Tracking the Light—On Screen

Ten days ago, I presented my Power Point presentation titled ‘Tracking the Light’—named after this blog—to the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts in the Pearl Street Station restaurant in Malden, Massachusetts.

I was allowed to open the back door which faced the Orange Line and former Boston & Maine commuter rail tracks.

Inside the station were paintings depicting how the station used to be.

Dave Brown of the Mass Bay RRE helped me work the computer that projected my pre-recorded program that featured 196 photographs.

Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown works the projection computer.
Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown works the projection computer.

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Old Maine Central 255 in the Gloom of Night

Conway Scenic Railroad’s latest acquisition, former Maine Central GP38 255 is on the final legs of its journey to North Conway.

Last night (October 29, 2021) Kris and I drove up to the St Lawrence & Atlantic line to intercept westward freight 393 that was hauling Clarendon & Pittsford 203 in consist. (This red & white GP38 is former Maine Central 255.)

At Gorham, New Hampshire we rolled by the train at the old Grand Trunk station where there is a variety of historic equipment on display.

The plan was for 393 to drop the engine for interchange at Groveton, New Hampshire. In the coming days, CSRR will plan to collect it at the railroad’s only active interchange (at Hazens near Whitefield, NH) i

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 mounted on an old Bogen tripod.

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Hi-Hood SD45 December 1987.

In the late 1980s Kodak introduced its new T-grain T-Max black & white emulsions.

I quickly adopted these new films in place of Kodak Tri-X and Kodak Plus-X.

After about a year of trial and error with the T-Max films, I opted to return to the more traditional non-T-grain emulsions. In the mean time I committed countless unrepeatable scenes to T-Max.

This photo features a freshly-painted (and only recently acquired) Guilford SD45 eastbound at Greenfield, Massachusetts. I exposed it on 120-size TMY (T-Max 400) film using my father’s Rollieflex Model-T.

Part of the difficulty was that I insisted on developing the film in straight Kodak D76 instead of the recommended T-Max developer. I did this to save money; when I was at RIT in Rochester (actually Henrietta), New York, photo students received basic photo chemistry as part of their lab fee, which meant I could get all the D76 I wanted without any additional cost, while T-Max developer had to be purchased.

What I saved in developer, I’ve paid 100-fold in laborious print making and difficult scanning.

However, using Adobe Lightroom I’ve finally been able to get decent tonality out of these 34 year-old photos.

Springfield Terminal SD45 679 leads an eastward road freight at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 19, 1987.

The SD45 has always been a favorite locomotive, and at the time I was quite pleased to catch Guilford’s latest motive power in fresh paint.

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Views from the Orange Line

Last Thursday evening, October 21, 2021 (10-21-2021), as we rode north on MBTA’s Orange Line I snapped digital photos from the window of the train looking down on MBTA’s former Boston & Maine lines radiating from Boston’s North Station.

We paced an outward commuter train for about a minute.

This reminded me of similar efforts photographing trains through the glass when I was a teenager.

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AEM-7 and an E-unit—August 1981.

My grandparents had a grand view of the old New Haven Railroad at Pelham Bay Park from their apartment in Co-op City, The Bronx, New York.

Using my old Leica IIIa, I made hundreds of photos of trains rolling along under wire.

This is among the more unsual photos from their 19th floor terrace. On a visit in August 1981, I made numerous photos of diesels underwire, as the result of a failure with the early 1900s electrification that had forced Amtrak to tow its normally electrically hauled trains with diesels.

In this photo, one of Amtrak’s few remaining EMD E8As hauls a then-new AEM-7 electric and train eastward toward New Haven.

At the center of image is Goose Island.

Exposed using a Leica IIIa with 50mm Sumitar lens.
Enlarged portion of the train showing the diesel and electric locomotives.

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Chinese Orange Line Cars at North Station

Thursday, October 21, 2021, I had my first experience with MBTA’s new Orange Line subway cars built by Chinese firm CRRC in Springfield, Massachusetts.

It was odd for me because the ‘Old’ cars were delivered when I was in High School. I recall going on a Orange Line shop tour in 1983 with my old friend Dan Howard to see the ‘New Cars’ (now the ‘Old’ Cars). This had been organized by the Mystic Valley Railway Society.

Kris and I were on our way to Malden, Massachusetts so that I could give a talk on Tracking the Light to Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the old Pearl Street Station.

I made these orange line images using my Nikon Z6 mirroless digital camera.

Old cars at the New North Station Orange Line station.
The new CRRC Orange Line subway cars.

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October 25, 1985—Palmer Diamond

This day has always been a special one for me!

On this day 36 years ago, I spent the afternoon making photos at Palmer, Massachusetts.

