Happy Halloween From Tracking the Light: October Light, Orange Loco and Pumpkins

It's what they call a 'hail mary shot.' New England Central 611 rolls north at East Northfields, Massachusetts in a fading glimmer of October sun. Photo processed digitally to lower contrast, increase saturation, and improve color balance. X-T1 photo Exposed on October 29, 2015 at East Northfield, Massachusetts.
Photo processed digitally to lower contrast, increase saturation, and improve color balance. X-T1 photo Exposed on October 29, 2015 at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

It’s what they call a ‘Hail Mary shot.’ New England Central 611 rolls north at East Northfield, Massachusetts in a fleeting fading glimmer of October sun.

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Pumpkins and a Westward Train at Buckland—October 2015–three photos.

In staying with the spirit of the season, I offer these views exposed last week of a discharged ethanol train, Pan Am Railways/Norfolk Southern symbol 67N, passing a pumpkin field at Buckland, Massachusetts. (Plus an earlier image at East Deerfield, see below).

The movement of unit ethanol trains via the former Boston & Maine routing is a relatively recent change in New England railroading.

For several years unit ethanol trains to the Providence & Worcester have used routings via either CSXT or CP-Vermont Rail System-New England Central. The construction of improved connections between Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern and the Providence & Worcester at the Gardner, Massachusetts yard, have allowed Pan Am via NS to emerge as a preferred New England ethanol route.

I’ve known about this for a few months, yet I was taken by surprise when the westward empty ethanol train appeared at East Deerfield Yard, just a few minutes behind a POED (Portland to East Deerfield) carload freight that I’d been following.

Surprise! What's this? How about 67N, the discharged unit ethanol train rolling west at East Deerfield.
Surprise! What’s this? How about 67N, the discharged unit ethanol train rolling west at East Deerfield.

So often, locations along the old B&M offer only a very limited view of the train.

This pumpkin field, near the old Buckland station, offered a good place to put the unit train in perspective. I wanted to show as much of the train as practicable and in a New England setting.

Buckland, Massachusetts. I adjusted the contrast and color temperature in Lightroom to more closely resemble the scene as I saw it.
Buckland, Massachusetts. I adjusted the contrast, saturation and color temperature in Lightroom to more closely resemble the scene as I saw it.
This view required a variety of subtle adjustments in post processing. In addition to warming the color temperature, I used a digitally applied gradated neutral density filter to retain sky detail and color while making over all adjustments to saturation and contrast. I hope this makes for a better balanced scene, but every computer screen (and all sets of eyes) interpret images differently, so what looks balanced to me, might look odd to someone else. What do you think?
This view required a variety of subtle adjustments in post processing. In addition to warming the color temperature, I used a digitally applied gradated neutral density filter to retain sky detail and color while making over-all adjustments to saturation and contrast. I hope this makes for a better balanced scene, but every computer screen (and all sets of eyes) interpret images differently, so what looks balanced to me, might look odd to someone else. What do you think?

Photos exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

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Locomotive Geometry: Norfolk Southern SD60E.

The other day I had my first encounter with one of Norfolk Southern’s SD60E diesel-electrics, which features a modified cab.

Norfolk Southern SD60E leads an east auto rack train at Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts.
Norfolk Southern SD60E leads an eastward auto rack train at Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts.

Since today’s North American freight railroading tends to be dominated by cookie cutter wide-nose safety cab six-motor diesels, I find any variation in cab style noteworthy.

The beetle-brow look on this engine certainly caught my attention. And since it was paused on an eastward freight near Lake Pleasant, east of East Deerfield, I took the opportunity to make a few detail photos that emphasize the unusual cab shape.

NS_SD60E_6966_Lake_Pleasant_Montague_detail_DSCF5417

I wonder what the engine crews think of this innovation?

NS_SD60E_6966_Lake_Pleasant_Montague_detail_DSCF5428

NS_SD60E_6966_Lake_Pleasant_Montague_detail_DSCF5429

NS_SD60E_6966_Lake_Pleasant_Montague_detail_vert_DSCF5427

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Millers Falls High Bridge—October 2015.

When in doubt, try again. Earlier in the week Mike Gardner and I had missed the New England Central at Millers Falls, Massachusetts. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but we’d misqued, got caught in traffic, and just not been at the right place at the right time. This happens.

It was a bright morning. From recent experience I knew that New England Central job 611 departs Brattleboro Yard for Palmer sometime after 8 am.

The former Central Vermont Railway Millers Falls high bridge. A pin-connected deck-style Pratt truss built in 1906.
The former Central Vermont Railway Millers Falls high bridge—a pin-connected deck-style Pratt truss built in 1906.

I drove directly to Millers Falls, I did not pass Go, I did not collect $200. I parked and walked (I fought my way through thicket and briars) to a known good spot on a rock near the shore of the Millers River and there I waited.

This was my reward. And yes, I also exposed a color slide.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera.

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Hoosac Tunnel on Misty Evening—October 2015.

There’s an undeniable magic to the Hoosac Tunnel. It’s old, it’s long, and its portals are nestled deep in scenic valleys of western Massachusetts.

Hoosac East Portal is especially fascinating; the railroad approaches on a sweeping curve and crosses a bridge over the Deerfield. All around are vestiges of earlier times. Some of the old catenary supports survive from when the tunnel was electrified. The keen eye will located the false portal, where early builders initially bored but gave up.

