A couple weeks ago, I met fellow photographer Jay Monaghan in Cabra to document the passing of Belmond’s luxury tour train that was making it’s scheduled move to Dublin’s Connolly Station.
Using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera, I opted for this portrait-oriented (vertical) telephoto view to accentuate the Dublin Mountains. In contrast to my view, Jay executed a very nice wide-angle photograph that better shows the cutting and the length of Belmond’s train.
The Grand Hibernian uses 10 custom refurbished former Irish Rail Mark3 carriages, making it the longest regularly scheduled passenger train in Ireland.
In this instance an Irish Rail class 071 diesel is working the train, but for most moves Irish Rail 216 specially painted in Belmond navy-blue is assigned to it.
In season, Belmond’s high-end excursion train makes tours of Irish railways.
I had the Leica IIIa fitted with a vintage Nikkor f3.5 35mm screw-mount lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
And yes, I had a digital camera with me. Two, really. And I also made some colour views. I’ll tend to cover my bases when at a special location.
Honer Travers and I traveled down from Dublin on the Enterprise, having changed at Portadown to an NIR (Northern Ireland Railways) 4000-series CAF built railcar. Arriving at Lisburn, I paused to make these two black & photos of our train.
In Dublin, I processed the film using Agfa-mix Rodinal Special (not to be confused for bog-standard Agfa-mix Rodinal) mixed with water 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes.
I like to play with developer to see what I can get with different combinations of chemistry. Agfa Rodinal Special with short development time allows for fine grain and a metallic tonality. While not as rich as Kodak HC110 (dilution B), the grain appears finer with Rodinal Special.
On July 22, 2017, I made this unusual view of CSX Intermodal train Q012 on the old Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts.
What’s unusual about it?
Not only was it made on Kodak Tri-X black & white film using an 80-year old Leica camera body fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens, but my processing was non-standard.
After a pre-soak with a miniscule amount of developer, I gave the film it’s primary development in Ilford Perceptol stock mixed with water 1-1 for 8 min 30 seconds at 69 F. Following development, stop, fix1, fix2, and thorough rinse, I treated the still wet film in selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 with water for 8 minutes.
The selenium toner gives the negatives a slightly lavender hue while increasing the highlight density to provide a silvery sheen. This involves an ion-exchange with the silver halide in the film which offers a secondary benefit of greater long term stability.
After toning, I re-wash negatives for at least 10 minutes.
For internet presentation here, I scanned the dried negatives on an Epson V750 flatbed scanner at high-resolution TIF files, then imported the files to Lightroom for final adjustment, dust removal and scaling. (My TIF files are far too large to upload on Word Press for internet).
Instead of scanning the negatives in black & white, I scanned them in color which retains the purple tint of the selenium toner for effect.
My twin posts focused on Lena, Illinois drew considerable interest and answers.
Regarding the monster eastward Canadian National freight; the actual number of cars carried on this one train was 280 (plus three leading locomotives and a lone DPU). That’s a real whopper at 1,144 axles (24 are the locomotives)!
A number of Tracking the Light readers wrote to me about the unusual GREX drawbar connected maintenance train. I’ve compiled these below into a brief essay.
The curious maintenance train was built by Georgetown Industries (a spinoff of Texas-based Georgetown Railroad), which uses the GREX reporting marks. This train is described by the manufacturer as a Self-Powered SlotMachine® and commonly as ‘slot train’ which is designed to distribute materials. Instead of conventional gondolas, this is in effect a string of permanently connected articulated gondolas with the ends removed.
Since there are no bulkheads between cars an excavator can be used to traverse the entire length to load or unload material. The train is especially useful when a railroad is faced with limited track access time or locations that are inaccessible by road. One application is to dump ballast between the rails on ‘skeletonized’ track.
One flaw with the train is that the solid draw bar and articulated connections between cars make it impossible to set out a car in case of defect.
The Slot train’s power is a relatively new creation and appears to be based on LORAM’S boxy power unit. Georgetown has several Slot train sets that work at various places around the country, the machinery is still being evaluated or leased an as of yet, these trains are a rare sight on American rails.
Another Georgetown creation is its Dump Train, which is a series of drawbar-connected hoppers featuring a conveyor belt running under the length of the train and a swing out conveyor belt at the unloading end to deliver aggregate line-side. The style of construction gives the train a nearly European appearance.
During the long days of July, I made a point of being up and OUT as early as there was light in the sky.
Those trains that go bump in the night in Winter have a bit of light on them in July.
I made this view before 6 am of the New England Central local crossing the Palmer diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant is located in the old Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station station at left.
