This is one of my favorite classic locations. The abutments for the old Route 53 overpass across the former Pennsylvania Railroad between Gallitzin and Cresson offered a great vista for westward train in the afternoon.
I exposed this view four years ago today using my Lumix LX3. I’d set the camera’s aspect ratio to 16:9 which gives a slightly more panoramic view when held horizontal. One of the advantages of the Panasonic Lumix LX series cameras is the ability to adjust the aspect ratio.
I’ve found this a great compositional tool because it allows me to frame photographs differently with the touch of a switch. This is almost like having a whole new camera system without all the complications.
You might ask, ‘why not just use the camera full-frame and then crop the image later?’ My answer is simple: When I compose an image, I’m taking into consideration the relative placement of all the elements and lighting. I find this is most effective when done on site, and not after the fact.
I visited Stockholm for several days in May 2010. The public transport system is among the best I’ve experienced anywhere. Multimodal connections and unified ticketing made it easy to transfer between suburban rail, metro, light rail and other modes.
I spent several days re-exploring the city. On the evening of May 6, at 7:04 pm (you can tell by the clock), I exposed this view of an inbound SL suburban train Årstaberg station. Located immediately south of the central Stockholm, this station afforded connections to a light rail line,on a lower level.
My Lumix LX-3 was a great tool for photographing Stockholm. Where-ever possible, I tried to include location finders such as station signs, so that I’d be able to caption photos later on. I’ve learned from past experience, that even when I’ve taken detailed notes, it can be difficult to accurately identify photos exposed unfamiliar cities!
SEPTA’s stainless steel electric multiple units are well-suited for low-light glint photographs.
Pat Yough and I were exploring former Reading Company trackage north of Philadelphia and ended the day at Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Here SEPTA’s electrified route from center city to West Trenton, joins CSX’s freight route. I exposed this image using my Canon EOS 7D.
Key to a successful ‘glint’ photo is pre-selecting the ideal exposure. From years of experience, I’ve learned that to make this type of photo work, it is necessary to set exposure for the highlights, while allowing the shadow areas to go slightly dark.
This requires a bit of balance, since over compensating for bright highlights will cause shadow regions to become opaque, while failure to account for the glint effect will result in an overexposed image that loses the rich low-light atmosphere.
This photo makes for an excellent example since I got that balance right on-site and without the need for any post process compensation: What you see here is my in-camera JPG without manipulation (except for scale adjustment for web presentation). The original RAW file has more detail.
Also, since photo includes the sun, it provides a lesson in the necessary angle to produce the ‘glint’ effect. An alternative method is to crop the sun from the photo, either by blocking it with some natural source in the photo (tree, building, cliffside), or by using a shading device to prevent its rays from directly touching the front lens element (I often use my handheld note book).
Over the years, I’ve made countless images of the Central Vermont Railway, and its modern day successor, New England Central at Palmer.
It was a warm August evening, the light was nice, and a pair of CV GP9s were working the Conrail interchange.
Rather than simply make another close-up trackside-view, I opted for this unusual angle south of the old Union Station. I put CV’s tracks in the foreground, while framing the locomotives in the canopy supports of the station. For me this tells a story while putting a less common perspective on a familiar place.
This was 15 years before the station was restored and transformed into the Steaming Tender Restaurant. Now the station is again vibrant, while CV and Conrail are many years gone.
June 21st was the longest day of the year. Amtrak’s Vermonter (Train 54) departed Amherst, Massachusetts at 4:32 pm, twelve minutes after the advertised.
Sometimes late trains are a benefit. I was aiming toward Millers Falls, hoping to make a photo on the famous high bridge over the Millers River. I arrived nine minutes before the train crossed this span. If the train had been on schedule, I’d have missed it.
Since 1986, I’ve photographed this bridge on many occasions. It was nearly 25 years ago that my dad and I made images of Amtrak’s re-inaugural Montrealer.
Since then, Amtrak service has worked the old Central Vermont north of Palmer to East Northfield (however, where the Montrealer joined the CV route at New London, since 1995, Montrealer’s successor, the daytime Vermonter, works the New Haven-Springfield line, then over the Boston & Albany route to Palmer).
