Tracking the Light Daily Post: On The Main Line at Overbrook, Pennsylvania—Part 1

Visual Quandaries in a Fascinating Place—July 1, 2014

Overbrook retains much of its Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line heritage. Not only is it a surviving portion of four track line, but it retains an active tower, traditional PRR position light signaling, plus its old station buildings and historic signage.

SEPTA at Overbrook.
Outbound SEPTA Silverliner V approaches Overbrook on a sunny evening, July 1, 2014. All the elements are here, but what is the best way to put them together in a dynamic image? Can one photo really do Overbrook justice? Canon EOS 7D photo with 100mm lens.

It remains a busy place with a regular interval SEPTA suburban service and Amtrak Keystone trains.

Curiously, it features track-work dating to an earlier era of railroad engineering. It is located on a sweeping curve with a full set of crossovers set in and around the station and low-level platforms.

Without getting into a detailed discussion on modern railroad engineering, let me just say, that there’s no way an interlocking and station would be situated like this today.

The interlocking at Overbrook is a vestige of steam-era railroad engineering. Today railroads wouldn't consider placing crossovers on curve in the middle of a busy station with low level platforms. Note the signal displaying 'Restricting' with a classic PRR aspect. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. July 1, 2014.
Looking west on the Main Line: The interlocking at Overbrook is a vestige of steam-era railroad engineering. Today railroads wouldn’t consider placing crossovers on curve in the middle of a busy station with low level platforms. Note the signal displaying ‘Restricting’ with a classic PRR aspect. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. July 1, 2014.

Yet, for all this historic railroad interest, Overbrook is a challenging place to make photographs. The curvature which adds so much character to the place, also makes it difficult to find a satisfactory photographic angle. While there is lots of antique infrastructure, it’s hard to find way to include it in balanced compositions.

Further difficulties are caused by nearby trees and a large overhead arched bridge that cast shadows on the line.

On successive evenings, July 1st and July 2nd, 2014, my brother Sean and I visited Overbrook to watch the evening parade of trains. Working with my Lumix LX-7 and Canon EOS 7D, I exposed images from a variety of angles. I was particular interested in featuring the old Pennsylvania signaling.

A vintage PRR position light signal (designed by A.H. Rudd) displays 'Approach Medium'. This signal is controlled by Overbrook tower, one of several classic interlocking towers on the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A vintage PRR position light signal (designed by A.H. Rudd) displays ‘Approach Medium’. This signal is controlled by Overbrook tower, one of several classic interlocking towers on the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Outbound SEPTA local at Overbrook catches the evening sun on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Outbound SEPTA local at Overbrook catches the evening sun on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Why make one photo when you can snap away! Which do you like better? The closer image or the distant one.
Why make one photo when you can snap away! Which do you like better? The closer image or the distant one?
SEPTA logo catches the evening glint at Overbrook on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
SEPTA logo catches the evening glint at Overbrook on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Sean Solomon checks the SEPTA app on his iPhone.
Sean Solomon checks the SEPTA app on his iPhone.
An inbound SEPTA local pauses at Overbrook station. The shinny silver train makes for a dynamic subject, but does this convey the spirit of Overbrook? Lumix LX-7 photo on July 1, 2014.
An inbound SEPTA local pauses at Overbrook station. The shiny silver train makes for a dynamic subject, but does this convey the spirit of Overbrook? Lumix LX-7 photo on July 1, 2014.
An eastward Amtrak Keystone passes Overbrook Tower. The signal displays Approach Medium. Canon EOS 7D photo.
An eastward Amtrak Keystone passes Overbrook Tower. The signal displays Approach Medium. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Cab car trailing. Remember the Metroliner? Long gone, but the cab cars survive—for now.
Cab car trailing. Remember the Metroliner? Long gone, but the cab cars survive—for now.
An outbound Silverliner IV accelerates away from Overbrook after 8pm on July 1, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
An outbound Silverliner IV accelerates away from Overbrook after 8pm on July 1, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tomorrow, Happy Birthday to Tracking the Light!

Overbrook Part II to follow.

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