Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cool Chromes - Fall on the Monongahela

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular mini-feature looking at some slides that have recently passed through my scanner.
Photo 1987 Monongahela; Brownsville, Pennsylvania October 1990
Monongahela Railway; West Brownsville, Penn.; October 1993
The Monongahela Railway was built to haul coal. Heading south from West Brownsville, Penn., the railroad was a joint operation of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie (New York Central) and the Baltimore & Ohio. When the PRR and NYC merged, new railroad Penn Central controlled two-thirds of the operation. By the time of this visit in October 1990, the Penn Central share had gone to Conrail while the B&O's third was controlled by successor CSX. In 1993 the Monongahela vanished entirely into Conrail.

The railroad's headquarters was at West Brownsville, where we found a set of the railroad's "Super 7" locomotives, B23-7R's rebuilt by General Electric from units that worked for Western Pacific (above).

The railroad actually consisted of two separate lines heading south from West Brownsville. The railfan favorite was always the westernmost line, which was actually fairly new below Waynesburg, Penn. Officially the Waynesburg Southern (a subsidiary of the Monongahela's controlling railroads), the line opened into West Virginia in 1968. Prior to that, the railroad only went as far south as Waynesburg. A train is seen passing the mine at Waynesburg as it heads onto the Manor Branch (below).
Photo 1984 Monongahela; Waynesburg, Pennsylvania October 1990
Monongahela Railway; Waynesburg, Penn.; October 1990
If the Waynesburg Southern was the railfan favorite, the brand new Manor Branch was the favorite favorite. Due to its newness, it presented wide open vistas. The small town of Time became quite the place to shoot, as seen by this set of Super 7s pushing a northbound train through (actually above) the small town on a fill.
Photo 1989 Monongahela; Time, Pennsylvania October 1990
Monongahela Railway; Time, Penn.; October 1990
I couldn't decide which shot I liked better, so here's the same train in the same location a couple of seconds later in the S-curve.
Monongahela Railway; Time, Penn.; October 1990
If one got tired of Super 7s (like that was going to happen), the train to watch for was the unit coal train operated by Detroit Edison. DE operated its own train from Michigan to the coal fields using the utility's own GE-built diesels. We see a set crossing a small bridge just south of Waynesburg before diverging onto the Manor Branch.
Monongahela Railway; Waynesburg, Penn.; October 1990
And we chase the train out onto the Manor Branch to catch it at Time.
Photo 1985 Monongahela; Time, Pennsylvania October 1990
Monongahela Railway; Time, Penn.; October 1990
Heading back to Waynesburg and continuing south on the Waynesburg Southern, we come to the town of Rogersville. I'm sure I was mad at the time when the car showed up just as the train was heading over the bridge, but in retrospect the car's headlights accentuate the bad weather we were fighting on this day.
Monongahela Railway; Rogersville, Penn.; October 1990
And with that we'll wrap up this edition of Cool Chromes. Thanks for coming along!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Random Ramblings - Here Comes Thomas!

There was nothing quite like the glory days of Michigan steam in the 21st century -- yes, the 21st century -- when two Berkshire locomotives from the Lima Locomotive Works were stomping through the state. From 2007-2009, Michigan's own Berkshire, Pere Marquette No. 1225 based out of Owosso, would be joined on and off by Nickel Plate Road No. 765, visiting from Fort Wayne, Ind. Photo charters by both Lerro Productions and Historic Transport Preservation, plus Train Festival 2009, all made Michigan a grand place for steam.

Photo 1702 Nickel Plate Road 765; Carland, Michigan October 10, 2009
Nickel Plate Road 765; Carland, Mich.
The grain elevator at Carland made for a favorite photo prop on many charters, and not unexpectedly we were once again at Carland on October 10, 2009, for a charter sponsored by Historic Transport Preservation with the 765. While there, a mother and her young son happened to pull up to watch the runbys. The kid was obviously a budding railfan, decked out in complete Thomas the Tank Engine garb. Well, we just had to get the kid into a photo. Mom was dressed in 21st century clothing, but we asked her if her son would mind posing with two of our "actors" during a photo runby. She said it wouldn't be a problem, so Kelly Lynch of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society took the lad by the hand and posed him in front of the photo line. Christopher Pitzen knelt down next to the kid.

Now 765 is a loud locomotive, especially during photo runbys when smoke and noise are a part of the show. With a grade crossing just behind the photo line (and the need for 765 to whistle loud for the crossing) I was positive the kid would bolt for his mom halfway through the runby. Christopher, however, pointed down the track and kept telling the kid "Here comes Thomas! Here comes Thomas!" The noise was incredible, the ground shook -- and the kid held his ground. As the locomotive blasted (and "blasted" doesn't begin to convey the experience) past, the kid turned his head and followed the engine with his eyes, smiling a huge smile. That's an experience that will stick with you for a long, long time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

To Missouri By Train

Photo 2478 BNSF Railway; La Plata, Missouri October 20, 2012
BNSF Railway; La Plata, Mo.; October 20, 2012
Last month I was invited to be a speaker at a travel writing and photography workshop sponsored by the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation and held at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, Mo. As part of the deal, I was offered an Amtrak trip from New York to La Plata with sleeping accommodations each way. I opted to go out via the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago and return via the Capitol Limited from Chicago to Washington, D.C. (and a Northeast Corridor train from D.C. back to New York). Travel between Chicago and La Plata would be on the Southwest Chief. Because of the train travel, this trip would be unique for me -- I wouldn't have a car, so every photo location had to be accessible via train and foot.

