Last night a damp inky gloom greeted us as we alighted from Amtrak’s Vermonter at the former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Wilmington, Delaware.
A SEPTA Silverliner V electric multiple unit set sat on the opposite platforms waiting to depart for Philadelphia.
I made several exposures with my Lumix LX7. Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, I maximize the amount of visual information in the photos by lightening shadows and darkening highlights while adjusting contrast and color saturation.
The train is now approaching its station stop at Meriden, Connecticut.
It was announced that from Hartford the train was completely sold out. Thus demonstrating that old adage no one rides trains anymore because they’re too crowded!
I exposed these photos with my FujFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
As we roll along, the files were downloaded to my MacBook using Image Capture software, scaled for internet using Lightroom, and uploaded via Amtrak’s WiFi to WordPress for presentation on Tracking the Light.
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It was on a damp evening 15 years ago (13 December 2003), that I exposed this 35mm Fujichrome Sensia II slide using my Contax G2 rangefinder with 45mm Zeiss lens at Irish Rail’s station in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny.
At the time, Irish Rail was operating its sugarbeet trains via Thomastown and Cherryville Junction owing to bridge collapse at Cahir, County Tipperary.
I’ve always liked the rich atmosphere of this slide which conveys an era now gone. Irish Rail closed the cabin at Thomastown a few months later and removed the Thomastown loop when it commissioned the Waterford Mini CTC.
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In this instance, New England Central’s southward 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer turn) was crawling across the antique Millers Falls Highbridge in its namesake Massachusetts town.
My vantage point was the 2007-built Route 63 highway bridge.
This is more than a century newer than the parallel railway span.
First I exposed a burst of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm lens. Then I made a single black & white photo on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.
By design the black & white view is textured. I realize that black & white doesn’t appeal to everyone, yet I’ve worked in black & white for my entire life, and I often find my traditional film photos more interesting to look at than the digital images.
On the evening of December 4, 2018, I panned CTrail train 4461 led by engine 6695 at the new Berlin, Connecticut station.
Berlin is brightly lit and makes for a good vantage point to watch and photograph passenger trains on the Hartford Line.
To make this pan photo, I set the shutter speed at 1/30thof second, fixed a point in my view finder and moved my camera and body in parallel with the train in a smooth unbroken motion as it arrived at the station.
Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s famous Zephyr is one of the most significant trains of the 20thCentury.
In November, I photographed the preserved Zephyr at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where the historic train set is proudly display in the lobby.
It was great to see the Zephyr in person again. Last time I saw the train back in the 1990s, it was undergoing a thorough cosmetic restoration in Wisconsin.
I’ve written extensively about the Zephyr, describe the train’s context, history and technology.
The Zephyr set important technological precedents. For propulsion, it was the first train powered by the Winton 201 diesel engine, which made it America’s first diesel-powered streamliner—a bit of trivia that might have been less important if the diesel had not ultimately vanquished steam. From a streamlined perspective it was significant as well. The body was the work of Philadelphia-based Edward G. BuddCompany and was constructed from shot-welded stainless-steel using Budd’s proprietary welding technique developed for automobile construction—From my book Streamliners—Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style.
These days the only regular trains to use the old Santa Fe Raton Pass crossing are Amtrak 3 and 4, the Southwest Chief. The days of helpers over the three percent are all but a memory.
This day two weeks ago: Arriving on No.4, we had more than ten minutes at Raton to stretch our legs and take in the mountain air.
I used the opportunity to make some twilight images of Silver Splendor, the Budd-built Vista-Dome that I was traveling on.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Zeiss 12mm Touit lens, I exposed several views in the blue glow of evening. Dusk is a great time to balance the light inside the passenger car with outside illumination.
Between Albuquerque and Raton Pass (on the New Mexico-Colorado state line) I counted three bastions of Union Switch & Signal style-T2 upper quadrant semaphores on our journey over the former Santa Fe in Vista-Dome Silver Splendor.
I watched the blades drop from the vertical as we passed—a scene I’d not witnessed for many years.
In 2018, these signals represent the last large collections of active semaphores on any North American mainline.
The Style T2 was detailed in my book Classic Railroad Signals in a sidebar titled ‘Sante Fe Semaphores Survive in New Mexico’ by John Ryan and the late John Gruber.