A flume cascades down the mountain making an unending roar that sometimes sounds like a train.

East Portal.
East Portal in the rain.

On this cool evening, Mike Gardner and I arrived in time to photograph Pan Am’s EDRJ disappearing into the bowels of the mountain. We’d heard a hint of an eastward freight on the radio and decided to wait it out.

Pan Am Railways EDRJ approaches East Portal in the rain. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. ©Brian Solomon
Pan Am Railways EDRJ approaches East Portal in the rain. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. ©Brian Solomon

About an hour after EDRJ had passed, the tunnel began to breathe. It emitted an effluence that was part locomotive exhaust and part condensation caused by the air inside the tunnel meeting the cool air outside. After a while it began to fill the valley around East Portal with a fine bluish vapor, like the spirits of lost souls escaping the confines of the mountain.

“I think I hear a train,” Mike said. I assured him that was just the cascading water.

“No, I really hear a train.”

Hoosac_Tunnel_east_portal_DSCF5297

The tunnel began to breath a weird mist.
The tunnel began to breathe a weird mist.
The mix of mist and exhaust started to fill the valley. It was like that scene toward the end of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. (I guess I'm not evil :-) )
The mix of mist and exhaust started to fill the valley. It was like that scene toward the end of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I guess I’m not evil 🙂

Despite this sense more than an hour and half had passed, and we were about to leave. Then suddenly, as with past visits, the signal across the bridge lit up—high green. “Yahoo!”

We resumed positions a safe distance from the east portal, and exposed photos of intermodal train 22K as it approached.

22K approaches the east portal of the tunnel.
22K approaches the east portal of the tunnel.
Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern intermodal train 22K clears the mist from the Hoosac tunnel.
Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern intermodal train 22K clears the mist from the Hoosac tunnel.

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Boston & Maine West End—Symbol freight EDRJ to the Hoosac Tunnel

It’s been more than 30 years since I first chased a train west toward the Hoosac Tunnel.

The railroad makes a steady uphill climb west from Greenfield to the famous bore in western Massachusetts. Relatively slow train speeds make it easy to catch a freight at various locations.

Symbol freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) had an interesting consist of older EMDs. In the lead was high-hood GP40 371. This made for some great sound and interesting photos.

Often as you leave the Connecticut River Valley the weather changes. On this October 2015 day, it was sunny at East Deerfield Yard, but raining by the time we reached the Hoosac Tunnel.

Sometimes rain offers an improvement. Not all great railway photos need bright sun. Mike Gardner and I were undaunted by the rain and made the most of this classic chase.

Roaring west at Greenfield.
Roaring west at Greenfield.
Pan Am's EDRJ works upgrade near Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Pan Am’s EDRJ works upgrade near Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Pan Am's EDRJ works upgrade near Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Pan Am’s EDRJ works upgrade near Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
When used to visit Rices in the 1980s, it was the location of an interlocking. Today its straight rail. Even the old signals are gone. Rices is a few miles east of Charlemont, Massachusetts.
When used to visit Rices in the 1980s, it was the location of an interlocking. Today its straight rail. Even the old signals are gone. Rices is a few miles east of Charlemont, Massachusetts.
The wide sweeping curve at Zoar has been favored by photographers for decades. The growth of foliage on both sides of  the line limits the angles, but this view offers hints of the surround scenery.
The wide sweeping curve at Zoar has been favored by photographers for decades. The growth of foliage on both sides of the line limits the angles, but this view offers hints of the surrounding scenery.

Tomorrow: The Hoosac Tunnel!

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Ballast Train departs East Deerfield

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post; while waiting for Pan Am Southern 14R with Union Pacific SD70Ms, Mike Gardner and I photographed an empty ballast train with an old GP40 departing on the East Deerfield Loop, where it will travel a short distance to crusher for loading.

I thought it made an interesting juxtaposition to show the old EMD with its battered ballast hoppers departing the switches at the west-end with the Union Pacific locomotives waiting in the distance.

Pan Am's empty ballast train departs East Deerfield on October 22, 2015.
Pan Am’s empty ballast train departs East Deerfield on October 22, 2015.
The empty ballast train takes the switch for the East Deerfield Loop track. It will be loaded just a short distance from the yard.
The empty ballast train takes the switch for the East Deerfield Loop track. It will be loaded just a short distance from the yard.
Which is more interesting, the old ballast train or symbol freight 14? You decide!
Which is more interesting, the old ballast train or symbol freight 14?

Which train was the main event? In the future, which may be of greater interest? The lowly ballast train or the symbol through freight with ‘foreign power’? What do you think?

I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera.

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Brian’s Cosmic Place: B&A Washington Hill, the fabled 1912 Line Relocation

One of my favorite places to experience railroading and expose photos is on the old Boston & Albany ‘West End,’ Washington Hill grade.

On this legendary grade, one of the most interesting places is the 1912 line relocation between mileposts 129 and 130, west of Chester, Massachusetts. This includes a very deep cutting, while the right of way of the original 1839-built line is nearby and features three large stone arches dating from the time of construction.

Bob Buck first showed me this cosmic piece of railroad back in 1982.

I visited this hallowed ground last week and exposed these views with my FujiFilm X-T1. To accentuate the autumn foliage and make for more pleasing scenes, I set the white balance to ‘shade’ which warms up the scene.

