Busy Grade Crossing

On this day four years ago—31 March 2019—Denis McCabe and I visited a busy level crossing on Comboios de Portugal (Portugal’s national railway) double-track main line at Santarem, north of Lisbon.

In just a few minutes, we witnessed a parade of freight and passenger trains.

The crossing was manually operated, and the crossing tender had her work cut out for her. No sooner than one train had cleared, when another approached.

I made these photos with my FujiFilm XT-1 digital camera. Files were exposed as Fuji RAW and adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

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SNCB Electrics at Brussels Nord

I traveled from Dublin to Brussels, Belgium on 30 March 2017. It was the first day of a grand railway adventure across central Europe during my research for my guide book on European rail travel. On the second to last day of the trip I twisted my ankle in Rome while making a photo a tram passing the Colosseum.

I began my rail journey with a trip on SNCB’s Zaventem Airport train into central Belgium and I made these photos on the platform of Brussels Nord using my first Lumix LX7.

These images are JPG’s created from Lumix RAW files that were adjusted using Lightroom.

SNCB 2700-series electric.
LX7 photo.
LX7 photo.

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Bus Tours Magazine

Part of my strategy for Conway Scenic Railroad’s Spring ad campaign has included placement of large ads and articles in a variety of magazines.

Bus Tours Magazine is an industry publication for tour operators. This is significant because my introduction to Conway Scenic nearly 25 years ago was with bus/train tour group Great Trains Escapes.

The March/April 2023 issue arrived in my office yesterday which features my short lead in article about the railroad, complete with a photo I made a couple of years ago with my Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens of GP9 1751 leading the Mountaineer at Crawford Notch. On the opposite page is a variation of Conway Scenic’s standard ad for the Mountaineer.

Bus Tours Cover photo by Detroit Princess Riverboat.

Bus Tours Magazine March/April page 4.

Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon lens. ISO 200. Fuji RAW image adjusted with Lightroom.

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EMD SW8 at Zylonite

Last night, I interviewed some of my friends at the Berkshire Scenic Railroad via Zoom for an article I’m planning for Trains Magazine.

Among the items on the agenda was a bit of history behind SW8 8619.

Kris and I photographed this historic former New York Central locomotive last May on a trip with the New York Central System Historical Society.

I made this image on Ektachrome slide film with my vintage Nikon F3 during a planned runby at Zylonite, Massachusetts on a vestige of the former Boston & Albany Adams Branch operated on weekends by Berkshire Scenic.

This is one of three former New York Central SW8s that I photographed last Spring!

Exposed on Kodak Ektachrome slide film with a Nikon F3 and 24mm Nikkor Lens—May 2022.

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27 March 2013 and 27 March 2018

Going back over my digital files, I’ve selected two photos; one from Five Years ago in Northern Ireland; and one from 10 years ago at Islandbridge in Dublin.

This image on 27 March 2018 features an NIR Belfast-bound CAF 4001 series diesel railcar appraching Greenisland. This was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens set to 123mm, ISO 400 .

I preserved Irish Rail’s down IWT Liner of 27 March 2013 using my Canon EOS7D fitted with a 28-135mm Canon lens set to 105mm. Camera set to ISO400.

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SBB along the shore of Lake Geneva

Sometimes it’s still nice to have a color slide.

In the early evening on 21 April 2017, photographer Denis McCabe and I were set up along the shore of Lake Geneva at Chillon, Switzerland.

Although I had two digital cameras with me, I opted to make this photograph of an SBB express on Fuji Provia 100F color slide film.

Last night I scanned the slide using a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner for presentation here. I like the full rich color offered by this traditional photograph.

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Two Station Floors-21 years apart

The other day, Conway Scenic Railroad’s Buildings & Grounds crew coated the North Conway, New Hampshire station lobby floor with a glossy polyurethane protective finish. I made a few photos for the company’s social media.

Digital photo exposed with a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

The resulting images reminded me a photo that I made at Washington Union Station back in May 2022. In that image, I preserved Daniel Burnham’s classical architecture using a Zeiss Hologon flat-field super-wideangle lens fitted to my Contax G2 rangefinder.

