Back in the mid-1980s, I’d often visit Springfield Union Station (Springfield, Massachusetts) with Bob Buck .
We’d arrive in his green Ford van, typically after another event, such as a meeting of the West Springfield Train Watchers or a concert at the Springfield Symphony.
I’d come equipped with a tripod, Leica and large handheld Metz electronic flash unit (strobe). Often, I’d wrap the head of the strobe in a white garbage bag to diffuse the light (on the recommendation of Doug Moore). This eliminated the hard edge often associated with electronic flash.
[My old prewar Leicas predated electronic flash sync. However they do have a ‘T’ setting, and this allowed me to lock the shutter open indefinitely.]
I’d place the camera on the tripod, position it in a way as to minimize light falling the front element of the lens, open the shutter, then walk around using the Metz flash unit to illuminate shadowed areas of the scene as to even out the exposure. I’d keep the flash at relatively low power and make a series of bursts for the most effective results.
Typically I’d leave the shutter open for about 30 seconds.
They were Budd’s follow up to its successful stainless steel rail diesel cars built in the 1950s. But where Budd’s RDCs had established standards for self propelled diesel cars, Budd’s SPV-2000 didn’t measure up.
I think ‘SPV’ was supposed to mean ‘Self Propelled Vehicle,’ but all the railroaders I knew called them ‘Seldom Powered Vehicles.’
These were adapted from the original Budd Metroliner (MP85) car style and in the same family as Amtrak’s Budd-built Amfleet.
For a few years they were routinely assigned to Amtrak’s Springfield, Massachusetts-New Haven, Connecticut shuttle trains.
I admit now that I didn’t like the SPVs. I didn’t like them because they were new, and I much preferred the traditional RDCs. Also, at the time, I found the round car style un-photogenic.
Despite my dislike of the SPV’s, I photographed them anyway. While I wish that I’d made more photos of them, I’m very glad that I bothered to put them on film at all.
As it turned out, Amtrak appears to have disliked the SPV’s even more than I did! Their tenure on the Springfield run was short. By 1986, they’d been largely replaced with locomotive hauled consists. Other than my own photographs, I’ve seen very few images of these cars working on Amtrak.
Here’s an irony: in retrospect I’ve come to appreciate the SPV’s. They were a rare example of a modern American-built self-propel diesel car, and to my well-traveled eye, I now find them very interesting. So, what seemed new and common, now seems rare and peculiar!