About briansolomon1

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.

Alco Diesels at Emporium, Pennsylvania.

Experiments with a Digital Camera.

On the afternoon of February 6, 2010, Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I were photographing along the former Pennsylvania Railroad at Emporium, Pennsylvania. This route is operated by the Western New York & Pennsylvania, a short line famous for its late-era use of Alco Century diesels.

I was primarily photographing on Fujichrome using my pair of Canon EOS-3, however, I was experimenting with my relatively recently acquired Panasonic Lumix LX3.

Western New York & Pennsylvania’s westward Driftwood Turn (the ‘DFT’) was switching near a grade crossing in nice winter sun. This gave me ample opportunity to try various modes with the Lumix, so I varied the aspect ratio (the parameters of the frame) and sampled various built-in color profiles.

Lumix LX3 set at 16:9 aspect ratio with standard color profile.

Lumix LX3 set at 16:9 aspect ratio with standard color profile.

Lumix LX-3 using 16:9 aspect ratio in the vertical.

Lumix LX3 using 16:9 aspect ratio in the vertical. An annoying wire has interfered with my composition!

Here I selected the 4:3 aspect ratio which maximizes the use of the sensor. I selected the 'Natural' color profile which is slightly less saturated than 'Standard'.

Here I selected the 4:3 aspect ratio which maximizes the use of the sensor. I selected the ‘Natural’ color profile which is slightly less saturated than ‘Standard’.

I wanted to see how the digital camera would cope with extreme backlighting and flare.

I wanted to see how the digital camera would cope with extreme backlighting and flare.

I like the sunburst effect but I was disappointed by the lack of highlight detail. I found that the Lumix couldn't match the dynamic range of Fujichrome, which limits its ability to capture high contrast situations. My LX-7 has an 'HDR' feature that partially overcomes this problem, but is only useful for static situations (topic for another post).

I like the sunburst effect but I was disappointed by the lack of highlight detail. I found that the Lumix couldn’t match the dynamic range of Fujichrome, which limits its ability to capture high contrast situations. My LX-7 has an ‘HDR’ feature that partially overcomes this problem, but is only useful for static situations (topic for another post). 16:9 aspect ratio; ‘Standard’ color profile.

I was curious to see how the camera handled backlighting and flare, so I made a few cross-lit silhouettes to push the limits of exposure. These are a few of my results. The files are unaltered except for scaling for internet display. I haven’t adjusted color or exposure in post processing, nor have I cropped them.

As regular readers of Tracking the Light are aware, since that time, I’ve made great use of the LX3. I wore it out, and a few months ago I replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, which is an even better camera.

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Tomorrow: LX3 versus LX7!

 

Daily Post: Southern Pacific 4449 at Redding, California.

On Assignment with Southern Pacific, Part 2.

August 31, 1991. I’ll put this in the ‘forgotten images’ category! I remember the trip, I remember the day, but until I scanned it, I’d completely forgotten that I’d made this photo on black & white film.

SP Daylight 4449 crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

SP Daylight 4449 crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

As I’ve describe in my previous post, Daylight Beauty at Hooker Creek. Southern Pacific had organized the streamlined engine to make a public appearances in the Sacramento River Canyon as a goodwill gesture following a serious derailment at the Cantara Loop (which spilled toxins into the river above Dunsmuir), and the railroad had hired me for two days to make photographs of the PR event. Brian Jennison provided transport, and the two of us spent a long weekend making numerous images of SP 4449 with Daylight train.

 

I exposed this image on the first day of excursions using my Leica M2 with 50mm lens. I’ve published many of the color slides I exposed from the same trip, including views I made on Kodachrome with my Nikon F3T at this bridge.

 

Some can be found in my book The American Steam Locomotive published by MBI in 1998, Steam Power published by Voyageur Press in 2009. Also, Audio Visual Designs used my photo of SP 4449 at Redding on a picture postcard back in the 1990s.

 

Finding this picture was a pleasant surprise. Compared with earlier years, I have relatively few black & white images from the 1990s in California, although I went through a phase where I’d use the Leica loaded B&W during the ‘high light’ when Kodachrome yielded substandard results.

 

In this case, I made the most of the situation by using two cameras and different types of film, I obtained a variety of photos from location. Also, the locomotive repeated the exercise the following day. By then, I’d re-loaded the Leica with Kodachrome 25.

Tight crop on the locomotive from the same b&w negative. SP Daylight 4449 crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

Tight crop on the locomotive from the same b&w negative. SP Daylight 4449
crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

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Tomorrow: Alcos in the snow!

 

 

 

 

Special Post: Happy Birthday Richard Solomon!

Featuring Rare Photos!

Today is my father’s birthday.

Richard has been photographing railways for decades and brought me on many of my earliest railway excursions, including a trip on the Flushing Line in Queens way back in the day.

Richard has worked with Leicas, a Rolleiflex, and a Linhof 4×5 view camera. Today has also a few digital cameras to play with including a Lumix LX7.

Many years ago he gave me my first camera, and after I wrecked that one, he gave me another, and finally a Leica model 3A. I continue to wear them out.

Regular viewers of Tracking the Light will recognize the subjects and locations. Together, Richard and I have years of continuous photographic record of railways in the United States and around the world. His photographs have appeared in many of my books.

Richard in eastern Pennsylvania in October 1964. He's sporting two Leica Ms, including one with 135mm telephoto, and a Rollieflex Model T (Which I wore out, but eventually replaced).

Richard in eastern Pennsylvania in October 1964. He’s sporting two Leica Ms, including one with 135mm telephoto, and a Rollieflex Model T (Which I wore out, but eventually replaced).

Last October my father an I photographed New England Central's southbound freight (Job 610) passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Photo by Brian Solomon

Last October my father an I photographed New England Central’s southbound freight (Job 610) passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Photo by Brian Solomon

Richard goes for a spin at the Railroad Museum of New England. Photo by Brian Solomon with Canon EOS 7D.

Richard goes for a spin at the Railroad Museum of New England. Photo by Brian Solomon with Canon EOS 7D.

A brand new Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Silverliner rolls through North Philadelphia. Richard was panning with his Rolleiflex Model T. He exposed this on Kodacolor negative film, which I scanned using an Epson V600.

A brand new Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Silverliner rolls through North Philadelphia in 1963. Richard was panning with his Rolleiflex Model T. He exposed this on Kodacolor negative film, which I scanned using an Epson V600.

Richard has made good use of his Rolleflex cameras. He bought the first on a trip to Germany in 1960, and used it to expose this classic image of the North Shore Electroliner on the streets of Milwaukee in June 1961. Richard's North Shore photos have been published by David P. Morgan in TRAINS Magazine and by William D. Middleton in his books.

