So, as a railfan and photographer we all have those places we have to see and shoot once in our lives. Those "bucket list" spots that are Meccas for those of us who love the history and drama of railroading. There are the standard places that most everyone wants to visit (your Horseshoe Curves and your Tehachapis) and some maybe more regional or personal in nature.
Somewhere between those two rates Hoosac Tunnel. It is questionably the railroad engineering marvel of New England railroading and one of the most daunting construction enterprises of the 19th century. Construction on the 4.75 mile long bore through the Berkshires began in 1851 and the first train didn't last through until February 9, 1875. Four four decades the tunnel ranked as the longest in North America.
The tunnel served the Fitchburg Railroad and Boston and Maine for most of its life and is still owned by the B&M's direct corporate successor Pan Am railways. Well, technically now it belongs to Pan Am Southern, the joint partnership of NS and PAR that extends NS' east coast network into the New England region.
Coupled with that historical significance is the solitude and beauty of this part of Western Massachusetts along the wild and beautiful Deefield River.
Anyway, needless to say this is a special place, even more so for a railfan raised in New England. But, I'm 41 years old and had never shot a train exiting either end of the Hoosac. I've missed a couple and have seen a half dozen enter, but never gotten the signature shot coming out.
On Thursday August 16, 2018 I had information that Pan Am's pretty little three car business train was in North Adams, MA with a planned 0700 on duty to run all the way east to Ayer and then down to Worcester. So, I just knew I had to give it a shot.
I worked Wednesday night into Thu morning at BET (Boston Engine Terminal) the modern Keolis/MBTA incarnation of the B&M's namesake hub. Normally I don't get off work until 0630, but calculated if I left by 0430 I could make the 130 mile trip in time. I also asked if I could take Thu night off knowing that it would be awake 26 hrs before I got home from this adventure!
The railroad being what it is (f---ed up like normal!) I want able to get my turnover done and leave until 0450. Luckily traffic on Rt 2 was light and I headed west. I so needed a coffee to keep me up and thought about stopping at a Dunkin for a quick cup for the road, but then the voices of Frank Keller and John Tarble came in my head and I knew that I would hate myself if I missed it by minutes just for a coffee. So I fought back my inclination and drove non stop.
Well as I pulled across the crossing in Florida, MA and parked my truck at 0720 I saw one fan their with a camera in hand and knew I'd made it. As I looked toward the bore this is what I saw.
Yes, it was actually this close!
I had raced 130 miles from Boston, almost the entire length of the the old Fitchburg Railroad across the Commonwealth and made it with literally three minutes to spare. At 0723 they exited the tunnel and after 41 years on earth I had my shot and the chase was on!