Tag Archives: Vermonter

Vermonter in the Rain.

We got soaked!

I’d checked my phone; Amtrak 55 had departed Brattleboro, Vermont a few minutes behind the advertised, but was moving southward at a good clip.

Mike Gardner and I had inspected locations around East Northfield, Massachusetts and settled on the view from an overhead bridge near the ballast pit at Mount Hermon.

Earlier in the day we’d missed New England Central 611 (yes, this happens!) and so we weren’t taking any chances.

In position, camera in hands we were poised and ready for the train.

And then the sky opened up. ‘It can’t rain any harder!’

OH YES IT CAN!!!

The rain eased, the train came into view, and we exposed our photos.

90mm, f3.2 1/500 at 400 ISO

Soft light, mist and condensation, and a lack of harsh reflections from the midday sun (hidden by layers of cloud), contribute to an atmospheric scene.

It was worth the dampness!

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Amtrak’s Vermonter with American Flags.

This is a grab shot; I didn’t have time to do what I intended (and the sun went in).

We arrived at the small cemetery at West Northfield, Massachusetts minutes before Amtrak 56 (northward Vermonter).

 The brush along the railroad has recently been cut. Unfortunately, a brush cutting/removal machine was awkwardly (as in non-photographically) positioned by the tracks, foiling my intend angle for a photo. I was going to try ‘plan b’.

I’d heard the crew call ‘Approach’ for East Northfield, I was hoping for time to swap to a wide angle lens, when I saw the headlight.

No time: so instead, I hastily composed this vertical view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

The front of the locomotive is nearly centered. I wonder if I should have let it move a bit more to the left for a more effective composition?

I like the American flags, placed for Memorial Day. I wonder about my placement of the front of the locomotive relative to the gap in the brush. Should I have let the locomotive continue a few more feet to the left?

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When East is West: Two Trains at the Junction.

I’ve been making photos at the Junction at East Northfield since the 1980s.

The other day, on the third visit in two weeks to this iconic New England location (where New England Central’s line connects with Pan Am Railway’s Conn River route), I had a reckoning.

It occurred to me that railroad timetable ‘East Northfield’ is actually north and west of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts.

How is this possible?

Some Highway maps show railroad ‘East Northfield’ in West Northfield.

This timetable location has been called ‘East Northfield’ since the steam era,  and the present NECR sign reflects this historic geographic incongruity.

New England Central’s northward 611 (running from Palmer to Brattleboro) holds south of the junction at East Northfield for Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, led by P42 number 59. (Don’t get me started on train numbers versus engine numbers!)
Amtrak 56 accelerates away from the junction at East Northfield, clearly identified by the New England Central sign at left. Back in the old days, there was a railroad station on the right side of the tracks, and that was the ‘East Northfield Station’.
After Amtrak 56 completed its station stop at Brattleboro and cleared railroad location at West River, NECR’s dispatcher gave northward freight 611 permission to proceed. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.

No doubt at some point in the future, the geography will be retro-actively re-written to accommodate this oversight on the part of historic railroad timetable writers. What will they make of my captions!

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Trenton, New Jersey at Dusk—July 6, 2017; digital photography in low-light.

The other evening I arrived at Trenton, New Jersey on board Amtrak train 55 the Vermonter.

 

Lumix LX7 photo at Trenton, New Jersey, July 6, 2017.

The blue glow of dusk prevailed. That moment between daylight and evening when the hue of the light adds a extra atmosphere to photographs.

That is of course, unless your camera has its ‘auto white balance’ set, which will neutralize the color and make for blander, duller images.

To avoid this problem, I set my white balance to ‘daylight’, which forces the camera to interpret the bluer light more or less as I see it.

These images were exposed using my Panasonic Lumix LX7 in ‘Vivid’ mode at ISO 200.

SEPTA at Trenton, New Jersey, July 6, 2017. Lumix LX7 photo

 

A SEPTA train enters the station bound for Philadelphia.

Other than scaling the in-camera Jpgs for internet presentation, I’ve not made changes to the appearance of these photos in Post Processing; color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure and sharpness were not altered during post processing.

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Amtrak’s battle-worn Amfleet, now 4 decades on the roll.
Amtrak 55, the Vermonter has the signal at Trenton. The diagonal arrangement of amber lights indicates ‘approach’.

Tracking the Light EXTRA: Three Photos Live from Amtrak 55 The Vermonter

I’m posting live from Amtrak 55, the southward Vermonter south of Berlin, Connecticut on July 6th, 2017.

Below are three views from the Lumix LX7, processed from RAW files using Lightroom while traveling on the train.

Amtrak train 55, the southward Vermonter arrives at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Lumix LX7 photo adjusted from a camera RAW file in Lightroom to improve sky detail, lighten shadows and increase saturation.
Inside Amtrak number 55 near Windsor, Connecticut.
Windsor station; not a stop for the Vermonter. Lumix LX7 photo.

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(Sometimes TWICE!)

Vermonter north of Northampton, Massachusetts (and a hint of something to come).

Amtrak’s Vermonter passing an old Tobacco Barn in the Connecticut River flood plain north of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Sunday, June 25, 2017, Amtrak’s mobile App indicated that train No. 54, the Sunday Vermonter had departed Northampton about 7 minutes past the advertised.

Tim suggested we try the location pictured here (right off Massachusetts Route 5). It’s the same spot that about a month earlier we caught Pan Am Railway’s office car special returning from Springfield.

This setting reminds me of locations in Illinois and Iowa, looking across farm fields with old barns as props. In the mid-1990s, I made many photos along those lines.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 at 1/1000th of a second.
While waiting for the train, I made this view of the barns on infrared black & white film using a Leica IIIa with 50mm Summitar lens fitted with a special dark red filter (designed for infrared photography). More on this project in a future post.

