Irish Rail 225 Crosses Gardner Street in Dublin.


It was just an ordinary day when I made this impromptu view of Irish Rail 225 working a Mark 3 push pull set on Dublin’s Loop Line crossing over Gardner Street Lower.

What was common in 1998 seems pretty neat today. I’m glad I exposed the slide!

To make the most of this photograph, I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Scoolscan5000 then imported the TIF file into Lightroom for contrast and exposure refinement plus colour balance and colour temperature adjustment.


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NEW ENGLAND CENTRAL Elephant Style—Four GP38s Lead 608—Two Slides from 2004.

New England Central 608, working from Palmer, Massachusetts to Willimantic, approaches Mansfield Depot, Connecticut on October 11, 2004.

For today’s Tracking the Light, I fished out a pair of slides I made back in October 2004 during a chase with New England Central 608 south from Palmer, Massachusetts.

On that day the freight was led by four GP38s, all facing southward, and I was seeking a location to capture this unusual event. (For the record, out of the photograph, there was a fifth GP38 in consist facing north).

Although imperfect, owing to clutter and brush in the foreground, I selected this elevated view north of Mansfield Depot.

I scanned the slides last night in preparation for this post. I don’t think they’d ever been out of the box before. Luckily I’d recorded the date and particulars on the slide box which saved me have to scan through my notebooks from 15 years ago.

I do recall that a friend of mine was visiting from across the pond and he was impressed by the ‘colletion of GMs’ as he called them, working that morning’s train.

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Close Cropped Caboose: Central Vermont freight at South Monson.

Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.


Thirty three years ago I made this view of a northward Central Vermont freight crossing Route 32 in South Monson.

(Historically CV had a ‘station’ in South Monson, and another at State Line and these were distinct locations in the railroad’s timetable.)

I exposed this black & white photo with my father’s Rollei Model T set up with a 645-size ‘super slide’ insert and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

One of the challenges of working with the Rollei twin-lens reflex is that the view finder displays a mirror image. This made gauging when to release the shutter of the train especially difficult when it was rolling away, such as in this situation.

The result? I pressed the shutter release a split second sooner than I would have preferred. Of course I didn’t see the problem until after I processed the film

I scanned this negatives, along with others from the day last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. I scaled the file for internet presentation and adjusted contrast in post-processing using Lightroom.

Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.

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Palmer, Massachusetts—Track Changes soon! (Four views on Tracking the Light)


On the way back from some errands this morning (May 18, 2019), I stopped at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts


Although not a wheel was turning, I was fascinated to discover some brand new points waiting for installation near the famous ‘diamond’ crossing (where CSX crosses New England Central) .

Using my Lumix LX7 digital camera I made these views of what appear to be a power derail.

Stay tuned!

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MBTA Green Line at Cleveland Circle.


Last Saturday evening (May 11, 2019), I exposed these digital photographs of Boston’s MBTA Green Line.

At this location three routes effectively converge which makes it an ideal location for shops and car storage.

Decades ago I’d photograph MBTA’s classic PCCs here. With in a few years of my making those images the PCCs were all but banished to the Red Line Mattapan-Ashmont extension. The PCC’s have since become an icon of that route.

Soon MBTA’s streetcar fleet will undergo another transition that will make last week’s photos seem historic.

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Last Saturday evening (May 11, 2019), I exposed these digital photographs of Boston’s MBTA Green Line.

Mass-Central along Route 181 in Palmer.


On the way toward the interchange in Palmer, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch follows and crosses state Route 181.

So often I have driven this way.

Catching a train here isn’t especially difficult since it runs southbound most weekday afternoons, but making a photo without any highway traffic in the way can be really challenging.

All it takes is one truck or a school bus to pull up to the crossing at the last minute and the whole scene changes, and usually not for the better!

On this May day, we were lucky!

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Irish Rail 129 Leads the Friday Norfolk Liner at Kildare.


May Friday Freight.

Years ago among the treats of Friday freight operations in Ireland were the extra moves. One of my favorites was Friday’s Dublin-Waterford Norfolk liner, which tended to get unusual locomotives and operated down-road midday.

On this day, the train had been held in Kildare during a spell of bright sunshine, but when it finally got the signal to proceed down-road clouds dimmed the scene.

Working with a Nikon N90s and a borrowed 300mm lens I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide of Irish Rail 129 leading the Norfolk liner through the crossovers west of Kildare station. This was way back in May 2001—18 years ago!