Richard has made good use of his Rolleflex cameras. He bought the first on a trip to Germany in 1960, and used it to expose this classic image of the North Shore Electroliner on the streets of Milwaukee in June 1961. Richard’s North Shore photos have been published by David P. Morgan in TRAINS Magazine and by William D. Middleton in his books.

On August 20, 1960, Richard exposed a Kodachrome slide of this American-style PCC car on the streets of Charleroi, Belgium using a Kodak Retina 3C. See comparison photo below.

On August 20, 1960, Richard exposed a Kodachrome slide of this American-style PCC car on the streets of Charleroi, Belgium using a Kodak Retina 3C. See comparison photos below.

I returned to the same street in Charleroi last month and made similar views of trams. I actually went to almost the same spot as the above photo, but exposed a couple of colour slides, which remain latent. Perhaps at some point I’ll do a ‘now and then’ comparison. (Film and film).

LX7 view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.

LX7 view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.

Canon 7D view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.

Canon 7D view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.

Richard on a recent visit to New Haven, Connecticut. Lumix LX3 photo.

Richard on a recent visit to New Haven, Connecticut. Lumix LX3 photo.

Happy Birthday Pop!

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EMD F-units in the Minnesota Iron Range

Twenty Years Ago Today.

An A-B-B-A set of General Motors Electro-Motive Division F9 diesels leads a set of empty iron ore jennies at the Kramer Tunnel on September 24, 1994.

Exposed on September 24, 1994 with a Nikormatt FT3 with a Nikkon 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film.

Exposed on September 24, 1994 with a Nikormatt FT3 with a Nikkon 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film.

I’d traveled to the Iron Range with Mike and Tom Danneman. We spent three intensive days making photographs. It was early autumn and the trees were tinged with color. The Dannemans led the way, as it was my first visit to the Range.

We spent just one day photographing LTV Mining, which was one of the last operations in the United States to still routinely assigned four-unit sets of Fs to heavy freight.

A cropped version of this image appears on page 50 of my American Diesel Locomotive, published by MBI in 2000.

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Tomorrow: Special Post!

 

Old Budd Cars Don’t Rust

 Bellows Falls, Vermont.

It was the morning of August 28, 2010. My father and I had arrived at Bellows Falls, on our way to St. Albans. It was quiet and nothing was moving on any of the three freight railroads that serve the town.

East of the passenger station there were a few old Budd RDCs stored on former Rutland Railroad sidings. I took a few minutes to made some photos with my Lumix LX3. My father has some nice Kodachrome slides of Boston & Maine and New York Central cars working in the 1960s. I remember riding them out of Boston in the 1970s.

Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

Vestiges of another era at Bellows Falls, Vermont. Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

Vestiges of another era at Bellows Falls, Vermont. Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

New York Central was first to install Budd Rail Diesel Cars in revenue service. They were known as 'Bee Liners.' Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

New York Central was first to install Budd Rail Diesel Cars in revenue service. They were known as ‘Bee Liners.’ Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

One of the benefits of Budd’s Shotwelded stainless steel construction is that the cars won’t rust. Yet, the overgrowth makes for some interesting studies in decay. The cars still reflected the light nicely.

More than 30 years earlier we’d explored these same sidings. Back then there were decayed vestiges of wooden sided boxcars around the place, and considerably few trees.

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Irish Rail’s Nenagh Branch

Roscrea Revisited—August 2014.

I first visited Roscrea in August 1998. Denis McCabe was giving me a tour of rural Irish stations, and we stopped there to intercept the branch passenger train running from Ballybrophy to Limerick.

Back then the train consisted of an 071 diesel, a steam heating van and two ancient looking Cravens carriages. It was a cloudy morning.

Fast forward to August 2014, and Denis and I made a return visit to Roscrea. While I’ve visited this rural station on several occasions in the intervening years, what struck me was how little the station and its environs have changed.

Irish Rail station at Roscrea, County Tipperary in August 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX7. (And yes, I also made a color slide, for the sake of modal consistency and archival longevity.)

Irish Rail station at Roscrea, County Tipperary in August 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX7. (And yes, I also made a color slide, for the sake of modal consistency and archival longevity.)

The old signal cabin is still open and active; the mechanical semaphores remain as I remember them, the station building seems unchanged. Compared to many of the station I visited in 1998, this is one of the few that still looks the same. The Celtic Tiger years didn’t result in unnecessary uglification—er, I mean improvement—to Roscrea.

In 2004, Irish Rail replaced the traditional locomotive-hauled steam-heated Cravens with a more modern railcar. Today 2800-series railcars in the latest green and silver paint work the Nenagh Branch. Exposed with a Canon EOS-7D.

In 2004, Irish Rail replaced the traditional locomotive-hauled steam-heated Cravens with a more modern railcar. Today 2800-series railcars in the latest green and silver paint work the Nenagh Branch. Exposed with a Canon EOS-7D with 100mm lens.

Exposed with Lumix LX7.

Exposed with Lumix LX7.

On the downside, you must know where the station is in the village. I don’t think there was any sign off the Motorway or in the town itself giving any hint of an active railway station there. It’s a real pity too. The Nenagh Branch is one of those throwbacks to another age. Unsung, unloved, and largely ignored, it soldiers on in a world that time forgot.

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Tomorrow: Old Budd Cars Never Rust.

 

Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset

Empties Climbing Away from the River Blackwater at Corbane.

In August 2014, Denis McCabe and I continued our on-going exploration of the Bord na Mona (Irish Peat Board) narrow gauge railway network. (see: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013, and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train, among other previous posts).

We followed a pair of empties from Shannonbridge, eastward toward Ferbane. Access is limited, owing to the nature of the bogs. Toward the end of the day, we set up at the N62 highway overpass, where the Bord na Mona’s line climbs away from the River Blackwater.

Bord na Mona's three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

My challenge was making the most of the backlit scene. The sun was setting almost immediately behind the train. I opted for my 200mm lens in order to compress the perspective, eliminate the sky, and minimize the effects of flare. I positioned myself near post on the side of the road to help shade the front element of my lens.

Here the effects of backlighting combined with the long telephoto lens make for a cinematic look; the exhaust of the locomotive is more pronounced, the wavy condition of the tracks are exaggerated, and the pastoral scene made more impressive.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.

I particularly like the silhouette of the train driver in the cab, which emphasizes the human element.

My only disappointment with the photos is that the following train hadn’t effectively enter the scene. (Often Bord na Mona trains working in pairs follow one right after the other. In this situation, the following train was just around the bend.) But, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to make images with two or more Bord na Mona trains, so I’ll settle for this one of a lone train.

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Special Post: Culture Night 2014 photos posted to my Dublin Page

Check out Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page to see lots of great photos of Dublin’s 2014 Culture Night event.

18th Century the Casino at Marino. This remarkable building is a visual enigma; it seems much larger on the inside than it does on the outside. Lumix LX7.

18th Century the Casino at Marino. This remarkable building is a visual enigma; it seems much larger on the inside than it does on the outside. Lumix LX7.

