Reading & Northern at Tamaqua.

Tracking the Light presents three photos: a Classic station and a short freight.

Pat Yough and I arrived at the grade crossing in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania just as the gates came down. Lucky me! My goal was to photograph the old Reading Company station for a new book I’m putting together. This was a bonus.

I'd only just arrived in Tamaqua a few minutes before exposing this image. I'd never before been to this Pennsylvania town, so when the gates came down, it was a matter of jumping out and looking around as the train approached. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
I’d only just arrived in Tamaqua a few minutes before exposing this image. I’d never before been to this Pennsylvania town, so when the gates came down, it was a matter of jumping out and looking around as the train approached. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.

Acting quickly, I positioned myself for a few images. Since, I’d never been to Tamaqua before, I didn’t have much time to find photographic angles. Luckily the train stopped, which gave us time to expose a few more photos.

Puddles make for great reflective tools! Reading & Northern local freight at Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.
Puddles make for great reflective tools! Reading & Northern local freight at Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.
I positioned Pat Yough's X-T1 on a tripod and waited for dusk—one of my favorite times to photograph old railway stations. Tamaqua's classic Italianate style structure was decorated for the season. Daylight white balance.
I positioned Pat Yough’s X-T1 on a tripod and waited for dusk—one of my favorite times to photograph old railway stations. Tamaqua’s classic Italianate style structure was decorated for the season. Daylight white balance.

After the short freight departed we waited for dusk to make night shots of the station, which was my original plan.

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Knowledge Corridor First Day Photo Album

Here’s a diverse selection of images: December 29, 2014 saw the first public operation of Amtrak’s Vermonter on the traditional Connecticut River Line via Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

The trains were totally sold out in both directions. I made a host of digital photos and color slides of the event.

New signal near the Greenfield Station displays 'stop.'
New signal near the Greenfield Station displays ‘stop.’
The railway platform at Greenfield is adjacent to its new centralized bus terminal. This 29 seat bus was heading for Millersfalls. Lumix LX7.
The railway platform at Greenfield is adjacent to its new centralized bus terminal. This 29 seat bus was heading for Millersfalls. Lumix LX7.
Large crowds of passengers, fans, and politicians gathered at Greenfield to witness the first revenue Amtrak train to stop on the Knowledge Corridor route. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Large crowds of passengers, fans, and politicians gathered at Greenfield to witness the first revenue Amtrak train to stop on the Knowledge Corridor route. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Amtrak number 55 approaches Greenfield. Canon EOS 7D.
Amtrak number 55 approaches Greenfield. Canon EOS 7D.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
No passengers will be left behind, 'All aboard!'. Lumix LX7 photo.
No passengers will be left behind, ‘All aboard!’. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 55 on the platform at Springfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 55 on the platform at Springfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX7 photo.
Northward Vermonter approaching Springfield Station. It's unusual to see this train doubleheaded. Lumix LX7.
Northward Vermonter approaching Springfield Station. It’s unusual to see this train doubleheaded. Lumix LX7.
View from train 56 at Springfield Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
View from train 56 at Springfield Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Greenfield greets the northward Vermonter, train 56. Lumix LX7 photo.
Greenfield greets the northward Vermonter, train 56. Lumix LX7 photo.
The high  ISO setting on my Canon EOS 7D proved useful. Greenfield at dusk. Train 56 making its first ever station stop.
The high ISO setting on my Canon EOS 7D proved useful. Greenfield at dusk. Train 56 making its first ever station stop.
Amtrak's Vermonter departs Greenfield for Brattleboro and points north. Amtrak's daily Vermonter (Washington DC to St. Albans, Vermont) will now call at Greenfield 7 days a week. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak’s Vermonter departs Greenfield for Brattleboro and points north. Amtrak’s daily Vermonter (Washington DC to St. Albans, Vermont) will now call at Greenfield 7 days a week. Lumix LX7 photo.
I made this pan photo at ISO 1000 at f2.8 1/8th of second using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
I made this pan photo at ISO 1000 at f2.8 1/8th of second using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. Amtrak 10004 offers an exceptional view of the line for officials, railroad officers and special guests.

From Monday forward, the Vermonter will serve this more direct route, thus ending 25 years of passenger service on the Central Vermont/New England Central line via Amherst, Massachusetts. Back in July 1989, I made photos of the first Montrealer arriving in Amherst. Both days were historic, and preserved for posterity.

I was not alone; lots of cameras whirred away trackside!

Thanks to everyone who made the day a success!

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Tracking the Light Special: Knowledge Corridor Sneak Preview—Vermonter at Greenfield

Today (December 29, 2014) was Amtrak’s first day of public operation on the new ‘Knowledge Corridor’ (B&M Conn River Line to traditionalists). The train was sold out in both directions and hundreds of people came out to watch history in the making.

I had the opportunity to make a round trip on the line from Greenfield to Springfield. I met lots of old friends and met many new faces! Although I’m sad to see the train off the old Central Vermont route, I’m equally happy to be able to ride over the B&M Conn River once again!

This is just a preview of a photographically intense afternoon. (More to follow, soon!)

The double headed northward Vermonter arrives at Springfield just after 3pm. Lumix LX7 photo.
The double headed northward Vermonter arrives at Springfield just after 3pm. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, makes its first station stop at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 29, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, makes its very first station stop at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 29, 2014. The new station platform was build specially to accommodate the Vermonter. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Lucky Break At Belchertown: The Vermonter and More!

Sometimes you get more than you planned for:

On December 17, 2014, I rode the Vermonter to Amherst. This gave me the opportunity to scope the line for photo locations. Although I’ve traveled this route on various occasions, I wanted one last look at it from an Amtrak train before service is moved to the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ at the end of this month.

North of Barretts is Canal Junction, a little known location where the Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line once joined the Central Vermont route. Originally, B&M had its own line that ran parallel to CVs and this old right of way is now a cycle path.

The old Boston & Maine line through Belchertown was abandoned in the 1930s in favor of trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont. Today the old right of way is a bicycle path. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The old Boston & Maine line through Belchertown was abandoned in the 1930s in favor of trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont. Today the old right of way is a bicycle path. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

North of the Old Springfield Road grade crossing, I noticed a swampy clearing that looked like a good place for a photo. So, on December 19th, my dad and I investigated this location.

Earlier in the day we had photographed a Knowledge Corridor test run (covered in an earlier post), and I thought this would make an ideal opportunity to capture Amtrak moves on both lines on the same day.

We arrived at Old Springfield Road, and walked a short distance on the old B&M right of way. I’d gone back to the car to retrieve a lens and make a phone call, when I heard what sounded like a heavy freight coming.

Hark! I think I hear a freight. Richard Jay Solomon has his Lumix LX7 on a Gitzo tripod. We a standing on the old B&M line. There's little chance we'll get run over by a 4-4-0 sprinting for Northampton. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Hark! I think I hear a freight. Richard Jay Solomon has his Lumix LX7 on a Gitzo tripod. We a standing on the old B&M line. There’s little chance we’ll get run over by a 4-4-0 sprinting for Northampton. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Sure enough it was! New England Central’s southward manifest freight from Brattleboro to Palmer had stalled climbing Belchertown Hill, and had just got moving again. Amtrak was only a few miles behind.