New York Central abandoned about a mile of the original Western Rail Road grade when it completed its line relocation in 1912. This one of three extant stone arch bridge on the abandoned section.
New York Central abandoned about a mile of the original Western Rail Road grade when it completed its line relocation in 1912. This one of three extant stone arch bridge on the abandoned section.
Like the ruins of an ancient empire, this historic stone arch looms above the West Branch Westfield River deep in the forest near Middlefield, Massachusetts.
Like the ruins of an ancient empire, this historic stone arch looms above the West Branch Westfield River deep in the forest near Middlefield, Massachusetts.
An eastward doublestack train, probably Q022, descends the 1912 line relocation near milepost 123.3. The stone arch bridge pictured above is just out of sight to the right.
An eastward doublestack train, probably Q022, descends the 1912 line relocation near milepost 123.3. The stone arch bridge pictured above is just out of sight to the right.

CSXT was kind enough to send an eastward stack train down grade mid-morning.

I’ll feature this territory in my Boston & Albany book, which I hope to complete writing in the coming months.

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Cresco Station viewed with a Zeiss Lens

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to test a 32mm Zeiss Touit lens on my Fuji X-T1. This is a fast and sharp lens.

These images were made at dusk at the restored former Lackawanna Railroad station at Cresco, Pennsylvania on the climb to Pocono Summit.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
D-L PT97 works west at Cresco, PA. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

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Delaware-Lackawanna PT98/PT97

Sometimes finding the train is more than half the challenge. On Saturday October 17, 2015, Pat Yough and I had been following the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline with an awareness that Genesee Valley Transportation’s Delaware-Lackawanna was operating its ‘Portland turn’ to interchange with Norfolk Southern.

Finally, we found the train as it was arriving at Slateford Junction.

The attraction of D-L’s freights is that they operate with antique Alco diesels. Alco exited the American locomotive business more than 46 years ago, so finding these old machines hard at work remains a real treat.

Delaware Lackawanna Railroad's herald is patterned after the old Lehigh Valley logo.
Delaware Lackawanna Railroad’s herald is patterned after the old Lehigh Valley logo.
Alco's Century-636 (C-636) was among the last models produced. This locomotive served Penn-Central and Conrail, and still works for D-L.
Alco’s Century-636 (C-636) was among the last models produced. This locomotive served Penn-Central and Conrail, and still works for D-L.
DL-PT98 arrives at Slateford Junction. It is passing below the remnants of the old Lackawanna Cut-off bridge over the Delaware River.
DL-PT98 arrives at Slateford Junction. It is passing below the remnants of the old Lackawanna Cut-off bridge over the Delaware River.

While D-L’s portion of the freight movement tends to be well documented in recent years as a function of the Alcos, the Norfolk Southern connection is often ignored. As an historian this bothers me.

I have to admit that I too have been guilty of this photographic censorship. While I’ve photographed the Portland turn on several occasions, I haven’t made much of an effort to seek out the NS portion of this run. That is, until last Saturday.

Pat and I agreed, that if the D-L’s connection with NS were to be moved, photos of the NS at Portland would be a rare commodity indeed. So, while we made a point of catching the Alcos at work, we also went after NS H-76, which featured a nice collection of vintage EMD diesels.

Norfolk Southern local H76 delivers interchange to the D-L at Portland on October 17, 2015. Like the D-L this operates on former Lackawanna Railroad trackage.
Norfolk Southern local H76 delivers interchange to the D-L at Portland on October 17, 2015. Like the D-L this operates on former Lackawanna Railroad trackage.
At Portland, the D-L and Norfolk Southern interchange freight.
At Portland, the D-L and Norfolk Southern interchange freight.
1970s EMD's meet 1960s Alcos at Portland, PA.
1970s EMD’s meet 1960s Alcos at Portland, PA.
D-L's Alco/MLW diesels represent a local attraction at Portland.
D-L’s Alco/MLW diesels represent a local attraction at Portland.
Norfolk Southern SD40-2 3575 is framed by the old DL&W station at Portland.
Norfolk Southern SD40-2 3575 is framed by the old DL&W station at Portland.
Working westward, D-L PT97 charges below a road bridge at East Shroudsburg, Pennsylvania. This is the only regular move on this section of the old Lackawanna mainline. It made an impressive show!
Working westward, D-L PT97 charges below a road bridge at East Shroudsburg, Pennsylvania. This is the only regular move on this section of the old Lackawanna mainline. It made an impressive show!

All around it was a successful afternoon. It was also the first time that I’ve photographed the D-L using digital cameras. A fair few years had passed since my last visit!

 

 

Union Pacific at East Deerfield West—three photos.

Sometimes after making all the wrong moves, luck falls on your lap.

It was Thursday, October 22, Mike Gardner and I had traveled to Brattleboro, Vermont to intercept the southward New England freight, job 611. Instead of my usual route via back roads, we opted for I-91, then got caught in terrible traffic in the town. By the time we reached the yard, 611 had departed.

To Millers Falls we went, only to learn we missed the train by moments. “Now what?” Mike asked.

So, we went over to Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard, near Greenfield, Massachusetts. Where trains converged from all directions.

Eastward freight, symbol 14R, came into view led by Union Pacific SD70M 3947. “What is this, the Feather River Canyon?”

This was not hard to take; clean Union Pacific locomotives from the famous ‘Railfan’s Bridge’ at East Deerfield West.

