Yesterday, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) operated a pair of excursions from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Greystones, County Wicklow and return using former Dublin & South Eastern 2-6-0 461.
The trains were well patronized, which demonstrates a continued interest in Irish steam trains.
Dull weather prevailed, while cool temperatures made lots of steam condensation.
Sometimes I find that dull days makes for better steam photos.
Here’s a sample of digital images I made with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Most required contrast and saturation adjustment in post-processing.
Looking back more than three decades; it was a warm August 1984 afternoon when my pal T.S.H. and I sat up on the grassy hill near the popular Bullards Road Bridge to photograph this Conrail eastward freight as it approached Boston & Albany’s summit of the Berkshire grade.
I made this image on 35mm Kodak Tri-X using my Leica 3A with a Canon 50mm lens.
Conrail was divided in Spring 1999, nearly 15 years after this photo was exposed.
In 2003, CSX removed the old Bullards Road bridge (and stone abutments).
I can’t say for certain what happened to the SD40, but a similar former Conrail engine still works for New England Central.
Personally, I’d trade my digital cameras for a fully functioning time machine.
It was April 1989 when I exposed this view of Conrail’s BUOI (Frontier Yard Buffalo to Oak Island, New Jersey) bumping along the number 2 track at Arkport, New York.
At that time this portion of the old Erie Railroad line from Hornell to Buffalo as still directional double track (rule 251) with block signals largely in the from of antique Union Switch & Signal Style S semaphores.
Between Hornell and Hunt, New York, Erie’s old eastward main wasn’t maintained for speeds faster than about 10mph, and when possible Conrail routed traffic against the current of traffic on the westward (number 1 track.) Not on this day though.
I was working with two Leica M rangerfinders that day; I made a similar view on Kodachrome slide film with my M2 that appeared in RailNews for its ‘Farewell to Conrail’ issue back in 1999 (a little more than ten years after I exposed it).
While Conrail was only an extant player in American mainline freight operations for a little more than 23 years, it was my favorite of the big eastern railroads.
Today, April 1, 2016, is the 40th birthday American eastern giant, Conrail. Commencement of operations on the Consolidated Rail Corporation began on this day 40 years ago.
Conrail was created by Congress to assume operations of a variety of financially troubled eastern railroads including Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Reading Company, Central Railroad of New Jersey and Lehigh Valley.
When I was growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Conrail was the big show. By the time Conrail’s operations were divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1999, I’d exposed tens of thousands of images of its locomotives, trains and people.
I miss Conrail. It’s blue locomotives photographed well; it ran lots of freight over my favorite Boston & Albany; its employees were friendly to me, and it embodied most of favorite historic railroads. Turn back the clock, let it be Conrail-days all over again!
In 2004, Tim Doherty and I co-authored a book on Conrail, published by MBI. If you have this prized tome, it’s now a collectible item! By the way, if you know a publisher interested in a follow-up title, I have access to virtually limitless material and keen knowledge of the railroad. Just sayin’
Happy Birthday Big Blue!
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The other evening some friends and I traveled from the Dublin city centre to Blackrock on the DART-Dublin’s electrified suburban rail-transit service.
The DART branding mimic’s the Bay Area’s third-rail rapid transit brand ‘BART’ (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
While sometimes my rail travel is focused on the making of photos, this trip had another primary purpose; yet with my Lumix LX7 at the ready, I used every opportunity to make photos.
Significantly, Dublin’s Pearse Station, formerly-known as Westland Row, is credited as the world’s oldest city terminus in continuous use. It was opened in 1834 with the Dublin & Kingstown Railway. Of course, the D&K has the distinction as the world’s earliest operating suburban railway.
Lately the sun has been an elusive orb in Irish skies. Too often, I awake to find a slate gray dome above me.
Good Friday (25 March 2016) was different. It was bright sunny morning.
Having the sun and making use of it are two different things.
In the early afternoon, Colm O’Callaghan, Ciarán Cooney and I waited at Lucan South, just east of the Adamstown Station on the quad-track in suburban Dublin.
Our quarry was the up-IWT Liner from Ballina, which was operating with Irish Rail 233, the last 201 class diesel in the old Enterprise-livery. We caught this engine before, but it’s unlikely to survive for long in this old paint.
While the day remained bright, puffy clouds were rapidly blowing across the sky, changing and dampening the light when they blocked the sun
Anxiously, we watched the signals, and the passing InterCity Railcars. The tapestry above was becoming a maddening mixture of fluff and blue.
Would we get the liner in full sun? After all, that’s what we were out for.
With two cameras around my neck, I was prepared for either eventuality; if it was cloudy, I work with the digital camera; but if the sun came out bright, I’d make a slide. To this aim, I’d set my Canon EOS-3 at f4.5 1/1000th of a second—my full-sun setting for Provia 100F.
It was a photo finish. As the liner approached the light changed from dark to light.
I made some telephoto views with the FujiFilm X-T1; but as the IWT liner reached us the clouds began to part and I exposed a single frame of Fujichrome with my Canon. That photo remains latent in the camera. Did I get it right? It will be some weeks before I know the answer; I wont have the film processed until May.
As part of the Easter Rising Centenary several Dublin post boxes have been temporarily painted red to mark significant locations of this historic Irish event.