New England Central's southward freight on December 19, 2014. Lumix LX7 Photo.
New England Central’s southward freight on December 19, 2014. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Just a few miles behind the freight was Amtrak's southward Vermonter. We'd gone out for the Vermonter, and lucked into the delayed freight train. This was especially fortuitous because we'd stopped for lunch at Amherst on the way to this 'new' location. Lumix LX7 photo.
Just a few miles behind the freight was Amtrak’s southward Vermonter. We’d gone out for the Vermonter, and lucked into the delayed freight train. This was especially fortuitous because we’d stopped for lunch at Amherst on the way to this ‘new’ location. Lumix LX7 photo.

We caught the freight, and about 10-15 minutes later got Amtrak train 55 (southward Vermonter), then proceeded to Three Rivers where we caught the Vermonter a second time.

Try that in a few week’s time!

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Irish Rail Class 071s at Dublin’s North Wall.

It was a comparatively busy morning in early October 2014. I’d taken the LUAS Red Line tram to Spencer Dock and walked over to the East Road Bridge. I was joined shortly by fellow photographers, Colm O’Callaghan and John Cleary.

Dublin's Red Line LUAS at Spencer Dock in October 2014. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Dublin’s Red Line LUAS at Spencer Dock in October 2014. Exposed with my Lumix LX7. In this view, I’m looking back toward what once had been Irish Rail’s freight yards, although there’s no trace of them today. Celtic Tiger era glass boxes sit on property that once held railway tracks.

It’s been more than a decade since Irish Rail rationalized their freight yards at Dublin’s North Wall. Much of the site is unrecognizable compared with former times. Modern Celtic tiger-era multistory housing blocks occupy the space once used by freights.

Yet, the old Graneries yard remains, and if you’ re at the North Wall at the right time, Irish Rail may still entertain you with a few trains.

On this October day, Irish Rail 074 arrived in with a permanent way spoil train. This was the real prize for me. Although I’d seen spoil trains, I’d not properly photographed on the move, so to catch one in full sun made me pretty happy.

Irish Rail 074 is a vintage 1970s-era 071 diesel. Nice to catch in the sun with a spoil train from the East Road Bridge. Lumix LX7 phtoto.
Irish Rail 074 is a vintage 1970s-era 071 diesel. Nice to catch it in the sun with a spoil train as viewed from Dublin’s East Road Bridge. Lumix LX7 phtoto.
Trailing view of the spoil train at the Granaries Yard. This is one of Irish Rail's most elusive trains. It takes more than just luck to catch it. LX7 Photo.
Trailing view of the spoil train at the Granaries Yard. This is one of Irish Rail’s most elusive trains. It takes more than just luck to catch it. LX7 Photo.
Locomotive 074 shunts its train. The old Church Road signal cabin was still open at the time of this photo. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Locomotive 074 shunts its train. The old Church Road signal cabin was still open at the time of this photo. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

The icing on the cake came a little while later, when 088 (now officially 0117088 with the European numbering) arrived with the laden Tara Mines zinc ore train. Pretty good for the time invested!

A laden Tara Mines train arrives at the North Wall. This will continue into Dublin port on street trackage on the Alexandra Road. Canon EOS 7D photo.
A laden Tara Mines train arrives at the North Wall. This will continue into Dublin port on street trackage on the Alexandra Road. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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Palmer, Massachusetts from Amtrak’s Vermonter.

Tracking the Light offers four views.

Many times I’ve photographed Amtrak’s Vermonter in Palmer; so here are some recent photographs of Palmer as seen from the train. I thought one last ride on this ‘temporary routing’ would be in order.

Keep in mind the Vermonter operated via Palmer for just under 20 years; a span of time only slightly less than the famous Burlington-Rio Grande-Western Pacific California Zephyr on its run from Chicago to Oakland. The two trains had virtually no commonality except the span of time operated.

The view of the Palmer Diamond looking south from Amtrak train 56 as it arrives in Palmer on December 17, 2014.
The view of the Palmer Diamond looking south from Amtrak train 56 as it arrives in Palmer on December 17, 2014.
CSX CP83 at Palmer as seen from Amtrak 56 as it used the connection to the New England Central. On the right is the Steaming Tender Restaurant, Palmer's old Union Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
CSX CP83 at Palmer as seen from Amtrak 56 as it used the connection to the New England Central. On the right is the Steaming Tender Restaurant, Palmer’s old Union Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
A former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 'Tunnel Motor' in Genesee & Wyoming family paint crosses the Palmer Diamond as Amtrak 56 glides northward on to the New England Central mainline. Every day for the last 19+ years, Amtrak's Vermonter has reverse direction at Palmer to go from the east-west former Boston & Albany mainline to the former Central Vermont line. Lumix LX7.
A former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 ‘Tunnel Motor’ in Genesee & Wyoming family paint crosses the Palmer diamond as Amtrak 56 glides northward on to the New England Central mainline. Every day for the last 19+ years, Amtrak’s Vermonter has reversed direction at Palmer to go from the east-west former Boston & Albany mainline to the former Central Vermont line. Lumix LX7.
Back in the 1990s, I'd never have guessed that a locomotive I'd photographed crossing Donner Pass would be crossing the Palmer diamonds! When the Vermonter began its operation in 1995, SP was still a railroad (as was Santa Fe, Burlington Northern, Chicago & North Western, Illinois Central, Wisconsin Central, and many others swept away by merger).
Back in the 1990s, I’d never have guessed that a locomotive I’d photographed crossing Donner Pass would be crossing the Palmer diamonds! When the Vermonter began its operation in 1995, SP was still a railroad (as was Santa Fe, Burlington Northern, Chicago & North Western, Illinois Central, Wisconsin Central Limited, and many others swept away by merger).
Amtrak's southward Vermonter, train 57, photographed at Palmer on December 19, 2014. Soon this train will be taking a more direct route over the 'Knowledge Corridor' via Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Lumix LX7
Amtrak’s southward Vermonter, train 55, photographed at Palmer on December 19, 2014. Soon this train will be taking a more direct route over the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ via Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Lumix LX7

The Vermonter’s route via Palmer and Amherst is in its final days. See the following previous posts for details:

Tracking the Light Special Post: Vermonter to Amherst 

Vermonter at Three Rivers.

Knowledge Corridor Test Train—December 19, 2014

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SEPTA Number 10 Time Machine.

34 years; 36th Street, Philadelphia.

Way back in August 1980, my father, brother Sean and I visited Philadelphia and stayed in a hotel near the 36th Street portal for SEPTA’s number 10 surface-subway streetcar. Today this is the Sheraton Hotel, I can’t remember what it was back then.

So, on a hot summer’s afternoon, I was on the corner of 36th and Market Street and exposed a Kodachrome slide of an outbound PCC working the number 10 route. PCC’s were my favorite types of streetcars, and I was glad to have caught one on film.

