It was a clear fresh May morning when I met my friend George S. Pitarys for a day’s photography. We were aiming to photograph the New Hampshire North Coast’s rock train, however, George said to me, ‘lad, we have a diversion.’
We set up at Boston & Maine’s heavy truss over the Merrimack River at Haverhill for a westward freight. The attraction was a trio of former Santa Fe SD26s in the lead.
As the train approached the bridge, I was impressed by the view of the old brick buildings with the train looming to the left.
I exposed this image with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm lens. I also made a more traditional view of the locomotives on the bridge, but for me, this one better conveys railroading in a post-industrial New England scene.
In 1984, the DART began electric services between Howth and Bray. This offered an improvement to existing Dublin suburban services by wiring existing routes. The service was later extended to Greystones and Malahide.
The line between Pearse Station (formerly Westland Row) and Dún Laoghaire (formerly Kingstown) had been opened in 1834 and is considered the world’s oldest suburban railway.
The hum of DART’s electric multiple units are a familiar tone of Dublin transport.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve made several images of DART trains during my travels around Dublin. All were exposed with my Canon EOS 7D.
A clear bright day and an excellent crowd made for a great day out with locomotive 461 and the preserved Cravens carriages.
The train boarded at Dublin’s Connolly Station and ran directly to Wicklow with stunning views of Dublin bay from Killiney and Bray Head.
At Wicklow, the special was overtaken by a holiday ‘relief’ special to Gorey that operated with the freshly painted candy apple green 29000 set.
A short trip was run from Wicklow to Greystones and return, with some spirited running along the beaches south of Greystones.
Engine 461 is a former Dublin & South Eastern 2-6-0 goods engine, so it was working on old home rails. The locomotive was steaming well and made for a great performance.
Reported difficulties with the points at Wicklow resulted in minor delays on the return trip, but clear signals up to Dublin and excellent running by the steam crew found us back at Connolly only a few minutes behind the advertised.
I traveled on the train, and used opportunities at station stops to make photos of the crew.
These are some of my digital results. I also used my old Nikon F3 with a 24mm lens to exposed some Fuji Acros 100 black & white film. Somehow steam and B&W seems like an appropriate combination! Those images remain latent, and perhaps will be a topic for a future post!
Several weeks ago, Irish Rail released one of its 29000-series suburban railcars in a fresh new two-tone green and yellow livery.
My initial haphazard attempts at finding this train on the move were unsuccessful. However, on April 21, 2014, I got lucky.
I was riding Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Easter Eggspress led by steam locomotive 461, when at Wicklow, our train was overtaken by an Easter Monday ‘relief’ from Connolly to Gorey worked by set 0129117 (formerly 29117) in the new livery!
Armed with this knowledge, I consulted my operations expert for advice on when the train would return to Dublin.
After the Easter Eggspress arrived back in Dublin, I made my way over to Platform 6. Here I scored these views of the freshly painted train that arrived about 15 minutes later.
Soft early evening sun made for nearly perfect lighting conditions. After the train discharged its passengers, it worked back over the Loop Line toward Pearse Station and the old Boston sidings.
I always like to catch a new livery as soon as I can; Before it gets dirty, before someone decides to change it.
Tomorrow: Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Easter Eggspress!
A few years ago Irish Rail rebuilt a portion of its old line between Clonsilla and Navan. This had been closed in the early 1960s and the right of way had largely returned to nature.
In late 2009, I’d explored the rebuilding as tracks were being installed, but I’d been negligent in my photography of this new route since that time.
On Wednesday, April 16, 2014, I rode the LUAS tram to Dublin’s Docklands and walked over to Irish Rail’s Dockland station at the North Wall. This was built during the Celtic Tiger boom, which had also resulted in abandonment of most of Irish Rail’s North Wall freight yards.
I went for a relaxing spin directly to the end of the new branch at ‘M3 Parkway’. The track was in superb condition.
On my return trip, I changed trains at Clonsilla. Instead of returning via Docklands, I rode directly to Connolly Station. Later, I learned that two hours before my trip the elusive Sperry train had made a run to M3 Parkway and back! I had no idea. Right place, wrong time. Lucky miss, I guess.
Back in 1996 a European friend said to me, ‘you ought to visit Lisbon, they’ve got some wonderful old trams there.’ Some 18 years later, I finally ticked off that box in my notebook. Better late, than not at all.
