunset view of empty tracks. Yet my odds of success were far better than the lottery and I saved money on the tickets.
Last week, Kris Sabbatino and I drove east along the old Grand Trunk and paid a visit to Genesee & Wyoming’s small yard at Lewiston Junction, Maine.
Shortly after we arrived, a pair of EMD SW1500 switchers lettered for G&W’s Quebec Gatineau pulled into the engine facility and tied down.
Pretty neat to catch these antiques working in bright afternoon sun!
Later I looked up the details of these locomotives and was pleased to learn that they were both former Conrail, originally Penn Central locomotives. I’ll need to see if I have them in blue or black! Stay tuned.
Exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135 Fujinon zoom lens.
Years ago I said to a fellow photographer, ‘When the scanner is silent, either the railroad isn’t running any trains, or your scanner isn’t working’.
Now that we are into the ‘long days,’ I hope to use the later sunset to make railroad photos that are not normally possible during the rest of the year.
Forty minutes to the north of North Conway, is Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic. Normally this is an elusive nocturnal operation with road freights to and from Canada passing 3-4 nights a week.
While in the 1990s, I traveled on, and made a few photographs of trains on this former Grand Trunk Railway line at locations in Maine, New Hampshire and to lesser degree, Vermont, in recent times my coverage has only featured tracks, not trains.
On June 4, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I set out in the hopes of finding one of these elusive trains . . .
We joined the route near Gorham, New Hampshire and followed the tracks west, passing Berlin, Groveton and North Stratford. Then into Vermont, to Island Pond.
We continued following the tracks all the way to Norton, on the border with Canada. We waited out the daylight at a lightly used rural grade crossing just a few miles from the Vermont-Quebec line.
As darkness fell, we retreated to Island Pond were we made photos of the station and the rising moon. No sign; not even a hint of the southward (eastward?) freight.
I learned the next day, that it didn’t operate, but that trains were scheduled to run on that day, Friday June 5th.
In the late 1990s, Seattle-based tour operator Great Train Escapes employed me to provide on-board contextual narration to their guests during their autumn rail-based New England excursions.
Part of the journey were trips over the St. Lawrence & Atlantic former Grand Trunk line in Maine and New Hampshire.
On several occasions we boarded the train eastbound at Gorham, where I took the opportunity to expose Fujichrome color slides.
Last week I revisited the old Grand Trunk station and environs at Gorham with fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino, where we met Andrew Dale who reminded me of my earlier visits to the town. This inspired me to dig into the archives to find these vintage photos.
The modern images were expose using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit, while the vintage photos were made with a Nikon.