On April 23, 2000, I exposed this view of Irish Rail 072 with Mark 2s at Sligo.
It was a typical overcast Irish day.
Working with Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO 100), my result was a slightly underexposed colour slide, common with these unflattering lighting conditions.
To improve the photograph, I scanned the original slide at very high resolution (4000 dpi) using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 digital scanner and outputted the file as a hi-res TIF.
I then imported the TIF into Lightroom and made a few minor changes to contrast, colour balance, and exposure that I feel make for a much-improved photograph.
While I can output the adjusted file as a TIF, the resulting file size is much too large for presentation on this site. Instead, I’ve made a pair of low-res JPG’s specifically sized for internet presentation here. One is scaled from the un-adjusted original scan, the other is my improved scan.
At the end of the day (no, really, like the sun was setting and everything) photographers Pat Yough, Tim Doherty and I set up at Coolidge Corner on MBTA’s Green Line Beacon Street route.
Soft golden glint made for some nice light.
I made these images with my Lumix LX7 in RAW format, imported the files into Lightroom where I made adjustments to lighten the shadow areas and soften the contrast, then exported as small Jpg files for internet presentation here.
I have a zillion photographs in Palmer, Massachusetts.
‘Zillion’ inferring an undetermined non-specific large quantity.
So why chase CSX’s Q263 down the Valley?
We arrived at the site of the old Boston & Albany freight house at the west end of Palmer yard just in time to catch Q263 (empty autorack train from East Brookfield) passing Mass-Central’s local freight.
Mike Gardner and I had photographed CSX’s loaded autorack train Q264-21 (as featured with ‘DPU’ the other day on Tracking the Light) and were waiting for the crew to take the empty autorack Q263-23 west.
For more than an hour we waited at milepost 67 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
As recommended, I made several test shots with my Fujifilm XT1 as the lighting conditions changed.
Then finally Mike announced ‘HEADLIGHT!’
I exposed a test burst of photos CSX Q263-3 in the distance and then . . .
[insert expletive here]
With a 32GB card, I can store hundreds of images. So many that I forget to even check how many I have left. And so at this critical moment, I’m left pixel-less.
Well, thankfully I had my Lumix LX7 around my neck and so managed a close-up photograph anyway. But there’s a lesson for you in this story. And for me too!
In August 1981, my family and I set off to Pennsylvania in our 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.
Among our holiday adventures was arriving at Enola on a sweltering hot afternoon.
The consensus was to find a place to stay. I wanted to see the famous railroad yard. The solution proved to be a motel called the ‘Summerdale Junction Inn’ (or something like that) which overlooked Conrail’s sprawling former Pennsylvania Railroad yards.
We requested a room trackside.
While the rest of the family relaxed by the pool, I attempted to make photos from the motel window using my father’s Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt.
At the time I was delighted to see so many locomotives, including a great many former PRR E44 electrics which had been recently stored owning to Conrail’s decision to discontinue its electric freight operations (long complicated story that will be addressed in my upcoming Conrail book).
This isn’t a great photo. There’s too many wires, too many bushes and the hazy light was less than ideal.
Glad I have it though. I may consider it for the book. Unless youhave a better view of all the stored electrics!
In recent months CSX has adopted the practice of using distributed power on the former Boston & Albany.
Distributed power is essentially the application of radio-remote controlled locomotives positioned deep in a freight train and/or at its end to reduce drawbar stress and improve starting and braking characteristics with very long/heavy trains.
The concept dates to the 1960s, but much improved radio-controlled remote technology was introduced by GE-Harris in the 1990s where it has become standard operating practice, and the remote locomotives being known as distributed power units (DPUs)
Still, to me it seems like a novelty on the Boston & Albany route.
Yesterday (May 23, 2019), I made my first photographs of a CSX train with a DPU working east of Palmer.
Mike Gardner and I caught Q-264 (the loaded autorack train destined to East Brookfield) from the field of Route 67 near CP79.
By B&A standards, this was an enormous train for just two modern GE diesels.
I exposed these photographs using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens.
