My Trains Magazine podcast-series Conversations with Brian Solomon posted its most recent episode, which features Steaming Tender’s general manager Scarlet Lamothe, whom I interviewed in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.
Steaming Tender is the popular railroad themed restaurant located in the old Palmer Union Station near the diamond crossing of CSX’s Boston Line and New England Central.
I speak with Scarlet about the history of the restaurant as a New England Central freight switches nearby.
A week ago, I had a some spare time in the Dublin city centre and the sun was bright, so working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto, I exposed a series of photos of LUAS trams working the Red Line on Abbey Street.
My first visit to Killarney was in February 1998. It was dark and damp.
It was my among first encounters with a class 201 diesel.
By contrast, Friday, 6 September 2019, Killarney was warm and pleasant.
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Cravens led by 4-4-0 Compound no. 85 was in the sidings, having arrived earlier from Dublin with annual Steam Dreams excursion. A scheduled Irish Rail train was just arriving.
I like the contrast between the steam locomotive and the ROTEM built InterCity Railcar. There’s more than 70 years between the two train designs , yet they co-exist on the same modern railway.
Main line steam continues to be a feature of Irish railway operations.
Friday, 6 September 2019, I made photographs of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s compound 4-4-0 under steam on its journey from Dublin Connolly to Killarney, County Kerry with the annual Steam Dreams rail tour.
This selection was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. I also made photos with my Lumix LX7 and a Nikon F3HP loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
Thanks to everyone at Irish Rail, RPSI and Steam Dreams for keeping steam alive in Ireland.
Friday morning, 6 September 2019, I took position at the far end of Dublin Connolly Station platform 4 to photograph RPSI’s Empty Cravens arriving from the Inchicore Work in preparation for boarding and departure of the annual Steam Dreams excursion. (More on that tomorrow!).
I wanted to make both long telephoto and wide angle views of the train. To accomplish this I could use my FujiFilm XT1 with a telephoto and then switch to my Lumix LX7 as the train approached.
However, for the sake of convenience instead I opted to work exclusively with the XT1 for this sequence, and fitted the camera with a 18-135mm zoom lens.
There’s no one ‘right’ way to execute an image (or images) but different equipment choices will produce varied results.
One reason for my using the XT1 for the whole sequence was a function of the lighting conditions. My Panasonic Lumix LX7 is an excellent camera in many respects. However, I’ve found that it has a slightly narrower dynamic range, probably owing to smaller file size.
In many situations this subtle difference doesn’t matter, but with Friday’s lighting, I wanted to be able to pull in sky detail in post processing, and from past experience the XT1 RAW files leave more to work with than those from the LX7.
In Ireland I cannot access this website (for reasons beyond my knowledge it appears to be blocked), but perhaps my readers in the USA will be able to tune in.
Anyone who knows me must realize the irony of this post.
Although I’ve appeared on television a few times, I’ve never owned a television set and have only watched commercial TV on rare occasions. I’ll be curious as to the feedback on Conway Scenic’s portrayal on High Adventures.
Standing on a platform in suburban Brussels, I attempted a 90mm telephoto view of an outbound electric local train.
The weather dull, relatively dark and hazy, in other words the light was about as unappealing as it can get. Also it was early Spring, so the trees were leafless and the landscape bleak.
Suburban Brussels is not Tehachapi, or the Swiss Alps, or the Rhein Valley. If you say ‘so what?’, you misunderstand me.
It was not a great setting to begin with.
As the train approached one of the passengers on the platform drifted into my field of view, obscuring much of the scene as an out of focus blob. This resulted in the further complication of confusing the camera’s autofocus system at the last instant, which instead of honing in on the rapidly approaching train, sharpened a corner of platform instead.
Oh, and the train is adorned with graffiti tags.
So this image was pretty much a ‘fail’ on all counts, except possibly exposure. I seem to have got that about right.
Not every effort results in success. But we should learn from our mistakes, or at least laugh!
I count this portrait view (vertically oriented photo) among my classic steam Kodachromes and i’ve published it in several books over the years.
I exposed it at Chama, New Mexico in September 1996 using my old Nikon F3T.
This was among many photos I’d made on a big western trip with my old pal TSH..
Despite its charms, that night we abandoned the Cumbres & Toltec to drive to Tennessee Pass to photograph Southern Pacific heavy freights on America’s highest mainline grade the following morning.
At the time I had my doubts about leaving the narrow gauge steam, but SP’s line was about to become Union Pacific and within a year traffic would be diverted elsewhere. Steam still rules on the narrow gauge but the rails over T-pass have been quiet for more than 20 years.
