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.

On this Day, January 15, 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad’s Federal Express Crashed at Washington Union Station.

In the lead was GG1 electric number 4876.

After the spectacular January 15, 1953 Washington Union Station wreck, Pennsylvania Railroad rebuilt GG1 4876, which required substantial reconstruction resulting in an nearly new machine.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I made a project of photographing old 4876, at which time it was working for New Jersey Department of Transportation on New York & Long Branch suburban services.

I exposed this detailed view with my Leica 3A at Rahway Junction in the locomotive’s last year of service.
I exposed this detailed view with my Leica 3A at Rahway Junction in the locomotive’s last year of service.

Tracking the Light Post Every Day!

Tracking the Light EXTRA: Conrail 27 Years Ago this Very Day!

A few minutes ago I scanned this Kodachrome slide. When I went to caption the file, I thought,
“Jan 14th 1989. Wow, that’s exactly 27 years ago.”

So, there you go.

Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 on January 14, 1989.
Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 on January 14, 1989.

I’d been photographing Conrail symbol freight BUOI-4X (extra section of Buffalo to Oak Island Yard, New Jersey). This freight worked the old Erie Railroad route and picked up re-built New York City Subway cars from the Morrison-Knudsen plant in Hornell, New York.

I made this view at the old Erie Railroad East Hornell Yards that was mostly used for storage of old freight cars. (And yes, I do have some nice photographs of the old freight cars).

Tracking the Light Posts New Material Every Day!

New Haven at New Haven, Connecticut; Gauging the Passage of Time.

Stop for a moment and gauge the passage of time and your relative perception of it.

I made this photograph about 1980. I’d been fascinated by the New Haven Railroad, and what I saw here I viewed then as a relic of times long gone.

The old railroads such as the New Haven were those that my dad had photographed back in the days of sunny Kodachrome.

At the time, I made this view of old New Haven cars at New Haven, Connecticut, I was 13. Conrail was then only 4 years old (formed on April 1, 1976), yet for me even its predecessor, Penn-Central was already a foggy memory.

Looking back now, to me it doesn’t seem so long ago that Conrail vanished (Its operations ended in 1999). And yet, for point of comparison Conrail been gone almost four years longer (17 years) than I’d been alive at the time I made the photo.

What is interesting? What seems old?

These old New Haven ‘washboard’ multiple units were only about 26 years on the property (built new c1954). I thought they were ancient. Yet, now in 2016 how are old the few surviving Metropolitan sets? Well into their 40s!
These old New Haven ‘washboard’ multiple units were only about 26 years on the property (built new c1954). I thought they were ancient. Yet, now in 2016 how old are the few surviving Metropolitan sets? Well into their 40s!

In a high-school math class, I once remarked to my teacher, Mr. Ed Lucas, “Time and your perception of time are in inverse proportions to each other. The more time you experience, the faster it seems to go by.”

He replied, “That’s awfully profound for someone your age!”

Before Christmas, I related this story over dinner. However, I was stunned to learn a little more than a week later that Ed Lucas passed away on New Years eve.

It doesn’t seem so long since I sat in his class, and yet in another way it also seems like the dawn of time (or my perception of time)!

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

New Posts every day.

Conrail Camel at East Brookfield; Fixing a Dark Slide.

(If you are not viewing Tracking the Light, please click on the post to see the variations from Dark to Light.)

Kodachrome was a great film but it had its failings. It’s spectral sensitivity tended to render blue too dark in relation to the other colors.

An unfortunate result of this sensitivity was that at times of high sun, when there is a greater amount of ambient blue light, Kodachrome was both less sensitive and produced an unacceptably constrasty result that over emphasize the already unflattering light of midday.

For this reason, I often put the camera away during midday, or switched to black & white.

This slide is an exception. On June 29, 1989, I photographed an eastward Conrail freight with C32-8(a model known colloquially as a ‘Camel’)  passing the old Boston & Albany station at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

The unaltered scan from the original Kodachrome 25 color slides. Owing to the time of the day, the slide is contrasty and as a result of the sensitivity curve of the film, it appears underexposed.
The unaltered scan from the original Kodachrome 25 color slides. Owing to the time of the day, the slide is contrasty and as a result of the sensitivity curve of the film, it appears underexposed.

I have many better photographs of these unusual locomotives and superior views of the old station, both of which are now gone. Yet, I’m glad I made this slide.

For years, it remained in its yellow box as returned to me by Kodak. Although sharp, it wasn’t up to par with my slides from the time and so I’d deemed it unworthy of projection.

Today this is a pretty interesting image and through the comparative ease of digital processing, I can compensate for some of the failings of the film.

Using Lightroom, I’ve been able to adjust the contrast, exposure and color balance to make for a more acceptable image.

I’ve presented three variations: the above image is the unmodified scan (scaled for internet presentation); the other two have various levels of adjustment aimed at producing a more pleasing image.

