Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cool Chromes -- VIA's Yellow Nose F40s

VIA Rail Canada; Lake Louise, Alberta; September 1988
The current F40PH paint scheme
VIA Rail Canada is the national railroad passenger carrier in the Great White North. After its inception in 1976 when it took over passenger operations from Canada's freight railroads (primarily Canadian National and Canadian Pacific) it set about to modernize its locomotive fleet. Much like Amtrak in the U.S., VIA settled on the F40PH locomotive from the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. The locomotives came in an attractive silver and blue scheme with a bright yellow nose (such as No. 6404 above at Lake Louise, Alberta). In the years since, the F40 fleet has been thinned due to age, and the survivors all wear VIA's new scheme (inset). Here are a few of my favorite photos of the old paint scheme that served the F40 fleet so well.

We'll start in the Maritimes with the Ocean, VIA's train from Montreal to Halifax. Here No. 6409 is leading the eastbound train at Beaver Brook, New Brunswick. The "Canada" under the headlight was a later paint scheme modification, moving "VIA" to above the headlight, a positive development for the paint scheme.
VIA Rail Canada; Beaver Brook, New Brunswick; June 20, 2005
Sticking with the Maritimes, we next see the Bras D'Or, a fairly short-lived train that ran from Halifax to Sydney, Nova Scotia. Largely a tourist train, the once a week trip headed out of Halifax one day and returned the next through some spectacular oceanside scenery, We see the train at Boisdale in July 2002.
VIA Rail Canada; Boisdale, Nova Scotia; July 2002
LRC trainset with original locomotive
VIA purchased several sets of low-slung railcars with matching low-slung locomotives (for taking curves at higher speeds). The cars on the LRC train sets (Light Rapid Comfortable) would outlive the locomotives by quite a bit, so F40s could often be found towering over the trailing consist. Interestingly, even though the F40s had a much higher profile than the LRC locomotives, the higher speed limits for LRC trains on curves remained in place. F40 No. 6434 is dashing through the snow with an LRC trainset at Ile Perrot, Quebec, just a few minutes away from its destination in Montreal.
VIA Rail Canada; Ile Perrot, Quebec; December 12, 1997
Let's head to western Canada for a couple of shots. We'll start off in Revelstoke, British Columbia, as the Canadian makes is after-dark station stop. In the 1980s the Canadian railroads remained far friendlier and accessible than the U.S. railroads, which were beginning to clamp down on access due to liability. We went to the end of the platform with our flash gear before the train's arrival and asked an employee "where will the locomotive stop when it gets here?" His reply: "Where would you like it to stop?"
VIA Rail Canada; Revelstoke, British Columbia; September 1988
There is no scenery in North America quite like the Canadian mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. F40 No. 6428 pauses with the Canadian at Banff, Alberta, the gateway to the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
VIA Rail Canada; Banff, Alberta; September 1988
Certainly a favorite train for both photographers and riders is the Chaleur, a try-weekly train that runs on the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec. The train leaves Montreal combined with the Ocean for an overnight run to Matapedia. At daybreak the train is split, with the Ocean continuing to Halifax and the Chaleur proceeding to Gaspe. Adding to the train's charm is the equipment -- the coaches are all stainless steel cars produced by the Budd Company in the 1950s. There are several high bridges on the route, including this one at Ste. Therese, Quebec.
VIA Rail Canada; Ste. Therese, Quebec; July 2002
At Gaspe the train turns on the wye and pauses for a few hours before returning west, making it a perfect train for a day trip of either photography or riding. The train has discharged its passengers and is backing into the station for the lunch break after turning in the photo below. Alas, as this is written, the track on the Gaspe peninsula has deteriorated to the point where the Chaleur is now suspended. It's future is very much in doubt.
VIA Rail Canada; Gaspe, Quebec; July 2002
VIA has never been shy about painting its locomotives into rolling billboards. Everything from hardware stores to television stations to beer have been on the sides of F40s. I have had bad luck shooting most of these schemes, but the one scheme I did see (and I saw it a few times -- six F40s got the treatment) was for the Spiderman movie. We'll take a look at Spidey rolling through Bayview Junction near Hamilton, Ontario, to bring an end to our look at the yellow nose F40s of VIA.
VIA Rail Canada; Bayview Junction, Hamilton, Ontario; January 30, 2005

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Red Arrow All-Nighter

SEPTA; Upper Darby, Penn.; March 2, 2014
This year will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which unified most bus, streetcar and light rail service in and around Philadelphia in 1964 (heavy rail operations were later added in 1981). While no formal large scale celebration has been yet planned, there have been some rumblings and rumors about smaller scale acknowledgements of the anniversary, some coming from employees and management within the organization. One of those smaller scale acknowledgements came on the night of March 1 (into the early morning of March 2) when a group of employees from SEPTA's Red Arrow Division (the operator of suburban service based out of 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby) and members of the railroad media took Kawasaki car No. 101 out for a set of night photos to be used by SEPTA and for magazine publicity. Car No. 101 is wrapped in the colors of the Philadelphia & West Chester Traction Company, a Red Arrow predecessor that would have celebrated its centennial in 2013.

