BUOI in the Snow, Future CP Adrian.

Although it was more than 25 years ago, it really doesn’t seem so long since I made this Fujichrome Velvia slide of Conrail’s BUOI (Road freight from Buffalo to Oak Island) along the former Erie Railroad in the Canisteo Valley.

I’d followed the train east from Rock Glen, New York. Steady snow made for slippery road conditions so I took it easy.

Here I’d caught up with the train, which had reached the newly created siding east of Adrian, that would soon become ‘CP Adrian’ (CP for dispatcher Control Point).

Work was under way at the time, but the new color light signals hadn’t been commissioned and the old semaphores that had governed movements under rule 241 (current of traffic) remained in place, but deactivated.

Working with my Nikon F3T and 105mm lens, I exposed this view as the train waited for permission to proceed east.

Velvia was a finicky film and it was tough to nail the exposure in some conditions Getting the snow exposure right was tricky, but since the train wasn’t moving I made a bracket—in other words I exposed several slides with slight exposure variations. You can see that it was relatively dark by the illumination in the number boards on 6118.

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Redstone Special

Panoramic composite photo of RDC 23 at Pudding Pond in July 2019.

One of the hidden gems of the Conway Scenic Railroad is their ‘Redstone Line’.

This is the former Maine Central Mountain Division trackage that runs compass east from Mountain Junction near Intervale, New Hampshire.

This summer I had several opportunities to catch RDC number 23 Millieworking Friday afternoon specials to Redstone.

I’m now 4,000 miles from Redstone, but this weekend will be a very rare opportunity to travel the full length of Conway’s Maine Central trackage on a special run scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.

This special Notch Train will run to the Saco River Bridge east of Redstone and then proceed back west to Mountain Junction and continue all the way over Crawford Notch to the west-end of Conway Scenic trackage at Hazens near Whitefield.

It will also be an opportunity to catch steam locomotive 7470 on the branch and over the mountain.

I’ll have to have one huge telephoto to catch the action from Islandbridge (in Dublin!!)

See: https://www.conwayscenic.com/events/

RDC 23 on the Redstone Line at Pudding Pond in North Conway.


RDC 23 near Redstone in July 2019.
Redstone line along North Conway’s North-South road.

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Conrail SD70 Roars West at Batavia!

From late 1998 through early 2000, I was almost continuously on the road.

I made lots of photos, sent them for processing, plucked out a few choice slides for books, slide shows, etc, and then put the rest in a carton which I promptly mis-placed.

I recalled photographing this Conrail westward freight at CP406 in Batavia, New York in January 1999. I’d been traveling with GVT’s local freight with an Alco RS-11. Although one of the photos from this morning was recently published in September Trains Magazine as an illustration for my discussion on Alco diesels, I couldn’t locate the rest of roll, or most of the other photos from that trip! 

In fact many others from 1999 were also beyond reach.

So, Monday (Aug 26, 2019) in my continuing quest for Conrail images, I finally found the long lost box, in it were a great many photos that have remain unseen since the demise of Conrail at the end of May 1999. Twenty years ago.

Conrail’s ‘convention cab’ SD70s were short-lived on the Water Level route east of Cleveland. These were built to Norfolk Southern specs during the Conrail split, assigned NS numbers and then all went to NS following the divide (as intended). This view was one of the only photos I ever made of a Conrail SD70 on the CSX side of Conrail before the split.

It was the last of the Conrail SD70s and only about two months old when I made this photo in January 1999. I think it is safe to say that 2580 was the last New locomotive built for Conrail (as a Class 1 mainline carrier). Thoughts?

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.

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Windsor Locks to Islandbridge

Aer Lingus has a neat direct flight from Hartford, Connecticut to Dublin.

I made a view with the Lumix LX7 looking down on the old New Haven Railroad bridge across the Connecticut River at Windsor Locks from my window seat above the wing.

And just a few hours later (and only minutes ago), I caught Irish Rail 082 leading the down IWT Liner from my standard fall-back location at Islandbridge Junction. Also with my Lumix.

