New England Central Numerical Transition

New England Central Railroad (NECR) began operations of the former Central Vermont route in February 1995. Initially, it ran the railroad with a small fleet of largely former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio GP38s numbered in the 9500-series.

In 1998, NECR was in the process of renumbering these locomotives into the 3800-series, which logically echoed their model type.

In October 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I spent a morning photographing the southward 608 on its run from Palmer, Massachusetts to New London, Connecticut. The lead engine displayed its new 3800-series number, but the trailing engine still had its old number.

Many of the GP38s have carried these 3800-series numbers ever since that time.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S with Nikon f2.8 80-200mm AF zoom lens. The freight is crossing the Yantic River at Yantic, Connecticut.

Enlarged view of the same color slide.

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Sunrise at the Benicia Bridge with Ektachrome—August 1993.

A few weeks ago on Tracking the Light, I described my early experiences with Kodak’s Ektachrome LPP (a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition), of which I received a free-sample from Kodak back in August 1993.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/10/06/kodak-lpp-a-tunnel-motor-and-a-camel/

Among the other photos on that roll, was this view exposed shortly after sunrise of Amtrak’s Los Angeles-bound Coast Starlight crossing Southern Pacific’s massive Benicia Bridge near Martinez, California.

Full frame scan of a 35mm Ektachrome LPP slide exposed in August 1993.

I had loaded the film into a second-hand Nikkormat FTN that I fitted an f4.0 Nikkor 200mm telephoto.

This slide sat in the dark until I scanned it on October 6, 2020.

Much enlarged crop of the same slide to better show Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.

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First Snow!

The highlight of yesterday’s 470 Club Special Autumn Express to Fabyan, New Hampshire was the dusting of snow on late season foliage at Crawford Notch.

I arranged for a photo stop at the site of the Mount Willard Section House where we performed a photo ‘run by’ over the famous Willey Creek Bridge.

I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

RAW files were converted to DNG format with Iridient X-Transformer and then processed using Adobe Lightroom to adjust color temperature, saturation and contrast,

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Wednesday Work Extra

Last Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Conway Scenic operated a work extra to Conway to assist with preparations for the annual Pumpkin Patch event being held for the next three weekends.

The train was organized with relatively little advanced notice, and the only available locomotive was former Boston & Maine F7A 4266, owned by the 470 Club. Our other locomotives were out on passenger assignments or out of service awaiting repairs or maintenance.

Since the cab of the locomotive was facing railroad timetable west, the decision was made to use a caboose as a shoving platform and the train reversed from North Conway down the former B&M branch to Conway.

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG files using Iridient X Transformer and then imported into Adobe Lightroom for final adjustment.

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Foliage at Mp79 and Iridient Comparison.

Yesterday, October 15, 2020, I made a late season foliage photo of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer descending from Crawfords at milepost 79 near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm prime telephoto, I set the ISO to 1000. I needed relatively high sensitivity because I was working in the shadows of the trees and mountain side and wanted a sufficiently fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the train, while using a smaller aperture to minimize headlight bleed.

Then I imported the Fuji RAW files directly into Adobe Lightroom for processing, while making a comparison set of files by importing them first into Iridient X-Transformer which converts the files to a DNG format and then imported these into Lightroom.

As previously described on Tracking the Light, the Iridient software does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji RAW files.

See comparisons below.

Fuji RAW file processed by Adobe Lightroom and adjusted for color balance and saturation in post processing.
Fuji RAW file processed by Iridient X-Transformer and adjusted for color balance and saturation in post processing.
Close up of the Fuji RAW processed by Adobe Lightroom.
Close up of the Fuji RAW processed by Iridient X-Transformer. Notice the superior clarity of hard edges and better definition at the edge of the headlights.

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New York Subway—November 1998.

On a visit to New York City in 1998, my father and I made a trip on the Flushing Line of the New York Subway.

I exposed these photos using Fuji Sensia II (100 speed slide film) with my Nikon N90S.

Last week I digitized the slides using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner powered by VueScan software.

To make the most of the dark contrasty images I opted for multiple pass scans—a feature offered by VueScan that is similar in concept to the HDR setting used my some modern digital cameras—that blend several scans of the same image at different exposure values into one file to maximize shadow and highlight detail.

After exposure, I adjusted the scans using Adobe Lightroom and outputted these images with watermark for internet presentation.

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October Rainbow

Last week on my way to work at the North Conway, NH station, a magnificent rainbow graced the morning sky.

Rainbows are often fleeting, lasting only a few moments, yet this one hung in the sky for about a half an hour.

I made these photos using my new Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

After exposure I downloaded the camera and imported the camera RAW files (NEF) into Adobe Lightroom for processing.

I made nominal adjustments to color temperature, contrast and color saturation, then output the files as scaled JPGs while adding my watermark.

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Cobh Branch October 2014

Working with my Canon EOS7D, on October 7, 2014, I made these photos of a Cobh-bound Irish Rail 2600-series railcar pausing at Rushbrook, Co. Cork.

Irish Rail’s Ken Fox was giving me a detailed tour of the line.

