On my external hard drive I have a file of photos called ‘Miscellaneous US Railroads’. I picked this photo at random. I thought it’s a neat image. Only after, I selected it, did I learn the the owner of the railroad, R.J. Corman himself, had very recently passed away. Odd how that works.
Back in September 1997, Mike Gardner and I were on one of our many “PA Trips”. (In case you didn’t know, ‘PA’ is the postcode for Pennsylvania). While we would usually head to the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line for a ‘traffic fix’, often we’d then take time to suss out less-traveled lines.
On this day we called into Clearfield (the base for RJ Corman operations on former Conrail branches known as the ‘Clearfield Cluster’) , where we had a chat with some railroaders. They told us that a crew was called to take set of engines up to the Conrail connection at Keating to collect an empty coal train.
So armed with this knowledge we made a day (or at least a morning) of following RJ Corman’s former New York Central Beech Creek line. This traverses some very remote territory and access to the tracks is limited.
I made this photo a few miles south of Keating of the returning train. It was one of the few times I caught an RJ Corman train on the move.
On the morning of November 4, 1987, I made a speculative foray to P&L (Pittsburgh & Lehigh) Junction near Caledonia, New York. At the time I was living in nearby Scottsville, and I’d occasionally check P&L to see if anything was moving.
P&L Junction had once been a very busy place. Here the original Genesee & Wyoming had connected with Lehigh Valley, Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, a branch of the Erie, and New York Central’s so-called ‘Peanut Line.’By 1987, the only railroads left were G&W and its Rochester & Southern affiliate.
I was fortunate to find a southward train and I made this image of a southward G&W salt train heading across the diamond with a vestige of the old Peanut Line (that G&W used to reach a couple of miles into Caledonia). A classic ‘tilt board’ crossing signal protected the diamond.
Today, it seems that G&W railroads are everywhere. I even saw a G&W company freight in Belgium a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined that this New York state short line would reach so far!
I spent a pleasant and memorable week photographing in Maine in August 1986.This was shortly before I began my studies at the Rochester Institute of Photography, and represented a moment of visual freedom, unburdened by demands of professors, intellectual assumptions, or assignment deadlines.
On August 29th, Brandon Delaney and I had photographed the Maine Central. At Burnham Junction we stumbled upon the Belfast & Moosehead Lake working the Maine Central interchange.
Although this wasn’t my first experience with B&ML, I was delighted to catch this elusive operation at work. We chased the train back toward Unity. I made this image featuring a classic farm with barn and silos.
I exposed it on 35mm Kodachrome slide film using a Leica M2 with 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto lens mounted with a bellows using a Visoflex viewfinder arrangement on a compact Linhof Tripod. Although cumbersome, this was my standard arrangement for making long telephoto views. Exposure was calculated manually using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld light meter (photo cell).
Gent (sometimes spelled on maps as ‘Ghent’) is a moderately sized Belgian city with remarkable beautiful architecture. You’ve probably heard lots about nearby Brugge. I visited that city in 1999. Last week, on recommendation of friends, I traveled to Gent, which I found vastly more interesting and photogenic.
Gent’s narrow gauge tram system navigates the some of the most unusual trackage I’ve ever seen, while the city’s buildings and canals make for stunning settings for which to make photographs.
The question may be asked: does the city provide a backdrop for trams, or rather, do the trams augment photos of the city?
At Leige (Liège-Guillemins) I boarded an InterCity train for Brussels and glided along in comfort along perfectly maintained track. At Bruxelles-Nord/Brussel-Noord (French and Flemish names appear randomly applied to Brussels stations—so far as I can tell) I changed to another express, this one destined for Antwerp.
I was aiming for Antwerpen Noorderdokken, a location I explored in March, where freight trains access the port of Antwerp. Another change of trains at Antwerp Central brought me to this station. As I walked toward my desired photo angle, I noticed a dark wall of clouds rolling in off the North Sea. (It had been clear and cloudless at Liege!)
Yet, I managed to photograph six freights before the sun vanished—mission accomplished. Boarding my eighth train of the day, I aimed to ride around Antwerp and then back toward Brussels.
By the end of the day, I’d visited eight locations and traveled on ten trains. Not too shabby for the first day of my August visit to Belgium.
