Erie Mainline Revisited

On August 22, 2010, Norfolk Southern SD60M 6777 leads symbol 048—a special move of James E. Strates cars—working eastward at West Cameron, New York. Photo made with a Canon EOS 7D in manual mode fitted with a 24mm lens; exposure f3.5 1/500 at ISO 200. (Jpeg and RAW files exposed simultaneously)

Originally Posted September 28, 2012.

On Sunday August 22, 2010, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I were making photos in western New York south of Rochester, when we got word of an unusual train on Norfolk Southern’s former Erie Route. Having worked this territory for more than 25 years, I navigated a course cross country to intercept our mystery train south of Silver Springs at Castile, New York. We were both curious to see what this was. As it turned out it was a single SD60M leading a portion of the James E. Strates Show train. We made our photo at Castile near the remains of old Erie Railroad water tower, then chased eastward. We followed it to Swain, Canaseraga, Arkport, and to Hornell, New York, then into the Canisteo River Valley. Among the locations we chose was at West Cameron, New York, a spot on the inside of curve, where in the 1980s I’d often photographed Conrail and Delaware & Hudson trains passing a former Erie Railroad  Style-S upper quadrant semaphore (see Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores posted on September 23). Conrail had single-tracked the old Erie route through the Canisteo Valley in 1993-1994, so it had been a long time since the semaphore came down, yet a portion of the old westward main was retained at West Cameron for use as a setout track, so despite changes, this location didn’t look substantially different to me than it had ‘back in the day’ .

In 1988, Conrail SD50 6700 leads eastward BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) carrying New York City subway cars rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen at Hornell. This passes a semaphore on the westward main track at West Cameron, New York. Photo made with a Rollei Model T, a twin-lens reflex featuring a 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held light meter. Negative scanned with an Epson V500 scanner.

Afterwards, I searched back over my 120-size black & white negatives, and located this view made with my old Rollei model T of Conrail’s BUOI in 1988. Compare these two photographs made at virtually the same location, at approximately the same time of day, yet more than 22 years apart. There are many advantages to working the same territory repeatedly over the years. While familiarity may lead to boredom, it can likewise lead a photographer to make interesting comparisons.

A lesson: keep making photographs despite changes that appear to make the railway less interesting.

DAILY POST: West Warren, Massachusetts, October 2013.

Looking east at dawn on CSXT's former Boston & Albany mainline in West Warren, Massachusetts. Time exposure using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens.
Looking east at dawn on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline in West Warren, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Time exposure using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens.

Early morning is a great time to make scenes with tracks. Here at West Warren a bit of mist off the Quaboag River adds atmosphere to a classic New England scene. Although I’ve made dozens of photographs from this location, I keep coming back to it.

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Daily Post: Boston & Maine MERU, February 10, 1985


Eagle Bridge and Petersburg, New York.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve displayed contemporary images I made on Pan American Railways lines. Today, I’ve dug deep into my archives and pulled some negatives I exposed in the same territory back in 1985.

February 10, 1985 was a busy day on Guilford’s Boston & Maine lines. I was traveling with John Peters and Norman Yellin and we made it all the way to Mechanicville, New York, having started in the Millers River Valley, east of East Deerfield.

Guilford Rail System.
Boston & Maine’s eastward MERU hits the crossing at Eaglebridge, New York on the evening of February 10, 1985. I was fighting the light, but despite this handicap I managed to make a decent exposure with my dad’s M4.
Boston & Maine's eastward MERU passes the old station at Eaglebridge, New York on the evening of February 10, 1985. This has long been a favorite photo; for me it really captures the character of the B&M Westend as it looked in the 1980s. The motion blur on the first car adds to the effect.
Boston & Maine’s eastward MERU passes the old station at Eaglebridge, New York on the evening of February 10, 1985. This has long been a favorite photo; for me it really captures the character of the B&M west end as it looked in the 1980s. The motion blur on the first car adds to the effect.

Toward the end of the day, we chased B&M’s MERU (Mechanicville to Rumford, Maine), photographing it at several locations, including Eaglebridge and Petersburg, New York.

Since last week I ended a chase of a Pan Am freight at the crossing near Petersburg (east of Petersburg Junction where the old Rutland ‘Corkscrew Line’ crossed the B&M), I though these images would make an interesting comparison.

Boston & Maine's eastward MERU hits the crossing near Petersburg, New York. The angle of the track has always made this an awkward place to photograph moving trains. Many years ago, B&M had a split grade through here, with the other main track located on the far side of the valley.
Boston & Maine’s eastward MERU hits the crossing near Petersburg, New York. The angle of the track has always made this an awkward place to photograph moving trains. Many years ago, B&M had a split grade through here, with the other main track located on the far side of the valley.
Pan Am Railways.
Here’s Pan Am’s westward EDRJ at the very same crossing near Petersburg (albeit a bit farther back from the tracks). I exposed this last week on November 21, 2013 using my Canon EOS 7D.

Where last week, Paul Goewey and I were following a westward freight, 28 years ago we were traveling eastbound. In both situations the light was fading.

I exposed the vintage images on Kodak B&W film using my father’s Leica M4 with a 35mm Summicron lens. Unfortunately, my notes from the day don’t include what exposures I used, nor how I processed the film. Ironically, I had the M4 with me last week too, but the shutter was giving me difficulty so I had to rely on my digital cameras!

See: Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2

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Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2

 The BIG CHASE: Pan American Southern’s EDRJ, November 2013.

Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.

In yesterday’s post, I waxed nostalgic about the old Boston & Maine, illustrating it with images made around East Deerfield on November 21, 2013.

The big chase! Pan Am's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we'd say, "To the River!" Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What all this in one day?)
The big chase! Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we’d say, “To the River!”

One of the highlights of the day was midday westbound freight, train symbol EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) that departed the yard on the Hoosac Tunnel route.

One of my favorite railway activities in the 1980s was a good westward chase on the old B&M. Nothing made this better than a good consist of locomotives. Last Wednesday was like stepping back 30 years. (Sort of).

As we’d say, ‘To the River’ (meaning ‘to the Hudson’).

Although we only got as far as the Vermont-New York state line before the light faded, the spirit of the chase (and chases from year’s gone by) was with us.

See: Boston & Maine Revisited

Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

Pan_Am_618_EDRJ_Shelburne_Falls_trailing_on_xing_IMG_3824 1

Old Boston & Maine 3-bay hoppers.
Old Boston & Maine 3-bay hoppers.
Roaring through the valley at Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Roaring through the valley at Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Pan Am Railways
Easing up to the grade crossing at ‘Florida Station’ near Soapstone, on approach to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.
North Adams, Massachusetts.
North Adams, Massachusetts.
Norfolk Southern 206 eastbound.
Norfolk Southern 206 eastbound.

 

Hoosic River Bridge.
Hoosic River Bridge.

B&M_hoppers_EDRJ_North_Adams_Hoosic_River_bridge_IMG_3890

The light was fading at North Pownal, Vermont.
The light was fading at North Pownal, Vermont.
Pan of Pan Am at Petersburg, NY.
Pan of Pan Am at Petersburg, NY.

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Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited

Pan American Railways, November 2013

Thinking up new ideas everyday takes a lot of effort, so today, I’ll rely on clichés and old ideas with a new twist to fill the gap.

Pan Am Railways
Pan Am’s EDPL (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut) rolls south on the Conn River Line near Hatfield on November 21, 2013.

Back in the day, in the 1980s, I’d wander up to the Boston & Maine at East Deerfield where I’d photograph trains on well-worn rights-of-way led by first and second generation EMDs. I was thrilled to find freight trains on the move!