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Amtrak’s Vermonter on the Stone Arches.

Yesterday, I presented a 20-year old  view of this old Boston & Maine bridge at Bernardston, Massachusetts, made back when the old mill dam and waterfall were still in place.

The loss of the dam and waterfall occurred sometime between late 1996 and 2003, while Amtrak’s Vermonter was restored to the line in late 2014.

Two weeks ago, I revisited the bridge with Tim Doherty and Patrick Yough to make this view of Amtrak train 55, the southward Vermonter.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera in November 2016.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera in November 2016.

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Tracking the Light Extra; Views from the Vermonter, July 2016.

Below are some view I made from Amtrak 57 on my trip from Windsor Locks, Connecticut to Trenton, New Jersey (and then beyond)

More views from my journey as the WiFi permits!

Changing engines at New Haven. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Changing engines at New Haven. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Near Bridgeport. Lumix LX7 photo.
Near Bridgeport. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York Penn-Station.  Lumix LX7 photo.
New York Penn-Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
My bag at Trenton.  Lumix LX7 photo.
My bag at Trenton. Lumix LX7 photo.

Amtrak_607_w_train_57_at_Trenton_P1480804Tracking the Light is on the (rail) road this week.

Amtrak’s Vermonter at Brattleboro.

It’s Amtrak’s Vermonter in Vermont (although those hills in the distance are across the Connecticut in New Hampshire.)

On June 18, 2016, Amtrak P42 number 106 leads train 57, the southward Vermonter. This view is from a parking lot immediately south of the passenger platform in Brattleboro. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
On June 18, 2016, Amtrak P42 number 106 leads train 57, the southward Vermonter. This view is from a parking lot immediately south of the passenger platform in Brattleboro. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Vermont’s relatively clear air and elevation compensate for the harsh visual effects associated with summer high light (when the sun is nearly directly overhead).

On June 18, 2016, Pat Yough and I were exploring locations on the Connecticut River line in preparation for photographing the Amtrak Exhibit train that was on display in Claremont (see: Amtrak Display Train-Claremont Junction, New Hampshire; June 18, 2016. [http://wp.me/p2BVuC-46w]), and was expected to make a run south toward Springfield, Massachusetts later that day.

Stay tuned for some of those views!

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Tracking the Light Looks Back: Five Years Ago, Amtrak’s Vermonter at Palmer.

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I was searching through my Panasonic Lumix LX3 files from five years ago and I found this frosty low-sun photograph of Amtrak’s Vermonter departing CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts for Springfield.

Rich winter sun offers a wonderful quality of light. While cold days maybe pose an endurance challenge for the photographer, the results can be outstanding.

Vermonter Palmer P1000684-2
Amtrak’s southward Vermonter heads west on CSX’s former Boston & Albany on January 25, 2011. (The train was working its  southward schedule, although this portion of the railroad line is oriented East-West, which presents difficulties in captioning without long-winded explanations and a bit of historical background.) Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX3.

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Vermonter at Vernon.

Saturday, October 10th, I exposed a series of photographs of Amtrak 54 (northward Vermonter) at Vernon, Vermont.

Low sun and richly colored vegetation made for a simple, but attractive scene.

Starting with the shadow in the foreground, I set up a graphic composition using a series of simple line and color transitions designed to complement and emphasize the Amtrak train.

Amtrak's Vermonter at Vernon, Vermont on October 10, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Amtrak’s Vermonter at Vernon, Vermont on October 10, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

2 Amtrak_Vermonter_Vernon_Vt_DSCF3662

Which version do you think is more effective: the closer view, or the image where the Amtrak train is slightly more distant?

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Pennsylvania Railroad at Three Rivers—Five Years Ago!

It was on the afternoon of August 26, 2010 at Three Rivers, Massachusetts, that my father and I made photographs of a pair of restored Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars that were being hauled by Amtrak 56 the northward Vermonter.

These were en route for use on a special excursion for a political candidate running for Vermont office. Two days later, we drove to the Georgia Highbridge south of St. Albans, Vermont and followed the special southward.

Amtrak 56 at Three Rivers with Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D.
Amtrak 56 at Three Rivers with Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars on August 26, 2010. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D.

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Tracking the Light Extra Post: Amtrak’s Vermonter Crossing the Connecticut River at Holyoke

On July 9, 2015, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I made photographs from the recently reopened Willimansett Bridge between Holyoke and Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Fujinon Aspherical 27mm Pancake lens.
Train 56, the northward Vermonter crosses the Connecticut River. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Fujinon Aspherical 27mm Pancake lens. Colors in the image file have been enhanced for internet presentation.

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Tracking the Light Special—Live from the Vermonter—Penn Station, New York.

I traveled up on NJ Transit, met my father at Penn Station, and now we are traveling northward on Amtrak’s Vermonter—Train 54. Every seat on the train is occupied.

Photos exposed with my Lumix LX7 and uploaded with Amtrak’s WiFi.

Richard J. Solomon and Pat Yough at Penn-Station on June 27, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Richard J. Solomon and Pat Yough at Penn-Station on June 27, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Richard Solomon with Vermonter at Penn-Station on June 27, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Richard Solomon with Vermonter at Penn-Station on June 27, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.

 

An veteran of many years service—Amtrak AEM7 914 at Penn-Station on June 27, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
A veteran of many years service—Amtrak AEM7 914 at Penn-Station on June 27, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Bellows Falls at Noon.

