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.

Up Close with Pan Am 345

Last Sunday, September 27, 2020, while following Pan Am Railway’s SAPPI-3 with Kris Sabbatino, I made this close-up view of the train led by GP40 345 on the Hinckley Branch near Waterville, Maine.

I was working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. For post-processing, I imported the camera RAW in to Iridient to produce a DNG file, which I then imported into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.

As previously explained on Tracking the Light, Iridient software has a superior means of interpreting the Fuji RAW files for adjustment. However, the difference is very subtle and can be best noticed on extreme enlargement.

Which leads to a photographic quandary: is there really value in making image of superior quality if only a handful of viewers can appreciate the difference?

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Frankenstein Foliage

September 24, 2020: I made my way to Frankenstein trestle on the former Maine Central Mountain Division to photograph Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer.

The autumn foliage has almost reached its peak brilliance near the bridge. The leaves are turning early this year, probably because of drought conditions.

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1. Output is the camera JPG with Velvia color profile. Other than scaling for internet, I did not adjust for color, contrast, or exposure.

If all goes well, I’ll be back up on the mountain today. The conditions look to be warm, bright and dry in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

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Martin Stream—File Comparison

Today, I am posting three variations of the same image file.

This is from Sunday’s chase of Pan Am Railway’s SAPPI-3 and pictures the freight crossing Martin Stream near Hinckley, Maine.

The bucolic setting was side lit–a condition that presents a contrast challenge. I made the image using my FujiFilm XT1 with 28mm pancake lens.

Recently, and on the advice of my old pal TSH, I purchased Iridient software, which offers a different interpretation of the FujiFilm RAW files.

Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile), a DNG file converted from the Fuji RAW by Adobe Lightroom, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.

All were then scaled and exported using Lightroom. I made identical color and contrast corrections to the two DNG files. (My interpretation, not Fuji’s)

My intent is to compare the Iridient processing with Adobe’s. The Camera JPG is a third reference.

Since this is one of my first experiments with the Iridient software, I cannot claim to be a master of working with it.

I’ve labeled each image below.

FujiFilm in-camera JPG using Velvia color profile. This was scaled for internet presentation with no alternations to color balance, color temperature or contrast.
Fuji Camera Raw converted to DNG by Adobe Lightroom and adjusted for color balance, color temperature and contrast.
Fuji Camera Raw converted to DNG by Iridient and then imported to Adobe Lightroom for color balance, color temperature and contrast correction (same settings as above).

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Pan Am’s SAPPI-3 Part 1

Last Sunday, Kris Sabbatino and I drove along the old Maine Central Hinkley Branch north from Waterville, Maine to photograph Pan Am Railway’s SAPPI-3 local freight.

This was on the advice of New Hampshire rail photographer Andrew Dale, who suggest the trip and the train timings, and who joined us along with Connor Welch later in the morning.

The day was clear and bright with a deep sky.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 28mm pancake lens, I made these photos as the freight departed SAPPI’s Somerset Mill. The train carried mostly 50-foot boxcars of paper product.

These two photos feature slight variations in composition and exposure. The top photo is slightly lighter than the bottom. Both are camera JPGs exposed with the Velvia color profile.

The pair of GP40s and old style boxcars is a real throwback to railroading of decades gone by. It was also the first real revenue freight that I’d photographed in daylight in months!

More photos to follow soon!

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Prague Metro-2000

In May 2000, on one of two visits to Prague that Spring, I made this view deep below the streets of Soviet-era metro cars.

While the cars seemed old, the Metro was clean, quick and heavily used. However, there was a little bit of graffiti that emulated the style of New York City subway graffiti from the 1970s.

I exposed this Fujichrome color slide with my Nikon F3T.

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CUrious Cement Cars-7 new photos!

In the title, I’m using curious as adjective to mean ‘unusual’ for alliterative effect.

Saturday, September 19, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I briefly visited Rockland, Maine.

Years ago I’d photographed the short freight turn that brings cement from the Dragon cement works in Thomaston to a rail-barge transload on the Rockland waterfront.

I was curious if this operation was still running, so after a visit to inspect the Rockland roundhouse (still standing, still housing a locomotive), we followed the short branch that meanders through the neighborhoods down to the water.

Here we found a selection of the unusual pressurized cement cars used in the cement circuit. The wheels were shiny, so I we concluded the service still operates. Perhaps one of these days we’ll return to catch it on the move again.

I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.