On Thursday, October 18, I got a ride from home to Dover, N.J., to begin my train travel via New Jersey Transit's Morris & Essex line to Penn Station in New York. I had sent most of my clothes out to Missouri ahead of me to keep what I was carrying to a minimum so I could do exploring between trains at various stops. My exploring started right in Penn Station where I found a remnant of old Pennsylvania Station (demolished in 1964) -- a door frame from the old station still remained in the Long Island Rail Road section of the new station. The doorway was located right next to a police kiosk, and I quickly explained to the officer on duty what I was doing -- shooting a doorway is not illegal, but might look a bit strange. "Knock yourself out," the officer laughed. "It's all good."

Train time found me settling into a roomette in a Viewliner sleeper. I had a room on the west side of the train for great views of the Hudson River at sunset and enjoyed dinner in the diner in the final glimmer of light. The train paused at the Albany-Rensselaer station for just under an hour as the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited was added to the train for the trip to Boston, which gave me some time to explore the station there.
Photo 2474 Amtrak; Rensselaer, New York October 18, 2012
Train time at Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.; October 18, 2012

After departure the attendant made up my bed, and I was delighted to find that the bed was even with the window sill; no awkward propping up was necessary to watch the lights of the towns out the window as sleep approached. Morning was somewhere in Indiana.

Photo 2476 Chicago Transit Authority; Canal & Wells, Chicago, Illinois October 19, 2012
CTA; Chicago, Ill.
Arrival in Chicago was in mid-morning and I had about five hours before getting on the Southwest Chief. I had seen photos of a pretty neat junction on the Chicago Transit Authority in the Loop that was shootable from a parking deck, and I made my way to the intersection of Canal and Wells and found the parking deck. Sure enough, it looked down on a crossing with interchange tracks in three of the four quadrants of the crossing. Trains were frequent and I tried a variety of angles. With so many geometric lines in the photo, it was a bit difficult to figure out which lines to make parallel to the edges of the photo (and the looking-down angle didn't help matters). The photo at right is heavily cropped and rotated, as I didn't like the looks of the lines in the original. The horizontal photo below is pretty much the way it was shot -- the horizontals were a little easier to frame up.

After getting several trains at the Loop, I headed out onto CTA on the Blue Line towards O'Hare Airport. The 2200-series cars are making their last stand on this line before being replaced by newer cars, and while none are used on the front or back of train sets (they are always sandwiched mid-train, making photos difficult) I did make sure to ride a few of the cars. It was cloudy, but I made a few stops for photos, some with the skyline in the background. The line ducked back underground for a couple of stations (the Belmont Station being particularly nice), but when the tracks went above ground again west of Belmont they were in the median of an interstate highway. Not caring for the noise, I turned back to downtown Chicago and explored Union Station before it was time to board the Chief.
Photo 2475 Chicago Transit Authority; Canal & Wells, Chicago, Illinois October 19, 2012
Chicago Transit Authority; Chicago, Ill.; October 19, 2012
Photo 2477 Chicago Transit Authority; Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois October 19, 2012
Chicago Transit Authority; Chicago, Ill.; October 19, 2012
I had a Superliner roomette on the Chief, but since I'd be detraining at about 9:00 p.m. the bed wasn't required. I enjoyed dinner in the dining car before retiring to my roomette until arrival at La Plata. Once there, a shuttle van met me at the station and took me to the Depot Inn & Suites.

On Saturday I enjoyed a railroadiana sale at the Silver Rails Event Center in La Plata, then enjoyed some train watching from the railroad overlook in town. The main line below is former Santa Fe, while the overlook is built on an embankment where the Wabash once crossed the Santa Fe on a bridge. I watched several trains go by (somewhere around ten in an hour -- see the photo at the top of the blog), then did the short hoof back to the Inn. The next few days (Sunday-Tuesday) had the seminars in the morning and usually a short afternoon activity including visits to the Silver Rails Art Gallery and the headquarters of Train Party which, as the name implies, stocks everything you could possibly want for your next train-themed event. Bob and Amy Cox were gracious hosts at both locations. Bob is also the caretaker of La Plata's Amtrak station, and he provided a historical tour of the facility.

The weather had deteriorated from Saturday, so I spent most afternoons at the Inn. I did get back to the overlook on Tuesday night to shoot the Southwest Chief making its evening stop at the La Plata depot.
Photo 2479 Amtrak; La Plata, Missouri October 23, 2012
Amtrak; La Plata, Mo.; October 23, 2012
La Plata is a typical midwest heartland town with the one-story row of businesses flanking a main street and the town square, along with a grain elevator. The highway has long bypassed downtown, so it has a feeling that time stopped a few decades ago. I quickly became attached to the town. All too soon, though, it was time to board Amtrak and head back east. Once again I was in a Superliner roomette for the ride back to Chicago.

Photo 2480 Chicago Transit Authority; Western Avenue, Chicago, Illinois October 24, 2012
CTA; Chicago, Ill.
During the week I had some time to evaluate my photos from the CTA junction that I had shot on Friday and decided I would go back there during my Windy City layover and try again if it was cloudy -- there would be too many contrasty shadows to deal with between the buildings if the sun was out. Well, the sun was out, so Plan B was to ride the Blue Line back out to get some of those skyline shots I had seen on Friday.