I’ve made countless photos from this well established vantage point, but it’s always nice to get something unusual. The bridge itself is on borrowed time, so my philosophy is make use of it while I can.

Pan_Am_14R_arrives at East_Deerfield_w_UPSD70M_DSCF5132

Pan_Am-14R_with_UP_SD70M_3947_sun_close_DSCF5176

Freight 14R with Union Pacific and NS EMDs works into East Deerfield Yard. Where's the old SW1 that worked as the West End switcher?
Freight 14R with Union Pacific and NS EMDs works into East Deerfield Yard. Where’s the old SW1 that worked as the West End switcher?

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Ghosts of the Lackawanna—October 2015.

In its heyday, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western was a super railroad. Visionary management rebuilt and modernized the line in the early years of the 20th century, spending vast amounts of private capital on massive line relocations characterized by massive concrete viaducts.

I can only imagine what the railroad would have been like with its multiple track mainline, numerous signal towers, and a steady flow of freight and passenger trains.

On the afternoon of October 17th, Pat Yough and I revisited the DL&W line over Pocono Summit, and explored the area around Slateford Junction and Portland, Pennsylvania.

Radiant foliage along the old DL&W mainline at Henryville, PA. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Radiant foliage along the old DL&W mainline at Henryville, PA. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania looking west on the DL&W. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania looking west on the DL&W. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Restored East Stroudsburg tower.
Restored East Stroudsburg tower.
Former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
DL&W_bridge_Slateford_Jct_DSCF4412
Former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Slateford Junction.
Slateford Junction.
DL&W relay box Portland, PA.
DL&W relay box Portland, PA.
Old DL&W station at Portland, PA.
Old DL&W station at Portland, PA.

I made these views of the old Lackawanna infrastructure. While the old ‘Lackawanna Cut-off’ built in 1908 was abandoned by Conrail in the 1980s, other portions of the DL&W in the area remain active, although it’s a shadow compared to the intensively traveled mainline of a century ago.

Yet, the decayed vestiges of this once super railroad remain a fascinating testimony to the earlier era. A time when coal was the railroad’s life blood, and the dull roar of interstate highways and jet aero planes was still far in the future.

Stay tuned tomorrow: the DL&W Lives on with Norfolk Southern and Delaware-Lackawanna freights.

 

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SEPTA’s Number 15 Trolley—October 2015.

SEPTA’s number 15 trolley is among the subjects I regularly revisit on Tracking the Light. My brother lives just a few blocks from the line, which runs along Girard Avenue in Philadelphia.

Like Dublin’s LUAS tram routes, SEPTA’s 15 is a railway line that I’ve routinely used to get around, and that makes it an ideal subject to photograph. The historic PCC cars are an added bonus.

I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7 last Friday evening to and from my way to Johnny Brenda’s Tavern for dinner.

October sun on Girard Avenue. I used Lightroom to adjust the contrast of this image in post processing.
October sun on Girard Avenue. I used Lightroom to adjust the contrast of this image in post processing.
Looking east on Girard. Trolley service is about every 10 minutes, although cars tend to arrive in clusters.
Looking east on Girard. Trolley service is about every 10 minutes, although cars tend to arrive in clusters.

 

A relatively recent addition to the 15 route is the extension to a casino.
A relatively recent addition to the 15 route is the extension to a casino, seen here passing Widley Street.
The eastern section of the 15 trackage is presently being renovated, so all cars take the turn to and from the new extension. This car is making the turn onto Girard in the westward direction.
The eastern section of the 15 trackage is presently being renovated, so all cars take the turn to and from the new extension. This car is making the turn onto Girard in the westward direction.
SEPTA's number 15 trolley as seen on Girard Avenue from the Market-Frankfort El stop. Time exposure make with a Lumix LX7.
SEPTA’s number 15 trolley as seen on Girard Avenue from the Market-Frankfort El stop. Time exposure made with a Lumix LX7.

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Ghosts of the Lackawanna—October 2015.

In its heyday, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western was a super railroad. Visionary management rebuilt and modernized the line in the early years of the 20th century, spending vast amounts of private capital on massive line relocations characterized by massive concrete viaducts.

I can only imagine what the railroad would have been like with its multiple track mainline, numerous signal towers, and a steady flow of freight and passenger trains.

On the afternoon of October 17th, Pat Yough and I revisited the DL&W line over Pocono Summit, and explored the area around Slateford Junction and Portland, Pennsylvania.

Radiant foliage along the old DL&W mainline at Henryville, PA. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Radiant foliage along the old DL&W mainline at Henryville, PA. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania looking west on the DL&W. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania looking west on the DL&W. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Restored East Stroudsburg tower.
Restored East Stroudsburg tower.
Former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Abandoned former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Former DL&W open spandrel concrete Slateford Viaduct over the Delaware River at Slateford Junction. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Slateford Junction.
Slateford Junction.
Old DL&W station at Portland, PA.
Old DL&W station at Portland, PA.
DL&W relay box Portland, PA.
DL&W relay box Portland, PA.

I made these views of the old Lackawanna infrastructure. While the old ‘Lackawanna Cut-off’ built in 1908 was abandoned by Conrail in the 1980s, other portions of the DL&W in the area remain active, although it’s a shadow compared to the intensively traveled mainline of a century ago.

