London is among the world’s great cities. Last week I made my second visit to the British capital this year. While exploring the city and meeting with friends I traveled using London Transport, including the famous Underground.
This year London’s Underground celebrates its 150th anniversary. It is not only the world’s oldest ‘subway,’ but also certainly one of the most interesting and most photogenic.
Using my Lumix LX3 I made a variety of images of the Underground. The camera’s compact size and relative ease of use makes it an ideal tool for photographing in a subway.
For outdoor images I set the camera’s ISO at 80. When underground, I set the ISO at 200, and use the aperture priority (‘A’ on the top dial) while dialing in 1/3 stop overexposure. I generally use the auto white balance, which seems to work reasonably well.
I’ve found that the digital camera is vastly superior to my old film cameras for making photos of London’s Underground. However, I have plenty of color slides of the Tube and Underground lines from earlier trips.
Check upcoming posts for more views of London Transport.
The 747 takes a somewhat circuitous route through the Dublin City center. After encircling Bus Aras (Dublin’s central intercity bus station) it wanders along the north quays and then passed the North Wall on its way toward the Port Tunnel.
On this portion of the route, the bus crosses Irish Rail at grade on the line that runs down the Alexandra Road into the port. I was on the upper deck of the 747, and as we approached the crossing I withdrew my Lumix LX3 from my bag.
Most travelers on an airport bus would dread the possibility of being delayed by a freight train. However, I was delighted when the traffic light turned red in front of the bus, and I notice a man in an Irish Rail orange vest with a red flag hovering by the street corner. This could only mean one thing . . .
And there it was! Great! Acting quickly, I opened the side window of the bus and positioned my camera. In a moment’s time, Irish Rail’s 071-class locomotive, number 081 eased across the road with the empty Tara Mines train in tow. The flagman walked the train over the crossing to insure maximum safety. I exposed the sequence of photos displayed here.
It was only a momentary delay. Soon the traffic light returned to green and the bus continued on its way. Oddly, I don’t think any of the other bus passengers shared my enthusiasm for the fortuity of the train’s passing. Can’t please everyone, I suppose.
In 1989, Napa Valley Wine Train began public operations on a former Southern Pacific branch through its namesake valley. I first explored this railway in October 1989. A little more than a year later, Brian Jennison and I spent a very productive day photographing the line on Kodachrome.
Brian lent me a Nikon 300mm lens for this photograph. I’ve always like the image because the extreme compression offered by the long telephoto accentuated the classic lines of the Montreal Locomotive Works diesels (and the steam era bell on the top of the lead unit) while offering a pleasing juxtaposition between the train and the background foliage.
In the early 1990s, I made several productive trips to the California Tehachapis. Southern Pacific owned and operated the line over the mountain, while Santa Fe operated by virtue of trackage rights.
Yet at that time, Santa Fe ran about three times the number of trains as SP. On this morning, T.S. Hoover and I were set-up on the east slope of the mountain. While catching a Santa Fe FP45 in the ‘Super Fleet-Warbonnet’ livery leading was certainly a coup, it wasn’t especially unusual.
Dry desert air and clear skies were nearly ideal conditions for Kodachrome 25 film. This was one of many choice chromes exposed that day. I wish I could turn back the clock!
The locomotive survives at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. I made some more recent photographs of it on visit in June 2008.
I was waiting to catch Dublin’s LUAS from Heuston Station to the city centre last Saturday evening (20 July 2013) when I spotted this advertising tram outbound.
I grabbed my Lumix, set it for ‘Aperture Priority’ (the ‘A’ on the top dial) and dialed in a 1/3-exposure override to compensate for the inadequate contrast ratio caused by sodium vapor streetlights against a dark sky.
As explained in earlier posts (click here), many camera meters expect daylight-type situations, and thus calculate exposure based on these parameters and this tends to result in under exposure of nighttime scenes. Since the camera meter doesn’t know what the scene looks like, it is important to make the adjustment manually.
I’ve found from past experience that a 1/3 to 2/3s stop override (in other words + 1/3 or 2/3s in the exposure menu) general provides the necessary compensation. Another alternative is to make a test photo and then expose manually based on the histogram output. This required more time than I had, so I went for the easy solution.
