I never planned on finding such a passion for photographing trains at the tender age of 21. I guess you can say that sometimes life surprises us and puts us where we should be at the right moment. For me, the place was along the southern portion of the former Delaware & Hudson main line between Binghamton and Albany in eastern New York state. By the time I discovered it, the line was owned by Canadian Pacific, with Norfolk Southern operating on trackage rights.
I first began focusing my photography on the old D&H in spring 2010 on a rather chance encounter. Initially, the sight of a passing train with the roar of the engines and clatter of the cars was rather intimidating. After a few more chance encounters, it was clear that this would be something I wanted to know more about. Photography had always been a passion of mine, but until I took a chance on trains, I never had a single subject to focus on.
At the time, NS traffic dominated the line with its regular freight and intermodal trains being a reliable daily occurrence. Any free time would be spent trackside somewhat close to home, between Binghamton and Afton initially, trying to seek out patterns and schedules and learning the way this line seemed to run. My father also took an interest in my newfound hobby with his office overlooking the Sunbury line that ran south out of Binghamton. He would create Excel spreadsheets for me on a weekly basis and track the numbers of the locomotives, if they were going toward or away from Binghamton, and then take it one step further and place the engine numbers in corresponding columns for their colors. Collecting these sheets and having them handy trackside made it easier for me to know what to look for and begin to learn train symbols as well.
Buffalo–Binghamton Train 38T (left) meets its counterpart 39T at Norfolk Southern’s “BD” interlocking in Binghamton on June 7, 2015. Both trains have ES44AC locomotives leading. The modern power contrasts with the classic searchlight signals.
I found seeking out the “Action” red CP locomotives, lost in a sea of NS black, to be very rewarding. Soon, I was recognizing the patterns of the trains with the help of my dad’s spreadsheets and through my own trial and error. With the former D&H line north of Binghamton being closest to home, it was a no-brainer to make it my priority.
A Historic Line
The original Delaware & Hudson had its start in 1825 as a canal company connecting eastern Pennsylvania coal mines with ports on the Hudson River for export. While successful, the canal soon gave way to an interest in railroads. The Albany & Susquehanna came under the control of the D&H in 1870, forming the basis of its main line between Albany and Binghamton. Through a series of leases and merges, by 1886 the D&H stretched from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to Montreal, Que., forming an important bridge route connecting Canada, New England, New York, and the anthracite fields of eastern Pennsylvania.
Canadian Pacific Train DB-11 works the north end of East Binghamton Yard on May 28, 2015, just days before the yard signs were removed due to vandalism. Binghamton was the hub of the southern part of the “old” D&H. Canadian Pacific GP38-2 7305 was formerly D&H 7318, and originally Lehigh Valley 318.
Through the 20th century and into the postwar years, the D&H remained a stable partner in the Northeastern rail network. The collapse of Penn Central in 1970 and the subsequent bankruptcy of connecting lines led to the government’s creation of Conrail in 1976. As a result, D&H was granted competitive trackage rights extending to Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
While its territory was nearly doubled overnight, the D&H was simply too small to compete. Guilford Transportation Industries acquired D&H in 1983, joining it with the Boston & Maine and Maine Central railroads. This short-lived union did little more than drain the Delaware & Hudson of what little traffic and resources remained. In 1988, Guilford cast off the D&H, its fate uncertain. After three years of directed service by the Susquehanna, Canadian Pacific emerged as the winning bidder for the D&H in 1991…