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.

Tracking the Light EXTRA: LUAS Cross City Trial Blocked by an automobile on Parnell Street!

This afternoon Mark Healy and I were in the Dublin city centre to observe a LUAS tram trial on new Cross City trackage.

The trial was delayed when the tram was blocked by what appeared to be an illegally parked white Toyota Prius occupying the tracks on Parnell Street.

Lumix LX7 photo showing a white Toyota Prius apparently illegally parked on Parnell Street in Dublin on 19 August 2017.
Lumix LX7 photo showing a white Toyota Prius apparently illegally parked on Parnell Street in Dublin on 19 August 2017.

Eventually the driver of the automobile arrived to remove it from the tracks and the tram resumed testing.

I’ll post more LUAS Cross City  trial photos in the coming days.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts new material daily!

Exploring Repurposed Railway Vestiges in County Down; 8 new photos.

Here’s another instance where I was working with two cameras and two very different photographic media.

My Lumix LX7 is an easy tool to capture images digitally, while the Leica IIIa I carry requires a bit more work and yields a very different result using traditional 35mm black & white film.

Newcastle, County Down is a classic sea-side resort on the Irish Sea at Dundrum Bay.

It’s been many years since the old Belfast & County Down Railway branch line saw activity, yet the station-building survives.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Colour view exposed digitally using a Lumix LX7. Notice how the Lidl logos jump out at you in the colour views.
Flowers work better in colour than in black & white.
A sidelight view of the old station building showing old railway fencing. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

A couple of weeks ago, Honer Travers brought me on a tour of rural County Down and was keen to point out the old Newcastle Station and nearby railway hotel.

Today, the old station has been repurposed to house a Lidl market, while the old railway hotel remains as a resort hotel (sans railway traffic).

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Does this colour view work better?
The automobiles are part of the scene. Lumix LX7 view.
The old station as seen in context with the surrounding buildings and streets.

My intent was to document these historic structures in their present roles.

 

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Lisburn Station in Black & White.

It was raining.

I had the Leica IIIa fitted with a vintage Nikkor f3.5 35mm screw-mount lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

And yes, I had a digital camera with me. Two, really. And I also made some colour views. I’ll tend to cover my bases when at a special location.

Honer Travers and I traveled down from Dublin on the Enterprise, having changed at Portadown to an NIR (Northern Ireland Railways) 4000-series CAF built railcar. Arriving at Lisburn, I paused to make these two black & photos of our train.

Fine grain in the rain. Lisburn station exposed on black & white film.
This a view from the footbridge. Both images were exposed with a Leica fitted with a vintage f3.5 Nikkor 35mm wide-angle lens.

In Dublin, I processed the film using Agfa-mix Rodinal Special (not to be confused for bog-standard Agfa-mix Rodinal) mixed with water 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes.

I like to play with developer to see what I can get with different combinations of chemistry. Agfa Rodinal Special with short development time allows for fine grain and a metallic tonality. While not as rich as Kodak HC110 (dilution B), the grain appears finer with Rodinal Special.

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Enterprise on the Move.

The Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service is a joint effort of NI Railways-Translink and Irish Rail.

I’d bought my tickets on-line from Irish Rail’s website.

It was a rainy weekday at Dublin’s Connolly Station when Honer Travers and I boarded the train for Portadown.

After arrival at Portadown we changed for a NI Railways local train.

I exposed these photographs using my Lumix LX7.

Ticket barriers at Dublin’s Connolly Station, exposed with a Lumix LX7 digital camera.
The Enterprise uses specially appointed equipment dedicated to the service.
First Class features 1 x 2 seating.
My Lumix LX7 is an excellent tool for making interior views of railway carriages.
Drizzly weather on the way north.
Cross-platform transfer at Portadown.
An NI Railways CAF-built 4000-series diesel railcar at Portadown. This was a very well-patronized local train.

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Dusk in the Gullet; Illustration of Digital Sunset in 5 variations.

What? Not another of those InterCity Railcars?!

Yep.

I made these views from the St. John’s Road Roundabout bridge at Killmainham/Islandbridge in Dublin.