To my total surprise and delight, Liege (Liège-Guillemins) has been completely transformed since my last visit in August of 1998— when I paused to change trains from Bonn, Germany to Charleroi. I remember a dreary, tired and uninspired railway station and it was this facility I was expecting.
I admit, the new station had completely escaped my notice until that moment when I got off the train last week. I must have missed the memos, the parades and fireworks that certainly must have announced the opening of such a spectacular railway facility back in September 2009.
The station largely consists of modern vaulted canopy spanning five railway platforms. Designed by prolific Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava it is constructed of steel, concrete and glass, and makes for a very positive railway experience.
The canopy softens the sun while maintaining a bright environment to watch and photograph the passage of trains. Exposures must be made carefully, because the large white structure tends to fool camera meters in the same way of a bright snowy day.
I found it necessary to overexpose (add more light) by about 2/3s of a stop above what the camera meter had recommended.
Incidentally, Calatrava also designed two Dublin bridges over the Liffey; the Joyce Bridge near Heuston Station, and the Samuel Becket Bridge in the Docklands, both of which I’ve often photographed.
Does Belgium offer one western Europe’s best-kept secret railway experiences?
In 1835, Belgium was first on the Continent to adopt the steam railway. It subsequently developed one of the densest railway networks in Europe. Today, (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges—Belgian National Railways) operates one of the best national networks.
Although, often overlooked in favor of more scenic countries, Belgium is a great place to ride trains. I’ll be honest, while I’d made a few trips to Belgium in the 1990s, in recent years I’d generally ignored it in favor of other places. Recently, I’ve been stunned to find what a pleasant place it is to ride trains.
The railway is well integrated with other modes. Services run frequently on regular intervals across the network. On most routes there’s a good mix of local and express trains. The equipment is varied and generally comfortable, and the staff are very professional, courteous, helpful, and smartly dressed.
On the downside, I found that some stations, especially un-staffed smaller ones, were neglected and in a poor state and this tended to detract from the overall experience. By contrast, other stations were in very nice shape.
I’ve made two trips to Belgium this year. Last week (August 2013), I made good use of a 10-ride ‘Railpass’ ticket that I purchased for 76 Euro back in March.
This is an open-ended ticket where you write in your starting station and destination with date of travel for each journey. From my experience its an excellent value, and especially valuable for wandering.
My goal was to make a circular trip to explore potential photographic locations while traveling lines I’d not previously experienced.
Beginning in a southern Brussels suburb, I rode south via Ottignies (see yesterday’s post) and Namur to Marloie, and then eastward over a scenic secondary line to a small station called Esneux, where I spent an hour making photos.
From Esneux, I rode northward to Leige, where I found a stunning surprise . . .
On the morning of August 16, 2013, I was changing trains at Ottignies, a suburban station south of Brussels on the line toward Luxembourg. I had just under an hour to explore and make photos.
For many ordinary passengers, I expect that changing trains is a purgatorial experience, but I’ve always found that is a great time to make photos and helps break up the journey. Such was the case this day.
The sky was bright and blue, and Ottignies was entirely new to me. The station has several platforms, and at regular intervals trains converge to allow passengers to change from one train to another. In addition it serves the local population.
I made this pair of photographs of a northward express train led by a SNCB (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges—Belgian National Railways) class 13 electric. What impressed me about this location was the slight jog in the track on approach to the station and the immense proportions of the overhead footbridge, which combined give the image greater depth.
My quandary in editing is deciding which of the two photos I prefer. The first offers a view with signals and more of the footbridge, while the second is more focused on the locomotive and train.
Both were exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D and 100mm lens. The train was moving swiftly and I had only moments to make my composition before it blitzed the platforms.
In November 2009, I was at Stucumny Bridge near Hazelhatch (west of Dublin on the Cork line) to take a look at the recently opened quad track. It was a clear evening and the sun was an orange ball hanging in the western sky.
Shortly before sunset, up and down Mark 4 trains (Dublin-Cork) passed each other making for a nice illustration of the relatively busy line. I’ve always like glint photos where trains reflect low sunlight but these are hard to execute in Ireland for a variety of reasons.
