Way back in the days of Blue, Mike Gardner and I paid a visit to Cassandra, Pennsylvania. We called into the Railfan’s Welcome Center and were given a memorable tour by the mayor of the borough, and then spent the afternoon photographing Conrail trains from the famous Overlook Bridge.
That was November 1998, and only a few months before Conrail’s class 1 operations there were to become part of Norfolk Southern.
Some 23 years later (has it really been THAT long?), Kris and I paid a visit to the same bridge.
The paint has changed. The old PRR position-light signals are gone. The trains are longer. But Cassandra is much the way I remember it back in 1998.
In 1998, I was photographing on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90S with an 80-200mm f2.8 Nikkor zoom. Last month, it was a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 zoom. (But many other cameras in between.)
My April 3rd, 2020 post featured a Kodachrome slide that I’d exposed at Whitefield, New Hampshire back in October 1992.
At the time I made that image, Whitefield was on the periphery of my photographic territory. I was visiting New England from California where I’d been living for more than three years. I arrived at Whitefield to inspect the famous ball signal, and I was fortunate to catch the New Hampshire & Vermont working with an Alco RS-11.
I never thought that I might be based in New Hampshire in 28 years time and that Whitefield would be in easy reach.
Looking back, I find it fascinating to locate these old chromes and revisit the locations today. It’s a pity that there is much less activity on some lines now. So while the tracks remain at Whitefield, there is virtually no traffic and train movements are exceptionally rare.
Last week photographer Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Whitefield so that I could make a ‘now’ view at the same spot as my 1992 photo. Using my iPhone to access Tracking the Light, I brought up my April 3rd posting and used that to help re-establish my earlier vantage point. The tracks remain in place, although it doesn’t appear that anything has used them in recent times and the crossing protection has been removed.
However, except for the ill-fated Alco RS-11, most of the remaining elements of the scene are still in place.
My friend Dan Howard researched the RS-11 and reported, ‘it went to the Lake State Railway where it became their 1195 and was subsequently scrapped.’
I used my Lumix LX7 to approximate the angle of the 1992 slide, which was exposed with my old Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
I’ll need to try this again, since the lighting was flat in my contemporary view, and my positioning was only about 98 percent correct.
Complicating this comparison is that my notes from the day are in Monson, Mass., which has me guessing on some details.
I was trolling through the archives searching for views of Irish Rail’s Mark 2 airbrake carriages and came across this view of class 071 locomotive 088 at Portarlington in summer 1998.
It makes for a fascinating comparison with a similar photo I made of the same locomotive hauling the recent Railway Preservation Society of Ireland autumn tour arriving at the modern Portarlington station.
In retrospect, I wish I’d located the vintage photograph prior to the tour so I could more closely match the angle.
The 1998 view is made from the old footbridge which is now out of service. The October 2018 photo was exposed from the modern footbridge, which is situated further east and slightly higher.
At the end of December 2017, I revisited Mechanicville, New York with an aim of making some contemporary photos at the same angles as images I’d made back in November 1984.
Then and Now comparisons are common enough, but what makes these photos significant is that I’ve exposed both the historic photos as well as the modern images using the same type of film and equipment (a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar loaded with Kodak 35mm Tri-X).
These pairs of photos show the Hansen Road Bridge east of Reynolds, New York, which is just a couple of miles from XO Tower at Mechanicville. In the 1984 views, my friends and I were following an eastward Boston & Maine train.
Back then the B&M route was much busier than it is today, although the line still carries a good share of freight.
Double track from Mechanicville extended east to an interlocking (which I believe was called ‘Schneiders’) east of Reynolds and near Schaghticoke. The main tracks were grade separated on approach to the interlocking, which made this a distinctive location.
In the 33 year interval between photos, the Hansen Road bridge was replaced, which slightly alters the angle for photography.
Back in the mid-1980s, my friends and I made trips to Mechanicville, New York where the adjacent Boston & Maine and Delaware & Hudson yards lent to lots of action and a great variety of diesel locomotives.
The yard was an early casualty of Guilford’s short lived consolidation of B&M and D&H operations. By 1986 the yard was a ghost town.
In more recent times a small portion of the yards were redeveloped for intermodal and auto-rack facilities, but very little of the sprawling trackage remains
In December, I returned to Mechanicville with a Leica IIIA and Sumitar loaded with Kodak Tri-X in an effort to recreate the angles of photos I exposed in November 1984 using the same camera/film combination.
To aid this exercise, I scanned my old negatives and uploaded these to my iPhone. The viewfinder of the Leica IIIA presents difficulties as this is just a tiny window and not well suited to precision composition. (Topic for another day).
Also complicating my comparisons was the fresh layer of snow in the 2017 views.
In some places the only points of reference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ views are the electrical lines crossing the yard.