The poor ‘ol B&M had seen better days. New England had been in industrial decline since World War I. It was my understanding that the old phrase ‘it’s gone south,’—meaning ‘it’s gone to the dogs’—originated when New England’s textile industries began closing and heading to the Carolinas and Georgia. (Never mind Southeast Asia, China and what not).

Guilford Transportation came about and melded Maine Central with B&M and briefly with D&H. For a few years the railroad was really busy. Traffic was on the upswing, new intermodal trains were introduced, and run-through locomotives from D&H, Maine Central, as well as Norfolk & Western/Norfolk Southern became common.

Then a souring passed over the scene. ‘All that glitters is not gold’, as they say (paraphrasing an English poet), and the well-trodden paths to the Hoosac Tunnel and along the Connecticut quieted for a time.

Things changed again with the dissolution of Conrail. Now Guilford is Pan American Railways and Pan Am Southern. Metallic blue paint has begun to replace charcoal and orange. And traffic is on the rise.

Yet to me, while there’s been some changes, the old B&M is a throwback to another time.

Yes, there’s a few new signals, some new welded rail here and there, and some nice fresh ties. Many of the old searchlight signals and signal bridges are gone and here and there the tracks have been trimmed back. But the B&M has the appearance of retro railroad. It’s like classic rock with spin.

Last week, on November 21, 2013, my old friend Paul Goewey and I went up to East Deerfield. It was like old times. First and second generation EMD diesels were moving freight in every direction while decaying vestiges of New England industry could still be found at every turn.

Just sayin’ it seems to me that at the end of the day, it is what it is, and MORE!

Pan Am Railways
Paul Goewey snaps Pan Am’s MOED (Mohawk Yard to East Deerfield) crossing an early 20th century span in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX3 photo.
Greenfield, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Greenfield, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
These old diesels are the same age as me! (more or less). MOED crawls through Greenfield. The old signal bridges are fading fast.
These old diesels are the same age as me! (more or less). MOED crawls through Greenfield. The old signal bridges are fading fast.
I find the sound of 645 diesels, old bridges and vine-covered bricks in low autumnal light stirs nostalgia within me.
I find the sound of 645 diesels, old bridges and vine-covered bricks in low autumnal light stirs nostalgia within me.
Back in the day I was delighted to find old B&M EMD diesels wearing pre-McGinnis maroon and yellow paint. That was 30 years ago!
Back in the day I was delighted to find old B&M EMD diesels wearing pre-McGinnis maroon and yellow paint. That was 30 years ago!
Railway bridge.
The East Deerfield hump set on the Connecticut River Bridge, November 21, 2013.
Maine Central 507 leads a short eastward freight across the Connecticut River.
Maine Central 507 leads a short eastward freight across the Connecticut River.
Pan Am's ED2 departs East Deerfield for points north on the Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am’s ED2 departs East Deerfield for points north on the Connecticut River Line.
North of Greenfield, ED2 grinds along on its northward plod. New rail and ties are being installed on this line and soon trains will be zipping along. Just like the old days when 'the Boot' (for Bootlegger) connected Washington D.C. and Montreal. (Amtrak's Montrealer). Like, man, its all coming back!
North of Greenfield, ED2 grinds along on its northward plod. New rail and ties are being installed on this line and soon trains will be zipping along. Just like the old days when ‘the Boot’ (for Bootlegger) connected Washington D.C. and Montreal. (Amtrak’s Montrealer). Like, man, its all coming back!
The big chase! Pan Am's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we'd say, "To the River!" Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What all this in one day?)
The big chase! Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we’d say, “To the River!” Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What!? All this in one day?)

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DAILY POST: Northern Ireland in November 2005.


NIR in Transition.

NIR Translink
Coleraine, County Antrim on November 29, 2005. New 3001 class railcars lurk in the shadows while an older 80 class railcar set basks in the morning sun.

 

In November 2005, Translink NI Railways (operator of railway services in Northern Ireland) was in a transitional phase equipment-wise. New 3001 class railcars had been recently introduced, yet many of the older 80-class and Castle class railcars were still on the move.

I drove to Belfast from Dublin, and spent two days riding around on NIR trains making photographs. For the most part the days were sunny and brisk.

At that time of year, the sun in the northern latitudes tends to stay relative close to the horizon throughout the day, which can result in a stark contrasty light.

These images were exposed on Fujichrome at Coleraine, where the Port Rush branch diverges from the Belfast-Derry/Londonderry line.

Like NIR, I too was undergoing an equipment transition; I’d just recently bought a Canon EOS 3, but was still using my older Nikon F3T and N90S for many photographs.

NIR Coleraine signal cabin, November 29, 2005.
NIR Coleraine signal cabin, November 29, 2005.
NIR Translink.
Silhouette at NIR’s Coleraine signal cabin, November 29, 2005.
NIR Translink.
NIR Coleraine station, November 29, 2005.
80 class railcars at Coleraine.
80 class railcars at Coleraine.
With a puff of exhaust, an 80-class railcar accelerates away from Coleraine station.
With a puff of exhaust, an 80-class railcar accelerates away from Coleraine station.

 

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Daily Post: Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005

A Look at the Final Beet Season.

Irish Rail
Venerable four wheel beet wagons are fully laden with freshly harvested sugar beet at Wellingtonbridge in December 2005. Exposed with Nikon F3T with 180mm lens on Fujichrome.

Between September and January Irish Rail moved sugar beet from a loading facility at Wellingtonbridge to a processing factory in Mallow county Cork. In the last beet season, six days a week Wellingtonbridge loaded six to seven trains.

This was Irish Rail’s most intensive freight operation and operated with a fleet of ancient looking four-wheel beet wagons.

Short sidings at Wellingtonbridge required the shunting of most laden trains. On this frosty clear autumn afternoon, I made a variety of images on Fujichrome with my Nikon F3T to capture the atmosphere of this operation.

What sticks in my mind were the background sounds of conveyors dumping freshly harvested beet into the old wagons and the signal cabin with its mechanical signals and Victorian-era electric staff machine and bells. The scene is all quiet today.

Irish Rail locomotive 072 (built by General Motors in La Grange, Illinois.) shunts sugar beet wagons to assemble a train destined for Mallow.
Irish Rail locomotive 072 (built by General Motors in La Grange, Illinois.) shunts sugar beet wagons to assemble a train destined for Mallow. The loading equipment is behind the engine.
Irish Rail 072 during shunting maneuvers at Wellingtonbridge.
Irish Rail 072 during shunting maneuvers at Wellingtonbridge.
The short four-wheel wagons made for uniform looking trains. Cross-lit these offer a 'picket fence' look that I've always found appealing in railway image.
The short four-wheel wagons made for uniform looking trains. Cross lighting these wagons offered a ‘picket fence’ effect that I’ve always found appealing in railway images.

The beat is dead, long live the beat!

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Daily Post: Container Ship at the Golden Gate


Cosmic Morning, San Francisco, September 2009.

Some places are famous for fantastic light and San Francisco Bay is one of them.

OOCL Container Ship
Exposed with a Canon EOS 3 with a 100-400mm image stabilized zoom lens on Fujichrome. Morning and evening offer the most dramatic lighting in San Francisco Bay; the change from night to day often coincides with spectacular and cosmic weather effects.

The combination of stunning scenery and amazing weather and light effects has made this city one of my favorite place to make photographs.

