This has been an interesting week for locomotives working Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (International Warehousing & Transport container train Dublin to Ballina). Most of the time a standard green and sliver class 201 leads the train. But over the last week, a variety of differently painted locomotives have had this assignment.
I exposed this unusual angle of a RENFE high-speed AVE train at the modern Cordoba Station in September 2001.
The train was paused. The challenge was using my Rolleiflex Model T to look over the railing and down on the train.
The Rollei is a twin-lens reflex. Normally to compose an image you look down into the camera through a mirror and lens arrangement which projects on an interior screen.
If holding the camera at waist-level and looking down doesn’t suit the situation, there’s also a field-finder—which is just a window the helps you gauge the rough limits of the image area.
Neither of these tools were of any use to me when facing railing about six feet tall and my subject below me.
So, I held the camera above me and looked up into to it. Composing a scene in reverse (as is always the case when looking in the Rollei) is difficult enough, but doing this while craning my neck was especially tricky.
I made one exposure and a moment later the train accelerated away toward Seville.
Sunday, February 22, 2015 had been a wet windy day, but as evening approached, I saw the clouds clearing in the west. I made an opportunity to experiment with my X-T1.
The dramatic lighting effects of a winter evening in Dublin are as good a time as any to make photographs, and I’ve found that among the strengths of my new camera is working in low light.
To retain the hues of dusk, I switched the white balance setting from ‘auto’ to ‘daylight,’ while I upped the ISO dial to its higher ranges, and selected the ‘Velvia’ color profile.
My 18-135 lens is a remarkably sharp piece of glass and its built-in image stabilization allowed me to work hand-held in lighting situations that would have been all but impossible with my film cameras.
I exposed about 140 images over the course of an hour and one half. That’s equivalent to just less than 4 rolls of slide film. I admit that sounds like a lot, however when I found an interesting scene, I’d bracket my exposure, while experimenting with various metering and focusing modes while pushing the limits of image stabilization.
This was an opportunity to test the camera’s capabilities, while working in a visually familiar environment. So, I revisited streets where I’ve photographed frequently over the years.
This is a sampling of Sunday’s efforts. I exposed RAW and Jpgs of each photo; presented here are scaled versions of the Jpgs. Other than the necessary size reduction for internet presentation, I’ve not manipulated, adjusted or otherwise enhanced these photos in post-processing.
Thursday, February 26, 2015: Today Enterprise 8209 wearing a new livery (or rather what appears to be about half of the new Enterprise livery) worked Irish Rail’s Dublin (North Wall) to Ballina IWT Liner.
Irish Rail operates container trains for International Warehousing & Transport most weekdays, however it is unusual to find this locomotive working the train. The 201 Class are General Motors-built locomotives technically similar to the F59PHI used in North America.
Yesterday, I featured locomotive 206 working the Ballina to Dublin IWT Liner which featured a more complete variation of the new paint scheme. At least today, I had the sun, fickle as it may be!
I was lucky because the train was blocked at Islandbridge Junction, giving me an opportunity to expose a few colour slides and then hoof it up the road for another angle.
On the evening of May 13, 2011, I was along the shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee)at Radolfzell, Germany, where I made this evocative photograph of a Stadler Flirt electric railcar catching the soft setting sunlight as it approached the station.
Did my title sound like something else? Somehow ‘Backlit Railcar’ just didn’t cut it.
A little while ago, I caught Irish Rail 206 wearing a fresh new dress leading the afternoon IWT Liner from the top of the Phoenix Park Tunnel in Dublin. I made these photos with my Fuji X-T1.
I think the new photography mode is: ‘ISO 6400 and be there’. It was pretty dark. This was my first glimpse of the locomotive in this new livery. I’m sure there’ll be ample opportunity to catch it in better light, but thanks to improved technology I was able to make the most of the moment.
I considered leaving out the second ‘Connecticut,’ but for the sake of clarity I’ll risk sounding redundant. The real topic is the nearly tragic tale of the photograph itself.