The Casino at Marino exudes 18th century elegance. Lumix LX7 photo.

The Casino at Marino exudes 18th century elegance. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Dublin's Writers Museum on Parnell Square.

Dublin’s Writers Museum on Parnell Square.

Click on Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page for photos of Dublin’s 2014 Culture Night event!

Tracking the Light posts new photographs every day!

American River Canyon in October Snow.

Union Pacific on Donner Pass; Standing in Steinheimer’s Footsteps.

Among my favorite locations in California is the spectacular overlook at ‘American’ or ‘Old Gorge’ (if you have a really old time-table) located on the former Southern Pacific crossing of Donner Pass east of Alta.

Here the railroad crawls out on ledge high above the waters of the American River. It’s a on sustained 2.2 percent grade, so eastward trains are in full throttle which makes for sublime sound show.

I was in position on an overcast afternoon, October 30, 2003. The American River Canyon was filled with a thick fog. To the west I could hear traditional EMD 16-645E3 diesels roaring in Run-8. That meant SD40-2s. Real locomotives.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with I processed by hand in San Francisco. After initial processing I toned the negatives in a selenium solution mix 1:9 with water for 9 minutes, 1 minute agitation (in a well-ventilated area).

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X which I processed by hand in San Francisco. After initial processing I toned the negatives in a selenium solution mix 1:9 with water for 9 minutes, 1 minute agitation (in a well-ventilated area).

As the train approached, the atmospheric pressure changed and the fog rose out of the canyon and enveloped me. Although it was only the day before Halloween, all of sudden it began snowing furiously. Visibility dropped to nil, and the roar of the eastward freight grew intense.

Working with my Rolleiflex Model T loaded with Kodak Tri-X, I exposed a series of images. It was a memorable moment on Donner.

 

Union Pacific SD40-2s emerge from the fog and snow at ‘American’ on their ascent of Donner Pass.

Union Pacific SD40-2s emerge from the fog and snow at ‘American’ on their ascent of Donner Pass.

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Tomorrow: Irish Narrow Gauge Sunset.

 

In the Shadow of Tuscarora Mountain.

Working with November Light.

Norfolk Southern eastbound near Mexico, Pennsylvania with a former Conrail General Electric DASH8-40CW in the lead.

Norfolk Southern eastbound near Mexico, Pennsylvania with a former Conrail General Electric DASH8-40CW in the lead.

The former Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division is one of the busiest freight routes in the eastern United States. On November 5, 2001, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon on Middle Division photographing Norfolk Southern freights.

The combination of pastoral Pennsylvania scenery, low November sun, and steady parade of freights made for lots of opportunity to make interesting railway images.

I’m always looking for a new angle. Here I worked with light and shade to sculpt scenes that captured the character of the place as well as the trains passing through it. I exposed these images using my Nikon F3 with Fuji Provia 100F.

Piggyback trailers roll toward the Tuscarora Mountain on their eastward journey along the Juniata River Valley.

Piggyback trailers roll toward Tuscarora Mountain on their eastward journey along the Juniata River Valley.

USGS topo map showing Mexico and Tuscarora, Pennsylvania.

USGS topo map showing Mexico and Tuscarora, Pennsylvania. I made my photos near the Olive Branch School, across the Juniata from Mexico.

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Tomorrow: Snow on Donner Pass in October!

 

Special Post: Thursday September 18, 2014: Irish Rail 215 works Mark4 set.

New Photos!

Last week I posted photos of freshly painted Irish Rail class 201 number 215 working the IWT liner. Today, it worked to Cork and back. I photographed it a little while ago passing Islandbridge Junction.

Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork. I panned this using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/40th of a second at f10, ISO 100. 12:45pm on September 18, 2014.

Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork. I panned this using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/40th of a second at f10, ISO 100. 12:45pm on September 18, 2014.

Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork, seen approaching Heuston Station in Dublin at 12:45pm on September 18, 2014. Lumix LX-7 ISO 80, f3.5 1/500th second.

Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork, seen approaching Heuston Station in Dublin at 12:45pm on September 18, 2014. Lumix LX-7 ISO 80, f3.5 1/500th second.

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Irish Rail: Action on the Quad Track at Clondalkin.

September 1, 2014.

Irish Rail’s only four track mainline transits the west Dublin suburbs. This was built toward the tail-end of the Celtic Tiger boom years. Rail traffic flows in fits and starts, but midday on week days can result in some interesting action.

Irish_Rail_Mark4_at_Clondalkin_IMG_8545

Irish Rail 229 leads IWT liner.

Irish Rail 229 leads IWT liner.

Irish_Rail_rail_trucks_at_Clondalkin_MOD1_IMG_8572

The prize this day was catching Irish Rail’s General Motors-built 071 class locomotive 079 hauling the elusive per-way ‘Rail trucks’ (rail train) on its run from Platin (on the Navan Branch) to the per-way depot in Portlaoise.

I worked with my Canon EOS 7D, which handles the cloudy bright lighting conditions admirably.

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Tomorrow: November Light along the Juniata River.

 

Nederlandse Spoorwegen and a Gap in the Sky.

Finding the Light and the Rain

I saw an opening in the sky to west. So I made my way to the nearest set of tracks. The Netherlands is criss-crossed with busy electrified lines. And this mainline near Tilburg looked promising, if not sublimely scenic.

Over the course of a about half an hour, the light became steadily more dramatic. With low sun setting over the North Sea to the west, illuminating a thin deck of clouds. All the while it was raining lightly.

NS emu sunset_Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS emu sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS line at  sunset_Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS line at sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS Spinter sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS Spinter sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS signals at sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

NS signals at sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen at Den Bosch

A Look at the the Other ‘NS.”

Fish with man-legs, scenes of torment and pleasure gardens, along with medieval apocalyptic visions were among the topics painted by Jheronimus van Aken aka Hieronymus Bosch who hailed from the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or ‘Den Bosch.’

This is a city of narrow canals, winding cobblestone streets, traditional market squares, surrounded by post World War II ‘Lego-block’ sprawl.

Market square Den Bosch in August 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Market square Den Bosch in August 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

The railway station is an unusual blend of an 1896-built iron and glass train-shed with modern facilities.

My visit to the station was brief. I explored for about half and hour, making a variety of images. I was surprised by the arrival of one of NS’s older Hondekop ‘dog face’ EMUs. I’d photographed some of these ancient units back in the 1990s and didn’t realize that any remained in traffic.

The old shed dates from 1896. Lumix LX7.

The old shed dates from 1896. Lumix LX7.

NS operates an interesting variety of distinctive equipment. There's no mistaking these Dutch trains for those in other countries. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

NS operates an interesting variety of distinctive equipment. There’s no mistaking these Dutch trains for those in other countries. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

I found the shed to be very photogenic. I made this study from a modern mezzanine using my Lumix LX7.

