Leap Card on Leap Day

I’m taking a leap forward in this extra post for 29 February 2024.

The Irish Leap Card is a transit fare storage card roughly equivalent to the London Oyster Card.

This gives you a nominal fare discount and allows for an easier way to pay for transit fare on buses/trams/sububan trains in Dublin and on local trains and buses in Cork.

I bought my first Leap Card back in 2014. I have a collection of these now. When we arrived at Dublin Airport, I checked the balance on two of my cards and found that I had more than 25 Euro stored there.

Since today was Leap Day, Kris and I leaped on Irish Rail’s Cork-Cobh service, which puts this post ahead of many of the earlier posts that will follow over the coming days.

To set the record straight, tomorrow, I’ll resume with a more-or-less chronological review of our Irish-UK adventures.

Elizabeth Line First Look

We took a brief journey on the Elizabeth Line, London’s newest suburban service, which made its debut less than two years ago.

Key to the Elizabeth Line is the newly constructed underground Cross Rail link. This connects the Great Western route with the Great Eastern route via central London.

We traveled a short section of the Cross Rail section.

The subway section is very clean and looks new.

A safety feature are platform doors that line up with train doors. This makes photography of the train underground challenging.

The route was named for Queen Elizabeth II and color chosen for the Elizabeth line is a royal purple.

See: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/elizabeth-line/

I made this selection of photos with my Lumix LX7.

Lumix in the Underground

My Lumix LX7 is an ideal camera for photographing the London Underground.

It is compact and unobtrusive and has a sharp, fast (f1.4) Leica Vario-Summilux lens, while enabling me to make RAW files.

Although, years ago I made great use of an Lumix LX3 in the London Underground, the LX7 is better suited to this environment.

I made these photos at the Charing Cross Station on the Bakerloo Line, as Kris and I were making our way northbound to Paddington.

This was just one of several excursions that we made on London’s Underground system.

Heathrow Express

A week ago, Kris and I traveled from Dublin to London on British Airways. From Heathrow Terminal 5, we traveled on the Heathrow Express to Paddington.

There are a variety of rail options from Heathrow. We chose Heathrow Express largely because of convenience. Between us we had three checked bags and two carry on and the prospect of navigating the tube with so much luggage made the tube/Elizabeth Line options unappealing.

Upon arrival at Paddington we made a few photos then took a taxi to our hotel.

One minor difficulty was a signalling fault on the Great Western Railway route that resulted in a minor delay to our train, and subsequently caused the cancellation of some subsequent Heathrow Express trains. We were lucky that we arrived when we did!

Photos exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX7.

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DART crosses the Liffey on the Loop Line

At dusk, I made this panned view of an Irish Rail DART electric train crossing the River Liffey in Dublin on the infamous Loop Line bridge.

The span caused a stir among purists in the 19th century.

Today, it is an iconic component of the Dublin city centre.

Exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX7 at f1.7 and 1/6th of second.

Dublin LUAS at Georges Dock

Dublin’s LUAS tram system opened twenty years ago.

I recall photographing the original construction of both Green and Red Lines.

The Red Line extension through the Docklands to the Point opened in 2009, which makes this route 15 years old.

Last week, Kris and I stayed near Georges Dock (on the Docklands extension), and made several trips on the LUAS around the city.

The original 3001-series trams are beginning show their age. It’s fascinating for me to have witnessed the maturing of the trams and the growth of the system. I’ve been photographing LUAS trams since before the system opened, with some of my eariest images dating back to 2002, when the trams were were stored without numbers at the Red Cow depot.

I made these images with my Nikon Z7-II.

Great Northern Railway station at Malahide.

Kris and I traveled on the DART from Dublin Connolly Station to the northern extent of the DART service at Malahide where we spent the afternoon wandering around.

We returned via a 22K series Intercity Railcar (ICR).

I made a series of photos of the station, its trains and environment. The station facilities include a classic former Great Northern Railway (of Ireland) station building. This is constructed of yellow brick and retains its traditional Victorian era canopy.

LX3 photo.
Nikon Z7-11 with 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z7-11 with 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z7-11 with 24-70mm lens.
LX3 photo.

Photos exposed using Lumix LX3 and Nikon Z7-II digital cameras. All images were exposed as RAW files and processed using Adobe Lightroom.

DART at Connolly Station

Dublin Area Rapid Transit is an electrified suburban service focused on Dublin’s Connolly Station. This shares routes with diesel powered trains and provides a regular interval passenger service.

