I exposed this view of Central Vermont GP9s on Kodak 120 Tri-X Professional, a film that came with an ISO rating of 320 compared with 400 for the off-the-shelf variety.
This was CV’s southward road freight number 444 which terminated at the Palmer yard, south of the crossing with Conrail’s former Boston & Albany.
I made this image on July 23, 1986; the previous day Conrail began its single track operation of the Boston Line by cutting-in CP83 and CP92, removing one track from service and thus ending directional double-track operation (rule 251) between those two points.
Close examination of this photo will show that the old westward main track is cut short of the CV crossing.
This was one of many photos I made around Palmer during the single tracking of the B&A route. Today the CV route is operated by New England Central, and the Boston & Albany line is CSX. There were far fewer trees by the tracks back in 1986.
In September 1988, I was set up at Dixon’s on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad line over Attica Hill.
Roaring up the grade with a CSX SD40-2 in the lead was this Delaware & Hudson Sealand doublestack land-bridge train bound for Little Ferry, New Jersey. The New York, Susquehanna & Western had just been appointed designated operator of the D&H, and NYSW locomotives were common on many D&H road freights.
Land-bridge trains, such as this one, reached the east coast via Delaware & Hudson trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie mainlines between Binghamton and Buffalo, New York, and NYSW’s rights on the old Erie east of Binghamton.
Catching a CSX painted locomotive was a rare find in western New York in 1988, and finding one leading on the Erie seemed like a special treat.
This represents window in time in the dynamic melting pot of western New York railroading in the late 1980s.
After exposing this black & white view using my dad’s Rollei model T, I followed the train east and exposed dozens of photos along the way.
Less often photographed than the famous Horseshoe Curve, is Bennington Curve further up the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade toward Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.
Back in July 1987, my pal TSH and I camped near the curve. I was kept awake by the roar of uphill diesels and the ear-piercing flange squeal of wheels in the curve. At sunrise I was track side to photograph the action.
One of my first images of the morning was this black & white view of a light helper set returning down grade toward Altoona to assist a westward freight.
At that time Conrail routinely assigned its 13 former Erie-Lackawanna SD45-2s as helpers based at Cresson near the top of the hill on the West Slope.
Classic photo from my archives: In the late 1980s, I’d buy film from Frantek in South Hadley, Massachusetts. This was across the Connecticut River from Holyoke.
Typically on my way back with a fresh load of film, I’d seek out the Boston & Maine, which would often have a switcher working the Holyoke yard or on industrial sidings.
Guilford had just repainted this old Boston & Maine SW1 into its company livery and lettered it for its operating entity Springfield Terminal. The SW1 was colloquially known as a ‘Pup’ because it was a small switcher type.
The view is looking toward Springfield with B&M’s Connecticut River bridge just beyond the factories.
A week ago, Friday 8 March 2019, toward the end of our exploration of Bord na Mona’s Lough Rea narrow gauge network near Lanesborough Co. Longford, the sky grew textured and glowed with evening magnificence.
I made this view of an empty Bord na Mona train crossing the bog on its way to reload.
The trick making this photo work was to expose for the sky while letting the train go relatively dark. I was working with Ilford HP5 black & white film, and during processing, I used two developers followed by selenium toning of the negatives to extract the maximum shadow detail.
My intent was a moody and stark view of the train against the textured sky.
A little while ago I made this pair of photos at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
In a repeat of a few weeks back clouds were racing across the sky making for wild changes in the quality of light from moment to moment.
First up was today’s (14 March 2019) IWT Liner from Dublin’s North Wall to Ballina, County Mayo. This had 073 in retro orange. A few minutes later, Irish Rail 080 came around with an empty LWR (Long welded rail train).
The clouds foiled my first effort. But breaks in the cloud allowed for respectable telephoto view of the LWR. On the downside, my 50mm colour slide of same won’t be as impressive as the clouds quickly dampened the light again.
Such are the challenges of photographing moving trains in Ireland.
On May 2, 1987, Doug Eisele and I spent the day photographing trains on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.
We been following Conrail TV301, a double-stack train carrying APL containers on a transcontinental land-bridge movement toward the west coast. At the time, the Erie route was preferred for double-stacks.
At Dalton, New York we spotted an eastward Delaware & Hudson stack train carrying Sealand containers. This was crawling along the old Erie eastbound number two track at about 10mph, as Conrail didn’t maintain the eastward track for anything faster than that, and instead preferred to route all movements over the number 1 main.
As the Conrail train was flying along, we pulled over and bailed out the car; and I made this hastily composed photograph with my father’s Rollieflex Model T on Kodak TMY (Tmax 400).
Working with my Lumix LX7 I made these three evening glinty views of Irish Rail trains to and from Cork at Dublin’s Heuston Station.
I’ve always loved the soft orange glow of filtered evening light.
Where’s the filter you ask? It’s in the sky. A mix of clouds and pollution—particulates and other stuff—alters the spectral qualities of the setting sun by pushing the color balance toward the red-orange end of the spectrum.
Check out podcast Episode 17 ‘Conversations with Brian Solomon’: On a frosty day, I discuss the ins and outs of the freight car business with industry professional Dan Bigda. This offers an inside look into real freight railroading.
Dan has often asked me to make more photographs of freight cars when I’m out and about on the railroad, so here’s a few recent views of North American freight cars on the move exposed on frosty days during my January 2019 trip to Wisconsin.
Working with Czech-made Fomapan Classic in my Nikon F3, I’ve wandered the streets of Dublin seeking timeless images.
By careful chemical manipulation in the processing of the negatives, I aimed to extract exceptional shadow detail, maintain rich black tones and control highlight areas.