May 24, 2015, fellow photographer Tim Doherty and I aimed to intercept Amtrak 57, the southward Vermonter at Bellows Falls. Vermont. (Is there another?).

Exposed with a Fuji X-T1.
Exposed with a Fuji X-T1.

It’d been a few years since I last visited this classic railroad junction. My first visits were back in the late 1960s early 1970s, when my family would come up to experience the old Steamtown.

I was impressed to find the old three-head searchlight signal still in operation by the station. These relics are disappearing fast. I feature the searchlight among other vintage signal hardware in my new book Classic Railroad Signals now available from Voyageur Press.

Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Amtrak station where? Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Amtrak station, where?
Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Searchlight signals were once common but are rapidly being replaced.
Searchlight signals were once common but are rapidly being replaced.
Amtrak 57 makes its station stop at Bellows Falls. Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Amtrak 57 makes its station stop at Bellows Falls. Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

http://www.qbookshop.com/products/215886/9780760346921/Classic-Railroad-Signals.html

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Amtrak’s Vermonter at South Deerfield.

The re-opening of Boston & Maine’s Connecticut River line as the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ passenger route in December has made for a variety of new places to photograph Amtrak’s Vermonter that hadn’t had regular passenger trains in more than 25 years.

Amtrak train 55 approaches Hillside Road crossing at South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 40mm pancake lens; f7.1 1/1000 of a second.
Amtrak train 55 approaches North Hillside Road crossing at South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 40mm pancake lens; f7.1 1/1000 of a second.

In conjunction with the rebuilding of the line was brush removal, especially around grade crossings, which have further expanded photographic potential of the Connecticut River route. In addition to Amtrak, Pan Am Southern’s freights also use the line.

Up to just a few months ago, the view of the line at North Hillside Road in South Deerfield was hemmed in by brush and trees, but now it’s cleared and open.

Pat Yough, Paul Goewey and I were out for the Vermonter on January 23, 2015, and I exposed this image of it racing southward toward its station stop at Northampton.

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Knowledge Corridor First Day Photo Album

Here’s a diverse selection of images: December 29, 2014 saw the first public operation of Amtrak’s Vermonter on the traditional Connecticut River Line via Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

The trains were totally sold out in both directions. I made a host of digital photos and color slides of the event.

New signal near the Greenfield Station displays 'stop.'
New signal near the Greenfield Station displays ‘stop.’
The railway platform at Greenfield is adjacent to its new centralized bus terminal. This 29 seat bus was heading for Millersfalls. Lumix LX7.
The railway platform at Greenfield is adjacent to its new centralized bus terminal. This 29 seat bus was heading for Millersfalls. Lumix LX7.
Large crowds of passengers, fans, and politicians gathered at Greenfield to witness the first revenue Amtrak train to stop on the Knowledge Corridor route. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Large crowds of passengers, fans, and politicians gathered at Greenfield to witness the first revenue Amtrak train to stop on the Knowledge Corridor route. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Amtrak number 55 approaches Greenfield. Canon EOS 7D.
Amtrak number 55 approaches Greenfield. Canon EOS 7D.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
No passengers will be left behind, 'All aboard!'. Lumix LX7 photo.
No passengers will be left behind, ‘All aboard!’. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 55 on the platform at Springfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 55 on the platform at Springfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX7 photo.
Northward Vermonter approaching Springfield Station. It's unusual to see this train doubleheaded. Lumix LX7.
Northward Vermonter approaching Springfield Station. It’s unusual to see this train doubleheaded. Lumix LX7.
View from train 56 at Springfield Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
View from train 56 at Springfield Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Greenfield greets the northward Vermonter, train 56. Lumix LX7 photo.
Greenfield greets the northward Vermonter, train 56. Lumix LX7 photo.
The high  ISO setting on my Canon EOS 7D proved useful. Greenfield at dusk. Train 56 making its first ever station stop.
The high ISO setting on my Canon EOS 7D proved useful. Greenfield at dusk. Train 56 making its first ever station stop.
Amtrak's Vermonter departs Greenfield for Brattleboro and points north. Amtrak's daily Vermonter (Washington DC to St. Albans, Vermont) will now call at Greenfield 7 days a week. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak’s Vermonter departs Greenfield for Brattleboro and points north. Amtrak’s daily Vermonter (Washington DC to St. Albans, Vermont) will now call at Greenfield 7 days a week. Lumix LX7 photo.
I made this pan photo at ISO 1000 at f2.8 1/8th of second using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
I made this pan photo at ISO 1000 at f2.8 1/8th of second using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. Amtrak 10004 offers an exceptional view of the line for officials, railroad officers and special guests.

From Monday forward, the Vermonter will serve this more direct route, thus ending 25 years of passenger service on the Central Vermont/New England Central line via Amherst, Massachusetts. Back in July 1989, I made photos of the first Montrealer arriving in Amherst. Both days were historic, and preserved for posterity.

I was not alone; lots of cameras whirred away trackside!

Thanks to everyone who made the day a success!

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Tracking the Light Special: Knowledge Corridor Sneak Preview—Vermonter at Greenfield

Today (December 29, 2014) was Amtrak’s first day of public operation on the new ‘Knowledge Corridor’ (B&M Conn River Line to traditionalists). The train was sold out in both directions and hundreds of people came out to watch history in the making.

I had the opportunity to make a round trip on the line from Greenfield to Springfield. I met lots of old friends and met many new faces! Although I’m sad to see the train off the old Central Vermont route, I’m equally happy to be able to ride over the B&M Conn River once again!

This is just a preview of a photographically intense afternoon. (More to follow, soon!)