I sent the Kodachrome to Fairlawn, New Jersey. The slides came back in a yellow cardboard box. I labeled this one ‘SEPTA PCC’ and filed it away. Later, trailing views of PCC’s didn’t make my “A-list,” and so for many years I left the photograph un-attended and un-projected.

Back in August 1980, a 13 year old tourist snapped this view of a SEPTA PCC working the number 10 streetcar line. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar Lens.
Back in August 1980, a 13 year old tourist snapped this view of a SEPTA PCC working the number 10 streetcar line. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar Lens.

Moving forward: In 1997, Sean moved to Philadelphia. And, during the last 34 years the area along the Route 10 streetcar line has evolved. In early November 2014, while searching for something else, I came across the old slide, which I scanned with my Epson V600 scanner. What was once mundane, now seemed historic.

In mid-December, Sean and I revisited 36th Street. While, I’ve taken the trolley in recent years, this was the first time since 1980 that I made photographs at this location.

I still have the old Leica, but Kodachrome has gone the way of the Dodo.

Perhaps next summer, we’ll go back to the exact spot and make a proper ‘now and then’ image in the right light.

On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar turns the corner onto 36th Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar turns the corner onto 36th Street. This view is about one block south of the location where I made my August 1980 color slide (above) Lumix LX7 photo.
On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar navigates 36th Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar navigates 36th Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
An in bound SEPTA streetcar catches the sun as it turns onto 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An in-bound SEPTA streetcar catches the sun as it turns onto 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An in-bound SEPTA on 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An in-bound SEPTA on 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

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Happy Christmas from Tracking the Light: Doubleheaded Steam.

Santa Trains at Minersville; a Reading revival, 12 photos for Christmas!

Ho ho ho! Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Ho ho ho, Minersville! Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 113 exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 113 exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.

On December 14, 2014, Reading & Northern 425 teamed up with recently restored Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 113 to work R&N Santa Trains between Minersville and Cressona, Pennsylvania.

Pat Yough and I made the effort to visit, and were rewarded with some dramatic action. I used this as a further opportunity to experiment with the Fuji X-T1.

CNJ 113 cylinder head detail. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CNJ 113 cylinder head detail. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CNJ 113 plates, exposed with Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CNJ 113 plates, exposed with Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Reading & Northern 425 and CNJ 113 doublehead passed the old Reading Company station at Cressona, Pennsylvania. I've intentionally clipped the pilot of 425 with the station to create visual tension. (I made several photos with the more conventional framing, but I don't find those as interesting to look at.) Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Reading & Northern 425 and CNJ 113 doublehead passed the old Reading Company station at Cressona, Pennsylvania. I’ve intentionally clipped the pilot of 425 with the station to create visual tension. (I made several photos with the more conventional framing, but I don’t find those as interesting to look at.) Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Cressona, Pennsylvania. Exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Cressona, Pennsylvania. Exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
R&N 425 and CNJ 113 at work. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
R&N 425 and CNJ 113 at work. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Santa Train at Minersville, Pennsylvania. Exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Santa Train at Minersville, Pennsylvania. Exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 113 back across the road at Minersville. R&N's policeman did a great job of directing traffic. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 113 back across the road at Minersville. R&N’s policeman did a great job of directing traffic. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Detail view of Reading & Northern 425's crosshead. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Detail view of Reading & Northern 425’s crosshead. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!

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R&N_425_front_view_working_Minersville_3_PJY5417

 

 

New Hope Station at Dusk with Christmas Lights

Tracking the Light Presents a classic railway station.

Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 in December 2014.
Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 in December 2014. Daylight white balance at dusk.

New Hope & Ivyland’s station at New Hope, Pennsylvania at the end of a former Reading Company branch; I exposed this view as part of sequence for a book on railway stations that I’m working on for Voyageur Press.

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Tomorrow: Tracking the Light Christmas Special!

 

Blue Pacific Under Steam

Reading & Northern’s 425.

On Saturday December 13, 2014, Pat Yough and I made a pilgrimage to Port Clinton, Pennsylvania to photograph Reading & Northern 425 working Christmas specials.

I’ve found that one of the best times to photograph steam at work is on cold days. This makes for spectacular shows of effluence from the locomotive.

So, do you expose for the steam or the steam locomotive?

Reading & Northern 425 made a stunning display of steam at Port Clinton on December 13, 2014. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Reading & Northern 425 made a stunning display of steam at Port Clinton on December 13, 2014. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.
Blue Pacific Under Steam: R&N 425 at Port Clinton, exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Blue Pacific Under Steam: R&N 425 at Port Clinton, exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Running gear;  valve gear and drivers. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Running gear; valve gear and drivers. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
On the dead-head run from Port Clinton to Schuylkill Haven, R&N operated an SD40-2 ahead of the Pacific. The SD40-2 was removed for the revenue passenger trips. Personally, I can complain about photographing an old SD40-2, and honestly I'd rather see a diesel leading that hiding behind the steam locomotive as 'protection power'. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
On the dead-head run from Port Clinton to Schuylkill Haven, R&N operated an SD40-2 ahead of the Pacific. The SD40-2 was removed for the revenue passenger trips. Personally, I can’t complain about photographing an old SD40-2, and honestly I’d rather see a diesel leading that hiding behind the steam locomotive as ‘protection power’. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
I made this view at Landingville with Pat Yough's Fuji X-T1. This would be an ideal camera to photograph and extra move with R&N's ex Reading 2102!
I made this view at Landingville with Pat Yough’s Fuji X-T1. Now, this would be an ideal camera to photograph an extra move with R&N’s ex-Reading 4-8-4 number 2102!
Reading & Northern 425 approaches Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company line. Exposed using a Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
Reading & Northern 425 approaches Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company line. Exposed using a Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
Reading & Northern 425 pauses at the old station in Schuylkill Haven. Lumix LX7 photo.
Reading & Northern 425 pauses at the old station in Schuylkill Haven. Lumix LX7 photo.
Crossing the Schuylkill River near Landingville, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Crossing the Schuylkill River near Landingville, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
The old Pennsylvania Railroad crossed the Reading on a truss span near Auburn, Pennsylvania. More than 35 years have passed since a train last used the old PRR. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The old Pennsylvania Railroad crossed the Reading on a truss span near Auburn, Pennsylvania. More than 35 years have passed since a train last used the old PRR. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
There are not many places in North America where you can photograph a steam locomotive working upgrade at speed unassisted. (Where's that SD40-2 now?). Canon EOS 7D.
There are not many places in North America where you can photograph a steam locomotive working upgrade at speed unassisted. (Where’s that SD40-2 now?). Canon EOS 7D.
Reading & Northern 425 near Auburn, Pennsylvania. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Reading & Northern 425 near Auburn, Pennsylvania. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.

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Tracking the Light SPECIAL POST: Knowledge Corridor Specials, December 22, 2014.

Amtrak Extra and Pan Am’s Office Cars on the Move.

8 digital photos and more!

Today, in preparation for the opening of the Knowledge Corridor next week, special trains converged on Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Amtrak_104_at_Holyoke_P1120203
Amtrak’s special was ahead of schedule departing Holyoke with officials on board. Lumix LX7 photo. (You’ll need to be patient to see the color slide exposed here.)