I found the shed to be very photogenic. I made this study from a modern mezzanine using my Lumix LX7.

Blast from the past! One of the older 'dog nose' electric multiple units.

Blast from the past! One of the older ‘dog nose’ electric multiple units.

Den Bosch station with a decorative lion. Exposed from an escalator using my Lumix LX7.

Den Bosch station with a decorative lion. Exposed from an escalator using my Lumix LX7.

An express train passes on a middle track with an electric locomotive shoving at the back.

An express train passes on a middle track with an electric locomotive shoving at the back.

As across most of the Netherlands, passenger trains operate on regular interval frequencies (typically every half hour) to most major points.

The station was remarkably clean, and despite the dull light, made for an interesting place to photograph.

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Check my Dublin Page!

Recent Photos Added.

Panning the pedestrians crossing Abbey Street, Dublin.

Panning the pedestrians crossing Abbey Street, Dublin. September 2014.

See: Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page 

This features September in Dublin, including moody images of O’Connell Street, Abbey Street and etc.

 

Big Viaduct at Mineral Point, Pennsylvania.

September 5, 1997.

Among the iconic locations on the former Pennsylvania Railroad ‘West Slope’ (west of the summit at Gallitzin) is a massive curved stone-arch bridge near Mineral Point, known as ‘The Big Viaduct.’

In the early hours of September 5, 1997, Mike Gardner and I drove down a heavily brushed in road that had once been the right of way of a Johnstown Traction Company’s electric line.

Mike was dubious when I urged further forward progress into the inky gloom and thick bushes. It seemed like an adventure into the rain forest.

We arrived at on overlook near the famous bridge just as the first hints of daylight colored the sky. A thick fog covered the ground, but the fuzzy twinkling spots above told us that it would be a clear morning.

In the distance, I could hear Electro-Motive diesels whining in dynamic as they approached with a westward Conrail freight. Despite the fog and gloom, I set up my Bogen tripod, attached my N90s with 24 mm lens, and when the train passed, made a series of long exposures with Fujichrome Provia 100F.

A Conrail freight growls downgrade across the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with a Nikon N90s with 24mm lens. Time exposure: about 8 seconds with camera on tripod.

A Conrail freight growls downgrade across the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with a Nikon N90s with 24mm lens. Time exposure: about 8 seconds with camera on tripod.

Soon the sun crawled above the hillsides and began to burn off the fog, Conrail ran a procession of trains, mostly westbound. Later in the morning when a clear blue dome prevailed I relocated trackside to make a view of an eastward freight climbing across the bridge.

A westward Conrail freight emerges from the fog near the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Kodachrome 200 using a Nikon F3T with 80-200 zoom lens.

A westward Conrail freight emerges from the fog near the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Kodachrome 200 using a Nikon F3T with 80-200 zoom lens.

Conrail 6180 east at Big Viaduct Mineral Point PA September 5, 1997. Nikon N90S with 28mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100F slide film.

Conrail 6180 east at Big Viaduct Mineral Point PA September 5, 1997. Nikon N90S with 28mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100F slide film.

It is mornings like that one, 17 years ago, that make me wish I was right now trackside in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and not thousands of miles away in front of a computer, writing about the experience.

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Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse, Toronto

May 1985

Looking down from the CN Tower on Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto.

Looking down from the CN Tower on Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto.

I exposed this vertigo inducing view from the sky-reaching CN Tower using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar and Kodachrome 64.

It was a glorious clear morning and I was visiting Toronto for the first time. After the tower, I wandered around on the ground making a few select images.

While the nearby Canadian Pacific roundhouse at John Street survives as a museum, CN’s Spadina Street was demolished a year after my visit, and almost everything in this view has been erased from the scene.

Looking down from the CN Tower on Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto.

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Tomorrow: Mineral Point, Pennsylvania.

 

Special Post: Irish Rail EM50 at Islandbridge Junction

Inspection Car on the Move—September 12, 2014

Irish Rail’s track geometry car followed today’s Dublin to Ballina IWT Liner.

This unusual piece of maintenance equipment is among the more elusive subjects on the Irish network. I was surprised to see it when I peered over the wall on the St John’s Road this morning.

Irish_Rail 218 leads Friday's IWT liner with EM50 on Platform 10. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.

Irish_Rail 218 leads Friday’s IWT liner with EM50 on Platform 10. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.

Irish_EM50_at_Islandbridge_Junction_IMG_8688

Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. Friday September 12, 2014.

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Rotterdam Metro

August 2014.

On my short spin on the Rotterdam Metro I made these photos with my Lumix LX7.

Rotterdam Metro at Wilhelminaplein. Lumix LX7 photo.

Rotterdam Metro at Wilhelminaplein. Lumix LX7 photo.

Rotterdam Metro at Centraal Station.

Rotterdam Metro at Centraal Station.

Rotterdam Metro Centraal Station.

Rotterdam Metro Centraal Station.

Rotterdam_Metro_Centraal_Station_map_P1060081

It’s amazing how well digital cameras perform when photographing in the difficult lighting of subterranean railways.

This was just brief glimpse of a railway that hereto I was only vaguely aware. Perhaps there will be another opportunity further exploration on another visit.

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Special Post: More views of Irish Rail 215

Sunlight and a Clean Locomotive.

As a follow up to yesterday’s special post, I’ve included a few more photos. Since Monday, Irish Rail’s freshly painted class 201 number 215 has been working the IWT Liner between Dublin and Ballina, Country Mayo.

Wednesday's IWT Liner passes Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station, Dublin. Thin cloud diffused the sun. Lumix LX7 photo.

Wednesday’s (September 10, 2014)  IWT Liner passes Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station, Dublin. Thin cloud diffused the sun. Lumix LX7 photo.

Today's (September 11, 2014) Ballina to Dublin IWT near Clodalkin-Fonthill Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

Today’s (September 11, 2014) Ballina to Dublin IWT near Clodalkin-Fonthill Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Rotterdam Centraal Station

New Railway Station for Modern Metropolis.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Opened earlier this year. Rotterdam Centraal doesn’t look like any other railway station on the outside. (Although on the inside it reminded me of the entrance hall at Warsaw Central.)

Like much of Rotterdam’s modern architecture it’s hard to ignore! Photographically I found it fascinating. On another trip, I’ll bring a tripod for some extended night exposures.

Beneath the shed beyond the station building, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (loosely translated as ‘Dutch Railways’) trains connect most major destinations in the Netherlands, as well as through trains to Belgium and France, including Thalys high-speed services. Some 100,000 passengers use the station daily.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Train to the 'Hook of Holland'.

Train to the ‘Hook of Holland’.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

In the fading dull light with a North Sea sky; Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

In the fading dull light with a North Sea sky; Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Check out: http://en.rotterdam.info/visitors/places-to-go/practical/5076/rotterdam-centraal/

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Tomorrow: a peak below ground.

