Steam Twilight—7470 on the Three Percent.

Last night (December 30, 2021) Conway Scenic Railroad took 0-6-0 number 7470 for a test run.

The locomotive with crew and mechanics operated within the North Conway yard limits to the ‘Bottom of the Hill’ and returned up the three percent grade to North Conway station.

This was the first run of the steam locomotive since its repairs, and the first time it has been under steam since January (2021).

I was making a video sequence using my Nikon Z6. The camera allows for medium-resolution Jpg still photographs to be captured simultaneously with video.

This 1 MB image was exposed early in my extended video sequence. Minor adjustments to exposure and contrast were implemented in post processing.

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Government Center-41 Years apart.

Both views below show a Lechmere-bound Greenline train at Boston’s Government Center station.

I made the top view on Ektachrome about 1980, using my old Leica 3A. This features one of the Boeing-Vertol ‘Light Rail Vehicle’ cars.

The bottom view was made last October (2021) using my Nikon Z6, and features one of the AnsaldoBreda Type 8 cars.

Although the angle of the photos varies and there’s about 41 years between them, both were exposed at approximately the same place.

Ektachrome slide adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.
Nikon digital image.

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255 From the Wisps of Time

In my archive of Kodachrome slides, I found this view from October 1982.

I’d been traveling on a Mystic Valley excursion that was returning from a run through the Hoosac Tunnel.

At Greenfield, Massachusetts we overtook an eastward Boston & Maine freight led by Maine Central run-through power.

In the lead was GP38 255.

At the time, locomotive 255 was just one of 13 Maine Central GP38s.

Today 255 is Conway Scenic’s latest purchase.

Interestingly, in October 1982, Maine Central’s Mountain Division was still open as a through freight route.

My 39 year slide is a difficult image. Hard backlighting, combined with suboptimal exposure on my part led to a pretty dark slide. Worse, in processing Kodak didn’t produce the best result, which suffers from a heavy magenta color bias.

I scanned the image and then made a series of adjustments to make it better. I’ve also included a recent photo of former Maine Central 255 on Conway Scenic.

Unaltered Kodachrome slide of Maine Central 255 at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Adjusted slide.

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GP38-2 with WInter Sky . . .

. . . Sky ‘enhanced’, that is.

The other day on a brief visit to Palmer, Massachusetts,Kris and I paused for a minute to make a photo of this Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP38-2 at the New England Central’s former Central Vermont yard. (Both NECR and B&P are part of the Genessee & Wyoming family.)

I thought of the countless photos that I’ve made of locomotives here over the last 45 years. Yet, I had never seen this locomotive here before. (Or certainly not in its current guise anyway.)

I made the image toward the end of daylight. Rich winter light graced the late afternoon sky, while the locomotive was largely bathed in shadow.

Lumix LX7 photo. I arranged my composition to show more than just the locomotive, but also feature the road, yard tracks, freight cars, and of course the clouds. To minimize the effects of some distracting glint on therighthand number board on the locomotive, I took the photo from a relatively low angle.

To make for a more pleasing image, I balanced the highlights and shadows and made adjustments to color temperature and contrast using Adobe Lightroom. The Sky Mask tool sampled this work. I felt my initial edit was a bit heavy handed so I toned it down a bit for presentation here.

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Millie at the Cider Mill

Earlier this month, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a few charters from North Conway, New Hampshire to the White Mountain Cider Company in Glen.

I traveled on this trip and made publicity photos of self-propelled Rail Diesel Car ‘Millie‘ making its Glen stop— immediately east of the twin truss bridge over the Saco River (east of milepost 66).

I was working with my Lumix LX7 for these morning views at Glen.

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Slam Door Stock at Copyhold Junction Near Haywards Heath

It was a pleasant June evening in June 2001 when I made the short walk from the bed & breakfast where I was staying to this bridge at Copyhold Junction, north of Haywards Heath, England.

Although the railway line was in shadow, I exposed a few black & white photos with my Rolleiflex Model T.

This image interests me because it features a two-piece diesel-electric multiple unit of the now obsolete ‘slam door’ type. The ‘slam door’ cars featured multiple doors to allow for rapid boarding and unload and were a characteristic type of train on the old Southern Region.

While in 2001, these cars were still relatively plentiful, they were soon to be phased out in favor of more modern equipment.