 

Paul Goewey and I intercepted the northward Amtrak special at Holyoke—where we made use of a location recently opened up by brush clearing in conjunction with work on the line.

Amtrak's special crosses the Deerfield River on the Cheapside Bridge. Back in the day there was a canal harbor near here. Lumix LX7 photo, December 22, 2014.
Amtrak’s special crosses the Deerfield River on the Cheapside Bridge. Back in the day there was a canal harbor near here. Lumix LX7 photo, December 22, 2014.
Pan Am's Office Car train with F-unit at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 22, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Pan Am’s Office Car train with F-unit at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 22, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A convergence of passenger trains at Greenfield. Soon, Amtrak will call here everyday! Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A convergence of passenger trains at Greenfield. Soon, Amtrak will call here everyday! Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

We followed the train northward. Pan Am posed its Office Car train, complete with vintage F-unit at Greenfield.

Later, we waited patiently at East Deerfield Yard to catch the Pan Am train reversing back. This was my first opportunity to catch one Pan Am F-units on the move.

It wasn’t the brightest day for photography, but we made the best of it with digital cameras. (And I exposed a few slides for posterity!)

Nose to nose at Greenfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Nose to nose at Greenfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An added bonus were these two Pan Am locomotives at East Deerfield Yard.
An added bonus were these two Pan Am locomotives at East Deerfield Yard.
Pan Am's Office Cars reverse toward East Deerfield in the fading light of evening. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Pan Am’s Office Cars reverse toward East Deerfield in the fading light of evening. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Pan photo of PAR-1 at East Deerfield. Lumix LX7 photo.
Pan photo of PAR-1 at East Deerfield. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Tracking the Light; Fuji Camera Conclusions.

Cash in hand: which camera to get and why.

In the last few months, I’ve sampled several mirror-less cameras. I played with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, and bought one. Thanks to Eric Rosenthal, I put a brand new Lumix LX100 through its paces. Thanks to Pat Yough, I’ve experimented with both the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1.

The new Panasonic Lumix LX100. Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I played around by comparing the two cameras.
The new Panasonic Lumix LX100. Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I played around by comparing the two cameras.

Where the Lumix LX7 and LX100 both use a permanently attached zoom lenses, the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1 use Fuji interchangeable lenses.

Fuji X-E2 fitted with 18-55mm lens exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Fuji X-E2 fitted with 18-55mm lens exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Fuji_XT1_P1110349
Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm zoom lens. Traditional manual controls such as those on the X-T1 are an important consideration for me. I want camera operation to be intuitive so I can make necessary adjustments as the action is unfolding without fighting with the equipment. The X-T1’s digital viewfinder is another important feature that gives this camera an edge over similar models.

I view these types cameras as augmenting one another rather than competing for space on my roster of equipment.

To make an analogy, back in the 1950s when a railroad dieselized, it often bought different types of locomotives for various assigned services.

For me the Panasonic Lumix LX7 is like a 1,000hp switcher; the LX100 is a 1,350hp switcher with road trucks; but the two Fuji’s are like 1,600 hp road switchers—jacks of all trades—with enough power to work heavy road trains in tandem with other equipment.

Low sun on the former Reading Company station at West Trenton, New Jersey made for an ideal subject to test the Fuji X-E2. This gave me an opportunity to try various focus and metering modes without the pressure imposed by trying to work with a moving subject. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens.
Low sun on the former Reading Company station at West Trenton, New Jersey made for an ideal subject to test the Fuji X-E2. This gave me an opportunity to try various focus and metering modes without the pressure imposed by trying to work with a moving subject. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens.
West Trenton with Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens. The exceptional sharpness of Fuji's lenses is a real selling point. Also, the color palate reminds me of Kodachrome exposed with Leica lenses (how's that for ironic!).
West Trenton with Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens. The exceptional sharpness of Fuji’s lenses is a real selling point. Also, the color palate reminds me of Kodachrome exposed with Leica lenses (how’s that for ironic!).
Detail of the West Trenton station exposed with the Fuji X-E2 with 55-200mm zoom. This is a very sharp lens, but I found that in some lighting situations the auto focus didn't work. Autofocus was particularly ineffective when the subject was back lit. I did not experience this focus problem with the 18-55mm zoom.
Detail of the West Trenton station exposed with the Fuji X-E2 with 55-200mm zoom. This is a very sharp lens, but I found that in some lighting situations the auto focus didn’t work. Autofocus was particularly ineffective when the subject was back lit. I did not experience this focus problem with the 18-55mm zoom.

My goal is to supplement my Canon EOS7D and/or replace it when traveling without a car.

As regular viewers of Tracking the Light are aware, I often travel on public transport (trains, trams, planes & whatnot). When I travel, I carry my cameras plus a laptop in a backpack. Every ounce counts. Since my Canon’s are relatively heavy, I’ve been looking for a lighter option.

I’ve determined that the Fuji mirror-less cameras will allow me to significantly reduce the weight in my bag, while simultaneously upgrade to a new generation of equipment.

I like the Fuji lenses because they are exceptionally sharp and offer a very desirable color palate.

A SEPTA Silverliner V has paused for its inbound station stop at West Trenton. Here back lighting didn't pose a focus issue when using the 18-55mm lens with the X-E2.
A SEPTA Silverliner V has paused for its inbound station stop at West Trenton. Here back lighting didn’t pose a focus issue when using the 18-55mm lens with the X-E2.
Here's a similar view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7. My familiarity with the Lumix makes this camera easy to use. Which is the better photo? Which was easier to make?
Here’s a similar view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7. My familiarity with the Lumix makes this camera easy to use. Which is the better photo? Which was easier to make?
I was still trying to find my way through the menus on the X-E2, when this CSX unit oil train approached West Trenton. One of the advantages of the X-E2 is the ability to adjust the auto focus point. However, this feature was of no use to me because I couldn't find the control for it fast enough. Instead I grabbed my Lumix LX7 and exposed this photo. Again, familiarity can make the difference between  making a photo or not.
I was still trying to find my way through the menus on the Fuji X-E2 when this CSX unit oil train approached West Trenton. One of the advantages of the X-E2 is the ability to adjust the auto focus point. However, this feature was of no use to me because I couldn’t find the control for it fast enough. Instead I grabbed my Lumix LX7 and exposed this photo. Again, familiarity can make the difference between making a photo or not.
Fuji's cameras offer exceptional results at higher ISO ratings. The light was pretty dim when I photographed this CSX mixed freight rolling through West Trenton. I'd bumped the ISO up to 3200 and exposed this image using the 18-55mm lens set at 22.3mm; f3.2 at 1/160th of a second. I've sacrificed color saturation for speed. Also, in retrospect I'd had made this image about 1/3 of stop darker, but that's not a big problem. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens.
Fuji’s cameras offer exceptional results at higher ISO ratings. The light was pretty dim when I photographed this CSX mixed freight rolling through West Trenton. I’d bumped the ISO up to 3200 and exposed this image using the 18-55mm lens set at 22.3mm; f3.2 at 1/160th of a second. I’ve sacrificed color saturation for speed. Also, in retrospect I’d had made this image about 1/3 of stop darker, but that’s not a big problem. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens.
I've cropped in tight an enlarged the above image so that you can inspect it for sharpness and motion blur. Keep in mind this was exposed at 3200 ISO and the train was moving at about 15-20mph. Fuji X-E2 image enlarged.
I’ve cropped in tight an enlarged the above image so that you can inspect it for sharpness and motion blur. Keep in mind this was exposed at 3200 ISO and the train was moving at about 15-20mph. Fuji X-E2 image enlarged.
The Fuji cameras are fantastic tools for night photography. ISO 2000 1/15th of a second with Fuji X-E2 with 27mm pancake lens.
SEPTA in the snow at Glenside, Pennsylvania. The Fuji cameras are fantastic tools for night photography. ISO 2000 1/15th of a second with Fuji X-E2 with 27mm pancake lens.
SEPTA at Glenside. Handheld with a Fuji X-E2 fitted with 27mm pancake lens. ISO 6400 f2.8 at 1/20 of a second. Exposed in aperture priority mode.
SEPTA at Glenside. Handheld with a Fuji X-E2 fitted with 27mm pancake lens. ISO 6400 f2.8 at 1/20 of a second. Exposed in aperture priority mode.

