Boston & Albany A1a Berkshire No. 1403 and an H6a Mike lead a New York Central freight at Syracuse, N.Y. in August 1946.
In 1946, my Mom and her husband, Jack, journeyed to Syracuse, N.Y., from our hometown, Oswego, to visit the annual New York State Fair. Of course, they took me along.
Sometime during the day, we stopped on an overpass over the New York Central mainline. The overpass was located in North Port Byron, N.Y., about 30 miles west of Syracuse. It had become family practice to allow me a little time to view the local railroad scene wherever we went.
The New York Central trains were steam powered in 1946; diesels had not even been installed on the point of the Central’s passenger fleet.
I had my mom’s Kodak box camera because I did not own a camera yet. The box camera had two frosted viewports, about 1/2 x 3/4 inch in size.
The slow speed shutter was lever stroked one way, then back for the second exposure. If you did both, you got two images, one on top of the other. The 620 film advance was by manual crank.
Three trains came by during our brief visit: two freights and the Empire State Express, the premier NYC daytime passenger train. I blazed away, barely able to see the images in the viewfinders. When the Empire zoomed by, I ran across the road to get the going away shot.
Years later, at a railfan night at Al Staufer’s, Al saw the images, liked them, and borrowed them for his new book The Thoroughbreds.
The two Empire images were published in the 1974 book on Page 227. The freight photo of the Boston & Albany A1a Berkshire and H6a Mike taken the same day in 1946 was also published on Page 45.
The 1924 Lima B&A A1 Berkshire was the first 2-8-4 produced. They started the “Super Power” era and the design prompted the NYC Hudsons.
The odds against those slow shutter speed images being produced in a major publication were quite high. However, Al saw and liked them and the rest is history. It just illustrates the axiom “never pass up a photo opportunity” because you never know where it might end up.
Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs
New York Central train No. 51, the westbound “Empire State Express,” charges through at 80 mph in August 1946.
NYC’s “Empire State Express” going away westbound in an August 1946 photo.