Consider this: my primary goal of my 2001 visit to this area was to photograph the nearby Bluebell Railway, a well-known preserved line famous for its steam power. Twenty years later, the Bluebell Railway remains as one of Briain’s most popular heritage railways and hasn’t changed radically in its overall appearance. By comparison, the era of ‘Slam Door’ trains (such as that pictured) working regular revenue mainline services are largely a memory. (A few have been preserved)

The lessons: an ordinary train may make for a more significant historical photo than an image of preserved train. Yet, I’d be willing to bet that the photos I made of Bluebell’s steam will still draw greater interest than the Slam Door DEMU on the move!

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Merry Christmas from Tracking the Light!

It’s been several months since I last featured photos showing the progress to the HO Scale Reading Company Kris and I have been building in her basement.

I’ve been working on scenery, using lots of plaster and foam board. To demonstrate my progress I made these views using my Lumix LX7.

I still have a lot of work to do on the scenery, and it is by no means complete, but it sure beats the open timber frame appearance that the model railway exhibited in my earlier photos.

Lumix LX7 photo.

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Coal Hoppers at Horseshoe Curve

In this November 2021 view at the World Famous Horse Shoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania, I pictured in classic fashion, a westward hopper train (empty coal train) climbing the Main Line toward Gallitzin.

Eighty-one years ago, we might have seen an equivalent scene with a pair of PRR L1s Mikados. Where Norfolk Southern has hundreds of GE Dash 9s, PRR had more than 500 2-8-2s.

I wonder what will be leading freights on the Curve in 2102?

Exposed digitally using a Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

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Not Every Place is Pretty

Must every interesting photo feature stunning scenery?

On my visit to Leizig, Germany in 2001, I traveled on a local passenger train to the out-lying station at Rackwitz, where I spent an hour making photos of passing trains.

This was one ugly place. Low level platforms on tangent track with scruffy weeds and brush mixed in with uninspired industrial what not.

This northward freight paused for a few minutes on the mainline waiting for a signal to clear. For me this a photograph that works with texture, including the platform. But what makes it work for me are the flock of birds that filled the sky above the locomotive.

Exposed with a Rollei Model T on Fuji Neopan400 120 size film. Two versions of the same RAW scan below.

Low contrast interpretation.
This is a high contrast interpretation of the original negative that more closely represents the stark effect I was trying to achieve.

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Stuffed Tank at Loon

I love just the title of today’s post.

Two months ago, on our way back from Lincoln, New Hampshire, Kris and I paused near the enterance to the Loon Mountain resort so I could photograph the preserved locomotive on display.

This Porter 0-4-0T is a vestige of the old East Branch & Lincoln logging railway that once operated an extensive network of lightly build lines to tap timber traffic along what is now the Kancamgus Highway.

It was a crisp warm autumn afternoon when I focused my Nikon Z6 on this relic of the steam age. There’s a quality to this photo that just says: Nikon to my eye. That’s neither good nor bad, but it will deserve greater investigation in the coming months.

Slight back lighting helps set off the dark locomotive from its background. Even ‘three quarter’ sun would be less effective.

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Leipzig Tram Square

Among the desirable qualities of the Rolleiflex Model T was its square format.

While in my early years of using a Rollei I tended toward overuse of the 645 Superslide insert which provided a rectangular negative. I later decided that I preferred the basic square.

In June 2001, I traveled to Germany with a Rollei T, and exposed numerous 120 rolls of black & white film.

In Leipzig, I made this image of a tram on Fuji Neopan 400. I processed this roll using a mix of Agfa Rodinal Special. Unfortunately, I slightly overprocessed the negatives, a problem easily corrected after scanning, using Adobe Lightroom to adjust contrast and shadow density. The end result offers broad tonality.

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Helpers at Gallitzin—1989 and 2021

Much has changed at the summit of the Allegheny Divide in 22 years.

In the 1990s Conrail enlarged the tunnel clearances on one tunnel and added a second track while abandoning an adjacent bore. Conrail operations were conveyed to Norfolk Southern in 1999, and a new bridge was built over the tracks.

Last month on our visit to the Tunnel Inn at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, I made a variety of photos of Norfolk Southern trains passing through the tunnel.

I thought it would be neat to pair these helper images with vintage photos of Conrail trains from approximately the same location that I made on Kodachrome 25 back in July 1989.

Conrail SD40-2s working as rear-end helpers at milepost 248 in Gallitzin, PA. July 1989.

