In New England, ordinary people with virtually no knowledge of railroads are aware of ‘The Tunnel’.
They’ll ask me, ‘Have ya been up to that Housantonic Tunnel?’ Or comment, ‘That Hoosick Tunnel, by North Adams, it’s the longest in the world, Right?’
I’d like to speak with an etymologist, or someone with a deeper understanding of the evolution of New England names. I’ll bet that Hoosick, Housatonic and Hoosac all have the same root, but I’m more curious to know about how and when the variations in spelling originated.
But, it’s really the tunnel that interests me; 4.75 miles of inky cool darkness, occupied by legends, stories and ghosts and serving a corridor for trains below the mountain.
The other day, Mike Gardner and I made a pilgrimage up to New England’s longest tunnel; Boston & Maine’s famous Hoosac. (Please note correct spelling).
While waiting for westward freight EDRJ, that was on its way from East Deerfield, I exposed these photos with my FujiFilm XT1.
The former New Haven Railroad lift bridge over the Cape Cod Canal is an imposing structure that dwarfs everything around it.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit flat field super-wide angle lens.
To expose the second image, I extended the XT1’s rear display angling it upward and then looked down to it while holding the camera as close to the water as I dared in order to obtain a more dramatic view.
Among the benefits of the XT1’s display system is the built-in level, which I find very helpful when trying to keep the bridge level with the water.
Using the level with the rear display makes it much easier to make these close to the water photos. Back in the old days, I just had to guess!
I’ve often heard railway photographers dismiss an opportunity with the excuse, ‘I already have that there.’
I’m guilty of this too.
However, everyday is different; locomotives and locations are only two elements that make a a successful railway action photograph.
Weather, lighting, angle to the tracks and the focal length of your lens all play important roles in the end result. Also consider the cleanliness of the locomotive and the variations in consist.
There was a period where Irish Rail 219 regularly worked the Dublin-Ballina IWT liner freights. When I’m in Dublin it is relatively easy for me to reach my standard location and catch the IWT on its down-road journey. In fact I often do this on my morning walk, or on the way to the supermarket.
Yet, it got to the point where if I knew that 219 was working the IWT, I wouldn’t bother with another photo of it in my standard location. (And yes I have it at other places too.)
I made these trailing views of Cape Cod Central’s Dinner Train at Sagamore, Massachusetts in the final minutes of direct sun.
The broad open channel of the Cape Cod Canal adjacent to the railroad plus an open area with minimal shadowing caused by line-side brush and structures made for an ideal place to capture the low-evening sun reflected off the classic passenger cars.
I exposed a burst of photos with my Fujifilm XT1 digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom set at approximately 50mm.
Exposed at f22 1/125thsecond at ISO 200. Raw file adjusted in Lightroom to control contrast and maximize highlight detail with slight balancing/lightening of shadows.
At 1133am on July 22, 1988, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide east of Norwalk, Ohio.
This was part of a big adventure; my old pal TSH and I were spending two weeks on the road photographing trains.
We were driving my 1975 Dodge Dart, and had plenty of Kodachrome. (And I had some 120 T-Max 400 for the Rolleiflex too).
An early morning start on the old B&O west of Fostoria was pure excitement. Several hours later we visited the big yard at Bellevue, Ohio on the old Nickel Plate Road. When we saw this freight departing to the east we made chase.
Neither of us has a clue as to where we were going, our maps were inadequate, but we embraced the spirit of the chase and found this overhead bridge.
The freight was working the old Wheeling & Lake Erie route and the diesels labored hard in the summer heat. My notes indicate this was Hartland Hill.
The freight was at a crawl and we chased on, catching it several more times before we made a wrong turn and lost track of it near Wellington.
I can still feel the thrill of that blind chase 30 years ago today. TSH and I are still pals and we still make trips together.
NOTE: This post originally appeared on July 17, 2018, but owing to unknown technical faults the photos would not display properly. There should be four images displayed below with captions.
Tracking the Light is about process and not every photograph is a stunning success.
This post is part of my on going series of exercises photographing Amtrak’s Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited that is running with extra sleepers as result of the temporary suspension of the New York section owing to Penn-Station repair.
Last week, my father and I drove to West Warren, Massachusetts, this time to photograph the eastward train, Amtrak 448.
The benefit of West Warren is the relatively open view with identifiable features. As mentioned previously, summer photography on the Boston & Albany has been made difficult by prolific plant growth along the line that has obscured many locations.
In this instance, I worked with two cameras; my old Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm zoom, and my FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.
Admittedly, the Canon combination isn’t the sharpest set up, but it allows me to play around with a very long telephoto.