In this variation, I made some quick adjustments to color temperature, overall exposure, while lightening the shadow.
In this variation, I made some quick adjustments to color temperature, overall exposure, while lightening the shadows.
This version required more intensive work in post processing. I've locally adjusted shadows and highlights, while further tweaked overall exposure and made localized changes to color balance.
This version required more intensive work in post processing. I’ve locally adjusted shadows and highlights, while further tweaked overall exposure and made localized changes to color balance.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

SEPTA Chrome Glint—Sunset in Philadelphia.

Staying with the theme of low-sun glint and color slide film. The other day I scanned this photo I exposed back in October 2006.

My brother Sean and I had been exploring SEPTA’s Route 15. At the end of the day (literally) I made this view looking west on Girard of an eastbound PCC.

SEPTA PCC on the Route 15 line, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.
SEPTA PCC on the Route 15 line, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.

Tracking the Light works with Film and Digital, and Color and Black & White. 

Classic Chrome: Amtrak train 88 catches the Glint at Green’s Farms, November 8, 2015.

I love a great sunset glint opportunity. Last autumn, I revisited this spot at Green’s Farms, Connecticut with Pat Yough and George W. Kowanski.

While I exposed a number of views digitally, for this image I used my Canon EOS 3 with 100mm lens. As the train glided toward me I exposed a sequence of color slides on Fujichrome Provia 100F.

I scanned the slides using a Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner and adjusted the TIF files in Lightroom for final presentation here.

It is imposable to anticipate how this image will looks on your individual computer screen/device, but I can say it sure looked stunning on the big screen projected by a Leica lens!

Amtrak train 88 catches the glint at Green’s Farms at 4:15pm on November 8, 2015. Provia 100F.
Amtrak train 88 catches the glint at Green’s Farms at 4:15pm on November 8, 2015. Provia 100F.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Ten Alternative Views: Mass Central—Going South, South Barre to Palmer

Sometimes small operational anomalies on a railroad will combine to benefit the photographer by opening up different angles or opportunities.

Last Wednesday, delays on Mass-Central’s northward run (owing in part to congestion at Palmer Yard that resulted in a later than usual departure) combined with operation of engine 1750 with a southward facing cab opened some different winter angles on the old Ware River Branch.

I was traveling with Bob Arnold and Paul Goewey and we made the most of the variations in winter lighting along the route.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, over the last three decades, I’ve made many photos along this line. So, I’m always keen to find new viewpoints of this operation.

Low clear sun in January makes for rich colors and wonderful contrast, but also posed problems caused by long shadows.

It is true that carefully placed shadows can augment a scene, but random hard shadows too often do little more than add distractions and disrupt a composition.

Below are a few of the more successful angles I exposed on this southward trip.

Three-quarter lighting at South Barre, allowed for nice illumination of the railroad's logo on the side of GP38-2 1750, while showing the old Mill that is now home to the Wildwood Reload. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Three-quarter lighting at South Barre, allowed for nice illumination of the railroad’s logo on the side of GP38-2 1750, while showing the old Mill that is now home to the Wildwood Reload. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Beautiful afternoon light near Barre Plains makes for great contrast that brings out the texture in the foreground grasses. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Beautiful afternoon light near Barre Plains makes for great contrast that brings out the texture in the foreground grasses. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I could make this view of the old Mills at Hardwick any day of the week, and I've been meaning to drive up one of these days to make the most of the light. So as I was walking into position to make my set on the far side of the Ware River at Gilbertville (featured below, I exposed this view with my 12mm Zeiss Touit. The old Boston & Maine line that ran parallel to the B&A Ware River Branch had run behind these mills. The tracks were lifted in the 1930s, although the Hardwick station survives. Mass-Central's present line is behind me.
I could make this view of the old Mills at Hardwick any day of the week, and I’ve been meaning to drive up one of these days to make the most of the light. So as I was walking into position to make my set on the far side of the Ware River at Gilbertville (featured below, I exposed this view with my 12mm Zeiss Touit. The old Boston & Maine line that ran parallel to the B&A Ware River Branch had run behind these mills. The tracks were lifted in the 1930s, although the Hardwick station survives. Mass-Central’s present line is behind me.
The sun had swung around at Gilbertville, so we tried this angle to feature the buildings alongside the tracks. I've cropped this 12mm view to eliminate the horse shadows in the foreground.
The sun had swung around at Gilbertville, so we tried this angle to feature the buildings alongside the tracks. I’ve cropped this 12mm view to eliminate the harsh shadows in the foreground.
Must all railroad photos be serious? Mass-Central's crew are friendly, so we gave them a passing wave. I was multitasking, by waving and photographing at the same time. Photo exposed with my Zeiss 12mm Touit.
Must all railroad photos be serious? Mass-Central’s crew are friendly, so we gave them a passing wave. I was multitasking, by waving and photographing at the same time. Photo exposed with my Zeiss 12mm Touit.
A telephoto view south of the Church Street crossing Ware off State Route 32. Exposed with my 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
A telephoto view south of the Church Street crossing Ware off State Route 32. Exposed with my 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
Same location as above but with a wide-angle setting on my zoom lens to take in the Ware River Valley. At one time B&M's line was located on the opposite side of this narrow valley.
Same location as above but with a wide-angle setting on my zoom lens to take in the Ware River Valley. At one time B&M’s line was located on the opposite side of this narrow valley.
Afternoon lighting at Ware made for some nice texture on the old coal sheds along the Boston & Albany. In summer these tend to be obscured by foliage.
Afternoon lighting at Ware made for some nice texture on the old coal sheds along the Boston & Albany. In summer these tend to be obscured by foliage.
South Street in Ware was lit nicely. This is the same location (albeit from a different angle) featured on Tracking the Light on Thursday January 7, 2016, but in those images viewed from St. Mary's Cemetery.
South Street in Ware was lit nicely. This is the same location (albeit from a different angle) featured on Tracking the Light on Thursday January 7, 2016. In  those earlier  images I was standing in St. Mary’s Cemetery. See: Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context. (link below).

Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context.

Sometimes the shadows conspire against making the desired view of the train. By the time Mass-Central arrived at Thorndike, the shadows had covered the tracks. Oh well, a challenge for another day.
Sometimes the shadows conspire against making the desired view of the train. By the time Mass-Central arrived at Thorndike, the shadows had covered the tracks. Oh well, a challenge for another day.

 

Not happy with these? I’ll try again on another day when the freight runs a bit earlier, or in a softer day, when there are no harsh shadows.

Tracking the Light explores new angles; New Posts Daily!

Capturing the Spirit of Ware River Valley; Nine More Mass-Central Contextual Views.

While on the roll with Mass-Central, I thought I’d present some more of my latest views. Made over the last week or so, these portray the railroad and its environs in the Ware River Valley.

In my photography and writing, I believe that providing context is an important component of telling a story.

Not all these photos depict trains, but together they are intended to paint a picture of modern railroading in this historic New England valley.

Since Mass-Central’s history is closely tied to the geography and industries that once-populated the Ware River Valley, to relay this story, it is important to capture more than just pretty pictures of the locomotive engine.

The old textile mills, villages, mill-ponds, and local highways all play an important part of the greater story.

Forest Lake.
Forest Lake.
Gilbertville.
Gilbertville.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a slightly more focused approach and highlight Mass-Central’s southbound run to Palmer. This will feature a variety of classically inspired views in low winter sun.

South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
Gilbertville.
Gilbertville.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.

Tracking the Light  posts daily!

Railroad Photography: Breaking the Rules: Aiming into the Sun!

 

Someone once said, ‘never photograph by aiming directly into the midday sun’. And, this advice has been melded into the cardinal rules of good railway photography.

The other day, while photographing along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, I opted to violate this basic premise of good photography.

Three considerations;

  1.  Over the years (35 of them) I’ve exposed a great many images of the Mass-Central on its former B&A branch. (A fair few of these images, I feel are indeed quite good, and perhaps border the category of ‘above average’.) So, if I end up making a bad photo (or two), who cares?
  2. My 12mm Zeiss Touit lens is an unusual piece of equipment. Owing to the nature of its design and exceptional high quality glass, I can make photos that frankly wouldn’t work so well with more conventional equipment.
  3. By selecting a very small aperture (f22), I can create a sunburst effect in a clear polarized sky while continuing to retain shadow detail.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera's histogram, I've optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I've attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera’s histogram, I’ve optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I’ve attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I've taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I’ve taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. This is a camera produced Jpg, unaltered except for scaling necessary for internet presentation.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I've also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I’ve also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas. In this instance, I have not applied any external filters.

So, are these photos good? Will I be fined by the aesthetics police? That’s up to you to decide!

But, honestly, what else would you have me do with a northward train coming directly out of the midday sun? I could have made no photos, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting post, now would it?

Tracking the Light Posts Something New Every Day!

Thursday Extra Post: Follow up view!

In relation to this morning’s post; Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context, I’ve received several comments (and email) suggesting that a view in between the two I originally presented might be a superior alternative.

I don’t concur, but I am willing to offer this photo as a potential third alternative.

The third option.
The third option.

I had had my FujiFilm X-T1 set  to  ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous fast) and so exposed a great many images  in rapid successionat this location.

Sometimes Tracking the Light posts more often than once per day!

Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context.

Winter is an excellent time to photograph Mass-Central former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

The lack of foliage and a dearth of heavy underbrush opens up angles for photography obscured during the warmer months.

My challenge is to find new views on this railroad that I’ve often documented over the last 35 years.

On Monday, January 4, 2016, I made these views of the southward Mass-Central freight descending Ware Hill on its return run to Palmer.

Here I present two of the sequence of images. Compositionally, I feel the first image works better as it allows the eye to wander from the locomotive at right to the other subjects. The second image places too much emphasis on the left side.

Mass-Central 1750 leads the railroad’s southward freight near South Street in Ware, Massachusetts on January 4, 2016. Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.)
Mass-Central 1750 leads the railroad’s southward freight near South Street in Ware, Massachusetts on January 4, 2016. Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.)
Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.) Both images exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.) Both images exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

Which do you prefer?