 

Special Post: Irish Rail 215 in Fresh Paint

Clouds then Sun.

Sometimes when your mind is pre-occupied with the problems of the world, the best medicine is go trackside and focus on something trivial (like hoping for sun light on a freshly painted locomotive).

Yesterday (September 9, 2014), I was poised for photography at an over-bridge near Lucan South in the Dublin suburbs. Colm O’Callaghan, Noel Enright, John Cleary and I were anxiously waiting for Irish Rail’s Up-IWT liner led by class 201 diesel number 215 (which had made its first trip in fresh paint the day before and was on its return run).

Although it was a dry bright day, a group of fair weather clouds were loitering in the sky between us and the sun . At one point all four of us were staring skyward hoping the cloud would move.

Irish Rail's Mark4 from Cork on September 9, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f3.5 ISO 200.

Irish Rail’s Mark4 from Cork on September 9, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f3.5 ISO 200.

Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.

Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.

The Cork-Dublin passenger passed in cloudy light; but the Inter City Railcar behind it was blessed with sun. But then clouds returned. I fussed with my light meter.

As the freight approached, the clouds parted and the sun-light seemed to roll across the landscape.

I fired off a burst of digital images using my Canon EOS 7D, followed by a couple of Fujichrome Provia 100F colour slides with my EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens.

 Fresh out of the paint shop: Irish Rail 215 leads the Ballina to Dublin IWT liner. This is the first 201 class diesel on the road to wear the new Irish Rail logo (on the side of the engine). Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.


Fresh out of the paint shop: Irish Rail 215 leads the Ballina to Dublin IWT liner. This is the first 201 class diesel on the road to wear the new Irish Rail logo (on the side of the engine). Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.

If there was one problem with the last burst of sunlight it was that I may have overexposed my slides by 1/3 of stop. But I won’t know until I have the film processed in a few weeks time.

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City of the Future: Rotterdam

August 2014.

Terminus of Rotterdam's number 7 tram near the very Dutch sounding Tulip Inn. Lumix LX7 photo

Terminus of Rotterdam‘s number 7 tram near the very Dutch sounding Tulip Inn. Lumix LX7 photo

I visited Rotterdam for an afternoon and evening. This is considered The Netherland’s architechtural capital and certainly features a wide variety of unusual modern buildings.

Rotterdam had been left in ruins after the Second World War, and over the last seven decades has been rebuilt in a style unlike any place else I’ve even seen. For me, its next closest cousin is Toyko, and that’s a bit of a stretch.

Lego-land on steroids! Lumix LX7 photo.

Lego-land on steroids!
Lumix LX7 photo.

The famed Cube House, which allows you to wander into an Escher-like setting. Lumix LX7 photo

The famed Cube House, which allows you to wander into an Escher-like setting. Lumix LX7 photo

RET train passing below the Cube House. Lumix LX7 photo

RET train passing below the Cube House. Lumix LX7 photo

A burst of sun illuminates at tram paused at a waterfront station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A burst of sun illuminates at tram paused at a waterfront station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Trams with skyscrapers, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo

Trams with skyscrapers, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo

What better way to see a city? Rotterdams trams are clean and feature large windows. Lumix LX7 photo

What better way to see a city? Rotterdams trams are clean and feature large windows. Lumix LX7 photo

The city has an excellent modern tram system, a stunning underground metro, and world-class railway connections.

The city revolves around the port, is one of the busiest in Europe, and a central focus of much of the water-front architecture.

I found it an intriguing place to make photographs. My regret was that my visit was so short. My three cameras were kept busy through my wanderings.

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam.

Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam.

Containers outbound at Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.

Containers outbound at Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tram pan in central Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tram pan in central Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.

RET number 8 tram.

RET number 8 tram.

Number 7 tram terminus.

Number 7 tram terminus.

Tomorrow! Rotterdam Centraal—one of Europe’s newest stations.

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A Big Topic!

But What’s the Subject?

Transportation; Railroads; Railways; Railway Photography, that’s what I photograph. Right?

But what’s the actual subject? What should I focus on? More to the point; what is interesting? And, is today’s interesting subject going to be interesting tomorrow?

Looking back is one way to look forward.

Yet, there lies a paradox: When I look back over my older photos, I regret not having better skills to have consistently made more interesting and more varied images. And also, for not being more aware of what was interesting.

Conrail at signals 81.81 near Palmer, Massachusetts c1983.  What was my subject? (If you know me, you'll know the answer—hint it's not the westward freight train!). Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

Conrail at signals 81.81 near Palmer, Massachusetts c1983. What was my subject? (If you know me, you’ll know the answer—hint it’s not the westward freight train!). Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

The lesson is then is about skill: learn to vary technique, adopt new approaches and continually refine the process of making photos while searching for interesting subjects. (The searching is the fun part!)

A truly successful image is one that transcends the subject and captures the attention of the audience.

So, is railway photography really about the subject?

Should all railway photos be serious? Seriously?  Waukesha, Wisconsin, back in the day.

Should all railway photos be serious? Seriously?
Waukesha, Wisconsin, back in the day.

Are railroads all about locomotives?

Are railroads all about locomotives? Here’s a real stack train that looks like a model.

I was standing next to Jim Shaughnessy for this one! Surely that makes it a better photo, right? October 2004, Cuttingsville, Vermont.

I was standing next to Jim Shaughnessy for this one! Surely that makes it a better photo, right? October 2004, Cuttingsville, Vermont.

Sometimes, it helps to get up close and check for details.

Sometimes it helps to get up close and check for details.

Can you get too close? Ektachrome 100VS with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 24mm lens.

Can you get too close? Ektachrome 100VS with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 24mm lens.

Do old Alcos make better subjects? Slateford Junction at the Delaware Water Gap, September 17, 2007.

Do old Alcos make better subjects? Slateford Junction at the Delaware Water Gap, September 17, 2007.

Lonely tracks at Eagle, Wisconsin c1996. I waited, but the train didn't show up.

Lonely tracks at Eagle, Wisconsin c1996. I waited, but the train didn’t show up.

Fill the frame, don't waste space, more train, that's what its all about, always! Right??

Fill the frame, don’t waste space, more train, that’s what its all about, always! Right??

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Santa Fe on Alhambra Viaduct

Martinez, California—September 1990.

When I was exploring Santa Fe’s Bay Area operations in the early 1990s, the railroad tended to operate a fleet of westward trains to its Richmond, California yards in the afternoon and early evening.

One afternoon, Brian Jennison and I had set up at the Alhambra Viaduct near Martinez. This was a relatively scenic portion of the line, but beginning to get hemmed in by suburban growth.

We knew that the 899 was on its way. This was a short high-priority piggy back train. The real prize of the day was the premier 199, which often had new ‘Super Fleet’ locomotives wearing the reintroduced Warbonnet paint scheme. But we wanted to make the most of the short train as we had time to make different photos of both trains.