The light was fading, the train was shadowed and the situation routine: Irish Rail’s ICR pass this spot dozens of times daily. In fact, these trains rumble up and down all day long.

Unmodified Lumix camera RAW file (except for scaling). I’ve exposed for the sky.

What initially caught my interest was the sunset glow in the north-west sky.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX7, which exposes a RAW file.

After the fact, I made some heavy handed adjustments to exposure, contrast, colour balance and colour saturation to show what is possible with post processing.

Here’s my first adjusted file; working with the RAW I’ve made a variety of alterations.

In addition to enhancing the sky, I lightened the train and cutting while making a variety of localize adjustments, such as to the flowers at lower left.

I’m using the same essential approach that I used to apply to my black & white photography when making prints in the darkroom, except its now done digitally on the computer.

Unmodified camera RAW (scaled as a JPG for internet presentation).
My first modified RAW image (presented as scaled JPG).

The graffiti at lower right is bit of an annoyance. In my final version, I’ve darkened the area around the graffiti to minimize it.

My second modified RAW where I’ve tried to minimize the graffiti under the bridge.

My first modified RAW image (presented as scaled JPG).

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Irish Rail InterCity Railcars pass Islandbridge Junction.

It was a bright morning. I was out for the down IWT Liner (International Warehousing and Transport container train that runs almost daily from Dublin’s Northwall to Ballina, County Mayo).

While I was waiting this Irish Rail ICR (InterCity Railcar) came up road on it approach to Dublin’s Heuston Station.

Sometimes its nice to catch an ordinary train in great morning light.

Lumix LX-7 photo.

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Two Too Many Twos at Connolly?

Sometimes a number catches my attention.

The other day I made two photos of Irish Rail 02 22222 arriving at Connolly Station, Dublin.

If I hadn’t had my Lumix LX7 with me and ready to go, I might have been too late to make this photo. And that would have been too bad.

Irish Rail 02 22222 at platform 5, Dublin’s Connolly Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

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From the Negative File: CSX’s former Boston & Albany.

On July 22, 2017, I made this unusual view of CSX Intermodal train Q012 on the old Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts.

July 22, 2017; CSX at West Warren, Massachusetts, exposed on Kodak Tri-X.

What’s unusual about it?

Not only was it made on Kodak Tri-X black & white film using an 80-year old Leica camera body fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens, but my processing was non-standard.

After a pre-soak with a miniscule amount of developer, I gave the film it’s primary development in Ilford Perceptol stock mixed with water 1-1 for 8 min 30 seconds at 69 F. Following development, stop, fix1, fix2, and thorough rinse, I treated the still wet film in selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 with water for 8 minutes.

The selenium toner gives the negatives a slightly lavender hue while increasing the highlight density to provide a silvery sheen. This involves an ion-exchange with the silver halide in the film which offers a secondary benefit of greater long term stability.

After toning, I re-wash negatives for at least 10 minutes.

For internet presentation here, I scanned the dried negatives on an Epson V750 flatbed scanner at high-resolution TIF files, then imported the files to Lightroom for final adjustment, dust removal and scaling. (My TIF files are far too large to upload on Word Press for internet).

Instead of scanning the negatives in black & white, I scanned them in color which retains the purple tint of the selenium toner for effect.

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Lena, Illinois Follow Up: Mysteries and Questions Resolved.

My twin posts focused on Lena, Illinois drew considerable interest and answers.

Regarding the monster eastward Canadian National freight; the actual number of cars carried on this one train was 280 (plus three leading locomotives and a lone DPU). That’s a real whopper at 1,144 axles (24 are the locomotives)!

A number of Tracking the Light readers wrote to me about the unusual GREX drawbar connected maintenance train. I’ve compiled these below into a brief essay.

Dusk view of the GREX Slot Train at Lena, Illinois.

The curious maintenance train was built by Georgetown Industries (a spinoff of Texas-based Georgetown Railroad), which uses the GREX reporting marks. This train is described by the manufacturer as a Self-Powered SlotMachine® and commonly as ‘slot train’ which is designed to distribute materials. Instead of conventional gondolas, this is in effect a string of permanently connected articulated gondolas with the ends removed.

