Where better to photograph a train on Halloween than Frankenstein trestle?
This afternoon, Kris Sabbatino and I ventured to this iconic landmark to catch the eastward Conway Scenic Mountaineer.
Mount Washington seen to the right of the train was covered in fresh autumn snow.
The bridge is named for the nearby cliffs, which were named not for the characters of Mary Shelley’s fictional story, but rather for the family of German artists that painted landscapes of the Mount Washington Valley in the 19th Century.
Lost in the woods of northern New Hampshire is this relic of an era—all but lost to time.
The long-abandoned Maplewood Station served resort traffic on Boston & Maine’s Bethlehem Branch, a short railway built as narrow gauge in the late 19th century and later converted to four foot eight and a half inches.
By the 1920s, New England railroading was already in decline, and this branch was one of the earliest class I abandonments. Yet the old station building survived.
On the advice of Wayne Duffett, Kris Sabbatino and I made a foray into the forest to find this hollow spectre of railroading, languishing like a sad old ghost, and soon to crumble back into the earth.
I made these digital photos variously using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom.
Old Millie is Conway Scenic’s Budd RDC. This car is a former New Haven Railroad RDC built back in 1952.
Earlier this week Millie had finished its 92-day inspection and needed to go for a test run before she enters service next week on the Valley run.
My parents were visiting from Massachusetts, so a group of us including Kris and Sharon Sabbatino and Conway Scenic’s Train Master and Road Foreman of Engines, Mike Lacey, went for wander with Millie down the Conway Branch.
We stopped on the way down and again on the way back.
If all goes to plan, Mille will be working the 1115 Conway and 1245 Bartlett trains Monday – Thursday up until Thanksgiving.
I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw last month when Kris Sabbatino and I re-visited Belfast, Maine.
In 1980, my father and I paid two visits to Belfast, one of which involved a train ride to Burnham Junction and back on the Belfast & Moosehead Lake freight. On those trips I made photos of B&ML’s yard and roundhouse on black & white film using my Leica IIIA.
In August 1997, I revisited Belfast, and found the B&ML yard intact, but ghostly quiet.
I’d read that the good citizens of Belfast despised the railroad yard and its environment and that they had evicted the railroad that the city had once owned.
I was shocked of how completely this quaint delightful compact railroad yard along the Belfast waterfront had been so totally erased from the scene. It has been replaced with a sandy parking lot.
I was unprepared because I had not brought with me the photos from my earlier visits. I found it very difficult to recall exactly where I had stood. The landmarks I knew existed only in my head.
The tracks, the structures, the trains and the character of the environment that I seen in my earlier visits were now gone.
Sadly, I’ll need to return again with my earlier photos in hand and attempt a more accurate series of ‘then and now’ images.
The views below are looking north. My attempts to recreate the roundhouse scenes looking west are not good enough to reproduce here.
Going back over my Fuji digital files from 2015, I’ve selected this image of a VR Group Stadler railcar working the then-new Helsinki Airport train at Leinelá, Finland.
Below are three interpretations of the same image exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. The first is the In-camera JPG without color correction or alteration except for scaling and watermark.
The second is the Fuji RAW file imported and adjusted strictly using Lightroom.
The third is the Fuji RAW file first converted using Iridient X-Transformer and then imported into Lightroom where I implemented the same color and contrast corrections.
One minor difference with this Iridient interpretation is that I turned off the the feature that automatically corrects for lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. So this gives a slightly less invasive digital interpretation and a truer sense of the visual information as recorded by the sensor.
The ability to improve my interpretation of Fuji RAW files using Iridient X-Transformer made me curious to re-examine some of my Fuji photos from years gone by.
I selected a photo that I made on trip to Switzerland with photographer Denis McCabe in April 2017. This image was made at the Champery terminus of a TPC branch that extends into the Alps from Aigle.
Here I’ve presented a comparison between the Lightroom interpreted RAW (scaled and converted to JPG for internet presentation) and the same file converted into a DNG file using Iridient X-Transformer. Since it is difficult to appreciate the improved sharpness when viewed on a small scale, I’ve enlarged a portion of each image that focuses on the LED lamps and rivets on the then new Stadler railcar.
The final image was derived from the Iridient converted DNG and involved nominal adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast and saturation that are aimed a making a more pleasing final photograph.
October is my favorite time of year for photography. Relatively low sun with rapidly changing weather, and rusty foliage help make it a continually changing canvas. It is a time of change, when summer fades and winter begins.
I was reviewing my photos exposed just about a year ago on a visit to the Irish narrow gauge Bord na Mona with photographers Mark Healy and Aidan Vickers. This was one of several autumnal explorations of the peat hauling railways in the boglands of Ireland last year.
On this one day I made photos on both the Lanesborough and Shannonbridge networks.
At the time the Bord na Mona was enjoying an Indian Summer. We caught a variety of trains on the move, but the writing was on the wall for these once very active industrial lines.
Below are a few more photos from last Saturday’s 470 Club Special over the Maine Central Mountain Division.
Heavy early season snow made for a cosmic setting at Fabyan, NH where the locomotives ran around the train for the return run to North Conway.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s track patrol wasn’t as impressed with the snow as the passengers on the special. Prior to the train’s arrival at Fabyan, the members of the patrol had to remove numerous fallen trees which had succumbed to the weight of the early season snow.
Sun at Fabyan made for some interesting photo opportunities.
These images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer and adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.