Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cool Chromes -- Conrail in New York State

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular feature that looks at slides that have passed through the scanner.

Conrail; Selkirk Yard, N.Y.; May 18, 1997
Conrail; Hudson, N.Y.; Feb. 22, 1999
April 1st of this year marked the 38th anniversary of the creation of Consolidated Rail Corporation (better known as Conrail). Since then, April has been a sort of unofficial "Conrail Month" among eastern rail enthusiasts, even though Big Blue ceased to exist in 1999. Conrail was certainly a fun railroad to shoot -- the locomotives were usually kept clean, and motive power consists were almost always matched blue units. I often headed to New York to shoot Conrail, and here are some of mu favorite Empire State memories to commemorate Conrail Month. First up, we see a lot of blue power at Selkirk Yard (above) outside Albany -- Selkirk was the nerve center for trains operating on former New York Central and Boston & Albany lines. Trains from the west would proceed beyond Selkirk to northern New Jersey on the NYC's West Shore line or into New England on the former B&A (itself a NYC subsidiary). Selkirk was (and is) important to New England, as since 1974 it marks the farthest point south a freight train can cross the Hudson River and enter the easternmost states.

One of the coolest places to shoot Conrail was on the street running in Hudson. A local freight would diverge from the NYC main line and head up a steep hill to serve a grain mill. The return trip would find the train passing the Iron Horse Bar (left) as it made its way back down to the main.

The day I shot the train in Hudson (February 22, 1999) turned out to be a pretty good one. I set up at the big bridge in Catskill and was rewarded with a southbound train using a pair of Conrail's SD80MAC diesels. The '80MACs used alternating current to power the traction motors (most diesels of the era were direct current) and couldn't be mixed in consists with d.c. diesels. Thus, to make sure they ran only with other a.c. engines, they were made visually different by adding a white bow wave to the nose.
Conrail; Catskill, N.Y.; February 22, 1999
Usually chasing trains on the NYC Water Level Route is a tricky prospect. Only local roads follow the tracks and train speeds are pretty decent. But for some reason the SD80MAC-led train ran into some slow going, and I was able to get ahead as it went through the cement plant in Alsen.
Conrail; Alsen, N.Y.; February 22, 1999
Next we'll head west on the NYC and wind up in Syracuse. The city skyline forms a backdrop as a westbound train leaves town in late afternoon on a hot summer day.
Conrail; Syracuse, N.Y.; July 21, 1998
Of course, the best place to shoot Conrail in New York was the Hudson Valley. One day I went exploring near Marlboro and wondered what the shot was like around the curve south of town. As I got a bit more than a half-mile from the crossing I began to see something above the tracks; it kind of resembled a bridge. It turned out that there was an abandoned quarry or something along the tracks and a loader spanned the railroad to load barges on the Hudson. The loader hadn't been used in a few years, by the looks of things, and it did appear rather rickety. Nonetheless, I made my way out onto the loader and was rewarded with a nice shot of a southbound train.
Conrail; Marlboro, N.Y.; March 27, 1998
Of course, the best place in the Hudson Valley to shoot was -- and remains -- Bear Mountain. We finish our look at Conrail in New York by standing on the Route 9W bridge overlooking the Conrail bridge over Popolopen Creek. Bear Mountain is slightly south of here, and the bridge of the same name spans the Hudson; that's Anthony's Nose (named for Mad Anthony Wayne) on the other side.
Conrail; Fort Montgomery, N.Y.; October 1988
A complete Conrail gallery can be found on the website here. A complete New York State gallery can be found here.

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