EI130 over the Connecticut River on August 26, 2019. The railroad bridge is by the split in the river at lower center right.
Irish Rail 082 leads Tuesday’s (27 Aug 2019) down IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction.

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Using the Amtrak App to Save Time

I was having dinner last night at Palmer’s Steaming Tender. I wanted to photograph Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited and hoped only to invest the minimum amount of time away from my meal.

I brought up Amtrak’s App on my iPhone and clicked the ‘status’ icon, then entered ‘Springfield’ in the slot for ‘station’ and under ‘train number’ I entered ‘448’ (the number for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.

The first time I did this, it estimated 448 departing about 4 minutes late. So I checked again in ten minutes. By that time 448 had departed Springfield about 7 minutes late.

I then switched to the asm.transitdocs.com site that offers a ‘live map’ of Amtrak and VIA Rail trains across the continent, and clicked the window for 448. Among the features of this app is that it will show you the actual speed of the train at the time of its last update. The program updates about every five minutes.

I learned that about four minutes after departing Springfield Station 448 was traveling just under 60 mph (it’s maximum allowed speed on the Boston & Albany to Palmer).

From experience, I know that it takes 448 about 18 minutes to reach Palmer from Springfield if nothing unusual occurs. So 15 minutes after its Springfield-departure, I excused myself from dinner and casually walked to my preferred location near the diamond at the westend of the station.

I waited about 30 seconds and the train passed.

This was the photo I exposed using my Lumix LX7.

Amtrak 448 at Palmer, Massachusetts on August 25, 2019.

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Clear Signal CP83—December 27, 1997.

At 8pm on December 27, 1997, I exposed this view looking west at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Mike Gardner and I were returning from one of our all day photo adventures in the Albany area and we decided to make a few more photos before heading home.

The signals lit and there was a green on the mainline, indicating a westward train was near.

This back in Conrail days, when the Boston & Albany route was still very busy with freight. It was years before the old Union Station was transformed into the Steaming Tender restaurant. And there were a few more buildings and businesses on Palmer’s main street.

It was more than a decade before I bought my first digital camera and I exposed this using my Nikon N90S on Provia 100F color slide film.

CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts on December 27, 1997.

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Steaming Tender’s Scarlet Lamothe

Scarlet Lamothe

Yesterday (August 23, 2019) I interviewed Steaming Tender General Manager Scarlet Lamothe for upcoming Trains Magazine podcasts. 

Steaming Tender is the popular railroad themed restaurant located inside the former Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station at the diamond crossing between CSX’s Boston Line and New England Central.  It is open Wednesday to Sunday and is a great venue to enjoy lunch and dinner while watching trains.

See: http/:steamingtender.com

Link to my Trains podcasts:

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

I made this photograph using my Lumix LX7 with natural light.

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Busy Afternoon at Palmer, August 22, 2019.

Yesterday I met fellow photographer Mike Gardner at the Steaming Tender restaurant in the old Palmer Union Station for lunch.

I had iced tea and the Reuben.

Except for the New England Central switching all was quiet for the first couple of hours.

Just after 2 pm, I said “Let’s head outside, I have a feeling it’s all about to happen.”

Luck, intuition or experience, call it what you like.

At first the trains didn’t favor the light. A New England Central local crossed the diamond northbound. CSX B740 was working deep in the old Boston & Albany yard. The Mass-Central came down from Ware long-hood first. Then everything stalled.

“I’ll bet everything is waiting for the Lake Shore.”

At 3pm Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited appeared at the east end of the long tangent on the old Boston & Albany. On queue Mike announced, ‘Headlight!’

I made a series of photos of enthusiasts on the old station platform rolling the train by.

After the Lake Shore, the illusion of a lull continued, and most everyone else got bored and left. CSX B740 had pulled up and was poised waiting for signal. Mike and I decided to hold on. And sure enough 15 minutes behind the Lake Shore was a westward CSX freight—Q427.

After this passed, B740 pulled ahead through CP83 and then reverse back into the yard, meanwhile the Mass-Central was getting ready to head back north again.