The oldest of its cars are the German built 8100, 8300 series units that date to beginning of the service in the early 1980s. I first photographed the DART in 1998.

I made these photos on Satruday using a Lumix LX3. Kris and I were on our way to Malahide, which is the northern extremity of the DART service.

Following its recent re-introduction to my camera arsenal, I’m continuing to experiment with a Lumix LX3, after nearly a decade since my original LX3 failed following more than 65,000 exposures. The LX3 was my first digital camera.

Transatlantic Journey

Last week, Kris and I traveled from Lancaster, Pa., to Dublin, Ireland for the first stage in an epic trip.

This is our first overseas journey since moving to Lancaster. We explored a variety of airline options, and ultimately setted on a rarely traveled path.

American Airlines operates a connecting bus from the Lancaster Airport to Philadelphia. So we booked a through round trip ticket from Lancaster to Dublin. My railroad acquaintances may wonder why we didn’t opt to take Amtrak to Philadelphia and then SEPTA Airport train to th airport.

We considered Amtrak, but the connecting bus offered a variety of practical advantages:

1) Since it was a through ticket, we could check our baggage in Lancaster and collect it in Dublin, thus saving the luggage schlep between trains at 30th Street in Philadelphia. This also cut out a train change, which would be especially problematic on the return leg.

2) The bus is operated by American Airlines, so if anything went wrong with the connection, it was on the airline to make it right. With the rail connection we were at the risk of the railroad’s not performing as planned.

3) The bus only carried a few passengers so we had plenty of space.

4) Bus connection passengers are afforded a special security option at Philadelphia that was much less taxing than having to deal with the main queue of people at security.

Although we didn’t travel by train, we did see a SEPTA Silverliner V at the airport.

We traveled on Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was a very comfortable way to cross the big pond.

Photos were made with a Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Central Vermont Alco RS-11

Forty-two years ago I regularly listened to the radio program Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adapted from the books by Douglas Adams and presented by BBC.

My father had bought a Grundig portable radio that received shortwave among other frequencies. In the wee-hours, this allowed me to tune in this exotic program from across the pond.

One of the themes of Hitchhikers was the number 42, which was the answer to the ultimate question of the Life, the universe, and everything.

During this same time, I took a photography class at the Wilbraham & Monson Academy taught by Mark Bistline. Among other things, Mark introduced me to Ilford HP5 black & white film. Until that time, I’d largely only used Kodak films.

My father drove me to the Central Vermont Railway yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed my roll of HP5 with my Leica 3A rangefinder, making a series of images of CV’s Alco RS-11 number #3614 that was idling there.

I also made a recording of the locomotive. I don’t know what became of the recording, but the HP5 negatives still remain in my collection 42 years later.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Twilight Glow at Reinholds

A week ago and a world away, wintery dusk settled over Reinholds Station, Pennsylvania.

The blue hour was golden.

Next to the old Reading station rested former New York, Susquehanna & Western GP18 1802.

This quaint setting is rare in 21st century railroading and befitting of a model railroad.

Photos were made with a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm mounted on a Bogen tripod to allow for long exposure. NEF RAW files adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

Pennsylvanian Passes Parkesburg

Parkesburg, Pennsylvania was once an important interlocking where the Enola Low Grade cutoff (Atglen & Susquehanna Branch) joined the Main Line (now Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line) via a grade separated junction.

Today, a vestige of the old low grade survives to serve local industries, but the remants of the interlocking, the town and Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad station seem like shadows of another era.

This remains a station for Amtrak’s Keystone service, but the station facilities are minimalistic and a contrast to most stations on Amtrak’s Northeast electrified routes.

Last week, Kris and I timed our arrival at Parkesburg to coincide with the late-running Pennsylvanian. This is the through train that connects Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City.

It typically runs with a diesel between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, but on this day diesel power was swaped for an electric at Harrisburg.

I made this sequence of images using my Nikon Z mirror-less digital cameras.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Energy Train on Chrome

For my birthday, my father had given me a roll of Fujichrome Provia 100F.

More than 40 years earlier, he would often provide a roll of Kodachrome (with Kodak mailer) on my special day. I still have many of those slides in my collection, most of subjects long since gone.

While visiting Cape Cod, I finished the Ektachrome that had been in my Nikon for months and loaded up the lone roll of Fujichrome Provia.

Among the film photos I made on the trip was this view of Mass-Coastal’s ‘Energy Train’ passing the harbor at Buzzards Bay on its return from Rochester, Massachusetts.

I received this processed film back from the lab last week. I was delighted! Almost every color slide was a winner!

