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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.


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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Amtrak Turbo Train—Rochester.

In November 1986, I exposed this view on a free roll of Kodak T-max 100 supplied to me by Kodak.

At the time, I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology learning about photography.

Where other students focused on perfume bottles and what not, I was more interested in capturing the scene on the old Water Level Route.

Amtrak’s morning departure from Rochester made for a good subject to test the free roll of film.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Mark3s, Semaphores and a Crow: Irish Rail at Killarney 14 Years Ago


On this day, 10 January 2005, I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II slide of an Irish Rail train from Tralee at Killarney, County Kerry.

This was shortly before Mini-CTC resignalling would close the cabin and remove all the classic mechanical signaling.

At the time 201 diesels and Mark3 carriages were the norm and not noteworthy; but they seem pretty cool today.

I like the crow perched on the semaphore blade.

Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor telephoto, metered manually with a handheld external meter.

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Classic Chrome: BNSF piggyback on the Rio Grande.


The ‘Ides of March’ 1997; Sagers, Utah along Union Pacific’s old Denver & Rio Grande Western mainline.

Fellow photographer Mel Patrick and I were traveling back from WinteRail ’97 (held in Stockton, California) and made a project of photographing trains in the Utah and Nevada deserts.

It was at 6:38 AM that I exposed this trailing view of a short BNSF piggyback train heading eastward toward Denver.

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

Conrail Slide Show Wednesday January 9, 2019.

Conrail Office Car Special at Boston in November 1987.

Tomorrow Wednesday January 9, 2019, at 730pm, I’ll be presenting a slide show on Conrail to the Amherst Railway Society in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.

The program will feature some of my finest vintage slides; Kodachrome and otherwise.

Conrail NHSE at Chester, Massachusetts.

Westward Conrail MBSE ‘The Queen’ approaching the Pioneer Valley Railroad diamond in Westfield, Massachusetts—a scene much changed today.

Amherst Railway Society’s Clubhouse is located in the old Palmer Grange building on South Main Street near the intersection with Route 32, a stone’s throw from the old Tennyville Bridge over CSX’s former Conrail—Boston & Albany—mainline.

See Amherst Railway Society’s page for details:

http://www.amherstrail.org/ARS/meeting-Jan2019.php

http://www.amherstrail.org/ARS/meeting-Jan2019.php

Tracking the Light posts Every Day!

Philadelphia on Film


New Years Day I exposed two rolls of Ilford HP5 (400 ISO) using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens.

In my wanders in Philadelphia to capture the festive splendor of the annual Mummers parade, I also made images of the city’s architecture and neighborhoods.

Philadelphia is a city of contrasts, and my aim was to produce stark and revealing photographs. Urban textures are enhanced by the silvery selenium enhanced highlight, inky black shadows.

By intent there’s a foreboding darkness to these images.

Granularity and shallow depth of field are characteristics my choice of lens and film and make for distinctive photos. These are distinctly different than digital images I made during the same outing.

My chemical process is non-standard: in addition to split processing the film (using two stage development), I selenium-toned my finished negatives to alter contrast.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner, then made very slight adjustments in post processing.

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When Color Just Doesn’t Work—Norristown, PA.


On our SEPTA exploration January 2, 2019, we visited the Norristown Transportation Center, where we changed from the former Reading Company heavy rail line to the old Philadelphia & Western ‘High Speed’ line.

The elevated station for the old P&W route offers a stunning view of the trestle over the Schuykill River.

A grand view, yes, but the light was about as uninspiring as it gets; I was faced with dull, colorless January gloom.

I made a few photos of a Norristown-bound car scuttling across the bridge.

As color photos these are pretty hopeless.

This is a JPG created without adjustment from the Lumix LX7 camera RAW. There isn’t much color in this scene.

Working with the camera RAW, I de-saturated the image then adjusted the contrast to make the most out of the scene.

You might ask, ‘why didn’t I just make a B&W film photo?’

My answer is: ‘I was traveling light, and didn’t bring a film camera’

I think I’ll just need to return on a brighter day.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day. Even when its dull and colorless.

SEPTA Sampler—January 2, 2019.


On Wednesday January 2, 2019, my brother and I made an adventure of exploring the SEPTA system.

We bought Independence Passes, which offer essentially unlimited travel on the SEPTA transportation system for a day, and we sampled a variety of modes and lines.

We began at Parkside Avenue by boarding the number 40 bus (GASP!), then to the Market-Frankford rapid transit. At Jefferson Station/Market East we picked up a heavy rail train to Norristown where we transferred to the  old Philadelphia & Western high-speed line to 69thStreet.

From there the Media trolley to its namesake (yes, there’s a town called Media, Pennsylvania, and it’s one of the last with a single track trolley right up the main street.) Reaching the end of the trolley line at Orange Street, we walked to the old PRR station, and boarded a train that ran through to West Trenton, New Jersey, although we alighted at Woodbourne, PA to meet our friend Pat Yough, who took us by road to a nearby pub.

Our return trip retraced our steps to Philadelphia’s suburban station, where after some trials and missteps, eventually found the appropriate bus (GASP!) and this brought us back to where we began.

