By John Anderson
When my wife and I had a chance to get away for a few days at the end of August, we decided to visit North Conway, New Hampshire. One of the popular tourist attractions is the Conway Scenic Railroad, and we opted to ride the late morning Bartlett Valley Train. This 21-mile route takes just under 2 hours and we boarded an open sided coach which increased the photo opportunities and took advantage of the warm weather. Fortunately, the roof protected us for the most part when a surprise downpour hit.
Shortly before arriving in Bartlett where the locomotive is moved to the other end of the train for the return trip, the narrator was talking about the ghost train ahead. Needless to say, when we passed the derelict passenger cars sitting on a siding, we hardly got a glimpse of them. We knew they were old and in obvious poor conditions, and I figured the return trip would yield more information along with a possible photograph or two.
I put the widest lens I had with me, a 24mm Sigma, on my full frame Nikon D750 for the photos. I chose a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second, and the camera set the aperture around f/4.5. The sun was totally in the wrong place, but such is life. I could live with shooting the cars’ shadow side. My photo opportunity lasted a mere 12 seconds, and I took 15 shots in that time. Nine are included in the slide show.
The first thing to appear was a loose truck, the unit that supports the train car and has wheels, springs, and brakes. The heavy springs on this one indicate it was from a passenger car. Next was a flat car likely used for track maintenance. Not only was it in terrible shape but it also supported a number of growing plants.
Three old passenger cars came next. All three were typical of cars used on commuter lines from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. (I’m confident none were Wi-Fi equipped.) The first still had “Erie Lackawanna” stenciled above the windows. The EL was formed in 1960 and lasted until 1976 when it became part of Conrail. Prior to that, the EL ran commuter lines in the New York City metropolitan area.
The second car wore a New Jersey Department of Transportation logo amid the rust, peeling paint and graffiti. The NJDOT operated commuter lines in the Garden State until 1979 when New Jersey Transit was created. The third passenger car had no discernable markings but was of a newer design with vinyl seats and a more streamlined roof. A single hopper car capped the other end of the train.
In the days following our train ride, we drove down every road that was near these cars to no avail. The siding was not easily visible although the local vandals obviously had no trouble finding the cars. While these sites were not as eerie as our narrator implied, they are certainly “ghosts” of railroading’s past. A nice glimpse of history.