The double headed northward Vermonter arrives at Springfield just after 3pm. Lumix LX7 photo.
The double headed northward Vermonter arrives at Springfield just after 3pm. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, makes its first station stop at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 29, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, makes its very first station stop at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 29, 2014. The new station platform was build specially to accommodate the Vermonter. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Lucky Break At Belchertown: The Vermonter and More!

Sometimes you get more than you planned for:

On December 17, 2014, I rode the Vermonter to Amherst. This gave me the opportunity to scope the line for photo locations. Although I’ve traveled this route on various occasions, I wanted one last look at it from an Amtrak train before service is moved to the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ at the end of this month.

North of Barretts is Canal Junction, a little known location where the Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line once joined the Central Vermont route. Originally, B&M had its own line that ran parallel to CVs and this old right of way is now a cycle path.

The old Boston & Maine line through Belchertown was abandoned in the 1930s in favor of trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont. Today the old right of way is a bicycle path. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The old Boston & Maine line through Belchertown was abandoned in the 1930s in favor of trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont. Today the old right of way is a bicycle path. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

North of the Old Springfield Road grade crossing, I noticed a swampy clearing that looked like a good place for a photo. So, on December 19th, my dad and I investigated this location.

Earlier in the day we had photographed a Knowledge Corridor test run (covered in an earlier post), and I thought this would make an ideal opportunity to capture Amtrak moves on both lines on the same day.

We arrived at Old Springfield Road, and walked a short distance on the old B&M right of way. I’d gone back to the car to retrieve a lens and make a phone call, when I heard what sounded like a heavy freight coming.

Hark! I think I hear a freight. Richard Jay Solomon has his Lumix LX7 on a Gitzo tripod. We a standing on the old B&M line. There's little chance we'll get run over by a 4-4-0 sprinting for Northampton. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Hark! I think I hear a freight. Richard Jay Solomon has his Lumix LX7 on a Gitzo tripod. We a standing on the old B&M line. There’s little chance we’ll get run over by a 4-4-0 sprinting for Northampton. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Sure enough it was! New England Central’s southward manifest freight from Brattleboro to Palmer had stalled climbing Belchertown Hill, and had just got moving again. Amtrak was only a few miles behind.

New England Central's southward freight on December 19, 2014. Lumix LX7 Photo.
New England Central’s southward freight on December 19, 2014. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Just a few miles behind the freight was Amtrak's southward Vermonter. We'd gone out for the Vermonter, and lucked into the delayed freight train. This was especially fortuitous because we'd stopped for lunch at Amherst on the way to this 'new' location. Lumix LX7 photo.
Just a few miles behind the freight was Amtrak’s southward Vermonter. We’d gone out for the Vermonter, and lucked into the delayed freight train. This was especially fortuitous because we’d stopped for lunch at Amherst on the way to this ‘new’ location. Lumix LX7 photo.

We caught the freight, and about 10-15 minutes later got Amtrak train 55 (southward Vermonter), then proceeded to Three Rivers where we caught the Vermonter a second time.

Try that in a few week’s time!

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Vermonter at Three Rivers.

Only a Few Months to go.

Soon, Amtrak’s Vermonter will be detoured back to the traditional passenger route north of Springfield, Massachusetts, leaving the New England Central’s former Central Vermont line between Palmer and East Northfield, Massachusetts freight only for the first time in 25 years.

On the afternoon of October 27, 2014, fellow photographer Bob Arnold suggested that we make a photo of the southward Vermonter (train 55) at Three Rivers, where line crosses the Chicopee River on a plate girder bridge.

It was a nice clear sunny day and the foliage was splendid. Somehow the Vermonter managed to lose about 20 minutes in its short run down from Amherst, a station that will cease to serve as a regular stop with the route change.

Distant view at Three Rivers. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Distant view at Three Rivers. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

If you are interested in riding or photographing Amtrak’s Vermonter on this route, don’t delay, time is running out.

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Autumnal Massachusetts Saturday.

October 18, 2014.

We had a late start, the weather was a bit iffy, and there wasn’t much running, but my father and I set out anyway to make a few railroad photos in the fall foliage.

Since Amtrak’s Vermonter is in its final months of using the New England Central route between Palmer and East Northfield, Massachusetts, we made a point to intercept it in both directions.

A New England Central local freight was working the interchange track in Palmer. Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
A New England Central local freight was working the interchange track in Palmer. Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
For more than 19 years, New England Central's blue and yellow GP38s have worked around Palmer. I wonder how much longer they will last? Lumix LX7 photo.
For more than 19 years, New England Central’s blue and yellow GP38s have worked around Palmer. I wonder how much longer they will last? Lumix LX7 photo.
Richard Solomon waves.
Richard Solomon waves.
Amtrak train 57, Saturday's Vermonter works south of Amherst at milepost 82. A hiking trail runs parallel with the line at this location. New welded rail has been laid along the line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak train 57, Saturday’s Vermonter works south of Amherst at milepost 82. A hiking trail runs parallel with the line at this location. New welded rail has been laid along the line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A stop by Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard found little moving except the hump engine.

The old Boston & Maine line was pretty quiet. This is the view looking west from East Deerfield where I've made a great many photographs in the last 30 plus years. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The old Boston & Maine line was pretty quiet. This is the view looking west from East Deerfield where I’ve made a great many photographs in the last 30 plus years. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A burst of sun at East Deerfield Yard. No less than four sets of road power were idling and the yard was full of cars, but not much was moving.
A burst of sun at East Deerfield Yard. No less than four sets of road power were idling and the yard was full of cars, but not much was moving.

Not everyday is busy in central Massachusetts, but I can always find photographs. Here’s just a few from our afternoon’s exploration.