I exposed this image using my father’s Rollei model T loaded with Kodak VPX (Verichrome Pan) 120-size black & white film that I later processed in Kodak D76 developer.

At that time I was attending Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts where I was studying photography and music.

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F from an F

Yesterday, Saturday October 23, 2021, Conway Scenic Railroad hosted 470 Club’s annual autumn trip.

This was led by former Maine Central GP7 573 and former Boston & Maine F7A 4266 with Conway Scenic’s GP35 216 at the back for assistance.

I assisted with planning and executing photo stops. However, I had some other work to do on the way up the mountain, so I rode in the cab of 4266 (trailing westbound).

The 470 Club had arranged to display its other F7A, 4268 on the North Conway turntable. This locomotive rarely sees the light of day. It is a treasured antique that is undergoing a full operational restoration and has spent most of the last year in stall four of the North Conway roundhouse.

As we were departing North Conway, I made this unusual view of 4268 from the cab window of 4266 using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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AMtrak E-Units at Brookfield.

Labor Day weekend 1978: my dad brought my brother and me out to roll by Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at the route 148 overpass in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Working with his ‘motorized’ (mechanical wind-up) Leica 3A, I made a rapid fire sequence of the train as it roared west behind E-units.

I processed the film in the kitchen sink and made a few prints, then for the next four decades the negatives rested quietly in the attic.

I used this Epson scan of one of the negatives from that day as one of the opening photos in my program titled ‘Tracking the Light’ that I presented live last night to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the Pearl Street Station in Malden, Massachusetts.

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Mountaineer at Crawford Notch—Late Season Foliage

On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, I caught Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer near the Gateway at Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

This contrasty scene required a bit of adjustment in post processing to hold detail in the sky and shadow areas.

I like the orange tree at right that hints at the fading autumnal foliage of this supremely scenic area.

Nikon Z6 with 24-70.

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The DART—April 2003

In April 2003, I was traveling on rail-tour returning to Dublin from Belfast, when I made this pacing view of an Irish Rail DART suburban electric train rolling along on an adjacent track.

I was working with my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a 28mm Zeiss Biogon, and loaded with Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film.

This is among the photos that I intend to present tonight (October 21, 2021) to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at Malden, Massachusetts.

By working with a comparatively slow shutter speed, I was able to convey the sense of motion.

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Take a Note: NHSE at Chester—October 20, 1985.

For many years, I recorded my photographic adventures with detailed note pages that were organized by date and included: time, location and train information, exposure and camera information, and sometimes interesting or noteworthy details of operations.

On October 20, 1985 (36 years ago today) I was working with my father’s Rolleiflex Model T in tandem with my Leica 3A, when I pictured Conrail’s NHSE (Cedar Hill Yard, New Haven, Connecticut to Selkirk Yard, New York) ascending the old Boston & Albany grade at milepost 126.4 in Chester, Massachusetts.

At that time the New Haven trains still routinely carried cabooses.

Displayed here are the black & white photo exposed with the Rollei with 645-size insert (note notches for ‘Super Slide’ format). I was using Kodak Verichrome Pan 120-size film that I’d processed in D-76 developer.

These are among the photos that I plan to show at my talk to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on Thursday evening in Malden.

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Maine Central 255—August 26, 1986.

When I photographed Maine Central GP38 255 (and its sister 256) in the Bangor, Maine yard back in 1986, it was just another GP38.

Soon, if all plans come to fruition, it will become a regular sight in North Conway, New Hampshire, where it can again work Maine Central rails.

There’s a certain satisfaction in bringing the old locomotive back to home rails where it can rejoin its sister 252 to entertain legions of visitors on their travels through the Mount Washington Valley.

Bangor Yard and Kodachrome may have both gone the way of the Dodo Bird, but the 255 is still with us. I wonder whatever happened to 256?

Kodachrome exposed using a Leica 3A with 65mm Elmar attached with a Leica Visoflex.

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Sugarbeet Crossing at Carrick-on-Suir

Late October traditionally represented the start of Irish Rail’s sugarbeet season. This was among the most intensive freight operations in Ireland and saw up to seven laden trains daily operated from the beet loading point at Wellingtonbridge, Co. Wexford to the processing factory near Mallow in Co. Cork.

In November 2005 halfway through the final sugarbeet season, I made this photo of laden and empty trains crossing at Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary.

Standing on the footbridge in the station, I working with a Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome. One of my favorite lenses at this time was a manual focus Nikkor f2.8 180mm, which saw good use during beet season.

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Two Angles on Willey Brook

The former Maine Central Mountain Division is known for its Willey Brook Bridge that appears to cling to the side the rocks on Crawford Notch in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

This October on two occasions—ten days apart, I photographed Conway Scenic Railroad’s westward Mountaineer on its ascent of Crawford Notch as it crossed this iconic span.