The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.
Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.
History ( and knowing that history) was key to solving the problem, since the answer wasn’t visible in any of the three photos.
To make things a bit more difficult, I didn’t caption the images, however I did offer an array of hints to assist with solving the problem.
I had several very thoughtful guesses, some of which were quite interesting.
Michael Walsh, a regular Tracking the Light viewer, was the first to submit the correct answer along with his explanation.
This is what he wrote:
I reckon the theme may be Pan Am Railways.
The first picture shows the Pan Am building on Park Avenue in New York, which stands behind Grand Central Station. The name, colours and logo of the defunct Pan American World Airways were purchased by Guilford Rail System in 1998 and applied to their rail New England operations in 2006.
The third picture is of exceptional interest. It shows 1926-built combination car 16 of the Springfield Electric Railway, now preserved at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor CT. The 6.5 mile long Springfield line became a subsidiary of the Boston and Maine and was later de-electrified. In 1983, it became part of Guilford, along with the B&M.
The second picture is of North Conway station, on the Conway Scenic Railway. North Conway was near the north end of a lengthy B&M branch from Rochester NH, which connected with the Mountain Division of the Maine Central at Intervale, 7 miles beyond North Conway. The B&M branch and the MC Mountain Division were abandoned by Guilford, but some 50 miles, comprising portions of both lines, survive as the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Michael’s answer is spot on: I have just one small correction and a comment; the north end of B&M’s Conway branch (pictured) was sold before Guilford acquired the B&M. I mention this because in each of the three photos, the subject predates their respective company’s role with Pan Am Railways (just to make the puzzle extra tricky). Also, Springfield Terminal has played an important role in operations across the Guilford/Pan Am Railways system.
At 615pm on Monday July 16 2018, I’ll be giving a slide presentation on European Railway Travel. This will be immediately followed by a book signing for my new Railway Guide to Europe published this year by Kalmbach Books.
The Springfield City Library 16 Acres Branch Library is located at 1187 Parker Street in the 16 Acres area of Springfield.
—Springfield, Massachusetts: at 615pm on Monday July 16 2016, I’ll be giving a slide presentation on European Railway Travel followed by a book signing for my new Railway Guide to Europe published this year by Kalmbach Books.
This will cover more than 20 years of travel across Europe.
The Springfield City Library 16 Acres Branch Library is located at 1187 Parker Street in the 16 Acres area of Springfield.
A visit to New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad a few weeks ago was unusually rewarding.
We were invited to travel on a special chartered excursion that worked east on the old Maine Central Mountain Division, a portion of the railroad that only rarely sees trains.
It was my first time over that portion of the line.
We were treated to a spin on a former New Haven RDC, of the sort that I used to ride in Connecticut many years ago.
I made photos with my Lumix LX7, FujiFilm X-T1, and old Nikon F3 variously loaded with Fuji Provia and Kodak Tri-X.
The train crew was very accommodating in regards to photo stops, and suggested some great vantage points.
Overall our experience on the Conway Scenic was first class and we had a wonderful time! This is a really great preserved railroad. Thanks to Dave and Rhonda Swirk and all the employees of Conway Scenic!
Monday July 9, 2018, my father and I wandered to East Brookfield, Massachusetts to photograph Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited.
Working on Fujichrome slide film, I first exposed a sequence of photos of the train coming through the switch at CP64 using my old Canon EOS3 with 400mm lens. Those slides remain latent (unprocessed) because I haven’t finished the roll yet.
Then at the last moment I decided to make this image using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens
The difficulty is the extreme exposure difference between backlit sun on tracks at CP64 and the inky shadows on the line immediately to the east. Since my exposure was set for the sunlit sections, the shadow areas were underexposed.
The alternative was to expose for the shadows and let the highlights blow out (lose data), which would make for a lighter train, but less data captured.
In post processing, I worked with the Fuji RAW image, lightening the shadows, while adjusting color temperature and contrast. I’ve presented three images.
The darkest photo (above) is a JPG made without adjustment; the lighter two represent variations in post-processing adjustment.
If nothing else, these photos demonstrate the great dynamic range possible with the Fuji X-T1 digital camera.
Personally, I’m curious to see how my slides turn out!
Do you knowyour history? You’ll need it to in order to solve this one! But the short answer is more about today than long ago.
Here are three photographs with a common theme.
There’s two levels, but I’ll accept the basic answer as correct.
For those of you who really know the history, you can give me the more detailed answer.
Think simple: this is not overly complicated, but what isn’t written in two of the photos are keys to the conundrum.