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CT Rail, Farmington River and Fishermen.

Last Thursday, May 9, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I set up at the former New Haven Railroad stone arch viaduct over the Farmington River at Windsor, Connecticut to catch CT Rail ‘s southward commuter train number 4407 .

When we arrived a line of a half dozen fishermen were in position on the south bank of the river.

Shortly before the train was due to pass, most of them concluded fishing and began to pack up.

It turns out that the Farmington River bridge is more famous as a place to fish than as a place to picture trains. There’s a plaque about the fishing and everything! Who knew?

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.

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Newton Centre—Revisited.

Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.


When I was a young child my family lived in Newton Centre, an historic suburb of Boston located on the old Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, a railroad that had been converted into a trolley line in 1960.

As a five year old, I’d watch MBTA’s PCC cars pass though, typically operated in multiple sets of two and three cars.

The old B&A railroad station was a relic from former times.

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, after dropping my father on the Logan Express bus for a trip to Portugal, I met some fellow photographers and we visited MBTA’s Newton Centre station on the Green Line.

This was the first stop on our photography of MBTA’s trolley car system.

It was a rare sunny day, and I made these digital photos of the trolley cars as they rolled between Boston and Riverside.

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Footbridge and a Two-Bay Hopper: Willimantic Connecticut


Here’s an everyday scene at Willimantic, Connecticut. An ordinary two-bay covered hopper and the 110 year-old pedestrian bridge over the yard.

As is too often the case in 2019, the covered hopper has more decoration than intended by its owner.

Exposed in May 2019 using a Lumix LX7.

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Sun in the Ware River Valley!


Last Monday, May 6, 2019, was the first properly sunny day after many days of gloomy overcast weather.

In the afternoon, Paul Goewey, John Peters and I followed the Mass-Central Railroad’s line northward toward South Barre. We intercepted the southward freight. This was led by GP38 1750 with the short hood in the lead.

At Ware, it worked a short surviving segment of the old Central Massachusetts, which had run parallel to the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch (the line that comprises most of Mass-Central’s present operation). This old line is used to reach Kanzaki Paper, one of several carload shippers in greater Ware.

I exposed these photos with FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

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Roscrea, County Tipperary—Only a Test.

Here’s a scan of one of my negative strips showing the exposure bracket.


Hiding in my negative file was a page of 12 photographs.

This was a test roll from late 2003. I believe I was testing my recently purchased Rollei Model T; and I may been testing exposure/processing for Fuji Neopan 400 film.

In either case, I’d set up my camera fixed to a Bogen tripod on the Irish Rail platform at Roscrea, County Tipperary and made photos at dusk of the signal cabin and station.

This is on the lightly used Nenagh Branch, which even today retains its old cabins and embodies the rustic charm of a rural branch line.

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CT Rail Spring—Connecticut River Crossing.


We are approaching CT Rail’s first anniversary of service in June 2019.

So this has been is the first full Spring to ride and photograph the new Connecticut sponsored passenger service on the ‘Hartford Line.’

Last Thursday, photographer Mike Gardner and I headed to Warehouse Point, across the Connecticut River from Windsor Locks to make a few photos.

It was dull in the morning, but by midday the sun beamed through the cloud cover and made for some nice light with fresh Spring greenery along the riverbanks.

We caught CT Rail 4406 on its northward run to Springfield, Massachusetts on the old New Haven Railroad bridge.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Rainy Day in Lille.

It was a pretty damp afternoon on my very brief visit to SNCF’s Gare de Lille Flanders.

On my previous visits to Lille, I’d changed trains at the modern high-speed international station in the Lille suburbs called SNCF Gare de Lille-Europe.

By contrast Lille-Flanders is an historic station in the city center that blends architecture from several eras.

The interior of the shed is a wonderful place to picture trains, as SNCF’s modern railcars make for a dynamic contrast with the station environs.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Amtrak’s Vermonter passes West Northfield.


In late April, Mike Gardner and I made visit to the old graveyard at West Northfield, Massachusetts (south of the junction at East Northfield on the old Boston & Maine), to photograph Amtrak 56 (the Vermonter) on its way to St Albans, Vermont.

Light cloud softened the afternoon sun, which was slightly back-lit at this location for a northward train. To make the most of the old stones and put the entire train in the picture, I opted for my 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

I made minor adjustments to the RAW file in Lightroom to present better contrast in the JPG image presented here.

