The Purple Express, and how to find another…

As I continue my tests and excursions with my new Russian panoramic camera, I spent Sunday morning traipsing through some sites along Route 20 – Guilderland, Duanesburg, that kind of thing.

I really didn’t find much that caught my eye, except for this New York Central locomotive that was part of some roadside attraction in Princetown.

Now at the time, I was running a pack of LomoChrome Purple film through the camera – the Lomography camera and film company has released limited-edition batches of colored film, including their current “purple” mixture, and an upcoming “turquoise” mixture that I paid for last month and should receive by April at the earliest.

That being said, it was about 10 degrees above zero and I pulled over to take a picture of a locomotive.

New York Central Locomotive
New York Central Locomotive. Krasnogorsk FT-2 camera, LomoChrome Purple film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I may have mentioned that there is railroading in my family lineage; my grandfather, Charles Bragg, worked on the New York Central Railroad and on the subsequent Penn Central Railroad, and his home on Kenwood Avenue in Slingerlands was across the street from an active railroad line, which is now in conversion to a rail trail.  And on occasion, when I visited my Grandma Betty in Boston for the summers, she would take me to the Edaville Railroad and we would ride the train through the farmlands.

And as I scanned the developed film into a digital format, and I looked at the powerful lines and stylings of this powerful locomotive – and how, on the frame, it evoked the imagery of those old “20th Century Limited” posters from a bygone era –

I felt a reminder.  A reminder that, in this picture, I am still capturing moments of my past, and turning them into images of the present.

I think this summer I shall take a trip to Pennsylvania, and visit one of those heritage steam railways that travel through the bucolic countryside.   And I’ll bring this camera, and my Nikon Df, and a couple of other film cameras, and I’ll attempt to capture the majesty and power of these mighty engines.

So if anybody has knowledge of a heritage railroad within a reasonable driving distance – one with a mighty steam locomotive that can punch billowing white clouds of smoke into the sky while it blasts through the horizon…

I’m open to all suggestions and ideas and locations.  Let me know.  Thanks.


3 thoughts on “The Purple Express, and how to find another…”

  1. The Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, PA. Plan on an overnighter because it is a long drive, but in my opinion, it is worth it. The ride itself is fun, and right across the street is the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, which is full of locomotives and rail cars. On nice days they also (usually) open up their outdoor “yard” where more locomotives and cars are stored awaiting restoration. I could spend an entire day in the museum!

    After you take the ride on the Strasburg RR, you can drive the countryside and find grade crossings to take pictures of the steam locomotive in action. They run multiple excursions daily between Strasburg and Paradise, PA.

    I’ve been there twice and now all of a sudden I have the urge to return!


  2. Another place you may want to investigate is Steamtown, USA in Scranton, PA. (There is a lot of railroading history in Pennsylvania). Steamtown is a National Historical Site and is operated by the National Park Service. A huge amount of static displays of steam locomotives and guided tours that include the restoration shop. The day we were there a few years ago the weather was crappy so they didn’t have any trains running, but apparently they do have excursions on an irregular basis. This is also a bit of a trip so overnighting may be necessary. Places to stay in Scranton are pricey, so you may want to stay a little out of town.

    You might surmise I am a bit of a rail fan, which is true. Yet I’ve never been on an Amtrak train to go anywhere.


    1. By the way, Steamtown USA used to be located in Bellows Falls, Vermont many years ago. I went there with my parents when I was a youngster, which was about 5 decades ago.


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