I exposed this with my Canon EOS 3 and f2.8 200mm telephoto on Fujichrome Velvia 100 slide film. (Velvia has a super-saturated color palate that tends to enhance the sunset glow).
I calculated the exposure based on the sky rather than taking an overall reading that would tend to over expose the image. Here a bit of experience working with low sun really helps.
For me the real problem with the photo is the difficult wire cutting across the middle of the frame. There may have been an angle to avoid this altogether, but with the two trains moving, I had only a few moments to release the shutter. The electrical pylons and high voltage wires in the distance don’t bother me, these are part of the scene.
I’ve taken the liberty of making an adjusted version of the photo by using Photoshop to extract the wire. I enlarged the scan of the slide and using the ‘Healing Brush’ and ‘Clone’ tools, I effectively blended the offending wire out of the image.
This is not something I normally do. Typically, I don’t apply visual surgery to alter my photos. However, with modern tools and a sense for retouching this is not especially difficult. It’s taken me twice as long to write up this post than it took to erase the wire. You can be the judge.
Working with Harsh Light in the California Sierra.
On the advice of J.D. Schmid, in June 1990, I’d bought my first single lens reflex; a Nikon F3T (which I still use, occasionally). Initially, I owned just two lenses: a 35mm PC (perspective control—tilt/shift) and a second-hand Nikkon f4.0 200mm telephoto.
For most of my photography, I was still working with my Leica M2, and so the Nikon was just a new toy.
Living in Roseville, California near the Southern Pacific yard, gave me ample opportunity to explore and photograph SP operations. My favorite subject was Donner Pass, and most weekends would find me wandering around at high elevations seeking angles on the railroad.
The Sierra can be a challenging place to make railroad photos. On this morning, I was between Yuba Pass and Crystal Lake on the west slope of Donner. I’d photographed this SP westward freight descending the mountain using the new F3T and 200mm lens on Kodachrome 25.
Despite photographic conventions, I was positioned on the dark side of the line, and aimed into the sun, while looking cross-light the train. The glinty back-lit rocks help silhouette the locomotives. Although the time of day resulted in harsh contrast and a stark scene, I like the result. It captures the spirit of raw mountain railroading that for me was SP on Donner.
This is a place where the tracks are cut into a rock shelf and require lots of power to get trains over the spine of the Sierra Range. Back lighting and telephoto compression shows the heat of from the dynamic brakes rolling off the tops of SP’s ‘Tunnel Motors’ (locomotives specifically built to endure the rigors of Donner). In the distance is a hint of one of SP’s wide signal bridges, necessary for winter operations.
I was driving from Erie, Pennsylvania back to Waukesha, Wisconsin after a week of photography on the former Baltimore & Ohio in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
West of South Bend, the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend runs parallel to the former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’ (then operated by Conrail).
I’d found a lightly used grade crossing, where I photographed a few Conrail freights. I didn’t have a South Shore schedule, but hoped I might see something roll over the old interurban electric line.
Ten years earlier, I’d taken a memorable trip over the line from Chicago to South Bend. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, my father had made many images of the South Shore, and I was always fond of the line, despite having missed its operation of antique multiple units and Little Joe electrics that had made the line popular with photographers.
As daylight faded, I notice that the old Union Switch & Signal color signals facing me suddenly changed from displaying yellow to red. This indicated to me that something was about to happen. And, sure enough, a few minutes later I could hear a train clattering along.
I found a low angle to feature the richly colored sky and I made a single exposure on Fujichrome 100 using my Nikkormat FT3 with 28mm Nikkor lens. This remains one of my favorite railway photos: for me it captures the essence of South Shore’s interurban electric operation. I’ve used it in various places over the years.
In October 2001, I was working on my book Railroad Masterpieces (Published by Krause Publications in 2002). Among the featured ‘masterpieces’ was Erie Railroad’s magnificent Starrucca Viaduct at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. A classic Jim Shaughnessy under and over view was used on the book cover.
Posting photos on Tracking the Light yesterday of Lanesborough, County Longford, reminded me of this image at another Lanesboro (albeit a different spelling) many miles and an ocean away.
