Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Chasing the Finger Lakes Railway

Finger Lakes Railway; Skaneateles Junction, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
The New York Central's main line once wandered through small towns located at the north end of the Finger Lakes. Once the "Water Level Route" was completed to the north, the original main line became the "Auburn Road" of the NYC, named for one of the villages along the way. The line eventually became a part of Penn Central and then Conrail, then was spun off by Conrail in 1995 when the Finger Lakes Railway (FGLK) was formed. Mindful of its heritage, the FGLK adopted the NYC's lightning stripe paint scheme for its locomotives.
Finger Lakes Railway; Martisco, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
The Finger Lakes Railway is based out of Geneva, N.Y. Its main line, the old Auburn Road, wanders east to a connection with CSX (former New York Central) at Solvay, just outside of Syracuse. From west of Geneva at Canandaigua to Solvay, the railroad runs 76 miles.
Finger Lakes Railway; Fairmount, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
On September 16, 2018, I went looking for a Finger Lakes freight with Mike Burkhart. Sunday is a good day to find train GS-2 (Geneva-Solvay), and we found the train just leaving Auburn heading east behind GP38-2s 2001 and 2003. Our first decent shot was at Skaneateles Junction (top photo), then we chased on to the overhead bridge near Martisco. The train really wanders through the woods, but as it approaches Solvay and Syracuse it gets back into suburbia. There are several NYC depots still located along the line, but Home Depot in Fairmount is not one of them (above).
Finger Lakes Railway; Solvay, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
Once at the interchange it didn't take the crew long to drop the inbound cut of cars and pick up the outbound loads. It took just 45 minutes from the time the train passed the fixed-aspect approach semaphore for Solvay for it to return past the signal (above). Next up on the chase was the old depot at Camillus, now part of a car wash complex (below).
Finger Lakes Railway; Camillus, N.Y.; September 18, 2018
The depot at Martisco requires a bit of a drive into and out, and that will have to wait for another chase. However, the depot at Skaneateles Junction (pronounced "skinny atlas") provided a nice photo prop.
Finger Lakes Railway; Skaneateles Junction, N.Y.; September 18, 2018
The gondolas on the head end directly behind the locomotives were destined to be dropped at Auburn, requiring the train to briefly work the small yard there. With a pause in the action, there was time to launch a drone for an aerial shot.
Finger Lakes Railway; Auburn, N.Y.; September 18, 2018
With the work done in Auburn, the GP38-2 duo made short work getting out of town.
Finger Lakes Railway; Auburn, N.Y.; September 18, 2018
For most of the chase, the pattern for the train was run fast between towns, but slow down in towns. With the train carefully negotiating Auburn, there was time to get ahead of the train as it worked uphill through the S-curves along U.S. 20.
Finger Lakes Railway; Auburn, N.Y.; September 18, 2018
Finger Lakes Railway; Cayuga, N.Y.

Between Auburn and Seneca Falls, the railroad loops north of U.S. 20, then drops south on its approach to Cayuga Lake. Meanwhile, U.S. 20 wanders north to skirt the top part of the lake. As the railroad and highway wander, they cross each other about halfway between the two towns with the highway passing overhead.

The highway crosses above the top of Cayuga Lake; meanwhile, the railroad leaves the village of Cayuga and crosses the very top part of the lake on a causeway.

Finger Lakes Railway; Seneca Falls, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
A wide-angle view shows the puffy white clouds reflected in the blue water of the lake as the train slowly makes its way across the causeway.
Finger Lakes Railway; Cayuga, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
From this point, Seneca Falls is only a couple of miles away, but the train slows down considerably as it approaches the village. There are a ton of neat photo props here, including a NYC passenger station and freight house. We opted to get the scene as the train passed through the town square next to the school.
Finger Lakes Railway; Seneca Falls, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
With the chase almost over, the last village is Waterloo before arriving in Geneva. At Waterloo, the Supreme Court courthouse with its golden dome rises above the town.
Finger Lakes Railway; Waterloo, N.Y.; September 16, 2018
From here the train only had a few miles to go before arriving at the yard in Geneva. We opted to leave the train in Waterloo, capping a wonderful Sunday on the Auburn Road and Finger Lakes Railway.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Lackawanna F3s Return To the Main Line

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 663; Cobbs Gap, Dunmore, Pa.; September 8, 2018
The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad rostered a small fleet of F3 diesels, built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, with the units arriving on the railroad in the late 1940s. While the units made it to the Erie-Lackawanna merger in 1960, none would survive by the Conrail merger of 1976.