Warm air wafting in from the Sacramento Delta meets cool damp Pacific air producing coastal fog. The sun rises through layers of California smog which gives the light a warm rich quality as it burns through the mists hovering over San Francico Bay, Marin Headlands and the city.

Shortly after sunrise on September 16, 2009, I exposed this view of a container ship heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Soon the ship was out on the open ocean and I was airborne headed east on Jet Blue.

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DAILY POST: A Tram Navigates the Streets of Poznan.


Poland, May 2000.
 

Polish tram
I exposed this image in Poznan on Fujichrome Sensia 100 using my Nikon F3T with 24mm lens. Although the sky was dull, I felt the lighting suited the scene. Moments after I exposed this slide, I boarded the tram and rode to a bleak austere junction in the outskirts of Poznan. The thrill was not in my destination, but in getting there (and back again.) I went out on the No.1 and came back on the No. 7. For me the most difficult part of the journey was figuring out where to obtain tram tickets!

I was visiting Poland for the first time in May 2000. While part of the inspiration for my trip was to investigate steam operations at Wolsztyn and elsewhere, I also spent time wandering around cities in the western part of the country.

One morning, I explored Poznan, where I found an extensive electric tram system. The old part of the town had cobble stone streets and interesting architecture, while the post-war outskirts featured rows of austere monolithic high-rise apartment blocks.

I only rode a few of the tram routes, but my literature indicates that network extended for some 56 route miles. The tram pictured here is a standard Polish Konstal car of a type common to many Polish cities.

For me, Poland was like finding an unexplored realm, full of railways with something new at every turn. Over the last decade, I’ve made several subsequent trips to Poland, and numerous excursions across eastern Europe.

See earlier Tracking the Light posts for Polish steam photos:

Polish Time Machine

Revenue Steam in Poland, April 2002

Polish Steam Working Disused Track-Part 2

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DAILY POST: New England Central at Night


November Moonlight.

Last Friday evening, November 16, 2013, I stopped by New England Central in Palmer, Massachusetts on my way to meet friends for dinner.

The moon was nearly full and a venerable GP38 was resting in the yard. Here was an opportunity for a photograph (or two)!

Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 30 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. Notice my shadow at far left.
Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 30 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. Notice my shadow at far left.

I’ve made numerous images of New England Central 3855, since this locomotive arrived with the creation of the railroad nearly 19 years ago. So why bother make more, especially on a chilly November evening?

My short answer: because it was there to photograph.

The long answer: the moon was out casting a surreal glow across the Palmer yard and the mix of moonlight and sodium vapor street lights inspired me to expose some long time exposures.

I positioned my Lumix LX3 on my large Bogen tripod and manually set the camera. I carefully avoided direct light by using tree branches and nearby buildings as natural lens shades. I also minimize the effect of street lamps in the photograph, while aiming skyward to catch the twinkle of evening stars. (On the full-sized un-scaled RAW file, the stars are very clear in the sky. Unfortunately the scaled and compressed images do not translate as well as I’d hoped.)

Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 15 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. The best part of this image is the tree shadow on the locomotive side.
Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 15 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. The best part of this image is the tree shadow on the locomotive side.

Using long exposures require a very steady tripod. Also to minimize noise I selected the lowest ISO value. For more on my ambient light night photo technique see earlier posts including: Friday Night in Palmer, Massachusetts, July 12, 2013; and Lumix LX-3—part 2:  Existing Light Digital Night Shots

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DAILY POST: Pan Am Southern at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 2013

Along the old Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg Mainline.

At Millers Falls, New England Central and Pan Am Southern run parallel for a short distance. In this view Pan Am’s westward freight symbol 190ED with a pair of leased SD40-2s (wearing old Burlington Northern paint) has just passed the junction with New England Central. (NECR’s mainline is immediately to the left.

 

Pan Am Southern symbol freight 190ED passes Millers Falls, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Pan Am Southern symbol freight 190ED passes Millers Falls, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Bright overcast autumn days can be one of the most rewarding times to photograph trains. Soft warm light accentuates the fading foliage, while the lack of directional sun allows more freedom to select angles that favor railway operations.

Had the sky been completely clear, I’d have been fighting the sun, which would have shadowed the train and put harsh light on the colored trees in the distance.

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DAILY POST: How Do I Find Trains?

A Beginner’s Course in Paying Attention.

I’m often asked, “How do I find trains to photograph?”

CSX's former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren on Sunday October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren on Sunday October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

The short (and not especially enlightening answer) is that I pay close attention to the railway. (Whichever railway I’m photographing). Here are some basic tips:

1) Always pay attention.

2) Carefully study the details of the operation you wish to photograph: Learn when crews are called, how far they normally work, and what is expected of them en route. How long does it take to make a brake test? How long to make a station stop? How long to make a set-out or pick-up? Where are passing sidings and what are the distances between them. Learn about train weights, locomotive performance, and rates of acceleration and braking. Learn grade profiles and how these can affect train speeds. Find out about slow orders (both temporary and those in the timetable). Keep in mind, a scanner can only help you when you understand the information it provides.

3) Use these details to find out how they may affect when trains run.

4) Learn to distinguish good information from poor information.

5) Never assume anything without good solid information.

6) Don’t assume that everyday is the same (but always learn from the passage of trains, make careful notes as to the times trains pass and how long it takes for them to get between stations, and why.).

7) When interpreting schedules, find out how a specific schedule is to be used by the railway in question.

8) Know what questions to ask, and find the right people to ask.

9) Don’t assume that because someone works for a railroad that they are up to date on operations. Railroaders are like photographers, if three of them answer a question, you’ll get four answers.

10) Don’t expect railroaders to: ‘tell you when the train is coming.’ (see number 9).

11) Remember: on a railway plans will change, trains may be delayed, and no day is ever exactly the same (except in Switzerland).

12) Never assume there isn’t a train coming; you’ll be surprised.

13) When a train passes take the time to learn about it. Was it a regularly scheduled move? Was it an unscheduled extra? Was it running to schedule or was it hours late? Is it scheduled to run daily, three times a week or once a year? IF it runs daily, is it scheduled for the same time every day? If it doesn’t run at the same time, find out why.

14) When nearby a railway always use your ears. LISTEN! One of the best tip-offs that a train is approaching are the sounds it makes. Listen for whistles, engines working upgrade, as well as the sounds of braking, and cars clattering. Listen for switch points being moved or other tips that something may be about to happen.

15) Learn a railroad’s signaling and how its signals are expected to normally work. No two signaling systems are exactly the same. Learn when ‘red’ means a train is coming and ‘green’ means one is not (and vice versa!) Also, when ‘yellow’ means you just missed the train you were hoping to see.

16) Remember, a train is coming (but so is Christmas).

17) Put all of the pieces to puzzle into play.

18) Be patient.

19) Be persistent.

20) Take notes.

21) Accept that everyday is a learning experience.

CSX eastward intermodal freight (probably Q012) passes West Warren, Massachusetts on Sunday morning October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. A scanner, detailed knowledge of CSX operations, and patience all helped in executing this image.
CSX eastward intermodal freight (probably Q012) passes West Warren, Massachusetts on Sunday morning October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. A scanner, detailed knowledge of CSX operations, and patience all helped in executing this image.

More on finding Passenger and Freight trains in future posts.

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Daily Post: Twenty Cylinders in 2013

Finding an old EMD Locomotive at Work Near its Birth Place.

Followers of Tracking the Light may have noticed that I have a penchant for Electro-Motive Division 20-Cylinder diesels. Not only have I featured these in many of my books, but also they have made regular appearances in my Daily posts.

