Moving Day!

Today the moving truck comes to get our heavy stuff—furniture and what-not— to bring to our new house.

We’ve already moved the bulk of our smaller items including more than 135,000 color slides, 15,000 B&W negatives, and hundreds of books, notebooks and related materials.

In the spirit of this transition, I thought I’d post this view I made along Jefferson Drive, near our Greenfield apartment in Lancaster, Pa.

Amtrak ACS-615 leads train 642 on its eastward journey from Harrisburg toward Philadelphia.

This was among the locations just a very short drive from the aparment. Our new house is closer to the Strasburg Rail Road and the former PRR’s Port Road Branch, and just a 15 minute drive from Amtrak’s Harrisburg line, so I still plan to post regular photos from these locations.

(even when ‘in-transition’)

MBTA HSP-46 at Norfolk, Mass.

On our recent New England trip, Kris and I visited Norfolk, Massachusetts.

The Norfolk station, which is served by MBTA’s Franklin Line.

The double-tracking project that has been underway during our previous visits to Norfolk seems to have stalled. There’s a modern signal gantry in place with new signals, and while the right-of-way has been cleared and some ties laid down, heavy track work is still pending.

We waited for westward MBTA train 1709 that runs from South Station to Forge Park/495 station. This was led by one of the distinctive HSP-46 diesels that are unique to MBTA.

Using my Nikon Z7-II, I exposed a rapid sequence of photos as the train entered the station at speed and then came to a complete stop on the platform. This was a good show!

Rural View Near Lancaster, PA.

For the last year, Kris and I have lived in an apartment at Greenfield in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. One of the great benefits of this location has been the proximity to both Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line and Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch.

A couple of weeks ago, as I went about my Sunday errands, I made this photo of the outbound NS local freight on its way east toward New Holland. I’ve photographed this run dozens of times since moving to Greenfield.

This week Kris and I bought a house. This offers many significant improvements to our standard of living including; an enclosed garage, lots of storage and office space, and a fully finished basement (already allocated for the latest interpretation of the Reading Company in HO Scale).

The new house is only 15 minutes from Greenfield, but will no longer be within earshot of the New Holland Branch. So while I may still seek out the New Holland local, it will require a bit more effort than during our Greenfield stay.

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Amtrak 101

Is there room for subtlety and allusion?

I could make a lot of this photo.

Kris, Seamus-the-dog and I arrived at the Farmington River in Windsor, Connecticut just a few minutes before Amtrak’s southward train 143 (from Springfield, Massachusetts) was due to cross the former New Haven Railroad bridge over the mirror-like waters.

In the lead was Amtrak P42 GENESIS 101.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed the papers for my next book which will tell the story of Amtrak through its equipment. This will be more than a nuts and bolts analysis of Amtrak motive power, although I’m hoping to cover a lot of detail.

Just remember, the mirror image of 101 is 101.

Note to regular TTL viewers: Yesterday’s Post ‘Brief Visit to a Familiar Place’ was experiencing some technical difficulties. I received a variety of concerned comments that the photos were not appearing as expected. Word Press appears to have resolve the problem. You may re-check this post at:

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Brief Visit to a Familiar Place

Over the years, I’ve exposed thousands of railroad photos in Palmer, Massachusetts. I started photographing there in 1977.

Kris and I paid a brief visit to Palmer on our trip to Massachusetts in mid-June. This was primarily a social call, and we had limited time to look at the railroad, but we made a few photos in Palmer at familiar places.

For me, Palmer was in its heyday in the mid-1990s, when Conrail was at its zenith running about 15 freights daily in each direction, and Central Vermont/New England Central could be found working the yards here at any hour of the day or night; when Amtrak operated 6-8 trains daily through Palmer, and the Mass-Central had a busy intermodal container facility in town.

It is much quieter these days. We didn’t see a wheel turn, although Genesee & Wyoming’s New England Central had several locomotives at the ready in its yard.

