The other day there was nice afternoon light in the yard at North Conway, NH. The 470 Club’s famous pair of F7As were positioned on the Short Track in front of Conway Scenic’s 1874 passenger station building and the passenger consist was out on the branch which made of a nice photo opportunity.
I made this series of three-quarter roster-style views, making slight changes to my angle to alter foreground and background. Among the items I was trying to include were the station building and the flags in the distance, while also paying attention to the clouds and making slight exposure adjustments.
Recent news of exceptional snowfall in western New York State led me to review some of the photos I made during my years in Rochester, NY in the 1980s.
I was digging BIG box of slides lettered ‘3rds’—those that had been deemed unworthy during an edit many years ago and put aside. Certainly some of those slides are poor interpretations. But mixed in are some gems.
On January 27, 1988, I made this photo of a westward Conrail Trailvan piggyback train west of downtown Rochester, New York at milepost 374 (included in the image a lower left) at Lincoln Park. The train was kicking up snow as it raced along the former New York Central Waterlevel route.
My camera of choice was a Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 90mm Elmarit that was loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film.
The most likely reason that I rejected this photo was because it was partially overcast. Other than that it looks pretty good to me today!
Scanned at 4000 dpi with a Nikon LS 5000 scanner and VueScan software. I imported the TIF file into Lightroom and outputted three versions; the top is scaled but unaltered, the bottom two versions benefit from a variety of minor corrections to level, color temperature, exposure and saturation. The middle version is warmer than the bottom.
Conrail and the town of Palmer, Massachusetts were replacing the old South Main Street Bridge immediately east of the signals at CP83.
I made this view from the old bridge that was in its final weeks. New retaining walls had just been installed and machinery was working near the old Palmer Union station as Conrail’s eastward SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) took the conrolled siding to make a meet with a set of westward light engines holding on the main track.
The old bridge featured classic wooden decking and makes for an interesting foreground. To make the most of the bridge and railroad code lines, I framed the scene with my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with an f2.0 35mm Summicron.
A Central Vermont local freight was working the interchage track to the right of the Conrail freight.
It was a heavy hazy day at Council Bluffs in August 1998, when I made a few photos of Union Pacific E9 949.
Working with a Nikon N90s fitted with a Nikkor f2.8 80-200mm lens, I first made a ‘telewedge’—a cute name for a three-quarter ‘wedgie’ style roster shot that was exposed with a telephoto lens.
Then I made a few close ups from essentially the same vantage point, but using a even longer telephoto setting.
I scanned these Provia 100 RDP II slides using a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.96 software using the ‘fine’ mode and 4,000 dpi, and ‘autolevels’ color balance. Although scaled for internet presentation, I made no adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure or sharpness.
My wife has an annual tradition of setting up an elaborate Christmas village as a central part of her holiday decorations. She has had some of her decorations for many years and these have great sentimental value.
I helped this year by setting up the railroad portions of the village including stations, signals and the railroad cars and locomotive.
After it was complete, I made a few photos using my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z6 digital cameras.
Photography is about light. The quality of light makes a difference.
Below are two photographs made at the same location on the same day and of two very similar trains but under very different lighting condtions.
These were exposed on the same roll of Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon N90S near milepost 130 on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline (less than a mile from the old Middlefield Station).
The first shows a pair of SD80MAC leading symbol freight SEBO (Selkirk to Boston) in bright morning sun at 7:59am. The second shows Conrail symbol freight SESP (Selkirk to West Springfield yard) at 9:56am.
My notes from the day spelled out the difference in one word; “cloud.”
Kodachrome did not handle overcast situations well. Both photos are scaled RAW scans without any adjustment to color, exposure, contrast or sharpness.
Last night, I continued my sort of slides from 1997 and 1998, two very productive years for me photographically.
On August 26, 2022, I posted: “http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2022/08/26/something-random-and-familiar/”
This described how Mike Gardner and I had chased a Vermont Rail System’s Florence Turn—a local freight that ran from Rutland, Vermont to a quarry at its namesake. The significance of the post was the locomotive: Clarendon & Pittsford GP38 203. This was former Maine Central 255, and is now Conway Scenic Railroad 255.
Last night, I found another never opened box of Fujichromes exposed of 203 on that same chase.
I’d exposed the slides, then sent them out for processing, but boarded a flight for London Heathrow before they returned. One thing led to another and I didn’t get home until August 1998, and before I had time to look at the slides, I was off to Colorado and New Mexico for a month, and from there into yet another adventure.
Now, almost 25 years after I exposed these photos, I’m finally looking at them! Pity, I can’t find my notes from the day. However, during the course of my job at North Conway, NH I walked past old 255 yesterday morning!
Below is yet another view of old Maine Central 255 that I located and scanned last night; this one exposed more than 40 years ago in October 1982 at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Friday evening a winter storm intensified dropping feet of heavy wet snow at Center Conway, New Hampshire. This knocked out electricity and internet, while straining the already inadequate cell phone signal in our area.