On October 21, 2001, Tim Doherty and I drove to Lanesborough so I could photograph Starrucca. At the time Norfolk Southern was operating the line and very little traffic was traversing the bridge. We didn’t expect to find a train and as it happened, we didn’t see any that morning.
Later, we photographed the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Tunkhannock Viaduct and former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge. All three bridges were covered in the same section of the book, and I thought it would be neat to visit all of them in one day.
A black & white variation of this image appeared in the book, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the color version published. I’ve always liked the tree shadow on the inside of the 4th arch.
Summer offers more pleasant temperatures and longer days, but also brings more foliage, taller grass and other challenges that I didn’t experience in February!
I think its safe to say that I didn’t get bored with Bord na Mona. From the first moment trackside, the railway seemed to be buzzing with trains. The section of double track running east from Lanesborough toward Mountdillon was especially busy.
I even had another opportunity to catch one of the ash trains on the move. (See: Bord na Mona’s Ash Train). Perhaps my bold proclamation of its elusivity has tipped the scales in my favor—a sort of reverse jinx, as it were.
Or maybe, its my persistence. It’s nice to get a lucky catch, but likewise, the more time spent trackside, the better the odds of seeing the unusual, as well as the elusive, the rare, and the obscure. Having a better sense for when trains run helps too!
Eight years ago today I was traveling in Croatia by train. I made this image from the platform of the Rijeka station. It shows one of Croatian Railways (Hrvatske Zeljeznice and known by the initials HZ) class 1061 electrics (an articulated type adapted from an Italian State Railways design) leading a short freight from Rijeka’s main goods yard.
Rijeka is a scenically situated Adriatic port. My great-grandmother was from a village near here. She emigrated to the United States in the late 19th century, back when Rijeka was known as Fiume, a city in the former Austrian-Hungarian empire.
Austria-Hungary was fragmented as a casualty of World War, which began as result of strife in the Balkans. Exploring the old empire is among my hobbies.
As a kid, I’d travel with my family to coastal Maine for visits with grandparents who owned a summer home south of Newcastle. At that time, Maine Central operated freights on the Rockland Branch on a weekday basis.
On rare occasions as we were driving, I’d see a train wandering up or down the branch. I recall my exceptional frustration when passing the Rockland roundhouse a group of Maine Central GP7s and GP38s basked in evening sun, but family priorities precluded even a short stop for photography (I think we were going to dinner).
By the time I made visits to Maine in the mid-1980s with aims at making railroad photographs, the old Rockland Branch was all but dormant.
The line experienced a revival in the 1990s and 2000s. Today it hosts freight and passenger trains operated by Maine Eastern. This greatly pleased my late-friend Bob Buck, who had experienced the line in steam days and had watched its gradual decline during the diesel era.
It was a great thrill for him to be able to board a passenger train again at Rockland and ride along the coast inlets toward Brunswick.
In August 2004, I was among several friends visiting with Bob at his summer home on the Maine Coast. During this trip, Neal Gage and I spent a productive morning photographing Maine Eastern’s cement train, which made a series of short turns between the cement factory at Thomaston and a pier in Rockland.
This included photographing the short spur (branch) to the pier that had been rebuilt during the revival period to facilitate movement of cement by barge. This line winds through back yards of Rockland and curls around to the waterfront.
Caption: In August 2004, a Morristown & Erie C-424 leads a short empty cement train up from the Rockland Pier on the rebuilt former Maine Central spur running between the pier and the Rockland yard. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T and 24mm lens.
For me anyway! On Saturday, August 3, 2013, I scored a few photographs of Bord na Mona’s ash train on the move near Shannonbridge, County Offaly. (Yes, and by the way, that’s ash train, and not ASH TRAY. Just to clarify.)
Now, someone at Bord na Mona might read this and say, “Elusive ash train? Why that’s scheduled to run every day at 2 pm.” Or, perhaps, it is scheduled to run every third Saturday after the first full moon on months that don’t end in ‘R’. (But, none-the-less, scheduled).
Irregardless, so far as I was concerned, photographing the ash train on the move was a real coup! In the last year, I’ve made a half dozen ventures to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge lines, this was the first time I’d seen an ash train on the move. Certainly, I’ve seen them before, just not rolling along out on the road.