Not for much longer though. The parallel former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line between Springfield and East Northfield is being upgraded and will soon be again hosting Amtrak. So, as mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been making opportunities to photograph the Vermonter on the Palmer-East Northfield New England Central line-segment while I still can.
Freshly Painted GP38-2s on Jointed Rail at DeForest, Wisconsin
June 23, 2010—four years ago today—John Gruber and I followed CP Rail’s local freight from Madison toward Portage on a secondary line of the old Milwaukee Road.
Locomotive 4509, an Electro-Motive Division GP38-2 built in 1974, had endured the various changes in ownership and re-branding of the railroad, from Milwaukee, to Soo Line, and finally to CP Rail. Now, in 2014, this locomotive is 40 years old. Is it still working the former Milwaukee?
At the time of this photograph, I had just purchased my Canon 7D two weeks earlier and I was learning how to make the most of its technology. It took me about six-months to find ways to make optimum exposures using the built in histogram.
The other evening, on my way over to visit Dennis LeBeau in East Brookfield, I checked CP64, where there’s a set of controlled signals on CSX’s Boston Line. There I found a pair of GE Evolution-Series diesel waiting with a westward empty autorack train. While the engines were shadowed, I thought if this train got the signal to go west, there would be some nice angles.
I met Dennis, and we had a few errands to run. Afterwards he suggested, ‘Ring Julie, and see how the Lake Shore is doing.’
I phoned Amtrak’s automated agent, and learned that train 448 was expected about four hours late into Springfield. Since that is about an hour to the west, it meant the train wouldn’t pass until well after dark. Besides, Dennis was playing a gig, and that was the main reason I’d come out this way.
‘No joy,’ I said. But as we returned to East Brookfield, we saw that the westward autoracks were on the move. ‘We can catch that, no problem!’ And we reversed, and sped along Route 67 out to an open location near milepost 66 in Brookfield. (I’d photographed a CSX empty ethanol train here last October. (Click to see: CSX Empty Ethanol Train Catches the Light at Brookfield.)
After a short wait, the train pulled up and then stopped. We learned that it was waiting for it conductor. This was most likely CSX’s Q283, an empty autorack train that runs from the unloading facility in East Brookfield west toward Selkirk, New York and beyond.
Once the conductor was on board, Dennis and moved west about a mile to the Route 148 Bridge near the old station location at Brookfield. I’d made several photos here last autumn, and was keen to try this spot in June, when the sun swings around. Afternoons in October are more shadowed and didn’t offer a clean view. (See: Boston & Albany Milepost 67, Brookfield, Massachusetts.)
We didn’t have to wait long, and the pair of GE’s came chugging along with about two miles of autoracks in tow. There was great evening light and it was a nice setting. Not bad for a few minutes effort. It is situations like this one that justifies always carrying a camera!
Here we have a contrast. Beneath the Victorian-era shed dating from the time of I.K. Brunel’s famous seven-foot gauge Great Western Railway (purists will note with precision, that the correct measurement of the track was 7 feet and ¼ inch) idles a 1970s-era HST.
That’s one of the great things about railways, is the fantastic longevity of technology and infrastructure. No place offers greater contrasts than Britain. Paddington is neither the oldest, and the nearly 40-year old HST’s are hardly Britain’s newest, but the point is made. Perhaps someone else will offer a more perfect juxtaposition!
Moments after I exposed this image, I boarded the First Great Western HST and soon after was gliding west on Brunel’s old GWR route. Today, this is one of the busiest non-electrified mainlines in the world. Not for long though, as I understand the wires are coming!
A hot and hazy late summer evening, and Amtrak 48 the Lake Shore Limited was running late.
In the lead was FL9 489. I exposed this cross-lit Kodachrome slide to show the train with the Hudson in the background.
This, after all, is the former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’. It was here that the famed 20th Century Limited rolled up the miles between Chicago and Grand Central Terminal behind J3A Hudsons, S1 Niagaras, and Electro-Motive E-units in lightning stripe paint.