Here’s another photo from the darkest depths of my archives, hidden away for decades and scanned on Monday.
From a technical standpoint it is not a great photo. It was never meant to be.
I exposed this view in 1978. I was aged 12 and the diamond on a curved section of track caught my interest so I photographed what I saw. The making of this image is not more complicated than that.
As I remember it: this view shows some disused industrial/yard trackage on the periphery of the former Boston & Maine/Rutland yard in Bellows Falls, Vermont. I exposed the photo on trip to visit Steamtown and Bellows Falls with my family. I seem to remember insisting that my parents stop the car so I could make the picture.
I’m happy that I had the foresight to expose this photo, but I wish that I could have documented this odd scrap of track in a more effective way. Yet that’s a lot to ask of a 12 year old with a camera!
Not every photo wins a prize, but some age better than others!
You might ask, ‘what does this have to do with railway photography?’
Nothing. And Everything.
Several years ago my concerns over the lack of long-term archival storage for my growing collection of railroad photographs (and those of my fellow photographers) led me to begin working with scientists at Creative Technology LLC, including my father Richard Jay Solomon, Clark Johnson Jr., and Eric Rosenthal, in order to find a means of preserving photography, especially digital photography, by using proven technologies.
This evolved into a much larger project aimed at preserving and storing all digital media using silver technology—similar to that used to make photographs.
NASA took an interest in Creative Technology’s concept and offered to send examples of Creative Technology’s storage media to the International Space Station to test its ability to withstand the rigors of the space environment.
Creative Technology test materials that I helped create were launched via a SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket on May 3, 2019 and docked at the International Space Station on May 6th.
This brings the Creative Technology concept closer to a commercial manifestation.
When the materials are returned in several months time, Creative Technology can further the analysis of the storage medium which hopefully will facilitate NASA’s application of this technology for long-term data storage among other applications.
Below is Creative Technology’s press release detailing the invention and its promise.
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.
NASA International Space Station Will Test Innovative Data Storage System to Preserve Vital Human Records
Can data survive in space over extremely long times and multiple human generations? The possibility of human colonies on other planets may ultimately depend on just such data stability. Now, a patented innovative long-term archival data storage system created by a Delaware-based firm is being tested on the International Space Station (ISS) for up to a year.
The system developed by Creative Technology LLC (CTech) of Hockessin, DE, applies a century-old tested archival media for photography in a completely new way for storing high-density computer data in perpetuity. Inherently secure, low-cost technology is used that cannot be hacked or altered. CTech’s archival media can be used to store critical DNA and healthcare records, financial information and contracts, family photos and records which need to preserved for multiple human generations
NASA’s ISS test will determine if data on CTech’s media can survive a hostile space environment during long-term space missions, such as the mission to Mars and beyond. Today, conventional media, such as hard drives, magnetic tape, and solid state memory, are vulnerable to decay and bit rot due to gamma and cosmic rays and age deterioration.
CTech’s media is a green technology which can be stored for long periods in normal room environments without excessive energy for cooling or maintenance, opening up a new opportunity for storing secure data for extended periods of time without the need for energy.
CTech is a group of technologists with over 300 years collective experience in human perception, image capture & display, photosensitive media, data storage & compression, and video and telecomm applications and technology. CTech sponsors have included NSA, the Naval Research Lab, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, & DARPA.
All media used today have to be continually replicated and authenticated in order to be readable even in less than one human lifetime, and that process alone incurs new errors each time the data is copied. CTech avoids that problem, saving enormous labor and energy costs over long periods.
Or should I say ‘A diamond meet’? This slide sat for more than 33 years in a box.
At the time of exposure it didn’t seem remarkable; just a back lit view of Conrail B23-7s and Central Vermont Railway GP9s at the Palmer, Massachusetts diamond.
This was a common every day occurrence and the locomotives were among the most frequently seen in the Palmer area in 1985.
I didn’t have the best lens and my exposures were lacking refinement.
