Owing to its lineage along the route of Pennsylvania’s original Main Line of Public Works, the former Pennsylvania Railroad trunk is known as ‘The Main Line’. This historic route runs just a few blocks from our new home.
Last week our friend Wayne Duffett-TEC Associate’s Bridge Inspector and Conway Scenic Railroad steam locomotive engineer (and Tracking the Light reader) visited Kris and I in Lancaster, PA.
After dinner at the Outback Steakhouse, we brought Wayne on a short tour of the railroad, hitting several highlights of the old Main Line.
Using the ASM.transitdocs.com Amtrak realtime phone app, we were able to time the passage of an eastward Amtrak Keystone to just a few minutes, and watched the train zip by at nearly 90mph.
A slow moving westward Norfolk Southern freight had crossed the former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge in the evening light. After Kris and I made our images of the train on great span, we motored west on Highway 15 to catch it again.
A few miles west of Marysville, near Cove, PA, we spotted a stopped eastward train, and set up up to catch the two trains passing in the evening light.
Imagine if it were 1953, and these were trains led by Pennsylvania’s impressive M1 4-8-2 Mountains types.
Saturday, I made this view of a former Reading Company caboose at Kempton, Pennsylvania on the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern.
It was shortly before 3pm and the sun was still high in the July sky.
Using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm I exposed the photo in both JPG and RAW. Then in post processing using Adobe Lightroom, I adjusted the camera RAW (NEF format) so that I made full use of the camera’s dynamic range.
Notice how in the adjusted versions you can see detail inside the caboose.
My Nikon Z6 is prized for its dynamic range, in other words its ability to capture detail at the extreme end of the range from dark to light.
On our visit to Rockville Bridge last weekend, a few minutes after we caught a westward autorack train, we heard an eastward train approaching.
By this time, I’d swapped lenses and had my Z7-II set up with the 70-200mm zoom that I normally use with my Z6.
From our position near the boat launch on the west bank of the Susquehanna, I made this sequence of the second freight crossing Pennsyvlania Railroad’s iconic bridge—the third bridge at the this location.
Having lived in northern New Hampshire for several years, where freight trains are as rare as hens teeth, it was thrilling to see freights with almost no waiting time.
The ONE boxes on this double stack train reminded me of a day in Dublin about five years ago when I’d walked up to Cabra to catch the outbound IWT Liner that was carrying several of these hot-pink containers. That seems like a world away and a long time ago.
In 2007, I’d made several trips to the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern while I was working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania.
I thought it was time to revisit this classic all-American tourist railroad This is a little more than an hour’s drive from our new home, so on our way to the Philadelphia suburbs last Sunday, Kris and I made a wee detour.
It also of special interst to me now. Although my old ‘Wee Reading Company’ is but a memory, I’m looking for ideas for my new railroad. I don’t have space yet, but someday it will be time to revisit the building of another HO-scale Reading interpretation.
The Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern will celebrate its 60th Anniversary later this year. The railroad operates a bit of the Reading’s Schuylkill & Lehigh Branch, a rural branchline cast away by the Reading more than a decade before the coming of Conrail.
I exposed these photos at Trexler with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkon Z-series zoom.
The famous Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge across the Susquehanna River is about an hour from our new home.
Saturday afternoon was clear and bright, so Kris and I made the short foray over to Harrisburg and north along the west bank of the river.
Thanks to our smart phones, navigating the turns off Interstate 81 and over to the bridge is now a relatively easy task. Back in the days of paper maps this had been a real challenge, because you have to make something like a double reverse figure eight up and over to get to the bridge.
Anyway, we arrived at the boat launch near the western piers of the great bridge, and within 30 seconds we heard a westbound Norfolk Southern freight coming. ‘Wow what perfect timing!’ I delighted at our good luck. A westbound in perfect light, and no waiting!
I reached for my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. Unfortunately, I discovered that the switch was already in the ‘on’ position, and found that I’d forgotten to turn the camera off after the previous evening’s photography. The batteries were flat. No electricity, no photos.
‘Oh no . . .but wait!’
As the train got closer, I reached for my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
My father made pans of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Baldwin shark’s on the New York & Long Branch in the 1960s using a Leica and Kodachrome.
I made these photos of Reading & Northern 2014 on the move at Jim Thorpe, PA using my Nikon Z7-II and 24-70mm lens.