I faced another problem. No tripod. So, I relied on my fall back alternative of placing the camera on the ground while propping up the lens with my spare Lumix battery. This has the secondary effect of providing an unusually dramatic angle.
One last complication: I had only one exposure left on the camera’s card! I knew this and so had to get it right with one try. The tram only stopped long enough for me to make that one exposure anyway.
It was nearly a full moon, which gave me a little bit extra skylight. If I’d had more time and more exposures, I may have made a second photo with a 2/3s exposure override. But that’s a minor point. Hopefully, I have another opportunity to photograph this unusual tram. Perhaps next time in daylight
In previous posts I focused on the human side of Irish Railway Record Society’s Dublin-Cork excursion on 20 July 2013.
However, I also made my own share of classic views showing Saturday’s railway excursion at identifiable locations. I’ve displayed a few view here. In addition to digital image I also exposed color slides at key locations.
See posts from the last few days for more views of Irish Railway Record Society’s 20 July 2013 diesel hauled trip on Irish Rail to Cork, Cobh and Midleton.
Among the photographic events was the rare locomotive hauled consist on Cobh and Midleton Branches. The Cobh branch has been exclusively a railcar operation since the mid-2000s, while the Midleton line has only seen railcar operation since its reopening a few years ago.
In time-honoured tradition, at every photo stop, photographers rushed to snap images of the train. Occasionally, an individual entranced by the fresh paint on locomotive 071 or fascinated by some other peculiarity of operation or equipment, would wander haplessly in front of a line of eager photographers. Shouts of ‘Hey!’ ‘Oy!’, ‘Down in front!’ and the like would ensue.
Especially amusing was when a particularly oblivious passenger or passerby would drift with their backs to the anxious photo line (time is precious on these outings as only a few minutes are allowed at each stop), and proceed to linger staring in wonder at the train. In such cases a diplomat would be elected to negotiate a solution.
A Cobh, I was queried by a German woman as to why so many people were photographing the train. It didn’t appear in the slightest bit unusual to her. Significance is in the eye of the observer. I explained that, ‘locomotives were never operated on this line, and the locomotive that brought the train down was in fresh paint, and that the train had carried the photographers for this purpose.’ She seemed satisfied with that.
While I made plenty of images of the train, 071 and 073 and etc, I also focused on the people. From my experience, images of people surrounding the train tend to be more interesting than the train, and tend to have greater value in the end.
I traveled on the Irish Railway Record Society’s “Special Train” consisting of locomotive hauled Cravens carriages to Kent Station Cork, with side trips Cobh, and Midleton operated on 20 July 2013.
My reasons for traveling were largely to visit with friends on and about the train while enjoying a spin around Cork.
The special was unusual. The carriages were Railway Preservation Society’s former Irish Rail Cravens. It’s been nearly seven years since the old Cravens were withdrawn from regular service, thus ending Irish Rail’s routine use of traditional steam heated stock.
More usual was operation of a pair of Irish Rail’s General Motors-built class 071 diesel-electric locomotives. In the last few years, most Irish Rail trains have been operated with various classes of self-propelled rail cars. The exceptions being Dublin-Cork push-pull trains and the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise, both of which routinely call for class 201 diesels.
Thus, the 071 diesels have been largely relegated to freight and per-way (maintenance) service. The days of 071s roaring in ‘run 8’ (maximum throttle) down the Cork mainline hauling Mark II, Mark III or Cravens carriages in regular service is a memory.
Pairs of 071s were never common and multiple working of 071 virtually unknown (although it has been known to have occurred, at least once). So the ability to travel behind a pair of 071s was indeed very unusual. On Saturday’s trip only one of the locomotives was working at a time.
Also, this trip featured freshly painted 071-class leader, now officially known as ’92 60 0117071-7′ in an effort to comply with European common numbering. It’s still just engine 071 to the rest of us.
So far as I know, this was the first scheduled passenger service with an 071 in Irish Rail’s new gray and yellow livery. While, I’d previously photographed 077 (pardon me for not using its full European number) in this paint, this was my first opportunity to make photographs of 071 in gray.
