West End Hotspots

by Dave Eade ©

The following is a list of locations that you may find reasonably good for fanning and reasonably safe from hassle. Only public and / or well traveled locations are noted. The good thing about GRS is that you can actually chase these trains a good distance (once you find one, of course).


Energy Park –   in downtown Greenfield, tough to get good light angle at times, view of tunnel under city (WJED), good photo backdrop. The B&M caboose museum is a must see for kids.

Wisdom Way – Greenfield back roads, bridge over main line, north / south axis, signals can be seen from the bridge.

Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum – in Buckland over bridge from Shelburne Falls, great town that’s worth a trip for lunch (visit museum), three crossings provides for great audio action, right after a tough climb, above third crossing (west), shoot down to river and the Bridge of Flowers (old trolley bridge). To chase the train you can go around and under the R.R. bridge.

Cosby’s Barn – off Rt.112 south from Rt. 2, a couple of roads will bring you to either Cosby’s Barn for some open fields with southern light shots or down by MP 402 for possible meets.

Please respect the local farmers that are on a different pace from us railfans!

Rt. 2 – along the Deerfield River, some good backlit possibilities with early fog off of the river.

Charlemont “S” Turns – back road between Buckland and Charlemont. Great late day sun for west bounds, good pacing location.

Rt. 8A Crossing – over bridge in “downtown” Charlemont, excellent location for wide open shots, good lighting and crossing action.

Tower Road Crossing – south on 8A, first right on Tower Rd. Road loops back to Rt. 2. A good action and lighting location depending on the time of day and season.

Zoar – off Rt.2 on the way to the east portal. After going under the bridge, (caution, bad turn and very low clearance) tracks are on top of the road. Great place for up close action while engines are working hard, careful of local traffic on weekends (wild rafters) and truck traffic on weekdays (wild drivers) This is an area where the road takes a beating and shows it , so drive careful.

Zoar Corner – off Rt.2, a little further up on the right. You can drive up to a sharp corner, shots depend on lighting.

Zoar River Bank – over Deerfield River bridge on right will be a small turnoff right next to the river. Pull over and walk down the small banking to the river. Great open shot with late day light that is real hard to get in the valley.

Hoosac Tunnel Station – Tunnel Road over double iron bridge. Great meet location with the same late day sun. Please be careful crossing the tracks! Park on the river side (from personal experience in case a train goes into emergency, there is no way out)! Watch out for wild turkeys (locals) and wild locals (turkeys)!

East Portal – The end of the line for the east side of Hoosac Mountain. Great photo shots of the bridge over the Deerfield River from several angles. Slow motion action with speed restrictions in the tunnel. (Soon to be history! J.K.) Stay on the road or park in the east side parking lot to avoid trespassing. Early morning light is best for tunnel shots, while the afternoon light is best for bridge shots.

North Adams – The mini Mecca. Take Whitcomb Hill Rd. across from the “double iron”. A little New England humor for calling this a hill. You can easily beat a train over the mountain to the North Adams yard. A lot of action can be found in a very accessible spot for Railfan’s. This is a great location for meets.

North Adams Hotspots:

The Sons of Italy building is right up close on public property with good lighting.

Under the overpass – great spot in bad weather to stay dry / cool with great angles of east bounds out of “Lil” Hoosac and down the Adams Branch and the mainline.

On the overpass – good late day spot for west bounds.

Footbridge off of Furnace St. – On the other side of Heritage Park, up close and personal with “Lil” Hoosac.

(While you are in the area, stop in for an interesting look around the Hoosac Museum at the park. J.K.)

The Transcript parking lot – for other side lighting, usually early morning, up close with Adams Branch work.

If you chase a west bound out of East Deerfield, look for meets at Buckland, Soapstone (Hoosac Tunnel Station / East Portal) or North Adams.

While at East Deerfield, listen to scanner traffic to hear if there is an eastbound that you can catch in North Adams and then chase back to East Deerfield.

You usually will have to choose where to get your shots depending on the lighting and train direction but you’d be surprised how often you can get ahead of the train.

The Zoar drag detector is at MP 410.9 and can be heard on CH. 3,

(161.160 Mhz). It’ll give you a heads up at East Portal.

The trains go about 10 mph at East Portal so get those boxcar shots here.

Current traffic patterns – (subject to change like the weather)

Both EDRJ and AYMO get thru North Adams before dawn.

MOPO will meet AYMO at Eagle Bridge or North Adams and has been a good catch in the early sun coming out of east portal. Golden sunshine at Rt. 8A.

This train will return in the afternoon with reversed power line up and sun angle. Catches include SOO power with Red Barns but mostly SD 40-2’s.

Coal trains – 2 – 3 per week loaded with corresponding empties. Often meets their counterpart at East Deerfield, North Adams or Eagle Bridge.

The loaded will “can” at Ferry St. in N.Y. after being delivered to S.T. to be re-crewed in the late morning hours and will arrive in North Adams sometime in the afternoon.

Crews do not like stopping the loaded coal train on the hill leading up to the tunnel, so you’ll get a lot of meets from the west bounds being held. The loaded coal train may stop at the yard office which makes for a good start up shot. Coal trains seem to like running weekends.

SEED will come thru in the afternoon but is a real hit or miss depending on the work they have to do on their way out and the size of the train. A real wild card as they can have one to nine engines on it (OK, maybe not all working but still a good shot). They’ll occasionally combine SEED and MOPO.

MOAY is a late afternoon or overnight, I almost never catch them.

Local AD-1, some people will put down chasing the local but this is one of my favorites especially when fitted with a Geep. The North Adams area allows you to see these guys at work from a variety of angles and up close (and safe). They’ll typically come in sometime after 10 AM (T – T – S ) though this is hardly set in stone. They’ll come in on track #2 (south) and switch Apkin Scrap Metal first before going thru the ‘Lil’ Hoosac to get onto track #1 (north) and head down the Adams Branch to do their work. The kind of moves that you can see here are unique (how’d you like to see some six – packs walking gingerly down the branch to do a pick up or see them kick a couple of hoppers silently down the branch so they could save a move)? They often use tracks 1 and 2 to help arrange loads and empties.

Having a bad weather day? Go to Energy Park Pavilion, Shelburne Trolley Museum (be sure to donate to these hard working folks) or North Adams under the overpass and stay dry(ish). Catch the museums in Shelburne Falls and North Adams. Be sure to check out the old photos of the New Haven and watch the P.B.S. film on the tunnel.

I would definitely recommend the trip out to the east portal. You will never know what (or who) your gonna’ see there.

Dave Eade © 2017 All rights reserved