Yet, I’d call it elusive! It’s all a matter of perspective. More on elusive (or at least unusual trains) in future posts.
Incidentally, unlike elusive trains, Tracking the Light regularly posts new material almost every day! So, to use an obsolete cliché, stay tuned!
In a follow up to yesterday’s post, here’s a few more images from my early August adventure with Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge. I was working with three cameras: my Lumix LX3, my Canon EOS 7D digital SLR (single lens reflex) and my Canon EOS 3 35mm SLR.
Since it will be a while before the slides are processed, all the images here are from the digital cameras.
I’ve found my visits to photograph the Bord na Mona railways exceptionally rewarding and productive and I look forward to more photography trips in coming months.
It was fifteen years ago that I made my first acquaintance with Ireland’s bog railway, a narrow gauge network operated by Bord na Mona (peat board). At that time, a tourist train run as the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly made regularly scheduled trips from the Blackwater depot near Shannonbridge in County Offaly.
As I recall, it was an oppressively damp day. Having arrived under swollen skies, I checked in at the booking office, skeptical if the line was even in operation, only to learn that not only was it running, but that the first couple of trains were sold out!
Using the time between tourist trains, I made some black & white photos of the peat trains, then returned to ride the line.
On another occasion two years later, I returned with my father, and family friend Tom Hargadon, and made another spin out on the bog. Since that time, the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly excursion has been discontinued.
A Busy Irish Narrow Gauge Industrial Railway.
In early August 2013, I reacquainted myself with Bord na Mona’s Blackwater network, having explored other of Bord na Mona’s railway operations in recent months. See earlier posts:
Blackwater is from my experience, by far the busiest of Bord na Mona’s operations, as the West Offaly power station at Shannon Bridge has the most voracious appetite of the peat burning plants served by Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways. Quite simply there were trains crawling everywhere I went.
The day featured a rapidly changing sky. This made for some wonderful lighting and visual effects, but also resulted in me getting unexpectedly soaked when the sky suddenly opened up. One minute it was sunny, the next there was near horizontal rain! On my next visit I’ll bring plastic bags and a jumper!
See tomorrow’s post for more Irish Bog Railway photos!
At one time, just about every town in North America had at least one railway station. Tens of thousands of station buildings dotted the continent. Most were small. Often railroads would have their bridge and building departments draft standard station plans of various sizes and apply these where appropriate.
Steward, Illinois is a village on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy several miles east of Rochelle (where the CB&Q crossed the Chicago & North Western). It has been many years since this small standard-plan station hosted trains. It survives as a tie to the era when the railroad was the town’s lifeline to the outside world.
The May 1949 Official Guide of the Railways lists CB&Q train 52 stopping here at 7:32 am eastbound, and train 49 stopping at 10:51 pm westbound, while a mixed train could make a stop on request (no time listed).
Now the station has little to do with the main line running nearby. Dozens of BNSF Railway long distance freights pass daily. There are no passenger trains on this route—not since Amtrak assumed most long distance passenger services in 1971. But Steward probably had lost its local train long before then.
Letting Classic Railway Architecture Tell a Story.
On a visit to Florida in mid-November 1999, I made this detailed view of Amtrak’s Orlando passenger station.
Built by CSX predecessor Atlantic Coast Line in a Spanish revival style, this busy station offers a variety of angles. I opted to make this symmetrical view with my Nikkor 24mm lens. The trick was exposing for the white station against the blue sky and retaining detail while not allowing the station to appear too dark
Although a simple image, it tells a story: “Atlantic” has been imperfectly replaced by “Seaboard,”—reflecting the 1967 merger between Atlantic Coast Line with its long time rival Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Amtrak assumed SCL’s passenger service on May 1, 1971, and Amtrak’s classic ‘pointless arrow’ logo meekly identifies the structure.
As evidence in this image, between the 1960s and 1990s American railroad scene underwent a bewildering series of mergers, transfers of service and rebranding. This is the topic of my upcoming book North American Railroad Family Trees , published by Voyageur Press, which aims to unravel some of the mysteries behind the myriad changes to North American railway operations.
In yesterday’s post, I told about working with a Hasselblad and 120 Kodachrome. Although, 35mm slide film was my stable format for more than 25 years, I’ve periodically dabbled in larger formats.