I was impressed with the time keeping. I enjoyed the company on board the train and on the platforms. All of Irish Rail’s and IRRS staff performed admirably, efficiently, and safely. On the trips to Cobh and Midleton, and especially on the return run to Dublin, driver Ken Fox showed exceptional professionalism and skill of operation.
Yet, what impressed me the most, and by far the most unusual aspect of the trip, was they call here ‘wall to wall sun’. Although, I’m told there’s been a spell of good weather in Ireland, I cannot recall the last time I’ve taken an entirely cloud free railway trip in Ireland!
Orange Engine at Stafford Springs, Ct., and Irish Rail’s IWT Liner in Dublin.
Last week I made these photos, nearly exactly 24 hours apart (one in the morning, the other in the afternoon).
The first image shows New England Central’s freshly painted GP402-L 3015 leading a southward freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. I was delighted to finally get this elusive orange engine operating on a road-freight in daylight.
The next image was made in Dublin, after a trans Atlantic crossing courtesy of Aer Lingus. This shows locomotive 073 struggling along with the second IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin, Ireland.
Later, I heard through the grapevine that 073 failed a few miles down the line and require assistance.
Both images were made with my Canon EOS 7D. Also both feature 1970s-era General Motors diesels singly hauling freight under bright sunny skies.
About four miles east of the center of Palmer (Depot Village) CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline passes a bucolic setting at the bottom of a broad sweeping field as it heads up the Quaboag River Valley. This is best viewed from Route 67, not far east of the split with Route 20.
One summer’s evening more than 30 years ago, my father and I stood out in the field to make a photo of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (train 449). Since that time I’ve returned many times to photograph trains.
I’ve paired two sets of images here. The black & white photograph was made on March 15, 1986 (‘Beware the Ides of March!’). The color images I exposed a week ago Sunday (July 14, 2013).
Among the changes to the scene over the years has been an increase in undergrowth. A more dramatic change was the recent installation of a voltaic farm (solar panels) on the northside of the field. This alteration has greatly changed the character of the place.
According to an article in a recent Palmer Journal Register, perimeter fencing may soon encircle the voltaic farm. Undoubtedly this progress will further improve the photographs made here beyond all previous measures of aethetic virtue.
Although Palmer is a relatively small town, it has long been the focus of railway activity. Today, it hosts yards for both New England Central and CSX, as well as nominal terminal facilities for Mass-Central.
CSX has a four-mile dispatchers controlled siding the runs from CP79 to CP83 (the numbers are based loosely interpret mileage from South Station, Boston). Just past the west switch at CP83 is the level crossing with New England Central—colloquially known as the Palmer Diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant occupies the old Union Station between the two lines.
After 10pm, trains converged on CP83. A CSX westbound on the main track met an eastward freight running via the controlled siding, as New England Central’s northward job 606 was looking to cross CSX to double its train together before heading toward Vermont.
The awkward nature of the former Central Vermont yard at Palmer complicates operations over the CSX diamond. Not only is the yard too short to hold long trains, but the yard was built on a grade which crests at the CSX (former Boston & Albany crossing).
Challenges for railroaders produce opportunities for photography, especially in the evening hours. As the railroads weaved their trains through Palmer, I made a series of photos.
However, time was catching me up: I’d had a long day and by 11pm, I needed a bit of that elusive commodity—sleep. As Bob Buck would have said, I was the ‘hero’, and departed as more trains were focused on Palmer. The approach lit signals at CP83 were still lit when I hit the road. The regular gang can report on what I missed!
As a result of my careful marketing analysis, I’ve determine the best ways for Tracking the Light to go viral are:
1) Encourage Sperry to plan a safely staged ‘derailment’ on Dublin’s LUAS route (to demonstrate the dangers of hidden rail fractures, perhaps) using former a Central Vermont Railway switcher painted in Irish Rail grey and then photograph it on a dull day using my Lumix LX-3. (Along the lines of the theatrically arranged ‘cornfield meets’ of the late Victorian era.)
2) Hire a Korean guy with sunglasses to dance around near the tracks. (Gangnam Style) —hey, with more than 1.5 Billion hits, something must be working, right??
3) Offer free Twinkies to all Tracking the Light subscribers.