I’d pulled this Kodachrome slide from my old box of ‘3rds’— my category meaning ‘just above garbage’. In otherwords, if I got tight for space, I’d pitch it.
In August 1987, I’d made several trips to photograph Conrail’s New Haven to Selkirk (symbol NHSE) on the former New Haven Railroad New Haven—Springfield line.
The challenge of this project was that the train departed Cedar Hill Yard (near New Haven) very early in the morning. If I recall correctly, it went on duty there about 3am. My strategy was either to drive past the yard in Hartford to see if it was there, and then pick a location for a photograph, or simply set up and wait.
On this day, August 18, 1987, I was waiting on spec. I’d figured, at least I’d catch a few of the southward Amtrak trains, and if Conrail’s NHSE didn’t show up, I’d head off elsewhere.
After selecting my spot by water level, and after Amtrak’s Bankers went south, I was rewarded by a pair of SD40-2s leading a very long NHSE. The light was nearly perfect and I exposed several frames of Kodachrome 25.
When the slides came back I was sorely disappointed. These had two flaws: the color had shifted red (often a problem with Kodachrome that was too close to its expiry date); but worse, the images were off level (tilted). The second problem was especially galling because I’d featured the river so prominently.
Into the ‘3rds’ bin! At that time I could go back to Windsor on any given day and repeat my effort. Except that I didn’t.
Years went by. I remembered the morning of the photograph and I recalled exposing the slides. In searching, I’d found slides of NHSE from other days. But this image was missing, as were quite a few other images from the same period.
Finally, I found it again, and quite by accident. In looking for photos for a book project (Conrail, probably), I opened the big box of ‘3rds’ to see what was inside . . . and, isn’t it amazing to see how slides improve with age?!
Now with desktop scanning and post-processing technologies, the job of adjusting color balance and cropping to improve level are remarkably easy.
And there’s a lesson in photography (well two, really).
In the course of a ten-day Amtrak trip, I spent twenty-four hours at Cumberland, Maryland, where I made a variety of photos of Chessie System’s Baltimore & Ohio.
I found many railroaders on the B&O to be cordial and helpful. A man in this trackside office near the west-end of the sprawling Cumberland Yard invited me to make a photograph from his window.
I exposed the image on Kodak black & white film using my dad’s Rolleiflex Model T that I’d borrowed for the duration of the trip. I also made a few color slides that day. I’ve always liked the framing of the B&O locomotive.
On May 23, 2003, I exposed this photo of a signalman setting the points at Ballinsloe Cabin just a few hours before the historic structure was relieved its operational functions as part of the commission of a Mini-CTC system on Irish Rail’s Galway Line.
It was the end of an era at Ballinasloe, but one that was a long time in coming. On my first visit to the cabin five year earlier I was warned of its impending closure. Delays in installing the Mini-CTC ultimately prolonged the cabin’s closure. By the time I made this image, the signalman I’d visited in 1998 had retired!
One of the great challenges of working with long telephoto lenses is getting the focus where you want it.
The inherent nature of a telephoto lens produces a comparatively shallow depth of field (relative field of focus). The longer the lens, the less depth of field.
So where precision focus is important with a wide angle lens, it is critical with a long lens, unless, of course, your intent is to make soft images.
Placing focus is important to me, as I’ve learned various visual tricks for directing the eye within an image by clever use of sharpness. Sometimes when photographing trains, the optimal focus point is not at the front of the locomotive; however, in this case, that was precisely my objective.
One of the reasons I’ve embraced auto-focus cameras, was that about ten years ago I concluded that I couldn’t trust my eyesight to make precision focus, especially when I had to do it quickly.
Using my new Fuji X-T1, I made this image on Friday February 20, 2015 of an Irish Rail continuous welded rail train crossing the River Liffey at Islandbridge in Dublin.
I arrived at my location a bit winded and had only a few moments to make a test photo and set the focus point (the Fuji allows for easy adjustment of the desired focus point) before the train came into view.