I made this image of CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts in October 2000 using a Rolleiflex Model T with f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens to expose 120 size Fujichrome Velvia 50.
While I have many images of trains at West Warren, this remains among my favorite. The trees and brush had been cleared from the north side of the tracks, opening up a angle on the tracks not often possible here. I’ll like the stumps too. My grandfather would have approved.
The lack of train allows for good juxtaposition between the railway, waterfall, and old mill buildings on the far side of the Quaboag River. If I’d let a train into the scene, it would either cause a distraction or block the waterfall. One solution to this puzzle is to work from the other side of the tracks, but that loses the timeless quality offered by this angle.
Nearly peak autumn color is a nice touch, while soft overcast light adds to the autumnal atmosphere.
Caption: The former Boston & Albany mainline along the Quaboag River in October 2000, exposed with a Rolleiflex Model T on 120 Fujichrome Velvia 50.
In March 1989, I was halfway through my final term at the Rochester Institute of Technology. My course load was light enough to allow me several days off a week to pursue my own work.
On this day, my flat mate Bob lent me his Hasselblad, which I loaded with 120 Kodachrome 64. Wow, was this ever a winning combination! It offered brilliant color with exceptional sharpness on a large transparency.
While I took advantage of Bob’s Hasselblad and 120 Kodachrome on several occasions, the relatively high cost of this format precluded my frequent use of it. At the time I was living on about $30 a week and a single roll of 120 Kodachrome processed was beyond my budget. (Also, Bob occasionally needed his camera).
Once I completed my degree, the high cost of Hasselblad cameras put them well out of reach for years. Other considerations were related to practicality. I found the Hasselblad awkward to use for my style of photography, and I had very limited applications for 120 transparencies.
Realistically, the 35mm slide format was not only better suited for most of my color needs, but also far more affordable.
Yet images like this one continue to nag me. From time to time, I have continued to experiment with 120-color transparency film, often with very good results. I’ve never been satisfied with my reluctance to make the plunge. Tough choice.
A week after I exposed this photo, I made an 11x14in Cibachrome print of it. (Thanks to my dad who fronted me the cash for 50 sheets of Ciba paper). Incidentally, the scan of the original image fills nearly 280 MB on my hard drive. If I’d scanned it at the maximum capabilities of my Epson, it would probably reach a GB. That’s a lot of information in one photograph. The image could fill a wall.
So far just three of Irish Rail’s 071 class are operating in the new gray livery. So catching one on the move in sunlight can be a challenge. Ballast trains operate infrequently, and standing at this spot for a month of Sunday’s might not guarantee an image such as this. It helps to live near the line.
The cars make up what Irish Rail calls a ‘High Output Ballast’ train which is known on the railway as the HOBS. Using my Canon EOS 7D, I exposed a series of photos of the train on the curve from the Phoenix Park tunnel at Islandbridge Junction.
The combination of elevation, iconic backdrop and the orientation of the tracks and curve allow for one of the best morning views in Dublin for a westward train. As the sun swings around, many more angles open up down the line.
For many years Kingscote was effectively Bluebell’s northern terminus. That changed this year when the extension to East Grinstead was finally opened along with the direct connection to Network Rail.
Now, as a quiet mid-point on the Bluebell line, it embodies all the qualities of a small town passenger station from a time long ago. Adding to the rural solitude is a ban on visitor automobiles in the car park. (Railway riders are encourage to use other stations on the line).
The facilities are faithfully decorated to convey the spirit of long ago. I appreciated a lack of modern intrusions. Not so much as an electronic beep could be heard during my brief visit. (I turned off the various sounds uttered by my digital cameras!). I should have brought my Rollei Model T for effect.
During my hour visit at Kingscote, I was rewarded with the arrive of a wedding special hauled by a diminutive locomotive named ‘Bluebell’ and decorated appropriately.
At the end of July, my friends and I made a pilgrimage to the Bluebell Railway, traveling by Southern Railway electric muliple unit from London to East Grinstead and transferring to the Bluebell’s steam train there.
