Narrow Gauge Gem at the 2019 Amherst Railway Society BIG Railroad Hobby Show.


In a world of small trains, S.D. Warren & Company’s Baldwin-built 0-4-0T is a giant.

This wonderfully restored narrow gauge steam locomotive was under steam in front of the Better Living Center at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts last weekend.

I made these digital photographs in the afternoon.

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Illinois Central SD40-2s on Wisconsin’s Byron Hill.


The Illinois Central has been part of the Canadian National system for more than 20 years.

It’s remarkable that classic IC SD40-2s (listed as ‘SD40-3s’ on some rosters presumably owing to changes to the locomotive electrical systems and other upgrades) survive in traditional black paint.

During my travels earlier this month with Chris Guss and Brian Schmidt, I made these photos of a pair of sequentially numbered IC SD40-2s working as rear-end helpers on a southward CN freight ascending Wisconsin Central’s Byron Hill.

Notice the GE builders ‘plate’ on the trailing unit.

Low evening sun and frigid temperatures made for some rosy light.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 90mm f2.0 lens.

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Milwaukee Road Depot at Brookfield, Wisconsin in the Snow.


On January 19, 2019, TRAINS Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I visited the old Milwaukee Road Depot at Brookfield, Wisconsin to photograph a westward CP Rail freight.

It was cloudy and snowing lightly.

Working with my Nikon F3 and 50mm lens, I exposed these views on Ilford FP4 black & white film.

I processed the film using multi-stage development in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water, then toned the negatives for 7 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlights.

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My ‘culls’ from the 2019 Amherst Railway Society Hobby Show.


Extras and Outtakes

So what do I do with the extra photographs? You know, the images good enough to expose and edit, but not good enough to make my first, second or third presentations?

I exhibit them here! Hooray!

Sometimes we can learn from the outtakes.

Any favorites?

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Eclectic Array of Modern Diesels at Theresa, Wisconsin.


Class 1 North American railroading can still offer variety.

Take for example this photo I exposed of a northward Canadian National freight at Theresa, Wisconsin on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

In the lead is CN2500, a mid-1990s General Electric DASH9-44CW built with a four-piece windshield.  This is followed by more 1990s-era motive power: a CN EMD-built SD75I, a BNSF EMD-built SD75M in classic Santa Fe style warbonnet paint; then finally two more examples of state-of-the-art General Electric diesels; a BNSF ET44C4 (An emissions compliant ‘Tier 4’ with A1A trucks) and Norfolk Southern ET44AC 3616, a six-motor ‘Tier 4’ model.

This broad side view makes the most of the motive power array. I exposed this image as part of a sequence using my FujiFilm XT-1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens. Scaled JPG for internet presentation using Lightroom.



This was just one of many photos I exposed on an adventure with Chris Guss and TRAINS Magazine’s Brian Schmidt.

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Tracking the Light hits Half Million Mark.

To celebrate Tracking the Light’s 500,000th click on briansolomon.com I’m posting scan 500000.tif made from one of my father’s Kodachrome slides.

This view of B&O and Reading EMD diesels was exposed on Kodachrome at Central Railroad of New Jersey’s Communipaw engine terminal in Jersey City in the late 1950s

Kodachrome at Communipaw, Jersey City by Richard Jay Solomon-file 500000.tif
Kodachrome converted to jpg.

In addition to Tracking the Light’s direct feed on briansolomon.com, Tracking the Light also has links to Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and Tumbler.

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Union Pacific Adams Line on January 20, 2019.


It was bitterly cold and clear when Chris Guss, Brian Schmidt and I set out to photograph the former Chicago & North Western Adams Line—the late-built ‘Adams Cut-off’ that shortened the distance between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.

We drove back roads from Waukesha to Clyman Junction, the location of a surviving steam-era coaling tower. Then we explored various potential photo locations.

Clyman Junction.

Looking east near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Train movements on the Adams Line can be infrequent, but patience paid off, and by mid-morning we caught an eastward train in nice light.

The clean SD70M was an added bonus. I made both color slides and digital photos.

The slides remain latent, so here are some of the digital images.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom.


Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog by Brian Solomon

Telephoto Views: Amherst Show January 2019.


This is part 3 in my series on photos of the January 2019 Amherst Railway Society BIG Railroad Hobby Show.