All before my time.
I was just happy to catch an Amtrak FL9 roaring along in the late light.
I’d been photographing the west-end of the old Boston & Maine all day. In the afternoon, I caught NADH (Nashua-Delaware & Hudson) rolling through Eaglebridge, New York with SD26 639 in the lead.
A westbound in evening light, what could be better than that? The light was perfect, so I followed it west to Mechanicville. There’s something special about the golden glow of a sunny afternoon in June that just makes a scene seem better. I get nostalgic for that sort of light.
It was on June 19, 2010, that John Gruber, Henry A. Koshollek, and I drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Union, Illinois to photograph at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Among the attractions that day were a freshly restored former North Shore interurban car and the former North Shore Electroliner.
Back in the day, John was among the lucky ones who rode and photographed the North Shore in service. He was on hand for North Shore’s final runs in January 1963.
Later, John photographed Denver & Rio Grande Western’s narrow gauge steam in its final years. In August 1967, John had the rare opportunity to ride and photograph one of D&RGW’s very last revenue freights over Cumbres Pass, courtesy of David P. Morgan at TRAINS.
As a child, I recalled looking through an old dog-eared copy of that issue of TRAINS with John’s cover feature. Back then, I never could have imagined that I’d become friends with John, let alone work with him editing magazines.
Recently, John and I have collaborated on several book projects. He was an important contributor to The Twilight of Steam, which features some of his outstanding D&RGW photographs. John also helped make important connections, and introduced me to several of the participating photographers. It should be no surprise to readers when they read my dedication.
John and I have also authored book on American streetcars, expected this summer.
Since 1995, Amtrak’s Vermonter has operated via Palmer and Amherst, Massachusetts. This requires a 13-mile jog over CSX’s former Boston & Albany from Springfield to Palmer, where the train reverses direction and heads north on New England Central’s former Central Vermont main line.
Presently, Pan Am Southern’s former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line is being upgraded between Springfield and the Massachusetts-Vermont Stateline at East Northfield. This will allow a restoration of passenger service to the traditional route north of Springfield.
The Vermonter is expected to switch to the former B&M routing via Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield by the end of this year. As a result, I’ve been making photographs of Amtrak’s train at various places between Palmer and East Northfield, while the service still operates that way.
Several years ago, my late friend Bob Buck and I, were following a northward New England Central freight. Bob had been making photos on the Central Vermont since steam days.
We were just a few minutes ahead of the freight as we passed Belchertown.
We turned on Route 9 toward Amherst. After a couple of minutes Bob pointed, ‘take a left, there on Federal Street.’ We found the tracks and I made a photo of Bob rolling the freight by the crossing.
It was here I chose to capture the Vermonter, while I still can.
Radio host, Jerry Puffer at KSEN 1150 AM (Shelby, Montana) will broadcast the interview on Wednesday June 18, 2014 in the 4:30 pm slot (4:30 pm Mountain Time/6:30pm standard time/11:30pm in Dublin and London). You can tune in via the internet.
Russell Buck, son of late photographer Robert A. Buck, holds a preview copy of Brian Solomon’s The Twilight of Steam. This book features photography and stories from some of the great steam photographers.
The book can be viewed at Palmer Hobbies on 1428 Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts. Phone: 413-436-5318. Open Tuesday to Saturday.
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting my brother in Philadelphia. He suggested that we take his canoe and explore the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge near the Philadelphia Airport. So we strapped the craft to the top of the car and drove via city streets across the city.
Our route conveniently intersected many of SEPTA’s surviving streetcar lines. And while at the wildlife refuge, I was able to make views of SEPTA’s heavy rail Airport Line. I made all of these images with my Canon EOS 7D during the course of the trip.
John E. Pickett is among the great photographers I featured in my book The Twilight of Steam. A life long friend of Jim Shaughnessy (also featured), John has had the opportunity to photograph steam locomotives all across North America.