Since there are no bulkheads between cars an excavator can be used to traverse the entire length to load or unload material. The train is especially useful when a railroad is faced with limited track access time or locations that are inaccessible by road. One application is to dump ballast between the rails on ‘skeletonized’ track.

Articulated gons behind the locomotive.

One flaw with the train is that the solid draw bar and articulated connections between cars make it impossible to set out a car in case of defect.

The Slot train’s power is a relatively new creation and appears to be based on LORAM’S boxy power unit.  Georgetown has several Slot train sets that work at various places around the country, the machinery is still being evaluated or leased an as of yet, these trains are a rare sight on American rails.

Dusk view of the GREX Slot Train at Lena, Illinois.

Another Georgetown creation is its Dump Train, which is a series of drawbar-connected hoppers featuring a conveyor belt running under the length of the train and a swing out conveyor belt at the unloading end to deliver aggregate line-side. The style of construction gives the train a nearly European appearance.

Meet with the odd-maintainance train..

Orcuttville in the Fog, New England Central 608 on the Roll.

A thick layer of fog in Stafford, Connecticut made for an excellent environment for dramatic photos.

New England Central 608 (Willimantic – Palmer way freight) was on its northward leg, when I caught it approaching Connecticut Route 319 at Orcuttville.

A lone GP38 was at work this day with more than 20 cars in tow.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1. The tricky part of this photo was balancing the exposure of the headlight/ditchlights with ambient light. I prefer the overall exposure slightly on the darkside for greater drama. Compare with the Lumix LX7 image below.
New England Central 608 with GP38 3845 approaches the crossing at Orcuttville. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

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Early Bird Gets the Worm or, as the case may be, the New England Central local freight!

During the long days of July, I made a point of being up and OUT as early as there was light in the sky.

Those trains that go bump in the night in Winter have a bit of light on them in July.

I made this view before 6 am of the New England Central local crossing the Palmer diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant is located in the old Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station station at left.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm lens.

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Vestige of the Chicago & North Western.

In July (2017), John Gruber and I visited the old Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin. I was surprised to find that the railroad’s old mailbox remained.

It has been more than 22 years since the old C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific. In 1995 at the end of C&NW’s independent operations I’d made photos of this same mailbox, which for me served as a symbol of the railroad.

Now it’s a faded vestige of another era. More than just the paint has changed.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin.

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Wisconsin’s East Troy Electric, Revisited—July 2017.

Back in the 1990s, Pentrax Publishing’s Paul Hammond and I focused on the East Troy Electric for an article in Locomotive & Railway Preservation magazine. At the time I was the Editor of Pacific RailNews, and he of L&RP.

We worked with the railway to produce some unusual and compelling photographs, including a high-impact view of one of their electric locomotives in motion that was used as the cover of the magazine.

For that effort, California-based railway photographic legend Richard Steinheimer paid me a personal compliment.

Three weeks ago, John Gruber, TRAINS Brian Schmidt and I spent a sunny afternoon re-exploring the East Troy Electric.

It was the first time I’d made digital images of this colorful Wisconsin preserved railway. I’ve included a selection below.

East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
Elegant Farmer, Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Mukwonago, Wisconsin, FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Troy Electric. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.

Thanks to East Troy Electric’s Tom Fleming for his hospitality.

See: http://www.easttroyrr.org

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Surprise at Lena; Canadian National Monster Freight—How many cars??

As noted in yesterday’s post, I’d been inspecting a maintenance train parked on the siding at Lena, when lo and behold, the signal cleared to green.

I alerted John Gruber and we took positions to make photographs.

So there we were along the old Illinois Central at Lena, Illinois in the fading glow of the evening sun. This had been IC’s line from Chicago via Dubuque to Council Bluffs, Iowa and Back in the mid-1990s it had been operated as a regional called the Chicago, Central & Pacific, before being re-incorporated into Illinois Central on the eve of IC being absorbed by Canadian National.

Looking west on the old Illinois Central. Fuji film X-T1 photo.
John Gruber (at left) is poised to capture the action.

A headlight twinkled into view, and I could see that a freight was coming, but not very fast.

As it grew closer I had the innate sense that it was a really huge train.