In July (2017), John Gruber and I visited the old Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin. I was surprised to find that the railroad’s old mailbox remained.
It has been more than 22 years since the old C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific. In 1995 at the end of C&NW’s independent operations I’d made photos of this same mailbox, which for me served as a symbol of the railroad.
Now it’s a faded vestige of another era. More than just the paint has changed.
Back in the 1990s, Pentrax Publishing’s Paul Hammond and I focused on the East Troy Electric for an article in Locomotive & Railway Preservation magazine. At the time I was the Editor of Pacific RailNews, and he of L&RP.
We worked with the railway to produce some unusual and compelling photographs, including a high-impact view of one of their electric locomotives in motion that was used as the cover of the magazine.
For that effort, California-based railway photographic legend Richard Steinheimer paid me a personal compliment.
Three weeks ago, John Gruber, TRAINS Brian Schmidt and I spent a sunny afternoon re-exploring the East Troy Electric.
It was the first time I’d made digital images of this colorful Wisconsin preserved railway. I’ve included a selection below.
Thanks to East Troy Electric’s Tom Fleming for his hospitality.
As noted in yesterday’s post, I’d been inspecting a maintenance train parked on the siding at Lena, when lo and behold, the signal cleared to green.
I alerted John Gruber and we took positions to make photographs.
So there we were along the old Illinois Central at Lena, Illinois in the fading glow of the evening sun. This had been IC’s line from Chicago via Dubuque to Council Bluffs, Iowa and Back in the mid-1990s it had been operated as a regional called the Chicago, Central & Pacific, before being re-incorporated into Illinois Central on the eve of IC being absorbed by Canadian National.
A headlight twinkled into view, and I could see that a freight was coming, but not very fast.
As it grew closer I had the innate sense that it was a really huge train.
Finally it roared by with CN SD70M-2 in the lead. Many cars into the train was a lone CN DASH8-40C employed as a DPU (distributed power unit, modern railroad lingo for a radio controlled remote.)
I’ll let you in on a secret: I counted the cars. And do you know what? This was the largest/longest train I’d ever seen on the move. That’s with more than 40 years of watching trains. Any guesses as to how many cars? Trust me, it was a doosie!
(To those of you that I’ve told about this already, please keep the correct answer under your hat. And if anyone was working this monster, perhaps you have greater appreciation for its size than I do.)
The answers will be revealed in an up-coming post!
A few weeks back, John Gruber and I were on our way back to Madison, Wisconsin from the Mississippi River Valley. We’d followed the old Milwaukee Road up to Lanark, Illinois, then cut northward on Illinois State highways.
The sun was a golden globe in the western sky above rolling corn fields.
At Lena we intersected Canadian National’s former Illinois Central east-west line that connects Chicago with Council Bluffs, Iowa. I noticed that the signals were lit red and that there was something unusual in the siding.
Unusual indeed! It was a self-propelled draw-bar connected train of articulated flatcars for maintenance service. I’d never seen anything like it.
I’d love to tell you all about it, except I know precious little, except that the ‘locomotive’ had EMD Blomberg trucks and the whole machinery carried GREX reporting marks. Perhaps if I do another book on railroad maintenance equipment, I’ll have the opportunity to research this train more thoroughly.
While I was studying this unusual railway machine, the eastward signals at the end of the siding changed aspects; the cleared from all red to ‘green over red.’ A train had been lined! Hooray!
Here’s a lighting challenge: A freight train crossing a big bridge against an overcast sky.
Expose for the train and the sky gets washed out (loss of detail). Expose for the sky and the train is too dark.
So what do you do?
I expose for the sky and then adjust the file in post processing.
Why? Because it is easy enough to lighten slightly underexposed areas, but once highlight detail is lost through over exposure it cannot be recovered.
To balance the exposure in post processing, I lightened the shadow areas globally. This took all of about 30 seconds to accomplish in Lightroom. I also made minor adjustments to overall color balance and saturation. Afterwards, I played with the file to make some outlandish versions for point of comparison.
Of the four, the second from the top is the only image I’d normally present. The bottom of the four is intended to be a little absurd.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.
This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.
Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.
On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.
To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.
All to often I find myself in Palmer, Massachusetts.
It’s probably not what you think though.
Yes, I make railway photos there.
By often I arrive at CP83 only because I’m passing through. I might be on the way to the bank, or to get a haircut, or maybe do a bit of shopping.
In the daylight instance pictured I was about to cross the South Main Street Bridge with a financial transaction in mind, when I spotted a railway enthusiast poised with camera in hand.
I had my Lumix LX7 with me, so made a quick diversion. It was nearly 11am, and about the time that CSX’s Q022 often rolls east. Stepping out of the car, I immediately sensed that my guess was correct. I could hear the freight approaching the home signal for the Palmer diamond at CP83. Need I describe what happened next?