4) Plan a merger with LeakyWiks.
5) Encourage everyone who enjoys the site to spread the word (and links) with their friends and urge regular visitors to subscribe! (there’s a box for comments toward the bottom of the posts and a box to tick that enables the subscription feature—admittedly this is a bit Kafkaesque, and hopefully I’ll find a better means of enabling subscriptions soon!)
Incidentally, my elaborate plans to import a German electric for demonstration were to be aborted, unfortunately Amtrak didn’t get the memo! 😉
It’s always nice to be the first to catch a freshly painted locomotive on its maiden run. Or, failing that, to at least see it in its first few days of operation. Or weeks.
When you regularly observe railway operations, often you get lucky and stumble upon new things as they happen.
When I’m in New England, I regularly check New England Central to see what’s going on. I’ve been observing the railroad on and off since its days as the Central Vermont. My earlier posts have reflected this on-going interest.
Lately, it seemed as just about everyone has seen one of the railroad’s freshly painted orange engines . Everyone, that is, except me.
A few months ago, Genesee & Wyoming took control of New England Central’s parent company, Rail America, and to make its mark on the new properties it rapidly began placing locomotives in G&W corporate colors.
I’ve been familiar with Genesee & Wyoming since the days when its was just a New York State short line moving salt from the mine Retsof for interchange with Conrail.
My normally good luck didn’t favor my photography of G&W locomotives on New England Central. Much to my astonishment, just about everyone I know seems to have had better luck with seeing orange engines than I.
A few weeks back, I had a fortuitous meeting with the retired Central Vermont trainmaster at the bank. He was delighted to report having seen an orange engine roll through town, and keenly advised me to ‘get some pictures, quick, before it gets dirty’. Thanks. I’ll work on that.
Yet, every time I’ve swung by the yard, or rolled by a freight, I’d see the same old blue and yellow GP38s that have ruled the railroad for 18 years. Or perhaps some of the recently acquired former Union Pacific or Florida East Coast engines.
One night a few weeks back, I’d been in Palmer, but skipped my normal visit trackside (owing to rain and the late hour—not that this ever gave me pause before!).
I was informed the next morning that the elusive orange engine had been by the yard office, just out of sight. Poor show (on my part.)
Last friday I was again in Palmer (Massachusetts) to meet Rich Reed, Bill Keay & co. for dinner. Before dinner I stopped by the station. I heard a local working, and looked in my rear view mirror. And there! There it was! I made a few photos, and then returned later to make night shots.
Luck, after all, improves with time. Right?
New England Central’s elusive GP40L 3015 pierces the gloom at Palmer with its headlights. Time exposure with Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens.
At last, an orange engine, and holding still long enough for a time exposure portrait.
Classic Image in California’s Feather River Canyon.
In the early hours of May 18, 1990, I departed Sacramento, California destined for the former Western Pacific mainline through the Feather River Canyon.
On the drive, I saw a pair of eastward trains in the Central Valley north (railroad timetable east) of Marysville. This sighting influenced my decision to work the lower regions of the canyon, rather than driving through on Highway 70 toward Keddie and Portola, as I had done on previous trips.
A bit west of Pulga, there’s a long and winding dirt road that drops from Highway 70 down toward the North Fork Bridge. Finding it is counter intuitive. On an earlier trip I’d become rather lost trying to find the bridge. A Northern California DeLorme Atlas ultimately provided me the necessary navigational tools.
Having reached the bottom of the road, I hiked into position before 8am and waited on the side of a hill overlooking the modern open spandrel concrete arch bridge. This is late-era construction, built in the 1960s when construction of the Oroville Dam resulted in flooding of the lower Feather River’s North Fork which required relocation of Western Pacific’s line out of the canyon via a series of tunnels and bridges.
At 8:15 am, Union Pacific DASH8-40C 9174 rolled westward across the bridge with an APL double stack train. The sun hadn’t fully hit the bridge and I was happy that the stacks bought me additional time on my anticipated pair of eastbound trains.
The westward stacks must have met the first eastbound at James, a CTC siding immediately west of the Canyon (and another favorite place for photos). Just 20 minutes after the stacks had passed, the first eastward train emerged from the tunnel on the west side of the bridge. I made several exposures, bracketing from f4.5 to nearly f5.6 1/125th of a second on Kodachrome 25 film.