Mountaineer at Fabyan

Last week, Conway Scenic Railroad extended its Mountaineer to Fabyan, New Hampshire. This will be the normal operation until October 18, 2020, when it will be cut back to Crawford station.

I made these views of the train at Fabyan on Friday September 18, 2020 using my Lumix LX7.

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A Tinge Of Autumn Color at Crawford Notch.

Yesterday, September 18, 2020, I traveled on the headend of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer to scope autumn view points for publicity photos.

The trees have hints of the autumn palette and I noted a variety of places near the top of the mountain where I hope to revisit over the coming weeks.

It looks like some of the best color will be near the famous Willey Brook Bridge and Mount Willard Section House in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. We’ll have to wait and see how the autumn colors manifest this season.

I made these views from GP35 216 using my Lumix LX7.

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Irish Rail 164 at Birdhill

On a misty April 2000 morning, Mark Hodge and I arrived at Birdhill, County Limerick to photograph the elusive Shale freight.

A bonus was catching the Nenagh Branch passenger train with steam-heated Cravens carriages running from Ballybrophy to Limerick behind Irish Rail 141-class number 164.

Although I have hundreds of photos of the General Motors Bo-Bo diesels working Irish Rail passenger trains, this was one of the few times I caught number 164 in service on a passenger train.

Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) using a Nikon N90S.

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Maine Central GP38 255—Bangor, Maine.

On August 26, 1986, Art Mitchell was giving photographer Brandon Delaney and me a tour of Maine railways.

We had perfect Kodachrome weather.

Among our stops was Maine Central’s Bangor Yard, where I made this view of GP38 255 working an eastward freight.

I was fascinated by the antique switch lamp in the foreground, which was still part of the railroad’s functioning equipment and not merely a decoration.

I had Kodachrome 64 loaded in my Leica 3A, and I exposed this color slide with a 65mm Leitz lens mounted using a Visoflex (a Rube Goldberg-inspired reflex view-finder attachment) on the screw-mount pre-war (WW2) 35mm camera.

This somewhat awkward camera arrangement was my standard means for exposing color slides at that time. I made careful notes of my exposure, which was f8 at 1/200th of a second. (My Leica 3A used some non-standard shutter speeds.)

Today, I find the GP38 interesting because its sister locomotive, number 252, is a fixture at the Conway Scenic Railroad (although at present it is out of traffic and awaiting repairs).

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West Springfield at Dusk.

In July 1983, ,Bob Buck and I were attending a weekly summer gathering of the West Springfield Train Watchers, a semi-formal group consisting of mostly retired railroaders who assembled with permission of the railroad at the west end of Conrail’s West Springfield, Massachusetts yard.

I say ‘semi-formal’ because member Norvel Parker printed cards for all the members. Somewhere I still have mine.

Toward the end of the evening, I made this photo with my Leica 3A of a westward freight making a pick-up.

Adjusted photo.

In later years, I photographed some of the members, which was probably far more valuable as a record, than making photos of the trains.

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Lancaster, New Hampshire.

In late July 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I were returning from a wander around far northern Vermont, when we paused at Lancaster, New Hampshire.

This was shortly before sunset. I had HP5 loaded into a Nikkormat FTN.

I made these images using ambient light, then processed the film using a custom tailored two stage development recipe:

Before primary processing, I presoaked the film in HC110 diluted 1-300 for 6 minutes; then for primary development I used Ilford ID11 1-1 at 70F for 7 minutes, followed by ‘stop’, ‘first fix’ ‘2nd fix,’ 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse and final wash.

I scanned these negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

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New York Central Transformed—Rochester, New York 1986.

On the afternoon of September 12, 1986, I exposed this photograph of a westward Conrail double-stack container train on the former New York Central Waterlevel Route passing the Amtrak Station at Rochester, New York.

The old New York Central era tower was still standing, and the station platforms, complete with the old ‘Rochester’ signs dated from the New York Central era.

In the lead was a twenty-year old former New York Central GP40, and I was just short of my twentieth birthday.

Yet, this double stack train was unlike anything ever seen on the old New York Central. Among the big changes imposed under Conrail was a clearance improvement program that allowed for much taller trains.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film. Negative cropped for presentation here.

My book Conrail and its Predecessors is available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

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

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Work Train Running east.

These days a morning eastward train is a relatively rare event on Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central Mountain Division route.

On Friday evening, our work train returning from work at Crawford Notch had tied up on the siding at Bartlett. So, on Saturday morning (September 12, 2020) a train crew went out to bring it back to North Conway.

