Musicians on the Train

The musical duo Eastwood Station was visiting Conway Scenic Railroad again last week.

In addition to their public performances, I arranged for them to travel on the 0930 train to Conway (boarding at 9:15am), in order to film them for a music video.

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 to help publicize their appearances at North Conway and on the trains.

At the bottom of this post I’ve attached a short video clip of the duo and CSRR conductor Jeff. Hopefully the technology will cooperate and you’ll be able to hear them sing!

Conductor Jeff sings ‘all Aboard!’

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Ten Years Ago at East Deerfield Yard

Ten Years ago, July 30, 2012, I made this evening view of Pan Am Railway’s EDMO at East Deerfield Yard near Greenfield, Massachusetts.

I was standing upon the old ‘Railfan’s Bridge’, where tens of thosands of photos had been exposed over the years.

The bridge and Pan Am are now memories.

In-camera JPG exposed using a Canon EOS7D. Image scaled without adjustment using Lightroom.

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Metrolink JPG

Six years ago (July 29, 2016), I made this view of a Metrolink passenger train from the footbridge at the Fullerton, California station using my FujiFilm XT1.

This file is a scaled view of the in-camera JPG exposed with Fuji’s ‘Velvia’ color profile, designed to digitally emulate the colors of its popular slide film.

Fullerton is a neat place to watch and photograph trains. The busy triple-track line hosts a continual parade of BNSF freights and both Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains. The setting features several old railroad stations, lots of modern signaling and lovely palm trees.

On that day, I arrived by train.

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Ballast Train at the Gateway-July 2022

Earlier in the week, Conway Scenic operated a ballast train with GP35 216 to Crawford Notch and then worked its way east through the famous Gateway cut and over the Girders bridge.

There was cosmic lighting, with low clouds scraping over the tops of the mountains with shafts of sunlight reaching the ground.

To gain necessary elevation, I climbed up into the Gateway cut, following in the footsteps of generations of previous photographers.

I exposed these photos using my Nikon Z6.

Swedish Rc6 at Lulea

On July 27, 2015, my Finnish friends and I made a brief foray across the border into Sweden. Among our destinations was the yard and station at Lulea, where I photographed a number of electric trains, including this Rc6 on a sleeping car set that will run overnight to Stockholm.

I made this photo using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera that has an adjustible rear-panel display that allowed me to hold the camera very close to the ground.

A low angle is a technique for making a locomotive appear larger than life and was often used by early 20th century action photographers to capture steam locomotives in action.

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Russian Ore train

On my July 2015 visit to Finland, my host Markku Pulkkinen did an excellent job of finding interesting railway subjects.

Early in the morning on July 26, 2015, we set up on the outskirts of Oulu to catch VR T5220, a freight forwarding iron ore mined in Russia to a Finnish plant. The freight wagons were Russian, the locomotive is a VR Group class Sr2 electric of Swiss design.

I had just purchased my first Adobe Lightroom for my then-new Apple MacBook Pro and was beginning to learn how to use this tool to make the most of my Fuji RAW files.

This was a revelation as the programs sliders made it easy to make adjustments to shadow and highlight detail, as well as color temperature and color balance corrections, which help make for much better photos when used judiciously.

I’m now working with a more advanced version of Lightroom with this I created two JPGs created from the Fuji RAW file. The top was scaled without any adjustements; the bottom reflects adjustments to color temperature, saturation, plus highlight and shadow area changes. Notice the difference in the detail to the sky.

No changes to the Fuji RAW file except for scaling.
Adjusted with Adobe Lightroom to better present the data captured by the Fuji RAW file.

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Soviet Electrics on July 25, 2015

Seven years ago I was visiting my friend Markku Pulkkinen in Oulu, Finland.

On the evening of July 25th, we stopped in at the VR station to witness the arrival of sleeping car train IC266 that paused on its way to Helsinki.

In the lead were a pair of 1970s era Sr1 electrics that were built in the Soviet Union and still carried their ‘USSR’ builder’s tags (notably in English, rather than Russian or Finnish).

I exposed these detail views using my new FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

The Fuji’s built-in color profiles did a wonderful job of capturing the rich colors of the evening sun at northerly latitudes.

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Steam on the Conway Branch!

Yesterday morning (July 23, 2022), Kris and I timed our visit to Allens Siding Road to perfectly coincide with the operation of Conway Scenic Railroad steam locomotive 7470 on the 915am Conway train.

I’d scoped this location out the day before (featured in yesterday’s post) just make sure it was the best place to picture the steam locomotive working.

We arrived a minute before the eastbound train passed. (Conway Scenic timetable 34 predicates all movements on a east-west axis. Conway being the further station East and Hazens being the furthest west, without consideration for the compass).

