Petri and Pietu Tuovinen, Markku Pulkkinen and I arrived at the Finnish—Russian border just a minute before a loaded iron ore train crossed with Russian diesels.
I have to admit that 10 days of continuous travel had caught up with me and I’d fallen asleep in the car. “Hey, wake up! The train is over the frontier.”
I managed a decent image of the train. But the best was yet to come. An ominous looking sign marked the border area.
We waited for an hour while the Russian diesels were position on an eastward empty train. A thunderstorm rumbled to the south. Finnish custom agents inspect the train. The Russian diesels idled. It began to rain.
Finally, the train began to ease forward. The driver must have liked the attention and once passed the starting signal, he notched up the locomotives. It reminded me of photographing old Alcos!
Back in olden times overnight sleeping car trains were common. Today, not so much. Yet, I’ve just boarded IC 274 for Helsinki. There was a mob on the platform at Oulu. To quote the old saying, ‘There’s no one riding trains any more, they are too crowded.’
Thankfully, I’m locked away in a berth.
Back in olden times overnight sleeping car trains didn’t have WiFi!
In railway photography timing is everything. In Finland, some of the mystery of when trains operate has been revealed through the miracle of a public service application for smart phones and mobile devices.
Thanks to the careful attention of my guides. Petri and Pietu Tuovinen, and Markku Pulkinen, we arrived at the timber loading terminal at the end of a lightly used VR branch just in time to catch the arrival of this VR empty timber train.
In the lead were a pair of venerable Dv12 diesel-hydraulic locomotives. These are the GP9s of Finland and have worked all types of traffic.
The overgrown branch line with very light rail is a total contrast with Finland’s mainlines, which feature excellent track and manicured infrastructure.
An old light 2-8-0 is positioned near the end of track as a display. Finland was still operating wood-fired steam in revenue service into the 1970s.
I felt like a Victorian explorer being led through forests by expert guides. Petri and Pietu Tuovinen, and Markku Pulkinen led me a long a disused track.
“There is a locomotive turntable here.”
Indeed! Masked by trees, hidden from view, and located off the end of a lightly used branch line at Ammansaari, Finland is the old turntable once used to spin light steam locomotives.
Few visitors are afforded the privilege of seeing this relic. It was like finding a Mayan pyramid in the rain forest.
I exposed these photos digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1. For effect, I set the camera to the preset that emulates black & white film with a red filter. For posterity, I also exposed a few color slides.
My old Contax with real black & white film would have served me well here.
In the early 1980s, I made trips to Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard to catch the waning days of the old GP7s, GP9s, and GP18s.
More than 30 years later, some of those old goats are still on the move, hauling freight and now in heritage paint!
On the morning of July 9, 2015, photographer Mike Gardner and I stopped into East Deerfield and found the Pan Am Railways GP9s getting ready to work east with a ballast train. I made this view of the colorful old locomotives crossing the Connecticut River east of the yard.
At Oulu, Finland, the sun hangs in the northwestern sky until after 11pm. For a visitor from more southerly regions this late light is fascinating.
My host Markku Pulkkinen showed me this foot bridge over the main railway yard and I made a series of photographs with my FujiFilm XT-1. This image was tricky.
A Swiss-designed class Sr2 electric was preparing to head south with an overnight freight. I found an alignment to capture this train departing against the backdrop of the low sun. My difficulty was in selecting the right exposure.
If it was light enough to capture the details of the locomotive than the sky would have been blasted (over exposed), yet if I exposed to retain color and detail in the sky, than the railway yard and locomotive would have been virtually opaque.
Ultimately, I made several exposures using my camera’s histogram to guide me. I avoided clipping the highlights, while allowing the shadow regions to slip to the lower end of the graph.
After the fact, I used Lightroom (recently installed on my new MacBook) to adjust the highlight and shadow areas to hold detail, while pumping up the saturation a little.
I’ll admit the end result looks a bit surreal. But then again, I found the whole setting surreal from the get go!
I processed the file and made my adjustments while riding on the upper level of a VR train heading toward Kontiomäki.
On the afternoon of July 24, 1993, TSH and I explored Nevada’s Palisade Canyon—a scenic cleft in the desert where the Southern Pacific-Union Pacific (former Western Pacific) east-west ‘Paired Track’ mainlines were in close-proximity to one another.
We made several photographs at this location under brilliant sunny skies. Today, both lines are Union Pacific.
I’ve featured Helsinki Central in several books. It will be among the stations covered in my next book on railway terminals, stations and depots. This busy city center station was the inspiration for Buffalo Central Terminal and Cincinnati Union Station.
Last night I made these views at dusk using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a 27mm pancake lens.
I’ll be traveling in Finland for the next ten days.
I made this photo a little while ago using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens. Nearly 14 years ago I made a similar view on Fujichrome film using my Contax G2 rangefinder that appeared as a center spread in TRAINS Magazine.
Elevation is often the key to better railway photographs. That was certainly the case on the morning of July 6, 2015, when Paul Goewey and I inspected the view from the parking garage opposite Worcester Union Station.