I drove to Bartlett to make a few photos in the crisp morning light.

Canon EOS 7D w 100mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

These photos were made digitally using my both Lumix LX7 and Canon EOS 7D (with 100mm lens).

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Classic Kodachrome—VIA Rail RDCs at Dorval, Quebec.

In August 1984, I was on a big solo rail adventure. Among the places I visited by train was Montreal.

My friend Brandon Delaney had recommended Dorval as a place to watch trains. Here, double-track Canadian Pacific and Canadian National mainlines ran parallel to each other and there was a continuous parade of freight and passenger trains.

On August 14th, I traveled out on commuter train from Windsor Station and spent several hours soaking up the action.

Among the trains I photographed was this eastbound VIA RDC set on the CN heading for Central Station.

I’d positioned myself where the codelines crossed from the north-side to the south-side of CN’s line. This was my clever compositional trick that makes for a more interesting photograph by focusing the eye toward a secondary horizon.

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RoadRailer at South Fork March 10, 2001

Working with Fuji Provia 100F loaded in a Nikon F3, I exposed this photo of an eastward Norfolk Southern RoadRailer at South Fork, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2001.

I was traveling with fellow photographer Mike Gardner, while making photos for a book to be titled ‘Modern Diesel Locomotives,’ published by MBI.

I scanned the slide the other day using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 digital slide scanner, driven with VueScan software.

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September 6th: Mountaineer on the Fill—Two variations.

After Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer arrived at North Conway, New Hampshire on Sunday September 6, 2020, I picked a new spot in the golf course adjacent to the big fill (on approach to Conway Scenic’s yard) to catch the train as it was being stowed for the evening.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view in RAW and then processed the file in Adobe Lightroom.

I made two variations of the processed image.

The top has lower contrast; the bottom features higher contrast and increased saturation (see the screen shot of the Lightroom work window below)

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Sunday Special Photographer’s Mountaineer—September 6, 2020.

This past Sunday, September 6, 2020, I’d organized a special Mountaineer that operated on an extended schedule to allow for a few photo stops along the way.

I traveled on the head-end with engineer Gary McFarland to spot the train at key locations.

I carried two cameras; a Canon EOS3 with 40mm pancake lens loaded with Kodak E100 slide film and a Lumix LX7 digital camera. Below are few of the Lumix photos.

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Conway Scenic Conway Way Freight—11 images.

Last Saturday, September 5, 2020, the second of our Railfan photo freights operated from North Conway to Conway on the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch.

We stopped the freight at several locations during the journey, and made a pick up at Conway.

I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with my 18-135mm Fujinon Zoom lens. Unfortunately, upon arriving back at the North Conway yard, my lens suffered a failure with the linkage inside the lens that controls the range of view, leaving me to work with my Canon EOS 3 film camera for the remainder of the evening.

I’m presently assessing lens/camera replacement alternatives.

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1950s Photo Freight—10 Photos.

Yesterday, Saturday September 5, 2020, was clear, sunny and bright.

I’d helped organized Conway Scenic Railroad’s Railfan’s Day photo freights. Train crew inlcluded: Road Forman/Train Master Mike Lacey, Engineer Adam Bartley,and Conner and Cullen Maher. Various others assisted with operations, especially working the crossing gates on the Redstone Branch.

The event was a huge success.

I made these photos of the 10am Photo Freight using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

This train worked out to Mountain Junction and then east on the Redstone Branch to Pudding Pond.

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Setting up the Photo Freights.

Most of the year, Conway Scenic Railroad’s historic freight cars quietly reside in the railroad’s North Yard, although few cars, such as our ballast hoppers are assigned to maintenance service.

Today, Saturday September 5th, we plan to operate a pair of demonstration photo freights for our scheduled Railfan’s Day event.

In preparation, we needed to spot cars at key locations in order to make pick-ups, just like a traditional local freight. In conjunction with this work, we needed to position two flatcars used for our weekly work train, and I wanted to scope locations and remove brush.

Working with former Boston & Maine F7A 4266 and our GP35 216 we gathered cars and make our positioning moves.

Today’s photo freights should be led by 4266 plus former Maine Central GP7 573 which share the traditional EMD-inspired maroon and gold paint scheme.

These are among the photos I exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 (scaled for internet presentation). I also made a few color slides for posterity.

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Conway Scenic Railfan’s Weekend—September 5 & 6.

This week I’ve been preparing for Conway Scenic’s annual Railfan’s weekend—traditionally held on Labor Day weekend.

