Yesterday, I exposed a few photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s work train unloading cut trees at Kearsarge in North Conway, NH as part of materials that I was preparing for story about the railroad in the Conway Daily Sun.
The railroad has been cutting dead and dangerous trees along its lines and storing the timber at the Kearsarge siding on the Redstone Line.
This operation is parallel to the North-South Road in North Conway which used as a bypass for highway traffic through town.
I like photographing this lightly used former Maine Central line because it runs just a few blocks from my apartment in town.
Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon lens.
I’d been chasing the Mass-Central freight and caught it here winding along the Ware River at Thorndike, Massachusetts. Condensation from the factory added atmosphere, and partially obscured former Conrail GP9 7015 that was leading the train that day.
Until a few days ago this image was lost to the mists of time, languishing among ‘BAD’ slides.
It was a Kodachrome 25 exposed using my father’s Leica M3 with f2 Summicron, probably in January 1987.
Although a color slide, there’s very little color in this scene.
I scanned it last night using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000.
The other day plowing through my old yellow Kodak boxes, I found one marked in pencil ‘RR-BAD, 2nds & 3rds’.
Translated from my teenaged sorting classification system this was code for ‘real garbage, but not so bad that it should be thrown away’.
Without opening this box, hidden away in the dark for more than three decades, I joked to Kris Sabbatino, “these slides are marked as ‘Bad’, so they must be the best of the lot!”
I explained further, “In my younger days I’d dismiss a photo for the slightest perceived imperfection and classify it as ‘junk’. I know better now! Any box that’s coded as ‘garbage’ is filled with lost treasure!”
Sure enough when I opened this yellow box last night and examined it closely, I found host of fascinating photos. Many only a quick correction away from public presentation.
So what was wrong with this view of a Bangor & Aroostook GP7 at Northern Maine Junction? I’d exposed it on Kodak Ektachrome back in July 1983, and missed my ideal exposure. The original is a bit hot (too light). But that’s a quick fix using Adobe Lightroom.
What you see here is my corrected scan of the original overexposed slide. Not all that bad after all!
I exposed this color slide on a visit to Brussels with my father in May 1996.
I carried two cameras on that trip. My primary body was a Nikon F3T that I bought new from Nikon in 1990. My secondary camera was second hand Nikkormat FTN with an outer covering of red leather. I called it ‘my red Nikkormat’.
Back then, I’d usually load Kodachrome 25 in the F3T, and Fujichrome 100 in the Nikormat. I exposed film in both cameras manually using a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter to calculate exposure.
I made my first photos of the railroad scene in Palmer, Massachusetts back in 1977 using a Leica 3C rangefinder on Black & White film.
I made my first Nikon Z6 digital photos of Palmer on Saturday. (January 23, 2021). Kris Sabbatino and I passed through this old haunt of mine during a visit to Monson, Massachusetts. Time was short, so we paused trackside for just a few minutes.
Although the railroads were quiet, and not a steel wheel turned, I made the opportunity to record the railroad scene with my latest camera. A pair of New England Central locomotives were in the yard, and made for subjects to capture digitally.
This morning, I processed these photos using Adobe Lightroom. For me this was an exercise in learning how I see in this long photographed place with my new camera, which I purchased in September 2020.
In October 2001, my brother Sean and I visited Norristown, Pennsylvania to photograph SEPTA’s Route 100, known as the Norristown High Speed Line. Here it crossed the Schuylkill Valley on a long steel viaduct.
It was a bright clear day, and I made these views on Fujichrome using my Contax G2 rangefinder from a vantage point the north bank of the river. On the walk back from the river, I stepped squarely in some deep mud.
Until the early 1990s, SEPTA operated distinctive Brill ‘Bullet Cars’ on this route. My dad still calls SEPTA’s current fleet as ‘the new cars’, even though at this point most are now the better part of 30 years old!
When Irish Rail’s Rotem-built 22K series InterCity Railcars (ICRs) were new, they briefly carried set numbers in a painted round circle on the right front above the coupler and adjacent to the headlights. This has been called the ‘green golfball.’
This identification practice was frowned upon and most of the circles were removed after a few months.
Set 7 survived longer than others.
On the evening of December 31, 2009, I made a visit to ‘The Box’ overlooking the wall at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin, where I made this image of ICR set 7 in dramatic winter light using my then new Lumix LX3.
Last night, I found this photo while searching for something else obscure and thought it would make for an interesting Tracking the Light post.