 

Tracking the Light Explores Photographic Technique Daily!

First Railway Photo(s) for 2016; SEPTA PCC on Parkside Avenue.

Philadelphia Fortuity:

Before January 2, 2016, I’d never seen a SEPTA PCC making the loop from 40th onto Parkside Avenue, then on to the normal number 15 route along Girard Avenue.

My motto is always have a camera at the ready. So while waiting at the traffic light, I made these views with my Panasonic Lumix LX7.

SEPTA_PCC_Parkside_and_Girard_P1370148

SEPTA_PCC_Parkside_and_Girard_P1370147

Tracking the Light Makes the Most of Lucky Shots!

New Posts Daily!

 

Irish Rail by the rules at Hazelhatch, September 2015.

Sometimes I try to play by the rules.

It was rare glorious sunny day back in September 2015. Irish Rail had a full complement of trains on the move. Catching clean 071 class diesel 077 with the second IWT Liner was a bonus.

I exposed these photos along the Dublin-Cork line at Hazelhatch (about ten miles southwest of Dublin). Special thanks to John Cleary, who advised me on the day’s program, provided road-based transport and suggested some angles.

Down Irish Rail InterCity Railcar at Hazelhatch. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Down Irish Rail InterCity Railcar at Hazelhatch. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Irish_Rail_2nd_IWT_Liner_at_footbridge_Hazelhatch_Station_close_DSCF3273

Irish_Rail_2nd_IWT_Liner_at_footbridge_Hazelhatch_Station_tight_DSCF3275

Photos by the rules:

  • Sunny day; tick!
  • Sun at least 30 degrees above the horizon and over right shoulder and positioned for evenly-lit three-quarter view; tick!
  • Rolling stock nearly free from shadows; tick!
  • Polls and wires minimized; tick!
  • View of railway wheels; tick!
  • shutter speed fast enough to stop the action; tick!
  • Trees and fences safely in the distance; tick!

Bonus qualifications: nominal elevation, clearly identifiable location and clean equipment.

Points subtracted: zoom lens used instead a prime ‘standard lens’. Digital used instead of film. Colour used instead of black & white. Evidence of people in some of the photos (minus two points, Tsk!)

Everyday Tracking the Light presents new material (qualified and otherwise).

 

Boston & Albany in the Quaboag Valley; the wide view—Zeiss 12mm Touit.

 

The backyard is always a good place to experiment with a new lens:

See familiar territory in a new way; if something goes wrong, nothing is lost. If you succeed, you’ll know your new equipment’s strengths, but if something isn’t right, you’ll learn how to work around the problem before setting out to photograph less familiar places.

Wright's Mills, West Warren, Massachusetts. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Wright’s Mills, West Warren, Massachusetts. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.

On St. Stephen’s Day, I took a drive up the Quaboag Valley along the old Boston & Albany route and made some photos with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a new Carl Zeiss 12mm Touit super wideangle lens.

These are some of the digital images I exposed with my new camera-lens combination. I adjusted image contrast in post processing to maximize shadow and highlight detail for internet presentation.

Looking west at Warren, Massachusetts. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Looking west at Warren, Massachusetts. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
In the shadow of Warren station. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
In the shadow of Warren station. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Warren common. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Warren common. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Boston & Albany's West Brookfield Station. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Boston & Albany’s West Brookfield Station. Exposed digitally with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.
West Brookfield Station.
West Brookfield Station.
Old Western Rail Road freight house at West Brookfield.
Old Western Rail Road freight house at West Brookfield.

Tracking the Light Explores New Equipment!

Ruinous Landscape with Pan Am Railways 22K; Wires, Poles and Roads.

 Are these elements insidious intrusions or compositional aids?

The other day I was inspecting a nature photography magazine. Each and every photograph featured a stunning landscape free from the hand of man. Waterfalls and luscious skyscapes, arctic views and verdant forests.

Nowhere were there poles, wires, or tarmac roads. This magazine had portrayed a world free from industry, electricity, commerce, and railways!

Fear not good citizen! Tracking the Light will fill these photographic omissions!

Take for example these images of Pan Am Railways/Norfolk Southern’s intermodal train symbol 22K, photographed in November 2015 near its Ayer, Massachusetts terminal.

Intermodal train 22K at Ayer, Massachusetts in November 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Intermodal train 22K at Ayer, Massachusetts in November 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.

A ruinous landscape? Just imagine this scene free from roads, wires, and the hand of man. What would be left to photograph?

Here's a similar view of Pan Am Railways/Norfolk Southern symbol freight 22K at Ayer. Exposed with my Fuji X-T1 digital camera.
Here’s a similar view of Pan Am Railways/Norfolk Southern symbol freight 22K at Ayer. Exposed with my Fuji X-T1 digital camera.

Tracking the Light Looks at Wires!

New Images Daily!

Storm Light at Gardner; Big GM and Dark Clouds.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Photography is all about light, right?