This year the conditions relating to the containment of Covid-19 have imposed a host of constraints that will make our Railfan’s Weekend a more subdued affair than in previous years. Sadly this is unavoidable. However rather than cancel the event, we decide to move forward with it for the benefit of our fans and loyal supporters.

We’ve placed 470 Club’s Boston & Maine F7A 4266 back in service and this will work photo freights on Saturday (boarding at 10am and 2pm at North Conway) and on Sunday it will lead a special Photographers Mountaineer (that will make photo stops on its journey to Crawford Notch).

The railroad hopes to have a variety of its equipment on display, including several pieces that have been sheltered by the roundhouse for most of 2020.

Below are just some of the photos that I’ve made this week, while helping to organize the Railfan’s event.

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Pup WOrks Holyoke—1985

In August 1985, on a drive through Holyoke, Massachusetts on my way from collecting film from Frantek (a local photographic supplier in South Hadley), I stopped at the old Boston & Maine station, where I photographed Boston & Maine SW1 1124 working the north-end of the yard.

Holyoke, Massachusetts in August 1985.

Holyoke was a fascinating post-industrial setting, where vast empty brick mill buildings told of time long gone.

The station hadn’t seen a passenger train in years.

Even the EMD SW1 was a relic of former times.

These diminutive switchers, rated at just 600 hp, were known as ‘Pups’.

I exposed this view using a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon f1.8 50mm lens.

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Boston & Maine F7A 4266 Works the Mountaineer—four new photos.

Yesterday, Boston & Maine F7A 4266 led the Mountaineer westbound to Crawford Notch.

This may not seem like a big deal for long time observers of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, as it has occurred in previous years. However, it was the first time I’d ever witnessed this locomotive outside of the yard, and the first time I’d photographed it working a train. (This locomotive is owned by the 470 Club, which also owns sister B&M F7A 4268 that is undergoing an operational restoration.)

I thought it was pretty cool to finally see this antique on the move!

All going well, 4266 will work the train again today as well as the 930am Conway run.

Site of the Intervale, NH station.
Bartlett, NH.
Approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.
Approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.

This coming weekend, September 5th and 6th, Conway Scenic will host its annual Railfan’s Weekend. Owing to constraints imposed by the on-going Covid-19 epidemic, the event will necessarily be scaled back from previous years. However, 4266 is scheduled to work a pair of photo-freights on Saturday, and an Extra Photographers Special Mountaineer on Sunday.

The Photo freight has space for a few passengers, and tickets may be ordered online or from the CSRR ticket office (603-356-5251).

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Odd Couple at Springfield Station.

In July 1984, I was only a few weeks out of High School. My Pal TSH and I were on one of our photography adventures. Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts had alerted us to the fact that Amtrak’s southward Montrealer had suffered a locomotive failure, and had been brought down by a borrowed Canadian National M-420.

At that time seeing a Canadian National locomotive in Springfield was an event, and the M-420s were a rare catch. Over the coming years CN M-420s would become increasingly common on the Central Vermont, but that was in the future and at this time I was very keen to catch this rare bird in home territory.

I made this photo of the foreigner on track 2A at the east end of Springfield Union Station (Massachusetts) along side a row of Amtrak /CDOT Budd-built SPV2000s that were assigned to work the Springfield-Hartford-New Haven shuttle service in the early/mid 1980s. The SPVs would only survive on this run for another couple of years and were relative rare machines.

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East Deerfield Yard, September 30, 1984—Two photos.

I took a break from classes at Hampshire College and ventured to Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) with some friends for a day of photography.

Among the many trains we saw that day was B&M’s EDSP (East Deerfield to Springfield) through freight that operated with a GP18/GP9/GP7 locomotive combination.

At the time this was a refreshing throwback, as more modern and often mixed lash-ups of B&M, Maine Central and Delaware & Hudson locomotives tended to predominate on the east-west Fitchburg route via the Hoosac Tunnel.

I was especially keen to picture GP7 1566, which was among the last to retain its vertical white nose stripe and harked back to an earlier era.

Photos were exposed on Kodak black & white film using my Leica 3A.

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400mm four-photo sequence near Rogers Crossing

The former Maine Central Mountain Division crests a rise just east of  Bartlett near Rogers Crossing (where the railroad crosses Route 302 west of the Attitash Ski area).

Friday, I set up here with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens to capture a Conway Scenic work extra west led by GP35 216.