Of the two Fuji cameras, I’ve come to favor the X-T1 over the X-E2. Both camera’s use the same lenses, and while the X-E2 is slightly lighter, I found the X-T1 easier to use. It has a superior digital viewfinder. (Also it seemed to have a superior auto focus system, but I can’t confirm that.) Both are excellent cameras, but Given a choice of the two, I’d reach for the X-T1.

Another potential benefit of the Fuji system is that I can buy lens adaptors that will allow me to use both my older Nikon and Leica lenses with the Fuji digital cameras. This will offer a level of redundancy when I choose to bring a film body. If I carry my old Nikon F3, I’ll be able to take advance of the Nikon lenses in event of a Fuji lens failure or if the Nikon glass offers a pictorial advantage.

Fuji's X-T1 is a compact and versatile camera. I exposed this image of Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 number 113 using the X-T1 with 18-55mm zoom lens. The camera's meter and sensor offered broad tonality and contrast. I did not manipulate or adjust this image in post processing, except for necessary scaling for internet presentation.
Fuji’s X-T1 is a compact and versatile camera. I exposed this image of Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 number 113 using the X-T1 with 18-55mm zoom lens. The camera’s meter and sensor offered broad tonality and contrast. I did not manipulate or adjust this image in post processing, except for necessary scaling for internet presentation.
Steam action frozen with a Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm zoom lens. I exposed this view at Cressona, Pennsylvania on December 14, 2014.
Steam action frozen with a Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm zoom lens. I exposed this view at Cressona, Pennsylvania on December 14, 2014.
Auto focus can be a boon, but it can also pose its own fair share of difficulties. Both the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1 allow you to adjust the focus point. Familiarity with the camera's layers of menus is necessary. In this case I went for the center point option as a default. If I buy a X-T1, I'll spend some time reviewing the manual!
Auto focus can be a boon, but it can also pose its own fair share of difficulties. Both the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1 allow you to adjust the focus point. Familiarity with the camera’s layers of menus is necessary. In this case I went for the center point option as a default. If I buy a X-T1, I’ll spend some time reviewing the manual! 
SEPTA_mu_w_Station_Prospect_Park_dusk_PJY2132
Among the features of the Fuji cameras is the ability to select color profiles comparable to Fuji slide films. As a long-time Fuji slide shooter, I consider this to be a really good thing! This image was made with the X-T1 in ‘Velvia’ mode, handheld at ISO400 with the 18-55mm lens at 1/8th of a second. The lens has a built in image-stabilization system which allows for greater sharpness without a tripod at slow shutter speeds. This image was exposed at Prospect Park, Pennsylvania just after sunset, one of my favorite times of the day. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens.
Market_East_sign_Prospect_Park_PJY2114
Another view at Prospect park with the X-T1.

I’ll still plan to carry the LX7 as my ‘everywhere camera’, and I  may someday upgrade to the LX100. My Canons will also remain active. Regarding my steam fleet (that would be my film cameras), YES, these will all remain active too—although they see less service now than they did back in the day. Each tool has its place.

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Shire Books Features the Third Part of Brian Solomon’s Illustrated Street Car Article.

San Francisco’s Electric Streetcars: History and Today.

This is part three in Brian Solomon’s look at street railway transport in San Francisco. To see the photos and read the story click the link below: http://www.shirebooks.co.uk/blog/san_francisco_electric_streetcars_history_today/

PCC car San Francisco
Exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Canon EOS 3

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Streetcars of America by Brian Solomon and John Gruber is available from Shire Books. See: Streetcars of America.

 

Tracking the Light Special Camera Review: Fuji X-E2 on the Fly.

I’ve been fascinated by Fuji’s mirror-less cameras for a while. Pat Yough has a couple of them. In my previous post, I wrote of my fleeting experience with Pat’s X-T1. The other day, Pat gave me his X-E2 to play with.

Previously, I’d experimented with the X-E2 at the Streamliners at Spencer event last summer in North Carolina. On that occasion, I’d used the camera with a pancake lens and tried to match scenes using a Lumix LX7 as a side by side comparison.

Fuji X-E2 fitted with 18-55mm lens exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Fuji X-E2 fitted with 18-55mm lens exposed with a Lumix LX7.

I quickly found that making these type of comparisons obviated the inherent operating advantages of each camera system. This is an important point for me, and one too often ignored by professional camera reviewers.

For me the way a camera handles and its ease of use are crucial functional considerations. I make different types of images with different equipment.

So, what can a Fuji X-E2 do for me?

Picking up any unfamiliar camera and charging into the image-making process has its fair share of challenges. This is acerbated by the inherent complexity of many modern digital cameras. To simply get the camera meter mode and focus point where I’d expect them, requires layers of menu surfing.

The old Pennsy station at Lambertville, New Jersey made for a good subject. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens, set at 18mm, ISO 200, f8.0 at 1/35th of a second, hand-held auto-white balance. This combination yielded excellent depth of field. I was very impressed by the color/contrast reproduction with the blue sign. The sharpness of the RAW file is outstanding.
The old Pennsy station at Lambertville, New Jersey made for a good subject. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens, set at 18mm, ISO 200, f8.0 at 1/35th of a second, hand-held auto-white balance. This combination yielded excellent depth of field. I was very impressed by the color/contrast reproduction with the blue sign. The sharpness of the RAW file is outstanding.

It took more than a few minutes to get a handle on the X-E2. On Thursday December 11, 2014, we explored the New Hope & Ivyland’s tourist train operations.

This was a perfect opportunity to put the camera through its paces; I wasn’t pressured by the need to document the operation, since I can come back anytime and photograph it again. Also, poor and changeable weather conditions allowed me to push the X-E2 and see what it can do in lousy light. I also made a few comparisons with my Lumix LX-7.