The equipment performed perfectly! The front of the 071 class locomotive is razor sharp. Hurray!
Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm; ISO 800, f5.6 1/500th second, ‘Velvia’ color profile.
Among the features of the Fuji X-T1 is a setting to make broad panoramic images. This is done by sweeping the camera across a scene as it exposes a burst of images in rapid succession. The camera’s internal software then assembles the images as a horizontal image.
Using this feature as intended will produce a convincing panoramic photograph. However if subjects move they may appear more than once or become altered beyond recognition.
I experimented by panning a LUAS tram in panoramic mode. The result looks like the world’s longest tram.
It was an exciting time. Mass-Central had just recently acquired a former Santa Fe CF7, which to me seemed like a really exotic locomotive, and was running excursions over the old Boston & Albany line from Ware to Palmer, and Ware to South Barre.
My friend Bob Buck of Warren got involved with publicity while I made a point of both riding some of the trains and photographing them from the ground.
This image was probably exposed on a Saturday afternoon in late September or early October. I’m not sure of the exact date because the individual negative strip has been separated from its original sleeve and my notes from the time are a bit minimal (and filed about 4,000 miles away). However judging by the foliage on the trees, it wasn’t too late in the season.
I’d followed the train down from Ware. It made a spirited run and approached each crossing with the bell ringing and horn blaring. Here a man has jumped off the engine to flag the difficult Route 181 crossing in Palmer, Massachusetts, where the tracks cut across the road at a difficult angle.
I’ve always liked this location because the line angles toward the road down a gently curving ramp with a row of trees beyond that makes the whole scene seem like a big diorama.
Back then, my photography was entirely inspired by the spirit of the moment and I didn’t put a lot of forethought into details such as location, lighting and composition. My mode was to ‘get ahead of the train then jump out and grab a photo or two.’
I like catchy titles, although I’ve recognized that today you get better response by advertising content as clearly and succinctly as possible.
Allusive titles no longer grab audiences as they did in earlier times. If Joyce wrote his famed novel Ulysses today, his publishers might changed the title to A Day’s Walk Around Dublin.
Speaking of walking around Dublin. Monday February 16, 2015 was a bright sunny day—really the first properly sunny day since I arrived back. Although more writing obligations landed in my ‘in-box’ that morning, I decided to take the time for a walk up through Kilmainham to the LUAS Red Line at Suir Road.
Here the tracks climb out of the old canal-bed that extends from the old Harbour near the Guinness Brewery and cross the surviving leg of the Grand Canal on a modern bridge and then run along its south bank for a mile or so on the way towards Tallagh.
I’d been wanting to make a bright sunlit photo of the specially adorned ‘Sky’ tram that has been roaming the Red Line since before I got back. Advertising liveries rarely last more than a couple of months on the LUAS system and this was as good as an excuse as any to play with my Fuji X-T1.
I didn’t have to wait long before the tram in question came gliding along the canal
What cryptic allusion might Bloom have uttered upon seeing a Sky tram crossing the canal?
It helps to be near the tracks. In Dublin, my oft-photographed location at Islandbridge Junction is only a five minute walk away.
It wasn’t the brightest day, last week when I made the opportunity to make a few photographs of Irish Rail’s Dublin (North Wall) to Ballina IWT Liner. This is a freight train that I’ve photographed very often owing to its operational regularity and proximity. It was the perfect subject to try out my new Fuji X-T1.
I wandered up to my location as Irish Rail was shuffling some 22K series ROTEM-built Intercity Railcars (ICRs). While these are a dime a dozen (or is that ten euro cents for ten?) and the light was flat, I put the camera to use. What better time to practice?
The liner made its appearance and I exposed a burst of images in ‘Provia’ mode. (The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera has traditional Fuji film profiles programmed into it.)
As luck would have it, the liner wasn’t moving very quickly and it looked as if it wouldn’t stay ahead of the 11 am passenger train to Cork, so my friend and fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan traveled to Hazelhatch at the end of the quad-track.