All in all in was a very successful day in Palmer. But the keys to our success were timing and patience. If you left after the Lake Shore rolled west, you missed most of the show.

Amtrak 449 westbound.
CSX Q427.
CSX B740.
Massachusetts Central 1751 with interchange traffic.

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Conrail at Olean—November 6, 1988.

Yesterday I scanned this 30 year Kodachrome  25 slide using a Nikon Coolscan5000 operated with VueScan 9.6.09 scanning software.. 

The unmodified scan is a bit on the dark side. I’d been chasing Conrail ELOI (Elkhart to Oak Island) eastbound on the former Erie Railroad on typically dull western New York November day.

Many of my photos from that chase were exposed on black & white film using my father’s old Rollei Model T. At least one of those appeared in CTC Board as a Conrail new illustration back in the day.

When I reached Olean, I wanted to feature the crossing with the former PRR route to Buffalo, which was then also a Conrail secondary main line, and I made this panned view of ELOI’s lead locomotive crossing the diamonds.

I exposed this at f5.6 1/30 second to capture the motion of the locomotive.

Unmodified scan, except for scaling for internet presentation (the original is about 110MB).

After scanning, I imported the slide into Lightroom and made a variety of corrections to improve the appearance of the image. This included slight cropping to improve the level; color correction, lightening of the shadow areas and over-all contrast control.

I’ve include both the unmodified scan and corrected image here.

Corrected scan outputted as a JPG file for internet.

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CSX Before the Storm.

Monday afternoon, August 19, 2019 was hot and humid as I rambled through Massachusetts’ Quaboag Valley completing errands.

Driving west on Route 20, I reached the flying junction with Route 67, where I saw the head-end of CSX Q264 roar below me with two modern GEs in the lead.

The train had a good roll-on, so I knew it was making a run for the grade up through Warren. I diverted from my path west, and drove post haste east on Route 67 to find a location to picture this eastward freight.

In the afternoon there aren’t a lot of options. The old B&A has become unpleasantly overgrown with brush, and the back lit summer sun doesn’t offer a flattering  portrayal of modern GE diesels.

I opted for the overhead bridge at West Warren, where I made these views with my Lumix LX7.

Although it was still sunny, I could see the storm approaching from the west. Shortly after I arrived home there was lightning, thunder and a violent deluge.

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No DPU (mid-train remote control locomotive) on this train. Just about a mile and a half of loaded auto racks bound for the East Brookfield & Spencer at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

October 2019 Train Column Photo Considerations

Yesterday, August 19, 2019, I received my author’s advance copy of the October Trains Magazine that features my column titled ‘Getting on board with rail transit.’

Is it ironic that today I’m scheduled to get new tires for my automobile?

Cover of October 2019 TRAINS, photo by Samuel Phillips.

This is the opening spread to my column; you’ll need to obtain a copy of the magazine to see my photo.

To illustrate my column, I selected a digital photo that I exposed in May 2010 using my old Lumix LX3—my first digital camera.

To view the image that I chose, you will need to obtain a copy of the magazine. However, here I’ve included a few of the other railroad images exposed at the same essential location that same evening.

At the time a volcanic eruption in Iceland had filled northern skies with fine layers of ash. While this brought havoc to European air travel (I was waiting in Stockholm for a friend to arrive from Addis Abiba who had been delayed by more than 24 hours because of the ash cloud), the ash produced some stunning sunsets owing to the greater high altitude light refraction.

I was just learning to make use of digital photography. Luckily, my Lumix LX3 had a superb lens and lent itself to making great low light photographs.

Stockholm suburban train in May 2010. Lumix LX3 photo.
Swedish X2000 intercity tilting train in Stockholm.

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Sunset over Stockholml in May 2010. Lumix LX3 photo.

Conrail BUOI at West Cameron, New York.

In Autumn 1988, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of Conrail’s BUOI (Buffalo, New York to Oak Island, New Jersey) rolling through the Canisteo Valley near West Cameron, New York.