Yesterday, 30 November 2018, I located a collection of my Irish Rail slides from 2005. Among them were these views of ‘bubble cement’ trains (consisting of pressurized four-wheel powdered cement wagons) passing Islandbridge in Dublin on 26thof May that year.
These were exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) and processed at Photocare on Abbey Street in Dublin.
I scanned these using an Epson V750Pro flatbed scanner making large TIF files, then made colour and contrast adjustments using Lightroom to improve presentation. In addition, I also implemented some digital sharpening to make the photos prior to outputting as scaled JPGs (for Internet presentation) to make these appear closer to modern digital images.
Irish Rail stopped operating cement through Dublin about a decade ago, and so these views are now historic.
As we approached our station stop Lamy, New Mexico, I relocated from Silver Splendor’s dome, where I’d been enjoying the old Santa Fe mainline journey at the head-end of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, tothe car’s dutch doors to make photos of antique equipment stored line-side near the station.
The ability to photograph from opened dutch doors is a rare pleasure on modern trains.
In my youth, I’d spent hours soaking in the atmosphere in the vestibules of trains, making photos with my old Leica 3A.
I exposed these modern photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
It had been more than 20 years since my last visit to New Mexico. This was my first by rail.
I was on my way east with Dave and Rhonda Swirk and Derek Palmieri of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, documenting Budd Vista-Dome Silver Splendor on its journey from Los Angeles to its new home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
As we glided east at the head-end of Amtrak number 4 theSouthwest Chief,we met or overtook dozens of freights, many of them intermodal trains, on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon.
Wow, BNSF sure runs a lot of freight!
I exposed these photos digitally using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.
Part of the challenge of making photos of trains from the train is trying to compose while in motion of moving subjects. Not only does this make if difficult to level the camera, but it leads to motion blur and other potential defects.
Last week, I awoke to sunrise east of Flagstaff, Arizona riding in Budd Vista Dome Silver Splendor as it traveled east on Amtrak no.4, the Southwest Chief.
The luxurious 1956-built stainless steel dome is a classic car from America’s streamlined era.
It was on its way to a new home on the East coast after years being based in California.
The pleasure of traveling in a Vista Dome is enjoying its comfortable elevated panoramic view of the passing scenery. An added bonus on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon is the unceasing parade of freights.
These images were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1. Some of the photos were adjusted in post processing to compensate for the dome’s tinted glass.
Amtrak’s eastward Southwest Chief, train number 4, made a relatively long stop at Barstow, California, affording me time to explore and photograph historic rolling stock (displayed near the platforms) by the Western America Railroad Museum.
I find it strange to see once-familiar locomotives exhibited as static displays. In the 1990s, I regularly photographed Santa Fe’s FP45, such as number 95 seen at Barstow. Back then these were working machines. Today, 95 a decayed appearing vestige of another era.
Compare the static equipment—displayed like dinosaur bones to a curious public—with Budd Vista dome Silver Splendorin consist on the Southwest Chief.The dome is a functional piece of equipment on its transcontinental journey from Los Angeles to its new home.
Growing up in New England, I had a childhood fascination with Barstow, which I viewed as a treeless desert Mecca of all good things Santa Fe. Although I’ve photographed in Barstow several times over the years, this one short nocturnal visit was especially surreal.
All photos were made handheld with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Key to my success was the high ISO setting (ISO 5000) and auto white balance setting that adjusted and balanced myriad artificial light sources.
Lacking a tripod, I positioned and steadied the camera on the half open ‘dutch door’ of private passenger car Silver Splendor as it was paused across from the Metrolink train storage sidings in Riverside, California.
My exposures were about 1/2 second at f2.8 (ISO 5000).
To make the most of the photos, I imported the camera RAW files into Lightroom and adjusted highlights and shadows to make for more pleasing final images.
On November 17, 2018, I made this view of Metrolink train 662 eastbound on the old Santa Fe at Fullerton, California.
To make the most of the palm trees that line the platforms, I cross-lit the train, exposing from the north-side of footbridge over the line.
Metrolink’s white locomotive hauling a mix of white and stainless-steel cars effectively reflect light on the shadow side of the train, which make for a more even exposure and help balance the photograph by compensating for the otherwise inky darkness of the high-sun shadows.
These views are looking west . I used a telephoto lens that compresses the row of palms.
Some seven hours after I made this image, I was back at Fullerton again. Stay tuned for my nocturnal views from the same station.