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May 10, 2007 was the Big Day for the Railroad Never Sleeps


On May 10, 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleeps published by Voyageur Press. (The book is now out of print and may be collectible).

I’d selected May 10thbecause of the historic significance of the day. Not only was America’s First Transcontinental Railroad completed on this day in 1869, but several over significant railroads events occurred on this day, including the famous speed run of New York Central 999 west of Batavia, New York in 1892.

On May 10, 2007, I played an active role in making photographs and coordinated with Genesee Valley Transportation to ride a locomotive on their former New York Central Falls Road (now Falls Road Railroad) and boarded the train at Lockport, New York.

My aim was to make photos of the crew to capture the feeling of an active short line railroad. Hal Reiser shadowed the train making photos from the ground, and at one point collected me so I could also make trackside views.


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Photo exposed on Fujichrome using a Rolleiflex Model T. Middleport, New York on the Falls Road.

On this Day: Beer by Rail!



On 10 May 2005, I exposed this color slide of Irish Rail’s Claremorris Liner from Claude Road in Dublin.

This was toward the end of an era; Irish Rail would only move kegs of beer by rail for another year or so after this image was exposed.

At the time I was working with an F3T fitted with a 180mm lens to make the most of the glinting kegs as the train worked west into the setting sun. To minimize flare, I shaded the front element of my lens with my trusty notebook.

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Orange Paint and Soft Sun: New England Central 611 at East Northfield.


Monday, May 6, 2019, we set up at the classic location on the bridge at the junction East Northfield, where the New England Central and Boston & Maine lines come together, immediately south of the Vermont-Massachusetts state line.

Paul Goewey, John Peters and I had convened in Palmer and traveled north along the New England Central hoping to catch 611 on its southward run toward Palmer, which it does most weekday mornings.

We caught it several times, as pictured in Tracking the Light on May 7, 2019, before proceeding to this location.

Elevation and soft morning sun made for an excellent setting to picture the train in action. I made these views using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

We didn’t rest here, and continue south with the train to make more photographs.

FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.


Dark Sky Over Donner Pass—150th Anniversary of America’s 1st Transcon.

Multiple pass scan adjusted.
Unadjusted scan with inky shadows.


In the early 1990s, Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass was the domain of EMD Tunnel Motors—distinctive six-motor locomotives specifically configured for the route to better accommodate the difficulties operating in tunnels and snow-sheds at high altitudes.

So finding matched sets of modern General Electric four-motor diesels (such as those pictured here) leading freights proved to be highly unusual in the greater scheme of daily operations.

I made this photo in June 1992 at Yuba Pass. Although it has appeared in several places, including Pacific Rail News, I thought it was timely to present it on Tracking the Light. Friday, May 10, 2019 will be the 150th anniversary of the completion of America’s ‘First Transcontinental Railroad’ of which the original Donner Pass crossing was a key component.

This image was exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens. To compensate for the inky shadows, I made a multi-pass scan using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and then imported the hi-res TIF file into Lightroom for adjustment. What you see here are both the unaltered scan and the adjusted versions, both scaled as Jpgs for internet presentation.

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Hybrids, Gare Luxembourg—Four Photos on 8 April 2019


I’ll risk condemnation from the purists.

A reader wondered about exterior views of Gare Luxembourg.

While I have some views of the station, I’ll admit I was distracted by the hybrid bus charging station in front of Gare Luxembourg. I’d never seen anything like this charging station before.

The light was flat when I made these Lumix LX7 photos a month ago on my brief visit to Luxembourg City.

The charging pantograph is fixed to the gantry, not the hybrid bus. Each bus pulls below the gantry to receive its charge.

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New England Central Spring at Vernon, Vermont!


Yesterday, May 6, 2019, my old friends Paul Goewey, John Peters and I made a foray to Brattleboro to intercept New England Central’s 611 on its southward run to Palmer. We didn’t have to wait very long!

At Vernon, we paused to make photographs. I’ve always been partial to the view with the farm and the unusually tall tree.

The morning sun was lightly dappled by clouds making for some slight diffused light. Working with a Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1, I made a series of photographs as the freight roared passed. Soon we continued our pursuit, aiming to make more photos in the lush Spring greenery and low morning sun

Lumix LX7
FujiFilm XT1.
FujiFilm XT1.