In both photos I used the same visual technique: to maximize the effect of a reflective floor, I placed the horizon relatively high in the frame, while keeping the camera close to the floor.

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Spring in Dublin a Dozen Years Ago

Looking out at the mounds of melting snow from my office in the North Tower of Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway Station, and surveying a bleak, gray, wet landscape, I couldn’t help but think back to Spring in Dublin.

Twelve years ago, I made this selection of digital photos with my Canon EOS7D. The Canon lenses have a rich soft color to them that suits Spring well.

On 24 March 2011, I was focused on Irish Rail’s freight an permanent-way trains.

Irish Rail 217 leading a down IWT Liner approaching Cherry Orchard in suburban Dublin. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Trailing view of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner at Cherry Orchard in suburban Dublin. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Irish Rail 072 leading a permanent way train at Islandbridge Junction.
Old four-wheel barytes wagons converted to spoil/ballast service on the move at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
Afternoon view on 24 March 2011 of Irish Rail’s UP IWT liner crossing the River Liffey at Islandbridge.

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Conrail TV-300 in the Canisteo Valley

Thirty-five years ago today, March 23, 1988, at 8:16am, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of Conrail’s TV-300 roaring east on the former Erie Railroad mainline east of Adrian, New York in the Canisteo River Valley.

I was perched upside a hill with my Leica M2 fitted to a Visoflex with Leitz 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod.

I’d driven down in the early morning from my apartment in Scottsville, New York, having scoped out this spot several weeks before.

I arrived about 10-15 minutes ahead of the train, which I could hear from several miles away; the rolling thunder of the stack wells behind a classic throbbing of EMD diesels.

A little more than a decade later, I returned to this place with photographer Mike Gardner and repeated the exercise with an eastward CP Rail freight. By that time Conrail had reduced the old Erie to single track.

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Dublin’s Pearse Station, Spring 1998.

Twenty-Five years ago, I was exploring Irish Rail, and seeing this amazing railway for the first time. 

Dublin’s Pearse Station impressed me. The capacious Victorian train shed with a mix of electric and diesel trains reminded me of Philadelphia’s great termini; Broad Street and Reading Terminal.

But also because it was the oldest big city station in continuous use. The station opened in 1834 and although greatly altered over the decades, this had always served as a Dublin hub.

Today, it is rare to find a diesel here, except on permanent-way trains, and more rarely on RPSI diesel tours. Yet, back in 1998, it was a common sight to find a 201-class General Motors diesel-electric working a push-pull Mark3 set in suburban service. The sound of the big GM was amplified under the shed.

Irish Rail 231 at Dublin Pearse Station in 1998. Fujichrome slide scanned with a Nikon LS5000 scanner.

I made this photo on Fujichrome Sensia (100 ISO) using a Nikon F3T with 24mm Nikkor wide-angle lens. Looking at this photo today, it amazes me how few people were on the platform.

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Vermont Rail System 206

Saturday, we stopped in at White River Junction, Vermont where we found resplendent Vermont Rail System GP38-3 number 206 catching the late winter sun.

This classic locomotive began its career as Southern Railway 2741, and originally featured a high short hood. Last year, VRS had it repainted into its red and white livery.

I made this selection of photos using my Lumix LX7.

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NYS&W 4034 = Pan Am Railways 5946

On Friday, Kris and I stopped by East Deerfield Yard near Greenfield, Mass., where we found a pair of Pan Am Railways’ General Electric DASH8-40Bs (B40-8) switching.

McClelland Farm Road at East Deerfield-the ‘New’ bridge, completed in 2018. Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo of Pan Am Railways 5946 at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Lumix LX7 photo of Pan Am Railways 5946 at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

The trailing locomotive was Pan Am 5946, a former CSX unit, and originally New York, Susquehanna & Western number 4034.

I figured I had a photo of this engine in my files, since I photographed many of NYS&W’s GE’s at the time of delivery back in 1988 and 1989.

I found the photo I was seeking. NYS&W 4034 was paired with a Norfolk Southern unit at SK Yard in Buffalo on May 4, 1989, shortly after it was built by General Electric.

Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Leica M2 with 90mm f2.8 Elmarit.

