Streamliners at Spencer: The Real Star of the Show?
Although streamlined steam locomotive 611 was getting most of the attention, historically the most important exhibit was General Motors FT demonstrator 103.
Last night FT 103 was lit up for all to see.
I’ve written about this locomotive in many of my books. It is the most influential American locomotive of the twentieth century because it demonstrated to the railroad industry that diesels offered a cost effective replacement for steam.
Electro-Motive’s most significant innovation was its development of the first commercially viable road freight diesel. From a technical perspective this was an advancement of the E-unit — the application of this long anticipated new road diesel proved revolutionary for American railroads. Once on a roll, it not only turned locomotive building on its ear, but forever changed the way railroads bought locomotives and operated trains EMD’s F-unit was the most important player in the rapid dieselization American lines.
NS CEO, Wick Moorman pointed out in yesterday’s address at Spencer, that FT 103 was ‘even older than 611,’ while sincerely thanking the St. Louis Museum of Transportation for sending the locomotive for display.
Pan Am at North Bennington? Who could have imagined this 20 years ago?
I spent that morning following Vermont Rail System’s ‘B&R Job’ south from Rutland. Yet the photographic highlight was catching its connection, Pan Am’s RJ-1 local, at North Bennington.
Back in the day, Pan Am was an airline with round the world schedules. The name conjures up images of handsome blue Boeing 747s, or pre-World War II ‘Clippers’ (see planes).
Pan Am Railways is a re-branding of the Guilford system which operates former Boston & Maine and Maine Central lines. In 2007, two former Canadian National GP40-2L (sometimes identified as ‘GP40-2W’) locomotives were painted in a livery reminiscent of the old Pan Am Airlines’ scheme.
Yet, this scenario seems just a bit weird to me, like some alternate version of the future. Anyway you look at it, the combination of the restored historic station and a sky blue engine is both fascinating and strange.
This beautifully restored locomotive is a vision from an earlier era. Passenger trains just don’t look like this anymore.
I made a spot decision to pan in order to visually separate the green on the locomotive from the densely foliated background.
Since I had only a few seconds to adjust my exposure, I left the camera in ‘A’ mode (aperture priority), added +1/3 of a stop (to lighten the scene), and turned the external aperture ring to f8, the smallest setting. This forced the camera to select a slower shutter speed, which is what I needed for a successful pan.
I moved the camera with the front of the locomotive as it passed.
One other trick: this engine was trailing, not leading.
When I was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Kodak would annually supply photo students with a gift package of examples of their latest products.
Although I was a confirmed Kodachrome customer, as a poor student, I always make use of the other films supplied. In January 1989, I had a role of ‘Ektachrome of the year’. This was the latest 100 speed slide film.
I loaded up the Leica M2, and drove my Dodge Dart around the Rochester area looking for suitable subjects with which to sample this new emulsion.
At Charlotte, where Conrail accessed a portion of the old Hojack route, I found this local working. Was this the local freight that served Kodak’s Rochester factories on the far side of the Genesee River? I can’t say for certain, but that really would be appropriate, wouldn’t it?
January 1989; Conrail had a full ten years left. At the end of May 1999, Conrail’s independent operations ended and CSX and NS took over.
Morning Views, May 28, 2014—North Carolina Transportation Museum.
With more than two dozen classic locomotives to photograph, and lots of other relics of interest, I exposed more than 300 image with the Lumix LX-7 in just three hours. In addition, I was also working with my Canons, one for film, one for pixels.
Here are just some of detailed views I exposed with the Lumix. These are macro images, as opposed to wide shots that take in the whole scene. (And, yes, I made plenty of those too.)
The light was mixed. Nice soft early sun soon gave way to a hazy flat bright light. I’m glad I brought my old Minolta IV light meter, this proved very useful.
The ease of use of the Lumix LX-7 made it an especially valuable too. Today I was working with the electronic view finder, instead of the rear screen display. I wonder if this altered my compositions?
