I’ve been exploring and photographing Irish railways since 1998. To mark my twenty years photography, I’ve been displaying images of each of Irish Rail’s 201-class General Motors diesels in numerical order.
Several days ago, two Dublin photographers and I converged on the Conyngham Road, where Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to Connolly Station/North Wall enters the Phoenix Park Tunnel.
Our interest was Belmond’s Grand Hibernianled by an Irish Rail class 071 diesel.
Afterwards we paid a visit to Ryan’s of Parkgate Street, a local pub just a short walk up the street and near Dublin’s Heuston Station, where I continued to make photos with my vintage Nikon F3 with 50mm f1.4 lens.
Working with a wide aperture on film allows for selective focus and the ability to select a subject and offset it against a soft background. This the opposite effect often provided by many digital cameras that tend to use a smaller aperture and sharpening software to produce greater depth of field and razor sharp images.
I used Kodak Tri-X, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 using a traditional recipe with my customized multiple-split process to maximize shadow and highlight detail.
I’ve been unusually fortunate to catch Irish Rail’s 071 almost everyday for the last couple of weeks.
This locomotive is the class leader and features a heritage livery based on the as-delivered General Motors scheme.
It is very popular with photographers.
On Saturday 22 September 2018, locomotive 071 worked the Belmond Grand Hibernian cruise train from Dublin Heuston to Connolly Station. Until yesterday, it had been assigned to the Dublin-Ballina IWT Liner container train.
To make this view, I used my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit 12mm lens. To help bring in sky detail, I attached a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (a physical filter), then made further adjustment to RAW files in post processing using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, which allowed me to make adjustments to highlight and shadow detail.
Additional adjustments were made globally (the entire image) to modify contrast and colour saturation to improve the appearance of the photograph.
Sunday, 16 September 2018 found unusual variety at Irish Rail’s Dublin Connolly Station.
Adding colour to Irish Rail’s parade of local and long distance trains was Belmond’s Grand Hibernian that arrived from Dundalk, and departed a half an hour later bound for Waterford. As this high-end cruise train was departing, a HOBS (ballast train) was heading from the northern line into the North Wall with Irish Rail 077.
But the most unusual train was Rail Preservation Society of Ireland’s heritage Cravens, which arrived from Inchicore behind one of Northern Ireland Railways Enterprise class 201 diesels. While the train was expected, the locomotive was a surprise.
I departed for points north before steam locomotive number 4 arrived to take the scheduled RPSI excursion from platform 5. All the while, engine 85 in Great Northern blue, which was intended for the day’s RPSI excursion was stuck on Connolly’s turntable!
Friday, 21 September 2018, I knew that Irish Rail 071 would be working the up IWT Liner. This bright orange locomotive would allow me to make a dramatic photo in a situation where a grey or silver locomotive wouldn’t be as effective.
Selecting my vantage point from the Old Cabra Road in Dublin, I faced an unusually contrasty situation. Dramatic fluffly clouds were racing across the sky, rapidly alternating between bright backlit sun and a relatively dark scene with a distant bright sky.
To make the most of this, I used my Lumix LX7 to make a couple of test photos. Then opted to under expose my final photo by about 1/3 of stop. This would allow me to retain a bit of detail in the sky, which I could then adjust in post processing.
The final photos required several steps of adjustment to the RAW file.
1) I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter to bring in the sky highlights
2) I warmed up the overall colour temperature to counter act the prevalent blue light as result of the heavy shadows.
3) Contrast was softened.
4) Shadows lightened
5) A radial filter was applied to the front of the engine to lighten it slightly.
6) I increased the overall colour saturation slightly to counter the effects of dull lighting in the cutting.
Yesterday (Wednesday 19 September 2018) high winds attributed to storm Ali resulted in widespread transport disruption across Ireland.
Some railway lines were closed because of downed trees. It was reported that a Galway-Dublin Intercity Railcar (ICR) was damaged when it struck a tree.