The undergrowth has encroached and there are leafy vines getting ever closer to the tracks. Yet, I was happy to see a set of new CSX gondolas in the NECR yard carrying large pieces of stone.

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

(For old time sake, I also took a couple of color slides).

Site of the Boston & Albany Palmer Freight House.

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Dual Mode GENESIS along the Hudson

GE’s dual mode P32DM-AC is a highly specialized locomotive model built during the mid-1990s for Amtrak and Metro North.

Similar in appearance to the more common P42 employed by Amtrak and VIA Rail in passenger service across the United States and Canada, the P32DM-AC dual mode variation was designed to draw current from third rail when operating on electrified lines in New York City.

Kris and I had the opportunity to watch these engines race up and down the Hudson from our vantage point at Mine Dock Park.

I exposed these photos using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. I’ve enlarged a few photos to get a larger view of the GE diesels.

Amtrak P32DM-AC number 707 leads train 235 near Manitou, NY.
Enlarged version of the top photo.
Metro-North 234 leads train 839 toward Poughkeepsie.
Metro-North 234 near Manitou, NY.
Metro-North 227 works at the back of Grand Central bound train from Poughkeepsie.
Metro-North 227 works at the back of Grand Central bound train from Poughkeepsie.

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New Book!

Saturday a package was delivered to my door containing my author’s copies of my latest book: Steam by the Numbers, published by Kalmbach Media.

I dedicated this work to my wife, Kris. She has a dramatic photograph of restored Soo Line 2-8-2 Mikado 1003 on pages 62 and 63.

This is a nuts and bolts book containing a lot of detail, lots of information, and solid context to tell the story of the many locomotive types covered within. I’ve broken down the history of the North American steam locomotive by the different wheel arrangements and arranged these into 36 individual chapters.

To make this an interesting book to look at I included dozens of photos. Many of these came from my own collection, some exposed by myself, but also images from my father, Richard Jay Solomon, and many contributors. A great many images are from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania archive, where thanks to the help and patience of Musuem’s Archives Manager Lauren Radkiewicz and PHMC’s Railroad Collections Archivist, Senior Processing Archivist Kurt Bell, I had spend countless hours pouring through vintage photographs.

Among the other significant collections included are those from my late-friends Robert A. Buck and John E. Pickett, as well as those from the Kalmbach archives. George C. Corey supplied some excellent photos of Delaware & Hudson 4-6-6-4s.

J. William Vigrass supplied the dramatic cover image, which captures the majesty of steam .

The book is available through the Kalmbach Hobby Store and other book distributors.

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Longest Day—Cherry Hill Crossing

I’m always seeking an angle, and I like visiting the familiar places again and again to see a photo I hadn’t made previously

June 21st is the longest day of the year which can be a distinctive time to catch the sun during the early morning and late evening.

On Friday evening Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I went over to Cherry Hill Road to roll by the 6pm train to Leaman Place.

Over the last year, I’ve photographed this crossing from a variety of angles, and I was looking for something different. So, I walked up the road, which rises sharply after crossing the tracks. The sun had just crossed over to the northside of the line.

Working with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens I made this sequence of images as the crossing gates came down and former Canadian National 2-6-0 number 89 rolled over the crossing toward Groffs.

A Different Lancaster

8:50 am, October 3, 1987.

I was following the old Erie Railroad toward Buffalo and overtook a freight that had stopped a red signal.

This was Conrail’s OIBU and the location was East Lancaster, New York. I made a single Kodachrome 25 slide with my Leica M2 fitted with a 200mm Leitz Telyt lens mounted via a Visoflex and positioned on a tripod. My exposure was f4 at 1/15th of a second.

Not long after the slide came back from processing, I labled it. However at some point there after, I deemed this image unworthy and tucked it back into one of the many Kodak yellow slide boxes labled ‘2nds,’ where it resided for the last 36+ years in my parents attic.