I’d mentioned that among the top ten reasons that I wanted to make photographs in 2018 was to revisit old places to make dramatic then and now comparisons.
This is a work in progress. And I’ve published similar comparisons for Palmer previously.
Below are several views looking west from the Palmer station toward the diamond crossing.
Over the decades I’ve made hundreds of photos here.
The vintage photo dates from Spring 1984. This view works well for modern companions because I conveniently left lots of room to the right of the locomotive while including details such as the code lines.
The color New England Central views were exposed on January 3, 2018.
These are imperfect comparisons because I’m not working from precisely the same angle, nor am I using equivalent lenses.
The 1984 views were made with a 50mm Leica Summitar, while the more recent views were exposed digitally using a Fujinon 90mm lens. However, I also made a few color slides using a 40mm Canon lens. But those are pending processing.
I exposed these two views from almost the same angle on the South Main Street Bridge in Palmer, Massachusetts.
In 1984, Conrail operated the old Boston & Albany, and the main line was then a directional double track route under rule 251 (which allows trains to proceed in the current of traffic on signal indication).
SEPW has stopped on the mainline, while the headend has negotiated a set of crossovers to access the yard and interchange. That’s the head end off in the distance.
I made this 1984 view on Plus-X using a Leica fitted with a f2.8 90mm Elmarit lens.
The comparison view was exposed on July 25, 2016 using a Lumix LX7 set at approximately the same focal length. Although similar, I wasn’t trying to precisely imitate the earlier view and was working from memory rather than having a print with me on site.
The other day Jim Shaughnessy invited me over to look at some photographs.
Over the years Jim has contributed many excellent images for my books. I’ve lost track of the many different books of mine that feature his work, but at least 20 titles.
Presently, I’m gathering material for a detailed look at the Boston & Albany and Jim has hundreds of images of the B&A route in the New York Central and Penn Central eras.
Personally I find these photographs fascinating. Decades before I found the B&A and made photographs, Jim had been there to explore many of the same locations.
Compare the above view with a photo I made on December 28, 2015 of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at the same location.
In the 45-year interval between images, the railroad was reduced from directional double track to a single main track and the old road bridge over was replaced with a modern span that is slightly higher.
In recent years, CSX has undercut the line and cut back much of the brush along the right of way.
Jim’s Penn Central photo is just one of the many I’ve borrowed for consideration in the B&A book.
While I was visiting Jim, my friend Dennis LeBeau phoned from East Brookfield and set up the next day’s adventure which has ties to the B&A project among other things. Stay tuned for more!
This is another of my ‘Then and Now’ attempts from last week’s exploration of Jersey City.
As previously mentioned: my fascination with Pennsylvania Railroad’s Jersey City waterfront terminal at Exchange Place, inspired a family trip to look for vestiges in February 1983. This is my window back in time.
Both my dad and I made a few photos. At the time I was trying to get a sense for how things looked decades earlier. (Pop, had made views of PRR MP54s by day and by night at the old terminal, which by 1983 was long gone.)
Fast forward another 32-33 years, and I find that Jersey City has been completely transformed. Most traces of Conrail’s waterfront track have been replaced by modern development, while NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail now winds through the city.
Working from my 1983 view at Exchange Place, on my recent visit I spent an hour walking around in concentric circles trying to figure out where I’d made the old photo. How hard could this be?
Complicating matters, I’d only been there once, my father was driving, and my memories from this one visit are a bit hazy.
Yes, I remember the day, and I recall making the photos, but how the various locations related to one another remained a bit sketchy. This was especially difficult because today the setting has been so completely changed that many of the landmarks in my old image are gone.
I’d all but given up. I went for a spin on the Light Rail, and my way back north towards Hoboken, I recognized the setting for my 1983 image.
Now then, how could I have known that my 1983 Exchange Place view was indeed at today’s NJ Transit Exchange Place light rail station!
Construction on the bank building made for a difficult comparison view, as does the Light Rail’s supporting infrastructure: awnings, ticket machines, catenary poles, etc, which precluded standing in the exact same spot.
Actually, the bank building on the left is just about the only common anchor between my two images. Almost all the other buildings in the 1983, including the Colgate-Palmolive building in the distance, have been replaced by newer structures.
And, while there are tracks in both views, these are on different alignments and serve entire different purposes.
During my fifteen years in Ireland, few railway locations have changed as much as the area around Hazelhatch. I made this photo of a single 121 leading the empty gypsum train (destined for Kingscourt) on June 17, 2000 from Stucumny bridge.
It was my first visit to Stucumny. I was there with Colm O’Callaghan and Mark Hodge, who were well familiar with the spot. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was an air show going on at the nearby Baldonnel Aerodrome. While waiting for the up gypsum we watched the airborne acrobatics.