Yesterday, the final day of August 2019, I joined fellow photographer Paul Maguire in photographing Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on its run from Heuston Station over the Branch to Connolly (before it continued on to Belfast).
We selected a vantage point on Dublin’s Blackhorse Avenue and timed visit to minimize the waiting.
In short order flange-squeal emanating from the Phoenix Park Tunnel announced the approach of Belmond’s train before it came into sight.
I opted to use a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens in order to include the castle-like McKee Barracks on the west side of the line.
Bright sun made for a contrasty scene.
I mitigated the visually distracting effects of excessive contrast, I adjusted the camera RAW files using Lightroom. Simply by using the program’s ‘sliders’, I lightened shadows, tempered highlights, and locally adjusted exposure in the sky to allow for better detail in the clouds. I also warmed the colour-balance, while making a slight increases in overall saturation. The adjustments took less than a minute of my time.
The light was rapidly changing and shortly after the train passed a cloud eclipsed the sun. I’ve included an unadjusted image of the clouded scene to show the difference in light levels.
Although it was more than 25 years ago, it really doesn’t seem so long since I made this Fujichrome Velvia slide of Conrail’s BUOI (Road freight from Buffalo to Oak Island) along the former Erie Railroad in the Canisteo Valley.
I’d followed the train east from Rock Glen, New York. Steady snow made for slippery road conditions so I took it easy.
Here I’d caught up with the train, which had reached the newly created siding east of Adrian, that would soon become ‘CP Adrian’ (CP for dispatcher Control Point).
Work was under way at the time, but the new color light signals hadn’t been commissioned and the old semaphores that had governed movements under rule 241 (current of traffic) remained in place, but deactivated.
Working with my Nikon F3T and 105mm lens, I exposed this view as the train waited for permission to proceed east.
Velvia was a finicky film and it was tough to nail the exposure in some conditions Getting the snow exposure right was tricky, but since the train wasn’t moving I made a bracket—in other words I exposed several slides with slight exposure variations. You can see that it was relatively dark by the illumination in the number boards on 6118.
One of the hidden gems of the Conway Scenic Railroad is their ‘Redstone Line’.
This is the former Maine Central Mountain Division trackage that runs compass east from Mountain Junction near Intervale, New Hampshire.
This summer I had several opportunities to catch RDC number 23 Millieworking Friday afternoon specials to Redstone.
I’m now 4,000 miles from Redstone, but this weekend will be a very rare opportunity to travel the full length of Conway’s Maine Central trackage on a special run scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.
This special Notch Train will run to the Saco River Bridge east of Redstone and then proceed back west to Mountain Junction and continue all the way over Crawford Notch to the west-end of Conway Scenic trackage at Hazens near Whitefield.
It will also be an opportunity to catch steam locomotive 7470 on the branch and over the mountain.
I’ll have to have one huge telephoto to catch the action from Islandbridge (in Dublin!!)
From late 1998 through early 2000, I was almost continuously on the road.
I made lots of photos, sent them for processing, plucked out a few choice slides for books, slide shows, etc, and then put the rest in a carton which I promptly mis-placed.
I recalled photographing this Conrail westward freight at CP406 in Batavia, New York in January 1999. I’d been traveling with GVT’s local freight with an Alco RS-11. Although one of the photos from this morning was recently published in September Trains Magazine as an illustration for my discussion on Alco diesels, I couldn’t locate the rest of roll, or most of the other photos from that trip!
In fact many others from 1999 were also beyond reach.
So, Monday (Aug 26, 2019) in my continuing quest for Conrail images, I finally found the long lost box, in it were a great many photos that have remain unseen since the demise of Conrail at the end of May 1999. Twenty years ago.
Conrail’s ‘convention cab’ SD70s were short-lived on the Water Level route east of Cleveland. These were built to Norfolk Southern specs during the Conrail split, assigned NS numbers and then all went to NS following the divide (as intended). This view was one of the only photos I ever made of a Conrail SD70 on the CSX side of Conrail before the split.
It was the last of the Conrail SD70s and only about two months old when I made this photo in January 1999. I think it is safe to say that 2580 was the last New locomotive built for Conrail (as a Class 1 mainline carrier). Thoughts?
Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.
I was having dinner last night at Palmer’s Steaming Tender. I wanted to photograph Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited and hoped only to invest the minimum amount of time away from my meal.
I brought up Amtrak’s App on my iPhone and clicked the ‘status’ icon, then entered ‘Springfield’ in the slot for ‘station’ and under ‘train number’ I entered ‘448’ (the number for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.
The first time I did this, it estimated 448 departing about 4 minutes late. So I checked again in ten minutes. By that time 448 had departed Springfield about 7 minutes late.