Some hours later, I’d met Rich and Joyce Reed for dinner in Palmer, and as per a long standing Friday night tradition we reconvened after the meal at CP83. How different this place looks at night!
After a little while the signals cleared and CSX’s Q007 came into view. I made these time exposures of the westward Q007 passing the signals at CP83.
Timing is crucial in making successful images of moving trains.
Even a few tenths of second can make the difference between a stunning photograph and a throwaway.
After years of photographing trains on the move, I’ve developed techniques for releasing the shutter at precisely the right moment.
When I examine different types of cameras for their suitability as picture making machines, one thing I always look for is shutter delay. Many inexpensive cameras fail in this regard. When you press the button if the camera hesitates it will routinely make railway action photography more difficult.
Many inexpensive cameras suffer from inadequate computer processors that can contribute to a delay. Another difficulty are the autofocus systems that impose a delay between the time you press the shutter and when the shutter opens.
Some cameras, such as my Lumix LX7 and Fuji X-T1 allow for various adjustments to autofocus and exposure settings than can help minimize the effects of ‘shutter lag’. But you have to play with the settings to get just the right combination.
Having the camera ‘on’ and queued up (poised and ready) helps.
If you find that too often your photos look like these, you may wish to consider acquiring a picture-making device that has better reaction time. What use is a camera that forces you to miss photos? Why suffer the repeated frustrations and disappointments associated with ‘shutter lag?’
-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.
A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.
I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.
My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.
I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.
I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.
Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.
Two weeks ago on my visit to Philadelphia, I was on my way to the University of Pennsylvania for a brief tour before heading to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station to board the Vermonter for Connecticut, on the way there in an ‘Uber’ (taxi) I notice the trolleys on the street.
Apparently SEPTA had its Center City trolley subway closed (for maintenance?) and so the trolleys that normally went below ground were working rarely utilized street trackage on 38th street instead.
How long this diversion as to be employed was beyond my knowledge at the time, but since I knew that I won’t be back in Philadelphia for many months, I only had this brief window to photograph this unusual operation.
I had just a few minutes to make images as I need to accomplish my tour and reach the station in little over an hour.
These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
Earlier this month, in the high-summer light, while traveling from Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station on its former Reading Company Budd Cars (Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars otherwise known as RDCs), I wondered about photo locations along Reading & Northern’s lines.
Back in the day (lets call it the early 1960s) my father, Richard Jay Solomon, photographed Reading Rambles along these same Reading Company routes (and also occasional put the company’s regularly scheduled passenger trains on film).
For years, I’d looked at these slides without fully grasping where they were taken.
One trip over the old Reading answered many questions. Around each bend, I recognized locations, thinking ‘Ah Ha! So that’s where Pop made THAT photo’ and so on. (I’m still waiting for Pop to finish labeling his slides; he’s got about as far as 1960 thus far. HINT: Don’t wait 57 years to label your photos).
In the Lehigh Gorge, Pat Yough and I chatted with our friend Scott Snell—an accomplished member of the railway photo fraternity. Scott offered us the opportunity to ride with him as he chased the Budd cars back toward Reading.
Having traveled up by rail, we jumped at the opportunity to make photos of our train in late afternoon summer sun. So we traveled with Scott by road from Jim Thorpe to Reading, by way of Tamaqua, Port Clinton and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
Here are some of my results thanks to Scott and Pat’s knowledge of the line.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to make some views from a diesel locomotive cab.
I’m no stranger to cab-rides, but this recent trip allows me to illustrate a few ways of illustrating this great vantage point.
I’ve made no effort to hide where these photos were made from; so by including the locomotive nose or framing the tracks in the locomotive’s front windows I’ve made my vantage point obvious. I was on the engine as it rolled along.
All three views were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Shiny stainless steel trains in high summer light. Another photography challenge.
Earlier this month during my explorations of eastern Pennsylvania with Pat Yough, we traveled on the Reading & Northern from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe, aboard a restored pair of RDCs.
The train arrived at Jim Thorpe in the highlight, in other words when the sun is nearly overhead.
Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I made a variety of images, then imported the RAW files into Lightroom for post processing.
As previously described in Tracking the Light, among the tools available with post processing software are various exposure and contrast controls that make it possible to adjust the RAW file to produce a more pleasing final image.
By lowering highlights, and raising the shadows, while adjusting color temperature, I can maximize the information captured by the camera sensor to produce a more pleasing image that more closely resembles what I saw at the time of exposure.
This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)
SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.
Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.
Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.
I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.