After the eastward train passed, we had about a 20 minute wait for the return.

Engineer Wayne Duffett made a good show climbing the grade west from the Swift River Bridge.

All photos were exposed using my Nikon Z6 with a 24-70mm Z-series zoom and adjusted for contrast and color balance using Adobe Lightroom.

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Clear Morning at Allens Siding Road

I’d been meaning to get some photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s former Maine Central GP38 255 working New Hampshire’s Conway Branch in red paint.

The railroad acquired this pure Maine Central GP38 from the Vermont Rail System last autumn, and in recent weeks it has been the regular locomotive for the Valley Train, which makes three Conway trips.

The plan is have this locomotive painted in a neo-Maine Central scheme, similar to its sister GP38, number 252, which also serves Conway Scenic, so time may be getting short to get good photos of it in the red scheme.

These photos were exposed with my Nikon Z6 digital camera, but I also made a exposures on Ektachrome slide film for posterity.

I wonder, will the posterity even care about a red GP38 on the Conway Branch?

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Amtrak 449 on the eve of Change

May 4, 1997: I exposed this Fujichrome slide of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (Boston section), train 449 rolling down the Quaboag River Valley near the former Boston & Albany station at West Brimfield, Massachusetts.

This was at a time when the train was carrying a fair amount of freight and mail on the head and tail ends of the passenger consist, and shortly before Amtrak replaced the old EMD F40PHs with new Genesis P42 diesels.

It was just about two years before Conail’s class 1 operations were divided and the old Boston & Albany was conveyed to CSX.

Exposed using a Nikon N90S with 80-200mm Nikon zoom.

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Turntable Survey

Yesterday, TEC Associates came to survey and measure Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway turntable and the table’s ring rail in preparation for repairs to the vintage equipment.

The former Boston & Maine North Conway turntable is a rare surviving example of a pneumatically actuated turntable and is equipped with air reservoirs that are designed to be filled from the locomotive’s airbrake system.

I made the top three images with my Nikon Z6 fitted with an old Nikkor AI f1.8 105mm lens; the fourth image was exposed with using an f4.0 24-70mm Series Z zoom fitted to the the Z6.

f1.8 105mm
f1.8 105mm
f1.8 105mm
24-70mm Z-Series zoom lens.

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Rainbow and the Morning Sun

Sometimes it helps just to be there.

Yesterday morning I arrived at North Conway early to open the station and serve as ‘Manager on Duty’ (Station Master, Yard Master and Train Dispatcher).

When I pulled up to the station a rainbow was clinging to the sky above the building.

I grabbed by Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens, and made a sequence of images of the station building in morning light with prismatic colors above.

Minutes after I made this photo, the light had changed and the rainbow faded.

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Where is Everybody?

In June 2008, I visited San Diego, California for the day and traveled around on the famous San Diego Trolley.

I made this view of the Orange Line near downtown.

I can’t help but wonder, where is everybody?

I’ve photographed light rail in dozens of cities, and usually there’s lots of people about. This was a pleasantly warm weekday afternoon in San Diego and there’s virtually no one on the street. Bizarre!

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Late Number 5 at Gold Run.

Back in 1990, Amtrak’s westward California Zephyr, train No.5, typically traversed Donner Pass midday.

On this July 1990 afternoon, the train was several hours behind the advertised. I pictured it near Gold Run, California on the west slope of Donner.

I’ve been going through my Southern Pacific and Union Pacific photos searching for material for my next book on Union Pacific and its component railroads.

Although this is an old favorite photo, I’ll likely defer to images that show SP or UP freight trains for the final book selections.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25  using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC (perspective control) lens.

Scanned with a Nikon LS 5000 slide scanner. Multipass scan.

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Canadian American at Onawa Bridge

In recent months, my Fiancée Kris and I have been revisiting Canadian Pacific’s Moosehead Sub across Maine.

Previously, I’d explored this remote railway on various occasions in the 1980s and 1990s.

On September 30, 1997, I accompanied photographers George Pitarys and Brian Jennison to the famed Onawa Bridge located west of Brownville Junction.

Here we waited for Canadian American eastward freight 902, seen here in a 24mm trailing view exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

I scanned the slide last night using a Nikon LS 5000 scanner, making a multipass scan at high-resolution, and then scaling the TIF file using Adobe Lightroom.

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Holding Back the Best

Yesterday, I was discussing photography with my Fiancée, Kris as we drove through rural western Maine.

I explained that I rarely display the photos that I feel are my finest work.

Why? The reason is very simple. I made the best photos for me, and I can be selfish. I put a huge amount of work into some of these images and I’m holding them back for just the right moment.

