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.

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