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.

Vestige of the Beechers Falls Branch

The old Beechers Falls Branch was a vestige of Maine Central’s foray into Quebec that survived on Maine Central’s system in later years as a truncated  appendage accessed by trackage rights over Boston & Maine and Grand Trunk lines.

After Maine Central gave up, various short lines had operated the trackage. Today the line to Beechers Falls, Vermont is a trail.

Beechers Falls itself is a curiosity on a narrow strip of land wedged tightly between New Hampshire and Quebec.

On Saturday (May 23, 2020) Kris Sabbatino and I explored this abandoned line.

I made these photos where the Branch crossed the upper reaches of the Connecticut River at Canaan, Vermont.

Working with a Nikkormat FT with an f2.8 24mm Nikkor lens, I exposed Ilford HP5 400 ISO black & white film.

Although I intended to process this in Ilford ID11, yesterday, I realized that I was all out of that developer, so instead I worked with Kodak HC110, which I mixed as ‘dilution B’ (1-32 with water). Before my primary process, I mixed a very weak ‘presoak’ (1-300 with water and Kodak Photoflo) and soaked the film for five minutes, then introduced my primary developer for 4 minutes 30 seconds.

Last night Kris and I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner with Epson’s provided software.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

subscribe to Tracking the Light using the form toward the end of this post!

Photographing the Big Fill

Clearing the big fill on the approach to North Conway yard has opened up some excellent photographic potential.

However, since the railroad is closed because of business restrictions imposed by the State of New Hampshire to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, I have had to organize a few special moves (without passengers) over the fill to make photos/video for Conway Scenic marketing purposes.

I exposed these views last week in cooperation with Conway Scenic operating crews.

Tracking the Light posts Daily!

Rio Vista, California, May 2008.

This morning bright sunny skies and a cool breeze reminded me of California.

So I scanned this Fujichrome color slide using a Nikon Coolscann5000 slide scanner.

Working with VueScan software, I set the color brand to ‘Ektachrome’ and the slide type to ‘E6’ and the color balance to ‘Landscape’, while under the ‘Input’ menu I selected ‘fine mode’ and ‘multiple exposure’ to obtain the highest quality scan.

After scanning as a hi-res TIF file, I then imported the file to Adobe Lightroom to scale the image for internet presentation. This is necessary because the original scan is 116.8 MB, which is far too large to up load for Tracking the Light. Why make such a large scan in the first place? When I take the time to scan a slide, I aim to capture as much data stored in the original in order to archive the photo long term.

The primary subject is a former Sacramento Northern four-wheel Birney Safety car that was operating at the Western Railway Museum on the day of my May 2008 visit.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

BRNO, Czech Republic.

In April 2005, I visited the Czech city of Brno with Denis McCabe and the late Norman McAdams.

Working with a Nikon N90S with f2.8 180mm Nikkor lens, I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO 100) slide of a tram as it approached the stop near the main railway station.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Subscribe using the page toward the bottom of this post.

New England Central 611 at Three Rivers—Four Photos

It was nice to see some freight on the move!

Here we have New England Central’s 611 Job northbound at Three Rivers in Palmer, Massachusetts.

My eight page feature on the New England Central appears in the June 2020 Trains Magazine.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Conway Scenic 1751 Works the Yard—three photos.

Yesterday, May 19, 2020, we started up Conway Scenic Railroad GP9 1751 to work the North Conway Yard. This was the first time this engine has turned a wheel since the conclusion of our Snow Trains at the end of February.

It was glorious sunny day, with a cool breeze and warm weather; ideal conditions for photography!

I made these views using my Lumix LX7.

Subscribe to Tracking the Light using the form toward the bottom of this post.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Conrail and its Predecessors.

The other day I received my author’s copies of my new Conrail book.

It looks nice.

Now, if I only had time to absorb it!

Order yours at:

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

In addition to my own Conrail photos, this features the work of a dozen talented photographers.

I exposed the cover photo at Becket, Massachusetts in October 1997, using a Nikon N90S with f2.8 80-200mm lens and Fujichrome Velvia 50 color slide film.

This was on an epic Conrail adventure with Mike Gardner, during which in one day we caught the Ringing Brothers Circus train, a Conrail Office Car Special with E8s, the track geometry train and six freights led by clean EMD SD80MACs.

Conrail? BRING IT BACK!

Tracking the Light posts EVERY DAY!

Wiscasset, Maine—August 1986.

