I made this view using my Lumix LX7 at Porto’s Campanha Station on Friday 29 March 2019. I’ve posted this using a wireless ‘hotspot’ connection from my MacBook to my iPhone. Apologies if the quality isn’t up to standards or if the photo doesn’t load quickly.
I’ve exposed hundreds of photos in Portugal over the last few days. It may take some time before I’ve had time to sort through every thing.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a hillside with fellow photographer Denis McCabe overlooking the supremely scenic Douro Valley awaiting the passage of an English Electric diesel-hauled passenger train, as per the recommendations of Tracking the Light reader Stephen Hirsch.
This week Tracking the Light is on ‘auto pilot’ while Brian is traveling.
On 23 March 2019, I set up in Drumcondra along the Royal Canal on Dublin’s north side to photograph trains working the Newcomen Line.
Normally the visually intriguing Newcomen line trackage is only lightly used during midday with most moves scheduled for weekday rush hours.
Instead, Irish Rail typically routes trains on the parallel double-track line via Drumcondra Station; however on the weekend of 23-24 March 2019 works on that line resulted in diversions to the Newcomen Line.
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
I’ll admit that if you’re not closely familiar with Irish Rail’s Dublin operations my title to today’s Tracking the Light post might seem cryptic.
Two of the Irish Rail 201 class General Motors diesels, 231 and 233, are painted in a minimalist silver, black and yellow livery. These are colloquially known in the enthusiast community as ‘raccoons’ (or ‘badgers’).
Engine number 233 has been shy lately and rarely seen out on the mainline.
RPSI stands for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
RPSI owns an historic set of Cravens-built passenger carriages.
These are stored/maintained at Irish Rail’s Inchicore works (repair shops), and when they are required for an excursion, Irish Rail makes a transfer run across Dublin to deliver them to Connolly station for boarding.
The graded three-track line from Islandbridge Junction to Inchicore runs through a cutting along Con Colbert Road known as ‘the Gullet’.
While I’ve covered most of this previously, I figure it doesn’t hurt to review the esoteric every so often to avoid confusion.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.
Just a little while ago I was passing the usual place at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. Although mostly cloudy, I took a glimpse over the wall. A horn hooted from the Phoenix Park tunnel and an Enterprise 201 eased out onto the Liffey Bridge.
As locomotive 206 approached, running light engine toward Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works, the clouds parted and brilliant morning sun illuminated the junction.
Lumix in hand, I made these photos!
Travel Notice: Brian will be traveling over the coming days and weeks, so Tracking the Light notices and responses may become infrequent. However:
Last Friday (22 March 2019), Mark Healy and I met in the Dublin city centre to seek out an elusive tram, recently dressed in a yellow advertising livery.
A steady rain was falling by the time we found it.
I made these photos with my Lumix LX7. In post processing, I adjusted the camera RAW files using Lightroom to improve colour temperature, make the contrast more appealing, and restore texture to the afternoon sky.
Please note: Although Brian will be traveling next week, Tracking the Light will continue to post articles every day.
It was Spring 1989 when I made this view of Delaware & Hudson’s westward EBBU at West Middlebury, New York on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad line from Hornell to Buffalo.
This was during New York, Susquehanna & Western’s operation of D&H, after it left the Guilford system and before it was acquired by Canadian Pacific.
Leading the train is a Delaware & Hudson locomotive still wearing Guilford colors but lacking the big ‘G’ on the side.
West Middlebury was a preferred location to catch mid-morning westward trains because the alignment of the railroad favored the morning sun as actually it ran southwest-northeast before curling around to get over Attica Hill.
I was still studying photography at the Rochester Institute of Photography, and typically worked with my antique Leica and Rolleiflex cameras. However for this image, I owe the generosity of my college roommate, Bob, who lent me his Hassleblad 503C for the day. I loaded this with Kodachrome 64 120, which offered superb sharpness and color rendering.
The camera’s 80mm Zeiss Planar lens was among the sharpest lenses available.
To demonstrate this fantastic combination of camera and film, I’ve offered three versions of this photo. The first is the uncropped image; the others show degrees of cropping to demonstrate both the versatility of the Hasselblad’s square format and the ability to crop in while retaining detail and sharpness.