Finally it roared by with CN SD70M-2 in the lead. Many cars into the train was a lone CN DASH8-40C employed as a DPU (distributed power unit, modern railroad lingo for a radio controlled remote.)

This was a real monster! A land-barge. Just simply huge. Eastbound at Lena, Illinois in the fading evening light.
Meet with the odd-maintainance train feature in yesterday’s Tracking the Light.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I counted the cars. And do you know what? This was the largest/longest train I’d ever seen on the move. That’s with more than 40 years of watching trains. Any guesses as to how many cars? Trust me, it was a doosie!

(To those of you that I’ve told about this already, please keep the correct answer under your hat. And if anyone was working this monster, perhaps you have greater appreciation for its size than I do.)

The answers will be revealed in an up-coming post!

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Surprise at Lena—I wasn’t expecting this (and more!).

A few weeks back, John Gruber and I were on our way back to Madison, Wisconsin from the Mississippi River Valley. We’d followed the old Milwaukee Road up to Lanark, Illinois, then cut northward on Illinois State highways.

The sun was a golden globe in the western sky above rolling corn fields.

At Lena we intersected Canadian National’s former Illinois Central east-west line that connects Chicago with Council Bluffs, Iowa. I noticed that the signals were lit red and that there was something unusual in the siding.

Unusual indeed! It was a self-propelled draw-bar connected train of articulated flatcars for maintenance service. I’d never seen anything like it.

I’d love to tell you all about it, except I know precious little, except that the ‘locomotive’ had EMD Blomberg trucks and the whole machinery carried GREX reporting marks. Perhaps if I do another book on railroad maintenance equipment, I’ll have the opportunity to research this train more thoroughly.

This is one curious looking train. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Look ma, no couplers! That’s a straight drawbar connection between the locomotive and cars. Unusual in American railroad practice.
Articulated gons behind the locomotive.
Trailing view of the locomotive. Look! There’s a headlight on the horizon. . . .

While I was studying this unusual railway machine, the eastward signals at the end of the siding changed aspects; the cleared from all red to ‘green over red.’ A train had been lined! Hooray!

Stay tuned!

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Seven Retro-views on Retropan: West Trenton, New Jersey.

On one level the name of the film sounds a bit silly; ‘Retropan.’ This is actually a relatively new emulsion that aims to fulfill a classic aesthetic.

It is a soft, slightly grainy black & white negative film that provides a sensibility that reminds me of photos taken in the 1960s and 1970s.

As far as I’m concern this is a limited application film, but it has it’s place. I’ve documented my experiments with Foma’s Retropan previously over the last year. See:

Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

I made these most recent Retropan photos at along the SEPTA/CSX former Reading Company tracks at West Trenton, New Jersey using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens.

But, yes I also made a few digital color photographs at the same location.

Working with multiple cameras and multiple types of media, allows me to take different visual approaches at the same time.

The old Reading Company station building at West Trenton has been adapted for other applications. In other words the station isn’t a station any more. Confusing matters is that it’s still at the station. Got it?
It’s been a very long time since this old stainless steel electric was the latest thing on steel wheels. These day it’s among SEPTA’s rolling antiques.
Wide-angle views with grainy black & white film screams late 1960s to me.
The ‘smart’ phone bursts the illusion in this view. Obviously not ‘back in the day’.

Well, except all the trains not at this station!

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Looking Down on BNSF—Savanna, Illinois, July 2017.

A long long time ago, back in the 1990s, I’d travel with Mike and Tom Danneman (and others) to the Mississippi River Valley to photograph the old Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route to the Twin Cities.

Among our favorite vantage points were river-side bluffs in the Mississippi Palisades State Park north of Savanna, Illinois.

The line on the east bank was Burlington Northern back then. Today it is BNSF Railway (reflecting the 1995 merger between Burlington Northern and Santa Fe).

On a bright afternoon in July, John Gruber and I returned to this old haunt and put ourselves in position to make a few photographs.

As hoped, BNSF operated several trains, and we exposed views from the tops of the bluffs. I made these with my FujiFilm X-T1.

Any favorites?