New Hope & Ivyland's excursion train approached New Hope, Pennsylvania. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens, set at 55mm. Exposed at 400 ISO f4.0 a 1/250th of a second. Auto white balance, hand-held.
New Hope & Ivyland’s excursion train approached New Hope, Pennsylvania. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens, set at 55mm. Exposed at 400 ISO f4.0 a 1/250th of a second. Auto white balance, hand-held.
The XE-2 has several motor drive modes. These are accessed by scrolling through the menus. Exposed at 400 ISO f4.0 a 1/250th of a second. Auto white balance, hand-held.
The X-E2 has several motor drive modes. These are accessed by scrolling through the menus. Exposed at 400 ISO f4.0 a 1/250th of a second. Auto white balance, hand-held.
The ability to adjust the shutter speed with a traditional dial atop the camera is a real boon. In this situation I was able to make a quick change based on instinct and a hint from the camera meter. Exposed at 400 ISO f4.0 a 1/180th of a second. Auto white balance, hand-held.
The ability to adjust the shutter speed with a traditional dial atop the camera is a real boon. In this situation I was able to make a quick change based on instinct and a hint from the camera meter. Exposed at 400 ISO f4.0 a 1/180th of a second. Auto white balance, hand-held.
Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens, set at 18mm. Exposed at ISO 800, f4.0 1/240th of a second. The extreme contrast in this image made for test of the XE-2's dynamic range.
Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens, set at 18mm. Exposed at ISO 800, f4.0 1/240th of a second. The extreme contrast in this image made for test of the X-E2’s dynamic range.
A hand held pan with the motor drive in its fastest mode. The rangefinder-like quality of the X-E2 makes it an excellent tool to make pan photos. Exposed using 18-55mm lens at 55mm. ISO 200 at f4.0 1/12th of a second. Shutter speed calculated by the camera in 'A' mode.
A hand held pan with the motor drive in its fastest mode. The rangefinder-like quality of the X-E2 makes it an excellent tool to make pan photos. Exposed using 18-55mm lens at 55mm. ISO 200 at f4.0 1/12th of a second. Shutter speed calculated by the camera in ‘A’ mode.
Dusk at New Hope. I mounted the X-E2 on my old Bogen 3021 tripod. To allow for a more pleasing color, I manually set the white balance to 'daylight' rather than use the auto white balance. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55 lens, set at 55mm. ISO 200, f4.0 at 0.8 seconds.
Dusk at New Hope. I mounted the X-E2 on my old Bogen 3021 tripod. To allow for a more pleasing color, I manually set the white balance to ‘daylight’ rather than use the auto white balance. Fuji X-E2 with 18-55 lens, set at 55mm. ISO 200, f4.0 at 0.8 seconds.
Where the Fuji camera come into their own is with the high ISO settings. SEPTA local to Philadelphia at Glenside, Pennsylvania. Fuji X-E2 with 27mm pancake lens. ISO 2000 at f2.8 1/12th second handheld.
Where the Fuji camera come into their own is with the high ISO settings. SEPTA local to Philadelphia at Glenside, Pennsylvania. Fuji X-E2 with 27mm pancake lens. ISO 2000 at f2.8 1/12th second handheld.

In other circumstances, I kept the Lumix handy. When push came to shove, I’d grab my familiar camera to ensure that I got results. I don’t want to be fighting with a camera when the action is unfolding. Equipment familiarity is key to consistently making good images.

The photos here have been scaled for internet presentation, but otherwise unaltered.

Stay tuned for some analysis and conclusions!

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Tracking the Light Tests a Fuji X-T1

Fuji's X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. Exposed using a Panasonic LX7.
Fuji’s X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. Exposed using a Panasonic LX7.

An ideal test of new equipment might include a thorough tutorial, followed by a gradual immersion into the camera’s distinct features in order to be operationally confident prior to making any serious photos.

I didn’t do any of that. It was a sunny day in Philadelphia. Pat Yough and I were following SEPTA’s Route 15 streetcar line (famous for its use of ‘retro’ PCC cars).

“Here’s my X-T1, try that.”

SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 55-200mm zoom. ISO 200 at f7.1 1/640th second.
SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 55-200mm zoom. ISO 200 at f7.1 1/640th second.
SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 55-200mm zoom. ISO 200 at f8.0 1/640th second.
SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Detailed view exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 55-200mm zoom. ISO 200 at f8.0 1/640th second.

This was initially fitted with an older Fuji 55-200 zoom lens. I made a few photos of a static PCC car, but found the lens slow to focus. In back lit situations it didn’t seem to grab a focus point at all and hunted incessantly.

“This doesn’t like glint,” I said, “What other lenses do you have?”

“Try the 18-55mm kit lens”

SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 18-55mm zoom. ISO 200 at f11 1/250th second.
SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 18-55mm zoom. ISO 200 at f11 1/250th second.

This worked vastly better. It focused quickly. And I was soon snapping away.

We drove around Philadelphia, finishing daylight along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. By the time the sun had set I’d exposed 15 GB of photos!

Whee! There's nothing like something new. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens in South Philadelphia.
Whee! There’s nothing like something new. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens in South Philadelphia.

The X-T1 is a mirror-less camera formatted similar to a SLR but without the ‘reflex’. The viewfinder is digital. The camera has an excellent ergonomic shape—I found it comfortable to hold and easy to use.

On the down side, there’s a lever on the left-hand side of the body beneath the dial to set the ISO, which I kept inadvertently knocking with my thumb. This adjusts the motor-drive and introduces such novel features as ‘autobracket’ and an in-camera filter set.

The details of these features must be programmed by scrolling through fields of menus and making some intelligent selections. All very well, except I didn’t know how to do any of that at first, and suddenly found I was getting bursts of photos everytime I released the shutter.

At one point Pat joined a queue at Tony Luke’s Philly Cheese Steak to procure lunch, while I fiddled with the X-T1’s menu options. This allowed me to finally, tune, and then exit the bracket mode.

Amtrak at sunset, Prospect Park, PA. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 200 f6.4 1/950th of a second.
Amtrak at sunset, Prospect Park, PA. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 200 f6.4 1/950th of a second.

Along the Northeast Corridor, I was able to test the camera’s ability to work in low light and stop the action at its higher ISO settings.

The rapid fire motor drive is a real boon when picturing Amtrak’s Acela Express at speed. I was able to wind up the ISO to 6400, which impressed me. At lower ISOs, I was able to pull off some creative pans and photographs that incorporated movement.

Amtrak Acela Express blitzes Prospect Park. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens at ISO 400 f4.0 1/1000 of a second.
Amtrak Acela Express blitzes Prospect Park. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens at ISO 800 f4.0 1/1000 of a second.
Amtrak AEM-7 928 leads a Washington DC bound train at Prospect Park. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 6400 f4.0 1/125th of a second.
Amtrak AEM-7 928 leads a Washington DC bound train at Prospect Park. Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 6400 f4.0 1/125th of a second.

I walked away from my brief time with the X-T1, very impressed by the camera. It can output both a Jpg and RAW files simultaneously and has an impressive dynamic range. It has color profiles designed to emulate some of my favorite Fuji slide films, and has excellent high ISO response and output.