The extreme visual compression afforded by this lens exaggerates the grade profile of the line to show the effect of this rise.

This sequence of images is intended to show the train climbing the grade.  

I selected my focus point manually and initiated the camera’s autofocus independently of the shutter release in order to control the focus to my satisfaction. This separate focus-control is among the features of the Canon EOS 7D.

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White balance—Two Examples.

The other day was bright, but overcast, leading a color temperature quandary. Should I set the white balance to ‘auto’ or something else.

Working with my 10-year old Canon EOS 7D with 20 year old 100-400mm zoom, I made a series of photos of Conway Scenic’s 930am train at Conway, New Hampshire as it prepared for its return run to North Conway.

Significantly, I altered the white balance setting between these two images. For the first: the zoom was set at 170mm, and the white balance was at ‘auto white balance’; in the second image the zoom was set to 180mm, and the white balance was manually adjusted to ‘overcast’ which warms the scene.

Auto white balance.
Overcast white balance.

Both images are scaled for internet presentation from in-camera JPG without adjustments to color temperature, color balance, exposure, contrast or saturation.

Someone may ask which white balance setting is ‘true’, and unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. Each of us sees color slightly differently and our brains provide an automatic white balance. There is no one right answer, only an approximate compromise.

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Boston & Maine Silhouette.

June 15, 1985 was a memorable day.

It dawned clear and bright.

On the advice of Ed Beaudette My pal TSH and I started the day at White River Junction, Vermont, where we spent several hours photographing the parade of trains.

By midday, Boston & Maine’s CPED was headed south toward East Deerfield, Massachusetts and we followed it to make photos.

The sights and sounds of four Boston & Maine GP9s working in multiple will always stick with me.

At the time we weren’t well versed with the lay of the land, and did our best to follow the Connecticut River line with little more than a basic map.

At Claremont, New Hampshire we stumbled upon the famous high bridge, just moments before the southward CPED rolled across.

Working with my father’s Rollei Model T loaded with 120-size Kodak Verichrome Pan roll film, I exposed a single frame of the freight in silhouette crossing the bridge.

I processed this in Kodak D76. My processing skills were only slightly better than my ability to find locations on the fly. In retrospect, I should have used a different developer, or at least used a more dilute solution, because my resulting negative was over developed and lacking in broad tonality.

In later years, I refined my photographic skill, however I can’t go back to catch four B&M GP9s on the bridge, so I have to work with the existing negative.

For presentation here: after scanning the original negative, I imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom, where I implemented a variety of contrast and exposure adjustments to make for a more visually pleasing image and then outputted a scaled lo-res scan for internet presentation here.

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Seaboard System 1984

Seaboard System was a short-lived grouping of Seaboard Coast Line and affiliated properties that superseded the ‘Family Lines’ name prior to the amalgamation of these railroads into CSX Transportation.

In December 1984, I exposed this view of Seaboard System GE diesels switching south of downtown Orlando, Florida on the former Atlantic Coast Line main line.

Ilford FP4 black & white film exposed with a Leica 3A. Film processed in Kodak D76.

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Union Pacific at 3rd Street in West Oakland, California.

Here’s a gem from my black & white archive.

Working with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens, I exposed this image on 35mm Kodak Tri-X black & white film. I processed this in Edwall FG7, which allowed for richer tonality than D76 (my more typical developer of the time).

In April 1991, this was a common scene in West Oakland, California, before Union Pacific bought Southern Pacific, the railroad accessed the region via the former Western Pacific. WP route reached the Oakland yards via street trackage on 3rd Street (which ran parallel to SP’s street trackage on Embarcedero via Jack London Square, two blocks to the south).

It was the era before ditch lights were common equipment on UP locomotives. This freight is westbound.

When I revisited Oakland in 2008, I found little trace of the 3rd street trackage, with all moves now concentrated on the former SP line through Jack London Sq.

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Severn Valley at Bewdley

In 2004, I paid a visit to the Severn Valley Railway while photographing for a calendar on British Steam Railways.

Of the preserved railways in the UK, the Severn Valley is among my favorites and one of the most photogenic.

Finding this slide in my collection reminded me that I’m long overdue for another visit.

I made this photo of Erlestoke Manor leading a southward train toward Kidderminster using a Nikon loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide film.

To make the most of this vintage slide, I made a multiple-pass scan with a Nikon Super Cooolscan500 slide scanner powered by VueScan software then imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom where I adjusted contrast, color balance, color temperature, saturation and the exposure of the sky.

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