We made it in enough time to watch the 11am passenger overtake the IWT Liner and made some photos of the train.
My Fuji X-T1 has a tilting rear display, a first for me. This allowed me to hold the camera high over the railing on the footbridge at Hazelhatch and frame up a series of images.
After the train passed, I could hear the class 071 diesel-electric roaring away in ‘run-8’ (maximum throttle) for at least five minutes. I grew up to the sound of turbocharged EMD diesels, so its always a treat to hear an old 645E3 working.
When I got home, I pored over the files fresh from the X-T1. These were some of the first action shots with my new camera. Not too bad considering the dull light. More to come!
Back in December and January, I borrowed Pat Yough’s Fuji X-T1 and exposed a few photos.
Quite a few in truth, and often more than I was expecting because I’d set the motor drive to its highest setting (I call this ‘turbo-flutter’) and every time my shutter finger drifted anywhere near the shutter release I’d record bursts of images.
Despite this haphazard approach, I managed to make a few reasonable images, some of which I’ve presented here on Tracking the Light, and rapidly convinced myself that I really needed a Fuji X-T1.
Actually, I’d previously experimented with Pat’s Fuji X-E2 and was quite convinced I wanted one of those as well.
So after weeks on contemplation and pondering, I finally ordered the camera. Now comes the hard part; learning to use it efficiently.
Based on past experience, I figure it will take me about six months to really get in-tune with this new equipment.
When I’m out making photos, I want my manipulation of a camera to be second nature. If I’m fumbling for the correct settings, or wasting time consulting camera manuals, I can’t really make the best possible images.
Also, every type of equipment has its strengths and weaknesses. Finding those and exploiting this camera to best advantages will take time.
In the meantime, I’ve turned the motor drive setting down a few notches and experimented with the camera’s capabilities. I’m still trying to figure out the focusing options . . .
Recently I read a definition of photographic composition that said something to the effect of; ‘making order out of chaos.’ In railway photography, wires pose special compositional problems, and can lend for chaotic images if not handled carefully.
In this photo I exposed at the Illinois Railway Museum, a virtual sea of wires lace the sky and visually surround the streetcar.
As visual elements, wires typically appear as dark lines and unless they are carefully placed, they can disrupt a photograph by dividing up the frame and causing unwanted distractions. Yet, in many situations the wires are important part of the railway infrastructure.
In this case, I’ve carefully photographed the streetcar passing the electrical substation that is part of the network that supplies the car with juice, and so many of the wires pictured directly relate to the streetcar. No wires, no go.
Yet, I’m not entirely satisfied with the image. I think that if I’d played around with my angle and juxtaposition of the car, I may have been able to produce a more striking image.
It was the evening of June 15, 2004, and I was out along the old Burlington C&I line at Chana, west of Rochelle, Illinois. The sunset was this amazing tapestry of color, like a Turner oil painting. I had a few minutes to make the most it.
The old General Railway Signal searchlight signal with its classic finial and the code lines beyond made for good silhouette subjects. I blasted through about a half a roll of film before the color faded. I’ve found you have to make the most of these cosmic moments when they happen.
Often there’ll be a great sunset, but I won’t be in a position to use the light for anything constructive, and so I’ll just have to gaze at it with regrets. Seeing a missed opportunity in a sunset; that’s one of the downsides of being a photographer.
In an ideal world, my new camera would arrive on a fine summer morning and I’d have nothing more important to do than to spend days and weeks to play with it unhindered. No joy.
I had to dig a trench through a snow drift more than two feet deep so that UPS could deliver my camera, and this was the second or third revised scheduled delivery, as repeated weather events had conspired to postpone my camera’s arrival.
I’ve been working on no less than three (four really) book projects, all competing for my time and attention. And, in the middle of all this I had to prepare for a trans-Atlantic crossing, which was advanced with little warning owing to more snow.
Jetlag hates me, or loves me, I don’t know which, but crossing five time zones leaves me bewildered, disoriented, and tired. Great time to make photos with a new camera . . .
