All posts by brian solomon

Author of more than 50 books on railways, photography, and Ireland. Brian divides his time between the United States and Ireland, and frequently travels across Europe and North America.

Difference of Seasons: July versus January—Two Views.

Here are two views of the same train: led by the same locomotive, at the same location, more or less at the same time of day, exposed using the same camera with the same lens.

Both photos show New Engand Central job 608 led by GP38 3845 working northward in the morning along Plains Road in Willington, Connecticut (south of Stafford Springs).

Photos were exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. The slight difference in angle may be attributed to the inconvenience of a mushy snow bank along the road in winter view that was not a problem in the summer.

New England Central 3845 north on July 28, 2017.
New England Central 3845 north on January 9, 2018.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

 

 

Tracking the Light Photo Challenge Part 1.

Make it hard on yourself. Give yourself a handicap, but make it work.

 

Try this example: Limit yourself to one fixed lens.

Back story: Most camera systems these days give you a wide-range zoom that allows you to easily adjust the focal length from wide-angle to telephoto. This is convenient, too convenient. So how about forcing yourself to use just one fixed focal length lens, regardless of the circumstance.

Back in the day, many beginning photographers started with a camera and just one lens. Some photographers were happy to use one focal length for all their photos.

What do I mean by fixed lens? I mean a prime lens; in other words a lens with non-adjustable focal length, so not a ‘zoom lens’. Fill the frame as you see fit; you might need to walk around a bit to make your composition work.

So why not give it a try. Pick a lens, maybe a 50mm, but make it work.

In my examples, I was using a prime 90mm lens with my FujiFilm XT1.

90mm Fujinon prime lens.
90mm Fujinon prime lens.

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Brian’s Impossible Three-Way Puzzle Photo.

I say impossible because I’ve previously posted photo puzzles that I thought were pretty easy, and no one came up with the right answer (although there were some really creative attempts).

In other situations I’ve posted puzzles that sharp-eyed viewers nailed in the matter of minutes.

So! This is a three part puzzle.

Take a close look. And then look again.
  1. There’s no train, but can you spot  three distinct rail elements featured in this image?
  2. Do you see what’s WRONG with this photo.
  3. How did I do it?

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Four Angles on the Same Freight—L427.

Mike Gardner and I stopped in at Hinsdale, Massachusetts and found CSX L427 (Portland, Maine via Pan Am to Selkirk< New York) stopped on the old Boston & Albany mainline waiting for a crew change.

This had a cool all-EMD locomotive consist; SD60M, SD40-2, SD60M. On a line that tends to be dominated by GE diesels, this symmetrical EMD arrangement is unusual.

We took the time to make photos from a variety of angles.

From the gazebo in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.
Hinsdale.
It brightened up briefly for this classic three quarter angle.
I actually exposed more than a dozen photos, but I like these the best.

Why settle for one view when you can have many?

Icy Morning with CSX Q022—Variations on a Location

It was a bitterly cold morning just after sunrise when I made these views looking across a field off Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts (near CP79, the control point 79 miles west of South Station, Boston, that controls the switch at the east-end of the control siding at Palmer.)

All were made from the same vantage point.

I was working with two cameras. My FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, and my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake.

The exposure, color profiles and color temperature of the cameras were set up differently, which explains the slight difference in overall density and tint.

Do you have a favorite? And why?

Digitally exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 90mm telephoto.
Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

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On This Very Day 65 Years Ago!

On January 15, 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric number 4876 leading the Federal Express from Boston lost its airbrake and careened out of control on approach to Washington Union Station.

The train crashed most spectacularly and old 4876 sunk through the floor of the station concourse. It made national news and photos of the GG1 in the debris of the station was seen on most major papers across the country.

That wasn’t the end of 4876. The locomotive’s remains were remanufactured by the Pennsylvania Railroad and 4876 was restored to traffic. It operated for another 30 years.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, my family and I made a project of photographing 4876. At that time it was operated by NJDOT the precursor to today’s NJ Transit.

April 1979, Sunnyside Yard, Queens, New York.
June 1983, more than 30 years after its famous incident, 4876 catches the sun at South Amboy, New Jersey.