Western Avenue was my first stop, which showed the Sears Tower (I don't care what it's officially called now -- it will always be the Sears Tower) quite nicely. Next up was California, which also presented a nice scene from the end of the platform. My time was growing short to get back to Union Station but I still wanted one more shot at California. I moved myself to the middle of the platform near the steps -- if I saw an inbound train coming I could hustle down the stairs, cross under the tracks and get up to the inbound side. The shot I wanted was actually better from mid-platform that what it was at the end of the platform, so this maneuver was actually beneficial. Another outbound train showed up first, then I hustled over to the inbound side and rode back into downtown. I walked down the platform at Union Station alongside the Capitol Limited, and was soon in a Superliner roomette for the eastbound trip. My last dinner in the diner was held shortly after departure.
Photo 2481 Chicago Transit Authority; California Street, Chicago, Illinois October 24, 2012
Chicago Transit Authority; Chicago, Ill.; October 24, 2012
I quickly discovered I like the Viewliner roomette I had going west more than I like the Superliner roomettes. They aren't laid out quite as nice, and the bed is below the window level by a few inches, requiring bending pillows to keep your eyes at a level to see out while lying down. A pleasant overnight ride was had, and I was enjoying breakfast as the train descended Sand Patch Grade in western Pennsylvania on the former Baltimore & Ohio. Since the miles east of Cumberland, Md., featured numerous tunnels and river crossings, I decided to enjoy the ride to Harpers Ferry from the Sightseer Lounge where I had unobstructed views out both sides of the train.

Arriving in Washington, I had over two hours between trains. I spent some time photographing Union Station (the original concourse is under reconstruction and the ill-conceived 1976 addition that now houses a mall is just dark and dreary). The Metrorail system features some nice stations nearby, so I headed down there for some quick riding and photography.
Photo 2482 Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority; Gallery Place, Washington, D.C. October 25, 2012
Metrorail; Washington, D.C.; October 25, 2012
As I was finishing up my shooting, I was going for one more shot from the platform at Gallery Place of a train heading back to Union Station. Just as I was ready to shoot, someone stepped out in front of me with a cell phone to take a picture of the train. The headlights put a rim light around the man, and you can see the train in his cell phone -- I wound up with a much better picture than I could have imagined!
Photo 2483 Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority; Gallery Place, Washington, D.C. October 25, 2012
Metrorail; Washington, D.C.; October 25, 2012
The line was long to board the Northeast Corridor train that would take me to New York, but I was near the front and easily found a window seat. The train was pretty crowded by the time we left Baltimore. At New York's Penn Station I had time for a fast food dinner, then boarded a New Jersey Transit train to Mount Olive. My ride was waiting there, ending my Missouri adventure.

Thanks to fellow presenters Henry Kisor and Carl Morrison for their hospitality in La Plata. Thanks also to Steve Grande for the train tickets and the lodging at the Depot Inn & Suites. And thanks to the staff at the Inn, Bob and Amy Cox, and the people of La Plata for a memorable stay.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Cool Chromes -- A Great Day at Bellows Falls

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular mini-feature looking at some slides that have recently passed through my scanner.
Photo 2465 Green Mountain (Vermont Rail System); Bellows Falls, Vermont July 31, 1999
Vermont Rail System; Bellows Falls, Vt.; July 31, 1999
Photo 2492 Vermont Rail System; Bellows Falls, Vermont July 31, 1999
Vermont Rail System; Bellows Falls, Vt.
Each year the town of Bellows Falls, Vt., celebrates Old Home Days in the middle of summer, complete with one of the most spectacular fireworks shows in northern New England. For a few years Vermont Rail System (which controls much of the old Rutland Railroad, operated as the Vermont Railway north of Rutland and the Green Mountain Railway south of Rutland) would pose some of their locomotives and some guest locomotives in the Bellows Falls yard, which was conveniently located just beneath the fireworks.

Bellows Falls, situated along the Connecticut River, has always been a railroad crossroad, historically served by the Rutland and the Boston & Maine. The town gained further rail fame when F. Nelson Blount located his Steamtown U.S.A. collection in the area, first at North Walpole, N.H. (just across the river) and later at Riverside, just north of town. Today, when it comes to rail activity, Bellows Falls can be quiet for hours, but then suddenly come alive with multiple moves from multiple directions all at once.

Photo 2491 Vermont Rail System; Bellows Falls, Vermont July 31, 1999
Vermont Rail System; Bellows Falls, Vt.
In 1999 I headed up to Vermont to assist in lighting the night photo session (a very daunting task given that you had to balance bright fireworks with a combination of light and dark locomotives against a black background). But during the day there were excursions operating from Bellows Falls southward to Brattleboro with a guest locomotive on the south end (Canadian Pacific GP38-2 No. 7312 painted for CPR subsidiary Delaware & Hudson) and Vermont Rail System's own No. 302 (a GP40 lettered for the Green Mountain). It turned out to be a really good day, with decent sunshine and plenty of action. One of the highlights of Bellows Falls is the short tunnel under the town located just south of the station. I caught the excursion train popping out of there on one of the trips (above).

The north-south running of the excursion train meant there wouldn't be good light on the north VRS locomotive, so for the first trip in the morning I headed into New Hampshire and shot across the Connecticut River as the train crossed a tributary on a deck bridge (right).