I pressed the shutter release; nothing happened. I turned the camera on and everything was dark. What’s this switch for? Why won’t the camera focus? Why does it have a double exposure mode? How to do I change the focus mode? Eight layers of menus! You must be joking?
In January 2009, Tim Doherty, Denis McCabe and I made photos at a suburban branch station called Praha-Ruzyne, situated west of Prague’s historic center and near the Vaclav Havel (international) Airport. A wire operated semaphore caught my interest.
This scene presents a lesson in composition. It was a visually interesting but stark environment to make photographs.
The Czech capital is a fascinating city with some of Europe’s finest architecture. Unfortunately, none of this is present at Praha-Ruzyne, which is characterized by urban development stemming from the country’s austere period of Soviet-influence.
I opted to work in silhouette and exposed this color slide for the highlight areas of the sky while allowing shadow areas to go black and be virtually free from distracting detail.
My challenge was placing the semaphore mast and blade in a position that makes it most prominent. I’ve balanced the composition by putting this signal diagonally opposite from the diesel railcar at lower right. The red lights on the back of the railcar immediately attract the eye, while the semaphore draws it back again.
In the middle is a lone figure crossing the line which both adds a prominent human element that offers a sense of scale, while imposing a poetic element of; ‘man versus his environment’.
The trackage arrangement makes for a complex pattern that reflects the light of the morning sky . On the hill above the train is a large building that hints at the greater urbanity of the scene. Without it, the image might be mistaken for a photo of a rural village.
Two specially difficulties were the array of vertical lighting masts which distract from the semaphore, and the railing along the line that visually interferes with the trackage, but adds a layer of depth.
The trees in the distance beyond the tracks are slightly diffused by morning haze and contribute to sense of depth—an especially important element in this silhouetted view, which would otherwise be flattened by the minimalism imposed by my choice of exposure.
How might this image compare with one at the same location exposed on a bright summer afternoon?
Among my favorite stations on the far flung Irish Rail network was Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. The combination of a rural atmosphere with an interesting track layout and unusual curvature, high signal cabin (tower) with mechanical semaphores plus its reputation for friendly staff, made it an ideal place to spend an afternoon.
I’ve probably made fifty or more trips to Carrick over the years. While, I often timed my visits to coincide with the arrival of freight trains, on this day I photographed the scheduled crossing (meeting) of 2700-series railcars working between Waterford and Limerick Junction.
This is a scene never to be repeated. The 2700s have been withdrawn and the passing loop (passing siding) at Carrick was lifted (torn up).
Sometimes it is the most common everyday scenes that ultimately make for the rarest and most interesting photographs. Is there some everyday railway activity in your life that has gone undocumented?
Between 2003 and 2008, Irish Rail converted most of its peripheral lines from traditional control using mechanical semaphore signals and electric train staff to a Mini-CTC (centralised traffic control) system with colour-light signaling.
In May 2005, the signals at Boyle on the Sligo Line reflected this pending transition. The new hardware was in place, but the old semaphores were still doing their job. By the end of the year the signal towers on the Sligo Line had been closed and the day of the semaphore was done.
The re-opening of Boston & Maine’s Connecticut River line as the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ passenger route in December has made for a variety of new places to photograph Amtrak’s Vermonter that hadn’t had regular passenger trains in more than 25 years.
In conjunction with the rebuilding of the line was brush removal, especially around grade crossings, which have further expanded photographic potential of the Connecticut River route. In addition to Amtrak, Pan Am Southern’s freights also use the line.
Up to just a few months ago, the view of the line at North Hillside Road in South Deerfield was hemmed in by brush and trees, but now it’s cleared and open.
Pat Yough, Paul Goewey and I were out for the Vermonter on January 23, 2015, and I exposed this image of it racing southward toward its station stop at Northampton.
It was an even zero degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about -18 Celsius) when I arrived at the top of State Line Tunnel. A heavy blanket of snow covered the ground and I could hear a heavy CSX eastward train climbing.