During the late 1980s, the Canisteo Valley was among my favorite venues for photographing Conrail freights.

This is among the legions of Conrail slides that I considered for my upcoming book ‘Conrail and its Predecessors’.

I’m entering the final stages of photo selection and have begun the captioning process.

This is the same scan, but here I’ve lightened the image and warmed it slightly for improved internet presentation.

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There has to be Rain for a Rainbow.

One week ago, I was sitting in the North Tower of Conway Scenic’s North Conway Station. To the west the sun was shining. To the east it was pouring rain, and the rain was still falling all around. I said to Conway’s operations manager, Derek Palmieri, ‘There must be a rainbow.’

And there was!

Briefly it was a full, but faint, double.

Outside I went, where I made a variety of photos with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.

This one is from the Lumix.

Sometimes where there’s a rainbow is a sign of change. A fortuitous signal for the future. And this is how I see it.

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Moose in the Night.

Elwyn of North Conway’s Moose Safari invited me to join him on one of his nocturnal tours searching for New Hampshire’s elusive Moose.

I say elusive, because in the nearly three months I’d spent in New Hampshire, including considerable time roaming the old Maine Central Mountain Division searching for locations and waiting for trains, I’d not seen any moose.

Elwyn knows the roaming patterns of these great animals and brings visitors to see them on a nightly basis. Like finding freight trains in New England, finding moose requires a detailed understanding of their patterns and paths. He explained that its not about simply waiting for the moose, but actively going to find them.

I joined Elwyn’s Moose Safari on the night of the full moon in front of Conway Scenic’s North Conway Station.

After a few hours of scouring New Hampshire’s highways and byways, we spotted a pair of moose. Elwyn illuminated the roadside with lights mounted to his tour vehicle and using that light, I made this photo using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera was set at ISO 6400; f2.0 1/30thof a second.

If you are interested in joining one of Elwyn’s Moose Safari’s contact him at: moosetours@yahoo.com

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30 Years Ago at Rockville Bridge.

It was a bright and hazy August 1989 morning, when my old pal TS Hoover and I set up on the east bank of the Susquehanna River to capture this view of the famous former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge.

I made this Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) slide using my old Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.

It was just one of many Conrail photographs exposed on one of our great adventures in the 1980s!

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Moat Creek Trestle and a Bear!

I’d been eying Conway Scenic’s wooden pile Moat Creek trestle as a good afternoon photo location since I arrived at the railroad in May.

While I’d made a variety of angles from West Side Road that runs parallel to the line, until last Friday (August 9, 2019) I hadn’t hiked into the bridge.

As discussed in yesterday’s post ‘Rare Move During My Signing—GP9 works the yard,’ the necessity to move a few old freight cars posed some unusual photographic opportunities.

When I learned that GP7 573 would be hauling a flatcar down to Conway, New Hampshire for storage, I decided this would make for my opportunity to catch a train in low afternoon sun on the Moat Creek Trestle.

Old 573 was whistling for a crossing just north of the bridge when I heard loud rustling in a tree opposite the tracks from my location. A sizeable bear climbed down out of the tree and ambled through the undergrowth about a car-length from my position.

Of course, I’d selected a prime 27mm lens to frame the train on the bridge and this lens was less than ideal for photographing the bear.

The photographs of the train and bear were exposed about a minute apart.

Running extra to Conway, New Hampshire.

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Rare Move During My Signing—GP9 works the yard.

Sometimes when engaged with one task, something unexpected occurs that demands your attention.

Such was the situation last Friday while I was standing on the platform at North Conway, New Hampshire during my book signing event.

Conway Scenic’s GP9, 1751, still dressed in a New York Central inspired livery applied by former owner Finger Lakes Railway, was engaged to switch a few freight cars out of the North Yard.

In more than two months at Conway Scenic, the only freight car that I’d seen turn a wheel is a tank car that has been rigged up to supply water for steam locomotive 7470. So when I saw 1751 moving the two ancient flats in the yard, I excused myself from book signing tasks and made a few photos with my FujiFilm XT1.