In 2013, true 20-cylinder EMD locomotives have become really rare machines. Many of the surviving SD45/SD45-2 locomotives have been ‘de-rated’ and are now actually powered by variations of the 16-cylinder 645 engine.

Not that this difference really affects the photos, but for the purest, a true 20-cylinder locomotive has no match. For me, it’s the sound that makes the difference.

When I lived in California, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe both still had substantial fleets or 20 cylinder diesels. These days there are probably more old EMD F units in daily service than 20-cylinder 645s. (Maybe? Anyone know?)

Last week (Tuesday November 12, 2013), John Gruber and I were driving from Madison, Wisconsin toward Chicago to meet Chris Guss and Pat Yough. Chris rang me before lunch to say that an Illinois Railnet freight was ready to depart BNSF’s Eola Yard and had an old SP SD45 in the lead. A real SD45.

EMD SD45 7440
While not the prettiest locomotive, Illinois Railnet’s ex SP SD45 was worth the drive.
I even exposed a slide with my dad’s Leica M4. This photo was made with my Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. I was balanced on a rock in the Fox River to get just the right angle. Nice to have the sun too!

I stepped up the pace, and with creative driving and some vital landing instructions from Chris and Pat, John and I arrived at the old Burlington bridge over the Fox River west of Aurora just in time to catch this relatively obscure Chicago-land freight railroad at work. I owe this image to teamwork and the ability to react quickly. Hurray!

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Daily Post: Energy on the Move on the Old Milwaukee Road.

Canadian Pacific Ethanol Extra Near Milwaukee Airport, November 2013.

Among the biggest changes to North American railway freight traffic in the last five years has been the enormous growth in liquid energy trains. Ethanol and oil train movements have mushroomed.

This is especially noticeable in the Midwest, where it seems like long black worms of tank cars are crawling everywhere.

This a real benefit for railway photography. Not only are many railway lines busier, but long uniform tank trains are especially photogenic.

Ethanol train
Canadian Pacific 602-322 is heavily loaded with Midwestern ethanol. I made this image with my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. The telephoto compression makes for a graphic treatment of the uniform train. It also makes for interesting juxtaposition of this rolling energy pipeline with the high-voltage electric lines along the railway.

On November 8, 2013, Chris Guss and I photographed Canadian Pacific ethanol extra 602-322 at Grange Road in Oakgrove, Wisconsin, near Amtrak’s Milwaukee Airport Station.

It was on this route, many years ago, where Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha sprinted along at 100 mph and faster behind Alco-built streamlined 4-4-2 and  4-6-4 steam locomotives.

A tighter view with the same lens and camera combination.
A tighter view with the same lens and camera combination.

 

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Brian Solomon and John Gruber Stop by at TRAINS.

 Last week, John Gruber and I called into TRAINS Magazine for a social visit.

John has been a regular visitor at TRAINS since David P. Morgan was editor. I’ve been calling by since 1994.

Brian_at_Kalmbach_P1580850
Photo by John Gruber

We pre-arranged for the visit during a conversation at Beecherfest. TRAINS’ Matt Van Hattem met us inside Kalmbach’s glassy office building and we spent an hour chatting with the magazine’s editors.

Editor in chief, Jim Wrinn was away on assignment in California where he was on a live-feed covering the pending movement of Union Pacific Big Boy 4014.

For me, railway photography has always been more than just images of tracks and trains, and I brought my Lumix into this inner publishing sanctum to make a few photos of the people that produce America’s most popular railway magazines.

Angela watches the live feed from California to keep pace with the Big Boy.
Angela watches the live feed from California to keep pace with the Big Boy.
It was near the end of a hard day editing.
It was near the end of a hard day editing.
John Gruber and Matt Van Hattem.
John Gruber and Matt Van Hattem.
Steve Sweeney at TRAINS.
Steve Sweeney at TRAINS.
John Gruber and Kevin Keefe.
John Gruber and Kevin Keefe.
Matt Van Hattem watches Jim Wrinn on the live feed.
Matt Van Hattem watches Jim Wrinn on the live feed. “This is so exciting!”
Angela at her computer.
Angela at her computer.
Trains staff watching Editor Jim Wrinn in California with the latest on the Big Boy.
Trains staff watching Editor Jim Wrinn in California with the latest on the Big Boy.

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Daily Post: Old Milwaukee Road Station, Brookfield, Wisconsin.


November Views of a Station; Get Your Photos Soon, Before its Too Late!

Brookfield, Massachusetts; Brookfield, Illinois, and now Brookfield, Wisconsin—Have you noticed a theme?

Railroad depot
Classic old wooden station at Brookfield, Wisconsin. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

The former Milwaukee Road passenger station at Brookfield, Wisconsin is located between Canadian Pacific’s main tracks at the west end of a grade separation. This unusually situated station has provided a visual link to the railroad’s past for many years, and is one of the last structures of the old order along this line.

Today, Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities is largely free from historical infrastructure. The days of an agent working at Brookfield have long since passed. Neither passenger trains nor freights have stopped here in decades. Yet, as of today, the old building survives at its traditional location.

Here’s some advice: get your photos NOW. Don’t wait. Word on the street is that the station will soon be either moved or demolished.

Railway station at Brookfield.
Looking east at Brookfield, Wisconsin. Lumix LX3 photo.

And even if the street gossip changes its tune, the reality is that old wooden railroad stations are ephemeral structures: Never assume the old station that has always stood there, will be there the next time you return.

I made these photos last week while re-exploring southern Wisconsin with Pat Yough and Chris Guss . Back in the 1990s, I made a number of photos of this old station, but I’ve learned you can never have too many images of something (or someone) once its gone.

Might the old station be preserved? Quite possibly, but it won’t be trackside, and thus will have lost its context. This location without the station will just be another characterless wide-spot along the line. Someone might call this ‘progress’; I call it ‘change’.

On Saturday November 9, 2013, I worked with three cameras and photographed the Brookfield station from a variety of angles as the sun came in and out of the clouds. Two eastward Canadian Pacific freights passed giving me ample opportunity to put the old station in context.

A wink of sun illuminates the former Milwaukee Road station at Brookfield, Wisconsin. Lumix LX3 photo.
A wink of sun illuminates the former Milwaukee Road station at Brookfield, Wisconsin. Lumix LX3 photo.
Freight passes the old Brookfield Station.
Canadian Pacific eastward freight 484-08 led by Norfolk Southern 9189 passes Brookfield, Wisconsin. Canon EOS 7D photo.
CP Rail GE diesel.
The sun catches eastward Canadian Pacific freight 248-408 at Brookfield, Wisconsin on November 9, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

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Daily Post: Zephyr Glints on the Chicago Raceway


Amtrak’s California Zephyr on the last lap to Chicago.

Last Saturday afternoon, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I finished up a day’s photography on the former Burlington ‘Triple Track’ around La Grange, Illinois.

We inspected Metra’s Congress Park Station, which consists of two narrow platforms along the busy mainline. Here the sun held a little longer than other places where trees were causing difficult shadows.

An outbound Metra scoot accelerates toward Congress Park, Illinois on November 9, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
An outbound Metra scoot accelerates toward Congress Park, Illinois on November 9, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Trailing view of a Metra train at Congress Park.  Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Trailing view of a Metra train at Congress Park. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

Shortly before sundown, we caught an outward Metra train. An automated voice announced that this train wouldn’t stop. After it passed, I spotted a headlight on the horizon. Mistaking this for a relatively slow moving freight, I returned to the car for a longer lens.

Pat Yough shouted to me, as the train was approaching quickly. I hastily returned to the platform, making test exposures as I ran.

