I dedicate this fun story to my newfound friend, Mike Sherbak, who is deployed in Baghdad, Iraq, where he is working courageously to make a difference in the lives of others in a faraway land. Keep up the great work, Mike!
I received a telephone call from my good buddy, Dave Haney.
"Hey Mike, seeing as how the temperature here in Ottawa has passed the zero degree threshold, imagine how warm it'd be south of the border in New England! How about you and me taking a railfan trip to North Dover? We'll be gone two days!"
"Sounds good to me Dave!" I responded. I knew my arm could be twisted easily! Besides, my philosophy is that you'll never know what you'll see 'till you get there!
After much railfanning en route, we arrived at the New England River and parked in a favourite railfan spot...the edge of a tall embankment which offered a wholesome view of the B&M tracks piercing Haney Cut and traversing the sturdy bridge structure.
"How about you stay here, Dave, for your shot, and I'll scamper down the embankment to get a 3/4 angle "side on shot" when a train comes," I called out.
Well, it wasn't too long before we could hear the canyon walls echo to the sound of dynamic brakes a-squealing! "Can you see it yet?" I hollered back up to Dave.
"Sure can," Dave called out, "and you'll be surprised when you see the head end!"
Sure enough, a pair of "Bluebirds" were on the point of the train. "What a pleasant surprise," I hollered as I struggled to gain solid footing for my shot of the units. I was shocked to find that the two units were pulling an extremely short train on this day...a tank car, a boxcar and a buggy in McGinnis colours. I managed to spin around quickly and snap a shot of the tail end as it entered the outbound end of Marshall Cut.
I scrambled up the ledge and reached Dave's truck. We knew that there was a short order restriction through Marshall Cut and, with recent track work underway, the train may have to wait there, so we headed to the inbound end of the cut to see if we could make in time for a decent shot.
Sure enough, we found the train stopped. This gave me time to shinny up a tree and Dave time to climb a short hillock. Check out the shots the two of us were able to attain.
Dave captured the two units just as they began moving again crossing the culvert over Mitchell Creek.
From my vantage point high up in a pine tree, I was able to frame a shot of the two Bluebirds with the switch engine for Conley Lumber and Coal, B&M 1231, resting on the Conley lead.
We quickly gathered up our equipment and headed into town where I managed to shoot the train as it crossed the border from Maine into New Hampshire. The Salmon River is a natural boundary here and that's Stanley Bridge the train is approaching. Note the old 44-tonner resting on the abandoned siding in the background.
Dave ran on ahead and crossed boundary road where he managed to snag this shot of the train approaching the road crossing. That's the F.B. Hamer building to the right in the background.
Note that the road is protected by a rail employee who spends his day in the crossing shanty. "Where is this person?" Dave is wondering. Oh well, he managed to get a great shot away, anyways!
We met up with Dave's good buddy, Wayne Hills who was in town snapping a few shots for a book he is working on. Wayne managed to capture the train as it took the south siding in town for a meet.
The two "Bluebirds" are Gp9's and we managed to lens the 1746 and 1701. This has allowed us to snap one of the latest and one of the earliest in the number scheme for these diesel locomotives. The B&M traded in their weary fleet of FT's for engine parts on the new "9"s and a total of 50 were purchased. (#1700-1749) They were the first B&M road switchers bought without steam generators with the exception of the former demonstrator RS2 #1500.
Wayne offered us some of his photos, two of which were taken in the town of North Dover. The train dropped its only boxcar and sashayed over to the north siding after another train passed through town. Over lunch we discussed our displeasure with the McGinnis regime on the railroad. We were concerned with the loss of the beautiful maroon and gold FT's and the new colours of the GP9's were hotly debated. It seemed that "billboard" schemes were now spreading from boxcars to locomotives at lightning speed. The new blue, black and white patterns appeared glaringly modern and reminiscent of McGinnis's tenure with the New Haven. Apparently he hired his wife to do the latest artwork in bold lettering.
I must admit that the interlaced B&M grows on you after a while. The "bluebird" scheme underwent later developments, and, as the railroad lost more money, a basic solid "blue dip" was applied as a cost saving measure when repaints were necessary and when new diesels arrived on the line.
As for Dave and I, our railfanning trip couldn't have turned out better. We met Dave's good buddy, Wayne, and yes, spring was in the air as those pair of "bluebirds" sang proudly as they hauled their short train into North Dover on a spectacular spring day!
Feel free to check out my other weblog which details the activities of my round robin train operating group here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at www.fridaynightgroup.blogspot.com.