A spin over to Montague found a GATX  slugset working the East Deerfield hump job. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A spin over to Montague found a GATX slugset working the East Deerfield hump job. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
I made this panned view of the GATX slug using my Lumix LX7.
I made this panned view of the GATX slug using my Lumix LX7.
Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 18, 2014.
Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 18, 2014.
Amtrak train 54 the northward Saturday Vermonter crosses the Millers River at Millers Falls. Canon EOS 7D with 200 mm lens. Image adjusted for contrast and color balance.
Amtrak train 54 the northward Saturday Vermonter crosses the Millers River at Millers Falls. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens. Image adjusted for contrast and color balance.

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Summer Solstice with the Vermonter

Train 54 at Millers Falls.

June 21st was the longest day of the year. Amtrak’s Vermonter (Train 54) departed Amherst, Massachusetts at 4:32 pm, twelve minutes after the advertised.

Sometimes late trains are a benefit. I was aiming toward Millers Falls, hoping to make a photo on the famous high bridge over the Millers River. I arrived nine minutes before the train crossed this span. If the train had been on schedule, I’d have missed it.

Since 1986, I’ve photographed this bridge on many occasions. It was nearly 25 years ago that my dad and I made images of Amtrak’s re-inaugural Montrealer.

Since then, Amtrak service has worked the old Central Vermont north of Palmer to East Northfield (however, where the Montrealer joined the CV route at New London, since 1995, Montrealer’s successor, the daytime Vermonter, works the New Haven-Springfield line, then over the Boston & Albany route to Palmer).

Not for much longer though. The parallel former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line between Springfield and East Northfield is being upgraded and will soon be again hosting Amtrak. So, as mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been making opportunities to photograph the Vermonter on the Palmer-East Northfield New England Central line-segment while I still can.

Amtrak train 54 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge on June 21, 2014. This location presents several photographic challenges. The first is a deceptive angle. I made this view from the Route 63 bridge immediately to the west. While the two bridges are adjacent, they are not parallel, and the slight skewed crossing of the railroad bridge makes it difficult to make a level image. What appears level to the eye, isn't really level. Rather than gauge the bridge, it helps to watch the level of the Millers River. Of course, if you miss the level, you can always 'fix it in photoshop.'
Amtrak train 54 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge on June 21, 2014. This location presents several photographic challenges. The first is a deceptive angle. I made this view from the Route 63 bridge immediately to the west. While the two bridges are adjacent, they are not parallel, and the slight skewed crossing of the railroad bridge makes it difficult to make a level image. What appears level to the eye, isn’t really level. Rather than gauge the bridge, it helps to watch the level of the Millers River. Of course, if you miss the level, you can always ‘fix it in photoshop.’
A second difficulty is calculating exposure. Photographing a highly reflective train against a background of dark green trees can fool camera meters. This is acerbated when the sun relatively low on the horizon, since the light tends reflect back toward the camera. Experience with the location helps; anticipating the bright train, I pre-adjusted my exposure by two-thirds of a stop to compensate for the sudden brightness on the bridge. Vermonter's trailing cab car glints in the afternoon sun.
A second difficulty is calculating exposure. Photographing a highly reflective train against a background of dark green trees can fool camera meters. This is acerbated when the sun relatively low on the horizon, since the light tends reflect back toward the camera. Experience with the location helps; anticipating the bright train, I pre-adjusted my exposure by two-thirds of a stop to compensate for the sudden brightness on the bridge. Vermonter’s trailing cab car glints in the afternoon sun.

 

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Amtrak’s Vermonter on New England Central

Federal Street in Belchertown, May 25, 2014.

Vermonter_at_Federal_Street_1_P1020522

Amtrak train 57, the southward Vermonter rolls across Federal Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts on May 25, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Amtrak train 57, the southward Vermonter rolls across Federal Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts on May 25, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.

Since 1995, Amtrak’s Vermonter has operated via Palmer and Amherst, Massachusetts. This requires a 13-mile jog over CSX’s former Boston & Albany from Springfield to Palmer, where the train reverses direction and heads north on New England Central’s former Central Vermont main line.

Presently, Pan Am Southern’s former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line is being upgraded between Springfield and the Massachusetts-Vermont Stateline at East Northfield. This will allow a restoration of passenger service to the traditional route north of Springfield.

The Vermonter is expected to switch to the former B&M routing via Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield by the end of this year. As a result, I’ve been making photographs of Amtrak’s train at various places between Palmer and East Northfield, while the service still operates that way.

Several years ago, my late friend Bob Buck and I, were following a northward New England Central freight. Bob had been making photos on the Central Vermont since steam days.

We were just a few minutes ahead of the freight as we passed Belchertown.

We turned on Route 9 toward Amherst. After a couple of minutes Bob pointed, ‘take a left, there on Federal Street.’ We found the tracks and I made a photo of Bob rolling the freight by the crossing.

It was here I chose to capture the Vermonter, while I still can.

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Lumix LX-7 Test at Palmer, Massachusetts.

May 24, 2014.

Last month (April 2104), my Panasonic Lumix LX-3 began performing erratically while I was photographing Irish Rail at Monasterevin.

Although annoying, this was only a minor setback of the day, because I had my Canon EOS 7D with me. I often travel with at least two cameras, just in case one develops problems.

The LX-3 suddenly suffered an electrical fault; specifically the rear display stopped working reliably. Sometimes it would flicker on, other times it was dark. I tried all the usual cures; I turned the camera off and then on, I removed the battery, I even tried the factory reset. No joy.