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Irish Rail 085 at Enfield, December 2003.


The distant roar of a class 071 GM diesel announced the approach of Irish Rail’s up Sligo passenger (train) at Enfield Cabin.

Working with a Rollei model T twin-lens reflex, I made this black & white photograph of Irish Rail 085 leading Mark 2 carriages in December 2003.

At the time, there was nothing remarkable about an 071 working the Dublin-Sligo passenger trains, yet this was soon to change.

I had made one my first photos of an Irish Rail 071 diesel at Enfield more than five years earlier.

Exposed on 120 size Fuji Neopan 400 and processed in Agfa Rodinal Special (R09) followed by selenium toning.

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Kodachrome on Kodachrome: Donner Pass, February 1990.


In continuing the celebration of the 150 anniversary of completion of America’s First Transcontinental, I present this view of a ‘Kodachrome’ painted Southern Pacific ‘Tunnel Motor’ on Donner Pass.

In the mid-1980s, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe anticipated merger and so painted their respective locomotives in a bright yellow and red merger livery, similar to those colors once used on the familiar Kodak Kodachrome film boxes.

A few locomotives were lettered for the proposed new railroad, SPSF. Executives felt certain the merger would be approved.

The Interstate Commerce Commission wasn’t impressed and refused the merger, twice, so ‘SPSF’ came to mean ‘shouldn’t paint so fast.’

I made this view of an eastward SP train at milepost 140 near Colfax, California on the ascent of Donner Pass on February 9, 1990, using a Leica M2 and, yes, Kodachrome film!

It was one of the last trains I photographed with an SP locomotive in the lead with full-lighting package (headlight, oscillating headlight, red oscillating light and class lights) and dressed in the Kodachrome scheme.  By 1990, both of these features were on the wane.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is SP_8286_eb_mp140_near_Colfax_Calif_Feb2_1990_Kodachrome_livery_KM©BrianSolomon_592858-3.jpg
Colfax, California on the ascent of Donner Pass on February 9, 1990

Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass Crossing—Newcastle.


In the spirit of the first Transcontinental 150thanniversary celebrations, I’m posting these views that I made at Newcastle, California on an exploratory trip over Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass in November 1989.

I was perched atop the tunnel, railroad-east of where the line crosses Interstate-80 on its ascent from Roseville Yard to Donner Summit. The roar of EMD 645 diesels made for a great sound show as the train disappeared into the tunnel below me.

Although not my most memorable photos on Donner, these were among the very first that I made. Thousands more followed over the years.


Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with Leitz 135mm lens.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with Leitz 135mm lens.


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Northern Loco on the Beet!


Gotta love the square format!

It was raining in Dublin, but clear and bright in Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford on 13 December 2003 when we visited to observe Irish Rail’s sugar beet operations.

Working with a Rollei Model T that I’d bought in San Francisco a few weeks earlier, I exposed a sequence of 120-size black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X of NI Railways 112 (on long-term loan to Irish Rail) that was shunting four-wheel sugar beet wagons for loading.

To obtain greater shadow detail and superior overall tonality, I rate the film at ISO 200 (one stop slower than the advertised 400 ISO) and processed it in a dilute bath of Ilfotec HC high-contrast developer.

For presentation here, I scanned the negatives last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and then scaled/sized the TIFs for internet viewing.

You could make wall-size prints from the original negatives.

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Cross-lit Crossing the Connecticut.

In late April, after an interlude to photograph Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, Mike Gardner and I resumed our photo chase of New England Central’s northbound 611 (Brattleboro, VT to Palmer, Massachusetts and return), that would soon follow Amtrak’s train on it way north toward Brattleboro.

We arrived at the west end of the old Central Vermont Railway bridge over the Connecticut River (near the junction with Pan Am’s Boston & Maine at East Northfield) shortly before the freight crossed it.

Mike assumed a position at the classic location on the south side of the bridge, while I improvised with a view on the north side.

Why photograph from the ‘dark side’?

In this instance, I feel that the north side of the bridge offers a superior view of the setting, while cross lighting the train adds a sense of drama.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto.


Lumix LX7 photo.


Lumix LX7 photo.

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Irish Rail at Carlow—21 DEC 2003,


A visit to Irish Rail’s Carlow station on the shortest day of 2003, yielded some classic black & white photos, including these two views. The Cravens were working a scheduled service from Waterford to Dublin.