Last April (2017) in Basel, Switzerland, I saw a model of the famous GG1 in a shop window.

GG1 in Basel, Switzerland. Lumix LX7 photo.

Less than a month later (May 2017), I photographed New England Central 608 at State Line crossing in Monson, Massachusetts; and this photo’s camera’s pre-assigned sequential file number was . . . (oh just take a wild guess—first four digit number that comes to mind).


NECR_3809_w_608_State_Line_Monson_DSCF4876.jpg. Oh look, calendar light! Hmmm.

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BNSF’s Four Fours. (It’s about a number).

Just luck. Last summer John Gruber and I were along the mighty Mississippi at Savanna, Illinois and photographed a westward BNSF freight with DASH9-44CW 4444.

That’s a lot of four.

Low afternoon sun made for some nice light at Savanna. BNSF 4444 works west. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

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Mass-Central at Thorndike, January 3, 2018—See Tracking the Light for Six Snowy Views.

On the previous day, CSX B740 had interchanged a healthy cut of cars for Mass-Central at Palmer, Massachusetts. So I surmised that this would be a good time to catch Mass-Central working both of its GP38-2s together.

Paul Goewey and I arrived in Palmer early, and once we were sure Mass-Central was ready to head north up their line toward Ware (old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch), we began scoping photo locations.

Although brisk and cold, the sun was clear and bright and there was a good amount of snow on the ground.

We set up at the Main Street Crossing along the valley’s namesake river. We didn’t have to wait long before we heard the train coming up the line.

Into the sun. Post processing adjustment was necessary to maximize the detail captured in the Fuji RAW file.
A telephoto view at the same location looking timetable north.
An exposure adjustment gave me this photo.
Mass-Central’s northward train approaches Main Street in Thorndike. Camera JPG.
Adjusted file with wide-angle view point at Main Street Thorndike, Massachusetts.
Post processing adjusted RAW of the train trailing on the crossing.

These views were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

 

Palmer— Then (again) and Now.

I’d mentioned that among the top ten reasons that I wanted to make photographs in 2018 was to revisit old places to make dramatic then and now comparisons.

This is a work in progress. And I’ve published similar comparisons for Palmer previously.

Below are several views looking west from the Palmer station toward the diamond crossing.

Over the decades I’ve made hundreds of photos here.

The vintage photo dates from Spring 1984. This view works well for modern companions because I conveniently left lots of room to the right of the locomotive while including details such as the code lines.

The color New England Central views were exposed on January 3, 2018.

These are imperfect comparisons because I’m not working from precisely the same angle, nor am I using equivalent lenses.

1984 view exposed with a Leica IIIA with 50mm Summitar. Central Vermont northward local freight crossing Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line.
For point of reference the old eastward Boston & Albany mainline is in the same place, as are the rails used to hold the old Palmer sign in the black & white photo that is now a white box with a yellow stripe near the second locomotive in the color view.
Compare the track arrangements between the 1984 and 2018 views.
Enlarged version of the 1984 view. The old westward main was removed from service in summer 1986, and later lifted.

The 1984 views were made with a 50mm Leica Summitar, while the more recent views were exposed digitally using a Fujinon 90mm lens. However, I also made a few color slides using a 40mm Canon lens. But those are pending processing.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Advance Copy of Trains’ Hot Spots features my signals article.

The other day I got a nice surprise. My author’s Advance Copy of Trains’ Hot Spots arrived in the post box. (mail box).

I like advance sections of Trains. Something special. Something  Extra. Just like in olden times with timetable and train order rules. Gotta love that!

Check out my article on page 11, ‘Reading the Lights,’ about railroad signals.

See: Kalmbach Publishing.

Look for this cover at media outlets near you!
Tag line on the cover! That’s cool! Page 11, that’s me.
Signaling enthusiasts will get the subtle humor in this photo.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts

Every Day.

Style-S Semaphore Where You Wouldn’t Expect to Find One.

In my books on railroad signaling I’ve chronicled the history of Union Switch & Signal’s Style S semaphores.

See: Classic Railroad Signals

In the 1980s and 1990s, I made a project of photographing these three-position semaphores on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad route.

