These days, leading locomotives don’t necessarily reflect the operator or even the originator of long distance freights. In fact this is a Canadian National train, working the old Wisconsin Central line.
Musical legend and an electric guitar inventor, Les Paul was from Waukesha, and here a thoroughfare has been named for him. Its elevated crossing of CN made for nice vistas in both directions.
Although it was partly cloudy, momentarily brilliant morning sun made for nice illumination.
On Sunday’s an Irish Rail class 071 works Belmond’s luxury cruise train, the 10-car Grand Hibernian, on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Although slightly back lit, I found the famed ‘Gullet’ offers a good place to catch this train at work.
This cutting dates from the 1840s and features three tracks.
In this instance, Irish Rail 082 was accelerating down the middle road with the posh-looking train. (‘Down’ refers to traveling away from Dublin, and doesn’t reflect the gradient, which in this situation is actually rising).
Working with both my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto and Lumix LX7, I made two sets of digital photos.
The locomotive sound was impressive as on this particular Sunday a couple weeks back the roads in the area were shut for a foot race and there was very little ambient noise compared with a typical day in Dublin. Perhaps, I should have made a recording!
I was running a few final errands before heading to the airport.
CSX had been working on making CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts compliant with positive train control requirements, which has coincided with commissioning new signal hardware.
By the time I return, the old signals will likely have been retired and the new system up and working.
Crossing the South Main Street bridge in Palmer, I spotted a New England Central local working the diamond, and a CSX intermodal train (Q022) waiting to the west.
This gave me enough time to set up and made a few final photos of the transitional arrangement at CP83 in Palmer.
Changeable lighting made for patches of direction sun under a partial blanket of cloud. I tried to use these sunny spots to my best advantage since the train was moving slowly through the interlocking.
Parallel lines. On the left is Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line from Fond du Lac to Chicago; on right is Wisconsin & Southern’s former Milwaukee Road line running from Horicon to Milwaukee.
On this day, Chris Guss and I were aiming to catch Wisconsin & Southern’s T-4 freight on its way to Janesville. This train joins CN’s route at Slinger, just a little ways north from our location in the curve at Ackerville.
My goal was to show the parallel routes, while featuring the freight accelerating through the curve, to demonstrate the power of the locomotives.
Complicating my composition were the rows of trees. When I place the train in the distance, the tops of the locomotives are below the tree-line, and the thus less dramatic. When I let the locomotives get closer, they obscure the freight cars and most of the interesting effects of the parallel curves.
If I move lower, the angle would be more dramatic, but the second set of tracks would be nearly lost altogether. Longer focal length lens? Similar quandary, this minimizes the second set of tracks and features the trees more prominently.
Such are the challenges of perfecting railroad photo composition. Often there’s no one ideal solution.
In the mid-1930s, Milwaukee Road introduced its high-speed streamlined Hiawatha on its Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities route where elegant purpose-built shrouded 4-4-2 and 4-6-4 Alco steam locomotives whisked trains along in excess of 110mph.
Today, Amtrak’s Hiawathas have Siemens Chargers on the Milwaukee end, and former F40PH Control-Cab/baggage cars, known as ‘Cabbages’ on the Chicago-end.
While Amtrak provides an excellent corridor service, today top speed is just 79mph.
I can’t help but think that as a nation we’ve lost the plot on this one.
We went from elegant, fast steam streamliners to this?
While waiting for the northward train. I made a series of photographs of Amtrak’s relatively new Sturtevant station. I’ve always liked the effect of a twilight sky, when the blue light of evening nearly matches the intensity of electric lighting.
Here, I worked with my Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. This is flat-field lens, so keeping the lens level, minimizes perspective distortion.
I was without my small tripod, and I used the camera handheld at a low angle. To make use of the reflections of the station in the parking lot.
I set the ISO to 2000. Here are two post-processing variations of the Camera RAW file that feature different contrast curves.
Both feature southward trains on the former Soo Line, Wisconsin Central route ascending Byron Hill on their way south from Fond du Lac, exposed in the morning from the overhead bridge near the top of the grade.
In the interval between the images, the line was improved to two-main track and Wisconsin Central Limited became part of the Canadian National system.
I was curious to experience one of these new locomotives.
The Siemens-built Charger is powered by a Cummins diesel and has a European appearance.