I then switched to the asm.transitdocs.com site that offers a ‘live map’ of Amtrak and VIA Rail trains across the continent, and clicked the window for 448. Among the features of this app is that it will show you the actual speed of the train at the time of its last update. The program updates about every five minutes.
I learned that about four minutes after departing Springfield Station 448 was traveling just under 60 mph (it’s maximum allowed speed on the Boston & Albany to Palmer).
From experience, I know that it takes 448 about 18 minutes to reach Palmer from Springfield if nothing unusual occurs. So 15 minutes after its Springfield-departure, I excused myself from dinner and casually walked to my preferred location near the diamond at the westend of the station.
At 8pm on December 27, 1997, I exposed this view looking west at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Mike Gardner and I were returning from one of our all day photo adventures in the Albany area and we decided to make a few more photos before heading home.
The signals lit and there was a green on the mainline, indicating a westward train was near.
This back in Conrail days, when the Boston & Albany route was still very busy with freight. It was years before the old Union Station was transformed into the Steaming Tender restaurant. And there were a few more buildings and businesses on Palmer’s main street.
It was more than a decade before I bought my first digital camera and I exposed this using my Nikon N90S on Provia 100F color slide film.
Yesterday (August 23, 2019) I interviewed Steaming Tender General Manager Scarlet Lamothe for upcoming Trains Magazine podcasts.
Steaming Tender is the popular railroad themed restaurant located inside the former Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station at the diamond crossing between CSX’s Boston Line and New England Central. It is open Wednesday to Sunday and is a great venue to enjoy lunch and dinner while watching trains.
Yesterday I met fellow photographer Mike Gardner at the Steaming Tender restaurant in the old Palmer Union Station for lunch.
I had iced tea and the Reuben.
Except for the New England Central switching all was quiet for the first couple of hours.
Just after 2 pm, I said “Let’s head outside, I have a feeling it’s all about to happen.”
Luck, intuition or experience, call it what you like.
At first the trains didn’t favor the light. A New England Central local crossed the diamond northbound. CSX B740 was working deep in the old Boston & Albany yard. The Mass-Central came down from Ware long-hood first. Then everything stalled.
“I’ll bet everything is waiting for the Lake Shore.”
At 3pm Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited appeared at the east end of the long tangent on the old Boston & Albany. On queue Mike announced, ‘Headlight!’
I made a series of photos of enthusiasts on the old station platform rolling the train by.
After the Lake Shore, the illusion of a lull continued, and most everyone else got bored and left. CSX B740 had pulled up and was poised waiting for signal. Mike and I decided to hold on. And sure enough 15 minutes behind the Lake Shore was a westward CSX freight—Q427.
After this passed, B740 pulled ahead through CP83 and then reverse back into the yard, meanwhile the Mass-Central was getting ready to head back north again.
All in all in was a very successful day in Palmer. But the keys to our success were timing and patience. If you left after the Lake Shore rolled west, you missed most of the show.
Yesterday I scanned this 30 year Kodachrome 25 slide using a Nikon Coolscan5000 operated with VueScan 9.6.09 scanning software..
The unmodified scan is a bit on the dark side. I’d been chasing Conrail ELOI (Elkhart to Oak Island) eastbound on the former Erie Railroad on typically dull western New York November day.
Many of my photos from that chase were exposed on black & white film using my father’s old Rollei Model T. At least one of those appeared in CTC Board as a Conrail new illustration back in the day.
When I reached Olean, I wanted to feature the crossing with the former PRR route to Buffalo, which was then also a Conrail secondary main line, and I made this panned view of ELOI’s lead locomotive crossing the diamonds.
I exposed this at f5.6 1/30 second to capture the motion of the locomotive.
After scanning, I imported the slide into Lightroom and made a variety of corrections to improve the appearance of the image. This included slight cropping to improve the level; color correction, lightening of the shadow areas and over-all contrast control.
I’ve include both the unmodified scan and corrected image here.
Monday afternoon, August 19, 2019 was hot and humid as I rambled through Massachusetts’ Quaboag Valley completing errands.
Driving west on Route 20, I reached the flying junction with Route 67, where I saw the head-end of CSX Q264 roar below me with two modern GEs in the lead.
The train had a good roll-on, so I knew it was making a run for the grade up through Warren. I diverted from my path west, and drove post haste east on Route 67 to find a location to picture this eastward freight.
In the afternoon there aren’t a lot of options. The old B&A has become unpleasantly overgrown with brush, and the back lit summer sun doesn’t offer a flattering portrayal of modern GE diesels.
I opted for the overhead bridge at West Warren, where I made these views with my Lumix LX7.
