Strasburg Rail Road is best known for its steam excursions, but the railroad is a common carrier and operates a thriving local freight business.
On our visit to the Strasburg, PA area last month, I was lucky to catch one of their freights on the move. This was led by the railroad’s former New York Central SW8 diesel 8618.
This classic General Motors Electro-Motive Division swticher was built for New York Central System c1953 and carried the number 9618. It is painted in a neo-New York Central scheme, and was Conrail 8618 for many years.
In the 1980s, I made many photos of Conrail switchers, and I wonder if somewhere among my slides and negatives I may have a photo of this locomotive in its former existence.
Google Maps makes it much easier to navigate to the west shore of the Susquehanna River at Marysville, Pennsylvania to reach the famed Rockville Bridge.
I recall pouring over maps in the 1980s, trying to locate the correct sequence of turns to get to River Road. The challenge of this location is that the path is indirect and the main highways running parallel to the river and railroad do not facilitate straight forward exits.
On my most recent visit, I followed Google Maps instructions to my map ‘pin’ situated at the westend of Rockville Bridge. I approached the bridge just as a Norfolk Southern freight was easing across the 48 stone arches.
I returned to the vantage point on the north side of the bridge that Kris and I had visited nearly a year ago. This allowed me to make a long telephoto view of the train and capture the dramatic sky to the east.
Thursday I traveled with Conway Scenic’s Plow Extra to Attitash, and then east from Mountain Junction down the Redstone Branch to Kearsarge in North Conway.
My primary objective of this trip was to make video footage of the plowing and plow crew for Conway Scenic, both to document the activity and to help promote the railroad.
I used my Nikon Z-series mirrorless camera to record both still photos and video. In general, I feel more confident in my ability to work with still images than video, but I still made a lot of video clips which I am now editing into a short film that will hopefully play on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page as well as other accessible media.
Below are a few of the still photos from Thrusday’s adventure on the rails.
Last week, I caught up with fellow photographer, author and Trains contributor Dan Cupper, who offered to spend the day showing me railroads in the Lancaster/Strasburg area of Pennsylvania.
Among the places we visited was the archives/meeting house of the Lancaster Chapter, Inc., National Railway Historical Society which is located in the old Pennsylvania Railroad freight house at Christiana, Pennsylvania.
While I’d visited this the passenger station earlier in the week, the day our our visit had much better weather. Also, it was my first ever visit inside freight house where we were met by the chapter’s Stephen Himpsl.
Among the things we explored were views of the freight station and the old passenger station from both sides of the former PRR Main Line.
The passenger station hadn’t served in its intended role since the 1950s, but had been restored and was in good shape.
I made a variety of images using my Nikon mirrorless cameras including those presented here. Most received post-processing adjustment using Adobe Lightroom to better present the data captured by the camera’s NEF RAW files.
More to come on our explorations at Christiana and other nearby locations.
Winter has finally made its footprint in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
After weeks of unseasonable weather that led to speculation that snow was a thing of the past, a series of snow storms has brought plently of snow.
Following a heavy snow fall that lasted most of the day on Monday (January 23, 2023), Conway Scenic called a plow extra on Tuesday to clear its lines.
I made these views of Work X255 in the yard at North Conway as the crew was getting ready to head west to Attitash.
I worked with the NEF RAW files in Adobe Lightroom to make the most of the dramatic sky. Adjustments included my standard repertoire; lighten shadows, darken highlights, adjust color temperature and color saturation and scale for internet presentation.
Later I followed the Plow Extra west to make photos of it clearing the tracks.
I was lucky last Wednesday as Amtrak P42 number 145 wearing ‘Phase III’ heritage paint was leading train #42, the eastward Pennsylvanian.
Although the so-called Amtrak Phase III was introduced in the mid-1970s, for me it represents the predominant scheme that adorned Amtrak locomotives during the 1980s. I made countless color slides of F40PH diesels, and AEM-7 and E60 electrics in this scheme.
Amtrak repainted a several of its P42 Genesis diesels in 2011 to mark the railroad’s 40th Anniversary. In addition, several of Amtrak’s dual-mode 700-series Genesis units have also been painted in this scheme.
I was delighted to catch Amtrak 145 working the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania, and made a series of digital images using my Nikon Z-series digital cameras.
I often work with multiple cameras. Since purchasing my Nikon Z7-II at the end of last year, I now often work with both my Nikon mirrorless cameras in tandem. I’ve fitted my Z-series 70-200mm zoom to my Z6, and a Z-series 24-70mm to the Z7-II.
This arrangement gives me the flexibility to make a variety of different angles quickly, swaping back and forth between the two cameras as needed.
In addition to that, I’ll often have my Lumix LX7 at hand and sometimes an older Nikon loaded with film.