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 663; Cobbs Gap, Dunmore, Pa.; September 8, 2018
With all of the original Lackawanna F3s gone, the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society and the Tri-State Railway Historical Society recreated a set of F3s with two A units and a cabless B unit. Selected as stand-ins for Lackawanna units were Bangor & Aroostook F3 504A (later numbered 44) and BAR F3 506A (later 46); these became Tri-State's DL&W 663 and ARHS's 664, respectively. The B-unit was a bit trickier, as no F3B units survive. ARHS cosmetically modified a Boston & Maine F7B to stand in as Lackawanna 664B.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 663, 664B, 664; Gouldsboro, Pa.; September 8, 2018
As part of its 2018 convention, the ARHS ran an excursion over the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western main line from Scranton to Tobyhanna, Pa., on September 8, 2018. The line is used by Steamtown National Historic Site for its rail excursions, while short line Delaware-Lackawanna (part of Genesee Valley Transportation) provides freight service. The trip featured the A-B-A set of F3s pulling three former Lackawanna coaches and one former Jersey Central coach. On the rear was Delaware-Lackawanna's business car, Erie Lackawanna 3, with D-L President David J. Monte Verde on board. Several photo stops were made, with 663 leading out of Scranton. The excursion was to celebrate the 70th birthday of the F3s. During a photo stop on private property near Gouldsboro (above), the property owner brought out his 1938 Buick (below), so photos featured two GM products built ten years apart.
1938 Buick with 1948 diesels; Gouldsboro, Pa.; September 8, 2018
The original Lackawanna main line is still full of landmarks. Many of the structures were built from concrete and were meant to last. The tower at Gouldsboro is one example.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 663; Gouldsboro, Pa.; September 8, 2018
The 663 led the eastbound trip to Tobyhanna. Once there, the units ran around the train, putting the 664 in the lead for the return trip. A wet summer meant yellow goldenrod was abundant.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 664; Tobyhanna, Pa.; September 8, 2018
Numerous ponds and small lakes dot the upper elevations of the Pocono Mountains. These bodies of water would develop a thick coat of ice in the winter, and ice harvesting was quite common. The ice was stored in insulated ice houses in large blocks and would last well into the warmer months.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 664, 664B, 663; Gouldsboro, Pa.; September 8, 2018
The trip could not have been accomplished without the cooperation of the train crew, which was provided by Steamtown National Historic Site. Train staffing and photo location planning was provided  by the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 664, 664B, 663; Elmhurst, Pa.; September 8, 2018
Just a couple of weeks before the trip, the Scranton area was hit by heavy rains that caused numerous washouts on the Lackawanna main line. Roaring Brook follows the tracks out of Scranton and during the rain it lived up to its name, overflowing its banks. At the final photo stop of the day, there waas evidence of Roaring Brook's wrath. The train is on the siding, as the bank near the main line (on the left) is heavily eroded. Work equipment is on the main to help put everything back where it belongs.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 664; Cobbs Gap, Dunmore, Pa.; September 8, 2018
Soon the trip was over. After dark, a few intrepid photographers tracked down the units on the Steamtown grounds for some night scenes. It was the conclusion to quite a fun day.
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 664; Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, Pa.; September 8, 2018

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

People of the Past

The railroad is not insular. It interacts with industry and environment. And it interacts with people. As part of the charter on the Strasburg Rail Road hosted by Lerro Productions on November 6, 2017, the trains of the past were enhanced by bringing in some people of the past.

One of the most interesting times in the era of steam railroading was during World War II. The railroads were busier than ever. Christopher Brang posed as a soldier of the War at the Strasburg shop (above), as well as out on the line with Nicholas Brightbill's Model A Ford (top photo of this post).

During World War II, women were pressed into service on the home front, taking over some industrial jobs while the men were deployed on two fronts. These women were represented in wartime posters by "Rosie the Riveter." For the charter, we had our own group of "Rosies" working in the Strasburg shop -- left to right we see Erin Kuntz, Cassie Giunta, and Jenny Wiese with Strasburg's ex-Great Western 2-10-0 No. 90.

Also in the Strasburg shop, but not a re-enactor, was Shelley Hall, an employee of the railroad. She had the unenviable task of working in No. 90's smokebox on this day. Showing how timeless steam railroading is, her 21st-century work looked right at home compared to the 1940s recreations.

Erin pauses at the door to the Strasburg shop.

Our group of Rosies certainly gave their all in making the hard shop work come to life. We see Cassie and Jenny looking pretty hardened by the hard labor in the shop.

Shelley took a break from work to also pose for a few shots. We see her with No. 90 and one of the largest wrenches she could find in the shop.

After lunch, Jenny and Cassie portrayed a much more pleasant scene from the 1940s as two passengers waiting to depart from the depot. A soldier portrayed by Tim Kuntz leans in to converse with the two ladies.

Cassie and Jenny also rode the train through the Amish farmland outside of Strasburg. Your photographer had to change his angle just a bit on this shot when another photographer in 21st century clothing and carrying a tripod suddenly appeared outside the window.