I scanned it the other day, then imported the scan into Lightroom to correct for level, exposure and excessive cyan tint. The photograph has aged well! However the pole to the immediate left of the locomotive cab has always annoyed me.

Scan prior to post processeing adjustment
Same scan as at the top, but with my first round of corrections.
Scan following my final corrections.

CSX Local Freight Along the Hudson

Road switchers are designed for bi-directional operation.

When I was younger, EMD’s running long-hood forward annoyed me.

These days, I think its pretty cool to find a single SD40-2 operating long-hood first.

Last week, we saw CSX 8400 leading a local freight along the River Line in New York’s Hudson River Valley. I made this sequence of images from the Mine Dock Park near Ft Montgomery.

Exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series-Nikkor lens. Contrast and saturation adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

Note the mismatched number boards and the plow profiled for use in 3rd rail territory.

Maine Central-44 Years Ago.

On our recent visit to New England, Kris and I collected another batch of my older photographs from my parents attic.

Among these were a box labeled, ‘Maine Central-Seconds’.

Not to brag, but these were of the Maine Central before Guilford. Most of the images were of marginal quality, but of great interest.

I exposed these three Kodachrome 64 slides on the Rockland Branch at Bath, Maine on June 1980 trip to visit my grandparents. Traffic on Route 1 was pretty bad, so we got off the road for a little while to relax.

At the time, I was using a 1937-8 vintage Leica 3A 35mm rangefinder. Based on the angle of view, I guess I was working with a Nikkor 35mm lens, which was one of my favorites at the time. It was a very sharp piece of glass. To gauge my exposure I had a handheld Weston Master III light meter.

New Haven Heritage

Last week we paid a brief visit to Mine Dock Park at Highland, New York.

This location along the west shore of the Hudson offers a variety of vistas to photograph trains.

One of the first trains that we saw was northward Metro-North 837 running from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie on the former New York Central Hudson Division.

This was led by a General Electric Genesis model P32DM-AC, a dual-mode diesel-electric/electric designed for passenger service into New York City. This locomotive was funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and painted in a retro New Haven Railroad scheme.

I was delighted to catch it on the move and made this photo using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. I panned the photo which helps separate the locomotive from the background.

To improve the contrast of the photo, I made some minor adjustments in post-processing using Lightroom.

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Running Errands

Sunday mornings are a great time to combine two activities; making trips to the grocery and catching photos of the local freight.

A few weeks ago, I missed Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local on its outward journey.

Not to worry, Kris and I caught up with it on the way to the supermarket in Leola.

It was a clear bright morning, and while the angle of the sun was contrasty, I feel that this photo captures the spirit of the New Holland Branch in one image.

I made a variety of modifications to the image in post processing to reduce contrast and improve detail.

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Amtrak Keystone 618

For the next weeks the sun will be rising and setting on the north side of Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line where it runs parallel to Jefferson Drive in Lancaster.

I’ve been making a project of working the light at this familiar location.

Amtrak Keystone train 618 is a good choice because this is scheduled to depart Lancaster at 1945 (745pm) which can result in some dramatic backlit photos.

On this occasion, Amtrak ACS-64 number 615 was leading. This elusive electric was on my list of Amtrak locomotives to photograph on the move. I guess I can tick that box!

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(Almost) Summer Evening Sun at Cherry Hill

We caught Strasburg’s evening train returning from Leaman Place at Cherry Hill. On the long days the sun favors the northside of the tracks allowing for classic views as the locomotive accelerates away from Groffs Grove.

This run proved to be a convergence of friends. Not only was a fellow Conway Scenic employee enjoying a ride in the tail car, but at the last moment a pickup truck with New Hampshire plates pulled up to the crossing with two more familiar faces!

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Victorian Pipe Dream

Boyertown, Pa, where Lewis Carroll meets tomorrow’s yesterday.

Step through the looking glass and find a steam punk vision of railroading, where Frank Gowen meets the Addams Family, and gets ice cream!

Check out the brew pub across the parking lot that has great pizza too.