Gardner, Massachusetts, exposed on December 15, 2015 with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Gardner, Massachusetts, exposed on December 15, 2015 with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

I exposed these views of Pan Am Southern symbol freight 28N at Gardner, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg mainline.

Dark Clouds on the Horizon.

Heavy wintery clouds were rolling in from the west, yet a few shafts of sun remained. The contrast between the bright sun and billowing churning clouds allowed for dramatic lighting; ‘storm light’.

Gardner, Massachusetts, exposed on December 15, 2015 with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Gardner, Massachusetts, exposed on December 15, 2015 with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

I was traveling with Bob Arnold and Paul Goewey. Our bonus on this day was catching one of Norfolk Southern’s recently acquired former Union Pacific SD90MACs (a large General Motors model, built to accommodate a 6,000 hp diesel, but in this case  powered by GM’s more reliable 16-710 engine with a more conservative rating).

Pan Am’s 28N is a autorack train that drops cars at Gardner and Ayer, Massachusetts. At Gardner Providence & Worcester interchanges, and often P&W’s WOGR (Worcester-Gardner) arrived about the same time as an eastward Pan Am freight.

Gardner, Massachusetts, exposed on December 15, 2015 with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Gardner, Massachusetts, exposed on December 15, 2015 with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

By the time the P&W arrived at Gardner, the dramatic light had faded, yet the sky was still full of texture.

Which photo do you like the most?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Clear Signals and Happy New Year from Tracking the Light!

My photo at Shirley offers the hope of safe journey in 2016, but also a reminder to photographers that 2016 will see the decommissioning  of many old signals such as these old General Railway Signal searchlights.

How many more days will these old signals serve as intended?
How many more days will these old signals serve as intended?

Tracking the Light has been Posting Daily since 2013!

Tracking the Light Final Post for 2015; 10 Sunrises.

(only see one sunrise photo? click this link to view Tracking the Light’s site.)

Looking forward to 2016: I’ve decided to usher in the New Year with a collection of sunrise views that I’ve made over the years.

Sunrise is one of the best times to make photos as the light is low, colorful and dramatic. Sunrise is always varied.

Also, I’d like to dispel a myth that I’m never up early. 😉

Of these varied views, which do you like the most?

Sunrise, Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunrise, Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunrise, San Francisco, exposed with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome slide film in 2009.
Sunrise, San Francisco, exposed with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome slide film in 2009.
NJ Jersey Transit sunrise at Matawan, New Jersey in December 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
NJ Jersey Transit sunrise at Matawan, New Jersey in December 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunrise, Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009. Lumix LX3 photo.
Sunrise, CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009. Lumix LX3 photo.
Sunrise, West Warren, Massachusetts, November 2015. Lumix LX7 photograph.
Sunrise, West Warren, Massachusetts, November 2015. Lumix LX7 photograph.
Sunrise near Oulu, Finland, July 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Sunrise near Oulu, Finland, July 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Boston & Albany sunrise, Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, December 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Boston & Albany sunrise, Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, December 2015. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
1990s smoky sunrise at Solitude, Utah.
1990s smoky sunrise at Solitude, Utah.
Sunrise at Newark, New Jersey, December 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunrise at Newark, New Jersey, December 2015. Lumix LX7 photo.
Another Palmer sunrise. Sometime, before today.
Another Palmer sunrise. Sometime, before today.

 

Tracking the Light Final Post for 2015;

Daily posts planned for 2016.

Tracking the Light New Year’s Eve Post: Black River & Western; reflections and sunset.

Of these two photos, which do you like best? (only see one photo? click on Tracking the Light for the full post).

As the years ends, I’ve drawn on two clichés; reflection and  sunset.

A couple of weeks ago, I exposed both of these  images using my Lumix LX7 on the Black River & Western.

Reflect back over the last year? Did you make memorable photographs?

Steam locomotive number 60 reflects in the windows of doodlebug M-55 at Ringoes, New Jersey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Steam locomotive number 60 reflects in the windows of doodlebug M-55 at Ringoes, New Jersey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunset symbolizes the end of the day, but also the beginning of night. It is when light is in transition.
Sunset symbolizes the end of the day, but also the beginning of night. It is when light is in transition.

For my sunset image of Black River & Western 2-8-0 number 60, I show a dual transition; the fading light of day is one; the other is the conceptual juxtaposition of the antique world of the steam locomotive with the modern world of tarmac roads, uninspired modern architecture and a proliferation of wires.

Happy New Year’s Eve from Tracking the Light!

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Tracking the Light Reads the Rules of Railroad Photography.

(And ignores them).

Back in the day, a long long time ago (1906, I think), a self-appointed man of knowledge carved into stone the rules of good railroad photography. When translated these read something to the effect:

To take a good train picture you must:

  • Always use a standard lens;
  • Expose on bright sunny days;
  • The sun should be at least 30 degrees above the horizon and over your left shoulder positioned for an evenly lit three-quarter view;
  • Keep shadows off all railroad rolling stock;
  • Minimize or eliminate all wires and poles;
  • Refrain from including people;
  • Always select a vantage point that allows for a clean view of locomotive wheels;
  • Select a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action;
  • Avoid distracting or complicated backgrounds.
  • Keep trees and fences in the distance.
Amtrak ACS-64 652 leads Keystone train 648 east at Trenton, New Jersey in a December 2015 downpour. Digitally exposed using a Lumix LX7.
Amtrak ACS-64 652 leads Keystone train 648 east at Trenton, New Jersey in a December 2015 downpour. Digitally exposed using a Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light has no Rules.

