Among the subjects I photograph are Irish Rail’s Cork area suburban trains.
Although not the most varied of operations (2600 series diesel railcars are the rule), the Cork Commuter system is an interesting subject. It provides a reliable, functional and well-utilized transportation system that works on a regular interval timetable.
The scenery is pleasant and over the years I’ve made many interesting images of the trains.
These are recent views made over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (2017).
Thanks to Irish Rail’s Ken Fox for recommending locations and supplying history and context.
The most scenic portion of Irish Rail’s run from Dublin to Cork is the final stretch from Mallow to Kent Station Cork.
A few days ago, Ken Fox, Sean Twohig and I made a survey of this area of Co. Cork looking for locations to picture the Mark4 trains, which are among the only regularly scheduled locomotive powered passenger trains remaining on Irish Rail.
I exposed this view between Mourne Abbey and Rathduff. The lush greenery dotted with blossoming gorse makes for a bucolic scene.
Irish Rail’s Kent Station in Cork City is a cool place to make photos. It’s unusual curved train shed, plus antique platform awnings and brick station buildings have a Victorian appearance that offer a contrast with the modern trains that now serve passengers here.
Using my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon, I exposed this evening view at Limerick Junction.
At right is the down train from Dublin Heuston destined for Cork Kent Station, on the left is the shuttle train to/from Limerick .
I imported the camera-RAW file into Lightroom, and made nominal adjustments to the contrast while lightening shadow areas. Significantly, I cooled the colour temperature to compensate for the harsh effects of sodium and fluorescent lights to make for a more natural appearing colour balance.
Here’s key to a secret, one tightly held: More often than not I make photographs for a specific audience.
This has myriad manifests. It may be something as simple as photographing a friend’s favorite locomotive, or capturing a location once shared by a fellow photographer.
However, often it goes deeper. I’ll aim to capture a scene by working with light, shapes and subject in a way that I hope will appeal to a friend.
Sometimes, I’ll simply forward these photos directly to the person in question. To my father, I’ll send photos from my travels in Europe, to my mother, I’ll email photos of my friends and acquaintances.
I might forward an image to an editor that I made to pique their interest.
If I score something really unusual, I might goad a fellow photographer hoping to push them into exposing a similar or better photograph.
Yet, often my very best photographs are those that I make to fulfill a personal ideal.
Ok, my most successful images are those I made to please me.
Last year Irish Rail cleared its cuttings on the northern approach to the Phoenix Park Tunnel in Dublin in preparation for introduction of a regular passenger service over the line to Grand Canal Docks.
This work had the secondary effect of improving a number of photo locations, such as this view from the Dublin’s Old Cabra Road.
Last week on advice from Colm O’Callaghan, I opted to work from this vantage point to photograph an Irish Rail empty ‘Spoil train’ [that carries debris left over from line works etc] that had been scheduled to run to the North Wall in Dublin.
Shortly before the focus of my effort came into view an empty Irish Rail passenger train arrived and was blocked at the signal outside the tunnel.
My question to you: are the photographs made more interesting by the presence of the passenger train?
Tracking the Light Intends to Post Every Day, 365 days a year.
Five alternative views of Ireland’s Bord na Mona railway.
Here I’m trying something different: Working with an old Leica IIIa fitted with an ancient screw-mount Nikkor 35mm lens, I exposed some Fomapan 100 black & white film.
Instead of my normal process, I opted to soup the film in Ilford Perceptol. I mixed the stock solution from powder. Recommended development time was 8 minutes, but I cut this to 6 minutes, then after complete processing (stop, fix, hypo-clear and wash) I toned the negatives with a 1-9 Selenium solution to boost highlights (and then rewashed).
It was my first time working with Perceptol; overall I was pleased with the results, which yielded fine grain, broad tonality and a somewhat softer over-all image than what I’d been getting using ID-11.
This camera-lens-film-developer combination seems to have worked well with the rustic Bord na Mona narrow gauge industrial railway. I’ve opted to display a handful of the dozen or so monochrome images I exposed that day.
Tracking the Light takes a different approach today.
In early February, I was running a few last minute errands before my Trans-Atlantic journey.
Crossing the Boston & Albany on South Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts, I saw a New England Central local approaching with an impressive cut of interchange.
In the lead was clean New England Central GP38-2 2048 in Genesee & Wyoming corporate paint. Although I’ve made countless hundreds of photographs from this location over the years, I won’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.
So for the sake of a couple of minutes detour, I made these images at CP83 using my Lumix LX7.
Service Notice: Brian will be traveling for the next few days. New Tracking the Light posts will go up daily, but email notices may be delayed. To see the most recent posts, please check: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/
On Monday, 13 March 2017, I photographed Irish Rail 071 in heritage paint working the Sperry rail-defect detection train. (The Sperry equipment is in a yellow container at the middle of the train).
I’d planned these photographs at ‘the Gullet’ (west of Islandbridge Junction between Dublin Heuston and Inchicore) on the previous Friday, but the train was canceled. Patience and persistence paid off in the end. (There’s your tips for the day).
Bord na Mona (Irish peat board) operates an extensive network of narrow gauge industrial railways in the Irish midlands.
It has been nearly two years since I last explored this fascinating diminutive railway in action.
It helps to have the sun to photograph Bord na Mona, as the bog can be outright dreary on a dull wet day.
The sun seemed to have emerged from the lingering blanket of dampness that lately has prevailed across Ireland, so Denis McCabe and I made a foray to Shannonbridge, County Offaly location of the busiest Bord na Mona railway operation.
Bord na Mona trains come clattering along, often running in pairs or groups, but patience is often needed to find trains on the move.