Sitting along the the New Holland Branch on a Sunday morning waiting for the NS local, I read through my July 2024 Trains Magazine, which included a feature on the Colebrookdale Railroad by Dale Woodland. Later in the day, Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I drove east to investigate this retro-reinvention of a former Reading Company branch.

To capture the spirit of this interpretation of ornate Victorian railroading, I altered my color profile when processing the digital images of the railroad.

Neat place! We’ll be back. I want to ride in the parlor car! And I’d love a spin in the old M-55 railcar. How cool is that?

South Railroad Avenue—Part 2

New Holland, Pennsylvania has classic character. It is one of those towns where the railroad still serves local industry and remains an active part of the landscape. It is at the east end of Norfolk Southern’s former PRR railroad New Holland Branch.

On another recent visit, I made these photos along South Railroad Avenue in the evening light.

Kris spotted the TTX ‘Railbox’ Plate F boxcar on the siding located east of the grade crossing.

Photos exposed using Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras.

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No. 30 passing Point of Rocks.

Recalling a trip along the old Baltimore & Ohio that I made with my old pal TSH some 35 years ago, I brought Kris and Seamus-the-Dog on a brief exploration of the railroad along the Potomac River.

We aimed to catch Amtrak No. 30 the Capitol Limited rolling through Point of Rocks, Maryland.

The signals have changed from the classic B&O Color Position Lights to more common traffic-light style color-light hardware. The station at Point of Rocks is boarded up and appears a bit rough around the edges. But, it was neat to see this old territory again and brought back memories from that earlier time.

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z-series mirrorless digtal cameras.

Cola and a Coal Train

Cola Tower is located in Columbia, Pennsylvania along the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Port Road Branch near the junction with the Columbia Branch that ran from its namesake to Lancaster. The solid brick building has been closed for many years and retains its Conrail-era blue sign. Evidence of PRR’s electrification abounds, although electric operations were discontinued by Conrail more than 40 years ago. However, I can’t claim to be an authority on Cola or this section of the PRR, and I’ll welcome details about its operation and demise.

I’ve visited Columbia on a number of occasions, but until recently, I hadn’t photographed a train at this historically important railroad junction.

Part of the challenge is that Columbia is a difficult place to portray. There is a lot of trackage, but not many vantage points. The second problem is that most of the action occurs in the evening owing to an Amtrak aytime curfew on the North East Corridor, which effectively limits movements over connecting lines.

Now that we are into the long days its is easier to find trains on the move.

My friend Dan Cupper encouraged me to investigate opportunities on this route. Last year, I caught an empty coal train in the morning at Washingtonboro, a few miles to the south.

Now that we are back into the bright evenings I aimed to try again. So, a couple of weeks ago I drove to Cola Tower with Seamus-the-Dog, reaching there about 7:30pm. After a cursory inspection to check sun angles and signals, we set up near the old tower.

I noticed a group of teenagers with phone congregating near a grade crossing, then a young enthusiast showed up wearing a Nofolk Southern T-shirt. He let me know that I was in luck, and a coal train was enroute via the Royalton Branch.

Camera’s in hand I positioned myself in the shadow of the tower. Before long, we could hear the whistle of an approaching train.

I made a series of photos of the passing train as Seamus watched with interest from the safety of the car. Afterwards, my friend and fellow photographer Pat Yough supplied details about the train which was NS’s unit train number 590, running from Shire Oaks, Pa., to Baltimore.

With this success, I’m anticipating more adventures in the area and hope to learn more about photographing this portion of the former PRR.

Tracking the Light by Brian Solomon publishes Daily Explorations into Railroad Photography!

Do the Numbers Matter? Read this one . . .

June 11, 1982, New Haven, Connecticut: Amtrak 903 was a common Amtrak AEM-7. I made this photo of the locomotive during the New Haven engine change, shortly after it arrived from Washington D.C.

My father and I had traveled up from Washington behind 903.