Yet, the decayed vestiges of this once super railroad remain a fascinating testimony to the earlier era. A time when coal was the railroad’s life blood, and the dull roar of interstate highways and jet aero planes was still far in the future.

Coming soon: the DL&W Lives on with Norfolk Southern and Delaware-Lackawanna freights.

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Reading & Northern’s Bridge Train Excursion at Lake Hauto, Pennsylvania—October 17, 2015.

Excursion trains are a perfect opportunity to test photographic equipment. I’m always looking for new glass. It’s not that cash is burning holes in my wallet, but every lens offers new ways of making photographs, and I’m curious to know what each is capable of.

Sunday, I had the loan of a Fujinon XF16-55mm f2.8 zoom. I already have a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom for my X-T1, so I wanted to know what could this lens offer me.

First of all it has a slightly wider field of view. More importantly, it’s faster (f2.8 across the range instead of f4-5.6) and the aperture control is with a conventional ring on the lens with traditional f stop markings.

I found the lens easy to use, quick to focus, and very sharp. On the downside, it is heavier and larger than my existing zoom. Also, from the moment I attached it to the camera I wanted it!

Here are two photos exposed hand-held with the zoom. I’d photographed the same train at this exact location on the previous day using my Canon EOS 3 and Provia slide film.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF16-55mm f2.8 zoom set at ISO 200 f5.6 1/500 at 18.7mm. (In otherwords, I could have used my existing 18-135mm lens for this same view)
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF16-55mm f2.8 zoom set at ISO 200 f5.6 1/500 at 18.7mm. (In otherwords, I could have used my existing 18-135mm lens for this same view)
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF16-55mm f2.8 zoom set at ISO 200 f5.0 1/500 at 55mm.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF16-55mm f2.8 zoom set at ISO 200 f5.0 1/500 at 55mm.

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Tracking the Light Extra: Amtrak at Trenton, New Jersey—October 19, 2015

Sent from Amtrak 56, the Vermonter.

Exposed with my Lumix LX7 this morning at Trenton, New Jersey.

Amtrak ACS64 number 632 leads a Keystone train destined fro Harrisburg, PA.
Amtrak ACS64 number 632 leads a Keystone train destined for Harrisburg, PA.
Amtrak ACS64 number 632 leads a Keystone train destined fro Harrisburg, PA.
Amtrak ACS64 number 632 leads a Keystone train destined for Harrisburg, PA.
Amtrak Keystone train destined for Harrisburg, PA, departs Trenton on October 19, 2015.
Amtrak Keystone train destined for Harrisburg, PA, departs Trenton on October 19, 2015.
Amtrak ACS64 number 648 leads the northward Vermonter (train 56) at Trenton. This post was transmitted from this train.
Amtrak ACS64 number 648 leads the northward Vermonter (train 56) at Trenton. This post was transmitted from this train.

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Reading & Northern 425 on the old Central Railroad of New Jersey.

Call it: Blue Pacific—Part 2.

Every so often you get a day where everything seems to come together.

Saturday, October 17, 2015 was one of those days.

Thanks to the Reading & Northern and their crews for running an impressive train; thanks to Pat Yough for getting us where we all needed to be to photograph the action; thanks to FujiFilm for producing a great little camera; and thanks to Autumn 2015 for great weather and fine foliage.

All I did was release the shutter.

Hooray!

Reading & Northern 4-6-2 425 makes an impressive scene near Haucks, Pennsylvania on October 17, 2015.  This was part of the old Central Railroad of New Jersey route on the line toward Jim Thorpe, PA.
Rods down: Reading & Northern 4-6-2 425 makes an impressive scene near Haucks, Pennsylvania on October 17, 2015. This was part of the old Central Railroad of New Jersey route on the line toward Jim Thorpe, PA.

Historically, a key to successful steam locomotive photos was leaving ample space above the locomotive for the exhaust plume. Imagine this same composition with a diesel.

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Blue Pacific at Zehners, Pennsylvania—October 17, 2015.

Saturday morning, Pat Yough and I photographed Reading & Northern’s handsome Pacific, number 425, on a fall foliage excursion from Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

The weather was perfect; clear and cool.

I exposed this image on the old Reading Company at Zehners, Pennsylvania on the line from Port Clinton to Tamaqua.

Reading & Northern 425 on October 17, 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Reading & Northern 425 on October 17, 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

My intent was to show that the locomotive is a Pacific type (4-6-2). What better way to do this than with a nicely lit broad-side view?

All told, it was an excellent morning!

What I can’t convey in still images is the sound of the whistle echoing up the valleys, and the bark of the exhaust as the engine worked upgrade, complete with the occasional burst of beats that results from the drivers slipping on wet rail.

Kudos to the Reading & Northern’s operating department for a job well done.

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Northeast Corridor Wilmington, Delaware—October 15, 2015—six photos.

I arrived on Amtrak 173, which was actually ahead of schedule. By arrangement, I met Bruce and Steve Barry on the platform.

I was on my way to give a talk on British and Irish Railways to the Wilmington Chapter National Railway Historical Society, but Bruce advised me before arrival that we’d have time to photograph a few trains.

They’d selected an ideal spot at the north-end of platform C. The light was perfect and over the course of about 10 minutes we caught three southward trains.