Mark Healy suggested this location to me as a place to photograph one of the specially painted post boxes with the LUAS. It is located near the Royal College of Surgeons across from St. Stephens Green.
On the surface, it looks a like a standard pattern three-position upper-quadrant semaphore blade, commonly used by many American railways beginning about 1908.
The flat-end red blade with white stripe would have been typically used for an absolute signal that display a full stop in its most restrictive position.
There’s one critical difference with this semaphore blade; it’s a mirror of the signals typically used in the USA.
On most American railways, semaphore blades were oriented to the right, while in British practice (which includes Ireland) they are oriented to the left. (New Haven railroad was an exception).
I would guess that this signal is an adaptation of the American pattern for service in Britain or Ireland. But where did come from? And how did this anomalous signal blade find its way to Finglas, which is not even on a railway line.
At the moment, this stands as one of signaling’s great unsolved mysteries.
The deep cutting on the north-side of Dublin’s Phoenix Park Tunnel used to be a difficult place to get a good angle on a train. Previously I’d worked it, but it wasn’t easy. There was only a narrow view and the light was almost always problematic.
Some weeks back, Irish Rail cleared brush and trees from the cutting opening up the view as it hasn’t been for in decades.
Saturday, 19 March 2016, Colm O’Callaghan collected me and we met some friends at a high over bridge to make the most of this new opportunity.
Two trains were expected after Irish Rail lifted a permanent way possession (in North America this would be called ‘maintenance window’, which basically means the line was closed for work).
This quiet overhead crossing of the quad-track is just past the 8 ¾ milepost from Dublin’s Heuston Station.
It offers an open view of the line with a favorable angle for down (traveling away from Dublin) trains mid-morning.
It takes a tuned interest in Irish Rail’s operations and a bit of luck. to time a visit to coincide with passage of the weekday IWT Liner (International Warehousing & Transport container train between Dublin and Ballina) and the more elusive HOBS (high output ballast system).
Getting the clouds to cooperate is trickier yet again.
A couple of weeks ago Colm O’Callaghan and I spent a strategic 45 minutes at Stucumny Bridge.
Even if you fail at catching the freight on the move, there’s always a steady parade of passenger trains.
This Kodachrome slide has always resonated with me.
In North American practice, cabooses and stack trains were equipment from different eras that just barely overlapped.
During the mid-1980s, most class 1 freight carriers banished cabooses to operational backwaters. True, cabooses held out in rare instances (some can still be found), but they had been made redundant by technological changes and their once-standard operation finally came to an end as a side-effect of deregulation.
Another effect of deregulation was a more progressive environment that favored double-stacked container trains.
So, as cabooses were rapidly sidetracked, stack trains were becoming common on principal trunk lines. Since intermodal operations tended to run from terminal to terminal, these trains were among the first to lose cabooses.
I can count the number of caboose-ended double-stack trains I photographed on one hand.
I especially like this view in a snow squall of a Norfolk Southern train carrying an Norfolk & Western caboose on the back of a Maersk stack train that had just come east over the old Nickel Plate route.
The background is the colossal and completely abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal, designed by Fellheimer & Wagner, and constructed by the New York Central during the false optimism of the roaring 1920s, only to open on the eve of the Great Depression.
It was a day of big excitement. Up north, Guilford was in a knot as result of a strike action. Bob Buck phoned me early in the morning to say that ‘The Boot’ (the colloquial name for Amtrak’s Montrealer) was detouring to Palmer on the Central Vermont, then west on the Boston & Albany (Conrail).
Using my dad’s Rollei model T loaded with Kodak Tri-X, I made the most of the unusual move.
This was nearly a decade before Amtrak’s Vermonter began to regularly make the jog in Palmer from the CV/New England Central route to the B&A mainline.
And, it was only four months before Conrail ended traditional directional double-track operations between Palmer and Springfield.
I’d met some photographers at the Palmer diamond and encouraged them to take advantage of my favorite vantage point at the rock cutting at milepost 84, just over the Quaboag River from the Palmer Station.
As detouring Amtrak number 61 approached with a former Santa Fe CF7 leading the train to Springfield, we could hear an eastward Conrail freight chugging along with new GE C30-7As.
This is among my favorite sequences that show the old double track in action.
Some of these photos later appeared in Passenger Train Journal. Long before I was the Associate Editor of that magazine.
Last night, as advertised, I presented my program to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin.
I had a large and receptive audience. There were more bodies than seats.
The program was in two parts, divided by a tea break (as per tradition). After a few slides from America, I focused on the main event: Ireland as I saw it 10 years ago.
I apologize: there were no photos of the DART or 29000-series CAF-built railcars, and I probably offered a disproportionate number of views of the last two operational class 121 diesels.
For those curious about my camera equipment: at the time I was in a transition between Nikon and Canon systems, while I was also making good use of a Contax G2 rangefinder. Color slides were exposed with lens ranging from a 16mm Zeiss Hologon to a 400mm Tokina telephoto.
In 2006, I was more than 2 years away from exposing my first digital photo. I was like the Norfolk & Western in 1953, and still firmly committed to the old technology. Most of the slides were exposed using Fujichrome Sensia2 (ISO 100), although I also used some Fujichrome Velvia 100, Provia 100F, and Provia 400F, as well as the occasional roll of Ektachrome.