Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Coal Train: Saving a Sunset Chrome.

On November 15, 1987, I followed a loaded PLMT coal train east from Buffalo, New York. This train had operated with Pittsburgh & Lake Erie locomotives and was being handled by Guilford’s Delaware & Hudson via trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.

Try to fit all that on the slide mount!

At the time these coal trains operated about once a week, and while it wasn’t uncommon to find P&LE locomotives, catching the trains on film was challenging.

I made this view on Kodachrome 25 with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron Lens. It’s a badly under exposed long pan (about 1/8 of a second) from a hillside off the Canisteo River Road, in the valley of that name, a few miles east of Adrian.

The original slide was made at the very end of daylight, and the slow speed ISO25 film didn’t give me the needed sensitivity to capture the scene with adequate exposure.

That’s a long way of saying; it was dark and I underexposed the film.

Here’s the scaled, but unadjusted scan. It’s about 3 to 4 stops underexposed. The slide is nearly opaque except for the sky. Exposure was about f2.0 at 1/8 second on Kodachrome 25 (ISO 25).

Thankfully, I didn’t through the slide away.

I scanned it using VueScan 9×64 (edition 9.6.09) software and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 slide scanner. It opted for manual controls; I selected 4000 dpi input, under ‘color’ I used the Kodachrome K14 color profile, and while output was set at 4000 dpi as a TIF file.

I then imported the TIF into Lightroom for color, exposure and contrast adjustment, necessary to compensate for my extreme underexposure. To hold sky detail, I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter.

Here’s my first round of adjustments. I thought the sky and overall color balance  seemed a bit otherworldly so I zeroed out the adjustments and started again. Compare this with the image below.
Although similar, this version is better balanced and looks closer to the original scene. Although underexposed, the Kodachrome film was able to capture some detail over more than 6 stops, allowing for post processing adjustment.

Although slightly grainy, the results are much improved over the original and captures my intended effect of the train rolling at speed through the Canisteo Valley at dusk.

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2 thoughts on “Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Coal Train: Saving a Sunset Chrome.”

    1. PLMT = Pittsburgh & Lake Erie to Mt Tom?
      I believe that’s the origin of the symbol. Mt Tom was the generating station located north of Holyoke, Massachusetts.

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