A new Siemens ACS-64 leads Amtrak 97 Silver Meteor at Wilmington, Delaware on October 15, 2015. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-1.
A new Siemens ACS-64 leads Amtrak 97 Silver Meteor at Wilmington, Delaware on October 15, 2015. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-1.
Viewliner sleepers on train 97.
Viewliner sleepers on train 97.
Heritage diner on Amtrak 97. Now, how cool is that?
Heritage diner on Amtrak 97. Now, how cool is that?
A SEPTA local rolls in from Philadelphia. This is one of the ROTEM built Silverliner Vs.
A SEPTA local rolls in from Philadelphia. This is one of the ROTEM built Silverliner Vs.
I had my camera shutter set in 'turbo flutter' ('CH' continuous high), which allowed me to position the pantograph a top the Silverliner in just the right spot. The next frame in sequence cropped it in a unappealing way.
I had my camera shutter set in ‘turbo flutter’ (‘CH’ continuous high), which allowed me to position the pantograph a top the Silverliner in just the right spot. The next frame in sequence cropped it in a unappealing way.

For me the highlight of this short but productive venture was the passage of Amtrak number 97, the Silver Meteor (New York Penn-Station to Florida) which carried Viewliner sleepers and one of the few remaining heritage diners.

I was experimenting with my FujiFilm X-T1, and used the silent digital shutter, instead of the mechanical shutter that I typically use to make railroad photos. I’ll elaborate on that in a future post.

Amtrak Acela Express train 2165 was on its way to Washington DC.
Amtrak Acela Express train 2165 was on its way to Washington DC.

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Palmer Diamond (s) Then and Now.

As a follow up to the black & white variations I posted the other day showing Central Vermont Railway RS-11s crossing the Palmer diamonds, I exposed this view made at precisely the same location.

In 1984, Conrail’s directional double track line crossed Central Vermont. Today, CSXT’s single track line crosses Genessee & Wyoming’s New England Central.

New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015.
New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015.
New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015.
New England Central southward freight waits to cross CSXT’s former Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts on October 14, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Here I may have over done it. What do you think?
Palmer April 13, 1984.

More than just the tracks, names and locomotives have changed.

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Tracking the Light Special Post: Live From Amtrak 173.

I boarded at New Haven Union station and I’m on my way to Wilmington, Delaware. This is my first-ever Amtrak trip to Wilmington.

New Haven Union Station about 1:24 pm on Thursday October 15, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
New Haven Union Station about 1:24 pm on Thursday October 15, 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tonight, Thursday, October 15, 2015, I’ll be presenting an illustrated talk on railways in Ireland and Britain to the Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

I’ll be showing original 35mm color slides that span 18 years worth of photographic adventures.

According to the Chapter’s website:
The Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society meets at 7:00 PM on the third Thursday of each month (except August and December) at the Claymont Community Center, on Green Street in Claymont, Delaware.

For directions and additional information see: http://www.wilmingtonnrhs.com/meetings.htm

Amtrak prefers the archaic non-standard plural spelling for the common rubber-tired motor-vehicle. LX7 photo.
Amtrak prefers the archaic non-standard plural spelling for the common rubber-tired motor-vehicle. LX7 photo.
Boston-bound Acela Express departs New Haven. LX7 photo.
Boston-bound Acela Express departs New Haven. LX7 photo.
Amtrak train 173 arrives at New Haven about 7 minutes behind schedule. LX7 photo.
Amtrak train 173 arrives at New Haven about 7 minutes behind schedule. LX7 photo.
CitiesSprinter 604 catchs the sun.
CitiesSprinter 634 catchs the sun.

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Amtrak 449 Lake Shore Limited at Washington, Massachusetts.

Photographing the Lake Shore Limited is a tradition in our family dating back almost 40 years.

It was a clear afternoon. The Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited was nearly on schedule.

The other day my father and I selected a location near the summit of the Boston & Albany at Washington, Massachusetts.

In this view, back lighting helps to emphasize the train. The angular shape of Amtrak's General Electric P42 diesel-electric catches the light nicely while the front makes a shadow that draws the eye to it as the primary subject.
In this view, back lighting helps to emphasize the train. The angular shape of Amtrak’s General Electric P42 diesel-electric catches the light nicely while the front-end is in a shadow, which draws the eye to it as the primary subject.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 I set up a view that places the train in the left-hand portion of the image, while featuring the pastoral autumnal scenery on the right.

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Tracking the Light Special Notice! Brian’s Presentation to Wilmington Chapter NRHS Thursday Evening at 7pm.

Tomorrow night, October 15, 2015, I’ll be presenting an illustrated talk on railways in Ireland and Britain to the Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

Irish_Rail_sugarbeet_Waterford_Central_19Nov2004©BrianSolomon_666147

According to the Chapter’s website:

The Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society meets at 7:00 PM on the third Thursday of each month (except August and December) at the Claymont Community Center, on Green Street in Claymont, Delaware.

For directions and additional information see: http://www.wilmingtonnrhs.com/meetings.htm

I’ll be showing original 35mm color slides that span 18 years worth of photographic adventures.

RPSI_186_Taylorstown_12May2005_73005_Brian Solomon 89781

Irish_Rail_Shale_177_near-Castleconnell_APril2007_Brian Solomon 898215

Bord_na_Mona_Edenderry_10Nov2012©BrianSolomon_268457

Virgin_Class_87_Crewe_31May2003©BrianSolomon_666209

Bradley_Manor_7802_on_Severn_Valley_Wedding_Belle_at_Bewdley_Brian_Solomon_235815

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Vermonter at Vernon.