On the evening of August 22, 1986, I exposed this pair of Kodachrome 25 slides on the Maine Central’s Rockland Branch at Wiscasset, Maine.

At the time traffic on the branch was almost nil.

I used a 21mm Leica Super Angulon lens which offered a distinct perspective of  this rustic scene. My interest was drawn to the two rotting schooners in the westward view, while in the eastward view I was aiming to show the vestiges of the piers for the long defunct Wiscasset, Waterville  & Farmington 2-foot gauge.

Wiscasset looking west.
Wiscassett looking east.

Tracking the Light  Posts Every Day!

Spring at the Swift River Truss; Focus, Perspective and Composition—Four photos.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time studying railway imagery, observing and analyzing hundreds of thousands of individual photos.

Among the most striking are the works of Japanese photographers.

Some of their most successful photos cleverly use focus and depth of field to place the railway in its environment. In some situations this is accomplished with a single image; in others with a sequence of photos.

Last week, I emulatted the style embraced by my Japanese counterparts to produce this sequence of images at the Swift River Bridge on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Conway Branch.

Here I’m working with three primary subjects; the truss bridge, Budd rail diesel car Millie and a flowering tree. All were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Tracking the Light  Posts Every Day!

Consider subscribing by using the form toward the end of this post.

Tracking the Light’s archives has thousands of posts.

My Canisteo Valley in Trains Magazine

The June 2020 Trains Magazine features my 8-page article on Conrail in New York’s Canisteo River Valley.

This features some of my favorite Kodachrome slide photos from when the line was still operated as double-track under rule 251 with classic Union Switch & Signal block signals.

One of the outtakes was this view from 1996.

By 1996, Conrail had lifted one of the two main tracks through the Canisteo and removed all the classic signals. While this forever changed the character of the railroad, Conrail continued to make good use of this former Erie Railroad mainline. On November 1, 1996, this eastward unit coal train rolled along the Canisteo near West Cameron, New York.

My new book: Conrail and its Predecessors is now available!

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts EVERY day! Subscribe today!

Sunshine at Moat Brook

Yesterday, I organized Conway Scenic Railroad’s first foray all the way to Conway of the Spring 2020 season.

Part of this exercise was to continue filming with our RDC-1 Millie, which we posed at the Moat Brook Trestle.

The weather was perfect!

I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

I also exposed a few frames of Fujichrome Provia 100F for posterity.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Taking Millie for a Spin

Yesterday at Conway Scenic Railroad we took our Budd RDC Millie (no. 23) for a short spin to get her ready for filming and training.

This was the first time Millie had run since February and the first time we had a train out of the yard this Spring!

It was a glorious bright day with wispy clouds and budding trees.

Photos exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Rochester & Southern—Example of a Multiple Pass Scan.

This morning working with a Nikon Super Coolscan5000, I scanned this vintage Kodachrome 25 color slide.

This is a scaled version of the original scan without post processing color or contrast adjustment.

I used Hamrick’s VueScan software which allows me considerable control over the scanning process.

This has the ability to make a multiple pass scan that can obtain greater detail from highlight and shadow areas by scanning the same image several times and combining the scans.

It has a color setting specifically tailored to Kodachrome film and allows white balance fine-tuning.

VueScan work window for controlling color and exposure during scanning. Notice that I’ve used the Kodachrome profile.

VueScan Input control window where I have selected ‘Fine mode’, 3 samples, and multiple exposure features. I outputted the scan as Tif file at 4050dpi, then scaled in post processing for internet presentation.

This is a much enlarged section of the unadjusted raw scan (scaled for internet).

In post-processing, I used Lightroom to make fine adjustments to improve color balance and contrast before scaling for internet presentation.

I made the original photograph on April 19, 1989, showing a northward Rochester & Southern freight with former New York Central GP40s crossing a road at Scottsville, New York.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Subscribe to Tracking the Light using the form toward the bottom of this post.

Remnant of the B&H two foot Gauge at Harrison, Maine.

The common-carrier Maine two-foot gauge railroads vanished from the scene many moons ago.

A couple of months back, Dwight Smith pointed me to photo hanging on the wall of the North Conway ticket office that shows himself on a Bridgton & Harrison train. “That was taken of me eighty years ago when I was 15.” Well that sort of puts things in perspective!

So on a recent photography adventure with Kris Sabbatino, we paused at Harrison, Maine, the most northerly point on the defunct Bridgton & Harrison. Using my smart phone, I summoned a vintage USGS topographical map from the University of New Hampshire collection and used this to locate where the railroad had been.