The F40PH that will take the train the rest of the way to Boston South Station is at the left.

What is so special about 903?

At 1:30pm on January 4, 1987, at Chase, Maryland, Amtrak 903 and 900 leading train 94, ‘The Colonial,’ collided with Conrail B36-7s 5045, 5052 and 5044 at a speed of more than 100mph . The engineer of 903 and 15 others were killed in the wreckage. Engines 903 and 900 were completely destroyed.

The locomotive engineer of the Conrail engines survived the wreck without major injury. He was later found at fault for the accident. The details of this accident forever changed American railroading. Veteran railroad crews refer to the time prior to January 4th as ‘BC’ (before Chase).

On June 12, 1982 number 903 was just another AEM-7, and a relatively new locomotive at that.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X black & white film with my Leica 3A rangefinder.

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Alcos and F-units—42 years ago.

On the morning of June 10, 1982, my father and I arrived at Washington Union Station on Amtrak’s Night Owl having traveled overnight from New Haven in the sleeper.

Working with my 1930s-vintage Leica 3A 35mm rangefinder, I made this selection of black & white photos from the station platforms.

And the topics of interest were the antique Washington Terminal Alco RS-1s and MARC F-units.

My photography wasn’t sophisticated, but today they photos take me back. It was a different world then!

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On This Day 40 years Ago!

It is rare that I post photos on Tracking the Light that I didn’t expose myself.

It is also rare that I appear in a Tracking the Light photo.

Today, I’m taking a queue from Led Zepplin’s Guitarist Jimmy Page, who on his website often posts photos from the past on the day that marks an personal anniversary or event.

June 9, 1984, I posed with my classmates at Monson Jr Sr High School on the morning of our graduation. (That’s me on the far right with bad hair.)

The photo was exposed by one of our teachers (Mr Murray or Mr Renaud?) using my Leica 3A rangefinder.

I scanned this photo a number of years ago.

Monson, Massachusetts, June 9, 1984.

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Elizabethtown, PA.

It was a fine warm evening when Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I visited Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Elizabethtown, PA. According to Kurt Bell, railroad historian, PHMC’s Railroad Collections Archivist and an Elizabethtown resident, the station building dates to 1915, and is situated on a late 19th century line relocation on a high fill.

Kris and I had checked the station on a rainy day a few weeks earlier.

Amtrak has be undertaking a rebuilding of its Harrisburg Line, and there was evidence of this work as well as a variety of track equipment, including a multi-section Loram machine—possibly a rail vac, used for ballast work. The days of the old wooden ties on the main tracks are coming to a close.

I timed our visit to catch westward Amtrak Keystone train 667.

This was running on the near track to avoid the on-going work on the opposite track, which is typically used for westward movements.

Digital images exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm and Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.

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Hints of Steam over the Fields and Trees.

Must all railroad photos focus on trains?

Is there a place for the elusive?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made a great many photos of steam locomotives at work in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. This selection hints at what lies beyond. Subtle rather than obvious.

Follow the smoke.

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Coal Train in the Rain

Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I had spent a productive afternoon along the old PRR Middle Division. It was bright and sunny when we arrived, but thunderstorms had blown in from the west. What started as a sprinkle had rapidly turned into a raging Monsoon.

Looming out the deluge at Thomsontown, Pa., was this eastward Norfolk Southern loaded unit coal train.

I set the camera shutter to a 1/8000th of second to freeze the rain drops.

The rain had falling so heavily that we were beginning to worry about the highway flooding.

Although we took a slightly circuitous route we ended up following the train east to the famed Rockville Bridge. Stay tuned for more!

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Deluge at Thompsontown

Thunderstorms from the west closed in on us as we drove east toward Thompsontown, Pa., on state highway 333.

It was raining so hard, I could barely see where we were driving. Seamus-the-Dog slept in the back of the car.

“What’s that yellow light?”

“I think it’s a signal . . . no wait . . .it’s a headlight!”