Looking timetable east toward Savanna.
You can hear eastbound whistle for a crossing a mile or so before they come into view.
A little glint off the river makes for nice atmosphere.
Is this train carrying  oil or ethanol? From this height I wasn’t sure.
Like many trains in the West, this unit tank train had a DPU at the back. (Distributed power unit, railroad lingo for a radio-controlled remotely operated locomotive).
A westward intermodal train races up-river toward the Twin Cities from Chicago. I remember when seeing a double stack train was a BIG deal.
Look an old fashioned car load train!

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Mississippi River: View from a Speed Boat

A couple of weeks back, John Gruber organized a speed-boat trip on the Mississippi River geared at watching trains.

I learned a few things and found the experience exhilarating.

Here’s one of the views made of a BNSF train from the river near the Illinois- Wisconsin state line at East Dubuque, Illinois.

Thanks to Sam Weber.

Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Eastward at Merrimac on the old North Western—lighting challenge; one file and four results.

Here’s a lighting challenge: A freight train crossing a big bridge against an overcast sky.

Expose for the train and the sky gets washed out (loss of detail). Expose for the sky and the train is too dark.

So what do you do?

I expose for the sky and then adjust the file in post processing.

Why? Because it is easy enough to lighten slightly underexposed areas, but once highlight detail is lost through over exposure it cannot be recovered.

To balance the exposure in post processing, I lightened the shadow areas globally. This took all of about 30 seconds to accomplish in Lightroom. I also made minor adjustments to overall color balance and saturation. Afterwards, I played with the file to make some outlandish versions for point of comparison.

Of the four, the second from the top is the only image I’d normally present. The bottom of the four is intended to be a little absurd.

This is an unadjusted JPG scaled from the camera RAW file. In other words, I did not interpret the data, assign color profile, or otherwise alter the appearance of the image.
Wisconsin Southern’s Reedsburg-Madison freight at the Lake Wisconsin Bridge at Merrimac. This is my adjusted file; using Lightroom, I’ve made nominal adjustments to lighten shadows and improve color balance and saturation in order to make for a more realistic and appealing photograph.
For the giggles I made more dramatic alterations to the camera RAW file in this example. Without consideration for realism, I’ve darkened the sky using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, pumped up the color saturation and wildly altered the color balance using various controls in Lightroom. This sort of extreme effect is often applied to photos appearing on the net. I’m not a huge fan of candy-cane coloring, but it certainly seems popular and it is easy enough to accomplish.
Here I’ve pushed the limits a little further. All in the name of distorting the image. Incidently, while the original RAW file remains unchanged, the effect of these extreme changes to the JPG output has the effect of compressing the image and results in loss of data that may make the JPG difficult to print the image in a book or magazine. Also the way this appears on your screen may be very different from how I see the image on mine.

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Mainline now Branchline—Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.

This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.

Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.

On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with an 18-135mm zoom lens. File manipulated in post processing to balance exposure and improve color balance. Compare the contrast and color balance between this image and the others. Notice subtle differences and see how the alter the appearance of the locomotives in their environment.
This view features a cooler color-balance (tends more toward the blue).
Adjustments to contrast of the middle tones using the ‘clarity slider’ in Lightroom resulted in greater separation between the red and silver on the locomotive stripes.

To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.

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Day and Night at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

All to often I find myself in Palmer, Massachusetts.

It’s probably not what you think though.

Yes, I make railway photos there.

By often I arrive at CP83 only because I’m passing through. I might be on the way to the bank, or to get a haircut, or maybe do a bit of shopping.

In the daylight instance pictured I was about to cross the South Main Street Bridge with a financial transaction in mind, when I spotted a railway enthusiast poised with camera in hand.

I had my Lumix LX7 with me, so made a quick diversion. It was nearly 11am, and about the time that CSX’s Q022 often rolls east. Stepping out of the car, I immediately sensed that my guess was correct. I could hear the freight approaching the home signal for the Palmer diamond at CP83. Need I describe what happened next?

Lumix LX7 view of CSX’s Q022 passing CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. (CP83 is the railroad location-name  for the interlocking in Palmer, which is just over 83 miles west of Boston South Station.)
Less than 12 hours after the daylight view I made this photo of the signals at CP83 illuminated by the headlight of westward intermodal freight Q007.
It helps to have a tripod.
CSX Q007 rolls westward at CP83 in Palmer; at the right is the popular Steaming Tender restaurant.