Saturday, October 10th, I exposed a series of photographs of Amtrak 54 (northward Vermonter) at Vernon, Vermont.

Low sun and richly colored vegetation made for a simple, but attractive scene.

Starting with the shadow in the foreground, I set up a graphic composition using a series of simple line and color transitions designed to complement and emphasize the Amtrak train.

Amtrak's Vermonter at Vernon, Vermont on October 10, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Amtrak’s Vermonter at Vernon, Vermont on October 10, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

2 Amtrak_Vermonter_Vernon_Vt_DSCF3662

Which version do you think is more effective: the closer view, or the image where the Amtrak train is slightly more distant?

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Berkshire Scenic’s Hoosac Valley—A Dozen Photos!

On Sunday October 11, 2015, my father and I drove over the Berkshires to travel and photograph’s Berkshire Scenic’s Hoosac Valley excursion that is now operating on a short portion of the old Boston & Albany branch between Renfrew in Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts.

This presented an opportunity to travel in an old Budd RDC and ride a rarely used portion of the Boston & Albany. This new excursion service had only begun on the previous day, and should run over the next few weekends.

Berkshire Scenic's former Boston & Maine Budd-built RDC. Lumix LX7 photo.
Berkshire Scenic’s former Boston & Maine Budd-built RDC. Lumix LX7 photo.
Berkshire Scenic train departing Renfrew. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Berkshire Scenic train departing Renfrew. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

At Renfrew I met my friends Otto Vondrak, and Kevin Chittenden. Kevin was the engineer for the day.

The weather was nearly perfect—clear polarized sunny skies.

On the only hitch was that a day or two earlier the RDC had developed an electric fault, and as a result was being towed/propelled by a vintage EMD SW8 switcher.

My Irish friends will note that this 800 hp locomotive is remarkably similar to CIE’s Class 121s (also built by EMD).

I made this selection of photographs with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. However, I also exposed a few colour slides with my father’s Leica M4 with 35mm Summilux lens.

Thanks to everyone at the Berkshire Scenic/Hoosac Valley for making this an enjoyable day out.

For details on the new excursion service see: http://hoosacvalleytrainride.com/

Or look at: Hoosac Valley Service on Facebook.

Otto and Kevin at Renfrew, Mass. Lumix LX7 photo.
Otto and Kevin at Renfrew, Mass. Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Interior view of the RDC. Lumix LX7 photo.
Interior view of the RDC. Lumix LX7 photo.
Ticket collection on board. Lumix LX7 photo.
Ticket collection on board. Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Kevin_C_w_Berkshire_SW8_P1330306

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Berkshire_Scenic_train_departing_Renfrew_wide1_DSCF3717
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Berkshire_Scenic_train_Zylonite_wide1_DSCF3725
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

 

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

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German Class 140 in Classic Livery near the Loreley Rock.

In early September, my friends and I witnessed the passage of this old German class 140 electric in classic green paint.

Every day in late morning or early afternoon it would work south along the Rhein’s Right Bank (east side) with a freight.

On this day we hiked out to the Loreley statue on a peninsula near the famous Loreley Rock at bend in the river. I made these photos with my FujiFilm X-T1. As the freight drew closer, I opted to pan, which helps set apart the green locomotive from the hillside beyond.

Near the Loreley.
Near the Loreley.
By panning, I've improved the visual separation between the locomotive and the background.
By panning, I’ve improved the visual separation between the locomotive and the background.

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Central Vermont Alco RS-11s Cross the Palmer Diamond.

I made this photograph on April 13, 1984. It was a Friday, and I was then in my final months of my Senior year of High School.

My raw unmodified scan of the original 35mm B&W negative. This was exposed using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. The film was processed in the kitchen sink. I made a few proof-prints, then filed the negative away, not to be looked again for decades.
My raw unmodified scan of the original 35mm B&W negative. This was exposed using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. The film was processed in the kitchen sink. I made a few proof-prints, then filed the negative away, not to be looked again for decades.

If I recall correctly, in this instance I wasn’t ‘absent’ as Seniors were allowed to leave the school if they didn’t have a class, and there was an even greater freedom permitted on Fridays.

Anyway, I think the Palmer diamonds, where Central Vermont’s line crossed Conrail’s east-west Boston & Albany route was a better place for me to be on that Friday the 13th.

However, this negative was left in the ‘seconds’ file for many years. Not because of the subject matter, or any grave instance caused by the unlucky day. But rather because my processing skills were not yet up to par.

 

In addition to careless over-processing the negatives in Kodak Microdol-X (which in my view led to a grainy appearance coupled with slightly unpleasant contrast), I managed to add a few strategic scratches and water spots when drying them. Just basic poor handling on my part.

 

While the scene is fascinating to me now, as it reveals just how much Palmer has changed over the 31 year interval, at the time it was common. It was easier to return to Palmer and expose more negatives, than worry about correcting my processing faults.

 

Ultimately, I refined my black & white process. Today, using Lightroom, I spent some time to rid the flaws in the original negatives including spots, scratches, contrast, and put the image on level.

Nominal correction to remove spots, scratches and improve level.
Nominal correction to remove spots, scratches and improve level.
This represents more intensive correction to smooth out spots, minimize scratches, and make both localized and overall contrast adjustments.
This represents more intensive correction to smooth out spots, minimize scratches, and make both localized and overall contrast adjustments.
Here I may have over done it. What do you think?
Here I may have over done it. What do you think?