Conrail’s SBSE (South Braintree to Selkirk) works west as Central Vermont local 561 waits to cross the Palmer diamond on the morning of June 25, 1985. This was 13 months before Conrail single-tracked its former Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield.
In 1998 on a visit to the Irish Railway Record Society Dublin premises, I took a few minutes to photograph from the far end of platform five. I recall, that at the time, this area was accessible without the need to pass through the main station nor transit a ticket barrier. This was four years before construction of platforms six, seven and eight.
Working with a Nikon F3T fitted with an old non AI f2.8 135mm lens, I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia (ISO 100) colour slide of a two-piece 2600 ‘Arrow’ departing Heuston for Kildare.
The Spring evening sun was setting on the north side of the tracks and heavy particulates in the air made for a red-orange tint.
I exposed the slide for the highlights by carefully examining the overall lighting situation with my handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter and setting the camera manually. This prevented gross overexposure and loss of highlight detail, while making for a relatively dark slide.
Recently, I made a multiple pass scan using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 operated with Vue Scan software, and then imported the high resolution TIF into Lightroom to adjust shadow areas for greater visual detail.
My intent was not to negate the effect of shadows, but simply to reduce the impenetrable inky effect and allow for better separation in the darker areas.
It was just an ordinary day when I made this impromptu view of Irish Rail 225 working a Mark 3 push pull set on Dublin’s Loop Line crossing over Gardner Street Lower.
What was common in 1998 seems pretty neat today. I’m glad I exposed the slide!
To make the most of this photograph, I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Scoolscan5000 then imported the TIF file into Lightroom for contrast and exposure refinement plus colour balance and colour temperature adjustment.
For today’s Tracking the Light, I fished out a pair of slides I made back in October 2004 during a chase with New England Central 608 south from Palmer, Massachusetts.
On that day the freight was led by four GP38s, all facing southward, and I was seeking a location to capture this unusual event. (For the record, out of the photograph, there was a fifth GP38 in consist facing north).
Although imperfect, owing to clutter and brush in the foreground, I selected this elevated view north of Mansfield Depot.
I scanned the slides last night in preparation for this post. I don’t think they’d ever been out of the box before. Luckily I’d recorded the date and particulars on the slide box which saved me have to scan through my notebooks from 15 years ago.
I do recall that a friend of mine was visiting from across the pond and he was impressed by the ‘colletion of GMs’ as he called them, working that morning’s train.
Thirty three years ago I made this view of a northward Central Vermont freight crossing Route 32 in South Monson.
(Historically CV had a ‘station’ in South Monson, and another at State Line and these were distinct locations in the railroad’s timetable.)
I exposed this black & white photo with my father’s Rollei Model T set up with a 645-size ‘super slide’ insert and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
One of the challenges of working with the Rollei twin-lens reflex is that the view finder displays a mirror image. This made gauging when to release the shutter of the train especially difficult when it was rolling away, such as in this situation.
The result? I pressed the shutter release a split second sooner than I would have preferred. Of course I didn’t see the problem until after I processed the film
I scanned this negatives, along with others from the day last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. I scaled the file for internet presentation and adjusted contrast in post-processing using Lightroom.
Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.
Last Saturday evening (May 11, 2019), I exposed these digital photographs of Boston’s MBTA Green Line.
At this location three routes effectively converge which makes it an ideal location for shops and car storage.
Decades ago I’d photograph MBTA’s classic PCCs here. With in a few years of my making those images the PCCs were all but banished to the Red Line Mattapan-Ashmont extension. The PCC’s have since become an icon of that route.
Soon MBTA’s streetcar fleet will undergo another transition that will make last week’s photos seem historic.
Years ago among the treats of Friday freight operations in Ireland were the extra moves. One of my favorites was Friday’s Dublin-Waterford Norfolk liner, which tended to get unusual locomotives and operated down-road midday.
On this day, the train had been held in Kildare during a spell of bright sunshine, but when it finally got the signal to proceed down-road clouds dimmed the scene.