Previous views were exposed using my Lumix LX7 (see: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2019/01/27/2019-big-railroad-show-a-dozen-more-photos/) but these photos were made using my FujFilm XT1 fitted with a 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

The combination of a long focal length lens, with close focus and very wide aperture allows for a shallow depth of field. This technique enabled me to highlight select subjects in the image area while allowing potentially distracting elements to blend into a sea of blur.

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Amherst Railway Society BIG Railroad Hobby Show—2019 Part 1.

Yesterday, Saturday January 26, 2019, I attended the annual Amherst Railway Society BIG Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

This was an opportunity to connect with old friends, watch small trains run in circles, collect ephemera and old pictures and make lots of new photos.

Here’s a few from my ‘new’ Lumix LX7! More to come soon!

Bus glint!


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Wisconsin Sunset—drop under light.


I made this view traveling with Brian Schmidt last weekend on our way from Columbus, Wisconsin to near Middleton.

We weren’t near the tracks, so this ‘Tracking the Light’ is focused only on the light.

And yes, it was cold.

‘Drop under light’ is when the sun illuminates the clouds from below.

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A Rolling Meet, a DPU and Sun at Highway F, Byron, Wisconsin.


With some pavement passing beneath us in spirited run on the ascent to Byron, Brian Schmidt and I arrived at the Highway F overpass near the summit of Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line over Byron Hill in time to record the passage of a northward double stack train meeting a southward freight.

I’ve featured both trains previously on Tracking the Light:

Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2019/01/25/byron-hill-lost-arrow-road-old-location-revisited-in-january-2019/

Canadian National Kicks Up Snow at Ackerville.

For this post: as the northward train glided below me, I was watching for the DPU (the locomotive working as a ‘distributed power unit’, 1990s-speak for a ‘radio controlled remotely operated helper). I timed my exposure to document its passage as the uphill train approached.

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Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.


Years ago I’d work vistas along Lost Arrow Road south of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to picture and record Wisconsin Central’s thunderous SD45s.

Last weekend, TRAINS Magazine Brian Schmidt and I revisited this location to photograph a southward Canadian National freight on its ascent to Byron, Wisconsin.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

Bright sun was contrast from snowy weather earlier in the day. As the freight made its slow progress up Byron Hill we followed with an aim to make more photos, just like in olden times (but with no SD45s this day).

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1385 Cylinder—Is this Art?


The driving cylinder is a crucial component of a reciprocating locomotive, yet the inside of this equipment is rarely pictured.

The other day, Richard Gruber organized a tour of locomotive 1385, a former Chicago & Northwestern class R-1 4-6-0—an old Alco steam locomotive that is undergoing a thorough restoration in Wisconsin.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I made a selection of digital images depicting the engine’s running gear and cylinders.

Placing the camera inside the fireman’s-side driving cylinder, I exposed this view as Scott Lothes—Director of the Center of Photography and Art in Madison—peered into the other end.

Exposing this photo was tricky. The need for a long exposure required me to balance the Lumix LX7 inside the cylinder and release the shutter using the camera’s self timer. To select the two – second self timer interval, I had to scroll through a series of menus fairly quickly. Further complicating matters was the extreme exposure difference between the inside of the cylinder and the shop environment. I dialed in an exposure compensation then selected ‘A’ for aperture priority. This is the camera-produced JPG without adjustment to contrast, exposure or color balance.

I was delighted with the photo, as was Scott.

So, does this photo-abstraction of 1385’s cylinder qualify as art? I only make the images. What do you think?

This image is a tribute to my late friend John Gruber, who organized it on more levels than we have space to describe here.

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Canadian National Kicks Up Snow at Ackerville.


Sometimes a cloudy day gives you more options.

If the sun had been out, Hillside Road in Ackerville, Wisconsin may not have been the preferred mid-morning location to catch this northward Canadian National double-stack train.

Brian Schmidt and I caught three trains here on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

I made this view using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

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And Which Railroad is This? UP on CP: Freight at Duplainville—Part 2.


Duplainville, Wisconsin is a busy place for rail freight.

Here are two to four views (up loading difficulties makes the final number uncertain) of an eastward empty unit coal train on the old Milwaukee Road, now CP Rail, with Union Pacific GE diesels fore and aft working as distributed power. In the trailing photos you can see the diamond crossing with Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line from Fond du Lac to Chicago.

Light snow made for added drama.

A Union Pacific GE Tier 4 leads an eastward empty unit coal train from Portage, Wisconsin.

I exposed these with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

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Conrail Pacing View.

On September 30, 1988, I was pacing westward Conrail freight OIBU-9 between Swain and Dalton, New York on the former Erie Railroad route from Hornell to Buffalo.