The twin-bore State Line Tunnel is the only true tunnel on the old Boston & Albany. The older of the two bores was abandoned in late 1988 when Conrail single-tracked the line.
Driving east on the New York State Thruway, I’d noted the eastward freight crossing ‘Bottleneck Bridge’ east of the interchange with Taconic State Parkway. I knew then, that if I didn’t dally, I could get to the top of State Line in time to roll the train by.
I recalled a chase many years ago with Bob Buck in the twilight hour. When we arrived at this favorite location, I insisted on making black & white photos with my old Leica and ignored Bob’s advice to, ‘Save your film for a sunny day.’
Back to the present. Despite the cold, I set up my Bogen tripod and attached my Lumix LX7. The train whistled for the grade crossing west of the tunnel. Not much time. I made a test shot at 8 seconds. Too dark. Switching to manual mode, I set the camera for 20 seconds. I made an exposure just as the headlights were illuminating the curve.
The view of the train in the photo with the Lumix was blasted by the headlights and isn’t very effective.
However, I had my brand new Fuji X-T1, but I hadn’t the time to figure out how to set it for long time exposures, I did make a few hand-held views at ISO 1250.
Then I exposed a view with the Lumix of the freight cars rolling below me.
Historically, Philadelphia had one of the most extensive urban streetcar networks in the United States.
My recent book Streetcars of America co-authored with John Gruber and published by Shire, features a selection of historic images of Philadelphia’s cars.
My father began photographing in Philadelphia in the mid-1950s, and my family has kept up the tradition.
On January 16, 2015 I re-explored several Philadelphia streetcar routes to make photographs. I was surprise to see one of the 1980s-era Kawaski cars working as a ‘Training Car’ on Girard Avenue—normally the domain of restored PCCs for the number 15 cross-town line.
Later my brother Sean and I went over to Media to catch the route 101 car. The Media line is one of the vestiges of the old Philadelphia Suburban Lines.
I visited a variety of cities on my travels in Finland in early September 2001. One dull afternoon I was in Koupio changing trains.
An express passenger train was due in from Helsinki, so I made my way to the west-end of the station platform where I exposed this view of a 1970s-era Soviet-built Sr1 electric.
Using my Rollei model T, I opted for a low-angle to add a sense of drama to the arriving train. My primary interest was this relic of Soviet railway technology, so I allowed it to get as close as possible before releasing the shutter.
American with German camera photographs Soviet-built electric in Finland! Yea!
Then, as now, east Deerfield was a favorite place to make photos and begin a trip to somewhere else.
To make the most of the long days of summer, I had an early start. At 6:19 am, I made this photo of eastward DHED led by a pair of former Norfolk Southern SD45 and an old Santa Fe SD26. For me the fog made the scene more interesting; it adds depth while providing a painterly chiaroscuro effect.
There’s something tragic, yet intriguing about the state of the line. The ghostly effect of the old double track signal bridge-sans signal heads and the weedy tracks tells of empire in decay. The railroad that forges forward in its own shadow.
You can imagine the low roar of the 20-645E3 diesels amplified and modulated by the morning mist. Perhaps I should have been making audio recordings . . .
Since DHED had arrived at its eastward terminal, I opted to head west. My next photograph was at Schenectady, New York on the Delaware & Hudson some hours later. Fast forward more than 25 years
On self-style tour of the Balkans that began and ended in Vienna, Denis McCabe and I spent a productive afternoon near the Slovenian border station at Jesenice. To the north beyond the formidable wall of the Alps lies Austria.
The mainline south to Ljubljana is electrified at 3,000 volts direct current. The Austrian electrification is high voltage alternating current. A small holding yard at the station was used to change engines and hold freights.
We caught a procession of trains, including a special summer-season passenger train heading to the Bulgarian coast.
The highlight of the visit was this freight the worked with a General Motors diesel off the secondary line that runs southwesterly toward the Italian frontier.
There’s a stiff grade on this line climbing up to Jesenice and we could hear the freight coming long before it came into sight.
