November 26, 2019 was one of those very productive days.
Following my earlier successes last Thursday with New England Central at Stafford Springs, and CSX at Palmer and West Warren, Mike Gardner and I went to breakfast at Girly’s Grille in Palmer, timing our departure so that would could intercept Mass-Central freight on its way up the Ware River Line to South Barre.
We caught up with the train at Gilbertville, one of my favorite locations along the old Boston & Albany branch.
I’d spotted this puddle in the parking lot near the station, which made for an excellent reflective surface to picture the passing train.
Key to making this image is the adjustable rear-screen display on my FujiFilm XT1, which among other features has a leveling bar.
Tracking the Light sometimes Scores on Thursdays in November!
It was about 1980, when I made this interior view of an R10 subway car during a trip with my father around New York City. Pop thinks this was on the 8th Avenue line in Manhattan. It was one of three photos I made of the Subway that day .
The cars were not air-conditioned and the open fans intrigued me.
This was in that unsavory era on the Subway when the subway cars were decorated inside and out with graffiti.
Exposed on black & white film with my old Leica 3A 35mm camera.
CSX Q264 is a unit autorack train that terminates at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, I was waiting at CP83 in Palmer for fellow photographer Mike Gardner to arrive. To the west, I could hear the distant roar of a heavy eastward train.
Long ago I learned to use my ear. Listening, and knowing what you are hearing can make the difference between finding a train and missing one.
Mike pulled in and I signaled to him there was in eastbound on the diamond (crossing at Palmer between New England Central and CSX’s Boston Line).
I was delighted because low rich November sun illuminated CP83 and there weren’t any automobiles in the parking lot in front of the Steaming Tender restaurant (that occupies that the old Palmer Union Station).
As Q264 rolled through, I said to Mike, “quick, jump in! The train is limited to 30mph at the diamond, we’ll get him down the line.”
And we were off in hot pursuit!
Up to West Warren, a recent and long-time favorite location of mine for railroad photography. We pulled over where the Boston Line is adjacent to Route 67, and I exposed another sequence of photos.
That was two trains, on two lines in less than two hours, but it was only going to get better! Tuesday was a very good day!
More to come!
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day, sometimes twice!
Two weeks ago when in Dublin, I went to see the motion picture Joker, a dark film in a fictional New York City setting of the early 1980s, portrayed in classic DC Comics fashion as ‘Gotham’.
Story-line and characters aside, the film’s scenes, setting and lighting recreated New York City, especially the Bronx, as I remember it from visits with my grandparents in the 1970s and 1980s. Portions of the Joker were filmed in my father’s old neighborhood. My memories were of that stark gritty dark time when graffiti covered subway cars were the norm.
Since arriving back in the USA, I’ve delved into my collection of early photos from New York City, some of which embody that fascinating apocalyptic darkness conveyed in the film, yet were merely the products of exploration of New York with my family.
However, where the film portrayed misery, mental illness, anger and extreme violence in brilliantly crafted cinema-graphic excellence, my photos were the product of child’s view to capture an exciting, albeit dark place, filled with urban wonders, railways, and visually captivating scenes.
Some of my early NYC photos were exposed on color slide film, others were on black & white. Almost all were made with my vintage 1930s Leica 3A.
These views were exposed on a very gray day in 1981, when exploring the former New Haven Railroad lines in the Bronx, my dad drove my brother and me to the NYCTA’s Westchester Yards off the Pelham Bay Line.
This was on the flight path to Laguardia Airport, and as I photographed the subway trains, my brother spotted the planes landing.
Earlier this month, I traveled with some friends to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland to photograph the Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge operations.
Working with Kodak Tri-X in a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens, I made this view of a laden train crossing the River Shannon.
I processed the film using a twin-stage (split development) process: presoaked in Kodak HC110 mixed 1-200 for 5 minutes; then Ilford ID1 mixed 1 to 1 for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F with gentle agitation every minute for 10 seconds. After stop bath (30 seconds), twin fixer baths of 3 minutes each and extensive rinsing, I toned the still wet negative using a Selenium batch mixed 1-9 for 8 minutes 30 seconds.