We were lucky to catch new MBTA HSP46 2027 leading an outbound train from Boston. These locomotives are unique to MBTA, and in long-standing tradition have large road numbers painted on their roofs. (atop the cab in yellow numerals).
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As a follow up to yesterday’s Extra Post Irish Railway Record Society 071 Railtour 18 July 2015, I’ve put together this selection of images that I made on Saturday’s excellent rail tour from Du blin’s Connolly Station to Ballina and Westport. All were exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Yesterday, the IRRS in cooperation with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and Irish Rail, operated a popular locomotive hauled tour from Dublin Connolly to Ballina and Wesport, County Mayo.
I had the privilege to travel and photograph this trip. For me this was a great opportunity to reacquaint with friends and experience Irish Rail first hand.
Three class 071 General Motors locomotives were used: freshly painted Irish Rail 087 from Dublin to Ballina, Irish 078 from Ballina to Claremorris and Westport, and 084 on the return leg from Westport to Dublin. The turbocharged sounds of Electro-Motive 12-645E3 diesels prevailed though out the day.
Clear skies in Dublin soon gave way to more typical Irish weather. I was neither deterred by the weather nor a haze of jetleg, and I exposed hundreds of digital photographs using my Lumix LX7. Somehow I also managed to pop off a whole roll of Provia with my EOS 3.
I view these trips as great opportunity to capture the railway enthusiast community. After all the train was provided purely for its enjoyment.
Ride a line once, and it’s an adventure! Ride the line every day and it can become drudgery.
In June, I made an adventure of riding NJ Transit.
My trip was thoroughly pleasant and without incident, except for my brief conversation with an unnecessarily surly NJT conductress at Secaucus, “The SIGN is over THERE!” (Gosh! Forgive me for neither knowing the routine nor how to interpret NJT’s train color coding on platform B).
Ok ok, after all there’s a reputation to be maintained here, I understand.
But, perhaps NJ Transit could take a few tips from the Belgian national railways when it comes to employee uniforms, customer service, and timetable planning. (All top marks for the SNCB based on my experiences).
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I hadn’t explored Boston’s Blue since 1999, so the other day while waiting for a flight at Logan airport I took a spin over the length of the line.
The Blue Line has its origins with one of America’s most unusual suburban railways, the narrow gauge Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn. At one time, beyond living memory, this was operated using a fleet of Mason Bogie engines, a peculiar type derived from the English Fairlie.
Later the route was electrified.
Historic views posted in MBTA’s modern station and architectural details hint at this once wonderful railway.
It remains a peculiar operation because of its blend of third rail and electric overhead. At the airport station you can witness the transition between electrical systems.
I found train frequency excellent, with cars passing in both directions about every four minutes.
These photos exposed with my ever versatile Panasonic Lumic LX7.
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In June, I revisited Gladstone Station. The quaint 1891-built Queen Anne style depot at the end of NJ Transit’s former Lackawanna Branch is a nicely kept station building. Unfortunately the old station structure is hemmed in by a host of modernity, all ugly and out of character with the style.
I arrived and departed on the train pictured by the station. Photos exposed with a Fuji X-T1.
It was a rosy red sunset on Friday July 10th. Jupiter and Venus could be seen in the western sky.
Tracking the Light reader Douglas Moore told me that the signal cleared to green shortly after I headed away and CSX’s Q437 (Framingham, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York) manifest freight passed in darkness.
I exposed this image using my recently purchased Fujinon Aspherical 27mm pancake lens. This is one compact and very sharp pieces of glass.
I’m hoping the combination of a sharp lightweight lens with relatively fast aperture will serve me well in low light.
I’ve been scanning a batch of 120 color transparencies.
I exposed this image in May 2007 while I was working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania that featured the Delaware-Lackawanna among other railroads in the Commonwealth.
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Tracking the Light is presently undergoing a computer transition that is ultimately aimed at improving the quality of presentation. Like many transitions, there have been unanticipated events and consequences!
Fifty Five years have passed since the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western merged with Erie Railroad to form Erie-Lackawanna. EL was a flawed short-lived creation that disappeared into Conrail in 1976.
Today, the old DL&W electrified main line at Summit, New Jersey is operated by NJ Transit.
DL&W was before my time. But in the early 1980s, I recall visiting Summit with my father on the ride out to Gladstone on former Lackawanna multiple units. Even then, those cars seemed to me to belong to an earlier epoch.
In June, I revisited Summit and made these photographs.
Owing to the alignment of the track and depth of the cutting, high noon allows for light on the tracks. While there might nicer sun at other times of the day, it would be of little use here because of the shadows in the cut.
Today those old MUs are just a memory here. No chance either of seeing a DL&W three-cylinder Mountain type on a coal train, or a Hudson leading the Lackawanna Limited on its way to Buffalo. Just shadows, modern electrics and the old station.
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Years ago I noticed there seemed to be a natural law regarding the ratio of traffic to scenery in regards to railroad locations.
Lines blessed with stunning scenery generally suffered from a dearth of traffic, while the busiest places tend to be scenically bereft.