In 1994, I spent months photographing Southern Pacific. One of my favorite lines was SP’s remote Modoc Line, especially the section built on the old Nevada-California-Oregon three-foot gauge alignment across the Modoc Plateau between Wendel and Alturas, California.

At the end of the day on May 21, 1994, I was poised near Indian Camp, waiting beneath a desert sky with chocolate clouds as a Wendel-bound freight worked across the desert floor. Beyond, the railroad twisted and turned through the Likely Loop and up toward the sinuous Indian Camp Loop.

For more than half and hour, I could hear the low harmonic pulsating exhaust of EMD 20-cylinder diesels as the train gradually drew closer.

Working with my Nikon F3T loaded with K25 slide film, I exposed a series of silhouettes as the long freight growled through Indian Camp.

In 1999, I published one of these images on page 11 of my book titled Narrow Gauge Locomotives.

The rest remain sequestered.

The best way to perceive this image is to view it projected from the original Kodachrome slide upon a reflective screen in a darkened room.

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New England Traveler at Conway Scenic Railroad

Earlier this week, Conway Scenic Railroad welcomed TV host-producer Greg Boghosian and his cameraman John at North Conway station and aboard the Mountaineer to Crawford Notch. Greg and John were filming for an upcoming episode of #NewEnglandTraveler that will appear on NESN.

I provided logistical support, historical context, arranged for tickets and interviews with employees, and suggested angles and locations for photography. Greg is a true professional with a couple of Emmys to his credit. It was a pleasure to work with him.

I made this selection of photographs for Conway Scenic’s social media platforms and future advertising.

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July 12, 2014-Supermoon over Palmer-Two images.

Eight years ago, I photographed a ‘Supermoon’ rising over Palmer, Massachusetts using my Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.

It was a cosmic event, but with out a steel wheel in sight.

I was disappointed that a westward freight didn’t roll into view on CSX’s Boston & Albany route that day, but I positioned myself to photograph the moon with the old signals at CP83 anyway.

CSX has since replaced the signals.

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PCCs with John Gruber—July 11, 2016

On July 11, 2016, John E. Gruber collected me at Lake Forest, Illinois. I’d just recently arrived from the East Coast on Amtrak’s Cardinal.

After lunch, we drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin to photograph and travel on the historic PCC trolley cars that operate in a two-mile loop through the center of the town.

It was a beautiful afternoon for photography on the shore of Lake Michigan. I made this pair of images using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

In 2016, I made this post to Tracking the Light:

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light explores railroad photography daily!

Forest Lake, Palmer, Massachusetts—July 9, 2015.

In-camera JPG without adjustments (except scaling for internet presentation.)
Fuji RAW file adjusted using Lightroom and output as JPG, following nominal adjustments to color, contrast and exposure.

Seven years ago, I exposed this photo of the northward Mass Central freight near Forest Lake, Massachusetts.

At the time, Mass Central was operating on a late schedule, departing northbound from Palmer in the evening, to accommodate heavy track work on the line during the day.

In this view, I used my FujiFilm XT1, and exposed an in-camera JPG at the same time as a much larger RAW file.

For point of comparison, I’ve displayed both the in-camera JPG (without alteration) and a JPG that is the product of post processing—created from the Fuji RAW image.

Choosing to work with the camera-RAW instead of the in-camera JPG, depends on the photo and its application. If the image needs little to no adjustment the JPG will save a lot of time. However in situations where it is desirable to make adjustments, the RAW file provides significantly more data, giving more room to maneuver, and can result in a better image.

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Fujichrome at Köln—six track bridge over the Rhein.

In September 2015, I flew from Dublin to Köln, Germany with my Irish friends.

At the Köln Hbf (main station), we walked across the Rhein on the footpath along the six track multispan railrway bridge.

At the time this was covered in lover’s locks. So many that there were concerns about the excessive weight on the heavily-built bridge.

From the east bank, I made this Fujichrome Provia 100F color slide of the bridge and the famous cathedral. Back-lighting helped to illuminate the locks on the bridge.

I scanned the slide yesterday using our Nikon LS-5000 digital scanner driven with VueScan software. I made a multipass scan and imported the file into AdobeLightroom for final adjustment and scaling.

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Workin’ on the railroad; Ballasting the Mountain

A few weeks ago, I accompanied the Conway Scenic Railroad ballast train on its journey up the Mountain.

I had multiple things on my agenda: we needed a accurate accessment of where ballast was needed for future trips; I wanted to inspect the limits of some recent slow orders; I’m looking to rework the company Timetable and was checking various aspects of the right-of-way; and I wanted to photograph the ballast train crew at work.