To make the most of Santa Fe’s ‘shorty’ 899, I climbed atop the tunnel west of the bridge, and set up this view using my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens. The light was classic California blue skies with soft autumnal haze that favored Kodachrome 25. My exposure was f5.6 1/250th of second.

To make the most of Santa Fe’s ‘shorty’ 899, I climbed atop the tunnel west of the bridge, and set up this view using my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens. The light was classic California blue skies with soft autumnal haze that favored Kodachrome 25. My exposure was f5.6 1/250th of second.

This view minimized the suburban sprawl on both sides of the bridge, along with high tension lines in the valley, while putting the steel viaduct in a good perspective. Was it really 24 years ago?

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CSX at Utica, New York

July 21, 2004.

I spent this hot hazy afternoon east of the passenger station at Utica, New York watching and photographing trains on the old New York Central Water Level Route.

Utica was unusual because it retained a variety of its New York Central-era structures on a route largely denuded of traditional railroad buildings.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with f2.8 180mm lens.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with f2.8 180mm lens.

I made a point of include old Tower 30, which had still had Conrail sticker on its door. Without the tower in the picture, CSX AC6000CW 611 could be just about anywhere.

This is just one frame in a sequence. I think a previous image, with 611 slightly further back in the frame might be a more effective photo.

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Modern Trams in an Historic City

Similar to Dublin’s LUAS.

A modern Alstom Citadis tram glides across cobblestone streets in Reims, France in August 2014. Lumix LX7 photo. Notice the ground-level power suppply.

A modern Alstom Citadis tram glides across cobblestone streets in Reims, France in August 2014. Lumix LX7 photo. Notice the ground-level power supply.

In August, I made a brief visit to Reims in northeastern France. This city is steeped in history and now boasts one of Europe’s newest tram networks, which opened in Spring 2011.

Reims cathedral. Lumix LX7 photo.

Reims cathedral. Lumix LX7 photo.

Trams pass in Reims. Lumix LX7 photo.

Trams pass in Reims. Lumix LX7 photo.

Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Operated by Veolia Trandev, this system covers just 11.2 kilometers (just under seven miles). Like Dublin’s LUAS it uses modern Alstom Citadis trams. These have a distinctive styling variation with front sections designed to mimic the shape of a champagne flute—which pays homage to Reims’ role as ‘capital of the champagne region’

The trams make the same ‘bong bong’ warning sounds as they navigate city streets.

Interestingly, the relatively small tram fleet are dressed in eight different colours.

One of the most innovative elements of the Reims system is its application of a modern ground level power supply that is used through the historic city center to avoid unsightly wires.

In my few hours wandering Reims, I made just a handful of digital photos plus a couple of colour slides.

Eight different colours decorate Reims trams. Lumix LX7 photo.

Eight different colours decorate Reims trams. Lumix LX7 photo.

Vestiges of Reims original narrow gauge tram system remain. The modern system is standard gauge. Lumix LX7 photo.

Vestiges of Reims original narrow gauge tram system remain. The modern system is standard gauge. Lumix LX7 photo.

A Roman arch tells of Reims history. Augustus was here. Lumix LX7 photo.

A Roman arch tells of Reims history. Augustus was here. Lumix LX7 photo.

Near the Roman arch the trams change power supply, going from ground level to overhead wires. Lumix LX7 photo.

Near the Roman arch the trams change power supply, going from ground level to overhead wires. Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

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Verdun

The Great War.

In August 2014, I visited the battle-sites and grave yards around Verdun in northeastern France. These were the sites of some of the most intense fighting during the Great War.

I exposed these photographs.

Argonne Battle site

Argonne Battle site

Argonne Battle site near Verdun

Argonne Battle site near Verdun

Mort Homme monument

Mort Homme monument

Mort Homme monument

Mort Homme monument

Mort Homme monument

Mort Homme monument

Trenches at Mort Homme monument

Trenches at Mort Homme monument

Argonne_Battle_site_sign_P1050649

Douaumont

Douaumont

Douaumont

Douaumont

Douaumont

Douaumont

Douaumont

Douaumont

Site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Narrow gauge tracks at the site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Narrow gauge tracks at the site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Narrow gauge tracks at the site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

Narrow gauge tracks at the site of Bezonvaux village—destroyed in the war.

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Verdun_Le_Mort_Homme_forest_P1050690

 

Tracking the Light Special Post— RPSI 461 on the way to Limerick

—11:53am September 4, 2014.

RPSI_461_at_Islandbridge_Junction_vert_IMG_8606

RPSI 461 at Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland at 11:53 am on September 4, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Just a few minutes ago, Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s 1923-built 2-6-0 461 passed Islandbridge Junction near Dublin’s Heuston Station.

The locomotive is on its way to Limerick.

Nice to see steam on the move in bright daylight!

RPSI 461 at Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland at 11:53 am on September 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

RPSI 461 at Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland at 11:53 am on September 4, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Just a minute later, uniquely painted class 201 diesel 8208 rolled the other way.

Just a minute later, uniquely painted class 201 diesel 8208 rolled the other way.

 

This is a Special Post,

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Skyline View with a Skytop Lounge.

 As Seen from A Chicago Rooftop.

It was June 22, 2004, when Marshall Beecher organized a visit for the two of us to photograph from a rooftop opposite A2 tower in Chicago.

This busy plant is where the former Chicago & North Western line from C&NW station crosses the old Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle/Milwaukee Road route from Union Station.

Our visit was timed to coincide with the passage of Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 261 with a passenger excursions. At the back of the train was one of Milwaukee’s unusual Skytop lounge observation cars.

Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia100 using  a Nikon F3 fitted with 24mm lens. Exposure calculated with a Minolta MarkIV hand-held light meter. A variation of this image appeared in the book Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha authored by John Gruber and me and published by Voyageur Press.

Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia100 using a Nikon F3 fitted with 24mm lens. Exposure calculated with a Minolta MarkIV hand-held light meter. A variation of this image appeared in the book Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha authored by John Gruber and me and published by Voyageur Press.

After the steam excursion was gone, we decided to make the best of the vantage point and spent several hours photographing Metra and Amtrak.

Thanks Marshall!

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Santa Fe Freight Cars on the Roll!

Free Film and a Borrowed Camera.

It was autumn 1986. As a photography student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I’d receive an annual ‘care package’ of new, and sometimes experimental, Kodak products.

At the time I was a loyal Kodak film user, and dedicated to the careful exposure of Kodachrome 25. However, since I was on a shoe-string budget, I was happy to make use of the free roll of ‘Ektachrome du jour’—as we’d call whatever the latest flavor of Ektachrome was being peddled at the time.

Blessed with a rare bright day, and armed with my free roll of film, I wandered around Rochester documenting the railroads and the city. I had K25 in my Leica for the important photos, and loaded the free film into my roommate’s Canon A1 for experimental shots and comparison views.