 (Although every effort is made to post daily!)

Ain’t No juice jacks Here No more; Sunny Morning on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.

Pat Yough asked, ‘Anything on the scanner?’

‘Something about Norfolk Southern’s 24K, sorry didn’t catch the details,’ I replied.

A call was made; the angle of sun was inspected and Pat made a decision.

‘We can get breakfast, then catch the 24K before it arrives at Morrisville.’

Vintage PRR map with key lines identified in red.
Vintage PRR map with key lines identified in red.

Back in the days of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, the Trenton Cutoff was an electrified freight route used by freights as a shortcut around Philadelphia, that also served to avoid grades and minimize interference between through freight and passenger operations.

This late-era heavily engineered line is comparatively difficult to photograph these days.

Under Norfolk Southern’s modern operations, the Trenton Cutoff no longer functions as it had under PRR.

Conrail discontinued the electrification on the line in the early 1980s; today, the old PRR Main Line east of Harrisburg is largely void of through freight (as it primarily serves as a passenger route for Amtrak Keystones and SEPTA suburban trains).

However, today a few NS symbol freights are routed via old Reading Company lines to Norristown then via a Conrail-era connection to the Trenton Cutoff, thus avoiding the old Main Line. Got that?

Anyway, our quarry, intermodal freight 24K, terminated at yard near Morrisville, Pennsylvania opposite the Delaware River from Trenton. We set up near the yard.

First we scored our breakfast, then we scored photos of the 24K, before moving on to other projects.

 Not all important railroads are blessed with pastoral scenery. The catenary poles and wires tell of the Trenton Cutoff’s history. At one time Pennsylvania Railroad’s P5A, GG1 and E44 electrics plied the line. More has changed than the just locomotives

Not all important railroads are blessed with pastoral scenery. The catenary poles and wires tell of the Trenton Cutoff’s history. At one time Pennsylvania Railroad’s P5A, GG1 and E44 electrics plied the line. More has changed than the just locomotives

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

 

An Anniversary, Amtrak, Amherst and Emily Dickinson.

Today, December 28, 2015 marks the first anniversary of Amtrak’s final runs of the Vermonter on the old New London Northern line between East Northfield and Palmer, Massachusetts.

Until February 1995, this railroad line had been operated by Central Vermont, which at that time conveyed it to New England Central, which hosted Amtrak’s trains.

It was on a snowy evening nearly three years ago that I used my Canon EOS 7D to expose this image of the old New London Northern station at Amherst, Massachusetts.
It was on a snowy evening nearly three years ago that I used my Canon EOS 7D to expose this image of the old New London Northern station at Amherst, Massachusetts.

Step back 135 years. Before New England Central, before digital photography, Amtrak, or commercial electricity . . .

Poet, Emily Dickinson, today one of the best-known American wordsmiths of her generation, lived just a few blocks from this station.

On occasion Emily Dickinson may have traveled by train from Amherst to Monson, where she’d have visited members of her family who lived there. Perhaps she traveled to other destinations further afoot via connections with the Boston & Albany at Palmer.

Back in 1880 a train journey to Monson was easier than today, since then New London Northern served Amherst with three daily trains in each direction.

Two southward runs from Brattleboro afforded travel to Monson; one stopped at 6:46am, and required a change to a New London train in Palmer, which stopped in Monson at 8:24 am. The other was a through all-stops evening train that departed Amherst at 5:50 pm and stopped in Monson at 7:13 pm. There were similar schedules for northward trains.

Which of these schedules might she have traveled?

Her train’s consist, I imagine, was a light wood-burning 4-4-0 leading a wooden baggage car or possibly a combine coach and a second coach. Track speed was probably about a steady 30 mph, except climbing Belchertown Hill, and likely faster heading downgrade. More research would be necessary to track down the particulars.

Among the lines of her famous poem about her train travels read:

I like to see it lap the miles

And lick the valleys up,

And stop to feed itself at tanks . . .

From this description, it sounds more like the 5:50pm that routinely took water in Palmer before continuing its journey southward. But then, perhaps she was penning her lines about a northward run on its way back toward Amherst. Maybe the water tank mentioned was that located near the Amherst station. Just some educated guesses.

Tracking the Light takes an angle on Literature in an effort to make more compelling images.

 

Amtrak Action Under Wire; Northeast Corridor in December 2015

Consult your schedules, watch the signals, listen for the hum of the rail, and stay poised.

This is the heart of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, a raceway for passenger action. In between the fast flying Acela Express runs and Amtrak Regional trains are hourly all-stops SEPTA local runs.

