One of my favorite places to experience railroading and expose photos is on the old Boston & Albany ‘West End,’ Washington Hill grade.
On this legendary grade, one of the most interesting places is the 1912 line relocation between mileposts 129 and 130, west of Chester, Massachusetts. This includes a very deep cutting, while the right of way of the original 1839-built line is nearby and features three large stone arches dating from the time of construction.
Bob Buck first showed me this cosmic piece of railroad back in 1982.
I visited this hallowed ground last week and exposed these views with my FujiFilm X-T1. To accentuate the autumn foliage and make for more pleasing scenes, I set the white balance to ‘shade’ which warms up the scene.
CSXT was kind enough to send an eastward stack train down grade mid-morning.
I’ll feature this territory in my Boston & Albany book, which I hope to complete writing in the coming months.
This was the icon-image used to advertise my November 2008 Silver & Steel photographic exhibition. I’d exposed it six years earlier on a three-week autumnal photographic exercise that began in Vermont, and brought me as far west as Omaha. I returned east via Cincinnati, Roanoke and Washington D.C.
The photograph was among those made on the outward leg of the trip. I’d met some friends for a few days of photography on CSX’s Mountain Subdivision, the old Baltimore & Ohio ‘West End’—the original B&O mountain crossing. On the morning of October 18th, we found this westward empty hopper train working west through the fog covered Potomac River Valley. Getting ahead of the train, we exposed a sequence of images of it near ‘Z’ Tower at the west-end of Keyser Yard. The sun had begun to burn off the fog, some of which still clung to the river valley and surrounding hills making for a cosmic setting worthy of the old B&O.
Working in silhouette can be tricky; low light and fog helps. An image like this works when the main subject is clearly defined from the background. The ditch-lights on the leading locomotive are crucial to maintaining compositional balance both identifying a focal point and indicating action; without the lights the image takes on a completely different character.
I was working with my Nikon N90s and a Nikkor f2.8 180mm lens and Fujichrome Astia 100 film. Fuji introduced Astia in 1997, and supplied it concurrently with its Provia 100. Astia offered a slightly warmer color balance, and a rich black, remaking it an ideal medium for autumnal situations. Unfortunately, Astia was replaced with Astia 100F in 2003. While nominally sharper, I never found the Astia 100F as pleasing as the original Astia. Asked about this film choice, my friend Brian Jennison, once exclaimed, ‘Its nastia with Astia!’ Indeed it is!