Photo 2493 Amtrak; Bellows Falls, Vermont July 31, 1999
Amtrak; Bellows Falls, Vt.
Photo 0272 Guilford Transportation on New England Central; Bellows Falls, Vermont July 31, 1999
Guilford Transportation

That afternoon there was a bit of a traffic jam in Bellows Falls as the excursion, a freight from Guilford Transportation (operating on the old Boston & Maine) and Amtrak's Vermonter (also operating on the ex-B&M) all hit town at once. The Vermonter (with its F40 locomotive) and the GTI freight (with GP40 No. 334 leading) both made for a fine sight as they framed up looking through the Bellows Falls tunnel (above).

The south end of the excursions was down in Brattleboro, and while chasing was kind of tough (it really amounted to shooting the train leaving Bellows Falls, driving 20 miles and shooting the train arriving at Brattleboro), the scene down there was worth the effort. Brattleboro is a classic New England manufacturing town, and the brick mills along the track made for a nice backdrop (below). That night, we enjoyed the fireworks as Green Mountain RS1 No. 405 and GP40 No. 302 flanked guest locomotive ConnDOT No. 6690 (a former Southern Pacific F7A painted in the colors of the New Haven) (top of blog).
Photo 2490 Vermont Rail System; Brattleboro, Vermont July 31, 1999
Vermont Rail System; Brattleboro, Vt.; July 31, 1999
New England may have the reputation of being a hard place to shoot, but on July 31, 1999, Bellows Falls provided a great day of photography.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Random Ramblings -- Thanks, Cranky!

Photo 1477 Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; Suffolk Downs, Boston, Massachusetts January 25, 2009
MBTA; Suffolk Downs, Boston, Mass.; January 25, 2009
First off, I can't believe this was almost four years ago. Mike Burkhart and I were in Boston to shoot streetcars and subways, and on January 25, 2009, we found our way on the Blue Line, the subway line operated by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority that runs from downtown out to Logan Airport and continues northeast into the suburbs beyond Revere Beach (despite being known as a "subway," a large portion of the line is above ground and actually runs on a former railroad right-of-way). The MBTA had a policy for many years that you needed to have a permit for photography, but under pressure from the ACLU and others in the post-9/11 world, that policy had been rescinded and the published photo policy now allows for noncommercial property without a permit. We had encountered a couple of employees during the weekend asking if we had a permit, but when we told them the permit policy had been abolished they left us alone.

We found our way onto the platform at Suffolk Downs on the Blue Line where we were set up for a shot of an inbound train. An outbound train pulled up on the platform next to us, putting the operator's window right next to us. Immediately the operator started giving us a load of bull about permits and how what we were doing was illegal. We weren't backing down or moving, however, since the inbound car was on its way. He had a schedule to maintain so he gave up his yapping and departed with his train. But thanks to the delay in jawing at us, we were able to get this really nice shot of two trains passing. Thanks, Cranky!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Three Jersey Nights

Photo 2447 Norfolk Southern; Phillipsburg, New Jersey September 7, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Phillipsburg, N.J.; September 7, 2012
Part of my photographic arsenal includes four Alien Bees, studio strobes that can synchronize with my camera for night shots of moving trains. During the summer months they often don't get much use (mostly because it doesn't get dark until after 9:00, making for a long night), but as the autumn comes in and darkness comes earlier, they provide a nice way to make up for the shorter shooting time during daylight. Let's take a look at three recent shots.

First up we head along Norfolk Southern's ex-Lehigh Valley main line in Phillipsburg, N.J., on September 7. Fellow photographer Tom Nanos was visiting from Connecticut, as since he is also armed with strobes we decided to head out for some shooting. The shot we had envisioned was from the Main Street bridge looking west, with the former Central Railroad of New Jersey passenger station in the shot. The first train to show up, however, was a westbound train, which made us head to the other side of the bridge for a tighter shot passing restored PU tower (above). While I have four strobes, this was done with only two -- one with a telephoto reflector aimed down at the train, and one with a wider-angle reflector aimed at the tower. The flash power on the tower was cut back to about half to avoid over-exposing the tower.

Photo 2471 CSX Transportation; Belle Mead, New Jersey October 11, 2012
CSX Transportation; Belle Mead, N.J.; October 7, 2012
About a month later Tom was back in New Jersey again and we went over to the former Reading Company passenger station and freight house at Belle Mead on October 7. A relocation project for U.S. Route 206 resulted in the bridge over the railroad being moved back a couple hundred feet and during construction the town took the time to begin making the area a historic district. Trees were removed from the south end of the passenger station and the grass gets mowed every now and then, but otherwise no funds have been allocated to further improve the property. We were looking for a westbound (geographically southbound) train here, and this time we were rewarded with one train in the proper direction. For this shot I used three strobes. Two were across the track from where I was standing, one pointed at the passenger station and another at the nose of the train. The third was just off to my right, throwing light on the end of the freight house and on this side of the locomotive.

A few days later a coal train came into southern New Jersey to serve the power plant in Deepwater. One of Norfolk Southern's "heritage units" (locomotives painted in the livery of a now-extinct railroad that makes up the modern NS system) was the trailing locomotive on the southbound trip, but since the locomotives are run around the train for the return trip, the heritage unit -- painted for the Reading Company -- would lead north. We knew the crew was called out of Abrams Yard near Norristown, Penn., in the early evening and taken by van to Deepwater. We (my brother Bruce and friend Mike Burkhart) watched as the crew arrived at around 10:00 p.m. and began putting the train together at around 11:00. Once it looked like the train was almost ready to head north, we went to downtown Penns Grove to set up. Bruce had shot a heritage unit here before, and the train showed up then at about 1:00 a.m. But this time 1:00 came and went with no sign of the train. Finally, we heard the dispatcher call the train on our railroad radio asking if they were ready to leave -- this was around 2:00 a.m. The crew responded in the affirmative, and about 20 minutes later they passed through downtown.
Photo 2472 Norfolk Southern (on Conrail); Penns Grove, New Jersey October 14, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Penns Grove, N.J.; October 14, 2012
This is a fairly small scene that required only two strobes. I had a wide-angle strobe set up on the right side of the street pointing at the Colonial Hotel, and a second strobe with a telephoto reflector set up on the left side of the street pointing at the train. 