Working with a recently acquired Rollei Model T (the third such cameras I’d used over a 30 year span), I exposed a single roll of 120-size Fuji Neopan 400. The Rollei made a large square negative, which I really liked.

At the time my choice process for this film was using Agfa Rodinal Special (R09) at a ratio of 1 to 31 parts with water for about 3 mins 45 seconds. In this case I selenium toned the negatives for improved highlight detail.

Final presentation here included scanning using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and some minor adjustments to contrast and cropping with Lightroom.

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Portrait-View: Boeing Silhouette on the Streets of San Francisco.


If this image seems familiar, it is because it’s been published on several occasions, first in Passenger Train Journal issue 210 in the mid-1990s.

It is among my favorite view of the San Francisco Muni light rail.

Working with my old Nikon F3T and a 200mm f4 lens, I made this photo of an in-bound L-Taraval car (worked by a 1970s-era Boeing-Vertol LRV) as it crested Ulloa Street on its way down toward West Portal in early December 1990.

The remarkable consideration is that this is a Kodachrome 25 slide. My shutter speed was about 1/60thof a second. When I lived in San Francisco, I had an un-cropped hand-printed Type R print of this scene pinned to my wall.

The maze of wires just makes this photo!

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Gare Luxembourg—Six Views of an Impressive Railway Station.


Gare Luxembourg is Luxembourg’s primary passenger railway hub. This impressive station hosts trains from Belgium, France and Germany as well as those from Luxeumbourg’s own railway, known by the initials CFL .

CFL is the abbreviation for the state railway undertaking; 

Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois.

CFL has textbook perfect track; and from my brief experience its trains were clean and operated to time.

Gare Luxembourg is a wonderful example of classic Golden Age railway station architecture that has been tastefully modernized in the latest European styles.

Luxembourg is among the countries featured in my book; Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe. See Kalmbach Hobby Store:

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304

I made these recent views using my Lumix LX7.

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Millers Falls High Bridge—Revisited.


The early 20thcentury pin-connected deck truss over the Millers River at its namesake Millers Falls, Massachusetts is one of my favorite places to picture New England Central freights.

On our chase of New England Central last week (Thursday April 25, 2019) photographer Mike Gardner and I arrived at Millers Falls several minutes ahead of 611 on its return run to Bellows Falls, Vermont from Palmer, Massachusetts.

We set up on the sidewalk of the Route 63 highway bridge over the river. For these views I opted for a more southerly position on the road bridge in order to feature budding trees that indicates the arrival of Spring in the Millers valley.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed several digital views as the train’s leading locomotives eased over the antique spans. To me, the SD45/SD40 style locomotives  seem out of proportion with the steam era bridge, which of course is half the attraction, long may it last!

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Gilbertville: Mass-Central, the old Mills, and the Boston & Albany Station.


It was a scene made for black & white; Monochrome in the Ware River Valley.

Last week, I exposed these views on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 105mm Nikkor prime telephoto (not a zoom) at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.

I processed the film with two stage development to my custom tailored process and scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.

Psssst! Don’t be too disappointed, but I also made a few digital photos in color!

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June 2019 TRAINS and Precision Scheduled Railroading.


See page 12 of the June 2019 TRAINS Magazine for my monthly column, where in this issue I investigate perceptions of Precision Scheduled Railroading. Read it! You might be surprised.

June 2019 Trains Magazine; main cover photo by Doug Koontz.


I illustrated my column using a photo I made in January of a tail-end DPU (radio controlled remote locomotive) working an empty coal train on Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road mainline at Duplainville, Wisconsin. I exposed this with my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

I also podcast twice a month on Trains: see Sound Cloud for a complete listing of episodes:

Photo by Colm O’Callaghan

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Tara goes Thump in the Gloom of Night!

It was dry evening a few weeks back, when photographer Jay Monaghan and I ventured down to Dublin’s North Wall yards seeking the laden Tara Mines train.

First we caught it arriving from East Road, then we legged it down to Alexandra Road to make photos of it arriving at Dublin Port.

This one of the only places in Ireland where tracks share space with a road, making it a distinctive place to picture trains.

I’m fond of this atmospheric trailing view exposed in black & white using Nikon F3 with an old-school Nikkor non-AI f1.4 50mm lens.

My film choice was Superpan 200, processed using multistage development.

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Railway photography by Brian Solomon

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