The trip was designed to use both the Sharon Hill and Media lines of the hybrid streetcar/light rail route out of 69th Street, operating overnight when there are no regular service cars out on the line. Beginning just before midnight, the first stop was made just outside the terminal where car 101 posed with the wire car used on the routes. This stop allowed the last of the regular service cars to get back into 69th Street for the night.
SEPTA; Upper Darby, Penn.; March 1, 2014
By this time the clock had ticked past midnight into the morning of March 2. The first stop was made in Drexel Hill next to a church. Lady Camille, who models professionally, was along to add some life to many of the scenes.
SEPTA; Drexel Hill, Penn.; March 2, 2014
On the Sharon Hill Line, the next stop was made in the residential area of Aldan where the tracks are in the street; much of the Red Arrow Division trackage is actually on private right-of-way like the interurbans of old.
SEPTA; Aldan, Penn.; March 2, 2014
And once again Lady Camille posed for a shot with car No. 101.
SEPTA; Aldan, Penn.; March 14, 2014
The Red Arrow Division has several small stone stations along the way, and a couple of these were used for stops during the night. The next-to-last station on the Sharon Hill line is at McDade Boulevard in Collingdale.
SEPTA; Collingdale, Penn.; March 2, 2014
Heading back towards the city, another shelter -- this one at Aldan that is now a small museum -- was used. Unlike McDade Boulevard and most of the other stations, this one is located on street running and thus sits back from the track.
SEPTA; Aldan, Penn.; March 2, 2014
Now it was time to head out on the line to Media. The signature shot on that line is crossing the bridge at Smedley Park in Springfield.
SEPTA; Smedley Park, Springfield, Penn.; March 2, 2014
Downtown Media has some very interesting buildings along State Street, with the Red Arrow line occupying the middle of said street. One is the Media theatre.
SEPTA; Media, Penn.; March 2, 2014
Moving towards the very end of track, a nice bank building is also found along State Street. Both the theatre and the bank are located on the south side of State Street, which means they would be against the sun for photography on a nice day. Night photos proved to be the best way to capture them.
SEPTA; Media, Penn.; March 2, 2014
The clock was rapidly ticking the night away, and soon it would be time for the morning regular service cars to come out of 69th Street. One last photo stop was made at a signal at Springfield. From there, it was back to Upper Darby for a sunrise arrival, ending a very interesting night of photography.

All the photos were illuminated using Alien Bees strobe units provided by Bruce Barry, Michael Burkhart, John Gabriel and yours truly. More photos from this trip can be found here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cool Chromes -- 20 Years Ago On the Arkansas & Missouri

Arkansas & Missouri; Springdale, Ark.; April 9, 1993
The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, has long been a railfan favorite. Most of the excitement comes from the fact that -- until recently -- the railroad only operated locomotives built by the American Locomotive Company. While many photographers have made many visits to the A&M, I have only spent one day on the line, and that was back in 1993. In this edition of Cool Chromes we'll chase a southbound train from the railroad's headquarters in Springdale down to Van Buren, starting with the train coming out of Springdale (above).

The power on the train on this day is three Alco C420 diesels -- Nos. 60, 50 and 62. We next catch the train near Chester, where you can apparently rent a backhoe.
Arkansas & Missouri; Chester, Ark.; April 9, 1993
Winslow Tunnel is the scenic highlight of the line, but I was faced with a decision -- the shot of a train emerging from the south end of the tunnel is a long walk-in shot and would mean forsaking most of the chase. I opted for a more aggressive chase to catch the train multiple times, and thus settled for this shot taken from the north portal of the tunnel as the train is about to enter.
Arkansas & Missouri; Winslow, Ark.; April 9, 1993
I did catch the train a few more times than what is pictured here. The train arrived in Van Buren and I headed across the Arkansas River where I shot Alco T6 No. 12 working. I will be returning to the A&M in June, as it is the host railroad for most of the activities at this year's convention of the National Railway Historical Society. While the line is no longer 100 percent Alco powered (some diesels from General Motors' Electro-Motive Division have joined the roster), there are still plenty of the classics running and it should be a great event!
Arkansas & Missouri; Fort Smith, Ark.; April 9, 1993