Recently a Style S signal has appeared in Palmer, Massachusetts in front of the railroad-themed ‘Train Masters Inn’.

A recent photo of the preserved US&S Style S semaphore in front of the Train Masters Inn on South Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts. Can you spot the erroneous installation?

I asked the owner where he got it, and he indicated from a dealer in Ohio.

For point of comparison, I’ve included a few of my photos of semaphores along the old Erie.

This was a signal near Erie’s 242 milepost. The style of blade is a bit more modern than the signal in Palmer as it uses a different counterweight arrangement. However careful comparison between this blade and the preserved blade should lead to a conclusion.

Certainly, the signal in Palmer has similarities with the Erie’s; same type of blade as used on older installations, same type of finial.

Careful observers will notice the operating mistake in the way this preserved signal was installed; something that could be easily rectified.

A Susquehanna SD45 roars west at Canaseraga, New York on the old Erie Railroad mainline. Exposed on Kodachrome in May 1988.
Conrail’s BUOI is running on track 1 against the current of traffic so the semaphore is displaying ‘stop and proceed’ as this is automatic block signal territory. Believe it or not, this was exposed on May 7th, 1989 following a freak late season snow storm.
So I ask, where did this signal come from? Is it from the old Erie? And if so, where .I’d like to know.

The Train Masters Inn is a B&B located near the old Palmer Union Station. See: train masters inn.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Classic Angle at the Diamond.

I knew it as the Boston & Albany and Central Vermont diamond in Palmer (diamond describes the shape of rails made by the angled level crossing of the two lines). I made my first photos at this location before I entered 6th grade.

Fast forward to January 2, 2018. I stepped out of the car at Palmer and with the crisp winter air I could hear a train approaching eastbound.

So often my ears have alerted me to a train. In this case the two-cycle roar of classic EMD 645 diesels.

I ambled toward the diamond and made these views. Over-the-shoulder light, with rich mid-morning sun, at a readily identifiable location; nearly perfect.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images designed to mimic the angle I’d used here many years earlier.

There are more trees here now than in years gone by. Yet I’d made vertical views here before to emphasize the signal.
CSX GP40-2s lead B740 eastbound over the famous diamond.
CSX local freight B740 was carrying cars of pipe to be interchanged at Palmer Yard with the Mass-Central. That gave an a idea for the following day.

 

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Swiss Colour—Trams at the Basel Hbf.

25 April 2017, I spent a few minutes making photographs of trams at the transit hub in front of the Basel Hauptbahnhof (main railway station).

In the vertical view I’ve included some flowers in the foreground for colour and depth.

The railway station makes for a nice transportation  backdrop.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
The flowers mimic the colours of the the trams.

 

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Cross Lighting at State Line

Too often railway photographers seek ‘calendar lighting’, (over the shoulder three-quarter (morning or afternoon) sun, with a minimum of shadows, diffusion, or other natural lighting effects).

There’s nothing wrong with these classic conditions, but when applied repetitively in exclusion to other types of lighting it can result in a predictable body of work. Formulaic is a term that comes to mind.

Consider cross lighting; when the sun illuminates from an angle opposite the subject, yet not in the photo. This offers bright light on the front of the subject, but shadows on the side creating a more dramatic angle.

This effect can be tempered when the lighting is low, diffused (by clouds, mist or pollution) and/or when bright foreground (such as snow) reflects light into shadow areas.

Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

I made this cross-lit view on the New England Central at Stateline Summit in late afternoon. Notice my use of foreground.

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Retro Local Freight—CSX B740

Back in the early 1980s, Conrail routinely assigned GP40-2s to road freights on the Boston & Albany. Back then I ignorantly dismissed the GP40-2s as ‘boring’. (But, I made photos anyway).

Today, being older and wiser and having a greater appreciation for locomotives of all kinds, I look back fondly on those olden times.

Luckily, I don’t have to go too far to find GP40s on the move. CSX still assigns vintage GP40-2s (albeit modernized) to the Palmer, Massachusetts local freight, symbol B740. (On the old Boston & Albany).

I see these locomotives as classics, yet still earning their keep, and wearing modern paint.