The trick is using a reasonably slow shutter speed, fixing a point in the frame and panning with the subject in a complete and uninterrupted motion. In other words don’t stop panning when you release the shutter.
Panning on a dull day is a great way to give a photo a bit of zing!
Over the last month of so, Kris and I have paid weekly visits to Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road to observe and photograph their trains.
During this time, former Canadian National Mogul-type 89 has been the star attraction. However, on Friday, we observed the 5 and 7pm trains that ran with former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 number 475.
I really like the way this locomotive looks and sounds. It had a long tapered boiler and smoke box that gives it a classic appearance, while its whistle makes a low mournful cry that stirs a vision of the past.
We waited at Esbenshade road for the return of the 7pm train, listening to the engine work upgrade and sound for the crossings.
I made this sequence of photos with my Nikon Z digital cameras as the train approached.
On February 27, 2021, I posted ‘Reading Company 2102 Location Unknown’, that featured a photograph my father made back in May 1963. Previously, I’d run this photo across the gutter as an opening spread in my book Locomotive (published by MBI in 2001).
At the time I was preparing the book, I quizzed my Dad about the location of the photo, and he was unable to recall the details, except that it was a Reading Iron Horse Ramble ‘somewhere in Pennsylvania’.
In the two and half two years since I first posted “Reading Company 2102 Location Unknown” on Tracking the Light, I’ve received considerable response regarding the location of the photo.
In the meantime, I built an HO-model railroad based on the Reading (my ‘Wee Reading Company which included a model of 2102), got married to my fiancée Kris, and then during May and June this year we moved New Hampshire to Pennsylvania . ( And I had to sacrifice the Wee Reading Company in the process).
Several readers acted as detectives and narrowed the location of my father’s photo and provided me great detail . As it turns out location is less than an hour from our new home in Lancaster.
The other day, Kris and I drove to the crossing in the photo and I made a sequence of ‘Now’ photos to pair with my father’s original slide.
I didn’t have a copy of the photo with me and had to work from memory. (I’d hoped to use the image as posted on Tracking the Light, but the signal in the Brandywine Valley was poor and I could pull up TTL on my phone).
Interestingly, the first photo I made matches up nearly perfectly with my Dads. I sent him a phone photo with my iPhone once we signal, and he wrote back, ‘Yep! That’s the place’.
Special thanks to everyone that helped find location Pop’s ‘Unknown Location’, including Robert Mastrippolito, George Legler (who also supplied the vintage 1/4 mile map), John Hartman, Scott Snell and Chris Bost. Thanks guys!
Back in May 1963, Pop stood at the crossing south of Coatesville near Embreeville in Newlin Township, PA., where Youngs/Harveys Bridge Road, crossed the Reading Company tracks. The view is looking south toward Harveys Bridge, which was located between milepost 26 3/4 and milepost 27 on the former Reading Company’s Wilmington and Northern line, a line now part of the East Penn shortline system.
Two weeks ago, Reading & Northern’s Class T-1 4-8-4 2102 was the star attraction that captured most of the pixels that day.
I think back to the photos my dad made of a Reading Iron Horse Ramble led by a T-1 back in 1959. This was assisted by a pair of Reading Company Baldwin diesels. The T-1 is still with us. The Baldwins have been gone for a half century.
So, in another 60 years, I’ll bet 2102 is still around, but how about the GP38-2s that were also in excursion service that day.
There was a time when a GP38-2 was just about as common as diesels get. I hardly paid them any notice at all. But these days, some of those GP38-2s are now a half century old.
I made a fair few photos of Reading & Northern’s GP38-2s in between bursts of pixels of T-1 2102. Here are a few for your consideration.
Last weekend, Kris, Boomer-the-dog and I, timed our arrival at Blackhorse Road in Strasburg to catch the 1900 (7pm) evening train that only runs relatively infrequently.
I like the evening run because it is relatively quiet and the light tends to be better. Midday sun in July is a bit harsh and rarely results in optimal photographic conditions. Although it was partially cloudy, the softer light allowed good photos in both directions without harse contrast.
I made these views with my Nikon Z digital cameras of the evening train coming and going on its way to and from Leaman Place where it runs around to change directions. There’s no wye on the Strasburg Rail Road so the engines face westward.