In addition to this traditional black & white photo, I also exposed digital photos using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras. Color and black & white, film and digital, yes I have most of formats covered.
In recent days, New England Central’s Willimantic, Conn., to Palmer., Mass., turn running as job 608, has been back on its daylight schedule, which sees it reaching Stafford Springs, Connecticut at about 730am.
Thursday (November 21, 2019), I made a morning project of intercepting the train and photographing it on its northward run.
At the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, the railroad crests the top of a divide known as ‘State Line Hill’ and begins its descent toward Palmer. Just north of the top of the hill the tracks cross Route 32, which is where I set up to make my photo.
This view was made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm prime telephoto.
I aimed to make a split scene, where the highway and railroad cross at the center and direct the eye to opposite sides of the frame.
The subject is the train, which has just caught the sun at the intersection of the state boundary.
The second view in shows the locomotive better, but is a less evocative image.
Back in October 1984—35 years ago— I made this nocturnal view of Central Vermont RS11 3606 at the Palmer, Massachusetts yard.
With my Leica mounted on a tripod, I exposed this view using a mix of existing light and electronic strobe for fill light. I’d work with a large Metz flash that allowed me to control the quantity of light being emitted. To soften the blast, I’d squelch the emission to about 1/4th and wrap the flash head in a white trash bag. I’d then make a series of blasts from different angles while leaving the shutter open.
My old Leica 3A had a ‘T’ setting that would leave the shutter open indefinitely. An exposure such as this would require about 30 secs to a minute for me to make the blasts.
This was one of at least four frames that I exposed that October evening so long ago! My notes from the day have vanished, much to my disgust, as I tended to keep records of all my photography.
I was sifting through some old 120 black & white negatives yesterday and found these photographs from a morning’s photography along the old New Haven Railroad in Connecticut from June 1986.
I started the morning in South Norwalk, then moved down to Westport.
Most of the photos from the morning were exposed on Kodachrome slide film, but I made a few select images on Kodak Tri-X using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T using a 645-size ‘superslide’ insert to obtain a rectangular crop.
Most interesting to me now are the views of Amtrak’s eastward mail train behind AEM-7 904. This carried a group of baggage cars at the back including some from VIA Rail.
While I have detailed photographic notes from the day, what I don’t have recorded were my thoughts on the experience at the time. This was one of several similar trips I made to former New Haven electrified territory in the summer of 1986.
It is with sadness and a sense of great loss that I must report the passing of retired Irish Rail engine driver Tony Renehan. Although it has been a decade since Tony retired from Irish Rail, he had continued to travel on rail tours and was a regular face at Irish Railway Record Society slide shows among other events.
Tony was the first Irish Rail driver that I got to know. I met him in May 1998 on the footplate of RPSI steam locomotive 461 where he sat in command of the engine. My first question to him was about the engine’s valves and we immediately stuck up a friendship.
He was a rare individual whose depth and breadth of knowledge spanned numerous subjects; historical, mechanical and others. His interests were broad within the span of railways, and he was always willing to share his knowledge, but wouldn’t bluff his way when he reached the limit of certainty.
Few men could match his understanding of railway locomotives. On many occasions we met, sometimes over a pint of stout, to discuss the details of locomotives and their operations. I was always interested in what Tony had to say, because no matter how familiar I was with the subject, Tony always had a level of insight, an angle or a question that pushed the envelope of knowledge one step further.
I’ll miss our conversations and discussions. And the file remains open on topics he’d sent me to learn more about, but on I which hadn’t yet reported back.
The news magazine Tech Briefs gave the Creative Technology (CTech) archival media project an honorable mention in their November 2019 issue.
This is the long term archival media project that I’ve been working on with CTech.
The photograph in the article shows one of the glass slides that I processed and prepared for testing on board the International Space Station.
Tech Briefs is monthly magazine that highlights Nasa technology.
Previously on Tracking the Light Post, I offered this summary of the project:
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 contracted them to send examples of the storage media to the International Space Station to test its ability to withstand the rigors of the space environment.
I made this telephoto view of a northward Amtrak shuttle (running from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts) using a Nikon F3 with a 105mm lens and loaded with Fuji Acros 100 black & white film.