The resulting photos are what our friend Tim Doherty calls ‘Hail Marys.’ I had just enough time to compose and pop off a few frames as the Zephyr blew through Congress Park.

 Amtrak Number 6, the California Zephyr approaches Congress Park, Illinois at sunset on November 9, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. 400 ISO 1/500th second at f5.6
Amtrak Number 6, the California Zephyr approaches Congress Park, Illinois at sunset on November 9, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. 400 ISO 1/500th second at f5.6. As the train got closer I adjusted my exposure (see below).
A slightly closer view. with my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. 400 ISO 1/500th second at f9. I adjusted my exposure as the train was bearing down on me. By 'stopping down' from f5.6 to f9, I reduced the amount of light hitting the sensor. This enhances the glint effect on the side of the train and better retains detail and color in the sky, but results in a very dark locomotive front. I can work with the RAW file in Photoshop to boost shadow detail, and perhaps I'll play with this image at a later date.
A slightly closer view with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens. Set at: 400 ISO 1/500th second at f9. I adjusted my exposure as the train was bearing down on me. By ‘stopping down’ from f5.6 to f9, I reduced the amount of light hitting the sensor. This enhances the glint effect on the side of the train and better retains detail and color in the sky, but results in a very dark locomotive front. I can work with the RAW file in Photoshop to boost shadow detail, and perhaps I’ll play with this image at a later date.

Amtrak Number 6, the California Zephyr approaches Congress Park, Illinois at sunset on November 9, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm.

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Daily Post: Beecherfest 2013

Midwest Railway Photography Extravaganza: I was There!

Beecherfest_IMG_1079

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Last Friday evening, November 8, 2013, I attended the annual Beecherfest railway photography event held near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Beecherfest has evolved from a living-room slide show into one of the most prestigious non-pretentious railway photography events. About 200 people attended to enjoy more than 6 hours of digitally presented railway images.

Slide_show_viewing_IMG_0560

I was awed by the exceptionally quality of railway photography—some of the best of I’ve seen ANYWHERE—and also the professional quality of the programs and their presentation.

The hosts were Bill and Marshall Beecher. Presenters included: Nick Benson, Craig Williams, Craig Willett, Eric T. Hendrickson, Matt Hereen, and Sayre Kos. The Beechers themselves had two of the finest programs.

Tech-support roadie Chris Guss not only helped with the presentations, but offered his own program that featured stunning images of rails north of the Arctic Circle illuminated by the Northern Lights.

This was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and put faces to names.

I made a few photos of the event with my Canon 7D.

Bill Beecher.
Bill Beecher.
Marshall Beecher.
Marshall Beecher.

Bill_Beecher_blue_screen_IMG_1067Bill_Beecher_IMG_1057Beecherfest has its own Facebook page and has rapidly evolved into one of the most popular enthusiast slide shows.

Congratulations to Marshall and Bill for a grand night out! Cheers!

Brian Solomon—November 15, 2013

Beecherfest_Enthusiasm!_2_IMG_1106

Dick Gruber and Mike Schafer.
Dick Gruber and Mike Schafer.
John Gruber and Craig Willett
John Gruber and Craig Willett

Matt_VanH_and_John_Gruber_IMG_1070

Photo by Dick Gruber. 'Dick, it's the button on the right. No the little starred one. Wait! Don't forget to focus . . . hold on . . . did you get the picture? Let's try that again . . ."
Photo by Dick Gruber. ‘Dick, it’s the button on the right. No the little starred one. Wait! Don’t forget to focus . . . hold on . . . did you get the picture? Let’s try that again . . .”

Marshall_and_Eric_IMG_0556Brian_Schmidt_IMG_1095Mark_L_and_Matt_VanH_IMG_1069Sayer_Kos_and_and_Dick_Gruber_IMG_0571Raffle_IMG_0547Bill_Beecher_and_Mrs_Murphy_IMG_0576Trains_Staff_IMG_1098Railroaders_portrait_Beecherfest_IMG_0543Shakinghands_at_Beecherfest_IMG_1110Chairs_stacked_IMG_0579

I was there! Were you? See the Beecherfest Facebook page.

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Daily Post: Brand New Canadian National General Electric Locomotives


CN’s Latest Alternating Current Traction Diesels ply the old Wisconsin Central.

In the fading light of a November 2013 evening three new Canadian National GE-built ES44ACs pass the Metra station at Round Lake, Illinois. Canon EOS 7D photo.
In the fading light of a November 2013 evening three new Canadian National GE-built ES44ACs pass the Metra station at Round Lake, Illinois. Canon EOS 7D photo.

There’s nothing like a shiny new locomotive; It will never look any better. Best of all, it’s really something new, not just the ‘same-old, same-old.’

Last week, Chris Guss and I were working CN’s former Wisconsin Central Limited lines in Illinois and Wisconsin where CN’s latest locomotives were plying the rails.

Until very recently, CN was the last major North American freight railroad to refrain from AC traction technology. First used on wide-scale by Burlington Northern beginning in 1993, by the late-1990s most big railroads had at least sampled AC traction diesels. Yet, CN kept ordering DC traction. But not anymore; today AC’s are the latest thing even on CN!

New ES44ACs lead a freight near Theresa, Wisconsin on November 8, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
New ES44ACs lead a freight near Theresa, Wisconsin on November 8, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
New CN General Electric diesels with M34241-07 with a freight some 9,300 feet long (weighing an estimated 17,000 tons). Another new GE was cut-in mid-train working as a radio controlled 'distributed power unit.' This train is holding at Marsh siding for a northward train. Lumix LX3 photo.
New CN General Electric diesels with M34241-07 with a freight some 9,300 feet long (weighing an estimated 17,000 tons). Another new GE was cut-in mid-train working as a radio controlled ‘distributed power unit.’
This train is holding at Marsh siding for a northward train. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

CN’s new ES44DCs look good working in pairs in the rolling Midwestern countryside.

Here’s a few photos I made over a two-day period in early November 2013.

On our second day, Pat Yough joined us for some of the photos and we also met up with Iowa-based Craig Williams near Fond du Lac while waiting for southward CN ES44ACs to emerge from some trees.

We were all on our way to one of the Midwest’s premier railway photography venues: Beecherfest (held near Milwaukee every year).

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Daily Post: Canadian National at Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Southbound CN Stacks work the old Soo Line, November 8, 2013.

Canadian National

CN’s Q11651-04 at Waukesha at 10:50 am on November 8, 2013. I exposed this photo using my Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. To gain a bit of elevation, I stood on Chris Guss’s Toyota 4Runner that is specially equipped with a roof rack for photography.

Between July 1994 and October 1996, I lived within walking distance of the former Soo Line station at Waukesha, Wisconsin.

At that time the railroad was owned and operated by Ed Burkhardt’s Wisconsin Central Limited (a 1980s regional carved from the old Soo Line after Soo Line merged with the largely parallel Milwaukee Road)

I’ve long since moved to new horizons and in the meantime, the ever-expanding Canadian National empire assimilated the WCL. The line through Waukesha that had once been part of the Canadian Pacific family is now a CN route.

Today’s CN has a very different operating style than that of WCL in mid-1990s.

Where WCL ran a tightly scheduled railroad with frequent but relatively short freights connecting Shops Yard at North Fond du Lac with various Chicago-land terminals, CN leans toward enormous rolling land-barges, many of which now take an Elgin, Joliet & Eastern routing around Chicago to reach the former Illinois Central or other connections.

Like the WCL, EJ&E and IC are now part of the CN empire.