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Bellows Falls, Vermont—March 18, 2023

On our drive north, we stopped in at Bellow Falls, Vermont to roll by Amtrak 57, the southward weekend Vermonter.

This featured P42 number 85 leading five Amfleet 1 passenger cars.

It arrived under clear sunny skies 22 minutes after the advertised.

I made this sequence of images using my Lumix LX7. These images were processed from the camera raw.

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Lucky Catch! Amtrak 100 on the Vermonter

Yesterday, Kris and I were driving around South Deerfield, Massachusetts.

I knew Amtrak train 55, the southward Vermonter was getting close, so I used my iPhone to check the ASM.Transitdocs.com App. This is a train locater and revealed that the train had just departed Greenfield. I knew we had about 5 minutes before it passed, so we drove to the grade crossing at Pleasant Avenue in South Deerfield.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I made this view of the train approaching the crossing and framed by some classic rural American mailboxes. I was delighted to discover that the train was led by Amtrak P42 number 100 wearing distinctive navy heritage paint to celebrate 50 years of Amtrak service!

Amtrak train 55 at Pleasant Avenue in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

This file was adapted from the camera RAW image using Adobe Lightroom to correct color balance and adjust highlight and shadow detail.

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MBTA at CP 4-Allston, Mass

In preparation for my Keynote speech on the history of New England Railroading to the New England Rail Club last night, I culled through hundreds of representative images.

Ulimately, I displayed 67 slides, including a variety of 19th century views and maps, along with more than a dozen of my own images.

Among the photos that I didn’t display was this photo of an MBTA train taking the crossover on the Boston Line at CP4 near Allston, Massachusetts on October 6, 2011.

My talk was attended by several hundred members of the club and well-received.

Exposed using my Canon 7D with 200mm f2.8 lens.

iPhone photo by Kris Sabbatino

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Keynote Speech-A History of New England Railroads

This evening, March 16, 2023, I am scheduled as the Keynote Speaker for the New England Railroad Club’s 2023 Rail Tech Conference in Worcester, Mass. See: https://www.nerailroadclub.com/wp-content/uploads//2023/03/SeminarSheet_3-10.pdf

I am honored to present a short talk on the history of New England railroading.

This will include a brief slide presentation featuring a variety of historical illustrations and a selection of my photography.

Among the images I plan to feature is this view of the Cape Cod Canal lift bridge that I made in April 2021.

Sunset on the Cape Cod Canal.

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Ten Years Ago-Greening of Dublin

On the evening of 15 March 2013, I walked around Dublin making photos of civic structures that had been lit with green-tinted light to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

To hold my cameras steady, I worked with a mini Gitzo tripod with adjustible ball head.

Dublin’s Heuston Station, lit green for St. Patrick’s Day. Time exposure with a Lumix LX3. Lumix RAW file adjusted using Adobe Lightroom to obtain better color balance and improve shadow detail.
The Wellington Testimonial in Dublin’s Phoenix Park had a hint of green light reflecting of its eastern flank. Exposed digitally using a Canon 7D.

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Blue Line Blues and Restoration Row

A month ago, Kris and I drove by the Seashore Trolley Museum near Kennebunkport, Maine.

I loved this place as a kid. The old railway cars and trolleys fascinated me.

On our most recent visit, I found it stange to find a pair of Boston Blue Line cars on ‘Restoration Row’. It used to be that the cars at Seashore were all ancient relics from a time before I was born.

Lumix LX7 photo; February 2023.
Lumix LX7 photo; February 2023.

I applaud the museum’s foresight to have preserved these Blue Line cars for posterity and I hope they obtain the necessary resources to restore them. Maybe some day we’ll go for a spin on them

In 1999, I made a color slide of similar cars at work on Boston’s Blue Line, before I boarded a flight across the Atlantic.

Blue Line cars at the Airport Station in June 1999. Exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Nikon.

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JPG versus Adjusted RAW

Ten years ago, I made this view with my Lumix LX3 of a LUAS Green Line tram crossing over a boat in Dublin’s Grand Canal.

Last night I imported both the in-camera JPG and the camera RAW files into Adobe Lightroom.