Exposed digitally; metered manually, ISO 400, f7.1 at 1/500th of a second.
Telephoto view of CSX B740 at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Last week when I exposed these views of CSX B740 at CP83 near the old Palmer Station, it was bright, but partly overcast midday with diffused high sun. Snow on the ground helps lighten the shadows—Decent, if not perfect, conditions for photographing locomotives.

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January 2018 Sunrise—The Day was Only Beginning.

Red sunrise means you’re going to have a good day. Right?

Or was that a red sunset?

Anticipating drop-under at Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.
Looking east on the old Boston & Albany. Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.
And yes, it was cold.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

New England Central in the Snow.

Sun and freshly fallen snow makes for a nice setting.

New England Central job 608 was making its way from Palmer back to Willimantic with about 20 cars of freight.

In the lead was one of the railroad’s original GP38s, still wearing the classic blue and yellow livery that was applied to these locomotives at the time of New England Central’s start-up in 1995.

I made this view at Plains Road south of Stafford, Connecticut.

Although much of the location was shadowed, a shaft of sun on the grade crossing made for photo opportunity with a telephoto lens. I stood back a bit to allow for slight compression effect owing to the longer focal length, and aimed to frame the leading locomotive between the crossing signals.

This distant view shows how the light was falling on the scene. I set my camera to ‘turbo flutter’ (motor drive at ‘continuous high’) and exposed a burst of images when the locomotive approached the window of sunlight on the crossing.

I set my focus point slightly off-center to hit the locomotive square in the nose.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 104mm (equivalent to a 156mm focal length on a traditional 35mm film camera). ISO 200, f7.1 1/500th of a second.

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Final Photo of 2017.

This was the last photo I exposed in 2017.

It was about 4 degrees Fahrenheit at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, when I made this view at 9:38pm on December 31st looking west toward CP64.

The signal had just changed from all red (stop) to red over flashing green (Limited Clear) on the main track.

I exposed the photograph with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens with the camera mounted on a Gitzo tripod.

Using the ‘A’ mode with aperture set to f2.8, the exposure value boosted by about 2/3rds of a stop, and ISO set to 400, my effective shutter speed was about 5 seconds. A length of time that seems like forever when you are standing alone in the dark with an icy wind in your face.

I checked my exposure and focus and thought to myself ‘good enough’. Which means that if it were warmer, I’d make another image.

This image is a scaled version of the camera-produced Jpg. I did not alter contrast, exposure, sharpness or make other visual corrections during post processing.
Some purest somewhere may someday examine my file and determine that it was made in 2018, and it would have been If I was in Ireland. I don’t bother recalibrating my camera’s clock when I switch time zones. It’s just one of those things.

CSX’s Q007 was lined west. But opted not to wait for it.

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

Top Ten Reasons to Make Photographs in 2018.

Too often I hear veteran photographers provide excuses for why they haven’t made photos in a long time. Here’s a tip for YOU in 2018, ditch the excuses and find the time to make photographs.

Here are ten reasons why I will be making railway photographs in 2018. Maybe you can come up with you own list:

10) It’s a great excuse to travel.

Milano Centrale. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

9) It’s a great motivation to get out of bed.

I don’t want to miss the morning liner! Exposed with my FujiFilm XT1.

8) I might need new material to keep Tracking the Light fresh?

New England Central on the move.

7) I want to revisit old places to look for new angles.

I’ve made hundreds of photos at Dublin’s Connolly Station, but I’m always trying to find something a little different.

6) I want to revisit old places to make dramatic then and now comparisons.

Back in the 1980s, I made a lot of photos at the Palmer Diamond. I made this one in December 2017. I’m using a composite feature on the camera to simulate the effect of a model railroad.

5) I like to experiment with equipment, photographic techniques, lighting conditions, and new locations.

In April 2017, I made my first trip to Lake Geneva.

4) Things are on the cusp of change (really) and there’s no better time than now to photograph.

Just because a railroad has been around for more than 20 years, doesn’t mean it will be around forever. Get your photos before it’s too late.

3) It allows me to explore history.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania allows you to step back in time. Lumix LX7 photo.

2) It gives me great opportunities to spend time with my friends.