Some hours later, I’d met Rich and Joyce Reed for dinner in Palmer, and as per a long standing Friday night tradition we reconvened after the meal at CP83. How different this place looks at night!

After a little while the signals cleared and CSX’s Q007 came into view. I made these time exposures of the westward Q007 passing the signals at CP83.

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Whoops! The Unfortunate Effects of Shutter Lag.

Timing is crucial in making successful images of moving trains.

Even a few tenths of second can make the difference between a stunning photograph and a throwaway.

After years of photographing trains on the move, I’ve developed techniques for releasing the shutter at precisely the right moment.

When I examine different types of cameras for their suitability as picture making machines, one thing I always look for is shutter delay. Many inexpensive cameras fail in this regard. When you press the button if the camera hesitates it will routinely make railway action photography more difficult.

Many inexpensive cameras suffer from inadequate computer processors that can contribute to a delay. Another difficulty are the autofocus systems that impose a delay between the time you press the shutter and when the shutter opens.

Some cameras, such as my Lumix LX7 and Fuji X-T1 allow for various adjustments to autofocus and exposure settings than can help minimize the effects of ‘shutter lag’. But you have to play with the settings to get just the right combination.

Having the camera ‘on’ and queued up (poised and ready) helps.

High speed trains are difficult to capture full frame.
This was a late frame in a sequence but demonstrates what can happen if your camera hesitates at the decisive moment.
If you miss an ordinary train, well you can try again. Miss a rare special move, you might feel like giving up and taking up something passive, like bus spotting. Don’t blame yourself, get a better camera!
If when you press the shutter button your camera doesn’t instantly expose a photo, your results may look something like this image. While in some circles it’s considered trendy to chop the subject, for the most part this isn’t the desired result for most railway photographers.

If you find that too often your photos look like these, you may wish to consider acquiring a picture-making device that has better reaction time. What use is a camera that forces you to miss photos? Why suffer the repeated frustrations and disappointments associated with ‘shutter lag?’

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Night and No Tripod, Improvise!

-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.

A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.

I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.

My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.

I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.

Long exposures hand-held are not easy.

I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.

Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.

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SEPTA Trolleys on 38th Street—Acting on Opportunity.

Two weeks ago on my visit to Philadelphia, I was on my way to the University of Pennsylvania for a brief tour before heading to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station to board the Vermonter for Connecticut, on the way there in an ‘Uber’ (taxi) I notice the trolleys on the street.

Apparently SEPTA had its Center City trolley subway closed (for maintenance?) and so the trolleys that normally went below ground were working rarely utilized street trackage on 38th street instead.

How long this diversion as to be employed was beyond my knowledge at the time, but since I knew that I won’t be back in Philadelphia for many months, I only had this brief window to photograph this unusual operation.

I had just a few minutes to make images as I need to accomplish my tour and reach the station in little over an hour.

View from an Uber on 38th Street Philadelphia.
Leaning out of the window of the Uber taxi, I made this improvised view on 38th street.
A SEPTA trolley pauses at a traffic light waiting to turn on to 38th street. I manually adjusted the Lumix to compensate for the white trolley to avoid overexposure.
View from the Locust bridge over 38th Street that connects portions of the University of Pennsylvania campus.
Light and shadow on 38th Street.
On my walk over to 30th Street, I followed 38th Street to make some views from the sidewalk.

These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Follow That BUDD!

Not to be confused with: “Follow THAT! Bud.”

Earlier this month, in the high-summer light, while traveling from Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station on its former Reading Company Budd Cars (Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars otherwise known as RDCs), I wondered about photo locations along Reading & Northern’s lines.

Back in the day (lets call it the early 1960s) my father, Richard Jay Solomon, photographed Reading Rambles along these same Reading Company routes (and also occasional put the company’s regularly scheduled passenger trains on film).

For years, I’d looked at these slides without fully grasping where they were taken.

One trip over the old Reading answered many questions. Around each bend, I recognized locations, thinking ‘Ah Ha! So that’s where Pop made THAT photo’ and so on. (I’m still waiting for Pop to finish labeling his slides; he’s got about as far as 1960 thus far. HINT: Don’t wait 57 years to label your photos).

