Last week , I made this view of St. Lawrence & Atlantic’s train 394 as it worked the yard at Island Pond, Vermont.
There was a bit of an evening sunshower as photographed across the glistening waters of Back Pond. The town’s larger namesake pond, complete with Island, is on the other side of the tracks beyond the trees.
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.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s latest acquisition, former Maine Central GP38 255 is on the final legs of its journey to North Conway.
Last night (October 29, 2021) Kris and I drove up to the St Lawrence & Atlantic line to intercept westward freight 393 that was hauling Clarendon & Pittsford 203 in consist. (This red & white GP38 is former Maine Central 255.)
At Gorham, New Hampshire we rolled by the train at the old Grand Trunk station where there is a variety of historic equipment on display.
The plan was for 393 to drop the engine for interchange at Groveton, New Hampshire. In the coming days, CSRR will plan to collect it at the railroad’s only active interchange (at Hazens near Whitefield, NH) i
I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 mounted on an old Bogen tripod.
St Lawrence & Atlantic 393 passing the Gorham Station made for a subject akin to the UFO landing in the 1970’s film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ but accented with an awesome sounding EMD 645-diesel roar.
These photos were exposed last Friday night using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
Here’s another of my photos at dusk from our pursuit of St. Lawrence & Atlantic’s westward freight 393 last week. Kris and I were positioned along the south shore of the Reflection Pond near Gorham, NH.
My tripod was occupied holding my Canon EOS-3 during a 30 second time exposure. This film photo remains latent at this writing.
While the Canon was exposing film, I made a few hand held photos with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit with the ISO set at 5,000.
These are two of the 1/2 second exposures that night.
I adjusted the Fuji RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.
I made these images the other night when Kris & I were photographing the St Lawrence & Atlantic’s westward road freight (train 393).
Night photography isn’t easy, or straight forward.
There’s a variety of approaches.
These images were exposed during the last hints of daylight.
To capture the train in motion in very low light I used a ‘secret combination’: a telephoto with a wide maximum aperture and a high ISO setting on the camera.
The telephoto minimizes the relative movement of the train to the camera sensor; the wide aperture lets in greater amounts of light and thus allows for a faster shutter speed. Likewise, the higher ISO also contributes to using a faster shutter speed.
However, the real secret was exposing manually, taking into account of the very bright headlights relative to the over all scene, while taking a position relatively off axis to the headlights to avoid the very bright lights directly hitting the front element of the lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens, camera set to ISO 3200 and 1/60th of a second.
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.
In October 1999, I made this view of a meet between the Great Train Escapes tour train and a St Lawrence & Atlantic freight. Both trains were led by MLW-built M-420 diesels.
Since that photo 21 years ago, much has changed at Danville Junction,
The trees have grown; the track arrangement was simplified, the St Lawrence & Atlantic was amalgamated into the Genesee & Wyoming network, the MLW diesels have vanished from the scene, and the tour train doesn’t operate any more.
In June, Kris Sabbatino and I paid a brief visit to Danville Junction, my first since 1999. It was a surreal experience for me. So little of it seem familiar.
The other day I wrote of our adventure following the former Grand Trunk Railway line north through New Hampshire and Vermont to the Canadian border but not finding anything on the move.
Friday, June 5, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I made another go of finding the ‘SLR’ as Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic is known.
(Just for point of reference in this instance ‘SLR’ represents the railroads official reporting marks. However, to avoid unnecessary confusion or gratuitous irony, I did not make these photos using a single lens reflex, but rather a mirror-less Lumix LX7 digital camera.)
Thanks to Andrew Dale—who supplied helpful schedule information and sighting details—we were able to intercept the SLR’s westward freight. Driving east from Gorham, Kris and I waited for the train at Locke’s Mills, Maine.
Finally we could hear its EMD-roar to the east.
We then followed the heavy freight on its westward prowl toward Canada. We were among several other photographers with similar approaches.
A full moon and solid tripod aided my photographic efforts.
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 April, Kris Sabbatino and I drove north into eastern Maine, and followed the old Grand Trunk Railway from Bethel toward Gorham, New Hampshire.
Grand Trunk was conceived as a broad gauge line to connect Portland, Maine with Chicago via Montreal. The route was absorbed into the Canadian National in the 1920s, and the Maine portion was spun off in the late 1980s. Today this line across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont is part of the Genesee & Wyoming family, and operated as the St. Lawrence & Atlantic.
I made these photos near a small line-side grave yard in the vicinity of Gilead, Maine using a Nikon F3 loaded with Agfa APX400. I discussed the processing of the negatives in an earlier post.