In the short term I found that if I pressed on the side of the camera body, the display would come on long enough to make adjustments. I continued to use the LX-3 for secondary services, while relying on the Canon EOS 7D and film cameras for more critical work.

I’ve had my LX-3 for almost five years and in that time I’ve carried it with me everywhere. It’s visited about a dozen countries, and more than a dozen US states. In addition to pictorial service, I’ve used it intensively to copy documents while in libraries. Using the in-camera file counter, I determined that I released the shutter more than 64,000 times.

Last November the camera took a very hard knock, which didn’t immediately affect its performance, but certainly didn’t do it any good. In April, the camera was subject to unusual dampness (it got wet) while I was making night shots in Porto, Portugal.

LX-7 view of Amtrak 54, the Vermonter, at Palmer on May 24, 2014. The camera was set to simultaneously expose Jpg and RAW. It does an excellent job retaining highlight detail.
LX-7 view of Amtrak 54, the Vermonter, at Palmer on May 24, 2014. The camera was set to simultaneously expose Jpg and RAW files. It does an excellent job retaining highlight detail.

On May 24, 2014, my father lent me his Panasonic LX-7 to see if this newer Lumix model would offer a suitable replacement. This camera comes highly recommended to me by several people. Since it’s essentially the latest model kin to my LX-3, it may represent an ideal choice for my new ‘everywhere camera’.

I brought it to Palmer, Massachusetts where I exposed about 100 images in various conditions, both to get a feel for the cameras controls (which have several notable differences from the LX-3), and examine the quality of the images.

LX-7 Manual focus controls are similar to those on the LX-3 but take a bit of getting used to.
Checking the Amtrak timetable. The LX-7 manual focus controls are similar to those on the LX-3 but take a bit of getting used to.
Among the advantages of digital photography are much improved photos exposed in overcast-lighting. Using the LX-7's manual over-ride, I intentionally over exposed by 1/3 stop to better expose for the ground and trees. I hadn't yet mastered the LX-7s various metering modes, and its possible there was a more effective means for adjust the exposure.
Among the advantages of digital photography are much improved photos exposed in overcast-lighting. Using the LX-7’s manual over-ride while in ‘A’—aperture priority, I intentionally over exposed by 1/3 stop to allow for better detail and contrast in ground-areas  and trees. I hadn’t yet mastered the LX-7’s various metering modes, and it’s possible there was a more effective means for adjust the exposure.
CSX Q423 (or L423) was working Palmer yard. In this view it pulls passed CP83 to double its train out of the yard. I exposed several telephoto views with the LX-7. By keeping the camera relatively low to the ground, I've minimized foreground distractions while allowing for a more dramatic perspective on the locomotives.
CSX Q423 (or L423) was working Palmer yard. In this view it pulls passed CP83 to double its train out of the yard. I exposed several telephoto views with the LX-7. By keeping the camera relatively low to the ground, I’ve minimized foreground distractions while allowing for a more dramatic perspective on the locomotives.

I found that the LX-7 had several positive points. In general it reacted quicker and cycled faster than the LX3. Its zoom lens has a wider range, and offers longer telephoto photo settings. The rear display seemed sharper and brighter.

On the downside, I was unfamiliar with the controls, so setting the camera proved challenging. Also, the camera is slightly larger.

In general I was happy with my results, and plan to experiment a bit more with the camera before I commit to buying one. There are a variety of excellent small cameras on the market these days, so I may wish to sample some of these too. More to come!

A modern GE Evolution-Series diesel faces a mid-1980s era SD50. The locomotives stopped, giving me ample time to make detailed views. LX-7 photo.
A modern GE Evolution-Series diesel faces a mid-1980s era SD50. The locomotives stopped, giving me ample time to make detailed views. LX-7 photo.
Low-angle on CSX 875 leading symbol freight Q423 (or L423) at Palmer. LX7 at its widest view.
Low-angle on CSX 875 leading symbol freight Q423 (or L423) at Palmer. LX7 at its widest view.
Finally on its way west, this CSX freight crossing the Palmer diamond. Another CSX westbound was close behind. LX-7 view. All photos are un-modified except for scaling necessary for internet presentation.
Finally on its way west, this CSX freight crossing the Palmer diamond. Another CSX westbound was close behind. LX-7 view. All photos are un-modified except for scaling necessary for internet presentation. The LX-7 handles high contrast situations very well. I was in the ‘standard’ color setting.

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DAILY POST: Vermonter at Dusk


Ethereal View at Millers Falls, January 2014.

Tim Doherty asked me a few weeks back, “Have you ever tried a shot from the north side of the Millers Falls high bridge?” I’d looked a this several times, but was discouraged by the row of trees between the road and the railroad bridge.

Amtrak
Amtrak‘s northward Vermonter crosses the Millers River on January 12, 2014.

So, on January 12, 2014, at the end of the day (light), Tim and I went to this location with the aim of making images of Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossing the aged Central Vermont span.

 

As there was only a hint of light left, I upped the ISO sensitivity of my Canon EOS 7D and I switched the color balance to ‘tungsten’ (indoor incandescent lighting which has the same effect as using tungsten balance slide film (such as Fujichrome 64T), and so enhances the blue light of the evening.

 

A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) confirmed the train was on-time out of Amherst. Running time was only about 20 minutes (a bit less than I thought) but we were in place, cameras on tripods, several minutes before we heard the Vermonter blasting for crossings in Millers Falls.

The result is interpretive. The train’s blur combined with view through the trees and the deep blue color bias makes for a ghostly image of the train crossing the bridge.

Click to see related posts: Dusk on the Grand CanalAmtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

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Rolling on the Railroad Special Post: Frosty Morning in Philadelphia.