In Dublin,LUAS Green Line overhead wires were damaged and service suspended between Cowper and Dawson in the city centre.
As of this morning, LUAS was still only operating a limited service in the city centre and on the southern extremities of the Green Line route.
I went to explore the turn-back operation relating to the temporary Dawson terminus. While trams were only carrying passengers as far south as Dawson Street, the trams themselves were running toward St. Stephens Green to use the facing point crossover on the north side of the Green to reverse direction.
Photos were exposed digitally this morning, 20 September 2018.
Working with two digital cameras, I made these images at Irish Rail’s Drogheda Station. This is a classic Great Northern Railway (Ireland) railway station with a curved platform, antique brick buildings and elegant old-school platform canopies.
But it also features more modern elements too, such as palisade fencing and a diesel railcar depot and wash.
Is it honest to exclude the modern elements and just focus on the antique? Or is it better to allow for mix of new and old? After all the photos were made digitally in 2018, not on film in the days of yore.
Tracking the Light Posts EVERYDAY to discusses Photographic Technique and Process.
On the Evening of 16 September 2018, the Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s Cravens transfer (train i.d. H260) ran from Connolly to Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works. Rather than run with an 071 class locomotive, as is often the case, it was assigned locomotive 216 specially painted for Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
The following morning, the up Grand Hibernianfrom Waterford passed the same location with Irish Rail class 071 number 083 in the lead.
While Belmond’s train often runs to and from Waterford with an 071 class locomotive, this still presents a bit variety on a railway that tends to favour uniform train sets.
All of these photos were exposed at ‘The Gullet” (the three track throat to Islandbridge Junction) from Memorial Road in Dublin.
Gauzy autumn light is perfect for photographing black steam locomotives on the move.
Yesterday, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated steam excursions between Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk. Plans to work with engine 85 were foiled by difficulties with the turntable at Connolly Station.
Instead RPSI engine No.4 did the work.
Paul Maguire and I drove to a remote overhead bridge near Mosney.
I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. To make the most of the scene, I imported the RAW file into Lightroom and adjusted it for contrast and saturation, using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to bring in sky detail.
Learn more about the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland:
Museums offer opportunity to study historic equipment and take in the spirit of earlier times. But can be challenging places to make captivating photos. Confined quarters, cluttered arrangements, and other visitors can complicate composition.
Contrasty mixed source lighting is another problem. Thankfully modern digital cameras do an excellent job of balancing florescent, incandescent light with direct and indirect daylight. While the ability to make test shots helps to obtain better exposures.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Although only partially related to my photographic work, I thought that Tracking the Light readers might be interested to learn that I’m conducting a series of audio podcasts with Trains Magazine.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be interviewing and discussing railroads with a variety of knowledgeable and interesting people, including active and retired railroaders, tourist railroad operators, railroad activists, and a few well known railroad enthusiasts and railroad publishing professionals.
Among my first conversations was with John Gruber about his latest book: Beebe & Clegg—Their Enduring Legacy.
My hope is to allow my guests expertise and perspectives to entertain and inform my listeners and enable all of us a great appreciation and understand of railroad topics ranging from freight cars and locomotives, signals, stations and short lines to how to avoid snakes while making photos.
A new Podcast will be released every two weeks. My aim is to keep these to between 16 and 20 minutes.
Monday on Tracking the Light, I posted my foiled attempts at picturing Irish Rail’s heritage painted 071 on Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
Persistence pays off. Well, that coupled with a bit of luck.
A few minutes ago (12 September 2018), I returned on spec to my oft-photographed location at Islandbridge Junction for the down International Warehousing & Transport container train (Irish Rail’s IWT Liner that runs Dublin to Ballina, Co. Mayo).
I expected locomotive 234, which has been working this run for a while. Instead, I was rewarded with 071 in glossy orange paint. The clear sunny morning was an added bonus.