Working from period photos, including color slides that my father exposed in the 1950s-1960s, and my own images from recent years, I’ve planned an HO model railroad that is set in Pennsylvania’s anthracite country.
I’ve been scouring old topographical maps, perusing more old photos, reviewing books, and using Google Earth to adapt a prototype from the former Reading Company main line and Mine Hill Branches. I’m incorporating \elements of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Branch, the disused Schuylkill Canal, local highways and towns added in for color and historical context. I’m planning a coal mine (or two), a yard, engine house, and several bridges among other scale infrastructure, and if space and time permits maybe hints of the old Lehigh Valley and trolley lines that also once populated the area.
From these visions, my girlfriend Kris Sabbatino and I are building this model in her basement in New Hampshire. With a view to a four-dimensional model, I’m intent on a degree of realism and tuned to learn as much about the real railroad as I can in the process of modeling it. And yet, I am hoping the final execution will retain the mystique that attracted us to this railroad in the first place. I’d like it to have a dream-like quality; real yet surreal, an alternate vision of yesteryear. After all the model is but a wee fantasy world.
I’m still erecting the bench-work that is the foundation for the railroad. It will be a while before I can lay track and wire it up, and then we can begin dressing the layout with scenery and tiny structures.
More to follow in the coming months, including more photos of the prototype!
Thanks to Kris who made some of the photos using her new FujiFilm XT4. Special thanks to Doug Scott who generously donated HO scale buildings and rolling stock that go the project rolling forward!
Last Sunday (January 10, 2021), Kris Sabbatino and I drove north into Maine to the narrow crossing of the mountains called Grafton Notch.
In my opinion, this is the coolest of the ‘Notches’ in the White Mountain region.
At Moose Cave a stream navigates a narrow cleft in the rocks where ice had formed.
I made this sequence of photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55 mm lens, converting camera RAW files with Iridient X-Transformer and making adjustments to color, contrast and exposure using Adobe Lightroom.
Yesterday morning, I photographed Conway Scenic’s Snow Train as it crossed the River Road bridge in North Conway, NH bound for Attitash.
The sun was directly behind the train, and if working with conventional theory for railroad photography I might have dismiss these lighting conditions as unworkable.
Instead, I opted for a sunburst silhouette. Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens, I set the aperture manually to f22 (the smallest setting). By using the smallest lens opening, I caused diffraction of the direct sunlight that results in the sunburst effect. This is enhanced by filtering the sunlight through the tree branches against a clear blue sky. I adjusted my exposure to maximize the sun burst, which resulted in underexposure of the main subject, which is GP35 216 leading the Snow Train.
After exposure, I walked back to my office at the North Conway Station to adjust the image for final presentation. First I converted the Fuji RAW file using Iridient X-Transformer, and then imported this into Adobe Lightroom. I lightened the overall exposure, while lowering highlights to make the most of the sunburst, then lightened the shadow areas to brighten up the train. Finally, I boosted overall image saturation to make sky seem more blue, and lowered contrast to lower the impact of the photograph.
These adjustments required less time than the five-minute walk from River Road to the North Conway Station.
On January 15, 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 4876 leading The Federal from Boston, suffered an airbrake failure on approach to Washington Union Station and crashed spectacularly landing in the main concourse of the building. The floor collapsed under the weight of the heavy electric locomotive. Photographs of the disaster were printed on the front pages of newspapers around the country.
The locomotive was rebuilt and remained in service until 1983.
On June 27, 1983, my father, my brother Sean and I found the old electric resting at the motor storage in South Amboy, New Jersey.
At the time, the locomotive and South Amboy were a subjects of my model railroad interest.
I made this view on Kodachrome 64 with my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. The film had a red tint to it, that I’ve preserved in scanning. This can be easily color corrected.
Recently, my girlfriend Kris Sabbatino and I decided to build a model railroad.
For a prototype we selected eastern Pennsylvania anthracite country.
I began scouring my archives looking for material.
Part of my inspiration for this model railroad began many years ago when I was looking through my father’s photographs of Reading Company’s Iron Horse Rambles that he exposed over a five-year period beginning in 1959. Many of these photos were made from the excursions or on chases through eastern Pennsylvania. Most were not captioned at the time of processing, which often makes location details elusive but also part of the dreamlike mystery of building the scale railroad.
In 2007, I assembled a book titled the Railroads of Pennsylvania, and made a detailed study of the region.
In 2014 and 2015, I was researching on books on steam locomotives and made several trips with Pat Yough to photograph the Reading & Northern.