Lisbon is famous for its narrow gauge trams that crawl up narrow and steeply graded streets. This track work is amazing. It’s amazing that it was ever built, and even more so that some of the lines are still worked in 2014!
The old trams are of course a tourist attraction, but like San Francisco’s cable cars, these function as part of the transit system.
Visitors queue to board, much to the delight of local pickpockets. I was forewarned about light-fingered activities, so I took precautionary measures. And, also made a sport of spotting the picks. Not to point fingers, I saw nothing lifted, but I saw some suspicious characters in the queue (who didn’t seem to have any interest in riding a tram).
The quirky old cars are enhanced by the colorful tapestry that makes up Lisbon’s old city. Sunny skies were delivered as ordered.
Route number 15 is populated by modern LRV style cars, but passes through some interesting areas and runs parallel to an old heavy-rail commuter rail route.
A railcar sunset? No, it’s not a metaphor, it really was a railcar at that time of day.
On April 15, 2014, I was passing the Heuston shed and notice that the soft orange light of the setting sun had illuminated this cavernous space. Lucky for me, there was a train approaching platform 4. (If it had been lined to any of the other platforms this photograph wouldn’t have worked.)
Using my Lumix LX3, I made this panned view. It captures the motion while helping to visually separate the front of the train from the interior ironwork. The low light allows for a pleasing glint effect without becoming overbearing or distracting.
The advantages of being up early include being treated to cosmic light. On this August 1996 morning, I was photographing Northern Pacific 4-6-0 number 328 as it was being prepared for a day’s excursions with the Minnesota Transportation Museum.
The engine’s rods, bathed in boiler steam reflected the muted glow of the rising sun. A magenta hue had graced the Wisconsin sky. The effect lasted only a few minutes, and before long the sun was shinning brightly.
I worked quickly, making many detailed views of the locomotive equipment and its crew. At the time I was researching for my book The American Steam Locomotive (published by MBI), while working as editor for Pacific RailNews
Good Friday has a long-standing tradition of being a special day on Irish Rail. The weather is usually fine, and there’s always something interesting on the move.
This year Good Friday again met, and exceeded, expectations. The previous day had been a disappointment.
On Thursday, April 17, 2014, my friend Colm O’Callaghan and I had been out for the Irish Rail Sperry train. (Previously in Tracking the Light, I’ve highlighted this elusive rail-defect detection train, see: Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012). On that day, we waited in vain under increasingly cloudy skies. As it turned out the Sperry’s plan for the day was cancelled.
When Good Friday dawned clear and bright, I wondered if there was anything on the move. I’d set out for the shops to get some breakfast, but had the wisdom to bring some of my cameras with me.
On the way, I stopped at my familiar Islandbridge Junction overlook (near Heuston Station), where I noted that a railcar transfer was in progress. I made some photographs. Then, I heard from Colm: the Sperry train was expected to depart Dublin’s North Wall after 10am! Wheels were turning!
My morning shopping trip was suspended as we headed ‘down road’ to find places to intercept one of Ireland’s most difficult quarries. This Sperry rail-defect detection train only makes a few trips a year, and it had changed its program on a moment’s notice!
Our quick action and careful thought paid off. As it turned out, the Sperry was working up and down on the quad track section of the Cork line. So, we had several excellent opportunities for photography. Assisting our efforts were regular updates and communications from like-minded photographers up and down the line from our positions. (Thanks guys!).
For me the day’s highlight followed a tense moment at Stacumny Bridge (near Hazelhatch), when the up-road IWT Liner (Ballina to Dublin container train) and the Sperry train (working down road) approached us simultaneously! This had all the ingredients for a photographic disaster.
Trying to position for two moving trains in opposite directions takes skill and a lot of luck. We were very lucky. In the end, while I didn’t get what I’d anticipated, instead, made a once in a lifetime photograph: the near perfect rolling meet between the liner and Sperry train under full sun! Yea!
The downside: by the end of the day my poor old Panasonic Lumix LX3 developed a minor intermittent electrical fault. While, I was still able to make photographs with it, its reliable performance is now in question. After near five years of hard service, my favorite ‘everywhere camera’ may need to be replaced! In the meantime, I’ve got my Canon EOS 7D, plus Canon film cameras and my old Nikons to fall back on.
