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Learning to love the diesels of the Northeast

By | September 21, 2016

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Victor Hand
Erie Lackawanna E units lead a passenger train through fall foliage at Pond Eddy, Pa., on Oct. 11, 1964.

Victor Hand fell in love with steam locomotives at a very young age – the only problem was, by the time he was old enough to photograph them, they were nearly gone in the U.S. He traveled far and wide in search of steam, first to Canada, then to Mexico, and then around the world. He made remarkable photographs and had many memorable adventures, but wherever he went, steam eventually ended. And he loved photographing railroads enough that he still wanted to have worthy subjects close to home, for all those times he wasn’t able to travel quite so far afield.

Eventually, Hand made his photographic peace with the diesels that vanquished his beloved steam engines. We should consider ourselves fortunate that he did. With a job inside the industry, Hand had a front-row seat to the changes that swept through railroading in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond. While he would eventually photograph diesel operations almost as widely as steam, the railroads of his native Northeast occupy a special place in his mind, and in his photographic archive.

On Oct. 29, 2016, Hand will present his diesel-era photography at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s Conversations Northeast conference in Storrs, Conn. Referencing a favorite movie, Dr. Strangelove, Hand has titled his presentation, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Diesel.” Tickets for the conference are still available through the Center’s website. In the meantime, we are delighted to share this preview with you.

21 thoughts on “Learning to love the diesels of the Northeast

  1. Who owns the tracks in the foreground and it appears to be a single track bridge to the right of the train.

    Thank you,

  2. At Phillipsburg, the foreground bridge was Lehigh Valley and the single track bridge was Lehigh & Hudson River. The LV bridge has been out of service since Nov. 21, 1988, when Conrail moved over to the CNJ bridge (see Railpace, January 1989). The CNJ and L&HR bridges are still used by Norfolk Southern.

  3. MAURICE TOWNE said: Sure would like to be able to print these pictures off.

    Maurice, LEFT click on each picture and it opens in a new pop-up window. Then RIGH click in the middle of the picture somewhere and a “context menu” opens, one of the menu options is “save image as…”

    Just browse among your folders to where you want to save it, eg the “My Pictures” folder, then give the picture a good name and click save… bingo.

    For example, open the above pic, the fist in this article, and right click on it and select save, you’ll see the picture is named “19641011PondEddyPA.jpg” I would only add “EL_ to the beginning because that’s how I categorize the pics I save, by railroad abbreviation.

    I usually add pertinent info to the name too, like unit number and make/model, so for example if I saved the E8’s above as described I’d have a file name like “EL_1964_E8s_PondEddy_PA.jpg” in my Pictures folder. (actually under /pictures/rails)

    I use underscores (or dashes) for two reasons: it makes visually scanning for info easier, eg I can quickly look through hundreds of pictures and easily find all with “1964” in the name, and having breaks in long file names is a no-no if you like to back things up regularly, especially automatically.

  4. What is the reason for the smoke seen rising toward the rear of the train in photo 7 of 8? Being so far behind the engines ut doesn’t look like it’s due to dynamic breaking.

  5. The first photo looks like EL train 21, the accommodation for the Erie side that connected with train 1 at Binghamton. The eastbound had a similar arrangement, with train 22 running the Erie Delaware Division from a connection with train 2 at Binghamton. Those train primarily handled mail and express, as the passenger load was quite light.

    The shot of the eastbound at West Cameron is actually just west of there, between West Cameron and Adrian at a location known as Brown’s Crossing. There is a short side road there that crosses the tracks and the Canisteo River. The shot there from across the river can be stunning in the late afternoon if the river is still, allowing reflection. The line here is now single track, a project completed by Conrail in the mid 1990’s that reduced the line to single from Gang Mills yard(CP Erwin) to CP River(the approximate location of NT tower, where the EL River Line diverged to Cuba over the now demolished Belfast Bridge). One of the side effects of this plan was to eliminate all the remaining semaphores west of Corning-and there were plenty. NS still runs this line; the Erie and DLW heritage units have both been here. My wildest dream is to see NS 1700, the EL SD45-2 they repainted, running here.

    The SDP 45’s were acquired, as another poster notes, for the extended frame to carry the 5000 gallon fuel tank. I recall reading somewhere that EMD referred to these units as “SD45M”. Note the beveled ends on the long hoods. A true SDP45 would have a squared off long hood, and a grille near the roof for the steam generator. They never had steam generators, as EL never intended them for passenger service, which was about gone by the time they came on line. Interestingly, EL would acquire a custom GE model, funded by NJDOT, built to the same specs as their U36C’s, but with a HEP generator to power the new cars that New Jersey funded in the early 70’s. It was derated from 3600 HP to 3430 to acknowledge the power siphoned off for hotel power, hence the U34CH designation, though in practice, the power draw varied according to train length and subsequent demand. So EL was not quite done with passenger service, though what remained after Jan 6 1970 was only their Jersey commuter operation, and one train each way from Youngstown to Cleveland.

    This is great stuff.

  6. I hate the Erie for taking over the Lackawanna RR.The Erie logo on a Lackawanna engine really isn’t my cup of tea..

  7. The EL 3639 will someday return to Youngstown. Its been a long road but we are making progress on repatriating her.

    Painted as the CR 6670, it is designated an SDP45 and not an SD45M.

  8. Charles and Peter, I’m thinking that this coal drag is heading downgrade which would account for the abundance of brake shoe smoke. I recall chasing PC freights along the line between Altoona and the curve where the fumes from the brake shoe smoke would choke you! A bit frightening was the sound of brake shoes popping as they burned off(?) the wheels. The right of way was littered with these items.

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