Sunny skies were fading as a storm brewed in the mountains beyond. We boarded a local passenger train for Ljubljana and on arrival witnessed an especially violent electrical storm from the station platforms. I’ll post some of those dramatic photos sometime.
In the 1940s, New York Central photographer Ed Nowak often posed trains near Breakneck Ridge (north of Cold Spring, New York. In the 1960s, my dad made photographs of lightning stripe E-units here. I first visited with my dad and brother in the early 1980s. Back in 1989, I used USGS topographical maps to suss angles from the ridge.
On January 20, 2015, I parked near the north portal of the famous tunnels and followed the designated trail up the side of the ridge. It had been a fair few years since I was here last.
The clouds began to part in the west and for about 45 minutes there was low filtered sun on the rail. I exposed a few color slides and digital images of passing Metro-North and Amtrak trains.
I kept thinking about all the Hudsons, Niagaras, and Mohawks, the General Motors E unit and Alco PA diesels, and even the classic former New Haven FL9s that passed this famous location in former times.
In an era when so many places have changed beyond recognition, it’s nice to be able to visit a spot that looks more or less the way I expect. Even if the locomotives have changed, and the operators are different; the scenery remains some of the finest in the East, and the line is still busy!
Local freight on the old New York Central Hudson Division. In yesterday’s post, I wrote of my brief, but fortuituously timed and very productive visit to Fort Montgomery on CSX’s River Line (See: Hudson River Freight at Ft. Montgomery).
Having done well on the West Shore, I thought I give the east side of the river a chance.
Back in the late 1980s, I made regular trips to old Hudson Division.
At that time the former New Haven FL9 dual mode diesels were still standard on many trains, while Conrail operations on the old West Shore seem sparse compared with today.
I crossed the Hudson on the famed Bear Mountain Bridge, a suspension bridge that offers a commanding view of the lower Hudson Valley. I turned north on 9D and as I drove along, I noted a northward Amtrak train stopped on the mainline at Manitou.
This was not the normal state of affairs. When I got to Cold Spring, I saw a southward CSX local freight also stopped on the mainline, and well spotted for a scenic image.
Here was an opportunity, but I’ve learned from experience that time can be precious in these types of situations. Take the Bird in Hand.
Without wasting anymore time, I pulled off the road, got out of the car with Canon EOS 7D in hand and exposed a few frames. As I was reaching for my EOS 3 (loaded with Provia) I could hear the northward Amtrak train approaching, so rather than fuss with the film camera, I resumed work with the 7D and made a photo of the two trains nose to nose.
Then I exposed a couple of slides. But only moments after Amtrak had passed the CSX freight began to move. I had enough time to swap to a wide angle and expose a panoramic view.
If I had dallied, even for a minute (as in 60 seconds), I wouldn’t have been able to get these images. When the moment is right: act.
It helps to have good timing.On the afternoon of January 20, 2015, I arrived at the Mine Dock Road grade crossing on CSX’s former New York Central West Shore Route (now called ‘CSX’s River Line’) This was at just the right time.
I found a location, and as I took my camera out the bag, I could hear a train approaching. This turned out to be a southward crude oil extra led by BNSF Railway 7500 in the lead. I had just enough time to change lenses, make a test exposure, before it got close enough to properly photograph.
When this train passed, the home signal located beyond the rock cut cleared to ‘approach’ (yellow-over-red-over-red), telling me there was a northward train lined, but that this would need to stop at the next signal. This was a pretty good sign that there might be a meet.
Over the next hour, I photographed three more freight trains on the old West Shore, two northbound CSX freights, followed by a southward ethanol extra led by a pair of Canadian Pacific General Electric diesels.
In addition, I made use of my telephoto lenses to photograph passenger trains working the old New York Central Hudson Division on the east bank of the river.
While I was just lucky, it helps to be able to interpret the signals and have a keen ear for trains. My scanner might have helped me too, if I’d plugged in the correct frequencies. Or it might have distracted me. As it was I did well by sitting tight and waiting out the parade.