As Transmitted from Amtrak number 56, The Vermonter. 

This morning I started at Overbrook, Pennsylvania, where frosty temperatures and a clear sky made for some stunning lighting effects. The cold wasn’t aiding timely railroad operations.

I caught a SEPTA local to 30th Street Station. I was booked to travel on the Vermonter, but delays gave me ample time to wander around and down load digital photos from my cameras.

An outbound SEPTA multiple unit catches the glint of the rising sun at Overbrook, Pennsylvania before 8am on January 23, 2014.
An outbound SEPTA multiple unit catches the glint of the rising sun at Overbrook, Pennsylvania before 8am on January 23, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An eastbound SEPTA multiple unit passes Overbrook, Pennsylvania before 8am on January 23, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An eastbound SEPTA multiple unit passes Overbrook, Pennsylvania before 8am on January 23, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Canon 200mm view of a non-stop SEPTA MU east of Overbrook, PA, on January 23, 2014.
Canon 200mm view of a non-stop SEPTA MU east of Overbrook, PA, on January 23, 2014.
The Solari boards at 30th Street didn't paint a happy picture. Delays and cancelations were the rule of the day. My train was only about 40 minutes behind the advertised. Lumix LX3 photo.
The Solari boards at 30th Street didn’t paint a happy picture. Delays and cancelations were the rule of the day. My train was only about 40 minutes behind the advertised. Lumix LX3 photo. 
30th Street Station, Philadelphia on the morning of January 23, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
30th Street Station, Philadelphia on the morning of January 23, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
30th Street Station from the 29th Street side. Lumix LX3 photo
30th Street Station from the 29th Street side. Lumix LX3 photo
Amtrak veteran, AEM7 932 roars into 30th Street Station with the Vermonter in tow. I'm riding behind this locomotive as I write this. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak veteran, AEM7 932 roars into 30th Street Station with the Vermonter in tow. I’m riding behind this locomotive as I write this. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 56 arrives at 30th Street, 40 minutes after its scheduled time. Better late than never. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 56 arrives at 30th Street, 40 minutes after its scheduled time. Better late than never. Lumix LX3 photo.

At present I’m gliding eastward across a snow covered urban landscape on the former New Haven Railroad. This is Tracking the Light’s first post sent directly from an Amtrak train.

View from Amtrak 56 on approach to New York's Hell Gate Bridge with the New York City Transit Authority below and the Manhattan skyline beyond. Lumix LX3 photo.
View from Amtrak 56 on approach to New York’s Hell Gate Bridge with the New York City Transit Authority below and the Manhattan skyline beyond. Lumix LX3 photo.
On board Amtrak number 56 The Vermonter, east of Penn-Station, New York. Lumix LX3 photo.
On board Amtrak number 56 The Vermonter, east of Penn-Station, New York. Lumix LX3 photo.
Metro North Railroad HyRail truck as viewed from Amtrak 56 on the afternoon of January 23, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
Metro North Railroad HyRail truck as viewed from Amtrak 56 on the afternoon of January 23, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
USDOT test car on the old New Haven Railroad west of Stamford on January 23, 2014. Lumix LX3.
USDOT test car on the old New Haven Railroad west of Stamford on January 23, 2014. Lumix LX3.

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DAILY POST: Amtrak’s Vermonter at Three Rivers, Massachusetts.

On October 24, 2013, Amtrak’s southward Vermonter is south of Three Rivers in Palmer, Massachusetts. I’ve often favored this view along the old Central Vermont Railway where the tracks run along the side of the road. The train is approaching Palmer’s yard limits and is trundling along at a casual pace.

Amtrak's southward Vermont rolls along south of Three Rivers, Massachusetts on the former Central Vermont Railway. October 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak’s southward Vermont rolls along south of Three Rivers, Massachusetts on the former Central Vermont Railway. October 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 200mm lens.

Everyday scenes like this one are easy enough to find, yet tend to hold their interest over time. Items such as the trash cans on the left and the car on the road may someday garnish greater interest than the P42 leading the Vermonter.

Yet, someone interested in trains in the future may see this and exclaim, ‘You mean that way back in 2013, they ran the Vermonter via Three Rivers? No way! Why?’

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Amtrak Crosses the Connecticut, Windsor Locks, October 20, 2013.

Broadside View of the Old New Haven Railroad Bridge.

Amtrak passenger train.
On the afternoon of October 20, 2013, Amtrak train 54, the Sunday Vermonter crosses the Connecticut river on a 107 year old former New Haven Railroad span. Locomotive 147 is at the back of the train pushing. Leading is a cab-control car. Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens.

What better than a bright sunny Sunday afternoon to execute a classic image of a big bridge.

Amtrak operates the former New Haven Railroad line between Springfield, Massachusetts and its namesake Connecticut city as a branch off its primary North East Corridor route.

In addition to shuttle trains running between Springfield and New Haven, the Washington D.C. to St Albans, Vermont, Vermonter travels this line daily. Infrequent freight services are operated by Connecticut Southern (sister operation to New England Central) and Pan Am Southern/Pan Am Railways.

Although much of the line is scenically challenged as it runs through built up suburban and urban areas of central Connecticut, it does have a few garden spots. I think the scenic highlight is this crossing of the Connecticut River near Windsor Locks.

I’ve made various views of this bridge over the years, and last Sunday (October 20, 2013) I thought I’d look for something a little different. There’s a lightly used road that follows the east bank of the Connecticut south of the bridge, and here I found a safe place to park and walk to the river,

A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) revealed the northward Vermonter was operating about 9 minutes behind its scheduled time. I was in position a good 20 minutes before the train and so had ample time to make test shots to pick the best angle and exposure.