Check out Tracking the Light’s archives for previous posts on the Bord na Mona.
It was a bright and clear Sunday morning in January 1988 when I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron at Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard near the Rochester Airport.
At dusk on the evening of March 2, 2017, I exposed this view of the River Liffey in Dublin.
An Irish Rail DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) electric train is crossing the Loop Line bridge on its way to Connolly Station.
The most prominent elements of the image are the Custom House, an 18th century relic of the British Imperial presence in Ireland, and coloured lights reflecting in the Liffey. The railway takes a secondary role.
When the Loop Line bridge was built in the late 19th century, pundits moaned that it spoiled the view of the Custom House. Were they lazy or just being ironic?
On 14 May 2003, I exposed this trailing view of Irish Rail’s Sligo Liner rolling west along the old Royal Canal near Enfield, Co. Meath.
The liner was hauling kegs of beer, mostly Guinness. Long after it left my view, I could here the class 071 locomotive with its EMD 12-645 diesel roaring a way in the distance.
I intentionally included some foliage in this photograph. Not only do the leaves help block sun from causing flare by hitting the front element of my lens, but they add a sense of depth that would be lost without them.
In the 1990s, I often worked with a Nikkor 35mm PC (perspective control) wide angle lens.
This allowed for a degree of correction using a shifting front element to minimize the effects of convergence of vertical lines on the film plane.
In this November 1992 view of Washington Union Station, I made good use of perspective control to keep front of the building from the appearance of falling away from the viewer. (A common complaint with wide angle architectural views).
While a very useful tool, I eventually sold the lens because I felt that it wasn’t sufficiently sharp in the corners, also it was comparatively slow (just f3.5 at its widest aperture.).
Consider this composition. Since the eye is naturally drawn to the front of the on-coming locomotive, I’ve made for a more complex image by placing this primary subject off-center.
When setting up this photograph, I was interested in secondary emphasis on the jointed rail, then still in use on Southern Pacific’s mainline at Oyster Point, railroad-timetable east of the old Bayshore Yard.
I was also interested in the wafting sea fog, a common atmospheric condition of the summer climate in San Francisco.
Key to my interest and another crucial compositional element was the dual-headlight arrangement on the Cal Train F40PH-2 locomotive. Although not purchased by SP, these were the last locomotives delivered new to feature the once-standard SP lighting arrangement—a classy characteristic of SP diesel operations.
By 1991, the application of oscillating headlights (commonly called ‘Mars lights’) had fallen out of favor and the practice was already on the wane. The headlights standout because of the slightly backlit lighting that leaves the front of the locomotive dark.
Below are two views of Irish Rail’s 071 with a ballast train at the old Guinness sidings at Dublin’s Heuston Station.
This locomotive has been popular with photographers since its repainting in the 1970s heritage livery last year.
What I’m trying to demonstrate here are the various effects of lighting and technique. One view was made on black & white film in the fading daylight of early evening. The other is a digital colour photo exposed the following morning.
Bitterly cold with a clear sky; that was Toronto on the evening of February 8, 2010.
I exposed this photo of a GO Transit train using my Lumix LX3. While this was a great little camera, it suffered from poor battery life. On this cold day, I rapidly worked my way through all three of my rechargeable batteries and had to take time midday to recharge one.
By the time I made this frame, the last battery was flashing red, yet I had enough juice left for a few more photos.
My LX7 is a better camera and the batteries are much improved. Word to the wise: always carry a spare battery.
In October 2014, I photographed this old MBTA (Boston) PCC car at the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor, Connecticut.
Just a rusty old ruin; but the car and its Kenmore destination board, brought me back to the early 1970s when my family lived a few blocks from MBTA’s Riverside Line at Newton Centre.
This route had been the Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, and was converted to a trolley line in 1960.
As young child, I was permitted freedom to wander around the neighborhood. My fascination with railways naturally brought me to the trolley line.
One afternoon, I’d been watching the PCC’s coming and going in front of the old B&A station. I’d often traveled on the cars with my parents, and I understood how the system worked.
Taking a chance, I quietly boarded one of the cars through the back door. I rode to Kenmore Square, where I boarded another car and returned to Newton Centre. I might have been five at the time. More than 40 years passed before I told anyone of this adventure. 🙂
One of the first standard types of automated visual grade crossing warning was the automatic flagman, a signal commonly known as a ‘wig wag’. [This was] adopted as a standard crossing device by the American Railway Association in 1923. A standard wig wag is actuated by a track circuit and consists of a paddle with a red lamp that gracefully swings back and forth in a horizontal pattern when a train approaches [and] usually accompanied by a bell . . . [at one time] the wig wag was the preferred type of grade crossing protection in the Midwest and far west. [They were] largely supplanted by modern flashing signals and crossing gates.
I was traveling with Marshall Beecher on the morning of August 3, 1996, when I exposed this view of Wisconsin Central’s southward freight ANPR-A approaching a grade crossing on the former Chicago & North Western line in Fond du Lac. This line saw less traffic than WC’s near by former Soo Line mainline over Byron Hill, but the attraction was these antique signals. Notice my use of selective depth of field.
I find one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to carry a high-quality imaging machine with me at all times. Also, other than the initial investment, the relative cost of individual photos is inconsequential.
As result, I’m unhindered by weight or cost in the seeing and making of photos.
Does this make for better images? Not necessarily, but it facilitates me to make a more complete record of my travels and capture ordinary scenes such as this view of the Mass-Central at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on a brilliant October 2014 afternoon.
It was a pleasant surprise for me this morning when I checked Facebook and learned that Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt has nominated me as Mr. Railroad in the magazine’s on-line blog Train of Thought.