Now that winter is approaching and darkness will be coming before 5:00, I'm looking forward to getting out more with the strobes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cool Chromes -- Cab Units

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular mini-feature looking at some slides that have recently passed through my scanner.

Photo 2003 Conrail; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania April 29, 1998
Conrail; April 29, 1998
In this edition of Cool Chromes we'll look at "cab units," the classic E-units and F-units built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. Both types featured the streamlined "bulldog" nose. E-units had a pair of three-axle trucks and were built for passenger service; F-units had a pair of four-wheel trucks and saw service in both freight and passenger service.

We start off with a pair of E8 locomotives leading Conrail's Office Car Special (OCS) past the Amtrak (ex-Pennsylvania Railroad) station in Harrisburg, Penn. Conrail maintained three E8 units for business trains; when Conrail was split up between Norfolk Southern and CSX, the E8s were sold to businessman Bennett Levin of Philadelphia, where they have since been restored to their original Pennsylvania livery. 

Next we head to the Jersey Shore for an E8 leading a commuter train on New Jersey Transit at Red Bank on August 30, 1980. In the late 1970s into the early 1980s the former New York & Long Branch became a bastion for E-units. It was one of the last strongholds of six-axle cab unit power in regular passenger service. This shot was badly overexposed as shot; I've worked on it in Photoshop a little and still haven't got the colors as I remember them -- but then again, I could be remembering the colors as they were supposed to be, and not as they actually were. The E8s didn't get much maintenance (or paint) late in their careers. 
Photo 2045 New Jersey Transit; Red Bank, New Jersey August 30, 1980
New Jersey Transit; August 30, 1980
Photo 1824 Southern Railroad of New Jersey Woodstown, New Jersey
Southern Railroad of New Jersey
Let's stay in New Jersey for the next shot. Now we're on the Salem Branch of the former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines in Woodstown, N.J. (I don't have an exact date for this one, but it's probably 1996 or 1997). The line had been sold to Salem County and was (and still is) operated by the Southern Railroad of New Jersey. The SRNJ leased a pair of F3 units, one from the Tri-State Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and one from the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society. The two units originally worked for the Bangor & Aroostook in Maine, but were purchased by the historical groups and restored into the tangerine-and-blue of the Central Railroad of New Jersey (Jersey Central Lines). At the time the duo was one of the oldest sets of cab units in regular freight service in the U.S., but still drew little attention from photographers for some reason. In the years since this photo was taken, the two have since been relocated to Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Penn., given a new paint scheme of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, and put into semi-regular service hauling passengers on the old Lackawanna main line.

We conclude our cab unit tour at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, where we find an ex-Milwaukee Road E8 sitting in the back lot on July 21, 1993. While this looks bad, IRM has one of the best track records of restoring, maintaining and otherwise taking care of its equipment of any private (i.e. non-government) railroad museum in the U.S. Despite its appearance, this E8 is in very good hands.
Photo 1770 Illinois Railway Museum; Union, Illinois July 21, 1993
Illinois Railway Museum; July 21, 1993

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Random Ramblings - Connecticut Night

Photo 2469 Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum; Willimantic, Connecticut October 6, 2012
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum; October 6, 2012
One of my favorite night photo sessions each year is held at the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in Willimantic. And even though I've gone once a year for the last several years (and twice one year!) I still find some new angles to shoot, thanks to the efforts of scene coordinator Tom Nanos and the volunteers of the museum. This year (October 6 for those keeping score at home) we did station interior shots for the first time (above) with some pretty decent results.

The museum has a variety of equipment, and one of the favorite pieces for night photography is the former New Haven FL9. This year the classic EMD cab unit was posed at the museum's grade crossing and a flagman was positioned to protect the crossing. We were using synchronized flash for the shots, allowing for exposures of less than one second, but to get the lantern "swing" we opened the cameras for a few seconds while the flagman moved the lantern, then fired the flash.

Photo 2470 Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum; Willimantic, Connecticut October 6, 2012
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum; October 6, 2012
As is usual, after the session we looked at our results and found a few things we'd like to do differently -- it's always a mix of improving old shots and finding new ones. The FL9 scene could use two small tweaks -- turning off the red class lights on the diesel and losing the flag (leaving the flagman with just a lantern). Still, it's a pretty cool shot. I look forward to the 2013 edition of the night session.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Adirondack Weekend

Photo 2444 Adirondack Scenic; McKeever, New York September 2, 2012
Adirondack Scenic; McKeever, N.Y.; September 2, 2012
For Labor Day weekend I was invited up to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad to conduct a night photo session in conjuction with a railfan weekend and the 20th Anniversary celebration of the railroad. With events on Saturday and Sunday on the long weekend, I headed north from New Jersey on Thursday night.