In the 1940s, he was fortunate to grow up in Canajoharie, New York, located just across the Mohawk River from New York Central’s four-track mainline at Palentine Bridge. His early experiences watching the parade of Hudsons, Mohawks, and Niagaras working the Water Level Route inspired him to make wonderful photographs of locomotives at work before diesels took over.
The Twilight of Steam features dozens of John’s images and tells of his experiences and techniques.
This was my big book project for 2013, and I spent much of last summer researching and writing it. Yet, the real stars of the book are the contributing photographers and their outstanding work.
Over the years, I’ve been privileged to interview and work with some of the most accomplished railway photographers in North America. Significantly, TheTwilight of Steam focuses on evocative images exposed toward the era of revenue steam operations.
These were exposed when steam locomotives were still active, and not of excursion services after the end of the era. In many instances, I’ve included photos with steam and first generation diesels working together or side by side.
For this book, I’ve adapted my Tracking the Light concepts. In addition to simply writing about the locomotives, where possible I’ve included stories about the photographer’s techniques and experiences. I included details about their cameras and films.
Many of the photographers were very young when they began making dramatic railway images, and that is a great part of the story.
It was a bright afternoon in Charlotte. I was curious to see this city’s innovative light rail system that uses Siemens built trams. Charlotte’s public transport goes by the initial’s ‘CATS’ while the Blue Line light rail is called the ‘Lynx.’
More tracks are being built, and a heritage style trolley is in the works.
Proprietor of Palmer Hobbies, Bill Lanza, has opened his doors!
Come in and have a look around!
Palmer Hobbies features a variety of model railway products, magazines, and, of course, railroad books!
Patrons of the old Tucker’s Hobbies (formerly Tucker’s Hardware) in nearby Warren, Massachusetts will find familiar faces.
The new store is easy to find. It’s located at 1428 Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts. Take the Massachusetts Turnpike to Palmer, turn right and drive toward Depot Village. The shop is located in the center at the lights near the Hess Station and across from the CVS drug store.
Palmer Hobbies is near the famous Palmer Diamond, where New England Central’s former Central Vermont crosses CSXT’s Boston & Albany route. It’s across the tracks from the popular Steaming Tender restaurant (near CP 83).
Phone: 413-436-5318. Open Tuesday to Saturday. (Closed on Sunday and Monday).
May 30, 2014, Salisbury’s Innes Street Overpass was a popular gathering point for photographers seeking mainline attraction during North Carolina Transportation Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer event.
At lunchtime, I was poised to photograph Amtrak number 75, one of North Carolina sponsored Piedmont services that runs with F59PHI diesels and heritage style equipment. This is one of the most distinctive long distance trains on the East Coast.
I returned in the evening, to catch Juniata Terminal’s Pennsylvania E8A 5809 and three matching streamlined cars on its return run from Spencer to Charlotte. The sun made a surprise appearance just in the nick of time.
Ok, so this Alco PA was delivered new to the Santa Fe, and in later years worked for Delaware & Hudson, and then for Mexican railways. But now it wears a fresh coat of Nickel Plate Road paint.
Until Streamliners at Spencer, I’d never had the opportunity to photograph an Alco PA, a locomotive often cited as one of the most loved and most attractive (if not the most reliable) of the steam to diesel transition era.
The Nickel Plate Road merged into Norfolk & Western two years before I was born, so while I’ve photographed trains on the old Nickel Plate route, I never knew the railway either.
So there you go. It’s like meeting a ghost. Or, perhaps, seeing a James Joyce impersonator. Or, going to listen to a Led Zeppelin tribute-band.
When it comes to a Nickel Plate Road PA, I never experienced the real thing, and I never will. I never saw an Erie Triplex either.
A few weeks ago, Ciarán Cooney asked me about photos I’d made of Irish Rail’s Athy Cement. This used to run weekdays from the cement factory near Limerick to a cement silo off a short branch that crossed the River Barrow in Athy, County Kildare. It was the only train to use this branch.
On several occasions, I’d made the effort to photograph this train, which tended to arrive laden in the very early morning, then depart empty after it had discharged. Most of the times I saw it, it ran with a single Bo-Bo General Motors diesel (class 141 or 181).