I was very impressed by the paint on the Lackawanna F3’s, even if they were built for the Bangor & Aroostook, What are your favorite locomotives on display at Spencer?
More Spencer Streamliner photos to come over the next few days!
Tracking the Light posts new material every day, with special ‘Extra’ posts on the Streamliners at Spencer event this week!
On May 29, 1985, I was visiting Montreal, having arrived that morning on the overnight VIA Rail train from Toronto. The signalman/tower operator was friendly, and allowed me to spend several hours photographing trains from the tower.
This was before VIA rationalized its schedules, and there was a constant parade of trains coming and going. Here, I’ve used the tower door to frame an inbound LRC train.
I didn’t think much of the modern LRC trains at the time. But I’m glad I preserved them on film.
Hmm, sounds like the chorus to a song. It was cool and damp when Amtrak’s Carolinian departed Trenton a little after 8am this morning (May 28, 2014). Now, its 94 degrees Fahrenheit outside!
We’ve been traveling at a reduced speed because of the heat. An customer (passenger?) announcement was made in this regard, shortly after we crossed the diamonds at Doswell (historically where the Chesapeake & Ohio crossed the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac).
There’s lots of CSX freight on the line, if not moving particularly fast.
At Richmond, Staple Mills Station, we stopped for a crew change and a ‘smoke brake’. (If burning through the pixels with the LX-7 counts as ‘smoke,’ I’m in.)
A northward CSX trash train with an AC6000CW was parked near the head-end of Amtrak 79, Carolinian. It was a bit of shock to step out of the air-conditioned Amfleet car and into the heat.
Our baggage car belongs to the streamlined era. Appropriate, since we are going to the North Carolina Transportation Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer event. Later this year I’ll be writing a book on American railroad’s streamlined era to be published by Voyageur Press!
Trenton Makes the World Takes—That’s what the sign says!
May 28, 2014. Three passenger railways, lots of trains and not much time.
I’m traveling with Pat Yough. We arrived at Trenton about 20 minutes before the arrival of Amtrak 79 Carolinian. [Posted from the train via Amtrak’s WiFi.]
I put the Panasonic LX-7 through its paces. Changing the ISO proved to be a bit different than I was used to with my old LX-3. One of the great advantages of digital photography is the ability to adjust the ISO (camera sensitivity) and color profile from frame to frame. Back when I was just shooting film, I’d routinely carry several camera bodies loaded with different film types.
It took me a while to figure out how to change the ISO, but it turns out that Panasonic had anticipated my need. Where the LX-3 required multi-tier menu navigation, the LX-7 has a special button labeled ‘ISO.’ This allows an easy change.
While at Trenton, I experimented with 400 and 80 ISO settings. The sensor on the LX-7 is much improved over the LX-3s.
With the LX-7, I found the 400 ISO setting to be very acceptable on the computer screen. While nominally less saturated and with more noise in the shadows than ISO 80, over all the result was really very good. I’d generally avoided using 400 ISO on the LX-3.
Today’s post is a follow up to both of yesterday’s posts, which covered my experiments with the Lumix LX-7 and the beginning of my adventure to Spencer.
As covered in yesterday’s Tracking the Light Special Post, I was traveling on Amtrak’s two-car shuttle, scheduled as train 475, which runs from Springfield, Massachusetts to New Haven, Connecticut to connect with Boston-Washington train 175. I sent my post from the train.
Amtrak 475 arrived early in New Haven, giving me about 15 minutes to wander around making photographs. I’m continuing to test my father’s Panasonic Lumix LX-7, and there was some nice low sun to work with.
I was keen to photograph the Shore Line East train which features a ‘GP40-2H’ locomotive in the classic New Haven Railroad McGinnis livery.
I also fished out my Canon EOS3, that was buried in the depths of my camera bag, and exposed a few frames of Fuji Velvia 100 of the New Haven painted commuter engine. My hand held Minolta IV light meter aided my exposure; f5.6 1/500th.
It will be a few weeks yet before I see the slides, so for now we can settle for the Lumix instant digital images (that’s what they are for, right?)