Here are two versions. One is the in-camera JPG using the FujiFilm ‘Velvia’ colour profile. The other is an adjusted file from the camera RAW, where I’ve lightened shadows and adjusted saturation and contrast. You can like one or both.
If these don’t work for you, I also made a Fujichrome Provia 35mm colour slide using at 40mm lens that takes in the whole scene.
Two Sunday Mornings in a row I walked up to the line with an aim of catching an 071 class locomotive in heritage paint leading Belmond’s Grand Hiberniancruise train on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Two Sundays, two locations, two heritage locomotives (numbers 073 and 071 respectively), and two different Irish Rail scheduled trains that got in my way.
Gosh, bad luck!
In both instances, I came away with different photos than I’d set out to make.
My question: might these photos age well? Perhaps the intrusion of the ROTEM ICRs may make these photographs more interesting in years to come?
I’m not one to get overly excited when a photo opportunity doesn’t work as planned. Sometimes it’s best to just keep making photos when a scene plays out.
PSSSST! (I also made some sneaky 35mm slides that may make the most of both situations).
Earlier this week it was organized for me to travel on the footplate of Great Northern Railway of Ireland 85.
The thrill of experiencing a steam locomotive cab on the main line is a rare privilege.
My job was to make photographs and stay out of the way.
Locomotive 85 is a three cylinder compound 4-4-0, a 1932 product of Beyer Peacock.
The compound arrangement is what intrigued me, but like the low droning throb sounding from the 20 cylinder diesel powering an EMD SD45, this element of the steam equipment is beyond my ability to picture.
Instead, I had to settle for making images of the crew at work and the locomotive in motion.
The footplate offers a rough ride, while swirling coal dust and locomotive exhaust complicate photography and the handling of sensitive equipment. The lighting is at best difficult. Staying out of the way often means that I wasn’t always able to get the angle I really wanted and needed to make due with where I was able to stand.
Special thanks to everyone at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) and at Irish Rail for making my locomotive journeys possible.
For details about the RPSI and scheduled steam and diesel trips see:
In the 1950s and 1960s, My father made a project of photographing the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee, the distinctive interurban electric line connecting it’s namesakes.
Last month, John Gruber and I paid a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum at Union, Illinois. Like my father, John had focused on the North Shore. He made hundreds of excellent photographs that distilled the spirit of the railway.
North Shore was before my time, but I feel that I know the line thanks to my dad’s and John’s photographs, which were featured in books by the late William D. Middleton.
The railway may be gone 55 years, but key pieces of it’s equipment survive.
I made these digital views of preserved North Shore cars at IRM using my FujiFIlm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens. This flat-field super wide-angle lens is well suited to making images in the tight quarters of IRM’s car barns.
John Gruber has an on-going exhibit of his finest North Shore photography in the East Union Station at IRM. This will be subject of another Tracking the Light post.
Sometimes a station name conveys a grander image than what’s really there.
Cherry Orchard in Dublin comes to mind. Put out visions of lush blossoming trees in a bucolic pastoral setting, and replace it with industrial squalor, palisade fencing, graffiti and garbage. Yet, it’s still a good place to catch trains on the move.
Then we have today’s featured location: NI Railway’s modern station at Botanic in Belfast. For me the name invokes images of flowing beautiful gardens, tall majestic trees and rows of manicured flowers, perhaps a fountain.
Er, not exactly.
While more salubrious than Dublin’s Cherry Orchard (and undoubtedly safer too), Botanic isn’t a wonderland.
Yesterday (3 September 2018), sunny skies greeted Great Northern Railway Ireland 85, a 4-4-0 three-cylinder compound locomotive operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, when it paused at Portarlington, County Laois to take water.
This classic Irish express passenger locomotive was working a chartered train from Dublin Connolly to Killarney.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
The photos here were scaled without modification from camera JPG files using the Velvia color profile.
I also made a few colour slides on real FujiFilm: Provia 100F.