I’ve exposed these views over the last few weeks. In many instances, I’ve set my lenses to their widest apertures both to let greater amounts of light to reach the film, but also for the effects offered shallow depth of field.
Weather, including fog, added to the challenge and the atmosphere.
I have a variety of my favorite images in my screen saver file that the computer brings up at random when I stop using it.
Many are railroad photos, some recent, some from the archives. One is a photo of a Shinkansen high speed train approaching Tokyo, another is a small critter on a railroad tie in Colorado, a third is a recent view on Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central on a bitterly cold evening.
In my mix is this classic view of Santa Fe DASH8-40BW 575 racing eastward through a curve at Willard, New Mexico.
I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 during a trip to California in January 1994. I worked with my old Nikon F3T with a prime 200mm Nikkor telephoto that was one of my staple lenses for many years.
Tracking the Light Posts Something Different Every Day!
June 1996: It had been just over a year since Union Pacific absorbed Chicago & North Western.
I made this view of a westward UP train with SD60M 6276 in the lead.
A father with his young son on a bicycle look on in wonder.
This single frame was exposed with my Nikon F3T and 35PC (perspective control) lens on Kodachrome 25. The film’s slow speed combined with side lighting and minimum aperture of just f3.5 only allowed me a shutter speed of 1/250thof a second, which wasn’t fast enough to freeze the train’s motion in this broadside view.
I feel that the slight motion blur makes the photo because it conveys the speed and mass of the train in contrast to the relative fragility of its on-lookers.
The tree branches at top right help accentuated the blurring effect.
Irish Rail moves zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to the port of Dublin on weekdays. The trains are short and relatively heavy. Owing to restrictions on trackage serving the mine Irish Rail always assigns the General Motors 071 diesels to this run.
Last week, 27 March 2019, Jay Monaghan and I met on the station platforms at Clontarf Road on Dublin’s north side specifically to catch the laden Tara mines passing in the gloom.
A thick wintery fog made for a dose of extra gloom just for good meaure.
I made a variety of test exposures of passing DART trains (Dublin Area Rapid Transit electric suburban service) and got into position for the Main Event.
The drumming of an EMD 12-645 diesel announced the arrival of the evening’s freight.
I made a series of photos Working with my Lumix LX7 digital camera (with ISO racked up to 800), and a Nikon F3 fitted with f1.8 105mm lens and Ilford HP5 film.
I tried to pick and exciting sounding title! These are some more of my thoughts on railroad night photography, the nuts and the bolts:
The other evening at Clontarf Road in Dublin, I was experimenting with various ISO settings in preparation for a more serious photo I was about to expose under the wires on Irish Rail.
Normally with my Lumix LX7, I limit the ISO settings to between 80 and 200, because this camera tends to get noticeably noisy/grainy at the higher settings.
Higher ISO increases the effective sensitivity of the sensor but does so at the expense of image quality, especially in regards to exposure latitude and noise. (Technically that’s not exactly correct, but for the sake of space and clarity that’s how I’m going to explain it here.)
In my night situation using a higher ISO setting will allow me a faster maximum shutter speed, which I need to stop a train in motion. Yet with each one-stop increment the image quality suffers more severely.
Keep in mind with each doubling of the ISO, the camera gains one stop: So, ISO 100 to 200 is one stop, 200 to 400 one stop, etc; and each jump allows an equivalent one stop increase in shutter speed. So in the lighting conditions at my location and using my LX7 aperture set at f1.4, ISO 100 allowed 1/15 of a second; ISO 200 1/30th; ISO 400 1/60th; ISO 800 1/125. Obviously, I needed to go higher than ISO 200 to stop the action. (Or simply pan the train, but that’s a story for another post).
Here are two views of static DART electric trains in low light that I made simply as comparison tests to see how the higher ISO setting compared visually. (Ignore the minor variations in composition).
At the small size displayed for internet viewing there’s only a slight difference. One is at the camera’s minimum ISO setting which is 80; the other is at 800, which three and a third stops faster.
Here’s a few black & white views exposed last week on Kodak Tri-X of Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to the North Wall/Connolly.
Recently, Irish Rail has expanded service on the Grand Canal Docks—Hazel Hatch/Newbridge run and now trains run at least hourly throughout the day.
Following a Grand Canal Docks bound passenger train was the daily Up IWT Liner (Ballina to North Wall, Dublin).
Since these trains were coming out of the relatively harsh midday sun, I opted to work with black & white film, which makes the most of the contrast and allows me to control shadow and highlight detail to a greater degree than with my digital cameras, while giving the images a period look.
To maximize tonality and detail from the negatives I employed a ‘split process’ using two developers.
First I use a very weak solution of Kodak HC110 mixed 1 to 250 to water. To intensify the detail in shadows while avoiding over processing highlight areas, I keep the developer temperature comparatively high (73F) and allow it to work to exhaustion. My second developer is Ilford ID mixed 1-1 for 6 minutes 45 seconds with one minute agitation intervals. Then stop; fix 1, fix 2, rinse for 3 minutes, hypoclear, then a series of final washes. Dry and scan.
It was Conrail’s 12thbirthday! And that was many years ago.
My old pal TSH and I were exploring the former Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division and visited Spruce Creek where we photographed this eastward freight.
The old heavy-weight sleeping car converted for Penn-Central/Conrail maintenance of way (work equipment) makes the photograph fascinating. I’d never seen cars like this in revenue service and simply having relics like it on the move connected me to an earlier era.
Seeing this Kodachrome 25 slide makes me yearn for the days when we’d be trackside on Conrail and never know what might pass. It seemed a like endless adventure and every train brought something new and unexpected.
The weather? Not great, but I’d stand there now without complaint.