Pity about the slow focusing zoom, but Pat indicated there’s other options for longer lenses, and I hope to explore that at a later date.

All the X-T1 photos displayed here have been scaled for internet presentation, but are otherwise unaltered. I have not sharpened, cropped, or enhanced the files.

Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 1600 f4.0 1/15th of a second. Prospect Park station.
Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 1600 f4.0 1/15th of a second. Prospect Park station.
SEPTA PCC at the Northern Liberties Loop near the Sugar House Casino. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted ISO 400 f3.6 1/4th second
SEPTA at Prospect Park. Pan photo exposed using  a Fuji X-T1 fitted with a 18-55mm lens. ISO 400 f3.6 1/4th second
SEPTA at Prospect Park, PA. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 55-200mm zoom. ISO 400 f3.6 1/15th of a second. I like the metallic look. Reminds me of  . . . 120 size chrome film!
SEPTA at Prospect Park, PA. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with 55-200mm zoom. ISO 400 f3.6 1/15th of a second. I like the metallic look. Reminds me of . . . 120 size chrome film!

NEXT: A look at Fuji’s XE-2

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Tracking the Light SPECIAL POST: Knowledge Corridor Test Train—December 19, 2014

Today (Dec 19, 2014) Amtrak operated a test train north from Springfield, Massachusetts on Pan Am Southern’s recently rehabilitated  Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line in preparation for re-routed Vermonter service (expected to begin at the end of this month).

My father and I went out to document this special move, then went over to the New England Central route to photograph the Vermonter on its present route.

Amtrak 111 leads the northward test train at Old Ferry Road in Holyoke (south of Mt Tom) on December 19, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. ISO 800.
Amtrak 111 leads the northward test train at Old Ferry Road in Holyoke (south of Mt Tom) on December 19, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. ISO 800.
Amtrak's southward test train at Old Ferry Road in Holyoke (south of Mt Tom) on December 19, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. ISO 800.
Amtrak’s southward test train at Old Ferry Road in Holyoke (south of Mt Tom) on December 19, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. ISO 800. Brush cutting efforts have opened up numerous photo locations along the line.

Tracking the Light posts new material EVERY DAY!

Amtrak’s 600 at Zoo Junction.

Sunday, December 7, 2014.

Tracking the Light presents a few views at this busy location.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is in transition as the old battle-worn AEM-7s are being phased out and the new Siemens ACS-64 ‘City Sprinter’ locomotives gradually assume their duties.

 

Fellow photographer Pat Yough and I were out to make good use of the sunlight. We’d caught Amtrak 600 the ‘David L. Gunn’ (recently named for Amtrak’s former president 2002-2005) working a Harrisburg-New York Penn Station Keystone on the Main Line and were aiming for another photograph of this unique locomotive.

Amtrak AEM-7 924 crosses the Schuylkill River  working toward Philadelphia's 30th Street Station on the former Pennsylvania Railroad.. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak AEM-7 924 crosses the Schuylkill River working toward Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station on the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak AEM-7 924. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak AEM-7 924. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
New Amtrak ACS-64 621 leads a Northeast Regional train at Zoo Junction. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
New Amtrak ACS-64 621 leads a Northeast Regional train at Zoo Junction. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A former Metroliner cab-car leads a Keystone service at Zoo Junction. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A former Metroliner cab-car leads a Keystone service at Zoo Junction. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak 600 was named 'David L. Gunn' and works at the back of a Keystone train. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak 600 was named ‘David L. Gunn’ and works at the back of a Keystone train. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak 600 was named 'David L. Gunn' and works at the back of a Keystone train. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Amtrak 600 was named ‘David L. Gunn’ and works at the back of a Keystone train. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

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Oak Lane Revisited; 55 years later.

Back on November 14, 1959, my dad photographed Reading Company T-1 2124 charging through Oak Lane station on Kodachrome.

But where is Oak Lane? Obviously this is in suburban Philadelphia. However, when I consulted a modern day SEPTA rail map, I couldn’t find it.

A puzzle. I called my dad. But he didn’t specifically remember making the photo, nor anything about the station. “I chased a lot of the Reading trips. I don’t know which one that was.”

Reading's T-1 2124 charges through Oak Lane, near  Philadelphia on November 14, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading’s T-1 2124 charges through Oak Lane, near Philadelphia on November 14, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon

Perhaps the station had been closed?

Finally, after a bit of research, I concluded that Oak Lane had been renamed Melrose Park. Armed with that knowledge, my brother Sean and I traveled to Melrose Park on SEPTA on Friday December 5, 2014.

SEPTA_Melrose_Park_P1100572

Surprisingly, the station isn’t radically different. The old building still serves as a railway station, and the old canopy on the outbound side of the tracks still looks as it did in 1959.

Two big changes were installation of high-level platforms and removal of the center track.

I attempted to emulate the angle and perspective of the 1959 photo as closely as possible. My father was using a Kodak Retina 3C, probably fitted with a 50mm lens, although he also had a 35mm. So using my Lumix LX7, I adjusted the Vario Summilux to about the 45-50mm range. Both photos were made in late-autumn on overcast days.

 

Outbound SEPTA multiple unit at Melrose Park. December 5, 2014.
Outbound SEPTA multiple unit at Melrose Park. December 5, 2014.

The other big change is the equipment. Where in 1959, Reading’s class T-1 4-8-4 number 2124 was the star attraction, on December 5, 2014 we had to settle for a 1970s-vintage Silverliner IV multiple unit.

Keep in mind that at the time of the 1959 photo, the steam locomotive was only a dozen years old at the time. Happily, the 2124 is preserved at Steamtown in Scranton.

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Tracking the Light Special Post: Vermonter to Amherst

Philadelphia 30th Street Station this morning, December 17, 2014.
Philadelphia 30th Street Station this morning, December 17, 2014.
Philadelphia 30th Street Station this morning, December 17, 2014.
Philadelphia 30th Street Station this morning, December 17, 2014.

Today’s (December 17, 2014) views from Amtrak’s Vermonter en route from Philadelphia to Amherst, Massachusetts. Posted live from the train!

I write from the relative comfort of an Amfleet coach on Amtrak number 56, the Vermonter. Below are some views exposed today with my Lumix LX7.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to use the Amherst Station while I still can.

Amtrak is due to shift the Vermonter to the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ route at the end of this month. This will result in a restoration of Amtrak service to the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line, and the first regularly scheduled passenger trains on the line since Amtrak suspended its Montrealer north of Springfield in the mid-1980s

In July 1989, Amtrak’s Washington D.C,- Montreal Montrealer was restored using a Central Vermont (CV) routing via New London, Palmer and Amherst.

Then, beginning in early 1995, shortly after New England Central assumed operations of the old CV, the daytime Vermonter (DC-St. Albans) replaced the nocturnal Montrealer schedule.

However, this new train used a revised routing via Hartford, Springfield and over the former Boston & Albany to Palmer, then up New England Central’s former CV line to East Northfield.

Soon Palmer to East Northfield will be freight only!