I’ve presented four variations beginning with the raw unmodified scan. The fourth represents the most amount of manipulation in post processing.

Which do you like the best?

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Dublin Port Rally, 27 September 2015.

On Saturday and Sunday 26-27 September, 2015, Dublin Port hosted a gathering of antique vehicles, mostly of the road-oriented variety.

I made these photographs, which include a display of railway memorabilia by Donncha Cronin and Ken Fox.

There was a grand array of buses on display, including a few like those that I’d traveled on years ago when I first visited Dublin. I thought the Soviet-era armour was pretty cool.

All of these images were exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Why print new signs if last year's will get the job done?
Why print new signs if last year’s will get the job done?
Ye auld 'flying snail'.
Ye auld ‘flying snail’.
CIE's 1960s era logo.
CIE’s 1960s era logo on the side of a lorry.
There were no railway locomotives on display, but this old steam tractor was chuffing about and hissing steam.
There were no railway locomotives on display, but this old steam tractor was chuffing about and hissing steam.

Vintage_ESSO_lorry_details_Dublin Port-Rally_P1320343

Russian tank complete with flag.
Soviet-era armoured personelle carrier.
A Hillman Californian was one of the more unusual automobiles on display. I'm not an expert on these, but the owner said the styling was the work of Raymond Loewy.
A Hillman Californian was one of the more unusual automobiles on display. I’m not an expert on these, but the owner said the styling was the work of Raymond Loewy.
Old railway buses. (of the rubber tired variety).
There were some old railway buses. (of the rubber tired variety).

Great_Northern_Railway_Ireland_logo_P1320410Dublin_United_Tramways_logo_P1320408

An impressive line-up of road vehicles.
An impressive line-up of road vehicles.
From Ontario, eh?
From Ontario, eh?
Toronto Transit Commission.
Toronto Transit Commission.
Harpers Block instrument.
Harpers Block instrument.
The usual suspects.
The usual suspects.

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Belgian Coastal Tramway—Revisited.

Last weekend (October 3, 2015), I made my second visit to the Belgian Coastal Tramway (LIJN Kusttram). This tramway is one of Europe’s more unusual railways. It’s a narrow-gauge electric interurban line that connects towns and cities along the Belgian coast using modern trams.

The setting is peculiar to my eye, as much of the coast is characterized by mile after mile of high-rise apartments that face North Sea beaches. Between resort areas are heavy port facilities, such as that at Zeebrugge.

Panoramic composite of the Belgian coast exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1.
Panoramic composite of the Belgian coast exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1.

On my first visit, back in March 2013, I traveled from Ostend to the south end of the line near the French border. Back then it was gray, cold, and exceptionally windy. In other words, it was a complete contrast to last weekend, when it was warm, sunny, and comparatively still.

During this more recent visit, I explored the North-end of the line with some of my Irish friends who are now living in Belgium. At no point did my two journeys on the coastal tramway overlap.

LIJN Kusttram the Knokke terminus at the north-end of the route. Lumix LX7 photo.
LIJN Kusttram the Knokke terminus at the north-end of the route. (The tram carries a destination for De Panne at the far south-end). Lumix LX7 photo.
Blankenberge Pier. Lumix LX7 photo.
Blankenberge Pier. Lumix LX7 photo.
Blenkenberg Pier. Lumix LX7.
Blenkenberg Pier. Lumix LX7.

One of these days I’ll need to visit again, and travel the line from end to end. I’ve by no means worked the most dramatic or most characteristic locations on the line.

Interestingly, I’ve seen relatively few published photos on the route, which makes it a bit more mysterious, and perhaps more interesting to explore.

Belgian Coastal Tramway at Blankenberge.
Belgian Coastal Tramway at Blankenberge.
Advertisements. Lumix LX7 photo.
Advertisements. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunset on the Coast Tramway. Lumix LX7 Photo.
Sunset on the Coast Tramway. Lumix LX7 Photo.
A passenger validates a ticket on-board the Kusttram.
A passenger validates a ticket on-board the Kusttram.
Knokke terminus at dusk. exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Knokke terminus at dusk. exposed with a Lumix LX7. There are some 70 stops between Knokke and De Panne. That could take a lot of exploring!

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Conrail TV5, Springfield, Massachusetts.

It’s hard for me to believe these photos are nearly 30 years old!

Bob Buck and I were at Springfield Union Station on December 30, 1985, watching trains, as we often did back then.

Conrail TV5 pulled up and stopped. I used this opportunity to make a few black & white photos using my father’s Rollei Model T and Metz hand-held electronic flash.

I’d worked out a technique of blending existing light with electronic flash that retained the essential lighting of the scene.

TV5 was a rarely photographed train that carried intermodal trailers from Boston to St. Louis. It was one of several piggyback trains that rolled over the B&A route in darkness.

Scan of my original negatives.
Scan of my original negatives.

At the time, these seemingly mysterious night-time piggy back trains fascinated me, and I was very pleased to have captured this one on film

I made two exposures. The first is pretty good. The second suffered from a knock to the camera or tripod. Today, I’d have the opportunity to check my exposure and focus on site, back then all I could do was hope for the best.

I processed the film by hand.

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