In the first view, I stood line-side just east of milepost 84 and looked back toward Willey Brook.

For the second photo, I took a position well below the bridge, just off Route 302.

I used the same camera-lens combination for both photos: my Canon EOS7D digital camera with a Canon f2.0 100mm telephoto lens.

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Fine Foliage at the Gateway

Over the last ten days I’ve made several trips over Crawford Notch to capture Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer with the autumnal leaves.

I exposed this image from atop the Gateway cutting using my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera with f4.0 Nikkor Z 24-70mm zoom lens.

Backlit autumn leaves tend to appear more vivid as the sunlight illuminates the leaves like colored bulbs.

The classic Maine Central yellow was based on the yellow-orange color of the autumnal foliage.

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CD Cargo—5 Years Ago!

On the afternoon of 15 October 2016, I was poised with my FujiFilm XT1 to capture this westward CD Cargo freight on the roll at Zebreh, Czech Republic.

Fresh blue and gray paint on an antique electric locomotive made for an interesting subject.

Czech mainlines are extremely busy. Zebreh is located on the heavily traveled east-west trunk line that runs east from Prague to Olomouc and beyond. Every few minutes a train passes, including a variety of freights and open access passenger operators.

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Open Access at Kralupy

Hey, I didn’t make this up.

On October 14, 2016 during our exploration of the Czech Republic, fellow photographer Denis McCabe and I caught this Metrans Container freight rolling through Kralupy.

I exposed this view as part of a sequence using my FujiFilm XT-1 digital camera.

A Bombardier TRAXX type of electric rolls through Kralupy with a container train in tow.

Kralupy is a busy junction to the north of Prague, wear we witnessed a steady parade of freights.

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Prague on this Day 2016

On October 13, 2016, I exposed these digital photos in the Czech Capital using my FujiFilm XT1.

Prague is among the most visually intense cities in central Europe and I filled several cards during my short cloudy visit five years ago.

In addition, I exposed several rolls of black & white film, including my first Fomapan, a Czech-made commercial brand. My Fomapan photos have made various appearances on Tracking the Light. I carry two rolls in my camera bag, waiting for the appropriate moments to expose them.

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Bob Buck—Ten Years Gone

My late friend Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts was born on this day in 1929, and died on this day in 2011.

Bob was a great connector of people and introduced me to many of my life-long friends.

I made this photo of Bob holding court at the West Springfield Train Watchers in the summer of 1986. This loosely affiliated group of retired railroaders and enthusiasts would meet at the west end of the West Springfield, Massachusetts yard to watch trains and trade stories.

In the early 1980s, I’d often travel with Bob to West Springfield.

I made this view using my father’s Rollieflex model T with a 645-size insert to obtain the desired aspect ratio.

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Caboose at the Diamond—August 1982

Working with my old Leica IIIA loaded with Kodak black & white, I made this trailing view of a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose at the back of an eastward Conrail freight on the old Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts.

The institution of the caboose on American freight trains was still going strong in August 1982. But within just a couple of years, cabooses on mainline through freights would become scarce.

Changes in technology and crew reforms accelerated by the Staggers Act of 1980 facilitated the elimnation of the caboose on most freight trains by the late 1980s. Conrail began eliminating cabooses on through freights on B&A route in April 1984.

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GP9 at Ware—1987.

The other day I was digging around for some Boston & Albany negatives that I’d exposed back in the 1980s in preparation for a program that I’m putting together for the Mass Bay RRE.

Among the negatives I found was a roll of Kodak TMY (T-Max 100) black & white film that I’d exposed with my father’s Rollei Model-T on December 28, 1987.

I’d followed the Mass-Central freight from Palmer up to Ware in a light snow fall. The train had stalled on Ware Hill, but eventually got where it was going.

In this view Mass-Central’s GP9 7015, a former Conrail unit, was holding the mainline, while Mass-Central’s CF-7 2443 switched at the southend of the yard.

It was a gray day, but well suited to the subtle tonality of the Kodak black & white film. I scanned the negatives using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software. I made some nominal adjustments to contrast to improve presentation here.

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Rare Move on Willey Brook Bridge.

Yesterday (October 8, 2021), the 470 Club collected its latest acquisition from the New Hampshire Central interchange at Hazens in Whitefield, NH.

The 470 Club had taken possesion of Boston & Maine GP9 1741 (later Springfield Terminal 72). This was collected by the club’s 4266, an active former B&M F7A, which towed the GP9 east.