I caught it crossing the Barrow at Athy on a fine spring morning, May 3, 2002.
That was more than 11 years ago, but it doesn’t seem so long.I think I last photographed this train about 2005, shortly before it was discontinued. While cement trains worked Irish Rail for a few more years, they are now extinct.
Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.
To compensate for bad luck, and a series of bad timings, I made it a point to photograph Pan Am Railways executive F-unit at Spencer.
Just about every time Pan Am Railway’s has run their glossy metallic blue F-units, I’ve either been in the air, out of the country, and/or at least a thousand miles away and traveling in the wrong direction.
Not this time. Not at Spencer. No, I knew I’d get a photo! Two or three, maybe, and in color!
I realize that PAR-1 may not have been the chief attraction of the Streamliners at Spencer event, but I was very happy to finally see this New England resident up close and in person!
Great Railway Exhibits and Antiques in Addition to the Streamlined Superstars.
In an environment characterized by streamlined sensory overload, it takes a trained eye (pardon pun) to see past Norfolk & Western’s 611, Burlington’s stainless steel E5A, Union Pacific’s radiant executive E-unit and the rest of the colorful Es and Fs paraded on display around the Spencer roundhouse.
Yet, in addition to the vintage streamliners, there were other noteworthy exhibits and interesting equipment. Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary Display Train with locomotive 42 (painted to commemorate America’s Veterans) was featured prominently, as was one of North Carolina’s train sets used for Piedmont services.
Various heritage locomotives attached to the Spencer shops added period interest. Back in the day (1980s), I was quite pleased to find a Southern high-hood GP30 working at Alexandria, Virginia. And lo and behold, here at Spencer was preserved locomotive just like the one I saw those many years ago!
For those interested in automobiles, Spencer has quite a collection of vintage cars on display. Lots to see and do! I’m glad I invested almost four days in the event.
Among the stars of the Streamliner’s at Spencer event was Norfolk & Western 611, one of only a handful of preserved American streamlined steam locomotives. Here’s a sampling of the many images I made, and an excerpt of the text from my book Super Steam published by MBI (out of print), where I detailed the J class. Today the locomotive catches attention for its streamlined shrouds, but there’s a lot more to the N&W J than just good looks:
“Among the most impressive products of N&W’s Roanoke Shops were its 14 Class J 4-8-4s. These spectacular machines defied convention while settting record for performance and reliability. The first five J’s were built during 1941 and 1942, with N&W’s distinctive streamlined shrouds, and featured 27×32 inch cylinders, 70-inch drivers, 107.7 square foot firebox grate, and a huge boiler set for 275 lb. psi operation. As built these locomotives delivered 73,300 lbs. tractive effort. (N&W later increased the boiler pressure to 300 psi, and as result tractive effort was increased to 80,000 lbs.) The J class exhibited all of the trappings of modern locomotive, featuring roller bearings on all axles and reciprocating parts, one-piece cast steel frame, mechanical lubrication and light weight alloy-steel rods . . .”
Part of the attraction of North Carolina Transportation Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer event was the pre-arranged night photograph sessions. Large industrial scale flood lamps were arranged to provide roughly even lighting on locomotives that had been arranged and spotted specifically for photography.
I’ve often worked on the darker side of photography, and this was no exception. While I took advantage of the ‘arranged’ lighting to make standard views of the equipment. I made a special effort to go beyond the obvious.
Here I worked in the shadows, using the lights in a more interpretive way. I sought out scenes of the shops and facilities that were part of the background.
The challenge was trying to stay out of the way of the photo lines to avoid the ire of those with a front-lit view.
On one of the evenings there was a thunderstorm, which made matters extra challenging!
The locomotives were largely static and thus relatively easy to photograph. However, people move about constantly, and getting your friends to hold still long enough for a portrait in an environment characterized by sensory-overload, can be tough.
On the plus side, most everyone was smiling.
I used both a Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX-7 to make digital portraits, while a few photos were captured on slide film using my EOS 3.