Last week, I was poised at Gap, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line that is now operated by Amtrak. Most of Amtrak’s trains are Keystone corridor push-pull sets powered by Siemens-built ACS-64 electric locomotives. An exception is the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian that runs daily and its typically led by a GE-built P42 Genesis diesel.
I got a tip that the eastward Pennsylvanian (train 42) was running with a P42 wearing one of the heritage paint schemes and I was in position to make the most of that train, while waiting on its late-running westward counterpart (train 43). Watching a train tracking ap on my phone, I wondered which train would reach me first.
I heard a GE chugging to the east and turned to find train 43 working west led by P42 number 117 . First I made a few images with the Z6 and 70-200mm, then made a few close up photos with the Z7-II and 24-70mm, before making a couple more trailing views with the Z6. I’ve included six of these images here in order of exposure to provide a sense of how I made the most of these cameras in tandem.
Minutes after train 43 went by, I spotted train 42 in the distance with the aforementioned heritage-painted locomotive in the lead. Stay tuned for those photos!
Winter sun and clear skies on Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road open a host of photographic opportunities!
For Monday’s return run of engine No. 90 from Leaman Place, Kris and I selected a vantage point at Carpenters at Blackhorse Road—where the line takes a gentle curve by an old Graveyard.
I made a few color slides using my Nikon F3 and 180m lens and then a series of digital photos with my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
The sildes remain to be processed, but I’ve posted a selection of the digital images here.
Engine 90 is a Baldwin 2-10-0, a type known as a decapod for its arrangement of ten driving wheels. I am working on a new book with Kalmbach Media tentatively titled Steam Locomotives by th Numbers that will tell the story of steam locomotive development and application using wheel arrangement as the system of organization.
It was a retro 1970s moment at Christiana, Pennsylvania, when I made these coming and going views of Amtrak Keystone train 648.
The Conrail caboose to the right of the train is former Erie Lackawanna that was painted in an usual variation of COnrail blue at Erie’s Meadville, Pennsyvlania shops in 1976.
The cab car is one of the former PRR/Penn Central self-propelled Metroliner cars developed by Budd in the 1960s and characterized Amtrak’s high-speed services in the 1970s and early 1980s. Later these cars were modified and routinely operated to Harrisburg on this route.
Photos were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II and adjusted for contrast, exposure and color temperature using Adobe Lightroom.
Tuesday morning in Strasburg was cloudy and dull. I made my way over to Leaman Place where Strasburg Rail Road’s line connects with Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line to Harrisburg.
I made these photos of westward and eastward Keystone trains zipping along under wire. The typical operation has an Siemens ACS64 electric at one end and a Budd-built former Metroliner cab control car at the other.
Both images were adjusted for color temperature, shadow and highlight detail and contrast in post processing.
January 15, 2023: Kris and I spent the day driving to Strasburg, Pennsylvania. We arrived just in time to make photos of 2-10-0 No. 90 arriving with the last scheduled train of the day.
With the setting sun just above the horizon, we had some beautiful winter light to photograph this historic machine in action. Cold weather can offer the best conditions to photograph steam locomotive because of the superior light and dramatic effects of condenstation.
I made these images using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.
I’ve been photographing trains around Greenfield, Massachusetts for more than 40 years.
Sometimes there have been long waits. Sometimes I got lucky.
Saturday, Kris and I were driving south on I-91. I asked, “would you like to stop by East Deerfield Yard”
She said “ok!”, so we jumped off the Interstate at Route 2, and took the roundabout (traffic circle) and headed east. At that moment I saw containers rolling east on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg line.
“That’s 22K, the NS intermodal train”.
We zipped over to East Deerfield Yard—located railroad timetable east of Greenfield—where I had just enough time to make these photos using my new Nikon Z7-II.
Nothing fancy, but these are lucky shots. I was delighted!
I always like it when luck prevails!
With these ‘in the bag’, we drove to the Connecticut River bridge for more photos. Why waste a lucky day?
Yesterday, Kris & I visited White River Junction, Vermont, where I photographed a pair of EMD diesels on Genesee & Wyoming’s New England Central, including Buffalo & PIttsburgh GP38-2 No. 3511.
To emulate an image I made here in the 1980s of a Boston & Maine GP7, I framed B&P 3511 in the station canopy using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.
Below are two versions of the NEF file. The top version is scaled but otherwise unaltered. The bottom version has been adjusted with changes to shadow and highlight density, color temperature, and contrast, with nominal sharpening.
Another classic from my files: this Kodachrome slide was exposed on my epic trip to Montreal with Tom Carver 30 years ago.
Among the inspirations for the trip was a tip that Tom received that CP Rail had placed back into freight service several of its ‘Bigs’- a nickname for its six-motor Montreal Locomotive Works diesels.