Norfolk Southern helpers, November 2021.
Norfolk Southern helpers, November 2021.

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Trackwork Monochrome

Last week I was part of a Conway Scenic crew involved with trackwork on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.

The light was December-dull, and the setting reminded me of trackwork scenes I’d photographed on black & white film back in the 1980s.

Working with my Nikon Z6 in a monochrome-mode, I made these digital images to capture the texture of the event.

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Amtrak Pennsylvanian at the Curve—Six Photos

I timed our visit to Horseshoe Curve to coincide with the passage of Amtrak’s eastward Pennsylvanian—train 42.

I made this sequence of the New York- bound train as it descended the curve using both my Nikon Z6 and Lumix LX7 cameras.

Rich Novmeber sun and late season foliage made for a pleasing combination in contrast with the metallic Amtrak equipment.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom
Lumix LX7 photo.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom.
Norfolk Southern GEs work west passing Amtrak 42 at Horseshoe Curve. Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom

All five images were adjusted in post processing using Adobe Lightroom.

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Blue Cement

We believe this was the second to last Wexford bag cement (also known as a ‘blue cement’ because of the covers on the four wheel freight wagons.)

Working with my old Contax G2 rangefinder, this was one of a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-XI exposed of the Irish Rail cement train on April 3, 2002.

Today, the single Bo-Bo diesel leading four-wheel wagons seems like a relic of former times.

How I miss those times.

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Wicklow Silhouette

On 3 April 2002, I traveled from Dublin to County Wexford on the morning train.

My friend and fellow railroad photographer, Hassard Stacpoole, and I were headed to Wexford town to intercept one of the last bag cement trains that was being unloaded there.

Once common, by mid-2002 Irish Rail’s bag cement runs were on the wain.

At Wicklow, our train paused in the loop to cross an up passenger train on the Dublin & Southeastern route.

Exposed on 35mm Kodak Tri-X using a Contax G2 rangefinder camera.

When our train paused at Wicklow Station made this view of a lattice-mast semaphore, which at the time was still in use to protect train movements.

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West Slope Glint

I made these glint images looking west from the Railfan’s Overlook at Cassandra, Pennsylvania toward the November evening sunset.

The trick to successful glint images is correctly exposing for the highlights in order to retain sufficient detail.

Another trick is to select a ‘daylight’ white balance, rather than using an automatic white balance setting.

Westward Norfolk Southern intermodal train passes Cassandra, Pennsylvania on the West Slope of the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade over the Allegheny Divide.
Helpers at the back of a westbound double stack train.

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Sun and Snow at Milepost 64

The other day I was part of a crew that ran GP35 #216 light engine from Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway, NH yard to milepost 64 on the former Maine Central Mountain Division.

Our mission was to clear flangeways from ice accumulation and freshly fallen snow.

Once stopped at milepost 64, I climbed down and made a few photos using my Lumix LX7.

Although the sky was a flat December gray, the scene brightened when the sun briefly emerged from a low cloud bank over the Saco River.

Conway Scenic Railroad GP35 216 has paused at milepost 64 near Glen, New Hampshire. December 2021

Soon we were working eastward again.

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Low Sun on the Middle Track—Cassandra, Pennsylvania.

In the autumn, the sun swings around in the late afternoon at Cassandra, and neatly lines up with the rock cut to the west of the Railfans Overlook bridge.

Looking west at Cassandra.

We heard a westward freight approaching, so I took a position over the middle track to make for a dramatic telephoto view in the low autumn sun.

I exposed this view using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom extended to 165mm.

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New Trams: April 2002

Although Dublin’s new LUAS tram system would not commence operations for another two years, in April 2002 the first batches of Alstom Citadis trams had already arrived.

I was invited on a tour of the Red Cow depot as a member of the Irish Railway Record Society, and made this view of tram 3013, which at the time was a ‘short’ three-section tram.

Recently I scanned this negative along with numerous other images exposed on the same roll of film. It’s amazing how much has changed over the last twenty years in Ireland.

LUAS Red Cow Depot, Contax G2 photo, April 2002.

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Horseshoe Curve—Revisited

My first visit to Horseshoe Curve, Pennsylvania was memorable. It was summer 1981; we arrived in our Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, and as we got out of the car, I could hear a westward train in the distance with the unmistakeable sound of an SD45 in the lead.