We checked a few locations, before I spotted this old causeway and bridge abutments.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY day!

Alco at Meadville, Pennsylvania.

In the June 2020 Trains Magazine my monthly column features an interview with career railroader Mike Lacey, who started with Erie Lackawanna in 1968 and cut his teeth at the former Erie yards at Meadville.

I made this view on a visit to Meadville with fellow photographers Pat Yough and Tim Doherty on October 12, 2008.

Western New York & Pennsylvania’s former New York Central C-430 3000 was working the yard with engineer Chris Southwell at the throttle.

Exposed with Fujichrome Velvia100F using a Canon EOS-3.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

May 10th 1892 and Number 999—Three Photos!

On May 10th 1892, New York Central & Hudson River 4-4-0 with engineer Charles Hogan at the throttle raced special section of the Empire State Express westward toward Buffalo. This was no ordinary train, but a publicity run dreamed up by the railroad’s propaganda mastermind George Daniels.

On a downgrade tangent near Corfu, New York, Hogan sped the engine to bone shaking speed; reporters on-board watched the telegraph poles along the line blurred by ‘like a picket fence’, while those timing the run using stop watches claimed that the train hit a ridiculous 112.5 mph! 

It was a great story and often repeated as ‘the fastest any engine had gone up until that time’. Papers around the nation reported the feat as fact bringing fame to New York Central and its locomotives. Daniels basked in the glory of his publicity stunt, which numerous railroads have sought to emulate and exceed. 

I made these photos of the famous locomotive on visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in December 2018.

On the day of its fast run, 999 was equipped with much taller drive wheels than seen in these photos. Big wheels were key to fast running.

If 999 had been numbered 38, would anyone care?

Tracking the Light Posts daily!

Subscribe using the form toward the bottom of this post.

Grand Trunk Station at South Paris-3 views.

Maine.

South Paris, Maine.

There’s no Eiffel tower here. Not a big one anyway.

I exposed these photos digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with Fujinon 18-135mm lens.

The railroad is operated by Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic—a line that I traveled on back in the 1990s.

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY day!

Southern Pacific at Troy, California—July 1991.

I’d left San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning and drove to the Sierra.

In the early hours of July 14, 1991, an SP eastward freight ascending Donner Pass had stalled near Alta. This resulted in a pair of following eastward freights being held; one at Colfax and one near Alta.

This was the second of two following freights, which developed its own difficulties at Gold Run when the train went into ‘emergency’.

I made the most of SP’s difficult time, by photographing the procession of trains at various points on The Hill (as Donner was known).

As the summer sun approached midday, I drove to Troy, where I’d previously scoped out this high vantage point with a commanding vista.

My project for the day was to find ways of suitably using the harsh high light in the Sierra, conditions that had been vexing me.

This was among my more successful images. Working with my old Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron, I exposed Ilford FP4 that I later processed using Edwal FG7 developer. At the back was a two unit helper. The sounds of EMD 645 diesels toiling in ‘Run-8’ (full throttle) was impressive and not soon forgotten.

Many of my other images from the day were exposed on Kodachrome 25, some using a circular polarizing filter as a means to mitigate the effects of Sierra high light. I’ll save those for another day.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Subscribe using the form toward the bottom of this post.

Mount Webster from the Time Before.

In August 1984, on my first solo visit to Montreal I spent an afternoon at Central Station hanging around in the tower and photographing train-movements in and out of this busy terminal.

Among the numerous fascinating photos I made that day was this view of CN multiple unit 6749 with a commuter train to/from Duex Montagnes, Quebec.

Today, old CN 6749 is Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mount Webster, a snack car known to employees as ‘the table’ car since it was retrofitted with tables and a snack counter.

I spent Monday measuring and mapping this same car to prepare seating charts for Conway Scenic’s 2020 season.

I never could have imagined on that August day so long ago that I’d be working with 6749 in New Hampshire.

Same car; different time.

Subscribe to Tracking the Light using the form toward the bottom of this post.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

CInders and a 567 diesel

Cinders is Conway Scenic Railroad’s roundhouse cat.

She lives in the roundhouse and supervises all activity including locomotive repair.

Her specialty is vermin control.

Last week she was inspecting the 16-567 diesel engine on locomotive 573 that was undergoing its 92- day inspection.

Photo exposed using my Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Subscribe using the form toward the bottom of this page.