Trains Under Wire.

On the morning of December 19, 2015, Pat Yough and I visited SEPTA stations north (east) of Philadelphia on the former Pennsylvania Railroad electrified four-track line. No GG1s today, but we did catch two old AEM-7s.

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Low level platforms here are soon to be 'improved.'
Low level platforms here are soon to be ‘improved.’
Amtrak ACS-64 number 651 leads train 153 at Levittown, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Amtrak ACS-64 number 651 leads train 153 at Levittown, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Tips of the day: stay sharp and remember that the long distance trains (Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Crescent, etc) are not listed in the Northeast Corridor schedule and can run ahead of the posted station times as listed in their respective schedules in the Amtrak National Timetable.

SEPTA local 9714 makes a station stop at Levittown, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
SEPTA local 9714 makes a station stop at Levittown, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Many times I've traveled on this train; Amtrak 56 the Vermonter, seen here approaching Levitttown behind ACS-64 635.
Many times I’ve traveled on this train; Amtrak 56 the Vermonter, seen here approaching Levitttown behind ACS-64 635.
Amtrak Keystone 663 is lead by Siemens-built ACS-64 610. The sharp photographer needs to keep the train numbers distinct from engine numbers. This can get a bit confusing on this section of line since both the ACS-64 locomotives (motors) and Keystone train use 600 series numbers. Just remember one is a piece of equipment, the other is a scheduled service.
Amtrak Keystone 663 is led by Siemens-built ACS-64 610. The sharp photographer needs to keep the train numbers distinct from engine numbers. This can get a bit confusing on this section of line since both the ACS-64 locomotives (motors) and Keystone trains use 600 series numbers. Just remember one is a piece of equipment, the other is a scheduled service.
Ouch! Bad luck, on an otherwise clear morning one lingering fluffy cloud quenched the sunlight just as one of two AEM-7s of the day passed. Engine 927 leads Amtrak train 155 at Levitttown, PA. FujiFilm X-T1 photo, adjusted in post processing with Lightroom to correct contrast, exposure and color temperature.
Ouch! Bad luck, on an otherwise clear morning one lingering fluffy cloud quenched the sunlight just as one of two AEM-7s of the day passed. Engine 927 leads Amtrak train 155 at Levitttown, PA. FujiFilm X-T1 photo, adjusted in post processing with Lightroom to correct contrast, exposure and color temperature.
Amtrak Keystone 662 is in push-mode with ACS-64 636 at the back. (In other words this is a trailing view.) FujiFilm X-T1 digital image.
Amtrak Keystone 662 is in push-mode with ACS-64 636 at the back. (In other words this is a trailing view.) FujiFilm X-T1 digital image with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Who said you can't use a wide-angle when photographing a high-speed train. Acela Express 2250 was racing along at an estimated 125 mph when I exposed this view with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital image with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. I had the camera in 'CF' (Continuous Fast, what I call 'turbo flutter') and the shutter speed at 1/2000th of a second.
Who said you can’t use a wide-angle when photographing a high-speed train? Acela Express 2250 was racing along at an estimated 125 mph when I exposed this view with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital image with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. I had the camera in ‘CF’ (Continuous Fast, what I call ‘turbo flutter’) and the shutter speed at 1/2000th of a second.
SEPTA 9707 makes a station stop at Levittown on its way to Trenton, New Jersey.
SEPTA 9707 makes a station stop at Levittown on its way to Trenton, New Jersey.
Amtrak 98 rolls eastward (northward) at Levittstown on the final leg of its trip from Florida to New York Penn-Station. Remind me, why did Amtrak invest in new baggage cars?
Amtrak 98 rolls eastward (northward) at Levittstown on the final leg of its trip from Florida to New York Penn-Station. Remind me, why did Amtrak invest in new baggage cars?
Amtrak Keystone 664 had this battle-worn AEM-7 at the back. Quick action at Croydon allowed for a satisfactory trailing view of the aged electric in action.
Amtrak Keystone 664 had this battle-worn AEM-7 at the back. Quick action at Croydon allowed for a satisfactory trailing view of the aged electric in action.
I always like to catch the long-distance trains under wire. Amtrak ACS-64 606 leads train 91 the Silver Star on its run to Miami, Florida. Photographing the German-designed electrics under old PRR signal bridges makes for a contrast in time and technology that helps tell the story of today's Northeast Corridor.
I always like to catch the long-distance trains under wire. Amtrak ACS-64 606 leads train 91 the Silver Star on its run to Miami, Florida. Photographing the German-designed electrics under old PRR signal bridges makes for a contrast in time and technology that helps tell the story of today’s Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak train number 20, the Crescent was running ahead of its posted time when it passed Croydon. Pat Yough had checked the time on his smart phone, so we were poised for action when its headlight appeared.
Amtrak train number 20, the Crescent was running ahead of its posted time when it passed Croydon. Pat Yough had checked the time on his smart phone, so we were poised for action when its headlight appeared.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Reading & Northern: Cressona, Pennsylvania—Retro Railroad Fantasy?