From the window of my Dodge Dart, I used my Leica M2 to make this grab shot as I reached the head end of the train.

My notes from the day indicate my exposure was equivalent to f4 at 1/250th of a second with Kodachrome 25; however I probably exposed this slide at f8 1/60th of second to enhance the effect of motion. The train had three EMD locomotives (at least one Norfolk Southern behind the leader) followed by 141 cars. 8:36 AM on September 30, 1988.

For more than 30 years this Kodachrome slide sat in my file. I reviewed it the other day while searching for Conrail photos for an upcoming book tentatively titled ‘Conrail and its Predecessors.’

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Freight at Duplainville—Part 1.


You’ll need to pay close attention to figure out the players in this scenario.

Duplainville, Wisconsin is where the former Milwaukee Road mainline to the Twin Cities from its namesake crosses the historic Soo Line/Wisconsin Central route between Chicago and Fond du Lac.

Soo Line bought the Milwaukee in the 1980s, and in the 1990s the Soo Line branding was displaced by parent Canadian Pacific, which is now CP Rail.

In the late 1980s, Wisconsin Central Limited took over the old Soo Line route and operated this until bought up by Canadian National in 2001.

This led to confusing situation in the mid 1990s where the old Soo Line was the WCL, and the ‘New Soo Line’ was the former Milwaukee Road.

Now the principal Canadian carriers cross at grade in Wisconsin, many many miles from the Canadian frontier.

Further complicating clarity is that many freights operate with run-through locomotives.

In this case CSX 13 (a GE-built) AC4400CW leads a northward CN freight across the old Milwaukee Road. In consist are BNSF, CN and BC Rail locomotives.

Try printing all of that on a color slide mount!

On January 19, 2019, in a light snow CSX 13 leads a northward CN freight across the diamonds with CP Rail’s former Milwaukee Road at Duplainville, Wisconsin.


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New England Central at Eagleville Dam (Part 2).

Here’s a view I made last week of New England Central’s southward 608 as it passed the old mill dam at Eagleville, Connecticut.

I’m curious to know more about the mill. All I know is that the dam and mill pond remain. The area is now a public park.

Dusk at Eagleville, Connecticut.

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Amtrak Veterans Cabbage: Panned at Night.


The other evening at the modern Amtrak station in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I set up to photograph Hiawatha Corridor trains during their station stops.

The southward train arrived first, and featured one of the former F40PH diesels, now a cab-control/baggage car in the lead. These are colloquially known as ‘cabbages’, and this one was painted to honor American veterans.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 27mm lens, I set the camera to ISO 6400 and panned the train as it arrived to allow for the effect of motion.

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Monday, January 14, 2019: New England Central at Eagleville Dam (Part 1).

In the last light of a winter’s evening, I exposed this view of New England Central’s southward 608 as it approached Eagleville, Connecticut.

Which is the subject of the photo: the train or the waterfall?

Exposed digitally using a FujFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Sunday Test Pattern

As a youngster I’d get up early in anticipation of Saturday morning cartoons. 

I had no sense of time back then and sometimes would wake before the networks would begin their broadcast. In those situations I’d stare with anticipation at the ‘test pattern’ on the TV until the cartoons began.

Boston & Maine GP7 1575 works the Conn River yard at Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1988. Scan from a Kodachrome 25 color slide.

If you are seeing this post it’s because I’ve been too preoccupied with travel and the making of photographs to prepare a fresh post. If time permits, I’ll plan on posting again later in the day.

PS: At least my ‘test pattern’ is an original photo with a train in it!

Tracking the Light aims to Posts Every Day, even when Brian is on the road.

Empire Builder, Bloody Nose and a Snow Squall.


Friday afternoon January 18, 2019, Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I visited Duplainville, Wisconsin to catch Amtrak’s westward Empire builder, train number 7, as it split the signals in a snow squall.

Amtrak P42 50 leads train number 7 west at Duplainville, Wisconsin.

I was delighted to see that the Milwaukee Road-vintage searchlight signals that I remember from my days in Wisconsin (now more than two decades ago) are still active.

The third locomotive in the Builder’s consist was the elusive Amtrak 156, ‘the bloody nose’—so named for its wearing of the 1970s-era Amtrak paint scheme.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto. White balance set to ‘daylight’.

Local photographers had gathered for Amtrak’s daily passing.


Amtrak 156 is one of several ‘heritage’ locomotives wearing paint schemes from years gone by..