New Haven in the early evening is a busy place. In addition to Metro-North trains coming and going, an Acela bound for Boston was arriving on Track 4, just as Amtrak 175 approached Track 1.
I exposed a series of images of train 175, hauled by venerable Amtrak AEM7 number 943. How many millions of miles has this old electric have to its credit? Low sun and the angle of the curve made for a nice grab shot from the Boston-end of the passenger platform.
Certainly, I found that the Lumix LX-7 has its moments, although the differences in the controls (as compared with my old LX-3) befuddled me a couple of times. Traveling on 175 was comfortable, but the WiFi on the train wasn’t working. I arrived in Trenton at the last glow of daylight.
I’m just getting warmed up, so stay tuned! (or what ever the Internet equivalent is to that old radio term).
This promises to be an excellent opportunity to photograph a great variety of restored classic diesels. I’m looking forward to seeing the Alco PA. I’ve written a great deal about this model, yet I’ve never seen one! It will be great to see 611 again.
And, I’ll finally get to see one of the Pan Am executive F-units! (Seems like when ever these run in New England, I’m either in Ireland, Chicago, or someplace over the hills and far away.)
I’ll be posting updates! Stay tuned to Tracking the Light for more photos!
Last month (April 2104), my Panasonic Lumix LX-3 began performing erratically while I was photographing Irish Rail at Monasterevin.
Although annoying, this was only a minor setback of the day, because I had my Canon EOS 7D with me. I often travel with at least two cameras, just in case one develops problems.
The LX-3 suddenly suffered an electrical fault; specifically the rear display stopped working reliably. Sometimes it would flicker on, other times it was dark. I tried all the usual cures; I turned the camera off and then on, I removed the battery, I even tried the factory reset. No joy.
In the short term I found that if I pressed on the side of the camera body, the display would come on long enough to make adjustments. I continued to use the LX-3 for secondary services, while relying on the Canon EOS 7D and film cameras for more critical work.
I’ve had my LX-3 for almost five years and in that time I’ve carried it with me everywhere. It’s visited about a dozen countries, and more than a dozen US states. In addition to pictorial service, I’ve used it intensively to copy documents while in libraries. Using the in-camera file counter, I determined that I released the shutter more than 64,000 times.
Last November the camera took a very hard knock, which didn’t immediately affect its performance, but certainly didn’t do it any good. In April, the camera was subject to unusual dampness (it got wet) while I was making night shots in Porto, Portugal.
On May 24, 2014, my father lent me his Panasonic LX-7 to see if this newer Lumix model would offer a suitable replacement. This camera comes highly recommended to me by several people. Since it’s essentially the latest model kin to my LX-3, it may represent an ideal choice for my new ‘everywhere camera’.
I brought it to Palmer, Massachusetts where I exposed about 100 images in various conditions, both to get a feel for the cameras controls (which have several notable differences from the LX-3), and examine the quality of the images.
I found that the LX-7 had several positive points. In general it reacted quicker and cycled faster than the LX3. Its zoom lens has a wider range, and offers longer telephoto photo settings. The rear display seemed sharper and brighter.
On the downside, I was unfamiliar with the controls, so setting the camera proved challenging. Also, the camera is slightly larger.
In general I was happy with my results, and plan to experiment a bit more with the camera before I commit to buying one. There are a variety of excellent small cameras on the market these days, so I may wish to sample some of these too. More to come!
Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I spent a few cold minutes making night photos in downtown Toronto. I exposed this image using my Lumix LX3 mounted on a Gitzo tripod. A GO Transit train was gliding away from Union Station. Twenty five years earlier on a glorious May morning, I’d been up in that tower! Different times, but basically the same place. Seems like a different world altogether.
I’d called up to Tucker’s Hobbies at closing time. Bob Buck met me at the door. “The CSX Business train passed Worcester westbound more than 20 minutes ago!”
We made a hasty departure for Palmer. And halfway down the Quaboag River Valley between West Warren and Palmer, I hear CSX’s dragging equipment detector at West Warren report, ‘no defects’.