Thankfully, Kris invested in a propane fueled external electrical generator which has supplied our house with heat and electricity for the duration of the electrical outage. As I am writing this we still do not have internet and my mobile phone signal can barely support a telephone call, let alone data. So if you are reading this, either internet service was restored or I found an alternative way to transmit.
While enduring the wintery outages, I sorted slides, which has been an on-ongoing project for the last few months. This morning (Sunday December 18, 2022), I found this unusual image.
On July 3, 1988, I was driving west of East Brookfield, Massachusetts on Rt 67 in my 1974 Dodge Dart, when I spotted an eastbound set of Conrail light engines (GE C30-7As) approaching CP64. My Leica M2 fitted with a 90mm Elmarite and loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film was around my neck, so I made this image from the open car window.
I tried to pan the locomotives, which were going the opposite direction as my car. What I ended up doing was effectively panning the corn in the field between me and the engines, so the foreground and background are blurred, the train is also blurred but at a different rate while there’s a band of corn in the middle ground that is comparatively sharp owing to my efforts to pan the train.
Regardless, this blurred image from nearly 35 years ago captures the Spirit of Summer in my 21st year, a feeling that goes a long way right about now!
On our return from Cape Cod last month, we paused at Norfolk, Massachusetts for lunch and to roll by MBTA Train 2706 on its way to Boston, South Station.
During an earlier visit to Norfolk two years ago, Kris and I noted that MBTA/Keolis was working to install two-main track (signaled in both directions on both tracks) on this portion of the Franklin Line—a former New Haven Railroad route that was at one time graded for directional- double track, but in my lifetime has been a single track railroad.
Some progress was made and on this visit I noted that new signals and crossovers were in place on both sides of Norfolk, however the track through the station has not yet been completed, and the signal heads turned away, indicating they were not yet in use.
Using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens, I made these trailing views of train 2706 looking toward Walpole and Boston.
In the early 1990s, Amtrak’s F40PH was the ubiquitous long distance passenger locomotive.
When I made this photo on the evening of February 22, 1992, the F40PH seemed very common.
Amtrak had more than 200 F40PHs. I have thousands of photos of them from New Hampshire to California; from Quebec to Florida. Yesterday morning on my way to work I wondered, ‘Did I photograph them all?’
I scanned this Kodachrome slide using VueScan software and a Nikon LS5000 ‘Super Coolscan5000’.
Below are two versions, both scaled from the hi-res original scan using Adobe Lightroom. The top has ot been modified in post processing, while the bottom is the same scan following a series of minor modifications aimed at making a better image.
I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide on Jan 11, 1998 of Conrail SD80MACs leading SEBO eastbound approaching CP83 in Palmer, MA.
Below, I’ve posted five different examples of scans all from the same slide. All were made with an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. All were scaled from TIF RAW files using Lightroom without alterations in post processing (In otherwords other than scaling, I didn’t make changes to the files to alter the appearance of the scans.)
In addition to the full scan of each slide is a greatly enlarged view to better judge the quality of the scan
The first three were exposed with Epson Scan 2 software; the last two using VueScan 9.7.96. The purpose of these various scans is to show how minor changes in scanning may alter the end appearance of the scan.
Modern LED information signs have become commo place on many passenger railroads as means of identifying trains.
The challenge for photographers is capturing the messages displayed by these signs.
Many LED do not produce continous light output and pulse or flicker. To the human eye the light souce seems continuous, but when photograhing at comparatively fast shutter speeds some or all of the LEDs are between pulses and appear dark in the photograph.
Where banks of LEDs are employed these may appear in images as meaningless arrangements of spots, or missing significant portions of the intended message.
One way to capture the lights is to work with a comparatively slow shutter speed, usually 1/60th of a second or less. The difficulty is that to stop a moving train, it is normally recommended to work with faster shutter speeds (often 1/250th of a second or faster).
Another consideration is the relatively low amount of light produced by LED that full daylight these often appear dim. Photographing LED signs in low light, on an overcast day or at dawn, dusk, or evening, allows the lights to appear brighter relative to ambient lighting conditions.
On a visit to Norfolk, Massachusetts with Kris in November, I made this sequence of images of MBTA Train 2706 at various shutter speeds to show how the lights in the sign appears at 1/640th, 1/250th, and 1/60th of a second.
Thirty years ago fresh snow covered the ground at Dublin Street in Palmer, Massachusetts.
At that time the Grand Trunk influence on Central Vermont Railway was very much evident.
I made this photo on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T to preserve the scene for posterity. I scanned the slide last night for presentation here using a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan software.
I wonder how I’d handle this scene to day using my Nikon Z6?
In recent months I’ve been undertaking a herculean effort. I’m beginning to organize my slide files.
Over the last 40+ years, I have made tens of thousands of slides, while embracing conflicting theories of photographic organization.
Now, I am attempting to consolidate and organize my slide files. In one tub of original boxes, I found a box (one of several) mis-labeled ‘Conrail, Rochester, April 1987, Ektachrome’.