In the Lehigh Gorge, Pat Yough and I chatted with our friend Scott Snell—an accomplished member of the railway photo fraternity. Scott offered us the opportunity to ride with him as he chased the Budd cars back toward Reading.

Having traveled up by rail, we jumped at the opportunity to make photos of our train in late afternoon summer sun. So we traveled with Scott by road from Jim Thorpe to Reading, by way of Tamaqua, Port Clinton and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Here are some of my results thanks to Scott and Pat’s knowledge of the line.

Not on the old Reading Company, but in fact on the former Central Railroad of Jersey line at Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania.
New Ringgold, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company line between Port Clinton and Tamaqua. This was a definite, “Ah Ha” location. (And I don’t mean the Norwegian pop band.)
Pop bagged a Reading double-header crossing this field. That photo has appeared in books.
Not far from the former Reading Company station at Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

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Views From the Cab—where vantage point matters.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to make some views from a diesel locomotive cab.

I’m no stranger to cab-rides, but this recent trip allows me to illustrate a few ways of illustrating this great vantage point.

I’ve made no effort to hide where these photos were made from; so by including the locomotive nose or framing the tracks in the locomotive’s front windows I’ve made my vantage point obvious. I was on the engine as it rolled along.

All three views were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

Exposed a 1/60th of a second which allowed a slight blurring of the scenery and tracks to help convey motion with rendering the whole seen as a sea of blur.
Exposed a 1/60th of a second which allowed a slight bluring of the scenery and tracks. Framing is a great way to infer a vantage point while making for a more interesting image by adding depth.
So, do you prefer one window, or two?

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DASH-9 on the PRR.

 

Mifflin, Pennsylvania is a classic location on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.

I’ve visited here intermittently since Conrail days.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat Yough and I made these photos of Norfolk Southern trains passing Mifflin. I exposed these using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 lens of westward symbol freight 21T.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm fixed telephoto lens set at f5.0 1/500, ISO 640.
FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm fixed telephoto lens set at f5.0 1/500, ISO 640.

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Norfolk Southern at Mexico, Pennsylvania.

No, we are not ‘south of the border.’

This is a location along Norfolk Southern’s old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division west of Harrisburg between Thompsontown and Mifflin.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat Yough and I were re-exploring this busy route and these images were among my views from that effort.

Here are three photos from a sequence that I made of Norfolk Southern symbol freight 21A as it approached the grade crossing at Mexico.

Image 1: Norfolk Southern 21A roars west at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
Image 2: A slightly closer view of Norfolk Southern 21A  at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
Image 3: Closest of three views of Norfolk Southern 21A  at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

Which of these do you like best?

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RDC’s at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania—lessons in high light.

Shiny stainless steel trains in high summer light. Another photography challenge.

Earlier this month during my explorations of eastern Pennsylvania with Pat Yough, we traveled on the Reading & Northern from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe, aboard a restored pair of RDCs.

The train arrived at Jim Thorpe in the highlight, in other words when the sun is nearly overhead.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I made a variety of images, then imported the RAW files into Lightroom for post processing.

As previously described in Tracking the Light, among the tools available with post processing software are various exposure and contrast controls that make it possible to adjust the RAW file to produce a more pleasing final image.

By lowering highlights, and raising the shadows, while adjusting color temperature, I can maximize the information captured by the camera sensor to produce a more pleasing image that more closely resembles what I saw at the time of exposure.

Below are a few of my processed images.

Shortly after arrival from Reading, Reading & Northern’s RDCs have paused in front of the historic former Central Railroad of New Jersey station at Jim Thorpe. I’ve attempted to make a more pleasing image by lightening shadows and controlling highlights while slightly warming the color temperature to compensate for the proliferation of blue light.
This is a similar image but taken from an in-camera Jpg with pre-selected Fuji Velvia digital color profile.
Back lit in the gorge near Jim Thorpe. Here a silver train has a contrast advantage over a darkly painted engine.
Later in the afternoon the lighting wasn’t as harsh, yet this image still required improvements in post processing to compensate for excessive contrast.