It was extraordinarily cold when Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I set out to photograph Toronto’s morning rush hour.
One of the biggest challenges working in very cold weather is the effect on battery life. After a couple of hours, almost all my batteries were dead. We made a mid morning trip back to our hotel to charge batteries.
For this photograph, I opted to center the locomotive, while setting it back in the frame. This adds visual tension and draws the eye in.
Bright low sunlight reflecting from the white locomotive front made for a difficult exposure.
Although, I pre-set the camera manually, I continued to make fine adjustments as the train approached. In the last instant before I released the shutter, I stopped down (reduced the exposure) to compensate for the bright front end.
I was traveling with Tim Doherty in Pennsylvania. A full moon illuminated the landscape. We opted to make time exposures of the Herculean former Lackawanna Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct at Nicholson, Pennsylvania.
We opted for several vantage points. This view was exposed from a graveyard located on a hill above Nicholson to the west.
Using my Nikon F3T firmly planted on a Bogan tripod, I exposed this image for more than a minute. The filtered moonlight allowed for a ethereal image of the viaduct.
I’m not completely satisfied with the photo. It doesn’t really convey the immense size of the bridge and the foreground is underexposed.
However, what really annoys me is that most of the photos I tried to make that evening never existed. In the darkness, I grabbed the wrong Nikon body. As it turned out, I failed to load that camera. So there was a lot of standing around making time exposures without a recording media in the camera! Poor show.
Exploring the former Central Railroad of New Jersey Elizabethport Shops, I found this decaying former Southern Railway E8A, still dressed in the railroad’s white, green and gold.
New Jersey Department of Transportation (antecedent to today’s NJ Transit) acquired this locomotive among others for commuter services, after Southern conveyed its passenger services (including the Crescent) to Amtrak in 1979.
I’d never seen Southern’s Crescent and in 1986, I was delighted to find this rusting vestige from an earlier era. I made a few studies of the locomotive on black and white film and with color slides. I wonder what became of this locomotive?
Porto is an ancient and attractive city built along the River Douro. It was urbanized in Roman times, so relatively modern features such as electric trams, are really just a contemporary gloss on a place with a long history.
I think it’s important to put the timeline in perspective. There’s old, and there’s ancient! Car 131 is a one hundred year old Brill. While car 218 dates from the World War II era. Both add to the city’s charm.
There are three historic routes in service. Two wind through steep and narrow streets in the city center. The third works the river-front. The sound of the clanging bells is a thread to another era.
While riding one of the cars, I overheard an elderly British woman explaining that her great grand-parents lived in Napoleonic times. Napoleon was routed from Porto by the British Duke of Wellington.
Wellington was born in Ireland (although he famously disparaged his birthplace) and in the Dublin’s Phoenix Park, across the river from my apartment, stands the Wellington Testimonial (that celebrates his military victories). I can view this giant obelisk from my window. So there you go!
Gustav Eiffel is best known for his iron tower in Paris. However, he was also a prolific bridge builder and his iron bridges share characteristics with his Parisian tower.
Two of his bridges span the Douro River in Porto, Portugal, and both of these have railway histories. One bridge is presently closed and once carried 5 foot 6 inch gauge tracks for mainline trains while the other is open to foot traffic and Porto’s tram metro on its top level, while its bottom level carries a road.
In early April, I made many photos of the more prominent bridge, called Ponte Luiz I, built in the 1880s. Porto enjoys impressive verticality, and I used the city’s natural geography to find some great angles on the span.
Portugal shares the broad Iberian standard gauge with Spain: rails are five feet six inches apart. Despite this commonality, today there are relatively few international services between the two countries.
One of the few cross-border trains is the nightly combined Lusitania/Sud Expresso connecting Lisbon with Spanish cities. The Lusitania runs Lisbon-Madrid, while the Sud Expresso is a vestige of the old Wagon Lits luxury express that once connected Lisbon with Paris, but now only goes as far as Irun on the Spanish-French frontier.
The train operates with RENFE (Spanish Railways) TALGO train hotel equipment, which makes it anomalous compared with the majority of Portuguese passenger trains.
On April 3, 2014, I planned to photograph the eastward Lusitania/Sud Expresso (train 335/310) during its station stop at Entrocamento, Portugal.
This is a big station, adjacent to freight yards, shops, and Portugal’s National Railway Museum.