I exposed this slide of Santa Fe freight cars on a westward Conrail freight with the Canon and 50mm lens. I panned using a 1/30th of second to convey a sense of motion.

I exposed this slide of Santa Fe freight cars on a westward Conrail freight using the Canon A1 fitted with a 50mm lens. I panned using a 1/30th of second to convey a sense of motion.

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All Quiet at CP83

Looking Toward Winter.

As the warmer greener season (some call it ‘summer’) fades, I thought it would be time for a reminder of the colder whiter months coming.

 Canon EOS 7D photo, exposed with a 28-135mm AF lens at f7.0 1/250th of second, ISO 200.


Canon EOS 7D photo, exposed with a 28-135mm AF lens at f7.0 1/250th of second, ISO 200.

On February 8, 2011, I exposed this snowy photo at my all-too-familiar location at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Not a wheel turning but plenty of snow; even the popular Steaming Tender restaurant was closed at that moment.

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Ottignies—13 Minutes to Change Trains

Making the Most of It.

Belgium’s Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges (Belgian National Railways or SNCB) operates a top-notch passenger network with interval frequencies on most routes. This works on a hub and spoke system, where planned changes allow passengers a great variety of destinations.

New EMUs bask in the sun at Ottignies on an August 2014 evening. Lumix LX7 photo with the 'Vivid' colour profile.

New EMUs bask in the sun at Ottignies on an August 2014 evening. Lumix LX7 photo with the ‘Vivid’ colour profile.

On an August 2014 evening, I arrived at Ottignies from Charleroi on my way to La Hulpe in the Brussels suburbs. My journey itinerary gave me 13 minutes to change from one train to another.

Ottignies is an old school station with traditional platforms and canopies. While this can’t last forever, I’ll take its situation as a blessing. Refurbished stations are fine for passenger utility, but offer less in the way visual character.

Since I’d changed here previously, I had a sense for where the light would be.

That’s right! I had precisely 13-minutes to make photographs, and I was prepared to make the most of it! (And yes, I exposed some colour slides too. You know, for the record.)

My Lumix has an HDR (high dynamic range) feature that takes a rapid fire sequence of three images and blends them in camera. This increases highlight and shadow definition and produces more even contrast. The subject(s) need to be static however or the feature doesn't work so well.

My Lumix has an HDR (high dynamic range) feature that takes a rapid fire sequence of three images and blends them in camera. This increases highlight and shadow definition and produces more even contrast. The subject(s) need to be static however or the feature doesn’t work so well.

New sign with old canopies and platforms, a good compromise. An old General Motors powered diesel lurks in the yard beyond. Lumix LX7 photo.

New sign with old canopies and platforms, a good compromise. An old General Motors powered diesel lurks in the yard beyond. Lumix LX7 photo.

Well now this is a bonus. An old SNCB class 55 diesel with a Colas ballast cleaner. Lumix LX7 photo.

Well now this is a bonus. An old SNCB class 55 diesel with a Colas ballast cleaner. Lumix LX7 photo.

Colas is a company with a hand in many businesses. They run trains in the UK too.

Colas is a company with a hand in many businesses. They run trains in the UK too.

This high contrast scene made for a perfect opportunity to test the capabilities of the HDR feature. I think it did a respectable job of holding detail while balancing contrast. Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene mode'.

This high contrast scene made for a perfect opportunity to test the capabilities of the HDR feature. I think it did a respectable job of holding detail while balancing contrast. Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene mode’.

Ottignies is a busy station. As I was focused on the ballast cleaning train, a southward InterCity train arrived. I made a colour slide of it as it glided to a stop then repositioned for this view with my Lumix in HDR 'scene mode'.

Ottignies is a busy station. As I was focused on the ballast cleaning train, a southward InterCity train arrived. I made a colour slide of it as it glided to a stop then repositioned for this view with my Lumix in HDR ‘scene mode’.

I reverted to the Vivid colour profile without the benefit of HDR for this low angle view of this SNCB class 18. This is a Siemens Vectron and the same basic locomotive design that Amtrak is now using on the North East Corridor. Lumix LX7 photo.

I reverted to the Vivid colour profile without the benefit of HDR for this low angle view of this SNCB class 18. This is a Siemens Vectron — the same basic locomotive design that Amtrak is now using on the North East Corridor. Lumix LX7 photo.

My train arrived and I took a seat on the upper deck. This was a contrast from the old single-level electric that I'd traveled on up from Charleroi. I was heading toward Brussels in the rush hour, so I was moving counter flow. Lumix LX7 photo at Ottignies, Belgium.

My train arrived and I took a seat on the upper deck. This was a contrast from the old single-level electric that I’d traveled on up from Charleroi. I was heading toward Brussels in the rush hour, so I was moving counter flow. Lumix LX7 photo at Ottignies, Belgium.

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Take a Ride on the SNCB

Charleroi to La Hulpe.

My time in Charleroi had come to a close. My next destination was La Hulpe in the suburbs south of Brussels. While I anticipated taking an Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges (Belgian National Railways or SNCB) train to Brussels and changing trains there, the ticket seller convinced me to try another option.

“It’s cheaper and faster to travel to Ottignies.” Ok, why not.

When I went up to platform 3A at Charleroi Sud, what appeared to be the oldest train in Belgium rattled in to collect me. I ended up riding a line I previously didn’t even have on my map (this turns out to be line 140).

While the train’s inside was nicely refurbished, it retained openable windows, a rare treat in today’s world of train travel.

No sooner than I boarded the train and the rain began, again. But after a while the sun came out and so I made a series of images using my Lumix LX7, which I was able to hold out the window at arms-length  while keeping a sharp eye on the rear display screen.

Exposed with a Lumix LX7 with built in neutral density filter engaged, 1/3 second at f8, 80 ISO. Handheld with aid of built in image stabilizer. Looking away from the direction of travel.

Exposed with a Lumix LX7 with built in neutral density filter engaged, 1/3 second at f8, 80 ISO. Handheld with aid of built in image stabilizer. Looking away from the direction of travel.

Among the Lumix LX7s features are a built in neutral density filter and image stabilizer. This allowed me to make relatively long exposures in bright daylight while keeping the camera steady.

SNCB’s track is flawless, and the heavy aged train provided a solid, nearly vibration-free ride, allowing me to expose a series photos using long shutter speeds intended to blur the tracks and countryside while keeping the train sharp.

Hooray for old trains on good track!

Exposed for 1/8 second at f8, 80 ISO with neutral density filter. The ND filter cuts the exposure by two full stops, so without it my exposure time would have been about 1/30 of a second. Enough for a bit of blur, but not enough for the appropriate effect.