This was my second trip over the Bluebell this year. While not the best day for photography, owing to a humid hazy morning with flat dull light and rain showers in the afternoon, I managed to make a variety of images of this classic British preserved railway. Regardless of the weather, Bluebell offers a pleasant trip to an earlier era.
In the last dozen years, I’ve made about a half dozen Bluebell visits that have allowed me to better appreciate the line and more fully experience it. It is one of just several dozen top notch preserved railways in Britain.
See my earlier posts on the Bluebell for more details and photos of the line:
I’d pre-booked tickets to ride from St. Pancras north on the old Midland Railway. The last time I made this journey I traveled on Midland Mainline trains, but this franchise was reconfigured in 2007 and now East Midland Trains handles the run.
Although my day’s journey began on the London Tube, the real part of the railway trip started from St. Pancras, a virtual cathedral of British Railways. (See my previous posts: London April 2013, and London Stations). Here the colossal Victorian era shed shelters Eurostar trains bound for Brussels and Paris.
Rebuilding and reconfiguring of St. Pancras in the mid-2000s, resulted in an inspiring interpretation of the historic architecture. However, domestic long distance trains were then relegated to the newer, less inspired train shed extension beyond William Barlow’s pioneering balloon arch.
I arrived looking for the 0930 departure, only to find the place in a bit of turmoil. When I enquired of member of East Midland’s staff where the 0930 was, he said to me, ‘Don’t know mate, the place is in a kip this morning, all the trains are running late, check the boards.’ An honest answer. I accept that.
Eventually, the same East Midlands man found me again, and said, ‘your train’s on platform 3b.’ Right. We only left about 7 minutes after the advertised schedule. However, we were out of path and got stuck in behind a slower moving First Capitol Connect electric suburban train and lost a few more minutes.
The old Midland route is one of the busiest mainline railways in Britain. It’s a four track electrified line from St Pancras to Bedford. Fast lines are good for 110 mph and used for express passenger trains, with slow lines accommodating stopping First Capitol Connect electric services to Bedford and freights.
It’s a thrill to be racing along at 100+ mph and overtake another train. The route is virtually saturated. This means that based on limitations of current infrastructure and signaling, the Midland route is accommodating the maximum number of trains possible at peak times.
I rode out on a class 222 Meridian diesel-multiple unit, and back to London on a 1970s era HST. The HST offered a nicer ride and more spacious accommodation.
I’m a biased fan of the HST, so the modern cramped facilities of the Meridian just wouldn’t impress me, although it’s a better option than a plane or bus, given a necessary comparison.
My 84 mile trip from London to Market Harborough was accomplished in a little more than an hour and fifteen minutes, with station stops and delays. It was even faster on the return leg. It was a good trip!
In my last post I covered the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). Today, I’m focused on the London Tramlink (an network centered on Croydon and previously known as the Croydon Tramlink). Here the terminology can get a bit confusing because while ‘Light Rail’ and ‘Trams’ are sometimes used to describe the same type of service, in London these services are distinctly different.
The DLR is an automated grade-separated rapid-transit type of service, but features stations that very close together while taking advantage of very tight curvature. By contrast, London Tramlink features street running and is largely a ground-level operation, with drivers on each car.
Where the DLR uses trains consisting of ‘light rail vehicles’ adapted on modern streetcar design, Tramlink uses trams or ‘streetcars’ and generally runs these singly, with a driver (or operator, if you prefer) on each car.
However, while the styles of operation vary, both systems provide intensive localized rapid transit that is fully integrated with the London transport network. Both systems also have lines on former ‘heavy rail’ rights of way.
I first experienced the Tramlink in January 2006. On a particularly bleak winter day, I rode most of the existing network and made a few color slides. The lighting was flat and very dull, so my photos from that effort have remained in the processing boxes.
Last week, I had few hours to spare between appointments, and since it was sunny and bright, I opted to revisited the Croydon tram lines with the specific goal of making photos.
I was surprised to learn that the paint livery had changed. In my 2006 visit the trams were red and white, last week they were largely green and white, although there were a few running around in advertising colors. Also, there were some newer trams augmenting the older cars, which added to the variety.
I made photos with both my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D. All of these images were exposed in just a couple of hours. Thankfully, the trams operate on a close headway allowing for plenty of photo opportunities.