On November 8, 2013, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I photographed CN’s southward intermodal train symbol Q11651-04 led by SD70M-2 8800 passing the old Waukesha Soo Line station. At the back of the train was a modern General Electric working as a ‘distributed power unit’ (a radio-controlled remote locomotive controlled from the head-end).

This is a big change from the pairs of SD45 leading strings of 50 foot box cars or Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range ore jennies that I regularly saw in the 1990s. And, by the way, DM&IR is also another of CN’s railroads.

Vertical view at Waukesha.
Vertical view at Waukesha. CN rolls right along and passes through the town much faster than WC did in the mid-1990s.
CN’s Q11651-04 at Waukesha at 10:50 am on November 8, 2013. I exposed this photo using my Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. To gain a bit of elevation, I stood on Chris Guss’s Toyota Front Runner that is specially equipped with a roof rack for photography.
The DPU at the back of Q11651-04 crosses East Broadway in Waukesha. Chris Guss is in position on the roof of his Toyota. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens

For a glimpse to how things looked in the 1990s.

take a look at yesterday’s post: Wisconsin Central, Byron, Wisconsin, 1994.

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DAILY POST: Wisconsin Central, Byron, Wisconsin, 1994.

SD45s in a Corn Field.

On the afternoon of December 3, 1994, Mike Danneman and I were following a southward Wisconsin Central freight up the 1 percent grade south of Fond du Lac known on the railroad as Byron Hill.

Wisconsin Central
Wisconsin Central as viewed from across a cornfield at Byron, Wisconsin on December 3, 1994. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with a 28mm wide angle lens on Kodachrome 25 color slide film. Scanned with a Epson V600 scanner. No post processing except as necessary to scale image for internet use and insert byline tag.

Here, heavy freights would slow to a crawl for several minutes as they laboured to reach the summit at Byron. With a bit of swift driving we were able to make several images of the train in the low evening light.

The best part of the experience was listening to the 20-cylinder throbbing roar pulsing into the rural Wisconsin countryside as the SD45s clawed their way up the hill.

Ten years later, I returned to Byron Hill with a DAT recorder to make stereo sound records of SD45s at work.

Tomorrow, Tracking the Light looks at CN on Wisconsin Central.

Also see Tracking the Light’s: Chicago Medley, June 2013

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Special Veteran’s Day Post: Amtrak Locomotive 42 Honors American Veterans.

Commemorative Locomotive.

Amtrak Genesis Locomotive number 42 commemorates American Veterans. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak Genesis Locomotive number 42 commemorates American Veterans. Lumix LX3 photo.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph this locomotive in Chicago last week and exposed images with a variety of cameras.

Please forward to anyone who will appreciate these photographs.

Thank you!

Click here to see Tracking the Light’s daily post for November 11, 2013.

Detail of Amtrak number 43.
Detail of Amtrak number 42. Canon EOS 7D photograph.
Detail of Amtrak number 42.
Detail of Amtrak number 42.
Detail of Amtrak 42.
Detail of Amtrak 42.
Amtrak 42 in Chicago, November 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Amtrak 42 in Chicago, November 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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Click here to see Tracking the Light’s daily post for November 11, 2013.

 

 

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Daily Post: Canadian National on Illinois Central, Chicago, November 2013

This was Once an Eight Track Mainline.

And there are still six tracks, but now it is in effect two parallel lines; a four-track electric suburban route run by Chicago’s Metra, and a double track line run by Canadian National.

On November 7, 2013, Chris Guss gave me a whirlwind tour of Canadian National operations in Chicago, largely focused on former Illinois Central lines.

Canadian National's 33891 rolls southward on the former Illinois Central at East Pershing Street in Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Canadian National’s 33891 rolls southward on the former Illinois Central at East Pershing Street in Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

We scoped this location on East Pershing Street south of downtown, knowing that Canadian National’s southbound freight from Waterloo, Iowa (symbol 33891) was on its way. We didn’t wait long before it came into view.

In the course of about 25 minutes, we caught the freight followed by a wave of passenger trains run by Metra, South Shore and Amtrak.

The old Illinois Central catenary adds an element of intrigue to the gritty atmosphere of this line.

While waiting for trains, an enthusiastic baker came by and offered us butter cookies. Tasty too!

I exposed photos with three cameras, working with both my Canon EOS 7 and Lumix LX3, plus my Dad’s Leica M4.

During out short visit the sky over Lake Michigan quickly changed from blue to gray, a weather condition all to typical of Chicago.

Chicago Metra Electric
One of Metra’s 1970s-era Illinois Central electric EMUs comes zipping along under wire. Chicago’s distinctive skyline looms in the distance. This view was made from East Pershing Street, Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
South Shore train on the former Illinois Central at East Pershing Street in Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
South Shore train on the former Illinois Central at East Pershing Street in Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Amtrak 390 roars northward on the former Illinois Central at East Pershing Street in Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Amtrak 390 roars northward on the former Illinois Central at East Pershing Street in Chicago on November 7, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

 

What happened to Illinois Central? See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for evolutionary discussion of the  North America rail network.

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DAILY POST: Illinois Central, Woodrest Shops, October 1995.


Railroad Open House.

The late Mike Abalos and I attended Illinois Central’s public open house on October 8, 1995. This was a well attended event.

Illinois Central open house October 8, 1995. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.
Illinois Central open house October 8, 1995. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.

Among the highlights was the railroad’s brand new SD70 number 1000 with its cab open for public inspection. Also on display was the railroad’s business train with former Burlington E-units.

The IC business train must have been one of the most secluded executive trains. Not only was this the only time I saw it, but I’ve seen relative few photographs of it on the move.

It’s livery was an impressive application of a monochromatic design.

Although it was overcast that day, I worked with Kodachrome 25 in my Nikon F3T. When exposed properly, K25 could produce a well rendered image on dull days. I also had Fuji Provia 100 in my Nikormat FT3. Both cameras allowed me to expose some interesting photos of the event.

Illinois Central executive E unit on October 8, 1995. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.
Illinois Central executive E unit on October 8, 1995. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.
Illinois Central's executive train on display at Woodcrest Shops on October 8 1995. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film. Notice that the Fuji film did a better job than Kodachrome  rendering detail in the overcast sky.
Illinois Central’s executive train on display at Woodcrest Shops on October 8 1995. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film. Notice that the Fuji film did a better job than Kodachrome rendering detail in the overcast sky.
Illinois Central business car. Kodachrome 25 slide film with 28mm lens.
Illinois Central business car. Kodachrome 25 slide film with 28mm lens.
Illinois Central open house October 8, 1995. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.
Illinois Central open house October 8, 1995. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.

What happened to Illinois Central? See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for evolutionary discussion of the  North America rail network.

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DAILY POST: Belt Railway of Chicago, 1995


On Location with Alcos.

Belt Railway of Chicago Alco C-424s work the KCBX bulk commodity trans-loading facility in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Exposed with a Nikkormat FT3 on Kodachrome 200 slide film.
Belt Railway of Chicago Alco C-424s work the KCBX bulk commodity trans-loading facility in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Exposed with a Nikkormat FT3 on Kodachrome 200 slide film.

In early July 1995, Sean Graham-White and I spent several days working with the Belt Railway of Chicago for an article on Clearing Yard for Pacific RailNews.

At the time, I was PRN’s Associate Editor and Sean was among our regular contributors.

Sean had organized with the railroad for us to interview employees and make photographs. BRC assigned an Assistant Yardmaster to drive us around and provide introductions.