Finally, after dinner, Jenny and Cassie returned to their "Rosie the Riveter" dress for some final shots with Strasburg's ex-Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 No. 475 (made to look like N&W 382, which we chronicled in the last installment). Some railroad photographers only focus on the equipment, but people bring the past to life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Abingdon Branch Revisited

The Abingdon Branch of the Norfolk & Western wandered through the southwest corner of Virginia. It would likely have slipped completely into the dustbin of history if not for one thing, though -- a photographer named O. Winston Link discovered it and documented it on film. Link was more widely known for his night photography on the N&W, but his daytime Abingdon Branch material was just as magical.

The locomotive used on the Abingdon Branch during Link's visit was N&W 4-8-0 No. 382. Long-since scrapped, it has a sister locomotive still working on the Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania, N&W 475. On November 6, 2017, Lerro Productions conducted a photography event at Strasburg that turned the clock back to Link's time, starting before sunrise (above). A Model A, owned by Nicholas Brightbill, was brought in to add to the ambiance of old-time railroading.

No. 475 was given the identity of the 382 for the day. In addition to changing the number, a sunflower spark arrestor was added to the smokestack, a solid pilot (cowcatcher) was fabricated, and the locomotive was given white trim on the running boards.

Eras collided at Leaman Place Junction, where the Strasburg Rail Road meets Amtrak's Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg passenger line. The 382 looked a bit out of place as Amtrak ACS-64 No. 625 pushed a train towards Harrisburg.

The lunch break featured some interesting photos from the past, but that's really another topic for another day (a lot of good imagery came out of the lunch break). After lunch, our N&W mixed freight-and-passenger train caught a bit of sun at the railroad's picnic area, Groff's Grove.

The rural nature of the Strasburg Rail Road was put to good use. The railroad is located in Amish country, and scenes included an Amish farmer working his team of horses (top of this post). Some pumpkins that escaped Halloween were still in the field at Esbenshade Road.

Sunset brought a warm blow to the engine and train as it worked its way into the setting sun at Ranck's Crossing.

Turning the other direction yielded some nice evening glint off the side of the train.

Even after the sun went down, the sky still had a tinge of color in it. No. 382 made one last pass before darkness moved in.

Once it was dark, No. 382 posed for a few photos in the Strasburg Rail Road yard (below). Then it was time for Cinderella to vanish back into history and No. 475 return back to its true identity. Alex Merrill of the Strasburg puts No. 382's number plate away as 475 reappears in the background (right).

All in all, it was a magical day of bringing back O. Winston Link's world. Thanks to Pete Lerro and the staff of Lerro Productions for another outstanding photo charter. As mentioned above, Lerro Productions provided some great photography during the lunch break during this day, and we'll visit that in our next post.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Last Logger

On November 7, 2017, Western Forest Products made it official. The company's Englewood Railway -- the last true logging railroad in North America -- would remain closed for good. Located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the railroad has been shut down since April 21 following an accident that killed three employees.

The Englewood Railway was built in 1917 to serve the growing logging industry around Beaver Cove, British Columbia, operated Beaver Cove Lumber & Pulp, Ltd. The railroad was constructed by a new company to the region, Wood & English, which established its own logging community across the Nimpkish River from Beaver Cove. This new community was called Englewood (a combination of the words Wood and English).

Wood & English ran its timber operations until 1941, when the mill was closed. In 1944, Canadian Forest Products (Canfor) acquired the logging interests in the Nimpkish Valley and established a new headquarters near the town of Woss. By 1948, the railroad had been extended 24 miles from Beaver Cove to Woss.

Under Canfor, logs were brought out of the forest by truck and loaded onto railcars for the journey to Woss. At Woss, the logs were dumped into Woss Lake and floated on the next part of their journey. A small flotilla of boats were used to herd the logs on Woss Lake.

The rail line and logging operations were purchased by Western Forest Products in 2006. Following the purchase, many of the old timber trestles on the railroad were replaced by new steel structures.

On April 20, 2017, a train being loaded rolled away on its own and crashed into a railroad maintenance vehicle. Three employees were killed in the accident, and two others were injured. Rail operations were immediately suspended, with logs moving from the forest all the way to Woss via trucks.

The railroad used a small fleet of four EMD SW1200 switcher locomotives, three of which had been re-engined with Caterpillar power plants. The fourth retains its EMD prime mover. Like every logging railroad in history, nothing was thrown away -- every part that could be found was put into storage because "we might be able to use that someday." Over the years, the SW1200s were heavily modified.

The railroad was quite isolated, and you really had to want to go there to find it. But if you made the trek, you found the employees were quite friendly. Once you checked into the yard office at Woss, you were issued a hard hat. This was your pass to access all areas along the railroad, including the loadouts.

My visit was in June 2011, and all the images in this post are from that visit. Upon checking in, we were also loaned two large maps that showed all the logging roads in the area, making finding photo locations much easier.

A relic from the past, steam locomotive No. 12, was located near Woss. Reportedly, it has been cosmetically restored since my trip in 2011.

The last logging railroad lasted for almost exactly 100 years. With the closing of the line, the last true logging railroad in North America passes into the history books, ending another era of railroading.

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