I like the way the Amtrak train glints in the morning sun.
To maximize tonality and detail, I used a split-development process, first soaking the film in a very dilute mixture of Kodak HC110, then using a more concentrated mix of Rodinal for primary development.
Last week, Ballinasloe was to be the jumping off point for the latest of my Bord na Mona adventures (to be covered in Tracking the Light in the future).
Irish Rail’s Galway line wouldn’t be an operation characterized by variety. Except for the very occasional excursion, the vast majority of movements consist of the common 22000-series Intercity Railcars (ICRs).
So, when I positioned myself at the Dublin end of the down platform, my intent was to document the ICR that I’d arrive upon with Ballinasloe’s handsome Midland Great Western Railway station.
Why was the up-home signal green? We’d just crossed the up-Galway at Athlone.
As the 0735 Dublin to Galway train pulled away, I was startled and surprised to see a pair of 2800-series railcars ready to depart up-road. What was this?
After I made my photos, it occurred to me that this was the weekly equipment transfer for the Ballina Branch. Ah, yes. And perhaps, I should have known.
I’m happy that I had camera in hand to picture this relatively unusual movement. Sometimes, even when you think you know what to expect, something sneaks up and surprises you!
Friday, it was officially announced that Ireland’s Electrical Supply Board (ESB) intends to close the Lough Ree and Shannonbridge power stations at the end of 2020.
This doesn’t bode well for the Bord na Mona narrow gauge systems that exist largely to supply these stations with fuel.
A couple of weeks ago on a visit to the Lanesborough system I made this sunset view of an empty train returning to the bog for reloading.
I’ve made dozens of trips over the years to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge railways. While in recent years, it’s been understood that these railways were on borrowed time, I still find sad that they will soon be without their primary traffic.
These are fascinating and wonderful railways with lots of charm and photographic potential.
In 2020, I hope to continue photographing the systems around Lanesborough and Shannonbridge, as well as some of the other Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.
During October’s Cobh Rambler tour, I made these views at Cork’s Kent Station on Kodak Tri-X black & white film.
The tour was operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail.
Kent’s curved Victorian train shed makes for a fascinating venue to photograph a modern railway in action, while the inclement weather on the day translated well with the traditional media.
I processed the film using a customized split development process consisting of Kodak HC110 presoak mixed 1-200 followed by primary development using Ilford ID11 1-1. The negatives were scanned using an Epsom V500 flatbed scanner with some minor final adjustment using Lightroom.
Tuesday last week, my arrival at Sallins, County Kildare by Irish Rail suburban train was merely a jumping off for a much more productive photographic endeavor.
See yesterday’s post, SUBURBAN TRAINS PASS AT SALLINS.
So Tuesday last week, I met fellow photographer Aiden McDonald outside Sallins and traveled by road for another visit to Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough narrow gauge network. This was my fourth foray in 2019 photographing on this wonderful industrial railway, and my second in less than a week.
My first visit to Lanesborough was more than six years ago and of all the Bord na Mona systems, it is my favorite.
We lucked out and met the empty ash train immediately on crossing the line near Derraghan More, County Longford.
It was bright and sunny and followed the train all the way back toward the Lough Ree Generating Station.
This was just the warm up and for the next six hours we were treated to almost non-stop action on one of Ireland’s coolest little railways.
Sadly this is an Indian Summer for the system, both literally and metaphorically. Word to the wise: time is running short.
Monday, 28 October 2019 was a bright day in the Irish capital.
Although the main focus of the day was catching Irish Rail’s IWT Liners and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Haunted Expresses, the weather was conducive to making captivating photos of the more pedestrian trains.
Photographer Jay Monaghan and I had spent the day traveling around Dublin, grabbing angles of the passing trains.
In the afternoon we made our way to the Claude Road footbridge west of Drumcondra Station and set up for the outbound RPSI train.
While waiting, I made this view of an outbound ICR (intercity railcar) working the afternoon Dublin to Sligo service. In the distance is the Croke Park stadium. Further, are the iconic ‘Chimneys’ or ‘Stacks’ for the Poolbeg Generation Station.