“It’s about 3 minutes behind us,” I said, as I accelerated the car.
We pulled into the yard at Palmer, near the site of the old freight house. It was wet, the light was fading. I prepped my Lumix as the train came into view, and popped off a few pan photos as it raced west. Bob was delighted! I made a few prints for him.
Tucker’s Hobbies was the dream business for my late friend and mentor, Robert A. Buck, who in 1981 relocated and transformed his Tucker’s Hardware into Tucker’s Hobbies. This had long been a focal point for railway interest, a place to meet railroaders, model railroaders, enthusiasts, and others.
I’ve been regularly visiting Tucker’s since its hardware store days on Main Street in Warren. In the 1980s, I was a regular for Friday night sessions and despite living in myriad locations, I’ve often come back for visits.
Bob Buck passed away in October 2011. Yet, the store has remained open on Friday and Saturday’s. However, all things must end. And this past weekend (May 16-17) represented the store’s final opening hours in Warren.
I called into Tucker’s for an hour Friday night (May 16) to visit with old friends and take a final look at the shop. I made these digital images using my Canon EOS 7D. This was a venue that via Bob Buck had a profound influence on my interests in railways and on my photography.
Yet Tucker’s legacy lives on, and the store will be taking a new form as Palmer Hobbies opening soon on Main Street in nearby Palmer, Massachusetts.
It was a hot, humid and hazy morning. The sunlight was tinted by gauzy smog which softened the scene.
Bob Karambelas and I were exploring the junction at Hunter Tower in Newark, New Jersey, where the former Lehigh Valley crossed the old Pennsylvania Railroad electrified mainline.
A westward freight with a pair of SD40-2s was departing Oak Island yard and I exposed this view looking a down a grungy side street with a 200mm lens.
I’ve always been fascinated with urban images like this, where the railroad is prominent but not necessarily dominant, and passes through post industrial decay. Look at the grime on surface of the street and the great beat up old cars!
I’d been out along the former Erie Railroad since before dawn that day. The tracks had been alive with freight. By early afternoon, I was down at Gang Mills Yard, near Corning, which served as a local hub for freight.
Back then General Electric B23-7s were a common locomotive. I’d grown up with these diesels working locals and road freights on the Boston & Albany route. I always like their classic GE style and their great sound. My B&A engineer friends despised them because of their ‘slow loading,’ ‘low cab doors,’ and other perceived inadequacies.
I made this photo at the engine terminal. I liked all the Conrail signage behind the locomotive. There’s nothing especially unusual about this scene, it was as ordinary as it got for the time, but today this really says, “Conrail” as I remember it.
Conrail ended independent operations at the end of May 1999, fifteen years ago. Between 1976 and 1999, I exposed thousands of views of Conrail. In 2004, Tim Doherty & I authored an illustrated book on Conrail for MBI.
Mike Gardner and I were enjoying a trip along the Hudson River on June 27, 1997.
This photo really says ‘1990s’ to me. A clean Conrail SD60I leads intermodal freight TVLA (New Jersey to Los Angeles) with a long line of piggyback trailers. I exposed it on Fujichrome slide film using my Nikon N90S with 80-200 zoom lens.
This lens/film combination had a color balance and contrast that I associate with my mid-1990s photography. On the down side, used of a telephoto zoom-lens and Fuji film resulted in bright headlights and ditch-lights appearing as ill-defined blobs.
I embraced the convenience and versatility of the N90S and zoom lens with 100 speed filem, which was easier and faster than my old prime lenses with Kodachrome, but I sacrificed quality.
At that stage I was still carry my Nikon F3T with Kodachrome. But following a string of processing disasters that summer, I largely phased out Kodachrome in favor of Fuji. Sometimes there’s no perfect solution, and some sort compromise is necessary.
I thought I try something different; so I reached into a Logan slide storage box on the shelf and fished out a slide. This is what I found!