Belt Railway of Chicago Alco C-424s work the KCBX bulk commodity trans-loading facility in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Exposed with a Nikkormat FT3 on Kodachrome 200 slide film.
Belt Railway of Chicago Alco C-424s work the KCBX bulk commodity trans-loading facility in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Exposed with a Nikkormat FT3 on Kodachrome 200 slide film.

Among the facilities we toured was the KCBX Terminal (a bulk commodity trans-loading facility for barges) that was routinely served by a BRC local.

On July 2, 1995, the local was worked by a pair of BRC’s vintage Alco C-424 diesels. These locomotives were very popular with railway enthusiasts, but could be a bit elusive and hard to find running, unless one was very familiar with Chicago-land operations.

I made a number of images of the Alcos and the facility, but most of these did not run in the magazine article, which instead focused on BRC’s Clearing Yard rather than the Alcos or the KCBX terminal.

BRC's Alco C-424s near the KCBX terminal in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Nikkormat FT3 with Kodachrome 200 slide film.
BRC’s Alco C-424s near the KCBX terminal in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Nikkormat FT3 with Kodachrome 200 slide film.
Belt Railway of Chicago Alco C-424s near  the KCBX terminal in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Exposed with a Nikkormat FT3 on Kodachrome 200 slide film.
Belt Railway of Chicago Alco C-424s near the KCBX terminal in Chicago on July 2, 1995. Exposed with a Nikkormat FT3 on Kodachrome 200 slide film.

See Tracking the Light’s: Chicago Medley, June 2013

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DAILY POST: Southern Pacific Yuba Pass, California 1992

 

Westward Freight Descends Donner Pass.

Southern Pacific on Donner Pass.
A westward Southern Pacific freight led by SD45 7422 negotiates the curves on the west slope of California’s Donner Pass at the railroad location known on the timetable as Yuba Pass (and on Interstate-80 as ‘Yuba Gap’). This was exposed on a Kodachrome 25 slide film at 4:25 pm October 4, 1992.

On October 4, 1992, Brian Jennison and I gave a Donner Pass tour to a pair of Union Pacific officials visiting from Omaha.

We started the morning early and drove to Andover on fire roads to witness a westward freight climbing through the curves in Cold Stream Canyon west of Truckee. Later we went up to Troy on the west slope and made an inspection of the Cascade Bridges.

Southern Pacific was busy that day. My notes indicate that we photographed nine trains, including Amtrak 5 and 6 (California Zephyrs).

At 3:40pm we caught this westward freight near Donner Summit at the snow sheds in Norden, California, then followed it west to Yuba Pass.

I climbed to the top of a hill over looking the line and exposed a sequence of Kodachrome slides with my Nikon F3T fitted with a f4.0 200mm lens mounted on a Bogan 3021 tripod. This slide was exposed at f4.5 1/250th of  a second. (I bracketed up and down 1/3 stops to insure I made an optimally exposed slide).

Check out earlier Southern Pacific posts: Donner Pass Part 1Southern Pacific SD45 at Old Gorge on Donner Pass, July 1990Southern Pacific’s Roseville Yard, February 1990, and Southern Pacific SD45s on Kodachrome.

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Thursday’s Post: Boston & Albany Milepost 67, Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Rusty Autumnal Foliage on October 26, 2013.

Over the last few posts, I’ve alluded to this location at milepost 67. On the morning of October 26, 2013, I was up early. Before 8 am, I photographed at New England Central local at Palmer, and I suspected a CSX eastward intermodal train was getting close.

My feeling was confirmed when I heard that CSX Q012 was at CP 109 (near Westfield, Massachusetts). This was at least 40 minutes away, and I didn’t want to photograph this train at Palmer so I began driving east.

I looked a few old standby locations on my way toward Brookfield, but I was really intend on my location at milepost 67. Why?

railway tracks.
Looking west at milepost 67 on CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline in Brookfield, Massachusetts. EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

On October 25, 2007, I’d caught CSX’s eastward autorack train (symbol Q264) at the Route 148 Bridge at milepost 67. This was a good angle and foliage was just how I like it, but the light was dull.

Move forward six years and the day was clear and bright and the rusty reddish leaves were clinging to selected trees making for a perfect autumn morning.

Looking east on CSX's former Boston & Albany mainline at Brookfield, Massachusetts. My first visit to this spot was back on Labor Day weekend 1978, when my father brough my brother Sean and I out to watch Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited roll west. Back then EMD E8As were the rule of the day. Somewhere I have B&W negs from that afternoon. This image was exposed with a EOS 7D fitted with a 200mm lens.
Looking east on CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at Brookfield, Massachusetts. My first visit to this spot was back on Labor Day weekend 1978, when my father brough my brother Sean and I out to watch Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited roll west. Back then EMD E8As were the rule of the day. Somewhere I have B&W negs from that afternoon. This image was exposed with a EOS 7D fitted with a 200mm lens.

After a half and hour in the cold, which I used to make some test photos and vignettes of the old Boston & Albany line, I could hear the sound of General Electric diesels working eastbound. In short order the hot Q012 intermodal train came into view with relatively new Evolution-Series diesels.

CSX freight.
CSX’s hot intermodal train symbol Q012 chugs eastward at milepost 67. Cross-lighting the train adds a sense of drama and provides visual balance to the trees at the right of the locomotives. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

I’ll tick that off in the ‘success’ category. Since the next eastward train hadn’t reached Pittsfield, I decided to get some writing done and called it a day.

Incidentally, this was the first daylight move over the B&A since I photographed the westward ethanol train featured in yesterday’s post. See: CSX Empty Ethanol Train Catches the Light at Brookfield.

Trailing view of CSX Q012 at Brookfield. One of these mornings I ought try for a westward train here at sunrise.
Trailing view of CSX Q012 at Brookfield. This would make a great view of a westward train here at sunrise. A week later, I caught a nice afternoon image from this angle on the bridge and that will be the subject of another post. Stayed tuned!

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Daily Post: CSX Empty Ethanol Train Catches the Light at Brookfield.


Lucky Photograph Exposed October 25, 2013.

An empty CSX ethanol extra rolls west on the former Boston & Albany at Brookfield, Massachusetts on the evening of October 25, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens.
An empty CSX ethanol extra rolls west on the former Boston & Albany at Brookfield, Massachusetts on the evening of October 25, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens.

Acting fast, I made the most of an extra move. Earlier in the day, I’d stopped in to Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts on Friday afternoon October 25, 2013. I was there to visit with Rich Reed who was working the counter.

Back in the day, I’d made many Friday trips to Tucker’s to visit with my old friend Bob Buck, proprietor of the hobby shop (and premier Boston & Albany railroad enthusiast). It’s been a little more than two years since Bob took the final train home, but his spirit still smiles on Warren.

I inquired if Rich had seen much on the mainline (CSX’s former B&A route), which passes within sight of Tucker’s. “No, there’s been nothing except the Lake Shore (Amtrak 449 Boston to Chicago).”

These days, east of Springfield, CSX can be very quiet in daylight. There’s a couple of eastward intermodal trains destined for Worcester (symbol freights Q012 and Q022) that make it over the line in the morning, and recently I’ve occasionally seen trains running to Pan-Am Railways via Worcester and Ayer (Q426 eastbound and Q427 westbound).

Departing Warren for East Brookfield, I turned on my old scanner, just in case.

Driving east on Route 9, I’d just passed the State Police Barracks, when the radio crackled, and I heard a key snippet of information, ‘ . . . clear signal CP64, main to main westbound’ (or something along those lines).