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Take A Ride on SEPTA—July 2017.

This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)

SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.

Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.

Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.

I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.

Lumix LX7 photo at SEPTA’s Philadelphia Airport station. The train goes directly to the terminals, no mussing about with people movers or bus connections. Hooray for SEPTA!
Exposed at West Trenton with my Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Suburban Station Center City Philadelphia. Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo
Chestnut Hill West, Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo at Chestnut Hill East.
Buses work the 23 route, which at one time was America’s longest City Street Car line.
Lumix LX7 photo
Market-Frankford Subway. Lumix LX7 photo
Broad Street Subway at City Hall. Lumix LX7 photo

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Tracking the Light reaches Milepost 5!

Today, July 19th is the fifth anniversary of Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light.

On this day in 2012 Tracking the light made its debut. Since then it has become a daily Blog.

 

See; Installment 1: Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont

http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.
Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted on July 19, 2012.

Tracking the Light focuses on more than just displaying pictures of railways, trains and locomotives, but aims at disseminating information on the techniques applied to railway photography.

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SEPTA’s Rare Birds Under Wire.

Amtrak has retired all of its once-common AEM-7 electrics.

SEPTA’s small fleet of AEM-7s remain on the roll, but replacements have been ordered. Soon the sun will set on America’s adaptation of the Swedish Rc-series electrics.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat Yough and I focused on SEPTA’s rare birds that typically only work rush hour push-pull services.

It was a fine bright evening to make commuter rail images and I used my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens to expose these photographs.

SEPTA AEM-7 2305 leads train 9745 on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.
SEPTA 2303 at West Trenton, New Jersey.

Today’s relatively ordinary images of SEPTA AEM7 electrics under wire will soon be rare. Why wait to the last minute to make photographs of equipment soon to be extinct?

 

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SEPTA Silverliner IVs  on the Northeast Corridor—July 2017.

A half-century ago Pennsylvania Railroad’s common MP54 ‘owl-eyed’ electric multiple units plied its electrified lines largely unnoticed despite most serving for 40-50 years in daily traffic

Today’s equivalent are SEPTA’s Silverliner IVs that were built between 1974 and 1976 for Philadelphia-area electric suburban operation on former Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Company lines.

Considering that these workhorses are now more than 40 years old, they are well worthy of attention from photographers. Many similar cars employed by NJ Transit have already been retired and scrapped.

I photographed this two-car SEPTA set at Levittown, Pennsylvania on July 7, 2017 using my FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera.

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Old Reading RDCs at Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station, Reading Pennsylvania.

Just checking to see if you are reading this correctly.

Last weekend, July 8 and9, 2017, Patrick Yough and I made trips to Reading, Pennsylvania to photograph and travel on Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company Budd RDCs.

I grew up with the old ‘Budd cars’ and it was neat to see these machines on the roll again.

Budd introduced it’s self-propelled ‘Rail Diesel Car’ in 1949, and sold them to many railroads across North America. These cars were most common in the Northeast, and the Reading Company was among the lines that made good use of them in passenger service.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

Reading & Northern operates these RDCs in periodic excursion service on its lines in eastern Pennsylvania.
A new tower, and a really antique signal made for nice props for the RDCs at Reading Outer Station.
Reading & Northern operates these RDCs in periodic excursion service on its lines in eastern Pennsylvania.

 

Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.

CSX on the Move at West Trenton, New Jersey.

A week ago, July 7, 2017, Pat Yough and I were photographing at West Trenton, New Jersey. I made this view with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm Pancake lens.

This is compact, lightweight lens designed for the Fuji X-series mirror-less digital cameras. With the sensor on my X-T1 the 27mm lens has the equivalent field of view offered by a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.

In other words it offers a slightly wide-angle perspective that is comparable to the natural field of view of the human eye.

Here I’ve carefully positioned the cab of the leading locomotive between the gap in the trees to make for a clearer composition. Classic three-quarter lighting and camera angle combine for a traditional view with a nearly traditional angle of view.

I caught CSX symbol freight Q-301 rolling toward Philadelphia on the old Reading Company. My exposure was f4 1/1000th of a second at ISO200.

 

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