Many years ago, I traveled with a branch line ballast train in Ireland, where the locomotive driver said to me, “My crew, they’re allergic to work!”

Nothing could further from the truth with Conway Scenic’s work train crew. Dumping stone is a physically taxing job and not for the faint of heart. Our guys put 110 percent of effort into the job and earn every dime of their pay.

By contrast, all I had to do was run along with the train, make notes and expose digital photos—a few of which I’ve posted here.

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Eastbound Pigs at Dawn

I like allusive titles . . . 

At 6:38am on March 15, 1997 near Sagers, Utah, photographer Mel Patrick & I were set up to photograph this Burlington Northern Santa Fe container-on-flatcar/trailer-on-flatcar train as it worked east behind a pair of former Burlington Northern SD40-2s.

I exposed this color slide on Fujichrome film using my Nikon N90S with 80-200 zoom lens. Although this image appeared in print many years ago, I opted to scan it last night using an Nikon  LS-5000 scanner for presentation here.

I find it hard to believe I made the photo more than 25 years ago!

I like the pink sky, I feel it goes well with my mixed-metaphorical Pink Floyd title reference.

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Sunrise at Danville Junction

In October 1999, I was working for Great Train Escapes, a Seattle-based tour company that operated fall foliage rail excursions in New England in conjunction with its regional bus tours.

Part of the itinerary was to travel on a neo-streamliner from the Portland, Maine area to Gorham, New Hampshire. The train in 1999 was part of a leased set normally operated by the Copper Canyon Train in Mexico.

I made this sunrise view with an Nikon N90s loaded with Fujichrome at Danville Junction—where St. Lawrence & Atlantic crossed Guilford’s Maine Central. The tour buses were unloading the guests to board the train here for the journey to Gorham.

The leading locomotive was one of St. Lawrence & Atlantic’s former Canadian National M-420 diesels, behind it are a pair of Amtrak F40PHs, which had been made surplus from long distance survices, as the result recently delivered GE P42s.

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Northern Pacific Semaphores, Montana

In July 1994, I was on a grand adventure driving from California to Wisconsin to begin a new job at Pentrex Publishing.

I had several weeks to make the drive and plotted a course designed to inspect and photograph railways along the way.

Three years earlier my pal TSH and I had visited the Montana Rail Link where were spent a morning making photos on Winston Hill east of Helena. Movements on this former Northern Pacific line was still protected by General Railway Signal upper quadrant semaphores.

So on July 10, 1994, I revisited Montana’s Winston Hill. Among my photos that day was this one made as part of a sequence showing a westward BN freight descending toward Helena.

I was working with my Nikon F3T loaded with Kodachorme 25 and fitted with a Nikkor 35mm PC (perspective control lens) and a circular polarizing filter.

At the time, I would apply the polarizer to better balance the contrast between shadows and highlights in back-lit situations on bright sunny days. Notice the effects of the clouds and back lit foreground flowers.

Among the challanges of this arrangment is that it reduced the working ISO of the film from 25 to about 8 (which is extremely slow. Today, I typically work with ISO 200 or higher in digital format).

In this situation a motion blur benefits my illustration, as it shows a ‘clear’ signal ahead of the westward train.

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Steam on the Radio

Yesterday, July 1, 2022, I organized a broadcast at Conway Scenic Railroad by Lakes FM 101.5 and the Hawk 104.9 FM. In conjunction with this, I invited Ben and Danny of the band Eastwood Station to play some original music, and asked Conway Scenic general manager Dave Swirk if he could bring out steam locomotive 7470 to sound its whistle live on air.

It was a very successful day at North Conway!

In between radio spots, I made these photos with my Nikon Z6, some of which I put up on the railroad’s facebook, while recording the musicians and steam locomotive with digital video.

The railroad hopes to have the steam locomotive out of the roundhouse and under steam for display and training over the 4th of July weekend.

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Clearing Yard Silhouette.

Clearing Yard sunset

On July 1, 1995, I spent the day with Sean Graham-White who had organized a visit at Belt Railway of Chicago’s sprawling Clearing Yard on the southside of Chicago in order to research a detailed article for Pacific RailNews.

At the time, I was associate editor of the magazine and living in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Toward the end of the day, I made this silhouette looking west using my Nikon F3T with 200mm f4.0 Nikkor telephoto. Kodachrome 200, was a grainy film that allowed me to use a faster shutter speed. Notice the plane on approach to Chicago’s Midway Airport.

The inspiration for this image was a photo exposed about 29 years earlier by John Gruber that had appeared on the cover of Trains Magazine.

I made a three-pass scan of this image last night using our recently refurbished Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner controlled by VueScan software.

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