I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens. The train rolled across the bridge at a restricted speed so it was easy to pick off several frames. The bigger challenge will be to catch one of the freights on this bridge. It’s been a good few years since I’ve succeeded in that mission.

On the afternoon of October 20, 2013, Amtrak train 54, the Sunday Vermonter crosses the Connecticut river on a 107 year old former New Haven Railroad span. Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens.

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Hot Spot: Palmer, Massachusetts, October 17, 2013

Trains Converge on Palmer; 2 Hours of Non-stop Action.

New England Central
At 2:02 pm, New England Central GP38 3855 works CSX’s Palmer yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.

In the 1980s, Trains Magazine occasionally ran articles that featured ‘hot spots’ illustrated by sequences of photos showing different trains passing the same place over the course of hours.

These always caught my attention. While the individual images ranged from pedestrian to interpretive, the collective effect produced an understanding of how a busy spot worked.

Trains tend to arrive in clusters. Hours may pass where nothing goes by except a track car, then trains arrive from every direction. The astute photographer has learned when to make the most of these situations.

Palmer, Massachusetts can be a busy place, if you’re there at the right time. CSX’s east-west former Boston & Albany mainline crosses New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line at grade. An interchange track connects the two routes and serves as connection to the former B&A Ware River Branch operated by Massachusetts Central.

Afternoon tends to be busy. Among the moves through Palmer are Amtrak’s Vermonters that use CSX’s line between Springfield and Palmer, and NECR’s line north of Palmer toward Vermont. There isn’t a direct connection to allow an eastward train on the CSX route to directly access the NECR’s line.

To compensate for this, Amtrak’s trains must use CSX’s controlled siding to access the interchange track, and this to reach the NECR. This requires trains to reverse direction. As a result, Amtrak trains either have locomotives on each end or run with a push-pull cab control car.

On the afternoon of October 17, 2013, the interchange track proved one of the busiest lines in Palmer and was used by a succession of NECR, Mass-Central, and Amtrak trains.

Complicating matters was Amtrak 57 (southward Vermonter) which was running more than an hour behind its scheduled time, and so met its northward counterpart at Palmer. New England Central was also busy with no less than three trains working around Palmer about the same time.

I’ve put the following photos in sequence with the approximate times of exposure. I stress ‘approximate’, since my digital camera’s clocks not only didn’t agree on the minutes passed the hour, but were set for different time zones as a function of recent travel.

It was a nice bright day too. Patrons at Palmer’s ever popular Steaming Tender restaurant (located in the restored former Palmer Union Station) were entertained with a succession of trains passing on both sides of the building.

A southbound New England Central local approaches the Palmer diamond at 2:33 pm. Canon EOS 7D photo.
A southbound New England Central local approaches the Palmer diamond at 2:33 pm. Canon EOS 7D photo.
At 2:49 pm Mass Central's freight from South Barre looks to work the interchange track to reach the CSX yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.
At 2:49 pm Mass Central’s freight from South Barre looks to work the interchange track to reach the CSX yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.
New England Central 3809 has gone across the diamond to collect southbound train 611 and is now returning with the train and looking to re-cross CSX . Canon EOS 7D photo.
New England Central 3809 has gone across the diamond to collect southbound train 611 and is now returning with the train and looking to re-cross CSX . Canon EOS 7D photo.
Having dropped its interchange and collected its cars from CSX's yard, Mass-Central 960 returns west on the interchange track at 3:23 pm. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Having dropped its interchange and collected its cars from CSX’s yard, Mass-Central 960 returns west on the interchange track at 3:23 pm. A New England Central local with engine 3855 can be seen in the distance working the yard. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Photographer Paul Goewey focuses on Mass-Central as the train reverses over the interchange. Lumix LX3 photo.
Photographer Paul Goewey focuses on Mass-Central as the train passes over the interchange. Lumix LX3 photo.
Paul inspects his results.
Paul inspects his results.
At 3:37pm Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter crosses the Palmer diamond and enters the controlled siding at CSX's CP83. Canon EOS 7D photo.
At 3:37pm Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter crosses the Palmer diamond and enters the controlled siding at CSX’s CP83. Its locomotive, P42 153 is shoving at the back. The Steaming Tender is in the old station building on the left. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Amtrak and New England Central.
With Amtrak 56 tucked in on the controlled siding, New England Central’s local passes on the interchange track at 3:40 pm. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 56 has pulled forward onto the interchange and then reversed back again to make room for its southward counterpart to access the switch that connects the interchange track with CSX's controlled siding. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 56 has pulled forward onto the interchange and then reversed back again to make room for its southward counterpart to access the switch that connects the interchange track with CSX’s controlled siding. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak's southward (left) and northward (right) Vemonters are nose to nose at Palmer. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak’s southward (left) and northward (right) Vemonters are nose to nose at Palmer. Lumix LX3 photo.
At 408pm, both Vermonters depart Palmer. The train on the left leading with P42 number 153 is heading north to St Albans, Vermont, while on the right the southward train will exit CSX's controlled siding and head west toward Springfield before continuing south to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Lumix LX3 photo.
At 408pm, both Vermonters depart Palmer. The train on the left, leading with P42 number 153, is heading north to St Albans, Vermont, while on the right the southward train will exit CSX’s controlled siding and head west toward Springfield before continuing south to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Lumix LX3 photo.

Not bad for one afternoon! Yet, not a CSX train in sight. These days much of CSX’s business passes Palmer in darkness.

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See my Dublin Page for images of Dublin’s Open House Event in October 2013.

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