I made my first visit to the Cobh Branch in 1999. The same 2600-series railcars worked it then, but in a bright orange, black and white livery.

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Conrail at Warren, Massachusetts.

Today’s photo is in honor of my late-friend, Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts, who would have turned 91 today (October 12, 2020).

In the 1940s, Bob Buck made priceless photos of New York Central’s Boston & Albany around Warren, and elsewhere across the railroad. For most of his life he ran Tucker’s Hardware, later Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, which was a gathering point for those interested in railroads.

On December 6, 1992, I exposed this photo of an eastward Conrail freight, probably SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester RR) climbing through Warren behind six General Electric B23-7s.

I had Kodachrome 25 film loaded in my Nikon F3T and I used a 35mm PC (Perspective Control) lens, all neatly leveled out on a Bogen 3021 tripod with ball head.

The pronounced chugging of multiple FDL diesel engines powering these locomotives as they ascended the grade through Warren would have announced the approach of the freight several minutes before the headlight appeared west of the old Warren Station.

The making of this image would have coincided with one of my countless visits to Tucker’s Hobbies in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Five Foliage Views from the Old Maine Central Mountain Division

Last week, I spent several days on the former Maine Central Mountain Division making photographs of the line in the autumn foliage as part of my job for the Conway Scenic Railroad.

This is an amazing section of railroad with lots of history and lore.

I’ve included just five of the several hundred digital photographs I made that I feel best capture the season and the character of the railroad.

East of the Arethusa Falls grade crossing looking toward Frankenstein Cliff. Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.
Track maintenance at Bartlett, NH. FujiFIlm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Site of the Mount Willard section house looking toward the Willey Brook Bridge.. FujiFIlm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Telegraph pole west of MP80 looking. FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Storm Light at Bartlett—October 10, 2020.

I arrived at Bartlett, NH, several minutes ahead of Conway Scenic’s train 162, the eastward Mountaineer. The sky was chocolate.

Then as the train approached the crossing with Rt302 west of town, the clouds parted to bathe the scene with strong rays of afternoon autumn sunlight.

I made photos with both my Nikon Z6 and my FujiFilm XT1 (with 27mm pancake lens).

This image was exposed with the Fuji.

I converted the Fuji RAW using Iridient software to make a DNG file, which I then imported into Adobe Lightroom for final adjustment.

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Autumn Sky at Crawford

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday, October 8, 2020), I set up at the Gateway at Crawford Notch to photograph Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on this train to make publicity photos for advertising, social media, etc.

The sky above the White Mountains was a turmoil of clouds.

Shortly before the train departed Crawford Station eastbound, the sun peaked through a hole in the clouds and brightly illuminated the train against this textured sky.

I was lucky, and later in the day this effect was repeated at Bartlett.

Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto; White balance set to ‘daylight’. Camera JPG scaled for internet.
Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto; White balance set to ‘daylight’.

I’ll save that view for a later posting.

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Pan Am’s SAPPI-4—Guilford Painted GP40.

Since 1983, I’ve been photographing EMD GP’s in the Guilford gray, white and orange.

A few weeks ago, when Kris Sabbatino and I went to chase Pan Am’s SAPPI locals on the old Maine Central Hinckley Branch, I was looking forward to catching Pan Am blue locomotives in Maine.

Yet, at this late date, finding a vintage Guilford engine on the move is a novelty. How many remain?

I made this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit at Shawmut, Maine. I converted the Fuji Raw file using Iridient software, which does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji data. I then imported into Lightroom for final processing.

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Gang Mills Sunset—Fixing a Chrome.

On November 24, 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I were wrapping our photography for the day, having spent it following the old Erie Railroad mainline in New York state. A railroad then operated as part of Conrail’s Southern Tier District.

Just after sunset, we were visiting the old bridge (since removed) over the east end of the Gang Mills Yard (near Corning, New York). A bit of evening ‘drop under’ sun had tickled the clouds pink, when a headlight appeared to the west.

Working with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm lens, I made a sequence of photos on Kodachrome 200 of the passing Conrail piggyback train. This film offered speed, but it was difficult to work with. Not only was K200 grainy, but it had a fairly narrow expose latitude as compared with either Fuji Sensia or Kodachrome 25. 

At the time I made the slide, I’d exposed for the sky, aiming to retain the texture and color, but as a result the tracks and train were a bit under exposed. Last night, I made a multiple pass scan from a slide in the sequence. Then in post processing, I lightened the foreground, while adjusting color and contrast for a more pleasing image, yet one that hopefully looks like it was exposed on Earth, and not on Mars.

Below are two comparisons. The first is the unadjusted scan (scaled for internet), the second is my adjusted scan.

Unadjusted scan of a Kodachrome 200 slide.
Kodachrome slide scanned using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.

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Kodak LPP; A Tunnel Motor and a Camel.

In the summer of 1993, I attended an event in San Francisco hosted by Kodak to debut a new Ektachrome slide film. As part of the event, Kodak gave everyone a sample of LPP, a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition.

I had recently bought a Nikkormat FTN from a co-worker, and promptly loaded the camera with the new film.