Among their Amtrak assignments is the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha corridor.
I waited on the platform at the new Sturtevant, Wisconsin station. The eerie blue glow of the locomotive’s LED headlights could be seen reflecting off the rails long before the train arrived at the station.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit, I set the ISO to 6400 and panned the train arriving at 1/30thof a second at f2.8.
To better balance the color and keep contrast under control, I modified the camera RAW file in Lightroom to produce this internet suitable JPG.
Norfolk Southern’s Water Level Route is among the busiest freight routes in the East.
It features a continual parade of trains; long freights led by common modern diesels.
Here a cookie-cutter General Electric Evolution-series works east with a double stack train, ducking under the South Shore line at CP485 near Burns Harbor, Indiana.
Isn’t this freight the modern day equivalent of a New York Central freight led by F7s; or a generation earlier by a common Central H-10 Mikado?
But does it matter that I exposed this image? Where does it fit in the BIG picture?
I was pleased when I made this view. Chris Guss and I had enough time to set up, but didn’t wait long. I recalled a photo made more than 20 years ago in this same territory; Mike Danneman and I spent a snowy February morning photographing Conrail. Those photos are looking better all the time.
Here we have a potpourri of necessary clutter; a patched well-traveled road, various electrical poles and lines, the cooling tower for a power station, a signal-relay cabinet, a stray street light, and of course an Amtrak P42 Genesis diesel of the much-maligned industrial design.
Not pretty; but portrays a four-quadrant grade crossing gate protecting the highway an Amtrak train from Chicago crosses.
Last week I stepped on to Main Street in Monson, just as a single New England Central GP38 was working upgrade through town.
‘It’s a bit late for 608.’ I thought. (608 is the weekday turn freight from Willimantic to Palmer, often featured on Tracking the Light).
It wasn’t 608, as I quickly noticed. Rather, it was NECR 3850 leading a Federal Railroad Administration inspection train, including FRA’s ‘Gage Restraint Measurement Vehicle’.
I had other plans. But had my FujiFilm XT1 with me.
Plans were postponed, as I jumped in my vehicle and immediately headed south on Route 32 to intercept this unusual train.
I caught it twice; once at the Bob Buck inspired South Monson Rt 32 crossing, and then at Bob’s favorite, Smith’s Bridge at Stafford Hollow Road.
In my youth this bridge offered an open view of the line; in Bob’s steam-era photo there were fields both sides of the track. Today, there’s only a narrow space between the trees. Lucky for me, the angle of the sun was perfect.
Score one for being at the right place at the right time (and having my cameras).
I remember when Worcester Union Station was a ruin.
It was restored to its former glory during the late 1990s, and today is the terminal for MBTA services to Boston over the the old Boston & Worcester (later Boston & Albany/New York Central route).
I wrote about this station in relation to the building it replaced in my book Depots, Stations & Terminals.
The old Worcester (Massachusetts) Union Station was a solid Romanesque structure designed by architects Ware & Van Brunt. It was demolished to make way for Samuel Huckel’s new Worcester Union completed in 1911.
Saturday evening I used my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit to photograph CSX’s westward Q437 (Framingham, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York) at Palmer, Massachusetts passing the new signals at CP83.
They’ve yet to be activated and the new signals are in place alongside the Conrail-era signals installed in 1986.
It was dusk and the light was fading fast. I pushed the camera ISO to 2500, and exposed this action shot at 1/250th of a second at f2.8.
Rices at Charlemont, Massachusetts used to be an interlocking, where the Boston & Maine’s line went from double to single track.
Back in the 1980s, I’d catch meets here between eastward and westward freights.
Much has changed.
Not only was the interlocking decommissioned and later removed, but almost all evidence of it, including the old signal bridge are now gone. Trees and brush have grown up between the railroad and the river, and trees along the road are taller than ever.
This now makes for a pretty challenging setting.
At some point I’ll present ‘then and now’ views, but these photos demonstrate telephoto and wide angle photos of the same train from the same vantage point.
There was nice afternoon light on Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) so I settled on my traditional location, which still gets a bit of sun late in the day.
Here’s something different. I had my FujiFilm X-T1 set up to record monochrome with a digitally applied red filter to alter the tonality. Working with a Zeiss 12mm lens, I made this view at Arlington, Massachusetts of two MBTA buses passing on Massachusetts Avenue.