The light was dreary, but I made photos anyway using with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm digital cameras.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown High-Speed Line car interior. Lumix LX7 photo.
69th Street, Upper Darby. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

SEPTA Silverliner V at Woodbourne, PA. FujiFilm XT1.

The Vault brew pub in Yardley, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.


Our return train on the old Reading Company at Yardley. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Philadelphia City Hall. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday.

Philadelphia—A Dozen Lumix Views from January 1, 2019.

In our wanders around Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, I made dozens of digital image with my new Lumix LX7.

For these photos I was using the external viewfinder, an attachment that connects via the top of camera hot shoe. This makes it easier to compose in bright daylight.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Brian Solomon’s Conrail Slide Show—Wednesday January 9, 2019.

In Early October 1997, Conrail C30-7As lead a westward freight on the old Boston & Albany at Muddy Pond near Washington Summit at Hinsdale, Massachusetts.


At 730 pm this coming Wednesday, January 9, 2019, I’ll be presenting a slide show on Conrail to the Amherst Railway Society in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.

The year 2019 marks the 20thanniversary of the divide of Conrail operations between CSX and Norfolk Southern so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on Conrail’s operations.

The program will feature some of my finest vintage slides; Kodachrome and otherwise.

Amherst Railway Society’s Clubhouse is located in the old Palmer Grange Hall on the south side of South Main Street near the intersection with Route 32, a stone’s throw from the old Tennyville Bridge over CSX’s former Conrail—Boston & Albany—mainline. Ample parking is available.

See Amherst Railway Society’s page for details:

http://www.amherstrail.org/ARS/meeting-Jan2019.php

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

New Haven on New Years Eve—It Ain’t Pretty, but it’s busy!


Many years ago, my old pal T.S. Hoover and I would make a project of photographing the old New Haven Railroad during the holiday season.

This past New Years Eve (December 31 2018), I maintained this tradition, although that wasn’t my intent!

I was transferring from Amtrak 405 from Springfield to Amtrak 195 from Boston. Let’s just say the Boston train wasn’t holding to the advertised and I had ample time to wander around and make photographs of the passing action.

New Haven isn’t pretty,  high level platforms combined with a plethora of poles, catenary masts, catenary, signs, garbage, stray wires and other visual clutter hasn’t improved this classic setting, but there’s a great variety of equipment on the move.

Shoreline East lurking on left, CT Rail Hartford Line on right; FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
CT Rail Hartford Line train. Lumix LX7 photo.
Shoreline East train with a former Amtrak P40 at the back departs eastward for Old Saybrook. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

Metro North M8s on left, old M2s on the right. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens..

No GG1s, RDCs, FL9s, E8s or other relics that made this a fascinating place when I was a teenager. For that matter there weren’t any E60s, AEM-7s, F40s or SPV-2000s either.

Boston-bound Acela Express. Lumix LX7 photo.

Boston-bound Acela Express. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

And finally, train 195! Hooray! Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Houston Rail Freight at Night—December 18, 2018.


Low clouds, bright city lights, and lots of freight on the move; that was my brief experience touring Houston’s railroad yards on the evening of December 18, 2018.

Tom Kline gave my father and me a whirlwind tour and I made atmospheric grab shots as we drove around.

The photos here were made using high-ISO on my FujiFilm XT1. These were made ‘on the fly’, handheld from Tom’s truck without benefit of a tripod or set up time.

I was delighted with my results and I’ve promised Tom that someday I’ll return for some daylight photography.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Lumix LX-‘Mark3’ with Low Sun.


Back in October 2018, I reported how my old Lumix LX7 suffered a failure owning to being drowned two days in a row.

Later I reported how I resuscitated the camera by leaving it in a zip lock bag with rice for four days in an effort to dry it out.

For two months the camera struggled on.

In the mean time my old friend Ken Buck offered to sell me his rarely used LX7.

Last week I took him up on the offer, as my original LX7 had finally reached the end of its usefulness.

The other day, I put the ‘new’ Lumix LX7 to the test and made these photos of Amtrak 57, the Saturday southward Vermonter making its station stop at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

Low sun is a key to dramatic railway photos, and shortly before the train arrived, the clouds parted.

This is now my third Lumix LX-series camera. My first was a LX3, that I used from October 2009 to April 2014; my second was the ‘Zombie Lumix’ previously described.  Long live my third Lumix!

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Palmer, Massachusetts—CSX B740: Three GP40-2s and calendar lighting.


Some weeks ago, I had a few minutes before running an errand. I stopped in at CP83 near the old Palmer Union Station.

My timing was nearly perfect. Not long after I arrived, I heard a familiar roar to the west.

The air was clear, and the sounds of EMD 645 diesels were resonating as they worked eastbound.

I thought, ‘must be the B740’ (the CSX local freight that typically arrives in Palmer about mid-morning to work the interchange.)

I walked up to the South Main Street bridge. As the train approached Palmer, it enters a short down grade, so the roar quieted. This change in pitch might confuse a novice visitor, who might become discouraged at the very moment a train is about to pass.

Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, CSX B740 rolled into view and took the switch at CP83 onto the controlled siding.

Perfect low and clear December sun over my left shoulder made for a calendar scene.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.

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