My First Railway Photo?

This is the first railway photo I remember making.

My father, the late Alan Schreibeman and I were exploring Penn Central’s Shoreline route near the East Haven, Connecticut tunnel—probably about 1971. I was about four years old.

I was fascinated by the ‘yellow over red’ approach aspect on the searchlight signal east of the tunnel and so using my Dad’s Leica, I made this Ektachrome slide. It was dusk and I didn’t have any understanding of exposure or shutter speed—but I caught what interested me.

I scanned this slide in 2018.

Subscribe to Tracking the Light using the form toward the bottom of the post.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Fairfield, Connecticut 1986

This morning I was sifting through a file on a hard-drive titled ‘Misc 120 B&W negatives’.

This contains a group of 120-size negatives that I exposed with my father’s old Rollei Model T in late 1986 and early 1987.

Unfortunately these were unlabeled because at the time, because I’d fouled up the processing and deemed the negatives ‘unprintable’.

There were multiple failures on my part during development;

1) I was using stainless steel tanks, which had the unfortunate characteristic of leading to an edge effect when the room temperature was substantially different than the developer temperature. In this case, the darkroom at college was too warm, and so the short-edges received more processing than the center of the image area.

2) I had my developer mix wrong and too cool, so the overall result was under processed leading to these negatives appearing very thin (light).

3) The combination of ineffective agitation and relatively cool developer combined with the warm tank sides resulted in streaking and low contrast.

Because I was dissatisfied with my results and at the time I felt the subject matter was ‘common’, I simply put the negatives away. (But I didn’t throw them away.)

While I have detailed notes from the trip, those notes are stored in Massachusetts. I am in New Hampshire.

If I recall correctly, this was late December 1986 (Dec 28?) and I was traveling with Norman Yellin and John Peters: we had photographed at Conrail’s Cedar Hill Yard, Amtrak’s engine facility in New Haven, before proceeding west along the North East Corridor. Late in the day, we paused at Fairfield, where I made these images along with some 35mm color slides.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Clearing the Line.

Last week at the Conway Scenic Railroad we had a small crew out clearing brush from the former Boston & Maine Conway branch near the railroad’s North Conway yard.

Clearance will improve safety, allow guests traveling on the trains better views of the scenery, and may open up some vantage points for photography.

This brush clearance work is among the railroad’s investment in the future during down-time imposed by the reaction to the Covid-19 crisis.

Although Conway Scenic Railroad has postponed its Spring operation season, a core-group of employees are continuing to maintain, repair and other wise improve the railroad’s assets.

I exposed these images digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday!

Subscribe to Tracking the Light using the ‘Subscribe feature’

Washington Metro and Tower K.

It was a gray December 1997 day when I exposed this telephoto view of a Washington DC Metro train and Union Station’s Tower K using my Nikon N90s with f2.8 80-200 Nikon zoom lens.

Really it was the rows of colored position light signals displaying ‘stop’ that caught my attention.

Although the f2.8 8-200 lens offered convenience, and was both fast and sharp, it had its failings. When used wide open it tended to vignette slightly (darker exposure in the corners), but more serious was that it made me visually lazy. Instead of seeking the best vantage point and an optimal composition, I could get a pretty good angle by merely adjusting the focal length of the zoom.

My film was Fujichrome Provia 100F.

Tracking the Light posts every day!

Covered Bridges-Seven Views

I thought I’d take a diversion with today’s post and review a few photos that I’ve made recently of covered bridges in Northern New England.

This region is famous for its antique wooden trusses. These images just a small sample of the photos I’ve made of bridges in recent weeks.

Mt Orne bridge at Lunenburg, Vermont.
Swift River bridge near Albany, NH.

Although none of these spans carry railway tracks, at one time there were a number of railroad covered bridges in the region, including the Saco River span on Boston & Maine’s Conway Branch in North Conway. That bridge was replaced about 1949 with a steel plate girder span.

Groveton, NH.
Stark, NH.
Groveton, NH.
Stark, NH.
Stark, NH

Fellow photographer, Kris Sabbatino and I have been exploring the highways and byways of the region with curious old bridges high on the list of items to image for posterity.

Mt Orne bridge at Lunenburg, Vermont.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

The Old Groveton Station-four recent photos.

The old Groveton (New Hampshire) station building stands where the former Boston & Maine met the old Grand Trunk. Today the GT route is operated by Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic (known by its reporting marks SLR) while the B&M line is the very lightly used New Hampshire Central route to Hazens, Whitefield and beyond toward Littleton.