I scaled the in-camera JPG, but made no changes to the appearance of the image.

However, I did implement a series of adjustments to the camera RAW file in order to improve the overall appearance of the photo.

Notice the difference in sky detail and the relative contrast of the canal with the surrounding scene, as well as improved color temperature and color saturation.

Lumix LX3 photo at Charlemont on the Grand Canal, 13 March 2013. Scaled In-camera JPG, no changes to contrast, color, or other visual parameters.
Photo created from adjusted Camera RAW file. Note sky detail.

Lightroom Work Window showing color adjustments to the Camera RAW file.

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Strawberry Ridge Coal Train at Tyrone

Twenty two years ago, photographer Mike Gardner and I made a project of photographing Norfolk Southern coal trains that served the Strawberry Ridge power plant in central Pennsylvania.

On this day, we followed a loaded train from Gallitzin toward Northumberland. It was misty and heavily overcast.

At Tyrone, the train diverged from the Main Line onto the former Pennsylvania Railroad Bald Eagle Branch, a line maintained in part by short line Nitany and Bald Eagle.

Mike and I set up on Washington Street in Tyrone, where the Bald Eagle branch came right up the middle of the street.

I made this photograph on Ilford HP using a Nikon N90S with Tokina 400mm lens. My goal was to accentuate the unusual trackage with a big train.

This would be a neat place to feature on a model railroad.

Bald Eagle Branch at Tyrone, PA, March 2001. Ilford HP5 with Nikon N90S and 400mm lens.

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Köln Hbf—Aug 1998.

Working with a 1960s era Nikkor f2.8 135mm lens on a Nikon F3T, I made this view of DB passenger trains from beneath the arched trainshed at the Köln Hauptbahnhof (Cologne, Germany).

It was a hot day in August 1998. The camera was loaded with Fuji Sensia 100 color slide film, an emulsion that I found to be well suited to the soft light of German summer. This rendered the colors well, especially DB red, while handling the extreme contrast.

The slide was scanned using a Nikon LS5000 slide scan powered by VueScan 9.7.99 software. Set at: 64 bits per pixel (64 bit RGB), scan resolution 4000 dots per inch, fine mode, color profile ‘white balance’ and output as a TIF file. Minor corrections were implemented in post processing using Lightroom version 5.5.

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Monumental Crop

Or Testimonial Clip!

On March 10, 2015, I was at my old favorite location at ‘the box’ along the St. Johns Road in Dublin looking down at Islandbridge Junction.

I’d been waiting for locomotive 084 to come around leading a permanent way train.

The lighting conditions were perfect. The train came to a stop in front of me. I made a burst of photos with my Fujifilm XT1. And somehow I ended up with substandard images.

In one view, I’d held the camera off-level, in most of the others I’d committed a Phoenix Park Faux Pas by clipping the top of the Wellington Testimonial—that enormous obelisk otherwise known as ‘the monument’.

I don’t always get it right but I thought I’d share this pair of flawed photos as a lesson in paying attention.

The monument appears to be leaning to the right.
And here I chopped the top off. Poor Show!

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Trams over the Danube

On 18 July 2007, I exposed this Fujichrome slide using a Nikon F3 with a f2.8 180mm Nikkor telephoto of trams crossing the river Danube in Budapest, Hungary.

This was among the photos I included in my photographic exhibition ‘Silver & Steel’ first shown in Palmer, Massachusetts later that year.

On a personal note, my paternal great-grandfather, Eddie, emmigrated to the USA from Budapest in the 1890s.

Budapest, Hungary July 2007.

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LUAS along the Grand Canal-2004

Dublin’s LUAS Red Line operations had only commenced a few months before I made this view of a shiny new Alstom Citadis tram at Drimnagh along the Grand Canal.

This was before the trams were painted with yellow safety stripes and the 3001-series cars only consisted of segments.

I exposed this view in the afternoon of December 17, 2004 using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a Zeiss 45mm lens.

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Icon of the Erie: Starrucca House

The Erie Railroad’s Starrucca House was built at Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in the 1850s. This had been a station, railroad restaurant, and division point on the Erie’s main line.

The 19th century Gothic building had been only recently restored when I made this black & white photo in October 2001.