Exposure in the Feather River Canyon can be deceiving. Because of the depth of the canyon, less skylight reaches the tracks than in open territory. Also, the dark green trees and bushes lining the canyon walls absorb a considerable amount of light. The result is that direct and unfiltered sunlight isn’t as bright as it seems.
Careful use of my handheld meter was crucial in calculating the accurate exposure, but I still felt compelled to make fine adjustments as the train rolled into view.
The second eastward train was 20 minutes behind the first. I stayed for the rest of the day in the lower reaches of the canyon and photographed five more Union Pacific trains by 6:09 pm.
Caption: Union Pacific C30-7 2474 works an eastward train over the North Fork Bridge near Poe, California on May 18, 1990. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm lens on Kodachrome film. The camera was mounted on a Bogan 3021 tripod with a ball head.
I rarely post photos the same day I make them. Today is an exception. Why? Because, I feel like sharing this image now rather than waiting. It’s a photo I made a little more than an hour ago of New England Central’s southward freight running from Palmer to Willimantic, Connecticut.
I exposed this using my Canon EOS 7D and 28-135mm zoom lens. The flexibility of the zoom allowed me to more easily frame the locomotives with grade crossing signals at the right. The train was still en route to Willimantic by the time I was home and downloaded the images.
NOTICE: Tracking the Light was ‘off line’ for several hours during July 14 and 15th, 2013 as a result of maintenance to the host-site. Tracking the Light should now be functioning normally. Brian apologizes for any inconvenience.
Kodachrome was the best medium for photographing the rising sun.
I made this photograph with Mel Patrick and T.S. Hoover on the morning of September 4, 1996. We were positioned on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western at the aptly named CTC siding called ‘Solitude’ (population zero) in the desert east of Green River.
Wild fires in Idaho had polluted the air with particulates. During the day this was only barely noticeable, but it made for stunningly red moments at sunrise and sunset since the particulate matter acts as a filter and alters the natural spectrum of sunlight.
Since sunlight passes through more atmosphere at sunrise and sunset than during the height of the day the filtration effect is accentuated.
Kodachrome had two advantages when working with this type of filtered light. Firstly its spectral sensitivity made the most of the red light. Secondly, the inherent quality of the film’s silver grain structure preserved the outline of the sun despite extreme overexposure, while the latitude of the film allowed for an exceptionally broad range for exposure.
Other than the particulate matter in the air, I didn’t use any special filtration to make this image.
NOTICE: Tracking the Light was ‘off line’ for several hours during July 14 and 15th, 2013 as a result of maintenance to the host-site. Tracking the Light should now be functioning normally. Brian apologizes for any inconvenience. Normal service will resume momentarily.
Brand New General Electric Locomotives at a Classic Location.
On the morning of July 9, 2013, I visited State Line Tunnel on CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline. This is a favorite place to catch trains in action on the line.
The air was heavy with moisture and as a result sound carried exceptionally well. I arrived at my location at 6:48 am. At 6:54, I could hear an eastward train blowing for a crossing near Chatham, New York, approximately 10 miles to the west (as per the timetable). At 6:56, the train reported a ‘clear’ signal aspect over the scanner.
Since the only signal in the area is located at CP 171 (the control point east end of the siding at East Chatham) I knew the train was about to cross the New York State Thruway. I then could trace the progress of the train as it sounded for various crossings in Canaan. By 7:04 am, I could cleared hear the engines working upgrade.
A 7:08, CSX’s intermodal train Q012 came into view. In the lead were three factory-clean General Electric ‘Evolution-Series’ diesel-electrics in the 3100-series (model ES44AC). As modelers might say, ‘right out of the box.’ Nice!
The train roared into the tunnel below me as I exposed a sequence of images with my Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens. I’d brought a tripod, but opted not to use it, as hand held gave me greater flexibility.
About 40 minutes later, I heard a westward train sounding for Stateline crossing. I relocated, and made images of CSX light engines exiting the west portal of the tunnel.