On its journey to North Conway, New Hampshire, this short train crossed the famous Willey Brook bridge at Crawford Notch at about a quarter to two eastern time

I made this photo for the Conway Scenic Railroad using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera from a vantage point on some rocks high above the bridge.

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On This Day: Downhill Co. Derry

Five years ago, photographers Stephen Hirsch, Denis McCabe and I visited the cliffs at Downhill, Co. Derry in Northern Ireland to photograph NI Railways running along the beach.

These cliffs offer one of the most spectacular views of the railway in Ireland.

I made this image using my FujiFilm XT1.

This morning, I interpreted the Fuji camera RAW file using Adobe Lightroom for presentation here.

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Frankenstein Foliage

Yesterday, I made this image of the Mountaineer descending at the Arethusa Falls grade crossing against a backdrop of autumnal foliage and the famous Frankenstein Cliff in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

A shaft of sun illuminated the front of GP35 216 which made for a tricky exposure.

I’d preset the camera settings in manual mode, anticipating the bright yellow front of the engine catching the wink of sun. Further adjustment of highlight and shadow areas was necessary in post processing.

Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom lens. NEF Raw file adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.

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Storm LIght

Last week I found the most dramatic light of the day on return to North Conway from Crawford.

I made this view at the Golf Course crossings timetable east of the Conway Scenic Station.

This is the unadjusted camera produced JPG, scaled for internet.

Rich low sun with dramatic clouds make for a stunning view of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer.

Exposed using my Nikon Z6 digital camera.

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Digital Dawn—November 8, 2008

On November 8, 2008, Chris Guss lent me his Canon 50D and we explored the greater Chicago rail scene making photos.

It was one of my earliest experiments with digital photography.

I made this photo of Chicago Metra commuter trains tied up at Kenonsha, Wisconsin.

About a year later I finally acquired my first digital camera.

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CSX on Velvia

May 4, 2007, I was just back from England. Not yet over my jet lag, I drove in the Berkshires of Massachusetts to photograph CSX freights on the former Boston & Albany.

I made this view west of the rock cut at milepost 129, on the 1912 line relocation between Chester and Middlefield, Massachusetts.

A westward freight was led by an SD70MAC.

I’d exposed the photo using my Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Fujichrome Velvia 50.

Although Velvia is an extraordinarily sharp film that offers tremendous dynamic range and deep rich colors, I’ve often found this to be difficult emulsion to expose properly.

The original slide is about 1/2 stop under exposed, which means its a bit too dark.

To correct for this flaw, I scanned the original using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and imported the scan into Adobe Lightroom where I lightened the midtones, adjusted shadows, and corrected the color balance to compensate for excessive red/magenta in the processed chrome.

Below is the unadjusted scan (for comparison) and two versions of the corrected slide scan.

My unadjusted scan for comparison. This image is too dark and sufferes from a strong red/magenta bias.
This my first color corrected and exposure adjusted image.
My final adjusted scan. Notice the juxtoposition of the clouds with the shadowed bushes on the lower right. Both are key elements to my composition aimed to augment the dynamics of the locomotives.

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Slug Set at Rices—February 1985.

In February 1985, my old pal TSH and I made a big adventure of chasing Guilford’s GP40-2 slug set (300-100-301) that was leading a westward empty coal train.

We picked this train up at East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) and followed it west toward the Hoosac Tunnel.

TSH drove, I navigated and when we stopped line side, I made black & white photos using my Leica IIIA loaded with Ilford FP4 that I’d bulk loaded into reusable cassettes from a 100ft roll.

I exposed this view at the Rices interlocking along the Deerfield River near Charlemont, Massachusetts.

Today, this scene is very much overgrown, and the interlocking is long gone. For me the photo invokes the thrill of the chase on a cool stretch of the old Boston & Maine.

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Bright Colors on the West Slope.

The leaves are changing noticeably later this year as compared with last year.

East of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire the foliage is still a bit on the green side, but to the west the colors are turning.

This is one of the best railroad autumn foliage photos I made thus far. It shows Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer on the Crawford-Fabyan leg of its run.

September 29, 2021.

Will this foliage season live up expectations, or will the trees go from green to brown?

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Mountaineer at the Girders

Foliage season has begun in the White Mountains.

On Wednesday, I shadowed Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer on its ascent of Crawford Notch.

Ironically, one of the most dramatic unobstructed views of the line can be obtained directly off Route 302, the road which runs parallel to the railroad in the Mount Washington Valley.

I exposed this photo of the Mountaineer on ‘the Girders’ bridge near the scenic vista pull-off at Crawford Notch using my Nikon Z6 digital camera. I processed the camera’s NEF file using Adobe Lightroom to lighten shadows and correct the color temperature, while nominally boosting saturation.

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