Without wasting a moment, I ran the 200 plus steps from the parking lot to the park in time to catch a Conrail 6100-series SD45 leading a freight passing the former Pennsylvania Railroad K4s Pacific that was then on display at the Curve.

Fast forward forty years. This November, Kris and visited the famous Curve on an unseasonably pleasant morning. Not long after we arrived, we heard the thunder of a climbing westward freight, and together we enjoyed its circumfrential passage up the valley.

I made these photos as the Norfolk Southern freight squeeled around the famous Horseshoe Curve.

Lumix LX7 photo at Horseshoe Curve, west of Altoona, Pennsylvania, November 2021.

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Blowin’ Snow

Yesterday morning (December 9, 2021) it was 11 degrees F when I arrived at the North Conway Roundhouse.

I was part of a crew to take a light engine west on the Mountain Division to clear crossings.

On the way out to our engine, I paused to make this photo of Matt H clearing snow from the turntable.

And yes, it was as cold as it looks!

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

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CHeck in to the Tunnel Inn—We did.

Last month Kris and I booked two nights at the Tunnel Inn in Gallitzin, PA, located at milepost 248, immediately west of the tunnels below the Allegheny Divide at the summit of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

I love Pennsylvania.

I’d made my first visit to Gallitzin on a family holiday back in the summer of 1981—40 years ago. There was no Tunnel Inn back then.

In the 1980s, my old pal TSH and I would make photos from the bridge over the line adjacent to the building that would later become the Tunnel Inn.

On arrival last month, Bob, the proprietor of the Tunnel Inn offered Kris and me a room overlooking the tracks named for the old Pennsylvania Railroad MO Tower. (The tower had controlled movements through the interlocking at Cresson, several miles to the west of Gallitzin.)

The Inn is nicely furnished and decorated inside, and there’s a nice tavern just a short walk down the road. Across the tracks is a preserved Pennsylvania Railroad N8 caboose.

Minutes after we checked in to the Tunnel Inn, the first of many Norfolk Southern trains rolled by.

What a cool place! More to follow soon!

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Irish Times in Motion

In August 2003, I was traveling on the Steam Enterprise, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Dublin-Belfast express led by compound 4-4-0 number 85—Merlin .

On board the train, this once-timeless scene caught my eye. Today, I wonder how much longer might passengers afford of the luxury of perusing the Sunday newspaper while traveling by rail? Or has this activity already become completely obsolete?

Less than 20 years ago, the smart phone had yet to grip the population and emerge as the chief vehicle for media and entertainment on board trains.

Kodak 120 size Tri-X, exposed manually using a Rollei Model-T, and processed in Ilfotec HC.

I scanned this black & white negative yesterday morning for presentation here. Ironically, when I exposed the photo, I expected to make prints from it, not scans.

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Conrail and Norfolk Southern—23 Years November at Cassandra

Way back in the days of Blue, Mike Gardner and I paid a visit to Cassandra, Pennsylvania. We called into the Railfan’s Welcome Center and were given a memorable tour by the mayor of the borough, and then spent the afternoon photographing Conrail trains from the famous Overlook Bridge.

That was November 1998, and only a few months before Conrail’s class 1 operations there were to become part of Norfolk Southern.

Some 23 years later (has it really been THAT long?), Kris and I paid a visit to the same bridge.

The paint has changed. The old PRR position-light signals are gone. The trains are longer. But Cassandra is much the way I remember it back in 1998.

In 1998, I was photographing on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90S with an 80-200mm f2.8 Nikkor zoom. Last month, it was a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 zoom. (But many other cameras in between.)

Conrail SD50 6773 leads a heavy westward freight at Cassandra, Pennsylvania in November 1998.
Looking the other way: Helpers on trailing on Conrail 6773 west at Cassandra in November 1998.
November 2021; Norfolk Southern double stacks westbound at Cassandra, Pennsylvania.
Westward helpers trailing at Cassandra.
Eastbound stacks at Cassandra.

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Sunset at Duncormick, Co. Wexford

In July 2003, I exposed a single frame of 120 size Tri-X looking toward the old Duncormick Station on Irish Rail’s lightly used South Wexford line.

I’d processed the film in Ilfotec HC shortly after the time of exposure. The other day I scanned this photo along with other images on the roll.

Working with Adobe Lightroom 5.0, I made use of the ‘select sky’ feature under the ‘New Mask’ option (located at the righthand side of the control panel and indicated with a pixilated circle icon) to make the sunset sky more dramatic.