Until late-1988, this line had directional double track. Since then, just a single main track passes through the tunnel. The railroad uses the 1912-era bore, leaving the older 1840s-era bore void of track.
SERVICE NOTICE: Tracking the Light will soon be undergoing an upgrade which may result in a temporary service disruption of a day or more.
The other day, I was showing Tim Doherty some photo locations around Three Rivers, Massachusetts. I described to him how the railroad once had a spur into the old Tampax factory.
The spur (siding) had a switch off the mainline near the station (demolished many years ago), then crossed Main Street and made a sharp curve behind the liquor store before crossing Bridge Street. There’s still vestiges of this track today.
Back in 1984, Dan Howard was visiting from Needham and he and I drove around the Palmer area making railway photos (as you do). The prize of the day, was this photo of CV’s SW1200 1510 working the Tampax factory spur on the Bridge Street Crossing.
It is one of the few photos I have of a CV switcher working in the Palmer area, and one of the few times I caught a rail movement on the Tampax spur. (Might creative minds develop some accompanying humor ??)
This photo was exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 200 slide film with my Leica 3A using my 50mm Summitar lens. It was a sultry dull day, and not the best for photography. While this is not a world class image, it captures a scene never to be repeated.
I made this image during my senior year of high school. I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but on that day I’d followed Central Vermont Railway’s southward freight from Palmer to Stafford. I made photos of it south of downtown Monson off Route 32, and at the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line.
This view in downtown Stafford Springs has always intrigued me. The railroad runs tight to a row of buildings along the main street in town. Today, the brick building featured in the photograph hosts a trendy coffee shop where I sometimes meet my friend Roger Ingraham to wait for trains to pass and discuss photography.
In 2013, New England Central operates the railroad, but the scene hasn’t changed all that much. I still make photos here from time to time.
I exposed this image with my old Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens, and used a Weston Master 3 light meter to assist in exposure calculation. I processed the film myself in Microdol-X. Typically, I used a weak formula to save money. By doing so, I inadvertently avoided over developing my negatives (which was a flawed inclination of mine at the time).
I made a few minor contrast modifications in post processing and cleaned up a few small spots and scratches on this nearly 30 year-old 35mm negative.
Yesterday (July 10, 2013), I posted night photos I made in Palmer on June 28, 2013. I mentioned that my night photography efforts were part of a long standing tradition. So I dug up this image of the Palmer station exposed nearly three decades earlier.
This was undoubtedly made on a Friday evening. A thick fog from the Quaboag River had enveloped the valley. In the station parking lot, and out of sight, Bob Buck is holding court.
That night I made several views of the Palmer station in silhouette. All were exposed with my old Leica 3A and a 50mm lens, probably a Canon screwmount which I favored at the time. I was using my father’s Linhof tripod to support the camera. Exposure was calculated strictly from experience, and was probably about 30 seconds at f2.8.
Interestingly, just the other day (July 9, 2013) I had the opportunity to interview Jim Shaughnessy about the night photography techniques he used to capture steam locomotives on film back in the 1950s. While similar to mine, his approach was very different and he perfected it more than three decades before my image was exposed.
Where I used 35mm film and strictly ambient light for this image, Jim tended to use a 4×5 camera and a skilled combination of ambient and artificial flash.
Of course, I was well acquainted with Jim’s work by the time I made this photo. There has been a copy of Donald Duke’s 1961 book Night Train on our shelf for as long as I can remember! This features Jim’s work among that of other well-established practitioners of the art of railway night photography.
I don’t remember making my first night photo in Palmer. But I do recall spending Friday evenings there in the 1980s with Bob Buck and company, watching and photographing Conrail and Central Vermont. See: Drowning the Light
The Friday evening tradition was maintained on June 28, 2013, when a group of us convened, as we have for many years, near the old station. A few weeks earlier, I posted some photos made on exceptionally wet Friday night. By contrast, June 28th was warm, dry and very pleasant. And busy too!
The variances of railway freight operations make it difficult to pin point precisely when trains will pass or arrive Palmer. Complicating matters on the week of June 28, was on-going undercutting on CSX’s B&A route (see: Ballast Train East Brookfield), and the after effects of a serious derailment on the Water Level route near Fonda, New York a few days earlier.