I made this view handheld, and unfortunately didn’t get the level 100 percent perfect, so for years this view sat in my ‘seconds’ file. You could make a wall size print from the original chrome and count the blades of grass.
Looking at this Conrail photo makes me feel that March 23, 1989 wasn’t that long ago.
I’d left my apartment in Scottsville, New York before dawn and headed west on Rt33 in my white Toyota Corolla.
I knew I had a westbound climbing Batavia Hill—the nominal rise of the Water Level Route that ascended the Niagara Escarpment on the way toward Buffalo.
My Leica M2 was loaded with Kodachrome 200 ‘Fast Kodachrome’ (three stops faster than K25, which was my normal film in 1989).
I parked the car west of Batavia near CP406 (where New York Central’s 1950s track re-alignment to avoid downtown Batavia rejoined the historic railroad route). With time running short, I hike east beneath the code lines and set up my Leica with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto on my Bogen 3021 tripod.
I could hear the slow moving westbound as the sun glimmered above the horizon. But then behind me fast moving eastward stack train blasted for Donahue Road. . .
The headlight of the westbound appeared and over the next few seconds I captured a running meet between the two Conrail trains. K200’s warm color balance and grain structure made for the perfect combination to distill the moment.
I’ve run this photo in various publications and it’s one of my favorite Water Level Route views.
I spent the rest of the day photographing along the former Erie Railroad, which was alive with trains. I remember it all as if it was yesterday.
It was August 1987 and the last day of a ten epic adventure photographing trains in western New York, Ontario, and Pennsylvania.
My pal TSH and I had exhausted our film reserves and were getting ready for the big drive home.
I made this street view looking railroad-west on Front Street in Cresson, Pennsylvania using my dad’s Rolleiflex model T. I scanned this B&W negative recently using an Epson V500 and cleaned it up in Lightroom.
You can just feel the heat in the air. A trio of Conrail GP38s has just pulled by, probably for service on one of the secondary lines that radiated from the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Cresson.
We made a quick visit to MG Tower and Horseshoe Curve on the way down the hill.
In March 1987, I made a trip to the scenic Canisteo Valley where I photographed trains on the former Erie Railroad.
I made this view at the Canisteo River Road crossing at West Cameron, New York of DODX 6-axle flats carrying tanks. This was an eastward Conrail BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) freight and it was rolling along at a healthy speed.
At the time, I was experimenting with my black & white process. Unfortunately, I should have experimented with film of subjects that wouldn’t have been so interesting to me 30 years after the fact.
This roll of 120 film has been largely unseen since the 1980s. My ineffective trial yielded uneven processing and negatives that were difficult to print with poor tonality.
Today, I think the subject matter is fascinating despite the inept process.
The irony was that I was adapting a formula recommended to me by former New York Central photographer Ed Nowak. The lesson here is don’t allow a New York Central photographer advise you on how to process photos of the Erie Railroad! (Railroad photography humor).
—Some nocturnal views of Dublin suburban operations—
Working in the gloom of night has its challenges and benefits.
It’s especially challenging when the camera I intended to make film photos was suffering from a flat battery, again (so I thought).
One of my Nikon F3s was again showing signs of no electricity. Changing out the batteries on an railcar, I began to suspect something else . . .
Anyway, last week Paul Maguire, Jay Monaghan and I arrived at Pearse Station as a potential location to picture Irish Rail’s Sperry train that was making its run to Bray to inspect rail conditions.
We decided to try the next station down the line, and traveled on a DART electric train to Grand Canal Docks. With my Nikon dead in the water, I opted to work with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm digital cameras instead. This changed my perspective as I’d hope to make black & white film photos.
As we waited on the platforms for the Sperry train. I made photos of the DART and suburban diesel railcars, which dominate operations on this route.
Diesel haulage is the attraction of the elusive Sperry train; and on this evening Irish Rail 086 did the honors.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
Oh yeah, about the F3T’s battery problem. Later, I discovered that the plastic cartridge that holds the batteries appeared to have developed a short. Luckily, I have a spare F3 and swapped out the cartridge solving this difficulty.
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.