I took lots of railway trips with my friends in 2017. This is a view on Northern Irish Railways.

1) I like being around railways and their inherent sense of motion and commerce.

PCC cars on the move in Philadelphia.

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Connecticut Trolley Museum Winterfest—2017.

Snow, crisp cold air, and lots of decorative holiday lights: that’s the attraction of Connecticut Trolley Museum’s Winterfest.

Here’s a tip (two really): When making photos in this environment it helps to have a good solid tripod. And, if you going to bring a tripod that uses a clip-on system to attach the camera to the tripod head, IT REALLY HELPS to make sure you have your clip!

Last night, I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 firmly mounted on a Gitzo Trip. I planned my visit to the Connecticut Trolley Museum to coincide with sunset, so that I could make use of the last of daylight before the inky black of night set in.

Connecticut Company car 1326 in the Tunnel of Lights. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Connecticut Company car 1326 in the Tunnel of Lights. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Connecticut Company car 1326 in the Tunnel of Lights. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. RAW File with Tungsten light balance, shadows boosted in post processing.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Connecticut Company 1326 with FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.

I experimented with my camera’s pre-programmed color temperature settings while also trying various Fuji film color profiles. With one or two images, I adjusted the RAW files to make the most of the scene.

By the time I was done with my first round of photography my fingers were pretty numb.

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CSX at Warren, Massachusetts—Lessons in Composition Revisited—Six views.

Yes, I’ve done this before.

Warren, Massachusetts is a favorite place to photograph, but also a tricky one.

I used Warren as an example for a similar compositional conversation in Trains Magazine, published about two years ago and  featured photo of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited.

Yesterday (December 29, 2017), I arrived in Warren just in time to set up and catch CSX’s late-running Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield) race up the grade and pass the recently restored former Boston & Albany station.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens, I exposed a burst of images.

I’ve selected three of these, and then annotated versions of the image that I like the best so that you may benefit from my compositional considerations.

I prefer this view over the two closer images. I think the composition works better (as illustrated in the annotated versions) and it emphasizes the station, which personally I find more interesting than the train.
This view was made seconds after the one above. Although the train is closer, most of the interesting elements of the old station have been obscured.
This is a nice photo of CSX’s Q264, but it could be anywhere on the Boston & Albany line. Why bother going to Warren if the station and town are cropped?

There’s no correct answer to composition; in this instance I prefer the more distant view of the train because it better features the old passenger station and the town of Warren; here’s why I feel the composition works:

Important, yet subtle compositional elements at work. Look at the position of the locomotive cab where it visually intersects the station building. It does this as cleanly as possible, without obscuring the dormer window or resulting in visual confusion. The similar color of the locomotive cab and clock tower make for interesting counterpoint. What if the tower was red brick and the locomotive cab was blue?
Here I’ve highlighted several areas of interest. These are points that naturally attract the eye and are focal points to the composition,  providing both  interest and balance.
Here’s is general outline of the composition. The trees provide visual support and context, but are not central subjects. Would this image work as well without them?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

NECR 3476: Orange Locomotive in Winter Light.

The combination of snow on the ground, very cold temperatures, and low light make for excellent photographic conditions, if you can bear to be outside.

I exposed this view of New England Central 3476 shortly after sunset in Palmer, Massachusetts.

NECR 3476 has a complicated history. Today it may be considered to be a SD40M-2. Originally an General Motors Electro Motive Division  SD45 built for Southern Pacific Lines affiliate Cotton Belt, it was remanufactured in the 1990 which transformed it from 3,600 hp machine (as powered by 20-cylinder 645-diesel) into a 3,000hp machine  (with 16-cylinder version of the EMD 645-diesel) while retaining the tapered (or ‘flared’) radiator intake vents at the back the of locomotive that were characteristic of EMD’s higher horsepower designs.

The snow reflects light from below, thus providing greater illumination of shadow areas that under ordinary conditions would be underexposed at this time of day.

Cold temperatures and clear overhead conditions result in a inversion effect, which traps particulates and other airborne impurities that acts as a light filter resulting in a scene with more red and magenta spectrum than normal.