However, these events appear to have benefited us on the evening of the 28th. I arrived at CP83 (the dispatcher controlled signals and switch at west end of the controlled siding, 83 miles from Boston) just as CSX’s westward Q437 was rolling through.
New England Central had no less than three trains working in Palmer, jobs 604, 606, and 611, and these entertained us for the next couple of hours. In addition, we caught more action on CSX, including a very late train 448, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX3 and my father’s Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. Some of the exposures required the shutter to remain open for 25 seconds or longer.
In 2005, SEPTA re-introduced regular streetcar service to its number 15 route along Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue using historic President Conference Committee (PCC) trolley cars. These are painted in the old Philadelphia Transportation Company’s livery, which ads class to the service.
My brother Sean lives just a few blocks from Girard Avenue, and on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, we made a project of photographing the cars in service. While on previous trips we’ve gone for a spin, this time we drove, allowing me to make the maximum number of photos in just a limited time. We’ll take another spin on another day soon!
While SEPTA’s Route 15 seems to run on 10-15 minute intervals, not every service has a PCC. At least one of the runs was provided by a bus. I made an image of this as well because I’ve learned from my study of railways, that it is best to photograph everything and sort out the wheat from the chaff at a later date. (In other words don’t judge your subject).
This trip, I made digital images with my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D. On previous trips I’ve photographed the Route 15 in black & white using a Leica M4, and made color slides using my Nikons and Canon EOS 3.
On Tuesday, July 2nd, my brother Sean and I rode SEPTA from 30th Street Station to Market East where we changed trains, then via the old Reading Company to Doylestown via Lansdale.
There’s lots of history along the way. SEPTA’s facilities at Wayne Junction reminded me of a railway museum. Perhaps they should give tours! Also, it has been 37 years since the Reading ran its own trains.
On April 1, 1976, Reading was among the lines blended into Conrail. While, 30 years ago, SEPTA was among the public organizations that assumed operations of commuter routes from Conrail.
The route from Wayne Junction to Lansdale is populated with a variety of vintage railway stations, some of them nicely restored.
The line is single track from Lansdale to Doylestown and has the feeling of an early 20th century interurban line; we passed fields of corn and forests, rural grade crossings and pastoral scenes.
Doylestown itself is the end of the line. The town is quaint and filled with numerous establishments where one can spend money. Among the attractions is the Mercer Museum.
The ride back toward Philadelphia is a long one. Perhaps SEPTA’s longest as measured in time?
Philadelphia area transit is provided by SEPTA. The city’s eclectic collection of routes and modes has its origins in the 19th Century. In Philadelphia’s heyday, a myriad of railways laced the city and pulsed with passengers. One hundred years ago, 500 million fares were collected annually on Philly’s streetcars alone.
Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Company vied for suburban fares, and both railroads electrified key routes in the early decades of the 20th century. This foresight continues to benefit Philadelphia to the present.
Sadly, while Philadelphia once enjoyed one of the most extensive streetcar networks in the world, much of this was gradually dismantled during the second half of the 20th century. Yet, a few key streetcar routes survive. Here and there tracks tell of past glory.
I visited my brother Sean in Philadelphia in early July, giving me ample opportunity to experience SEPTA and its buses, streetcars, subways, and railroad operations.
Center City is what Philadelphians call ‘down town’. While SEPTA’s operations reach myriad points across the region, Center City is the focus of most public transport.
Here are a collection of views of Philadelphia and its public transport.
Contemporary views of a Traditional Streetcar Route.
On the afternoon of Sunday June 30, 2013, Pat Yough and I visited Media, Pennsylvania to photograph SEPTA’s Route 101 Streetcar.
A century ago, single-track streetcar lines graced many American towns. The era of the electric trolley car faded decades ago. Today, Media is virtually in class by itself. Historic re-creations aside, where else in the USA does a single-track streetcar route serve “Main Street”?
The 101 Route is one of two SEPTA (former Red Arrow) streetcar lines radiating from its 69th Street Terminus in Upper Darby in suburban Philadelphia. The other trolley line is the 102 route to Sharon Hill. 69th Street is also served by the Route 100 high-speed interurban line to Norristown (the old Philadelphia & Western line) and the Market-Frankford elevated.