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Think Summer -- The Cedar Point & Lake Erie

Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013
We've been on the road for the past week or so and haven't had a chance to get through all of the new photos. We've been experiencing a winter that just won't go away this year, so to take off some of the chill while we get a bunch of new photos ready, let's think summer for a minute and explore the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, a three-foot narow gauge railroad located in the famed Cedar Point theme park near Sandusky, Ohio. Last year was the railroad's 50th anniversary, and it is unusual in that it still uses coal-fired steam locomotives -- most theme park locomotives have been converted to natural gas. The railroad rosters five locomotives, all with interesting histories. We'll run down the roster and then look at some of the better photo angles in the park.

We'll start with CP&LE 2-4-0 No. 22 (above). Named Myron H. (in honor of Mike Hetrick, a former superintendent of the railroad) it was built in 1922 as an 0-4-0T by Vulcan Iron Works for Wayne Coal Company of Clay Bank, Ohio. Subsequent owners took the locomotive to Alabama and Georgia, and in 1963 it was sold to Cedar Point. It is one of two primary locomotives in service at the park.

Up next is the park's other primary engine, No. 44. Now named Judy K. (in honor of Judy Kinzel, wife of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company CEO Richard Kinzel), No. 44 came from Vulcan in 1923, also as an 0-4-0T, and worked for John Marsh, Inc., of Lansing, Mich. It moved on to new owners in Illinois and Wisconsin and came to Cedar Point in 1968.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; August 18, 2013
In the shop we find No. 1, G.A. Boeckling (named for a former Cedar point owner), built for N&S Coal Company in Pittsburg, Kan., by Davenport Locomotive Works in 1927. Like most Cedar Point locomotives, it was built as an 0-4-0T. In 1977 the locomotive was converted to a 2-4-4RT and started a career on a variety of park railroads, beginning with Six Flags in Gurnee, Ill. In 1996 it was traded to Disneyland in California and named Ward Kimball in honor of the famous Disney animator. It headed across the country one year later, testing at Disney World in Florida before being put on display at Epcot. In 1999 it was traded to Cedar Point, but then went back to California in 2007 to work for Knott's Berry Farm. Finally, it landed back at Cedar Point in 2010 and was converted to its current 2-4-0 configuration.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 5, 2013
 Also in the shop is the railroad's heaviest locomotive, No. 4. Named George R. in honor of George Roose, former president of Cedar Point and builder of the railroad, this former 0-4-0T was built by H.K. Porter Company in 1942 for Carbon Limestone Company in Pennsylvania. It went into theme park service in 1963, working at Cherokee Wonderland in Cherokee, N.C., before coming to Cedar Point in 1968 and being rebuilt as a 2-4-0. Due to its weight, it is the least used of the four in service locomotives at the park.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 5, 2013
The last locomotive at the park is out of service but on display. No. 3 is named Albert and last operated in 1991. It's a 2-6-0 and was built in 1910 by Davenport for J.B. Levert for sugar cane service in Louisiana. It was sold to a scrap dealer in Louisiana in 1959, but moved on to Cherokee Wonderland in 1960. In 1963 it came to Cedar Point.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013
Now that we have all the players identified, let's take a tour of the railroad. Operations are based out of the engine house adjacent to the Main Street Station and almost under the Millennium Force roller coaster (Cedar Point is the roller coaster capital of the world).
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; August 18, 2013
Out of the station and running clockwise on an oval, the train rolls along with Sandusky Bay on one side and the Millennium Force and Maverick coaster on the other.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013
At Frontiertown a stop is made to load and discharge passengers. The crew also takes the time to service the locomotives at this point.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; August 18, 2013
Up next is the longest bridge on the line. Photographers can find a nice spot to shoot from behind the Camp Woodstock photo center.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013
A shorter trestle can be found near the entrance of Shoot the Rapids. The view is from the walkway to the ride.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013
In the same area is the viewing platform for Shoot the Rapids, which also makes for a nice view of the railroad. As an added bonus, there are water cannons where you can shoot people on the water ride for 25 cents -- a nice way to kill time between trains.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; August 18, 2013
Finally we're approaching the Main Street Station again. The train passes through a colorful corridor of kiosks and coasters as it finishes off its loop.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013
In all we spent three days at Cedar Point last summer. For photos from each of those three days you can follow the links to July 5, July 8, and August 18.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie; July 8, 2013

