Until It Does

Everyone knows the train
does not run anymore. Until it does.


Mike Futschik climbing back on after flagging the crossing.

Railroad Museum of New England

The first passenger train to Torrington ran last night. Three more Wednesday evenings it will happen unless it rains. We have been there before on event trains, and it’s always the same look at the people’s faces. They want their picture taken in front of the train. Many see the RR track crossings every day, but everyone knows the train does not run anymore. Until it does. You see one of our volunteers at the crossing, and you should see the people in that brown house each time we go by waving and yelling to us. I see young and old people just stop and everyone takes out their cell phone to take a picture of the old train that’s in a place where everyone knows there are no trains anymore—not since the 1960’s.

Lee Van Idenstine flagging the crossing. He is one of our volunteer conductors.
Howard Pincus , President of the Naugatuck Railroad

I was the conductor last night with my student brakemen, Mike Futschik, helping me out by flagging at each crossing. We made two trips south from Torrington before we went south to Thomaston at 7:00 pm.  Twenty times we stopped and protected the crossings, and the people in the cars kept looking and looking, wondering why we were stopping them. As the train went over the crossing many took pictures and smiled. The look of wonderment on adult faces was like the kids when they see Santa at Christmas. We had about fifty-five people come and pay to ride the first trains to Torrington in many years and if more people come and ride and support “the old train that does not come to Torrington anymore” then I think the train that never comes to Torrington might keep coming up the track.

People who came to see the old train and some riders.

Standing by the track taking pictures does not pay to get the old train up the track. We need support, even though we are all volunteers. It’s only $20 round trip to ride the old train with the forty year old engine that Andy and Joey keep going. Our coaches are about 100 years old and it takes a bunch of volunteers to keep the roofs from leaking and the car windows moving up and down for “air conditioning.”

Car host Steve lets people off on the old Torrington platform. The station is long gone.

On July 18, 25th and August 1st, the “old train” will be leaving Thomaston Station going north to Torrington again. While in Torrington you can walk into town where they have food trucks as well as other places to eat. It’s called Torrington Days or something like that. An old Connecticut town is doing it up for people to come and enjoy an evening out. Riding the “old train that does not run anymore” makes it even a better night.

Come out and support the “Old Train” so people will say “Oh yes the train does run now!” It comes through the Litchfield Hills and the forest along the Naugatuck River, over a dam with a great view. and when you look out your open window you can see the people’s faces as they see an old train chug up the track.

Bert on the engine.
From left to right, Bert, a longtime mamber and supporter of the Museum, John Springer and Howard Pincus.
Naugatuck Railroad 2203 is a GE U23B. Built as Conrail 2798 in 1977, she is the last domestic “U-Boat” built by GE.

John SpringerText and photographs Copyright 2018

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Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day 2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part Two
Phelan Way

Before leaving Polish Hill, George and I did some exploring above the church, looking down the streets and alleys for vantage points. Phelan Way, which runs behind the church and climbs like crazy at its eastern end, up to Herron Avenue, offered a good example of the neighborhood’s flavor.

George found the narrow passage between two buildings attractive, and he had me walk past it a number of times on the next street down, Brereton, so he could capture me in mid-stride in the gap. The large and indolent husky who lived there watched me over the gate with some interest but expended no energy in saying so. Read more

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Editor’s Notebook

The color of railroading . . .
Town of Shenandoah, Virginia – March, 2018

A while back, a friend said to me that in his opinion, black and white is the color of railroading. I didn’t disagree. When we look at well known railroad photographers, most all of them worked in black and white. Richard Steinheimer, Jim Shaughnessy, Philip Hastings, O.Winston Link, David Plowden and many others produced outstanding bodies of work in black and white. In fact, there was a time that I would have said that the color of photography is black and white. Most of the great photographers that I admire worked in black and white. Of course, part of the reason for the predominance of black and white is that color came fairly late in the history of the medium.

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Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day  2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part One

In April 2018, my friend George Hiotis and I made a fourteen-day, 2,300-mile journey from my home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to Chicago and back. We had a GREAT time.

Ostensibly, we made the trip for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art conference, but we spent most of a week before and all of a week afterwards on the road. I came back with 4,200 pictures—crazy, right?—and George brought home more than 5,000. We photographed at something like seventy-five locations, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia, from before dawn until long after dark on most days. We stumbled on some astonishing places and buildings in addition to the dozens that George had put on the initial itinerary, developed through scads of research in the months before the trip. We also met some memorable people, a few of whom I photographed. I had set out on this trip determined to overcome my self-consciousness about photographing strangers, and you will see some of the results here. Read more

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Railroad Town:
 Bowie , Maryland

When people think about the town of Bowie, Maryland, they think of it as that town that they breeze through between Annapolis and Washington D.C. along U.S. Route 50. Most people will say that there is really nothing in Bowie but houses and a few shopping centers, and that there is really nothing particular to the town. Well, if you knew that it is the largest town in Prince George’s County, Maryland; that it is the fifth most populated town in the U.S. state of Maryland and the third largest town in land area in the state of Maryland;  that it is one of the largest suburban cities of Washington D.C., the home of a race track, the Belair Mansion and Belair Stable Museums which was once a colonial plantation house plus a few other historic homes; and that it is the home of the National Radio and Television Museum which is housed in an old home, you cannot say that there is not much to the town of Bowie. It is a town that has much more than you can imagine.

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Last Train to Pikes Peak

Sitting on a siding, we see a train descending the line not far from the peak. We got to wave at the other passengers, as they passed by us on our siding.

Last summer, during our Colorado summer vacation, we made a stop in Manitou Springs to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.  This is an amazing trip to the top of Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 14,110 ft.

As our train ascended the mountain, we saw a beautiful high mountain lake that is used as a reservoir for the city of Colorado Springs.

Along the way, the train passes through four different terrains ranging from high plains to alpine tundra. The route is 8.9 miles long, with very steep grades, and takes a little over three hours to reach the top. In addition to the usual two rails, the cog railroad has a rack mounted in the center of the rails. The locomotives use a cog, or gear to power the train along the track. This allows the cog train to traverse grades far steeper than traditional railroads. Read more

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