Working with a Nikon N90s and a borrowed 300mm lens I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide of Irish Rail 129 leading the Norfolk liner through the crossovers west of Kildare station. This was way back in May 2001—18 years ago!
Last Thursday, May 9, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I set up at the former New Haven Railroad stone arch viaduct over the Farmington River at Windsor, Connecticut to catch CT Rail ‘s southward commuter train number 4407 .
When we arrived a line of a half dozen fishermen were in position on the south bank of the river.
Shortly before the train was due to pass, most of them concluded fishing and began to pack up.
It turns out that the Farmington River bridge is more famous as a place to fish than as a place to picture trains. There’s a plaque about the fishing and everything! Who knew?
When I was a young child my family lived in Newton Centre, an historic suburb of Boston located on the old Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, a railroad that had been converted into a trolley line in 1960.
As a five year old, I’d watch MBTA’s PCC cars pass though, typically operated in multiple sets of two and three cars.
The old B&A railroad station was a relic from former times.
On Saturday, May 11, 2019, after dropping my father on the Logan Express bus for a trip to Portugal, I met some fellow photographers and we visited MBTA’s Newton Centre station on the Green Line.
This was the first stop on our photography of MBTA’s trolley car system.
It was a rare sunny day, and I made these digital photos of the trolley cars as they rolled between Boston and Riverside.
Last Monday, May 6, 2019, was the first properly sunny day after many days of gloomy overcast weather.
In the afternoon, Paul Goewey, John Peters and I followed the Mass-Central Railroad’s line northward toward South Barre. We intercepted the southward freight. This was led by GP38 1750 with the short hood in the lead.
At Ware, it worked a short surviving segment of the old Central Massachusetts, which had run parallel to the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch (the line that comprises most of Mass-Central’s present operation). This old line is used to reach Kanzaki Paper, one of several carload shippers in greater Ware.
I exposed these photos with FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
In late April, Mike Gardner and I made visit to the old graveyard at West Northfield, Massachusetts (south of the junction at East Northfield on the old Boston & Maine), to photograph Amtrak 56 (the Vermonter) on its way to St Albans, Vermont.
Light cloud softened the afternoon sun, which was slightly back-lit at this location for a northward train. To make the most of the old stones and put the entire train in the picture, I opted for my 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
I made minor adjustments to the RAW file in Lightroom to present better contrast in the JPG image presented here.
On May 10, 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleepspublished by Voyageur Press. (The book is now out of print and may be collectible).
I’d selected May 10thbecause of the historic significance of the day. Not only was America’s First Transcontinental Railroad completed on this day in 1869, but several over significant railroads events occurred on this day, including the famous speed run of New York Central 999 west of Batavia, New York in 1892.
On May 10, 2007, I played an active role in making photographs and coordinated with Genesee Valley Transportation to ride a locomotive on their former New York Central Falls Road (now Falls Road Railroad) and boarded the train at Lockport, New York.
My aim was to make photos of the crew to capture the feeling of an active short line railroad. Hal Reiser shadowed the train making photos from the ground, and at one point collected me so I could also make trackside views.
On 10 May 2005, I exposed this color slide of Irish Rail’s Claremorris Liner from Claude Road in Dublin.
This was toward the end of an era; Irish Rail would only move kegs of beer by rail for another year or so after this image was exposed.
At the time I was working with an F3T fitted with a 180mm lens to make the most of the glinting kegs as the train worked west into the setting sun. To minimize flare, I shaded the front element of my lens with my trusty notebook.
Monday, May 6, 2019, we set up at the classic location on the bridge at the junction East Northfield, where the New England Central and Boston & Maine lines come together, immediately south of the Vermont-Massachusetts state line.
Paul Goewey, John Peters and I had convened in Palmer and traveled north along the New England Central hoping to catch 611 on its southward run toward Palmer, which it does most weekday mornings.
We caught it several times, as pictured in Tracking the Light on May 7, 2019, before proceeding to this location.
Elevation and soft morning sun made for an excellent setting to picture the train in action. I made these views using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.
We didn’t rest here, and continue south with the train to make more photographs.