There was gorgeous afternoon light bathing the North Conway station. The Valley excursion train was out on the line, so in one of the odd moments, the platform was almost empty and there few cameras in sight.

Later in the day, in a related incident I had a close encounter with an alarmingly large bear, but I’ll get to that in a future post.

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Brian’s Signing Event

Yesterday, Friday August 9, 2019, I traveled by train and signed books at the North Conway Station (New Hampshire).

I discovered that’s its pretty challenging to sign books while traveling on early 20thcentury steel coaches rolling over jointed rail on track ballasted with cinders!

Conway Scenic’s Derek Palmieri assisted me with selling the books, as did Amy from Conway Scenic’s Brass Whistle Gift Shop. The railroad’s Susan Logan, Alta Crouse and Cathy Trecarten helped organize and promote the event.

Thanks to Dave and Rhonda Swirk for hosting me and to everyone who stopped by for a chat and to buy books!

Here I am hold my Railway Guide to Europe! Photo by Derek Palmieri.

We had a nice selection of my books on display.
Conway Scenic Railroad operations manager Derek Palmieri.

I was delighted when my old friend Bob Bentley came by to talk about railroads. He reminded me that GP9 1757, formerly of the New Hampshire Northcoast, was briefly a Mass-Central locomotive.

It was a fine day for a book signing!

Bob Bentley and Derek Palmieri on the platform of the North Conway station.

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Rhonda Lee Summer Sunset.

Last night, August 8, 2019, I traveled on Conway Scenic’s Dinner Train for the second evening in a row.

The purpose of my trip was in preparation for some more involved filming in the coming days.

However, when we arrived at Bartlett, New Hampshire we were greeted by a stunning summer sunset, I reached for a camera. Well, actually three cameras. I reached for three cameras.

I then arranged with conductor Derek Palmieri to make a few photos.

Budd Vista dome  Rhonda Lee (née Silver Splendor) has only been recently re-lettered and made for a fine sight catching the summer sunset.

These images were the products from my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

I also exposed a few images with my Lumix LX7. I’m sure someone will groan when they read that I made black & white views on Ilford HP5 with a Nikon F3.

You’ll have to wait for the film photos, as it might be a few weeks before I have the time or facilities to process them.

Bartlett is one of my favorite places to catch Conway Scenic, and it seems I’m here almost every day, by road or by rail!

Don’t forget, today August 9, 2019, I’ll be signing books on Conway Scenic’s 1330 (130pm) Valley Train to Conway, and at the North Conway Station from 230 to 5pm!

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Headline: Author Brian Solomon at Conway Scenic Railroad

Thanks to Ireland’s Colm O’Callaghan for the portrait of me in a narrow gauge locomotive.

Tuesday’s Conway Daily Sun featured a short story about my books to highlight my book signing event tomorrow afternoon, Friday 9, 2019 at the Conway Scenic Railroad.

Although short, this article covered some of the highlights of my published work including my European Railway Guide, columns in Trains Magazine, and photos in the Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society!

Conway Scenic’s Susan Logan gave me a copy of the article, which I read while traveling on the 6 pm dinner train in preparation for a video/photo shoot this weekend.

When it rains it pours, and it did!

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In the Shadow of Mount Washington.

For viewers on Facebook, you’ll need to click the link to Tracking the Light to get the view of the mountain.

Last night in the fading glow of a summer’s evening, Conway Scenic’s Adam Bartley and I made video and still of photos of the railroad’s Dinner train that was out on a demonstration run.

Adam worked the company video camera, while I used my Lumix, Fuji, Canon and Nikon cameras to make film and digital photographs.

Our final set for the evening was looking west at Intervale, where we caught the returning train led by former Maine Central 252, a classic GP38 and veteran locomotive on the line. I set my photograph to capture Mount Washington, New England’s tallest peak, looming large above the train.

These images were exposed using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. RAW files were adjusted for contrast, exposure, color balance and color saturation in post processing using Lightroom.

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Yesterday I Witnessed History at North Conway.