This effect is intensified at sunset because the sunlight has to pass through much greater amounts of polluted atmosphere because of its relative angle to the ground.

To make the most of these lighting conditions, it helps to set the camera white balance to ‘daylight’, since ‘auto white balance’ while tend to cancel out the effect of the rosy lighting conditions.

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Boston & Maine Station—Eagle Bridge, New York on December 27, 2017.

Yesterday was pretty frosty when I arrived at Eagle Bridge, New York.

I was just passing though, but made time to expose these photos. Not a wheel was turning, so I made these atmospheric images of the derelict Boston & Maine station and environs, demonstrating that you can make interesting railroad photos without a train.

Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1

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Amtrak in the Snow; f9 and be there.

Running errands again.

Amtrak 449 was only 2 minutes late leaving Worcester.

I stopped in at CP83 in Palmer between tasks (I had to mail a letter and visit the bank).

Signals lit westbound; first all red, then a high green on the main track.

“Clear signal CP83 main to main”

f9.0 1/500th of second at ISO 400.

With my ISO preset to 400, using the histogram in the camera, I set my exposure as follows; f9.0 1/500th of a second.

I like my snow white; but not blown out (over exposed).

F7.1 1/500th at ISO 400.
F7.1 1/500th at ISO 400.

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Haircut and an SD40-2 Trailing View.

So often I’ve heard the following lament, “I saw that once but I didn’t take a photo.”

The other day I was on my way to get a haircut when I passed under New England Central’s 611 departing Palmer, Massachusetts for Brattleboro, Vermont.

The weather was poor, the lighting bland and I had an agenda of things to attend to.

But I had my Lumix LX7 handy and I went after 611 anyway!

I made this trailing view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.

My head-on views were not worth describing here. Not today anyway. However, I like this trailing view at Barretts, Massachusetts of New England Central 721, still in Union Pacific paint (but with NECR lettering).

This captures some of the drama of the accelerating freight and makes reasonably good use of the lighting. Afterwards I resumed my mission to get a hair cut.

My point? Whenever possible, regardless of the weather and other things to do, I take the time to make photographs; of railroads and whatever else catches my interest.

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Tracking the Light Wishes You Happy Holidays!

Here’s my holiday card. Amtrak’s westward 449 led by heritage locomotive 156 passes West Warren, Massachusetts, Sunday December 10, 2017.

Amtrak 156 has been on my list for a long time. Of all the Amtrak paint schemes over the years, this is by far my favorite.

Although I caught 156 second unit out three days earlier (see yesterday’s Tracking the Light), this locomotive had eluded my photography for years. Apparently it had been assigned to the Vermonter for a month a few years ago, but I was out of the country.

Every other time it was some place, I was some place else.

But finally everything came together; first snow of the season, Amtrak 156 in the lead, and soft afternoon sun at one of my favorite former Boston & Albany locations; the engineer gave me a friendly toot of the horn, and I’m pleased with the outcome of the photos.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm Fujinon Aspherical pancake lens. File processed using Lightroom. And yes, I also exposed some color slides! (But no black & white film).

I hope you have a great holiday season and you find your 156 in the new year.

Tracking the Light wishes you Seasons Greetings too!

 

 

 

Amtrak Lake Shore Limited and a Wink of Sun.

At the end of the day (really!), Mike Gardner and I were waiting for Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (train 449) at the grade crossing in Westfield, Massachusetts (milepost 107).

Shortly before the train came into view the sun popped out of the clouds just above the tree line and illuminated the scene with golden light.

I popped off a couple of color slides and some digital images.

For the digital I made a last minute exposure adjustment. I didn’t have that luxury with the slides, but my film camera was set within about a half stop of the ideal exposure.

We’ll have to wait and see if my slides are ok. Or not.

My quarry was the elusive 156 in the ‘pointless arrow’ heritage scheme. Pity it was trailing.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens.

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Housatonic, Pittsfield, Massachusetts; 3 Photos from Tracking the Light

This post is really about clouds and change.

Two weeks ago, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I were in Pittsfield, Massachusetts waiting for the arrival of the Housatonic Railroad freight from Canaan.

Standing on a bridge completed in 2016, we were at the center of what had been a massive General Electric plant, but has since been closed and largely demolished.