Amtrak 56 arriving at 30th Street.
Amtrak 56 arriving at 30th Street.
Vermonter arriving at 30th Street.
Vermonter arriving at 30th Street.
Near Harrison, NJ.
Near Harrison, NJ.
My view from the Hell Gate Bridge looking toward Manhattan.
My view from the Hell Gate Bridge looking toward Manhattan.
A BL20GH diesel at Bridgeport with a train from Waterbury. December 17, 2014. LX7 photo.
A BL20GH diesel at Bridgeport with a train from Waterbury. December 17, 2014. LX7 photo.
A BL20GH diesel at Bridgeport with a train from Waterbury. December 17, 2014. LX7 photo.
A BL20GH diesel at Bridgeport with a train from Waterbury. December 17, 2014. LX7 photo.
Amfleet_2_P1120064
Amfleet interior on train 56 Vermonter.
New Haven line train viewed from Amtrak's Vermonter, December 17, 2014.
New Haven line train viewed from Amtrak’s Vermonter, December 17, 2014.
New Haven, Connecticut. The WiFi remained active during the engine change. Notice 'Amherst' in the station list.
New Haven, Connecticut. The WiFi remained active during the engine change. Notice ‘Amherst’ in the station list.
Rolling along the old canal and Connecticut River at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
Rolling along the old canal and Connecticut River at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
Crossing the Connecticut. I'm looking down on the river bank where I photographed the Vermonter about a month ago.
Crossing the Connecticut. I’m looking down on the river bank where I photographed the Vermonter about a month ago.

Tracking the Light posts new material everyday!

Exploring Philadelphia on SEPTA.

Friday December 5, 2014.

SEPTA’s Independence Pass offers great value for the $12 price and more importantly gives you the freedom to jump from train to train and one mode to another without worrying about buying individual tickets.

We started at Overbrook, where the agent in the station sold us our Independance Passes. Of the tens of thousands of railway stations that once dotted the North American network, how many still have open ticket windows and waiting rooms for passengers? Lumix LX7 photo.
We started at Overbrook, where the agent in the station sold us our Independance Passes. Of the tens of thousands of railway stations that once dotted the North American network, how many still have open ticket windows and waiting rooms for passengers? Lumix LX7 photo.
Outbound SEPTA multiple unit at Overbrook, Pennsylvania. Lumix LX7 photo.
Outbound SEPTA multiple unit at Overbrook, Pennsylvania. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA logo. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA logo. Lumix LX7 photo.

My brother Sean set out on a wandering tour that included SEPTA’s commuter rail, Broad Street Subway and Market-Frankford rapid transit, and light rail lines.

Part of our quest was to find the elusive Oak Lane station on the former Reading Company lines.

Modern maps won’t show this station, and I had a special interest in finding it, which I’ll explain in tomorrow’s post! Stay tuned!

Inbound SEPTA train at Jenkintown on the former Reading. Lumix LX7 photo.
Inbound SEPTA train at Jenkintown on the former Reading. Lumix LX7 photo.
This sign was at the old Oak Lane Station. Mystery revealed tomorrow!
This sign was at the old Oak Lane Station. Mystery revealed tomorrow!
SEPTA trains at Fern Rock. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA trains at Fern Rock. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA 2304 was built in Graz, Austria. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA 2304 was built in Graz, Austria. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA's Broad Street Subway must be the region's least photographed railway line. Why, I don't know. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA’s Broad Street Subway must be the region’s least photographed railway line. Why, I don’t know? Lumix LX7 photo.
Indeed!
Indeed!
Kowasaki cars on the Broad Street line.
Kowasaki cars on the Broad Street line.
Just so you know!
Just so you know!
Girard and Broad Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
Girard and Broad Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
Route 15 PCC's at the new Northern Liberties loop near the new Casino. Lumix LX7 photo.
Route 15 PCC’s at the new Northern Liberties loop near the new Casino. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA PCC 2328 up close. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
SEPTA PCC 2328 up close. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
PCC 2324 at the Northern Liberties loop. Lumix LX7 photo.
PCC 2324 at the Northern Liberties loop. Lumix LX7 photo.
PCC at dusk on Frankford Street near The Handle Bar. LX7 Photo.
PCC at dusk on Frankford Street near The Handle Bar. LX7 Photo.
SEPTA's Market-Frankford El at dusk. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA’s Market-Frankford El at dusk. Lumix LX7 photo.
Market-Frankford El at Girard Ave. Lumix LX7 photo.
Market-Frankford El at Girard Ave. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA's celebrathing 50 years. Our passes were valid on the buses, but we opted for an all-rail journey. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA’s celebrathing 50 years. Our passes were valid on the buses, but we opted for an all-rail journey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Philadelphia City Hall at night. Lumix LX7 photo.
Philadelphia City Hall at night. Lumix LX7 photo.
A Silverliner V dressed for the Philadelphia Eagles at Suburban Station.
A Silverliner V dressed for the Philadelphia Eagles at Suburban Station.
And, finally, back to Overbrook. LX7 photo.
And, finally, back to Overbrook. LX7 photo.

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Tomorrow; Oak Lane, revisited.

 

Along the Main Line—December 4, 2014.

Tracking the Light presents 14 recent images—a work in progress.

Not any old mainline, but The Main Line—the former Pennsylvania Railroad west of Philadelphia. This is hallowed ground in the eyes of PRR enthusiasts.

My brother and I spent several hours examining various locations from Overbook to Bryn Mawr.

A training special (not listed in the public timetable) approaches Narberth on December 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
A training special (not listed in the public timetable) approaches Narberth on December 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
A training special at Narberth on December 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
A training special at Narberth on December 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
A SEPTA training special departs Narberth on December 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
A SEPTA training special departs Narberth on December 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

We were rewarded by a training special operating in midday with SEPTA AEM-7 2306 and a push-pull train. These trains are typically only used at rush hours, so it was nice to catch one off peak.

Narberth. Lumix LX7 photo.
Narberth. Lumix LX7 photo.

SEPTA_Narberth_PA_sign_P1100450

The Main Line loves its trees.
The Main Line loves its trees.

The Main Line is a throwback to another time. The line still retains many of its visual cues from year’s gone by, including classic Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal hardware.

SEPTA locals pass at Narberth. Classic postion light signaling still protects the mainline.
SEPTA locals pass at Narberth. Classic postion light signaling still protects the mainline.
SEPTA local approaching Wynnewood. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA local approaching Wynnewood. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA training special inbound near Wynnewood. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA training special inbound near Wynnewood. Lumix LX7 photo.

Among the challenges to photographing this line is the proliferation of trees along the right of way. While these can make for nice props, they also cast shadows which complicate photography.

From an operations standpoint, I would think that having so many line-side trees would be a serious problem. Not only will these cause wheel-slip in the autumn that will result in difficulties for suburban trains trying to meet tight schedules, but falling branches and trunks will interfere with the catenary.

Would the PRR have tolerated so many trees along its primary east-west trunk?

 

SEPTA local at Wynnewood.
SEPTA local at Wynnewood.
Advertising on a Silverliner V. Lumix LX7 photo.
Advertising on a Silverliner V. Lumix LX7 photo.