Although it was still sunny, I could see the storm approaching from the west. Shortly after I arrived home there was lightning, thunder and a violent deluge.
Yesterday, August 19, 2019, I received my author’s advance copy of the October Trains Magazine that features my column titled ‘Getting on board with rail transit.’
Is it ironic that today I’m scheduled to get new tires for my automobile?
To illustrate my column, I selected a digital photo that I exposed in May 2010 using my old Lumix LX3—my first digital camera.
To view the image that I chose, you will need to obtain a copy of the magazine. However, here I’ve included a few of the other railroad images exposed at the same essential location that same evening.
At the time a volcanic eruption in Iceland had filled northern skies with fine layers of ash. While this brought havoc to European air travel (I was waiting in Stockholm for a friend to arrive from Addis Abiba who had been delayed by more than 24 hours because of the ash cloud), the ash produced some stunning sunsets owing to the greater high altitude light refraction.
I was just learning to make use of digital photography. Luckily, my Lumix LX3 had a superb lens and lent itself to making great low light photographs.
One week ago, I was sitting in the North Tower of Conway Scenic’s North Conway Station. To the west the sun was shining. To the east it was pouring rain, and the rain was still falling all around. I said to Conway’s operations manager, Derek Palmieri, ‘There must be a rainbow.’
And there was!
Briefly it was a full, but faint, double.
Outside I went, where I made a variety of photos with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.
This one is from the Lumix.
Sometimes where there’s a rainbow is a sign of change. A fortuitous signal for the future. And this is how I see it.
Elwyn of North Conway’s Moose Safari invited me to join him on one of his nocturnal tours searching for New Hampshire’s elusive Moose.
I say elusive, because in the nearly three months I’d spent in New Hampshire, including considerable time roaming the old Maine Central Mountain Division searching for locations and waiting for trains, I’d not seen any moose.
Elwyn knows the roaming patterns of these great animals and brings visitors to see them on a nightly basis. Like finding freight trains in New England, finding moose requires a detailed understanding of their patterns and paths. He explained that its not about simply waiting for the moose, but actively going to find them.
I joined Elwyn’s Moose Safari on the night of the full moon in front of Conway Scenic’s North Conway Station.
After a few hours of scouring New Hampshire’s highways and byways, we spotted a pair of moose. Elwyn illuminated the roadside with lights mounted to his tour vehicle and using that light, I made this photo using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera was set at ISO 6400; f2.0 1/30thof a second.
It was a bright and hazy August 1989 morning, when my old pal TS Hoover and I set up on the east bank of the Susquehanna River to capture this view of the famous former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge.
I made this Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) slide using my old Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.
It was just one of many Conrail photographs exposed on one of our great adventures in the 1980s!
I’d been eying Conway Scenic’s wooden pile Moat Creek trestle as a good afternoon photo location since I arrived at the railroad in May.
While I’d made a variety of angles from West Side Road that runs parallel to the line, until last Friday (August 9, 2019) I hadn’t hiked into the bridge.
As discussed in yesterday’s post ‘Rare Move During My Signing—GP9 works the yard,’ the necessity to move a few old freight cars posed some unusual photographic opportunities.
When I learned that GP7 573 would be hauling a flatcar down to Conway, New Hampshire for storage, I decided this would make for my opportunity to catch a train in low afternoon sun on the Moat Creek Trestle.
Old 573 was whistling for a crossing just north of the bridge when I heard loud rustling in a tree opposite the tracks from my location. A sizeable bear climbed down out of the tree and ambled through the undergrowth about a car-length from my position.
Of course, I’d selected a prime 27mm lens to frame the train on the bridge and this lens was less than ideal for photographing the bear.
The photographs of the train and bear were exposed about a minute apart.
Sometimes when engaged with one task, something unexpected occurs that demands your attention.
Such was the situation last Friday while I was standing on the platform at North Conway, New Hampshire during my book signing event.
Conway Scenic’s GP9, 1751, still dressed in a New York Central inspired livery applied by former owner Finger Lakes Railway, was engaged to switch a few freight cars out of the North Yard.
In more than two months at Conway Scenic, the only freight car that I’d seen turn a wheel is a tank car that has been rigged up to supply water for steam locomotive 7470. So when I saw 1751 moving the two ancient flats in the yard, I excused myself from book signing tasks and made a few photos with my FujiFilm XT1.
There was gorgeous afternoon light bathing the North Conway station. The Valley excursion train was out on the line, so in one of the odd moments, the platform was almost empty and there few cameras in sight.
Later in the day, in a related incident I had a close encounter with an alarmingly large bear, but I’ll get to that in a future post.