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Along Shore Line East

Amtrak; New Haven, Conn.; February 23, 2014
The Northeast Corridor is primarily the domain of Amtrak between Boston and Washington, but along the way pieces of it are used by various commuter carriers. In fact, if one were so inclined you could ride the entire corridor on commuter trains, save for a gap between Perryville, Md., and Newark, Del, and another gap between New London, Conn., and Wickford Junction, R.I. One of those commuter carriers is Shore Line East, which serves Connecticut primarily between New Haven and Old Saybrook, with some trains continuing west as far as Stamford and some continuing east as far as New London. New Haven is also the eastern end of Metro-North's New Haven Line from Grand Central Terminal in New York City, with most trains terminating at New Haven's Union Station. Some trains continue one station further east to the small State Street Station. In today's post we're going to explore the trackage that is the core of Shore Line East, starting in New Haven Union Station (above). The Solari board, a train information board made up of flip tiles, is at the far end of the station. This board, and its distinctive clacking noise, is scheduled for removal from the station soon.

Up on the platform, we find an M8 electric multiple unit set for Metro-North has just arrived. Passengers of all kinds wait for the doors to open.
Metro-North; New Haven, Conn.; February 23, 2014
A set of M8s slip out of the station on its way to Grand Central. The train that appears to be from Amtrak is actually a Shore Line East train; SLE has a few former Amtrak diesels on its roster. Shore Line East was started in 1990 as a temporary service to ease congestion during a major construction project on parallel I-95. It proved very successful, however, and has been constantly expanding and improving ever since.
Metro-North and Shore Line East; New Haven, Conn.; February 23, 2014
Amtrak; Guilford, Conn.
All of the Shore Line East stations are new construction, with roomy parking lots. Most are located on the fringes of the towns they serve. After leaving New Haven we pass through Branford and arrive in the interesting town of Guilford. Another feature of Shore Line East stations are overhead pedestrian bridges, and most have nice clear plexiglass that allows for photography. We get a nice look at a New York-bound Acela train as it rolls on the center express track through the station.

Also in Guilford is a remnant of the past. The water tank that once quenched the thirst of steam locomotives on the New York, New Haven & Hartford still stands, and the town is in the process of stabilizing it for future restoration (albeit not as a functioning water tank -- there are no more steam locomotives visiting Guilford). The old New Haven freight house still stands as well, just beyond the water tank.

And speaking of remnants, the ex-Amtrak diesel pulling a westbound Shore Line East train is a bit tattered. It has an SLE decal stuck to the nose and has had its Amtrak logo removed from the side. The patchy silver paint sort of makes it look like the unit is held together with bondo.
Shore Line East; Guilford, Conn.; February 23, 2014
Old Saybrook is the final destination for many Shore Line East trains. The new station sits just west of the old New Haven wood frame station; the old station is now a pizza parlor. One of Amtrak's sleek Acela trainsets passes through the station at over 100 miles an hour. One feature of Shore Line East stations is you always know when a train is coming. An announcement comes over the public address system warning that you should stay behind the yellow line. It's an announcement worth heeding, because that approaching train may be from Amtrak, and they don't slow down.
Amtrak; Old Saybrook, Conn.; February 23, 2014
Shore Line East is funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which also owns the equipment. In a nod to history, ConnDOT's official railroad paint scheme is the New Haven "McGinnis" red, white and black. The scheme is informally named after Patrick McGinnis, president of the New Haven from 1953-1956; his wife Lucille designed the scheme. It features the blocky NH logo designed by Herbert Matter. Some of the Shore Line East locomotives wear the timeless scheme that looks as good now as it did when introduced.
Shore Line East; Old Saybrook, Conn.; February 23, 2014
Of all the commuter railroads on the Northeast Corridor, Shore Line East is one of two that is diesel powered (Boston's MBTA is the other; MARC, SEPTA, NJ Transit and Metro-North all use electric power). Electrification historically stopped at New Haven until Amtrak extended it to Boston in 2000. There has been some talk that perhaps Metro-North electric service should be expanded beyond New Haven to New London, replacing the diesels of Shore Line East (especially once all of Metro-North's new M8 cars are delivered). For now, we'll finish our tour of Shore Line East with another look at GP40-2H No. 6697 in the Old Saybrook station. More photos from this day can be found here.
Shore Line East; old Saybrook, Conn.; February 23, 2014

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Newton, New Jersey, United States

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