Exposed for 1/8 second at f8, 80 ISO with neutral density filter. The ND filter cuts the exposure by two full stops, so without it my exposure time would have been about 1/30 of a second. Enough for a bit of blur, but not enough for the appropriate effect.

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Interurban Throwback: Charleroi —Part 2

A Tale of Two Tram Cities.

Sometimes I stumble into the past. Although I was keen to explore Charleroi by tram, I wasn’t expecting the vestige of roadside interurban operation on the long line to Anderlues.

Frequency on this line is only about every half hour, and I nearly gave up on this leg of my journey while waiting for a delayed outbound tram at the dark and dire brown-tile transfer station called Piges in western Charleroi.

Much of the route features modern construction on concrete elevated structures and subway, a creation of the Charleroi Metro. However, once beyond a turn-back station at the end of this infrastructure intensive right of way, trams operate on a vestige of the old Vicinal network (once the operator an extensive system of Belgium’s interurban tram lines).

In Anderlues, the tram uses single track gutter-side street running. All I can say, is this really cool for a modern-day operation. Lumix LX-7 photo.

In Anderlues, the tram uses single track gutter-side street running. Let me just say, is this really cool for a modern-day operation. Lumix LX-7 photo.

This includes side-of-road operation with long sections of single track, passing sidings and brick-lined streets. I was astounded. I checked my calendar, and it confirmed that it really was August 2014, not sometime in the mid-twentieth century.

However, as is too often the case, I was on short-time and only had a few hours to explore this fascinating railway.

A tram takes a corner in Anderlues. Moments later  torrential rains dampened my photography. Lumix LX7 photo.

A tram takes a corner in Anderlues. Moments later torrential rains dampened my photography. Lumix LX7 photo.

Hard rain at Anderlues.

Hard rain at Anderlues.

A tram takes a siding on single track at Anderlues. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A tram takes a siding on single track at Anderlues. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Working single track outbound at Anderlues. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

Working single track outbound at Anderlues. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

This reminds me a bit of my father's photos of Johnstown Traction Company's operations in the 1950s. Lumix LX7.

This reminds me a bit of my father’s photos of Johnstown Traction Company’s operations in the 1950s. Lumix LX7.

Streetside pickup point; an inbound tram pauses for a stop to collect passengers in Anderlues. Lumix LX7.

Streetside pickup point; an inbound tram pauses for a stop to collect passengers in Anderlues. Lumix LX7.

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Tomorrow, take a ride on the SNCB!

 

Charleroi Metro—Part 1

A Tale of Two Tram Cities.

Having explored Manchester’s modern Metrolink tram system, I traveled by heavy-rail directly to Manchester Airport (which will soon enjoy a Metrolink extension as well), and flew via Ryan Air to Charleroi in Belgium.

Charleroi, like Manchester, is a city that once dependant on heavy industry that suffered from industrial declines. Another similarity is Charleroi’s approach toward rail transit. Like Manchester, it had grand plans for a modern tram network.

However, where Manchester’s Metrolink is a shining example of a modern tram system; Charleroi’s ‘pre-metro ‘doesn’t get top marks for progress, but it has moved slowly forward with expansion plans, and was interesting to ride and photograph.

Planning for the Charleroi Metro began in the 1970s, and while construction has been very slow, in the last few years it has finally opened extensions and now operates nearly 22 miles of light rail/pre-metro.

I was unfortunate to arrive at Charleroi too late to properly avail of public transport (of the rubber tired variety) and resorted to a taxi to my hotel in Charleroi Sud. However, I was lucky to have a room in the Ibis Hotel that faced the railway station and looked out on a portion of the tram loop through the city center. This allowed me to get an early start to my photography, despite my late arrival.

Room with a view! I awoke at the Ibis Hotel in Charleroi with a splendid view of the Charleroi Sub station and tram lines. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Room with a view! I awoke on clear August 2014 morning at the Ibis Hotel in Charleroi with a splendid view of the Charleroi Sub station and tram lines. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An inbound TEC tram glides along a shipping canal in Charleroi, Belgium as viewed from my hotel window.  Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An inbound TEC tram glides along a shipping canal in Charleroi, Belgium as viewed from my hotel window. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Tirou Station is one of the few above ground stations on the city center metro loop. No matter where you go, you come back here. LX7 photo.

Tirou Station is one of the few above ground stations on the city center metro loop. No matter where you go, you come back here. LX7 photo.

New terminal at Soleimont, Belgium. This line has just recently opened. Trams run every 10-15 minutes midday. Lumix LX7 photo.

New terminal at Soleimont, Belgium. This line has just recently opened. Trams run every 10-15 minutes midday. Lumix LX7 photo.

In central Charleroi, the trams serve a modern subway. A central loop operates in both directions, which can be a bit disorienting, since trams will use the loop as a balloon, and often you can go in either direction and find yourself back where you started and pointed in the opposite direction.

In central Charleroi, the trams serve a modern subway. A central loop operates in both directions, which can be a bit disorienting, since trams will use the loop as a balloon, and often you can go in either direction and find yourself back where you started and pointed in the opposite direction.

Old trams on display at Beaux Arts metro station. Lumix LX7 photo.

Old trams on display at Beaux Arts metro station. Lumix LX7 photo.

Old trams on display at Beaux Arts metro station. Lumix LX7 photo.

Old trams on display at Beaux Arts metro station. Lumix LX7 photo.

Compared with Manchester Metrolink’s slick very modern trams and stations. Charleroi’s pre-metro reminded me more of contemporary transit efforts I’ve found in the old Eastern Bloc; it is characterized by Spartan boxy-looking trams and cavernous underground stations with vast amounts of poured concrete. Above ground things are brighter.

While functional and enjoyable to ride, it lacks the glitz and polish of many modern tram systems, especially those in France, and on a whole the system seemed a bit rough around the edges (as is the city and its suburbs.) On the plus side many of the stations are decorated with commissioned modern art, which adds a bit of charm.

Yet, photographically, Charleroi offered fascinating contrasts, making it far more interesting to me than I’d though it would be. Definitely worth a return visit someday!

TEC tram interior. Photographed with a Lumix LX7.

TEC tram interior. Photographed with a Lumix LX7.

Artwork at the transit transfer station in Madelein. Lumix LX7 photo.

Artwork at the transit transfer station in Madelein. Lumix LX7 photo.

Artwork at the transit transfer station in Madelein. Lumix LX7 photo.

Artwork at the transit transfer station in Madelein. Lumix LX7 photo.

An extension to the Charleroi suburb of  Gosselies features lots of street running. Lumix LX7 photo.

An extension to the Charleroi suburb of Gosselies features lots of street running. Lumix LX7 photo.

Waterloo Station, Charleroi, Belgium in August 2014.

Waterloo Station, Charleroi, Belgium in August 2014.

I’m saving the best for last: stay tuned tomorrow for street running and a photographic foray on old interurban trackage to Anderlues!

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