After getting a night shot at Susquehanna, Penn., of a New York, Susquehanna & Western freight under a massive coaling tower (a shot I detailed in this blog post) I continued my scheduled all-nighter by going up to Harpursville, N.Y., on the former Delaware & Hudson (now Canadian Pacific, but seeing a lot of Norfolk Southern traffic) and setting up my strobes for whatever came along crossing the bridge there. I had set up a little before midnight, and got an eastbound train a little later. There was another angle I wanted, so I kept the lights set up and fell asleep in the front seat of the car, hopeful that either a horn or a radio transmission would wake me up if anything else showed.

It was a radio transmission that got my attention. A train went through a defect detector just west of the bridge and I cleared my sleep cobwebs, grabbed my camera and ran out onto the parallel highway bridge. A couple of cars went by, probably wondering what I was doing in the dark with a camera pointed at the bridge. I soon heard the train blowing for the crossing just off the west end of the bridge and the train rumbled into the scene.
Photo 2436 Norfolk Southern (on D&H); Harpursville, New York August 31, 2012
Norfolk Southern on Canadian National (D&H); Harpursville, N.Y.; August 31, 2012
It was only then that I noticed it was 5:30 a.m. and the sun was just beginning to brighten the eastern sky. There wouldn't be time for another train before daybreak, so I tore down the lights, got about another hour of sleep and headed north.

The plan was to spend the day on the Water Level Route of the former New York Central (now CSX Transportation). I had never been to Little Falls, N.Y., and did some exploring there, but wound up spending much of the day near Utica. The railroad was absolutely hopping, with trains running non-stop. As the day came to an end, I was on the platforms at the Utica Amtrak station getting trains in the last afternoon light before heading to the Adirondack Scenic at Thendara. Lodging would be Van Auken's Inn, directly across the street from the Thendara depot.
Photo 2424 Amtrak; Utica, New York August 31, 2012
Amtrak; Utica, N.Y.; August 31, 2012
The next morning I watched the crews put the displays for the railfan weekend together and visited some of the displays at the depot (including a locomotive simulator, where I stalled a train in a snowstorm on a steep grade). The 20th Anniversary speeches occurred when the morning train from Utica arrived, then I rode first class from Thendara down to Otter Lake on the rear platform of a Baltimore & Ohio business car. At Otter Lake the two F-units powering the train ran around to the north end, putting them up against the rear platform for the return trip.
Photo 2441 Adirondack Scenic; Otter Lake, New York September 1, 2012
Adirondack Scenic; Otter Lake, N.Y.; September 1, 2012
Returning to Thedara, we found a rap group making a video on one of the railfan weekend display locomotives -- Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern M420W No. 2045. We watched with amusement as the group danced and recorded on the running boards of the locomotive, then had the rapper and part of his posse pose for a "railroad publicity shot."
Photo 2442 Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern; Old Forge, New York September 1, 2012
Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern; Thendara, N.Y.; September 1, 2012
That evening we did several shots at the Thendara depot for the night photo session. Don Chaudruc, the mastermind behind the railfan weekend, posed in several of the shots at the classic ex-New York Central depot.
Photo 2443 Adirondack Scenic; Old Forge, New York September 1, 2012
Adirondack Scenic; Thendara, N.Y.; September 1, 2012
On Sunday morning I took a drive through the busy tourist town of Old Forge, just up the street from Thendara. The sun was in and out, but I decided to drive down to McKeever to the bridge to photograph the morning train from Utica behind the railroad's freshly painted RS18s. It was cloudy when I walked into the bridge, but a large hole opened up at just the right time and I got a decent shot of the train in full sunlight (see the top photo in this entry). 

It was time to start heading back towards New Jersey, so I bid farewell to the great folks at the Adirondack Scenic and drove south (but only after another crack at the locomotive simulator -- this time I took an Amtrak train up the grade, topped the hill and promptly ran away down the opposite side at 80 m.p.h. until I wrecked). The Water Level Route was shut down to all freight because of a bridge replacement project near Albany, but Amtrak was getting through. Among the passenger trains I shot, I got the Lake Shore Limited passing eastbound through Amsterdam, N.Y.
Photo 2445 Amtrak; Amsterdam, New York September 2, 2012
Amtrak; Amsterdam, N.Y.; September 2, 2012
I had wanted to get over to Mechanicville and check out the restored railroad interlocking tower there. XO Tower at one time protected the crossing of the Boston & Maine and Delaware & Hudson; today it's Pan Am Railway and Canadian Pacific that pass by. Upon getting there, the sun wasn't quite where I expected -- it favored a northbound train, preferably on the D&H. I had about an hour I could wait, so the odds were against me seeing anything shootable -- but just as it was time to leave the northbound signal near the tower lit up and I was rewarded with a northbound CPR train, complete with a locomotive from CP component railroad Iowa, Chicago & Eastern in the lead.
Photo 2446 Canadian Pacific; XO Tower, Mechanicville, New York September 2, 2012
Canadian Pacific; Mechanicville, N.Y.; September 2, 2012
From here it was time to head home. A quick stop at the new-ish station at Rensselaer revealed the platforms were off-limits to all but ticket holders, so I packed it in and headed back to the Garden State, wrapping up another adventure.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Cool Chromes -- From the Bridge

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular mini-feature looking at some slides that have recently passed through my scanner.