Fifteen years ago today, I exposed this image of Irish Rail’s empty Ammonia train at on the South Eastern route Bray Head (former Dublin & South Eastern Railway, nee Dublin, Wicklow & Wexford Railway).
At that time, there were three daily ammonia trains between Marino Point, County Cork and Shelton Abbey near Arklow, County Wicklow. The trains operated to tight schedules and were among the most predictable freight trains on the Irish Rail network.
For me the Ammonia was a bonus. I was actually out for a Railway Preservation Society Ireland (RPSI) steam special running with engine 461. To make the most of the morning, I taken the first southward Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) run from Pearse Station (Dublin) to Bray, then walked roughly two miles to this location in anticipation of catching the regular passenger trains and the empty Ammonia.
The line itself was in transition. If you look carefully, you’ll see the electrification masts along the line, as Irish Rail was preparing for extension of DART services to Greystones (the next station south of Bray).
The run around Bray Head is one of the most scenic on Irish Rail. Here the line clings to cliff and passes through several tunnels all the while in view of the vast expanse of the Irish Sea.
It was my first July 4th outside of North America. Irish Rail’s ammonia traffic ceased in 2002, when the fertilizer factory at Shelton Abbey closed. Today there’s no regular freight traffic on the South Eastern route.
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Northeastern commuter rail operations made the transition from private to public operation.
In 1983, after more than a decade of various forms of subsidy, operation of commuter rail service radiating from Grand Central Terminal on former New Haven and New York Central Railroad routes was conveyed to Metro-North (an affiliate of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority).
Thirty years later, Metro-North is one of America’s busiest commuter railways.
It embodies a curious aesthetic by blending infrastructure and classic architecture from the golden age of railroading with utilitarian modern railway equipment, while offering convenient no-frills public transport.
The days of boarding a well appointed parlor car on New Haven Railroad’s exclusive, luxurious Merchants Limited at Grand Central Terminal for the run to Boston ended long ago. Likewise, New York Central’s New York-Chicago all-sleeper extra-fare Twentieth Century Limited is now the stuff of legend.
When the new Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, it was the grandest and most opulent railway station in the world. It represented the power of private capital, and was New York Central’s gift to New York City.
On June 29, 2013, I made a foray in to Metro-North territory. Since I’m not a regular commuter, I have the privilege of enjoying my travels on Metro-North trains, which included my first spin on a new M-8 electric multiple unit.
See: Tracking the Light on July 3, 2013 for Metro-North Anniversaries Part 2!
Please share Tracking the Light with anyone who might enjoy it!
On June 26, 2013, a variety of errands that brought me to Ware, Massachusetts. I knew the Mass-Central’s daily freight ought to be in the area, but I wasn’t sure where it was. (Pardon pun).
I checked Ware yard; not there. So I drove north along the line. Since it is my understanding that the railroad is expected to acquire some nicely painted GP38s, I was curious to see what engines were working that day.
No sign of the train at Gilbertville, so I continued northward along Route 32 toward Creamery. My sixth sense was tingling. I knew the train was close.
At Creamery, Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line once had a grade separated crossing with Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch, and when B&M retrenched in the early 1930s, a connection was built between the two lines just to the north (east) of this crossing. Further retrenchment over the following decades resulted in almost complete abandonment of the Central Massachusetts line in the area.
Today, a portion of the Central Mass route at Creamery is now a rail trail. I paused at the trail, inspected a bit of an old cross-tie and then listened. . . wind rustled in the trees, then in the distance I heard a low air whistle. I turned my head. It was coming from the south. Had I overtaken the train, or had I missed it?
A second blast, confirmed my suspicions; I’d missed the train between Gilbertville and Creamery. I jumped in my car and headed briskly back toward Ware. I overtook the train a mile north of town.
At Ware, Mass-Central had some work at Kanzaki Specialty Papers—a customer served by a short surviving section of the former B&M line that connects with the B&A route south of Ware Yard.
I caught the train shoving down, then waited a few minutes for the locomotives to return. In this way I executed several photos of the rare NW5 (one of just 13 built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division) on rare track
I could tick off that errand for the day! Mass-Central NW5, check.