There are, of course, a few notable exceptions. California’s Tehachapi crossing comes to mind, as does New York’s Lower Hudson Valley. Both places are blessed exceptional scenery and frequent railway operations, and this makes them popular places to photograph.
Switzerland must not be considered in this equation as the whole country completely violates the natural law of railway photography.
Yet, many of the world’s most scenic lines—railways legendary for their stunning panoramas—have been abandoned, or lie dormant.
Then at the other end of the scale we have Secaucus Junction. Let’s just say it’s one of the busiest places in the Northeastern United States.
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When ever I think of Hoboken, New Jersey, I conjure up a vision of that classic Warner Bros., Bugs Bunny cartoon titled: ‘8 Ball Bunny.’
Bugs, upon discovering that the performing Penguin he’s just guided from Brooklyn to the South Pole was born across the Hudson from Manhattan, cries out. . . “HOBOKEN!? Oooo I’m dyin’ . . .”
That classic line, plus a bucket of steamed clams at the now-defunct Clam Broth House, and images of the old copper-clad Lackawanna Terminal represent Hoboken for me. It gets a bit confusing when I visit Antwerp, but that’s a story for another post.
My father photographed PRR MP54 electrics at Exchange Place in the early 1960s, and I recall watching a Conrail NW2 work freight trackage here in the early 1980s.
Today, the area is covered in towering office blocks.
It is similar to modern waterfront development at Dublin’s North Wall but on a larger scale. In Dublin, as in Jersey City, light rail crosses the site of heavy rail trackage against the back-drop of geometric office-block architecture.
The heat of the summer is a nice time to reflect on a photograph that benefitted from a frosty day.
Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s ‘Snow Train’ was an annual event that made the most of the weather and the equipment.
Back in 1996, Dick Gruber and I spent two very productive days photographing the event.
I exposed this morning arrival of Saginaw Timber number 2 at North Freedom, Wisconsin using my Nikon F3T with 200mm lens and Kodachrome 25 slide film.
By taking the prism off the top of the camera (one of the great features of the Nikon F3 design) I was able to hold the camera close to the ground for a more dramatic angle. The caveat was that I had to compose the image in reverse.
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Way back in the day, before third rail electrification was the rule, compact steam locomotives worked trains on New York’s elevated railways.
Most of the original Els are long gone, and many of today’s elevated structures spanning streets in The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens stem from the electrified era.
Nearly forgotten are the Manhattan Els, all of which were torn down decades ago.
Old postcards survive that show the way things were.
In June, I made these photographs of the elevated structure that survives above the streets at Broadway and Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. I find it astounding that when Els were more common, they were decried as ‘ugly.’ Simply bizarre.
In the realms of rail-transit, certain vehicles survive in revenue service much longer than others. When I was growing up, antique streetcars on Philadelphia’s Red Arrow Lines, and old Lackawanna multiple units were among the oldest cars around.
When exploring the New York City Subway at the end of June with Walter Zullig, Jack May and my father, I made point of photographing the Budd-built class R-32 cars, which are now in their 51st year of service.
Like most Budd-rail vehicles, the R-32/R-32As (known as ‘Brightliners’) are constructed from shot-welded stainless steel. Undoubtedly this has contributed to their longevity.
1964 wasn’t yesterday. Think of the countless passengers who have traveled these cars over the last half century!
Nothing lasts forever, so get your photos soon! I photographed the cars working the J- route in Brooklyn.
The far-end of this well-known Subway route was among the lines we explored on our epic June 25, 2015 tour of New York City rail-transit.Jack May, Walter Zullig, my father and I, walked from the Long Island Rail Road station at Far Rockaway to the nearby New York City Subway station (located on an elevated structure).
At one time this had all been part of the same route, but now there’s several blocks between rail-heads.
Elaborately decorated glass bricks are a feature of the stations on the A Train route.
As we rolled westward, my father recalled visiting Rockaway Beach decades earlier when there were rows of beach-side bungalows and city streets.
Once west of the Far Rockaway the scene changes.We got off at 44th Street and took a look around.
Much of Rockaway beach seems devoid of structures, with old streets vanishing into the encroaching sand. The Bungalows are just a memory. Yet, massive multistory apartments loom in the distance above the railway structure, like something out of a doomsday film.
It’s a strange place to be. And a stranger place to make photos. This is not the New York City visited by most tourists! Yet the A train continues to JFK Airport and beyond to lower Manhattan and ultimately up-town.
How long, I wonder, would it take to ride from one end to the other?
The Long Island Rail Road (two words) is one of America’s most intensive heavy-rail commuter operations.My late friend ‘Uncle’ Harry Vallas—a locomotive engineer on the line—affectionately called it the ‘Wrong Island Fail Road.’On the morning of June 25, 2015, my father, Jack May, Walter Zullig and I, took a trip from New York Penn Station to Far Rockaway. We changed at Jamaica (cross platform, no stairs). Our trains were air conditioned. The tracks were smooth and welded. And we arrived on time.