Photo 2468 Union Pacific 8444 and Frisco 1522; St. Louis, Missouri June 1990
Union Pacific 844 and Frisco 1522; St. Louis, Mo.; June 1990
In this edition of Cool Chromes we'll look at a few shots taken from a bridge. We'll start our selection with a view of Union Pacific 4-8-4 No. 844 (sporting the spiffy Greyhound scheme it wore for a few years) along with Frisco 4-8-2 No. 1522 in St. Louis in June 1990. The pair had been a part of the National Railway Historical Society Convention in the Gateway City, and the 844 had to head back to Cheyenne while the 1522 needed to get back to the National Museum of Transport in the St. Louis suburbs. Since the 844 was heading that way anyhow, the 1522 was tucked in behind the Northern and dropped at the museum grounds. Here the two are getting ready to get on the train for the westward trek.

Photo 2467 Caltrain; San Francisco, California June 20, 1999
Caltrain; San Francisco, Calif.; June 20, 1999
Next we have a shot from the Left Coast. Caltrain operates commuter service between San Francisco and San Jose (with some trains continuing on to Gilroy). Leaving San Francisco on the former Southern Pacific, trains pass through three tunnels in the city limits. The first tunnel's south portal is at Cesar Chavez Street (formerly Army Street) and the third pops out just north of the Bayshore commuter station. This scene is from the middle tunnel, from the Williams Avenue overpass on June 20, 1999. This train is actually pushing north -- the train is going away from the bridge into the tunnel.

Back in 1999 Metro-North Railroad, the commuter operator for trains running north and northeast out of New York City, painted a pair of FL9 locomotives into the paint scheme of the New York Central to celebrate the 150th anniversary of NYC and Metro-North predecessor Hudson River Railroad's arrival in the city of Peekskill. The duo is seen here heading north on the NYC Water Level Route emerging from the tunnel under Breakneck Ridge just north of Cold Spring, N.Y.; the view is from the pedestrian bridge at the Breakneck Ridge station. The pair retained their NYC colors and most often worked separately until they were donated to museums.

Photo 2205 Metro North; Breakneck Ridge, Cold Spring, New York October 2, 1999
Metro-North; Breakneck Ridge, N.Y.; October 2, 1999
Our final view from a bridge is at Port Royal, Penn. Since we just saw a shot above from the former New York Central, we need to give NYC's premier rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, its due. After going to Penn Central and then Conrail, the ex-Pennsy main line ultimately wound up in the hands of Norfolk Southern. In this scene from October 2000 we see a NS eastbound auto rack train (led by SD40-2 No. 3397 still in Conrail paint) passing a couple of ex-PRR signals in Port Royal, Penn.
Photo 2145 Norfolk Southern; Port Royal, Pennsylvania October 2000
Norfolk Southern; Port Royal, Penn.; October 2000

Monday, October 01, 2012

Random Ramblings -- Unspectacular

Photo 0254 East Broad Top; Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania October 2002
East Broad Top; Rockhill Furnace, Penn.; October 2002
We're entering October, and traditionally that would be a time for a staple of heritage railroading -- the East Broad Top Fall Spectacular in Rockhill Furnace, Penn. The Fall Spectacular replaced the Winter Spectacular in the 1980s when winter operations became too hard on the machines and men needed to run the railroad. Since the change, hundreds of the narrow gauge faithful would descend on Rockhill Furnace (a suburb of Orbisonia) each Columbus Day weekend.

Over the years the number of locomotives in service for the Spectacular dwindled. From four in the 1980s heyday down to three, then down to two. Finally, for the last few years, only 2-8-2 No. 15 has answered the call. This year, no steam will operate. Nonetheless, the Friends of the East Broad Top will still be around and the folks across the street at the Rockhill Trolley Museum will still be running almost everything that runs. Even though there is no steam in the Aughwick Valley, if your travels take you near the area during the holiday weekend stop in and take a trolley ride and see the improvements being made to the EBT by the Friends. It'll still be worth your time.

In the meantime, let's go back to the days of yore (actually October 2002, and in full disclosure mode I'll tell you that this was actually shot shortly after the 2002 Spectacular during a charter organized by Carl Franz). EBT 2-8-2 No. 14 works its way through the shop complex at Rockhill Furnace, with the sand tower on the left. What's spectacular about the Spectacular is its absolutely unspectacular scenes -- this was just a plain ol' everyday occurrence in the 1940s and 1950s. Sometimes a steam engine going to work in the morning is spectacular in its own little way.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lost And Found

Photo 2425 Cincinnati Union Terminal; Cincinnati, Ohio August 11, 2012
Cincinnati Union Terminal
Moving along with our continuing travelogues, we'll jump to August (see, we're catching up!) and a trip to Summerail at CUT. Summerail is the big multi-media railroad photography exposition held inside Cincinnati Union Terminal (a place that used to see hundreds of trains a day but is now reduced to only seeing Amtrak run one train each way three times a week). Organized by David Oroszi of Dayton, Ohio, Summerail brings together some of the finest photographers from the heartland and across the country.

Cincinnati Union Terminal, built in 1933, is an art deco masterpiece, and the last of the great stations built in the U.S. before the decline of passenger trains as America's premier transportation mode. Other than a brief sure in traffic during World War II, the number of trains calling at the terminal was in decline almost as soon as the station opened. By 1971 Amtrak was down to two trains a day stopping at CUT, and Amtrak pulled out altogether in 1972. The building sat empty until 1980 when a shopping mall was opened inside it. By 1982 the building was empty again, then in 1990 it opened as its current incarnation as the Cincinnati Museum Center. Amtrak returned to the terminal in 1991. Summerail is held in the Museum Center's theatre, just off the grand half-dome rotunda.