It was mid-August, when I climbed to the top of a hill over-looking Southern Pacific’s Cal-P route with a view of Suisun Bay/Carquinez Straits and the stored navy ships anchored there.

SP eastward freight led by a Tunnel Motor and a leased Conrail C32-8.

Curiously, this SP westward freight had a Conrail C32-8 in consist. This was one of ten built as test beds for Conrail in summer 1984 and routinely operated on the Boston & Albany route through the 1980s. They were known as ‘camels’ because of their hump-back appearance. It was odd to see such a familiar locomotive so far from home.

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New Camera with Old Lens: trying out the FTZ Adaptor.

When I bought my Nikon Z6 a few weeks ago, the camera package came with a 24-70mm zoom (designed for the Nikon mirrorless system) and an FTZ adaptor that allows a variety of older lenses to be fitted to the Nikon mirrorless digital cameras.

This adaptor was among the attractions of the Z6 system, because it will allow me to experiment with a variety of my older lenses.

Saturday evening, I fitted my Nikkor f2.5 105mm telephoto to the Z6 and traveled with my girlfriend and photography partner Kris Sabbatino to the dam and park in Chocorua at Tamworth, New Hampshire.

Long ago, I learned that it is best to test a new equipment combination in a relaxed, non-pressurized photographic environment; in other words, NOT when a train is approaching at speed. The park was a perfect place to play with my new set up.

My old lens has manual focus and manual aperture controls, which requires greater attention than the 24-70mm. The camera’s viewfinder has a colored focusing aid to assist with manual focus lenses (when optimal sharpness is reached the focused area is highlighted in red), yet picking a focus point is still pretty tricky.

Also, the lens has older coatings that were designed to produce the best color with film, and are different than the coatings optimized to work with the digital system. This results in somewhat softer color rendition.

The lens is a very sharp piece of glass, and when used wide open (f2.5) allows for photos with very shallow depth of field.

Below are a few examples.

Soon, I’ll begin testing my other older lenses and try photographing some railroad subjects.

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Crawford Notch—Line-side and from the Cab.

The railroad takes on different characters when view from line-side versus that when view from from the locomotive cab.

The perspectives and impressions you get when standing on the ground are very different than the views from a locomotive cab in motion.

Part of this is the difference in elevation. Part is where you can safely stand in relation to the railroad and how lineside obstructions alter your view.

Over the last few weeks and months I’ve made various headend and walking trips on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.

Among the most interesting places is the area east of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

Below are two views exposed three days apart from the same location near milepost 83 looking west. One is from the ground of Conway Scenic Railroad’s train 162—the eastward Mountaineer, the other from the headend of the westward train. 

Exposed with a Nikon Z6 fitted with 24-70mm lens.
Exposed with a Nikon Z6 fitted with 24-70mm lens.

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Conrail at Twin Ledges—27 Years Ago.

On October 3, 1993—27 Years Ago Today—I made this Kodachrome slide of a Conrail eastward freight on the former Boston & Albany.

I’d set up with a Nikkormat FTN fitted with a Nikon AF28mm lens.

I wanted to exemplify the deep rock cuttings and so made use of the afternoon shadows.

The lit marker lamps on the lead locomotive was an unusual and unanticipated detail that make this photo more interesting.

Twin Ledges is a pair of rock cuts on a double S-bend in the Berkshires timetable west of the old Middlefield Station on the Boston & Albany mainline.

Kodachrome 25 slide scanned using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 powered by VueScan software. Tif file adjusted using Adobe Lightroom and scaled for internet.

My late friend Bob Buck of Warren, Massachusetts, had first shown me this iconic location in 1982, and I’ve made countless visits back to this spot over the years.

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Rhonda Lee Glints at Bartlett

Thursday evening (October 1, 2020), Adam Bartley and I photographed Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer at Bartlett, NH.

Budd-built Vista Dome Rhonda Lee (originally Burlington’s Silver Buckle) was the at the back of the train.

This momentarily caught the glint of the evening sun as it crossed Albany Avenue near the old freight house.

I made this view using my Nikon Z6 digital camera with 24-70mm zoom lens.

Budd Vista Dome ‘Rhonda Lee’ at Bartlett.

This image was recorded using the Z6’s JPG setting with Vivid color profile. I scaled the file without editing using Adobe Lightroom

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Frankenstein with the Nikon Z6

Monday September 28, 2020, I made the hike up to Frankenstein to photograph the westward Mountaineer crossing the famous trestle in peak autumn color.

This was also one of my first tests with the new camera photographing a moving train.

Among the features of the Z6 is the ‘heads-up’ display in view finder that allows for me to observe a histogram while I’m making photographs.

After exposure, I imported the Nikon NEF (camera RAW) file into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.

The sensor in the camera captures an enormous amount of data. To make the best use of this requires a bit of interpretation.

Specifically, I used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter in the sky to better display highlight detail. I also lightened shadow areas, while making subtle color temperature changes.

While I have made these types of adjustments with my other digital cameras, I was impressed by the level of detail and the subtlety of the colors displayed in the Nikon file.

This camera-lens combination allows for exceptional sharp images. I’ve enlarged a small portion of the file without adjustment for comparison.

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