Yard Office at Pittston

Back on November 17, 2023, Kris and I had paused at Reading & Northern’s Pittston Junction yard.

It had been months since the last time I exposed a color slide.

I had my Nikon F3 with me because we were on our way to Cape Cod, and I anticipated wanting to make a few slides of our trip.

So after making a variety of photos with my digital cameras, I dusted off the F3 and made two Ektachrome slides of Reading & Northern 2535, in what appeared as a classic railroad scene.

Why just two slides? Well, this was because after I exposed the second photo the battery in the camera died. That is one of the dangers of infrequent camera use.

When we final got to the Cape, I replaced the battery and finished off my roll of film.

Exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3 with 35-70mm Nikkor zoom. Slide scanned using a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner.

Ektachrome of the Snow

I don’t expose very much slide film any more.

The high cost of the film and processing, combined with the burden of carrying extra camera equipment, has limited my film usage to just a few rolls per year.

Last week, I received several processed rolls back from the lab, which accounted for the majority of the film photos I made during 2023.

Among these were a few photos I made on January 24, 2023 during a trip with Conway Scenic’s Snow Plow Extra that cleared to Mountain Junction and then east on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, New Hampshire.

These were exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Correcting a Camel Crossing the Connecticut

At 11:35am on August 18, 1988, I photographed Conrail C32-8 6616 leading MBSE (Middleboro to Selkirk, otherwise known as ‘The Queen’) across the former Boston & Albany bridge over the Connecticut River.

The C32-8s were among the GE’s known as ‘Camels’ because of their humpback appearance.

These were called ‘Classics’ by the folks at GE to distinguish them from the more Spartan DASH-8s produced later.

I’d parked my Dodge Dart in the riverside lot off Route 5, and made my way down to water level, where I exposed this Professional Kodachrome 25 slides.

However, in trying to get as close to the water as possible (without falling in), I managed to lose my sense of level, and the resulting image was several degrees off-axis.

For many years this slide was relegated to binder of my ‘seconds’.

The other night I scanned the slide, corrected the level and improved the color balance. (Professional Kodachrome had a tendency to shift toward the red).

Conrail Heritage Unit on the Move!

We were at the right place at the right time.

As Norfolk Southern’s unit coal train 632 rolled through Sunbury, Pa., on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Northern Central route, Kris and I chased along on the parallel Rt 147.

On the way north we’d spotted several open locations right off the road. By the time we reached the south side of Sunbury, we were already a couple of minutes ahead of the train, so we pulled off the road near mile post 260.

While I was surprised to catch a coal train on the move, and delighted to have stumbled into NS’s one-of-a-kind Conrail heritage unit No. 8098, I didn’t realise how infrequently Clearfield-originated coal trains are these days.

At milepost 260, I aimed to make some representative photos of the locomotive in nice light. At our next location about 17 miles further down the line, I hoped to make the most of the sweeping curve that Kris and I spotted on our drive northward earlier in the day.

We timed the exercise well and had time to make nice sequences at both locations. Special thanks to Dan Cupper for operational details on the coal train!

Lumix LX3—Reading Sunset

The tracks of the former Reading Company’s Lancaster & Columbia line through Lititz, Pa, were trimmed back a few blocks in recent months.

The rails were lifted where they crossed North Water Street, near the Appalachian Brewing Company.

I made these photos while experiementing with a vintage-2008 Lumix LX3. A decade ago, I’d made a lot of great photos with this compact camera model.

While I ultimately replaced my original LX3 with the more versatile LX7, I again have an LX3 in my repertoire of photographic equipment. This camera’s f2.8 Leica Vario-Summicron lens yields excellent results.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Conrail Evolution Surprise!

I was surprised to hear a whistle to the west, when we were exploring the Shikellamy State Park along the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, Pa.

Then when the train came into view on the far side of the river, I had vivid sense of Conrail-blue deja vu.

The last time, I’d visited this bridge, photographer Mike Gardner and I had caught the eastward Norfolk Southern freight symbol 13W led by a former Conrail GE C40-8 still in the classic Conrail paint, and then a little while later, we photographed the westward NS 41T with Canadian National locomotives. But that was back in November 2001!

From my slide archives: Norfolk Southern 13W led by a former Conrail DASH8-40C. November 2, 2001.

Fast forward: Conrail’s days as an independant Class I carrier are now a quarter century behind us, so what was this modern GE in blue paint Kris and I saw last week?