Previously, I would have achieved a similar effect by creating a linear gradiation mask to make my adjustments.

The advantage of the ‘select sky’ mask is that it neatly segregates the sky area from the rest of the image and allows for a cleaner adjustment while requiring less work on my part.

In this case, to make the sky appear more dramatic, I used the ‘clarity’ slider, moving to the right (+) which increases the constrast without a substantial loss of detail.

Below are both the unaltered scan of the original black & white negative, and my adjusted version. In addition, I’ve included a screenshot of hte Adobe Lightroom control panel.

Unadjusted reversed scan from the original 120-size black & white negative. This was scaled for internet presentation.
Adjusted scan with ‘select sky’mask feature used to improve the sky contrast.
Adobe Lightroom 5.0 control panel. Notice the position of the Clarity slide while in the ‘create new mask’ -‘select sky’ mode.

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Coal Train at Cassandra

Standing at the Railfan’s Overlook at Cassandra, Pennsylvania we could hear a heavy eastward train climbing the West Slope on Norfolk Southern’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

Kris and I had arrived at this famous photo location on our drive east from Illinois last month. It was Kris’s first time at Cassandra, and my first visit here in more than a decade.

Finally after several minutes a headlight appeared on the long tangent looking west toward Johnstown. A slow-moving loaded unit coal train was clawing up grade towards us.

As the train approached and passed us, I made this series of photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera fitted with a Z-series f2.8 70-200mm zoom lens. A pair of NS SD70ACUs were working at the back of the train.

Looking east at Cassandra as the helpers shove at the back of the eastward loaded coal train.

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Beware of Trains

In July 2003, I made this 2/14 inch sqaure black & white photo at Limerick Junction, Co. Tipperary using a Rollei Model-T twin lens reflex.

Working with a relatively slow shutter speed, I allowed the train to blur as it passed the signals at the Dublin-end of the platform.

At that time Limerick Junction was controlled by a mix of tradititional mechanical signals and more modern color lights.

The sign makes the photo.

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Steward Depot

The wee village of Steward, Illinois is located amongst a glade of trees where the old Burlington makes a sharp bend on its westward run between Aurora and Savanna—where the line reaches the Mississippi River.

Steward is just a few miles from the busy crossing at Rochelle, where the old Burlington crosses the very busy Union Pacific former Chicago & North Western east-west line between Chicago and the Omaha/Council Bluffs gateway.

Twenty-five years ago, I’d occasionally frequent Steward to photograph trains on Burlington Northern/BNSF.

A few weeks ago on our way east, Kris and I stopped briefly in the village of Steward to photograph the preserved former Burlington station there.

This was one of the railroad’s standard pattern stations, in other words a building using a standardized floor plan that was applied to many similar structures along the company’s lines.

It appears that the building was moved both across and away from the tracks since it last had served as the company’s station building at Steward. Notice the position of the bay window on the ‘wrong’ side of the building. As built, the bay window would have been on the track-side of most station buildings.

I made these images using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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At Par for Virgin.

Yes, you read the title correctly.

In July 2002, my Irish friends and I paid a visit to Cornwall in the west of England, to photograph long distance passenger trains on the old Great Western Railway main line.

To make a long story short; the car we were traveling in developed a ‘fault’ at Par, which invovled a delay to our travels, and resulted in a trip on a stink buggy ( a common bus) in order to reach the railway station.

Ultimately the automobile was repaired and so we visited myriad other destinations and locations in the south western regions of England, but in the meantine we made the best of being at the station at Par.

Using my Contax G2 rangefinder, I made this view of an approaching Virgin Cross Country ‘HST’ passenger train operating approaching Par on a bright overcast morning.

I was working with Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film that I later processed using my custom tailored recipe using Agfa Rodinal Special mixed about 1 to 60 with water. If anything, these negatives are too constrasty and required some post processing adjustment using Adobe Lightroom

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Idle Freight in an Austere Landscape.

At the train watching platform in Rochelle, Illinois, a scanner is perpetually broadcasting railroad radio chatter.

On our brief visit there a couple of weeks back, Kris and I overheard BNSF’s dispatcher discussing with unknown parties the status of an eastward unit tank train tied down near Steward.

Armed with this knowledge we drove railroad east through the sprawing industry and cornfields toward Steward, where we found the afforementioned freight. It was crew-less and its headlight extinguished.

I made these photos with my Nikon Z6 and 70-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

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