Step back 27 years . . . Doug Eisele and I had started the morning on the old Erie Railroad near Attica, New York. When Conrail’s heavy BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) freight came growling upgrade we followed it on side roads to Silver Springs. Here it took the siding for a westbound.
The signals read ‘yellow-over-red-over-red’—approach. What came along was Delaware & Hudson’s East Binghamton to Buffalo freight with a freshly painted former Santa Fe SD26 trailing.
At the time I wasn’t especially impressed by the D&H train. It was rolling hard out of the sun on tangent track. But, I rarely let an opportunity get away, so I made this going away view to show the signals and the meet.
In retrospect, I find this photo fascinating. The signals that interested me then, are all the more interesting today; the SD26 and leading GE U23Bs are all long gone; and Conrail’s former Erie operations faded into Norfolk Southern fifteen years ago. So, it’s pretty neat to look back and see what has changed!
Making the most of a clear bright autumn morning, I’d driven to New London, where I visited Central Vermont’s waterfront yard, located below the massive Thames River bridges for I-95. CV’s local was getting ready to head north.
While I was waiting for the CV to get moving, I made photographed Amtrak’s late running Night Owl and its southward Colonial train 95.
The CV local had three GP9s, standard locomotives for that run. In the lead was a personal favorite, engine 4442.
What was special about 4442? Nothing, that’s why I liked it. It had been working CV rails as long as I’d been making photographs, and it seemed like it was always around. I liked 4442 simply because it was familiar. It looked good, and sounded great.
I followed CV’s northward local toward Willimantic, Connecticut, making photos along the way. This was one my best efforts for the day. It’s something of an icon in my collection of CV photos. At the time it was a grab shot. I barely had to time to jump out of my Plymouth Scamp and release the shutter.
There are places that I’ve visited repeatedly over the years, where I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands of images, and explored from every angle and at all times of day and night.
Then there are the places I’ve visited just once, and rather briefly.
On August 12, 2011, Pat Yough and I were driving across south central Ohio on our way to the annual Summerail convention in Cincinnati. We started the morning in West Virginia, and on our way visited many places new to me.
We paused at Circleville where Norfolk Southern and CSX north-south mainlines run parallel. Three southward NS trains were heading toward us, so in a relatively short span of time, I made several interesting images of trains on the move.
Back in the day, this was a Pennsylvania Railroad town, and the old station still stood. Many the years since a scheduled train last stopped at the old depot.
That was all. Just a few photos and we were on our way! Most of my trips across Ohio have been like that.
Norfolk Southern 18M lead by SD70 2501 rolls through Circleville, Ohio on August 12, 2011. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Irish Rail’s timber is elusive enough, so far as I’m concerned. It only operates two or three days a week, and often seems to get canceled when I’m out for it.
The weather was mixed; a bit of rain in the morning, a few bursts of sun in the afternoon. In other words, a typical May day in Ireland, if a bit on the cold side. The foliage was lush and green.
The down IWT liner (Dublin-Ballina) ran later than I anticipated, while the up IWT was more or less as expected.
Timber trains made their appearance as hoped. Since the timber must run around at Kildare station to change direction (it runs from Waterford to county Mayo, and there’s no direct chord at Cherryville Junction to facilitate a move for trains moving from the Waterford Line to the West), this allows opportunity to catch the timber train twice.
All in all, it was a productive day photographically.
Since most of Irish Rail’s passenger services are now provided by common 22000 series Rotem-built InterCity Railcars (ICRs), I’ve only included at few of the many passenger trains that passed that day.
Satruday May 3, 2014 was cloudy and bright. I met Colm O’Callahan at an old favorite location west of Heuston known as ‘the Gullet.’
It was here in the 1840s that the Great Southern & Western Railway excavated a deep cutting for the line coming up the bank out of Dublin. In so doing, they cut through an ancient Viking burial ground. Some of the artifacts and bones can be viewed at the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street.
Photographing in the cutting has its challenges. However, in recent weeks, Irish Rail had re-ballasted the line, which brightened up the tracks and foreground. Directional overcast made for interesting lighting, while fresh green trees and grass offered some color.