The model railroad will blend together all of this inspiration and much more.
As part of a new on-going feature on Tracking the Light, I’ll be reporting on progress with this model railroad and the source material from which we draw.
At the end of December 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I, paid a brief visit to the Mount Washington Cog Railway, where I made this photo of a pair of bio-diesel powered excursion trains near the base station.
The Mount Washington Cog was the worlds first cog railway. Although uncommon in North America, mountainous cog railways are relatively common in the Alps where there are numerous examples in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
In 2002, I traveled on a cog line at Strba, Slovakia, but that’s a photo for another day.
On a September 1994 trip with Tom and Mike Danneman, I made this unusual portrait oriented (vertical) image on Kodachrome 25 of a Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range manifest freight approach the yard at Proctor, Minnesota.
It was dull and raining lightly. To make for a more engaging photo I included portions of the bridge on which was I standing over the tracks. This makes a frame for the primary subject and ads depth, while distracting viewers likely to complain by directing their interest to the out of focus bridge members and away from the featureless sky.
This was a trick I learned in the early 1990s when executing commercial product photography to avoid overly complicated re-shoots by distracting fault-finding art directors.
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Cropped for the horizontal-demanding internet below;
On Saturday, January 2, 2021, I limited my photo arsenal to just three cameras.
For this view of the Conway Scenic Railroad’s Winter Steam crossing the Saco River at ‘Second Iron,’ I was used my Nikon Z6.
I made some nominal modifications to the camera raw file (NEF) using Adobe Lightroom. Specifically, I lightened the shadow areas, brought down the highlights, while whitening the whites to help separate the steam from the sky and keep the snow looking clean and fresh. I also slightly increased saturation since the RAW capture appeared a bit dull.
Locomotive 7470 was reversing over the bridge after making its first run-by for the photographers on the trip.
Yesterday, I presented images scaled directly from the Camera produced JPG files.
To make the most of the images presented in today’s post, I imported my Fuji RAW files into Iridient X-Transformer for conversion into the DNG format, and then imported the DNG conversions into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.
As previously described on Tracking the Light Iridient X-Transformer does a superior job of interpreting the data captured in RAW by the Fuji X-series camera than simply importing the RAWs directly into Lightroom.
Using the Lightroom sliders I made nominal adjustments to contrast, color temperature, and exposure in order improve the interpretation of the photographs.
Saturday, January 2, 2021, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its Winter Steam special to Sawyer River hauled by locomotive 7470.
I helped plan, organize and advertise this event.
Instead of traveling on the train westbound, I’d opted to ride the Water Train that preceded it to Sawyers. This allowed me to help set up the location for the first photo stop, and make images of the train arriving.
I then traveled on Winter Steam eastward to Second Iron, where we staged the second photo run by.
These photos were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 using the the built in Velvia color profile. Other than scale the camera JPG files in Adobe Lightroom, I made no changes to color, contrast or exposure.
Yesterday—January 2, 2021—I traveled on Conway Scenic’s Water Train, ‘Work Extra 573,’ that cleared the line of snow and carried the tank car filled with 5,000 gallons of water to refill the tender of steam locomotive 7470.
This was the support train for the main event. Winter Steam was Conway Scenic’s first steam excursion of the new year. Locomotive 7470, the railroad’s former Grand Trunk Railway 0-6-0, followed the Water Train by about an hour, running to from North Conway, New Hampshire to Sawyers and back.
Sawyers is the siding on the old Maine Central Mountain Division located immediately timetable west of 4th Iron, where the railroad crosses Sawyer River.
I made all of these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.
In 1986, my pal TSH and I had been comparing the differences between Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64, and Fujichrome 50 slide film.
It was early during this trial period that I made this photo of Central Vermont’s southward freight 562 with Grand Trunk Western 5808 in the lead ascending State Line Hill in Monson, Massachusetts passing the old Zero Manufacturing plant on Bliss Street.
I was very much impressed by the colors in this image when it was returned to me from Kodak, and the appearance of this slide and other K25 images contributed to my decision to adopt this emulsion as my standard slide film.
In scanning my vintage Kodachrome slides, I found two color views at Rices near Charlemont, Massachusetts that I exposed nearly 15 years apart.
The top view was made looking east from a Mystic Valley Railroad Society excursion to the Hoosac Tunnel in May 1982. We had just over taken a short Boston & Maine local freight heading for North Adams. Interestingly this was my first photo at Rices.
The second photo was made of an empty coal train following a late-season heavy snow in April 1997.