Somewhere in my older photos, I have a photo of an eastward Conrail freight led by GE diesels passing through this plant that had straddled the Boston & Albany mainline. I also have a photo of the Alco switcher that worked the plant.

The Housatonic freight arrived and paused to make its drop for CSX. The sun emerged from the clouds and I made these views.

Lumix LX7 view. The buildings in the distance were once part of the GE complex that occupied this site.

 

Wide angle view with Lumix LX7.
This new bridge is more than a vantage point, but part of the story. I like the extreme depth of field in this view.

For me the train is incidental. The dramatic cloudy sky with the ruins of the GE Plant tell the story. A story so often repeated across New England.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Puzzle Revealed: MBTA at South Station.

The other day I posted:

An Unusual Scene: MBTA at South Station, Boston December 2017.

 

With a photo similar to the one below.

What makes this ‘unusual’?

On MBTA, the normal operating practice is have push-pull train-sets with the locomotive on outward end of the train. Thus the locomotives should face away from Boston. This has been the standard practice since the 1990s.

In my photo a locomotive is facing South Station, and that is unusual. While not necessarily unheard of, nor ‘rare’, this is not the usual practice.

I’m not an every day visitor to South Station, but this is the first time I recall seeing an MBTA road-locomotive facing the station since the early 1980s.

What isn’t evident from my photo is that there are actually locomotives on BOTH ends of the train. Which is also unusual. The bottom photo shows the same train set at Worcester, and focuses on the outward facing locomotive.

Quite a few Tracking the Light readers guessed my puzzle correctly. One reader asked why the locomotive is facing the station. I’ll be honest, I don’t know why. However, I can guess. Maybe you can too.

Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Something Green to Think About.

December 21 will be the Winter Solstice.

Since that usually means month’s more of cold wintery weather, I thought I would run a photo from last Spring to give you something to envy.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1.

I made this photo of a TPC interurban car at Les Planches, Switzerland back in April.

The sun was warm, yet the air still cool. Alpine snows had melted and the grass and trees were turning green.

I made this image while researching Swiss Railways for my book on European Railway Travel. Today, I’m editing the layouts for the book, which is expected to be published by Kalmbach Books in 2018.

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Ooops! More Lousy Railroad Photos.

Here are some recent examples of photos gone wrong.

It would be grand if every time I pressed the shutter I made a calendar perfect picture. (If, of course, I wanted to illustrate calendars all day long).

Trains move while I’m trying to make photos. If I don’t get everything set right, move at the wrong instant, or the technology slips up, then the moment is gone by the time I get it together.

Many times I get what I’m aiming for, but sometimes I goof it up.

Yes, I make lousy photos. Sometimes.

Auto focus failure. Large amounts of infrared light, the lack of a defined focus area, or low contrast can confuse a camera’s autofocus system.
This is really hopeless and I’m not even sure what I was aiming at. Great use of pixels, eh?
Too late! There was a photo opportunity, probably about a second before this exposure was made. There’s also too much foreground. Ah well, it was a dull day anyway.
I previously published a better version of this effort. Here the framing is off, the level is wrong, and I shook the camera. A bad photo all around, certainly one for the bin! (Trash).
Oh no a post got in my way, and I included fellow railway enthusiasts. And it was cloudy and I’m tight to the platform. It’s just ALL WRONG. Time for a beer.

Too often the cause of the lousy photo is malfunctioning technology, or my over reliance on automated camera functions. Other times it’s just me. People make mistakes. Luckily no harm comes if I make a bad photo.

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CSX near Washington Summit.

Western RailRoad of Massachusetts; Boston & Albany; New York Central System; Penn Central; Conrail; CSX.

CSX is the current operator of the Boston & Albany route.

I made this photo earlier this month of train Q263 westbound at Muddy Pond approaching Washington Summit .

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

In recent years CSX freight volumes over the B&A route have been declining.

Saturday (December 16, 2017), we learned that Hunter Harrison, CSX’s Chief Executive Officer passed away.

I can’t help but wonder what will become of the B&A, and how Hunter’s controversial strategies have affected this route in the few months he was at the reigns of CSX.

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