This was a ‘free’ roll of film, given to me as part of photo package from Kodak to students at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Free. No cost to me. At a time when I could barely afford two rolls of Kodachrome a week!
And there was a problem. Giving Ektachrome to a Kodachrome shooter!
I took the film, and I made photos with it. Nothing urgent. Nothing serious. Nothing so important that I’d commit it to Kodachrome.
A more serious problem manifested when I searched for the note sheet that goes with the roll of film. The box said ‘April 1987’, but in fact the photos were exposed on March 11, 1987. I should have known.
Over the years, I’ve photographed hundreds of locomotives, on scores of railways, in dozens of countries.
Occasionally I’ve opted for the classic ‘three-quarter’ roster angle. More often I’ve opted for various more dramatic, interpretive, or dynamic views.
A long time ago I learned that when I find some equipment resting in a accessible location, to photograph it from a great variety of different angles, because you never know what might suit a book or magazine article later on.
Two weeks ago on our visit to Cape Cod, I had the opportunity to make a sequence of photos of this former New Haven Railroad FL9 that now works for Cape Cod Central and was assigned to the west end of the Polar Express at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.
I have countless photographs of FL9s in various schemes when they worked for Amtrak, MTA, CDOT and Metro North, so this was an opportunity to do something a little different.
In August 2007 while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania, I made this late afternoon image of a Norfolk Southern RoadRailer intermodal train on former Reading Company tracks near the old railroad’s historic namesake.
A pair of NS DASH9-40CWs lead the train.
A few years after I made this Fujichrome color slide, Norfolk Southern discontinued most of its RoadRailer operations, including those in eastern Pennsylvania. It is one of only a few photos I have of NS operations near Reading, PA.
While on the theme of tourist railroads on the old New Haven Railroad at Christmas, I thought I’d present this ten year old color slide.
In December 2012, Tim Doherty and I had visited Connecticut’s Valley Railroad that was featuring its Chinese-built 2-8-2 Mikado dressed in New Haven paint on its Christmas trains.
In the late afternoon light, I made this Fujichrome Provia100F slide at Deep River using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
I scanned the slide last night and processed the 4000 dpi TIF file using Lightroom. Below are two versions. The top is a scaled, but unadjusted, version of the original scan. The bottom one has been altered to more closely resemble the effect of 1950s Kodachrome film
Green Moutain Railroad GP9 1850 leads the railroads freight XR1 through a rock cut on the former Rutland Railroad near Gassetts, Vermont on November 19, 1992.
I was interested in featuring the use of old rails to support stones in the cut and had followed this freight since its engines left the railroad’s round house at North Walpole, NH, earlier that morning. The recent installation of an oscillating headlight on th GP9 also caught my attention
Working with my old Nikon F3T and Nikkor f1.8 105mm, I exposed this slide on Kodachrome 25 at f5.6 at 1/125 second.
Slide scanned with a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner at 4000 dp, adjusted and scaled using Lightroom.
Last Saturday evening, on our visit to Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, Kris and I photographed the arrival of Cape Cod Central’s Polar Express Christmas train behind a New Haven Railroad painted FL9 diesel-electric/electric.
Historically, the railway lines serving Cape Cod were part of New Haven Railroad’s Old Colony Division and so NHRR’s famous dual mode FL9 locomotives seem right at home at Buzzards Bay.
Kris has many friends at Cape Cod Central and we were welcomed at Buzzards Bay by the railroad’s Kaylene Andrews Jableki who faciliated our photography.
Working with my Nikon Z6, I made this sequence of photos of the FL9 leading the Polar Express into the station using existing light. My camera was set to ISO 8000, which allowed for a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second at f4.0.
On the evening of Easter Sunday 1988, I visited the old Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh station and yard at East Salamanca, New York.
CSXT was still a relatively new railroad, and this southward freight from Buffalo featured former Baltimore & Ohio GP40/GP40-2s painted for CSXT component Chessie System but with CSXT sublettering.
CSXT was in the process of spinning off it’s former BR&P trunk to Genesee & Wyoming start up Buffalo & Pittsburgh. I was anticipating the change, but the sale was still several months away.
I made a series of Kodachrome 25 slides of the train changing crews at dusk using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron firmly mounted on a tripod. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the exposure and my slides are about one stop too dark. This one was made at f4 at ¼ second.
Part of my problem was that my Sekonic Studio Deluxe lightmeter wasn’t accurate in low light. Another issue was that I didn’t compensate for reprocity failure, which was a characteristic of Kodachrome films in low light.
I scanned this K25 slide with a Nikon LS-5000 scanner using VueScan software which enabled a multiple pass scan to maximize data capture of highlights and shadows. I imported the high-res (4000 dpi) scan into Lightroom and adjusted the file to compensate for underexposure.
Kris and I went to see the Cape Cod Central on Satuday evening. The railroad had decked out the former New Haven Railroad station and signal tower with an elaborate display of Christmas lights for their Polar Express excursions.
Working with my Nikon Z6 set at high ISO, I exposed this series of handheld night photos.