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Saturday Test Pattern!


As a youngster I’d get up early in anticipation of Saturday morning cartoons. 

I had no sense of time back then and sometimes would wake before the networks would begin their broadcast. In those situations I’d stare with anticipation at the ‘test pattern’ on the TV until the cartoons began.

Central Vermont freight at East Northfield, Massachusetts on October 8, 1991. Kodachrome color slide exposed with a Nikon F3T and 200mm telephoto lens.

If you are seeing this post it’s because I’ve been too preoccupied with travel and the making of photographs to prepare a fresh post. If time permits, I’ll plan on posting again later in the day.

Tracking the Light aims to Posts Every Day, even when Brian is on the road.

PS: At least my ‘test pattern’ is an original photo with a train in it!

PPS: Do the network still feature test patterns? I haven’t watched early morning television in a very long time!

Chicago Metra’s Milwaukee Road Heritage Locomotive—North Glenview.


O’Hare Airport, Chicago.

Yesterday afternoon Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt collected me at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and we made our way to the Metra station at North Glenview, Illinois, where we intended to incept outward commuter train 2125.

As anticipated, this was led my Metra’s recently painted Milwaukee Road heritage locomotive.

As the blue glow of dusk settled over North Glenview, the northward 2125 came into view, its oscillating light drawing a figure eight in the evening gloom.

Working with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras, I exposed a series of photographs as the train made its station stop.

Lumix LX7 photo at North Glenview, Illinois. White balance set to ‘A’ (Auto).

These are a few of my FujiFilm XT1 and Lumix LX7 digital photos. To make the most of dusk, I’d set the while balance to ‘daylight’, while taking a low angle to make the unusually painted locomotive seem more dramatic.

FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm lens. White balance set to ‘daylight’.

Brian Schmidt checks his results. Lumix LX7 snapshot.

Brian Solomon is traveling:

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New England Central 608 Stafford Springs—Part 3.


As New England Central 608 approached downtown Stafford Springs on January 14, 2019, I set my Nikon F3 to expose a textured image.

The old buildings adjacent to the tracks are as much of a visual attraction as the train itself.

Working with an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed three frames of Kodak Tri-X.

To process the film, I used my custom tailored split process, that uses two developers, followed by selenium toning of the fixed negatives. This maximizes the tonality of the film, while giving me glossy highlights. A secondary effect of the toner is the slight lavender hue.

After processing, I scanned the negatives in color using an Epson V750 scanner.

Although Brian is traveling, Tracking the Light still Posts Daily.

Trains Magazine Podcast: Conversations with Brian Solomon: Episode 13


Check out my most recent pod cast on the Trains Magazine Website.

http://trn.trains.com/photos-videos/2018/09/conversations-with-brian-solomon

Conversations with Brian Solomon, Episode 13

I chatted with Trains’ former Senior Graphic Designer Drew Halverson about train-watching and railroading. Topics include favorite paint schemes, the true meaning of the West, and what’s cool in modern railroading.

Drew and I talked about the appeal of Western skies. Back in July 1994, I exposed this Kodachrome slide of BN grain trains meeting near the summit of Marias Pass on the former Great Northern in Montana. Note my low angle which allows you to see steel wheels on steel rails that helps define the train in silhouette.


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VIA Rail—Sunset and Signals.

On a sub-zero evening, in February 2010, I exposed this view of an eastward Toronto-bound VIA Rail corridor train at Sunnyside in the western Toronto suburbs.

Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I were on a winter adventure in Ontario that I’ll remember for the cold as much as the photos.

Here’s a hint: extremely cold weather can produce some stunning light effects.

For this view, I used Fujichrome Velvia loaded in a Canon EOS-3 fitted with a 100-400mm Canon zoom lens (featuring image stabilization).

I like the curvature of the track and classic searchlight signals which are accentuate by the rosy glow of the setting sun.

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DART Impressions—1998.


In my first year photographing in Ireland, I made many photographs of Irish Rail’s electric suburban service that is branded as ‘DART’ for ‘Dublin Area Rapid Transit’.

This is a selection of four color slides exposed back in 1998.

Connolly Station 1998.

Howth.

Howth.

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January 15th—GG1 4876 and the Anniversary of the Federal Express Wreck.

January 15th is the anniversary of the 1953 Washington Union Terminal crash, when Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1 4876 leading the Federal Express lost its brakes and careened into the lobby of the terminal. This spectacular train wreck, on the eve of Eisenhower’s inauguration, made headlines in every major newspaper across the country.