Exposed on Ilford HP5.

Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, October 2001

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Intervale: before and after the Plow!

Friday, I exposed these views of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington as viewed from the old station location at Intervale on the former Maine Central Mountain Division.

The top view was before passage of Conway Scenic’s plow extra.

The bottom was exposed several minutes later and shows the plow after it passed. Locomotive 255 was shoving the plow west toward Attitash.

Both images exposed using a Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera with a 70-200mm lens.

March 3, 2023-Intervale, NH.
Intervale, NH.

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Irish Rail at Rathdrum-1998

On the summer of 1998, Irish Rail class 071 number 082 approaches a station stop at Rathdrum, County Wicklow with the down midday train to Rosslare Europort

I exposed this photograph on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F2 fitted with an old school manual focus Nikkor f2.8 24mm wide angle lens.

I digitized the original negative using an Epson V600 scanner driven by Epson Scan2 software. Minor contrast adjustment was required for presentation here.

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Sun and Snow; Russell Plow on the Move

Friday, March 3, 2023, Conway Scenic operated a plow extra from North Conway to Attitash.

The sky was a clear azure dome; the snow a blazing white blanket. I exposed my photos using Nikon Z-Series cameras.

Establishing correct exposure was tricky, especially when the plow was backlit against a dark wall of leaf-less trees.

For the most part I handled exposure by placing the exposure setting dial in automatic-aperture priority (‘A’ mode) then manipulated the +/- exposure compensation control to make adjustments. The challenge was retaining detail in the snow while maintain good overall exposure.

In post processing, I adjusted the RAW-NEF file to maximize highlight and shadow detail in order to display greater amounts of infomation than exhibited by the in-camera Jpg.

Z6 with 70-200mm lens set to 96mm; exposure f6.3 1/2500 of a second, ISO 200.
Z6 with 70-200mm lens set to 200mm; exposure f11 1/2500 of a second, ISO 200. Exposure compenstation set to minus 1.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 55mm; exposure f4.0 at 1/1600 of a second, ISO 100.

Images edited for contrast and exposure in Lightroom.

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BNSF, Bridges and a Barge.

In June 2010, I stood atop a bluff in the Mississippi Palisades Park at Savanna, Illinois and made this photo of a westward BNSF intermodal train working west along the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. A Mississippi River barge was working up river and in the distance is a highway bridge and beyond is the former Milwaukee Road, now operated by Canadian Pacific.

I was using a Canon EOS-3 loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F and fitted with a 100-400mm zoom. Hazy summer light led to a predominant blue cast.

After scanning the slide to create a RAW file, I imported the photo into Adobe Lightroom where I made color and contrast corrections to result in a more natural looking and better balanced image.

Below are the uncorrected scan and the scan following post processing.

Scaled RAW scan.
Scaled corrected scan.

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Bord na Mona-March 2, 2013

This day ten years ago, photographer Denis McCabe and I traveled to Lanesborough, Co. Longford, Ireland to photograph the Bord na Mona (Irish Peat Board) three foot gauge industrial railway.

The system around Lanesborough was the most charming and photogenic of the larger Bord na Mona operations.

On March 2, 2013, the weather was suitably Irish; misty, cool and damp.

I made these images using a Lumix LX3 pocket digital camera. I exposed the original files as RAW and processed them using Adobe Lightroom to make scaled JPGs for internet presentation.

Two March Firsts from Years Gone By!

I wish I’d done more of this sort of thing.

This is a good exercise in seeing, and a great way to preserve the effects of change (or not, as the case may be).

Below are two views of Irish Rail’s tracks as seen from atop the Phoenix Park Tunnel off the Conyngham Road in Dublin. These images were exposed exactly one year apart.

In both situations, I was walking back to my old apartment at Islandbridge in Dublin and made a photo of the tracks with a Lumix.

The March 1st, 2014 view was made with an LX3 and exposed as a RAW File; the March 1st, 2015 photo was a JPG made with a Lumix LX7.

The vantage point was nearly identical, although the focal length and framing was slightly different.

LX3 photo-March 1, 2014
LX7 photo-March 1, 2015

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