We pulled over near Norfolk Southern control point SIP 143.5 on the Pittsburgh Line at Thompsontown just as a westward intermodal train glided through the deluge unimpeded.

I stopped the car, ran to the back an opened the rear hatch. This provided me a modicum of shelter long enough to photograph the train.

This was some of the hardest rain I’ve ever seen. It was coming down more than 2 inches an hour and the road was beginning to flood.

I set my ISO to 1000, and exposed this sequence with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. You can see the individual rain drops in the enlarged images.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens set at 200mm. F2.8, 1/500th second, ISO 1000
Greatly enlarged section of the above photo. Notice the rain droplets.

I got completely soaked but did my best to keep the camera from getting total drenched.

It was raining too hard to drive, so we waited in the car for until the rain let up. It wasn’t long before we spied another light in the distance . . . .

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Spring Exploration of the Northern Central

The historic former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Central route between York and New Freedom, Pa., serves as a rail trail with the southern portion also hosting Northern Central Railway excursions.

On a Spring Sunday afternoon, Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I made a casual cursory inspection of the line. (Last December, Kris and I photographed one of the Northern Central Railway excursions at Railroad and New Freedom, PA).

On this trip, I photographed the static excursion consist in New Freedom, along with a variety of other preserved rolling stock. Then we drove northward, pausing at a few locations to experience the trail and inspect the tracks.

New Freedom, PA.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad GP9 at New Freedom, PA.
New Freedom, PA.
New Freedom, PA.
Preserved PRR N5B cabin car at New Freedom, PA.
Kris and Seamus along the Heritage Rail Trail with former Northern Central route tracks.

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Freights rolling with backdrop of Tuscarora Ridge

The central Pennsylvanian setting near the village of Mexico offers a classic view looking east toward the Tuscarora Ridge, which can be photographed from a variety of angles.

In my earlier posts, I pictured Norfolk Southern freights from the north side of the Underpass Road grade crossing.

As the light changed and thunderstorms approached from the West, Kris and I took positions on the south side of the grade crossing. It began to rain lightly (but heavier rain was coming!)

A westward empty coal train rolled by. This was exceptionally long and featured a mid-train DPU (radio remote controlled locomotives working as ‘distributed power units’).

Not long after this train had gone, an east ward train could be heard. This was slowing for an ‘approach’ aspect. Its relatively casually speed made it easy to photograph. At the back was a single EMD diesel working as a DPU.

These photos were made with my pair of Nikon Z-series mirror-less digital cameras.

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Norfolk Southern on the Main Line

Just a few minutes after the westward freight pictured in yesterday’s TTL post passed Underpass Road in Mexico, Pa., when my Sixth Sense (common to veteran rail-photographers) tingled.

“There’s an eastbound.”

I walked across the crossing with my Z6 with 70-200mm in hand and ample time before this approaching train came around the bend. I set up from a safe distance while, Kris made photos from the south side of the tracks.

Nikon Z6 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom lens set to: 200mm, f4.0, 1/500th sec, ISO 200.

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Middle Division Revisited

One of my first acquaintances with the east end former PRR Middle Division was Easter weekend 1988. I met my old pal TSH in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, having driven south from Rochester, NY where I was studying Photographic Illustration at RIT.

On that trip, I exposed Kodachrome of Conrail trains at Duncannon, Thompsontown, Mifflin and Lewistown. We missed the sweeping curve at Mexico.

It wasn’t until explorations in this area a decade later with photographer Mike Gardner that I first made photos from Underpass Road in Mexico, Pa. (If there was an underpass here, there is no visible evidence of it today).

Last weekend, Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I revisited this prime photo location on Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line where the grand sweep of the track in a bucolic setting with the Tuscarora Ridge in the background makes for a favorite place to watch trains.

We didn’t have to wait long before the distant sound of rolling thunder announced the approach of a westward freight.

It was the first of several train that we caught here.

Kris noted that I looked extra happy here.

There’s more to come!

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