On June 27, 1983, I exposed this view of GG1 4876 at Linden, New Jersey working from South Amboy, New Jersey to New York Penn Station with a New York & Long Branch passenger train.

Kodachrome 64 with Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens.

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Oh No, A Conrail Dud!


Here’s another 1980s Conrail photo. Not one of my good ones. This was also in the ‘seconds’ file, and in my opinion is un-retrievable.

Poor show at Churchville, New York. I missed the focus when photographing this westward Conrail intermodal train in autumn 1987.

At the time, I made the photo I incorporated many of my favorite elements; signals, codelines, road freight blasting along through a curve. But, several things were amiss.

The sun went in at the wrong moment leaving me with flat lighting; I failed to level the scene which produced a cockeyed image; however worst of all, I missed the focus!

I was working with a 200mm lens mounted on a tripod and I didn’t pick the correct focus point. Poor show. No autofocus back then, so there’s no-one to blame but me. And unlike other flaws, focus isn’t easy to correct.

Fear not! I have thousands of better Conrail images, where the sun was out, the camera was level and the desired point of focus was achieved.

Tracking the Light is about process, not just obtaining perfect photos.

On the old Erie Railroad 30 years ago Today!


This morning, January 14, 2019, I scanned a Kodachrome slide that had been hiding for 30 years.

It was on January 14, 1989 that I spent the morning photographing Conrail’s former Erie railroad line between Hornell and Buffalo, New York.

At Portageville, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of Delaware & Hudson/New York, Susquehanna & Western Sealand doublestack train symbol NY10 with SD45 3630 working east. The back of the train is crossing the old Portage Bridge over the Letchworth Gorge, so the train is walking along at about 10mph.

At the time NYSW was designated operator of Delaware & Hudson, which included D&H’s trackage rights to Buffalo.

Working with my Leica M2 fitted with a f2.0 50m Summicron, I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 at f4.5 1/250thof second at 9:14 am.
Working with my Leica M2 fitted with a f2.0 50m Summicron, I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 at f4.5 1/250thof second at 9:14 am. 


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Burlington E9 at Aurora from the ‘Seconds File’.

The other day I found this Kodachrome 64 slide in my 1980s ‘Seconds File’.

‘Seconds’ meaning ‘not so good.’

Its been a long time since Burlington Northern E9s worked Chicago-Aurora commuter trains.

My photography skills in August 1984 were rudimentary and my sense of exposure was less than ideal.

So! I made a multi-pass scan of the old slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 slide scanner operated with VueScan software (version 9.6.09).

In post-processing using Lightroom, I made a host of adjustments to contrast, exposure and color balance, while manipulating shadows and highlights locally and introducing a degree of electronic sharpening in an effort to overcome some of the technical inadequacies of the original slide.

Adjustment took less than 10 minutes.

Aurora, Illinois, August 1984. Kodachrome 64 slide scan without manipulation.

Aurora, Illinois, August 1984. Adjusted Kodachrome 64 slide.

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East Deerfield—Twenty Two Years Ago Today.

On January 13, 1997, I exposed this Fujichrome Provia slide of Guilford’s EDWJ ready to depart Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard (Massachusetts).

This was two years prior to the Conrail divide and at the time East Deerfield was a relatively quiet place.

I was working with my N90S fitted with a Nikkor 80-200 AF zoom lens.

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Amtrak—30thStreet Station Philadelphia: Seven Lumix Views.

I had almost an hour at 30thStreet Station, Philadelphia while waiting for Amtrak 94 from Washington.

This magnificent former Pennsylvania Railroad Station offers a mix of classical and modern railroading.

Wandering with my ‘new’ Lumix LX7, I made this selection of hand-held digital photographs.

Of special interest was the old Solari board used to display arrival and departure information. This was under repair/adjustment. I’ve heard that it may be soon retired.

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Dublin—Almost 20 Years Ago.

Looking East on Wellington Quay toward the Loop Line Bridge and Dublin’s Custom House.

In March 1999, I exposed this portrait view from a rooftop on Wellington Quay. Entrance to the building was just opposite ‘The Temple Bar’.

Working with an N90S with a Tokina 400mm lens, I quickly composed this frame as Irish Rail’s evening ‘down Rosslare’ rolled across the Loop Line bridge behind an EMD-built 071 class diesel.

Last week, I scanned this Fujichrome Sensia II colour slide on using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner.

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