The train departed Lisbon Santa Apolónia at 9:18 pm, and arrived at Entroncamento a little more than an hour later. I had less than five minutes to make photographs.
Then I quickly swapped the Lumix for my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens loaded with Provia 100F, and made a three exposure bracket. With film, I find it difficult to gauge night exposures, so I aided my efforts with my handheld Minolta Mark IV light meter.
Provia 100F has a filtration layer that minimizes undesirable color spikes caused by fluorescent and sodium lighting.
In the middle of this time-exposure exercise, I also made several handheld images using my Canon EOS 7D set for a high ISO. I figured that covered most of the angles.
I was distracted during my efforts by the arrival of a Takargo Vossloh E4000 diesel (powered by an EMD 16-710 engine) hauling a container train.
As soon as the train hotel pulled away, I repositioned to photograph the diesel-hauled container train.
My first experience with the Italian Pendolino design was in Switzerland more than 14 years ago when I was researching for my book Bullet Trains—a survey of high-speed trains and railways (published by MBI in 2001).
Here’s an excerpt from my text:
The Pendolino’s tilt system provides a luxurious, smooth ride, on sinuous track. The effect of the tilting is subtle and scarcely noticeable as the train glides a long at speed. The Pendolino has proven a successful export item, and have been ordered by Finnish, Czech, and British railways. The appeal of the Pendolino, and other successful tilting designs, such as the Spanish TALGO and Swedish X2000 is the ability to increase running speeds without a massive investment in new infrastructure.
Since that time, several additional European countries have added Pendolino trains to their fleets. I’ve photographed them in a half dozen countries, most recently in early April this year, in Portugal where they are assigned to premier services between Porto, Lisbon and Faro.
Comboios de Portugal (Portugal’s national railway, known by initials ‘CP’) has ten train-sets which work as Alfa Pendular services.
A challenge when photographing Pendolino trains is catching them mid-tilt. I’ve found one way to capture this is working from the outside of a curve using a long telephoto lens. This is most effective when the front of the train has tilted but the rear remains level with the track structure.
It helps to level the camera with an obvious line-side vertical object such as electrification masts, signals or buildings.
Another technique is to catch the train on the inside of a curve with a wider lens, but still leveling the camera with line-side vertical elements.
A visit to Portugal’s national railway, Comboios de Portugal (known by initials ‘CP’) proved rewarding and photographically productive.
After arriving at Lisbon airport, I visited the rural station at Riachos T Novas in Golega. This place is a gem. Classic manned station building with freight sidings and all the trappings of another era, but very few of the intrusions of modern construction (in other words, no wire fences, overbuilt footbridges, etc.)
The station is on the busy double-track electrified mainline between Lisbon and Entroncamento. This carries a variety of freight and passenger trains, including through trains to Porto, and Spanish border crossings. Trains passed every 10-15 minutes.
At one point the sky opened and rain fell hard for few minutes. When it passed, a double rainbow graced the sky for a few minutes. My images of a suburban train with the cosmic weather were exposed on Fujichrome and remain latent pending processing.
Interestingly, when I first arrived, a local camera club had descended en masse and was snapping away at everything. Unfortunately for the club, they departed before the rain and thus missed the glorious evening light! This was pity for them. By contrast, I worked through the best light and made the most of it.
Stay tuned for my further exploration of Portuguese railways.
In its heyday, Mullingar was an important station on the old Midland Great Western Railway. Here, the large signal cabin controlled the junction between Sligo and Galway routes. There were goods yards and locomotive sheds. It was a busy place.
Today, it’s little more than a big station serving Irish Rail’s Sligo Line. Yet, vestiges of its former glory remain. While the double line junction at the Dublin-end of the station was removed in 2003, and the signal cabin ceased to function as a block post on the Sligo line in 2005, the cabin remains. So do the platforms for the old Galway Road.
The Galway road continues toward Athlone, but vanishes into the weeds after it leaves the station. It has been more than a decade since the last train traveled the line, and that was only the annual weed-spraying run.
Semaphores and other antique infrastructure dot the plant.
The arrival of locomotive 461 allowed me opportunity to photograph the signal cabin and the old Galway side of Mulligar Station.
For me this was a flashback. Not to the glory days of the Midland Great Western, but to the late 1990s early 2000s, when I first visited Mullingar. So much had changed since then, yet so much more remains at Mullingar than many other places on Irish Rail.