I was just east of milepost 67, and now I knew that train was heading west across the Brookfield flats at milepost 64. But the sun was near the horizon and I had to act quickly if I hoped to make a photograph.

Initially, I thought, ‘I’ll head to the Route 148 Bridge at milepost 67’, but I quickly changed my mind because I realized that the tracks swing slightly to the north before reaching milepost 67, and at the late hour in October, the line might be shadowed. I didn’t want to risk it.

Instead, I pulled off of Route 9, near the old Clam Box road-side restaurant. Here, CSX had cleared the right of way of bushes and trees (during recent upgrading and undercutting work to improve clearances.)

Within a couple of minutes the train came into view. It was an extra westward empty Ethanol train, the first I’d seen in many months on CSX. I exposed several digital photos and made a few images with my father’s Leica M4.

It had been exactly four years to the day, since I made the photos of East Brookfield Station that appeared in my post on October 25, 2013. See: East Brookfield Station, October 25, 2009  Coincidence? Not really. I know the foliage and light angles favor the Brookfields at this time of year.

CSX's empty ethanol train catches the glint of the setting sun at Brookfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens at f8 1/500th of a second ISO 200, daylight white balance.
CSX’s empty ethanol train catches the glint of the setting sun at Brookfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens at f8 1/500th of a second ISO 200, daylight white balance.

See tomorrow’s post for action shots at milepost 67.

 

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DAILY Post: Special Anniversary, Raymond Loewy’s 120th birthday.

The Industrial Designer Famed for his Steamlined Locomotives was Born November 5, 1893.

I’ve rearranged my postings to honor Raymond Loewy, whose streamlined industrial designs greatly impressed me during my formative days in railway photography.

PRR_4935_120_scan_Brian Solomon 488206

Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 Electric 4935 is displayed in Strasburg at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Exposed on 120-size Fujichrome 100F using a Rolleiflex Model T fitted with a 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens mounted on a tripod.

As a youngster, I was thrilled by former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1s and made many photographs of these electrics in service on Amtrak and NJ Transit.

Today, I’ve chosen a relatively modern image of preserved and beautifully restored PRR Electric 4935 that is displayed at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. I exposed this photograph in June 2007 while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania.

Among Loewy’s early assignments for Pennsylvania Railroad was to refine the styling on its new GG1 electric. Loewy suggest using a welded body instead of a traditional riveted design, while providing the classic ‘cat’s whiskers’ livery and tidying up marker light housings, cab windows and other body details.

The GG1 remains one of Loewy’s best known designs and an American classic.

Just over 30 years ago, on October 29, 1983, I was among the faithful that rode New Jersey Transit’s ‘Farewell to the GG1’ excursion.

Thanks to Stephen Hirsch for reminding me of today’s significance!

See some of my vintage GG1 photos: January 15th and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 4876

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DAILY POST: East Brookfield, Massachusetts Moments Before Sunrise.

A Broadside Pan of Modern Locomotives with Autumn Foliage.

CSX Evolution-series locomotive.
CSX Q422 rolls east at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.

Early in the morning of October 22, 2013, I noticed that CSX’s Q422-22 was working the east end of Palmer yard. It was too dark to make a conventional image, and the location of the train not suited to make a night photograph, so I headed east.

CSX’s Q422 is not a train I often see. This is a carload train that runs from Selkirk Yard (near Albany) over the former Boston & Albany main line to Worcester. It is one of many symbol freights on the B&A route that tends to be nocturnal.

When I was photographing in the 1980s, Conrail operated a similar train which carried the symbol SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester). This tended to run in the mid-morning and normally followed the intermodal parade.

I made many images of the old SEPW, which back in 1984 typically operated with sets of four GE B23-7s (rated at 2,250 hp each).

Memories of those days flashed through my mind as I drove east toward daylight. I followed the line up the Quaboag River Valley, as I have many times in the past. At West Warren, there was a glow in the eastern sky, but it was still pretty dark, so after a few test shots I continued eastward.

I considered a favorite location at Brookfield, near milepost 67, but decided against it because it was too head on (stay tuned for an image at this location in an upcoming  post).

I’ve found that in very low light, it helps to photograph trains off-axis to minimize the effect of locomotive headlights. When ambient light levels are low (at dawn, dusk, and very dull days) the relative brightness of headlights can result in undesirable flare which can be especially annoying with digital photography.

Recent undercutting work at East Brookfield resulted in clearing of a small hill that has made for a great broad-side photo location. This is set back from the tracks and provides good elevation. Here, I set up and waited.

Before long I could here the chug of  General Electric diesels across the Brookfield flats and then my scanner chirped something to the effect of: “CSXT Q422-22, Clear Signal CP64.”

To get the effect of speed and set the locomotives off from the background foliage, I exposed this image at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.

As CSX’s Q422 ascended Charlton Hill on it last leg of the trip to Worcester, I headed in a north-westerly direction toward Millers Falls. I’ve learned that make the most of a New England autumn, it helps to keep moving.

CSX_3077_w_Q422_Pan_East_Brookfield_2_IMG_3510

For more on photographic panning technique see the following Tracking the Light archive posts: Irish Rail Intercity Railcar Panned; February 18, 2013; and More Secrets on Pan Photos.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution CSX and other America railway networks.

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DAILY POST: Quaboag River Arches at West Warren, Massachusetts

Autumn Color and Mirror-Like River Make for a Diorama-Like Setting.

The rugged unsettled Quaboag Valley between Palmer and West Warren is a beautiful place, but difficult to work with photographically. Access is limited and the narrow valley combined with heavy overgrowth shadows the line much of the day.

CSXT train on bridge.
CSX’s Q022-22 works east on the former Boston & Albany mainline near West Warren, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens. Minor adjustments in post-processing were necessary to control contrast and improve exposure.

My favorite vantage-point is this twin stone-arch bridge near West Warren. Since my last visit, logging efforts have opened the vista a bit more, allowing a slightly higher view of the tracks.

On October 23, 2013, I learned that CSX’s Q022 (eastward Intermodal container train destined for Worcester) was about an hour away, so I put myself in position to make a photograph.

The season’s leaves were just past peak, which is my preferred time to make autumn images of trains. Why? I’ve found that when almost all the trees are orange, brown and yellow, with hints of red, images seem more autumnal than when some trees are their most brilliant shades of red and orange but others remain green.

A stroke of luck was the very still day: there was virtually no wind while relatively low water-levels in the Quaboag allowed for a mirror like reflection of the bridge and train. This effect is much harder to achieve when the sun is out causing light breezes that tend blur the surface of the water.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution CSX and other America railway networks.

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

Explore Tracking the Light’s archives for more than 300 previous posts.

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DAILY POST: MBTA Boston October 27, 2013—Part 2


Sunday Afternoon and Evening.

MBTA
At Tower 1, MBTA 1123 shoves toward Boston‘s North Station. MBTA diesel fleet will soon be transformed by 40 new locomotives built by MPI using General Electric components. As is often the case with fleet upgrading, older locomotives may be withdrawn as newer ones come on line. Lumix LX3 photo modified in post processing to improve contrast and color balance.

Boston gets some great light and evening can be one of the best times to make photographs.

Sunday October 27th was clear in the morning, but clouded up a bit during midday. Towards evening the clouds melted away and a rich golden light prevailed.

MBTA
MBTA 1034 crosses the drawbridges near North Station as it shoves its train toward the terminal station. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA
MBTA F40PH 1025 departs Boston’s North Station on Sunday afternoon. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Boston
Boston Duck Boat. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA Orange Line.