Photo 2426 CSX Transportation; Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio August 11, 2012
The view from CUT Tower A
I headed west with Railfan & Railroad associate editor Otto Vondrak on August 9, driving straight through from New Jersey to Cincinnati. On August 10 we did some railfanning with local guide Willie Davis before heading to the traditional Friday evening meal at Camp Washington Chili, followed by an evening of slides in the CUT theatre.

Saturday, August 11, was the big day for Summerail. I spent the morning in Tower A located in the upper reaches of CUT. At one time Tower A controlled all the movements into and out of CUT; today it is operated as a museum by the Cincinnati Railroad Club. The tower provides a panoramic view of CSX's Queensgate Yard and Norfolk Southern's Gest Street Yard. To the south, the NS's ex-Southern Railway bridge into Kentucky is visible in the distance. A handful of trains from both CSX and NS came into the yard during my two hours there.

The multi-media shows were all tremendous -- one of the best line-ups of shows I have ever seen at Summerail (and I've been there every year since 1999). Dinner was the traditional Skyline Chili meal across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., then more shows took us late into the evening.

The next morning Otto and I loaded up on supplies (cans of Skyline Chili, bottles of Ale-8-One, and more) then headed into Kentucky to shoot the Short Line of the former Louisville & Nashville (now CSX). In LaGrange CSX trains share the main street with auto traffic (the street running has become the town's biggest tourist draw) and we got one train each direction there. There was quite an assembled throng of photographers in town, and while most shot an eastbound train from the sunny side at the east end of the street running, I opted for a more unconventional angle passing the town clock.
Photo 2427 CSX Transportation; LaGrange, Kentucky August 12, 2012
CSX Transportation; LaGrange, Ky.; August 12, 2012
We needed to head further west for a night photo session in southwest Indiana, and the intel was that a Norfolk Southern heritage unit (No. 1066, painted for the New York Central) was working in helper service out of New Albany, Ind. Even though the heritage unit would be facing into the train while pushing, we decided to check things out and headed to New Albany. Much to our surprise, a young railfan there informed us that the next westbound train had locomotive trouble, and the two engine helper set (the heritage unit and one other engine) was going to be split up, with the NYC engine assigned to the point! We couldn't believe our luck! However, I am not going to show you any shots of that chase for reasons that will soon become clear.

After a spectacular chase across Indiana, Otto (who is not into night photography like I am) opted to stay at the motel while I headed out to Boone, Ind., and the Squaw Creek Southern for a night photo session organized by Mark Mautner. I hadn't downloaded any of my photos so far on this trip to my computer and my digital cards were filling up fast. I had to pause twice during the night photo session to change cards, and during the first of those changes I took out the card containing the NYC heritage chase and unknowingly dropped it (I would not discover this until I was back home in New Jersey and found a gap in my photos). 

The Squaw Creek Southern is operated by Respondek Rail, and company president Terry Respondek posed for one of the scenes giving a thumbs-up to his locomotives.
Photo 2431 Squaw Creek Southern (Respondek Rail); Boonville, Indiana August 12, 2012
Squaw Creek Southern; Boone, Ind.; August 12, 2012
Most of the night photo session was done with plenty of flash, but during one of the equipment moves I took advantage of the existing light at the shop and captured SD9 No. 204 poking out the back silhouetted by the shop lights.
Photo 2432 Squaw Creek Southern (Respondek Rail); Boonville, Indiana August 12, 2012
Squaw Creek Southern; Boone, Ind.; August 12, 2012
The next day, August 13, we rocketed back home to New Jersey. Once there, I downloaded all my photos and noticed everything from the NYC chase was missing. I immediately knew where I had dropped the card -- in the Squaw Creek Southern yard -- and I pretty much knew where I was standing when I likely dropped it. However, my card was now 800 miles away. What to do?

After some thought, I remembered that Carstens Publications had an employee living in central Illinois about 200 miles from Boonville. In my capacity as editor of Railfan & Railroad, I "assigned" him a day of work to go down to Boonville and track down my card. After about a week of it lying on the ground, Jim Wiggin was able to find the card, right where I dropped it. He mailed it back to New Jersey, I loaded it into the computer, and -- voila -- I had my NYC shots back. So let's review the chase -- it started with a scene at the levee at New Albany, Ind., as more and more railfans gathered as the afternoon progressed.
Photo 2428 Norfolk Southern; New Albany, Indiana August 12, 2012
Norfolk Southern; New Albany, Ind.; August 12, 2012
While most of the photographers followed the train for some extra shots, Otto and I decided to head directly to the tunnel at Maplewood, Ind. Good thing we did -- there was room for about five photographers comfortably. As the train popped out of the tunnel, the rest of the motorcading photographers jockeyed for position as 20 people tried to fit into the space that would accommodate about three.
Photo 2429 Norfolk Southern; Maplewood, Indiana August 12, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Maplewood, Ind.; August 12, 2012
We would continue along this ex-Southern Railway mainline on the way to Huntingburg, getting several fine photos along the way. About the time we were ready to break off the chase, I noticed we were only a few miles from Eckman. I had chased a freight through Eckman back in 2010 and knew it was a good shot, so we made our last stand there.
Photo 2430 Norfolk Southern; Eckman, Indiana August 12, 2012
Norfolk Southern; Eckman, Ind.; August 12, 2012
From here it was the night photo session and back to New Jersey. What was an adventurous trip turned out to be a little too adventurous for my tastes, but thanks to Jim Wiggin it had a happy ending.

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Newton, New Jersey, United States

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