Here’s just a few photos from the many images I exposed on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
When photographing a special train, I like to make the first photograph of the day count as one of the best.
Railway Preservation Society Ireland operated locomotive 461 with an excursion from Dublin Connolly Station to Mullingar on the old Midland route.
This railway was built along the banks of the Royal Canal, and canal-side running characterizes the line.
Hugh Dempsey and I set out from Dublin about an hour ahead of the train, and selected this spot as one of the best.
The sun and clouds cooperated nicely. Yet, the extreme contrast of the scene require a bit of post-processing to control contrast. I made a variety of small changes to adjust the image, including both global and localized contrast adjustment.
I made this image using my Canon EOS 3 with a 20mm lens. This outbound Cal-Train commute had just discharged passengers at the old Southern Pacific station at San Mateo.
I want an iconic modern image that said ‘California’. What better way to do that, than focus on the Cal-Train logo while incorporating the warm blue sky, palm trees, and a reflection of the sun in the window of the train?
At first glance this might look like a train heading downgrade toward the camera. In fact it is an image of rear-end helpers working the back of a eastward freight ascending Donner Pass.
In December 1989, I was familiarizing myself with SP operations on Donner Pass. I had just recently moved to Roseville, California and this made for a good base of operations to explore ‘The Hill’.
I’d been following this eastward freight. Although it was December, California was in a drought and there was very little snow in the Sierra.
I parked at the rest area off the westward lanes of Interstate 80 and walked down to the snow-shed that protected Switch 9—located east of Emigrant Gap.
I framed this trailing view to take in I-80 as well as the railroad.
How can you tell this the locomotives are trailing? There are three clues: SP normally assigned more than two locomotives to the head-end of trains on Donner Pass. The train is working the normal eastward main (although this was CTC territory, so in theory train could have used either track). For me the real tip off is the headlight, which has been dimmed, a standard practice for helpers.
It was a clear morning, an azure dome from horizon to horizon, but not much was moving on Southern Pacific at Oakland, California, except for Amtrak.
Amtrak had recently introduced its Sacramento-San Jose Capitol Corridor and some of these trains were working with its new General Electric P32-8BWH diesels, colloquially known as ‘Pepsi Cans’ because of their distinctive livery.
For me these locomotives were a refreshing change to the ubiquitous Electro-Motive F40PHs that had been the rule on Amtrak long distance services for years.
At Oakland’s Jack London Square, Southern Pacific tracks shared the street for several blocks. The most interesting location on this section of street trackage was SP’s signal bridge that spanned First Street.
I set up here to catch Amtrak train 721 Capitols working from 16th Street Station toward San Jose. This was before Amtrak closed 16th Street and developed a new station at Jack London Square a few blocks from the location of this photo.
The Great Lakes can produce dramatic climatic effects, especially at dawn and dusk.
On this day, I drove west from Rochester through torrential Spring rains. However, it was dry when I reached Niagara Falls, the line of showers having stayed well south of Lake Ontario.
I made this image of Amtrak trains laying over in the Niagara Falls yard as the sun was rising above a dark and stormy sky. The lighting was totally surreal, like a scene from the cover of a science fiction novel.
In the distance, in what I believe was the former Lehigh Valley yard, was hundreds of stored 50 foot box cars lettered in the blue and white “I Love NY” scheme.
Here’s my trick: to reduce undesirable flare, I shaded the front element of the lens using the extendable lens shade and my notebook, while I calculated exposure manually, using a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell in its ‘reflected light’ mode. I made several exposures before the light changed.
I used the light meter to carefully gauge the amount of light reflecting off the Amfleet passenger cars to avoid loss of highlight detail, while allowing the shadow areas to appear comparatively dark. This was a judgment call on my part that resulted in a more dramatic image.
On this day 38 years ago, the Consolidated Rail Corporation assumed operation of various bankrupt railroads in the northeastern United States, including Penn-Central, Erie-Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the Lehigh & Hudson River.
Conrail was bought and divided by CSXT and Norfolk Southern in the mid-1990s, and ended its independent operations in Spring 1999.
During the 23 years that Conrail dominated northeastern freight railroading, I made tens of thousands of photographs of its operations and equipment. In 2004, the book that Tim Doherty and I authored on Conrail was published by MBI. I believe this is something of a collector’s item now.