Sunday, August 4, 2019 was the 45thanniversary of Conway Scenic Railroad’s first revenue run.

To celebrate this event and to honor Conway Scenic’s founder, Dwight Smith, Conway Scenic’s president and general manager David Swirk presided over a short ceremony at the North Conway station to name locomotive 7470 after him.

In 1968, Dwight purchased former Canadian National 7470. Several years later he helped found the Conway Scenic, and in its early years this heavy 0-6-0 switcher was the heart and soul of the railroad.

Over the decades, Conway Scenic has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers, and locomotive 7470 has entertained countless visitors and is dearly loved by many people. Now it carries the name of the man who saved it and founded a railroad on which it could run.

North Conway, the State of New Hampshire, and the railroad’s many friends, guests and visitors are richer for Dwight’s foresight to preserve and present this precious bit of living history.

Today engine 7470 is the  Dwight Smith

Dave Swirk, Dwight Smith and George Small pose in front of 7470 during the locomotive’s naming ceremony on August 4, 2019.
Dwight Smith enjoys a trip on Pullman observation parlor car Gertrude Emma.

Conway Scenic road foreman of engines Mike Lacey sits in the engineer’s seat of 7470, now named for Dwight Smith.

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August 4th, 2019 is Conway Scenic Railroad’s 45thAnniversary!

On August 4, 1974, Conway Scenic carried its first revenue passengers from its historic North Conway, New Hampshire station south to Conway on the old Boston & Maine Conway branch. Locomotive 7470, then carrying abbreviated number ‘47’, did the honors.

Today, August 4, 2019 is a special day for the railroad and steam locomotive 7470.

See: https://www.conwayscenic.com

Since the locomotive was restored earlier this year, it has been among my regular subjects at Conway Scenic, and I’ve filmed it for several short videos.

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TV Crew Films Conway Scenic

Arethusa Falls grade crossing.

Among my assignments this past week on the Conway Scenic Railroad was to guide a TV production crew from Boston’s Channel 5 WCVB.

After they enjoyed a ride and a meal in dome car Rhonda Lee, I collected the crew midway up the mountain, and Conway Scenic’s President and General Manager Dave Swirk and I brought them to some of the most scenic vistas on the line to film the train.

They were able to benefit from my weeks of location scouting in order to film a segment on Conway Scenic that is expected to be broadcast in the coming weeks.

It was a beautiful bright day on the mountain, and they were able to get views of Mount Washington with Conway Scenic’s Notch Train.

Conway Scenic’s President and General Manager Dave Swirk describes the line at Crawford Notch as the TV crew prepares their equipment in anticipation of the train.


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Book Signing Next Week!

One week from today, I’ll be signing books at the Conway Scenic Railroad!

Book Signing: Meet the Author!

On Friday August 9, 2019, I’ll be conducting an ‘on-train and at-the-station’ book signing on the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, New Hampshire.

I’ll be traveling on the 130pm train to Conway with a pen in hand, and then visiting the Brass Whistle Gift Shop in the North Conway station from about 230pm until 5pm

Notice the author’s shadow? Friday, next week I’ll be at this station signing books from 2:30pm to 5pm. Where is this? North Conway, New Hampshire! That’s Friday August 9, 2019.
Platform view at Conway Scenic’s North Conway station exposed last night, August 1, 2019. Next Friday, August 9, 2019, I’ll be at this station signing books!

The Conway Scenic’s Brass Whistle Gift shop has a host of my titles for sale and ready to be signed by me.

My titles for sale will include:

Vintage Diesel Power

Electromotive E units & F units

Streamliners

Railway Guide to Europe

Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals

GE & EMD Locomotives

Classic Railroad Signals

I only do a couple of book signings a year, so this is a great opportunity to travel on Conway Scenic’s Valley Train and buy a signed book!

Tracking the Light is a DAILY Blog!

One Year Ago-August 1, 2018.

On this day last year, I was traveling with Chris Guss, photographing Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line.

I made this view of a CN local freight at Ackerville, Wisconsin using my old Lumix LX7. You can see my shadow in the foreground.

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