On visits here in the 1990s, I’d found the now defunct New Hampshire & Vermont switching the old paper mill at Groveton. But the mill is now a memory. The once imposing structures dwarfed the little brick station building.

I made these digital photos on a recent visit with photographer Kris Sabbatino. All were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and adjusted for shadows/contrast in post processing with Lightroom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

TRAXX at Lorch, Germany

DB (German Railways) class 185 electrics are members of Bombradier’s TRAXX Family of locomotives.

These are a common type for freight service.

Last September, I made this view of a Class 185 leading a southward tank train rolling along the Rhein near Lorch at Im  Bachergrund using my FujiFilm XT1.

Autumn sun was softened by thin high clouds that made for almost ideal lighting.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

The Curse of Wires!

Sometimes electrical wires are placed in inconvenient positions.

In this photograph from a highway overpass near Port Cartier, Quebec, road-side electrical cables resulted in an unfortunate visual obstruction to what would otherwise be an ideal vantage point looking toward the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.

I made this image on my photography adventure to the Cartier Railway with George Pitarys and Bill Linley in July 1997.

A loaded iron ore train was headed from the mines toward the port for trans-loading on to ships. Low evening light accentuated the hues of the water in the distance. The distant searchlights and ship on the water provide added interest.

Although imperfect, I exposed the slide anyway.

Tracking the Light posts new material everyday!

Boston & Maine Station—Morning and Evening

This is my office.

On April 15, 2020, I made photos as I arrived and as I departed to show the light at the respective times of day.

In my recent article on the Conway Scenic Railroad in May 2020 TRAINS Magazine, I discussed the railroad’s North Conway station in detail, but didn’t picture the iconic structure.

This will be rectified in an upcoming issue, but I thought I’d present these recent photos on Tracking the Light.

I’ve always focused on my immediate surroundings, photographing the ordinary, the common as well as the unusual and the extraordinary.

Over time, the common scenes often have the best staying power.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Conway Scenic 7470 Gone Retro—August 2019.

Last night, I was inspecting scans of some black & white negatives from last summer that are stored on my hard drive.

These are some photos from a Sunday morning in early August at North Conway, New Hampshire of locomotive 7470.

All of these are from a roll of Fuji Acros 100, exposed with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens and processed with split-bath/multi-stage development using a weak bath of HC110 followed by Rodinal for primary development.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Pittsburgh Light Rail October 1992.

On October 12, 1992, my father and I traveled on the Pittsburgh Light Rail, traversing both the 47 Shannon and Drake Shuttle routes where vintage PCC cars still roamed. Both lines are now defunct. Later in the day, my brother Sean and I revisited these lines by road to make a few more photos.

On that trip, I exposed this Kodachrome slide with my Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens.

While I was aiming to fill the frame with the rarely photographed PCC car, in retrospect I wished that I’d allowed a little more space around the streetcar.

I’m happy to have made this photo, since it was my only photographic adventure with the Pittsburgh PCCs.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Olomouc, Czech Republic

It was a dreary wintery morning in January 2009, when I exposed this view of PCC-derived Tatras meeting on the streets of Olomouc, Czech Republic.

I was traveling with photographers Tim Doherty and Denis McCabe on a whirlwind post-Christmas tour of central Europe that began and ended in Prague.

I was working with Fujichrome color slide film using a Canon EOS-3 with a 100mm f2.0 lens

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Quiet on the SET!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been closely involved with the filming of training videos at the Conway Scenic Railroad.

This ‘still’ shot was exposed last week. And today we are continuing with the filming process. Of course there’s no actual film, as we use video that is stored digitally on cards and then downloaded to a computer for editing.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Rental Tram Hoboken? It’s not what you think!

In February 1999, I made a day trip from Brussels to Antwerp, Belgium.

While in Antwerp, I took the number 2 tram to its terminus at Hoboken.

You mean there’s another Hoboken Terminal? In a manner of speaking, yes. But no copper clad Bush train sheds at this one.

When I saw this PCC departing for central Antwerp, I was amused by the National Car Rental advertisement at the back of the car. That same day I expose a view of a similar tram advertising ‘Diesel’ apparel.

Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) with an Nikon N90S probably fitted with a 80-200 Nikon zoom.

Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) with an Nikon N90S probably fitted with a 80-200 Nikon zoom.

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY Day!

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/