On our evening drive we nipped over to Leaman Place to roll-by a Philadelphia-bound Amtrak Keystone.
Last week I picked up two new pairs of glasses. One is a general pair of progressive tri-focals that I wear most of the time. The other pair are tinted, polarized sunglasses designed to correct my long range vision and intended as my driving glasses. They do little for my near vision, and are useless for anything close up.
As I waited a Leaman Place, having checked the ASM tracking app to check the progress of the train, I tried to make some adjustments to my Nikon Z6. However, I found to my frustration that between the polarized lenses and the lack of close-up lenses, I really couldn’t see what I was doing.
While I was mucking with the Nikon’s menus, the rails on the Harrisburg Line started to sing.
I’d hoped to take a burst of images with the camera in ‘H’ (Continuous High’ release mode. However with my driving glasses induced functional blindness, I’d set the camera to ‘S’ (single frame). An error I discovered as the train raced by at 100 mph with the locomotive at the rear
I made two frames; one chopped the trailing cab on the engine, the next frame is more distant than I would have liked. By the time I realized what went wrong the train was a half mile down the line.
You can’t win all the prizes. I’ll try again, using my normal glasses!
On these long summer evenings, the sun sets to the north of Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line along Jefferson Drive at Greenfield near Lancaster, PA.
Kris and I pulled over to watchAmtrak Keystone 618 glide east as it caught the evening glint. Running cab car first, this trainhad a pleasant surprise for us at the back: Amtrak ACS-64 642 specially painted to honor American Veterans.
My Nikon Z6 has a rapid burst exposure setting that exposes a sequence of images in quick succession which allowed me to catch this ununally painted locomotive on the move.
Kris and I paid another visit to the former Pennsylvania Railroad bridges along the Susquehanna River at Safe Harbor, PA.
We have stopped here a couple of times before, but on this visit I wanted to take a look at the upper level bridge which now hosts the Enola Low Grade Trail.
A connecting trail has been built here to reach the high level trestle.
My challenge will be returning here at an appropriate time to catch a Norfolk Southern freight. Owing to a curfew on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor with which the NS line connects, most of its freight moves through here during the hours of darkness.
The bridges are very impressive and offer a great view of the Susquehanna and the Safe Harbor Dam. See the link below the photos for information the Low Grade Trail
Photos exposed using my Nikon Z7-II.
To learn more about the trail, click on the link below.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts New Material Daily!
Last weekend’s Reading & Northern Iron Horse Ramble was more than just a trip. It was an event and a confluence of railway people, railway fans, railway photographers, train riders, and even members of the general public.
I sent my dad an SMS text with a of photo of 2102. He wrote back, ‘take photos of the fans.’
He has photos of Reading Company’s rambles with the railroad’s class T-1s surrounded by fans and photographers.
Below is a selection of my people photos from Saturday July 1, 2023.
A few days ago, a storm had cleared away the hazy dust and for once there was some sweet evening light at Gap, Pennsylvania along the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.
We’d stopped at a nearby Rita’sIce to get a treat for Kris and pulled up to a park-like setting in view of the famous clock tower. I was tracking Amtrak Keystone train 669 and knew it was close.
When Amtrak Siemen’s ACS-64 663 rounded the bend with train 669, I exposed a sequence of photos with my Nikon Z6 and 70-200mm lens then raised my Lumix LX-7 for coming and going wide angle views, followed by another sequence with the Nikon. Kris made a phone video of me taking photos.
I’d just sat back in the car, when Kris said, ‘Look! Another train,’ as an eastward Amtrak train squealed into view. My Lumix was still in my hand and ready to go, so I made a couple of grab shots. I assume this was a deadhead move, as it hadn’t appeared on the tracker. The engineer gave us a friendly toot! as the train passed.
Last week my sister-in-law Isablle phoned to say that she found the perfect place to meet for dinner. ‘It’s like a pub, it’s near an antique place, it has a train parked out front, and its only about a half an hour away from where you live!’
And she was right!
So Kris and I arranged to meet my brother Sean and Isabelle, and our friend Pat Yough (long time TTL reader).
Pat and I took turns to walk up an photograph the engines of the East Penn Railroad that were parked across the street by the old Reading Company Station.
The restaurant/pub was old school with a classic tin ceiling, big windows and pool tables.
I made these photos with my Lumix LX7. The staff were friendly and we all had a good time!