These classics had been stored owing to a downturn in traffic, but placed back into service in early 1993, which presented an opportunity to see and photograph these rare diesels at work. So, despite exceptional cold, Tom and I had braved winter in Montreal.
Only about a dozen or so of the six-motor MLWs were working at that time and mostly in relatively short-haul freight services. We followed one freight to the Port of Montreal. I made this view using Tom’s 28mm lens in Hochelaga neighborhood of Montreal on the afternoon of January 12, 1993.
On this day, photographer Tom Carver and I were at Val Royal, Montreal to photograph Canadian National’s electric suburban trains.
In the orange glow of evening on a memorably cold day, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my old Nikon F3T with Nikkor 200mm lens.
Little did I know then, that 30 years later I’d be working daily with some of these very same cars: Conway Scenic Railroad operates former CN electric cars 6739, 6743, 6745 and 6749 as coaches on its excursion trains.
Thirty-five years ago, I made this view of a Conrail coal train working the Charlotte Running track at Charlotte, Rochester, New York. At that time, a short vestige of the old Hojack Line (Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg) still crossed the Genesee River.
This was exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 50mm Leitz Summicron lens.
It was among the images featured in my 1989 article on the railroads of Rochester published in Railpace Newsmagazine.
Looking at Google Earth last night, I gather there’s very little left of this scene today!
Saturday, Kris and I traveled on the Mass Bay Special, “Covered Wagons in the Snow” that worked Conway Scenic from North Conway to Notchland. We went out on the headend, traveling with Train Master Mike Lacey on GP38 252, then traveled eastbound on the passenger cars where we participated in a few of the photo runbys.
I was working with three cameras; my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens; my new Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens; and a Lumix LX7.
Someone asked me how many camera’s I had. “Here? Or in total?”
“All of them.”
I lost track at 13. That’s probably bad luck.
Below are a selection of images that I made using the Z6 with 70-200mm lens. All were processed digitally using Adobe Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation here.
January 7, 2023, Conway Scenic Railroad hosted Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthuasiast’s Covered Wagons in the Snow photo charter.
I helped arrange and organize this uncommon trip and spent countless hours working with Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown, members of the 470 Club (which owns the two former Boston & Maine F7As that were the stars of the day) and the Conway Scenic staff to refine the details.
Mother nature cooperated and provided several inches of fresh powdery snow the night before the trip.
The morning of the trip, I conducted a safety briefing with Mass Bay’s people, and Kris and I made photos of the F-units in the North Conway, NH yard.
We traveled on the train and during the course of the trip we made hundreds of winter F-unit inspired images.
Snow was falling on Conrail’s Southern Tier route on January 7, 1994. This portion of former Erie was alive with through freight
I made this view of the westward OIBU passing the old station at Silver Springs, New York, where Erie had maintained an interchange with the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, later B&O. Since 1986, this facilitated a connection with G&W’s Rochester & Southern.
Yesterday, Conway Scenic operated a Work Extra on the Conway Branch using GP9 1751. I traveled on the train and at Conway I made several photos of the locomotive collecting a flatcar from some rarely traveled trackage beyond the station.
On the way down, I made a vareity of photos with my Lumix LX7, and noticed that the battery was going flat.
After I exposed a view of the locomotive on the siding, the camera shut down. So, I climbed back on board to get my new Nikon Z7-II to get a few more photos. What I’ve displayed below are unadjusted RAW files from both cameras followed by adjusted versions of each aimed at improving exposure, contrast, shadow and highlight detail, and color temperature.
Since September 2020 I’ve been regularly photographing with a Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera. This offers great flexibility and exception image quality with its 24.5 megapixel full frame sensor
On New Years Eve my new Nikon Z7-II mirrorless camera arrived. The Z7-II is even more powerful than the Z6 and features a 45.7 megapixel CMOS sensor that Nikon boasts offers
‘maximum color depth and dynamic range.’
New Years Day, Kris and I went for a drive in western Maine and stopped along the way to make photos.
Learning a new camera takes time. In my initial setup, I thought I’d profiled the Z7-II camera to work in both JPG and RAW. However, although I’d set up the RAW specifications, I’d failed to select the correct output setting and only exposed in JPG.
Although disappointing, this wasn’t a huge problem since the files straight out of the camera were extraordinary, even without the ability to make major adjustments.
Below are a selection of images scaled from the in-camera JPG files. In some situations, I’ve also enlarged a portion of the photo to demonstrate the capabilities of the sensor in regards to sharpness, etc.
My intention is work with both the Z6 and Z7II. Initially assigning my 24-70mm Z-series lens to the Z7II, and various telephoto lenses to the Z6.