As the unit coal train (NS 632) rolled across the multiple-span truss bridge, I realized what I was looking at:

Norfolk Southern’s specially painted Conrail heritage locomotive! This is a General Electric ES44AC, engine number 8098, an Evolution-series 4,400 hp low-emissions diesel-electric.

Conrail never owned anything quite so advanced.

I made my photos and then Kris and I decided to follow the train back down NS’s Buffalo Line. This was a rare find! It was our lucky day! Lucky!

I had a couple of prime locations in mind, if we could only stay ahead of the train!

Retro Digital—1st Test

My first digital camera was a Panasonic Lumix LX3. I bought it on the recommendation of Eric Rosenthal in October 2009.

I made tens of thousands of photographs with that wee camera. It finally gave up the ghost in June 2014. I replaced it with my first Lumix LX7.

By that time I had bought a Canon EOS-7D, which I was relying upon for much of my heavy photography. However, I carried the Lumix with me everywhere. As I’ve explained previously, the camera you use is the one in your hand. So, while I often have with me a BIG camera, a Lumix is typically at the ready in my pocket.

I later bought a Fuji XT1, which largely supplanted the Canon. In 2020, I bought my first Nikon Z, which largely supplanted the XT1. By that stage, I was on my third Lumix LX7. In 2022, our friend Bill Keay gave Kris and me a brand new Lumix LX3. Still in the box, this camera had been his father’s and he wanted us to have it.

Although I’ve been using an LX7 for almost 10 years, on reflection I’ve often felt that I had made better photos with the old LX3, despite the more modern camera (LX7) with its faster lens, longer zoom range, and better operating software.

The other day I finally unboxed the 2008-vintage LX3, charged its battery and set it up to shoot JPG and RAW at its highest resolution.

Kris and I drove over to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylania, where I made a series of comparison views. The files below are all RAW and unaltered in post processing except for scaling. Each is identified by the camera used.

LX3 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Revisiting Norfolk Southern’s Buffalo Line

The former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Central route north of Harrisburg toward Northumberland, Pa., (and beyond) is operated by Norfolk Southern as its Buffalo Line.

In the late-1990s, toward the end of the Conrail-era, photographer Mike Gardner and I began exploring this route, and continued our photography along the line ifor several years after Norfolk Southern assumed operations. However, it had been more than twenty years since I had taken a serious look of the railroad north of the Harrisburg area.

A few days ago, we had a rare sunny day, so Kris and I made an adventure of following the east bank of the Susquehanna River compass north toward Sunbury.

We stopped at few locations. At Sunbury, I was curious get re-acquaited with the railroad and its connections. On the north side of town, we visited the Shikellamy State Park, where Mike and I had caught NS freight 41T back in November 2001. At that time NS was still operating the line as a through freight route all the way to Buffalo, NY.

Here’s another contemporary view of the Susquehanna River bridges at the Shikellamy State Park located on an island between Sunbury and Northumberland, Pa.

As I was photographing the bridges from the park, I heard a whistle to the west . . .

Stay tuned for more!

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On the Pier at Searsport

Among my black & white negatives from years gone by, is a sheet of 16 frames of 120 Kodak Tri-X that I exposed using my father’s old Rolleiflex Model-T in August of 1986.

I’d spent a week in Maine visiting with my friend Robert A. Buck, proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts.

Among his other guests was photographer Brandon Delaney. During our visit, Brandon and I spent several days exploring Maine railways, including Bangor & Aroostook, Belfast & Moosehead Lake, Canadian Pacific and Maine Central.

On a visit to Searsport, I made this photo of the freight that ran four or five days a week from Northern Maine Junction (near Bangor) to Searsport. The locomotives were working trackage that served the Searsport Pier.

Film was precious. I only brought a few rolls of 35mm Kodachrome and several 120 rolls of black & white.

This scene was back-lit, but I felt it was sufficiently worthy to invest one frame. I scanned it the other day and made a few improvements to contrast, eliminated some spots and scaled the output for presentation here.

A lot has changed since August 1986. I wonder when the last train used the Searsport Pier?

Gray Day at Creek Hill Road

The weather was mild and the light was dull when I crossed Willow Road and spotted the headlight of Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch freight.

I zipped down the line to Creek Hill Road in Leola, Pa., where I opted for a slightly different angle than the one I posted from this location on Tracking the Light a few days ago.

In these views, I composed photos to include the road.

Also, where in my previous encounters with the New Holland Branch local, locomotives were working back to back on the train. On this day, sequentially numbered GP38-2s were ‘topped and tailed’ (to use a British descriptive phrase). In other words, there were locomotives positioned at both ends of the train.