To avoid the distraction of a white-sky, I completed cropped the horizon. This is a trick I learned years ago when studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology. If the horizon isn’t adding anything, lose it! To do this, it helps to have a bit of elevation.
In 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleepspublished by Voyageur Press.
In addition to coordination, I played an active role in making photographs. I’d coordinated with Genesee Valley Transportation to ride a locomotive on their former New York Central Falls Road (now Falls Road Railroad) and boarded the train at Lockport, New York.
My aim was to make photos of the crew to capture the feeling of an active short line railroad. Hal Reiser shadowed the train making photos from the ground, and at one point collected me so I could also make trackside views.
I’ve included several of the images from May 10, 2007.
Although The Railroad Never Sleeps is now out of print, it remains a stunning photographic collection, which is especially impressive considering it was entirely accomplished within the limits of just one day!
A variation of this photo appeared in a Railway Age supplement some years ago.
Back in June 1996, I was following the old Rock Island mainline. As I recall, I didn’t find much moving, and the day wasn’t the brightest. Yet, at Iowa City I visited a bridge over the Iowa Interstate’s yard and made a handful of images.
I’ve always liked this photo because it offers an unusual view with a lot of railway interest. The gondola carrying steel bars and open-door Burlington Northern 50ft boxcar are the sort of ordinary everyday elements of American railroading, meat and potato freight cars, that rarely get feature-treatment in photographs.
It was also the best way to make use of a dull day. Would this photograph be more effective if the sun had been out?
I made this pan of a Blue Line light railcar on the streets of Long Beach, California while researching my book Railroads of California.
Panning is one of my preferred techniques for making a dynamic image while separating the subject from the background.
This can be especially useful on dull days where a lack of contrast makes for bland scenes, or in complex urban environments where the subject maybe lost in a tapestry of intersecting lines.
It’s also a great way to compensate for harsh lighting.
Some tricks for making successful pan photos: select a slow shutter speed (1/15 -1/60th of a second), aim for a broadside angle, and follow your subject while releasing the shutter as you move. Use smooth lateral motion. Do not stop panning once you release the shutter. Practice repeatedly.
Back in the early 1990s, Southern Pacific was still serving the Northwestern Pacific route as far as Willits, California where it tapped connections, including its former line that was still in operation all the way to Eureka.
Sometimes on Sunday mornings, I’d drive north from San Francisco across the Golden Gate to Petaluma on Highway 101. There wasn’t much traffic at that time of day. Occasionally, I make this run with fellow Bay Area photographer Brian Jennison.
Although the Willits-Petaluma portion of the run was often nocturnal, on Sundays SP’s ‘NWP Sprint Train’ made a turn from Petaluma to Fairfield and this often called for groups of SD9s.
On this day, normal California blue skies were muted by a dull fog. Yet, I persevered and chased the train. It was hard to argue with the great sounds produced by a quartet of 1950s-era 16-567 diesels in multiple. Also, dull days have their moments too.
At Novato, I made this image featuring the gently rolling green hills that characterize Marin County as a back drop. Admitted, I was disappointed by the ‘lobotomized’ leader, which had its classic SP lighting package disturbed; its oscillating headlight was missing leaving a scar on the short hood. Oh the shame of it all!
Looking back, I’d quite happily take this again. It was an era before graffiti covered freight cars, the uniform proliferation of locomotive ditch lights, and when SP was still the SP!
Along the Rhein at Festung Ehrenbreitstein, May 1996.
I made this view from the massive fortress above the Rhein opposite Koblenz. My father and I had traveled by train from Köln.
The train pictured was a local train gliding in for a station stop.
The fortress is a popular attraction and offers magnificent views of the confluence of Rhein and Mosel Rivers, while also providing some nice elevated angles on the railway along the ‘right bank.’
Trains are plentiful on this line, and every few minutes freights would rumble along the river. To view the river and railway from the massive stone walls is an experience. We arrived by cable car, and departed by a Mercedes Taxi. What a cool place!