To save you some time and rule out some lines of thought, the answer(s):
Have nothing to do with propulsion;
Or signals; Or Personalities.
And are not overtly relevant to my Irish travels.
Also: There’s no relevance to the puzzle regarding dates the photos were exposed, or the lighting, or film versus digital. It’s not about weather or lenses.
I exposed all photographs at different times on different days, but don’t be watching clocks. The correct answer has a lot to do with something that doesn’t appear in ANY of the three photos, but is often featured on Tracking the Light.
Post your ‘correct’ answers in the Tracking the Light comments, on Facebook, via email, etc.
This summer Amtrak 448/449, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, is the onlysection of the Lake Shore Limited!
Construction at Penn-Station New York has encouraged Amtrak to cancel the New York section of this popular train, and reassign its Viewliner sleeps to the Boston section.
A clear afternoon had me searching for locations. My first choice was the Tennyville Bridge in Palmer (Rt 32 bridge), but a large quantity of freight cars in Palmer yard discouraged me. My next choice was the field east of Palmer off Rt 67, but I vetoed this place because of excessive brush.
Brush and trees are real problem this time of year along the old Boston & Albany. Not only do the obstruct views of the tracks, but they cast impenetrable dark shadows.
So, I ended up at my standard fall back location at West Warren. Although, I’ve photographed Amtrak 449 here dozens of times, it had several advantages.
It’s a relatively short drive; it has elevation and an unobstructed view of the line from both sides of the tracks; its east-west orientation makes for nice early afternoon lighting; and the waterfall and mills make for an iconic and readily identifiable backdrop.
So, West Warren it was. Again.
I made this sequence with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Two difficulties; the nosy angle of the sun made it difficult to get an acceptable broad side angle on the train, so the three sleepers at the back are visually marginalized. Secondly, the wedge angle of the Amtrak P42 front-end kicked back the sun with harsh ‘nose glint’.
A short, curious, and heavily traveled part of the New York City subway system, is the two-stop Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle that runs solely between its namesake points.
Last week, Honer Travers and I made the journey on this relic.
Historically, two of my big challenges for color subway photography were exposure and color balance/color temperature.
Today, the Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle stations are brightly lit. I set my Lumix LX7 color temperature control to ‘auto white balance,’ which obviates most unwanted color temperature spikes caused by artificial light.
Other than scaling for internet presentation, I didn’t modify these images post processing for color temperature/color balance, contrast or exposure.
Join Brian Solomon at 615pm on Monday July 16, 2018 for a slide presentation on European Railway Travel followed by a book signing for my new Railway Guide to Europe (published this year by Kalmbach Books).
This will be a real slide show with authentic 35mm color slides (in contrast with projected digital slide) that picture more than 20 years of travel across Europe.
The Springfield City Library 16 Acres Branch Library is located at 1187 Parker Street in the 16 Acres area of Springfield, Massachusetts.
It was July 6, 2015, three years ago, that Paul Goewey and I photographed New England Central at Springfield Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts.
Our vantage point is from the old Central Massachusetts Railroad right of way—a line that was abandoned in the early 1930s, when Boston & Maine obtained trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont (now New England Central) line.
It had been a very long time since my last visit to Middleborough, Massachusetts— decades.
I made these views of an outbound MBTA from the Route 28 overpass south (west?) of the old New Haven Yard.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm telephoto.
Dull summer overcast lighting is just as I remembered it, but the scene is so much changed there was little else to correlate this view with that in my memory, except for the old New Haven Railroad freight house in the distance (upper left).
My goal was to stop Amtrak’s Acela Expressat speed.
I wanted to use the fastest shutter speed, so I dialed in a wide aperture on my Lumix LX-7.
However, I was using the aperture priority ‘A’ setting, and when I ‘opened up’, I inadvertently overexposed, because the maximum shutter speed possibly on this camera is 1/2000thof a second, and the correct shutter speed/f-stop combination for my wide aperture was probably closer to 1/4000thof a second.
The result is an overexposed digital RAW file.
That means I let in toomuch light. Not only is the tonality too bright, but I’ve suffered data loss in the highlight areas.
Working with the RAW file in Lightroom, I was able to adjust my exposure, and recover some of the highlight detail lost in the in-camera Jpg.
The result is pretty good.
So why bother getting the exposure right if you can adjust the photo after the fact?
Ideally, when a photo is exposed properly the RAW file should capture the maximum amount of information. When a photo, such as this one, is overexposed it suffers from data loss. Although the correction looks presentable, the bottom line is that the file has less data than if it had been correctly exposed.
So while you can ‘fix it’ after the fact, it pays to get right on site—when you can.