Is it a retro railroad fantasy to make images that resemble those of the late-Reading Era in 2015?

Reading & Northern GP39RN 2532 leads one of the company's Santa Trains at Becks near Cressona, Pennsylvania. This locomotive was originally classified as EMD GP30 and is painted to resemble Reading Company freight locomotives as they appeared in the 1970s. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Reading & Northern GP39RN 2532 leads one of the company’s Santa Trains at Becks near Cressona, Pennsylvania. This locomotive was originally classified as EMD GP30 and is painted to resemble Reading Company freight locomotives as they appeared in the 1970s. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Traveling with Pat Yough, I made this selection of photographs at the former Reading Company yards at Cressona, Pennsylvania in December 2015.

Back in the 19th Century, Philadelphia & Reading consolidated various railroads primarily for the movement of anthracite. In its heyday, this railroad was one of the busiest and most profitable in the United States.

Coal demand and transport has changed dramatically in the last 130 years.

Reading Company’s operations entered a long decline in the 20th century and were finally folded into Conrail in 1976. Reading & Northern emerged as a Conrail spinoff in the 1980s.

Reading & Northern's old Reading Company yards at Cressona, Pennsylvania. Exposed in 'monochrome mode' with my LX-7. I'v adjusted the tonality with an in-camera red-filter setting.
Reading & Northern’s old Reading Company yards at Cressona, Pennsylvania. Exposed in ‘monochrome mode’ with my LX-7. I’ve adjusted the tonality with an in-camera red-filter setting.

Today, using a host of vintage railroad equipment R&N provides freight service and seasonal excursions in the spirit of the old Reading Company. Anthracite remains among the commodities moved by the railroad.

R&N paints its vintage locomotives and some freight cars to resemble those of the late-era Reading Company.

This is a similar view to the black & white image above, and aimed to include R&N's GP39RN. This could be a view of an R&N freight, or perhaps almost passable as a view of the Reading Company from the 1970s. Yet, its really a Santa Train excursion. CNJ 113 is at the back of the train. Lumix LX7 photo.
This is a similar view to the black & white image above, and aimed to include R&N’s GP39RN. This could be a view of an R&N freight, or perhaps almost passable (if we cropped the ‘derail’ sign, and ignore the graffiti-covered 1980s era freight cars)  as a view of the Reading Company from the 1970s. Yet, it’s really a modern R&N Santa Train excursion. Restored CNJ 0-6-0 113 is puffing away at the back of the train. Lumix LX7 photo.
Trailing view of R&N's no-GP30 disguises the true nature of the day's excursion. This could easily pass as a R&N freight. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Trailing view of R&N’s neo-GP30 disguises the true nature of the day’s excursion. This could easily pass as a R&N freight. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

The line between documentation and photo recreation is blurred.

Through select cropping, I can either reveal the nature of the passenger excursions, or at first glance make R&N’s excursions operation appear like a Reading Company freight from the mid-1970s, or even its own weekday freights.

When does documentation become a re-creation? In the case of R&N does such a distinction even matter?

R&N offers a window on the old order, which is a relief for a railroad photographer aiming to step back from the contemporary scene dominated by massive class I carriers with modern six-motor safety-cab diesels moving unit trains of coal, ethanol and intermodal containers, and modern passenger trains.

LX7 panned photo.
LX7 panned photo—relatively slow shutter speed and careful continuous panning motion allowed the main subject to remain sharp while the background slips into a sea of blur.

Tracking the Light Poses Questions and Reveals the Secrets of Photographic Technique—Every Day!

 

 

 

Santa Trains with Central Railroad of New Jersey Steam at Minersville .

Restored Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 number 113 worked Reading & Northern Santa Trains between Minersville and Schuylkill Haven on December 20th, 2015.

Approaching Minersville, Pennsylvania. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Approaching Minersville, Pennsylvania. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Pat Yough and I made the most of this photographic opportunity, including exposing images of R&N GP30 2532 that worked the Schuylkill Haven-end of the train.

At Minersville, I focused on the locomotive’s details.

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Last year, (see: Happy Christmas from Tracking the Light: Doubleheaded Steam) we’d photographed double-headed trains with CNJ’s 113 trailing behind Reading & Northern’s Pacific number 425. Where last year we had overcast weather, this year we had a mix of bright sun and high cloud.

Another change was that 113 recently had had its boiler jacketing restored. While a subtle improvement for the casual observer, it really made for more authentic looking photographs.

Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 113 charges through Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania on December 20, 2015.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 113 charges through Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania on December 20, 2015.
Trailing view at Cressona Yard on December 20, 2015.
Trailing view at Cressona Yard on December 20, 2015.

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Tracking the Light posts looks close!

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On the roll at Schuylkill Haven. Panned using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.

Tracking the Light’s 2015 Christmas Electric Train Video.

Filmed with a Lumix LX7 and edited for internet presentation  with Apple iMovie. Dedicated to the memory of Thomasina the Cat, who loved to watch the train and played a starring role in earlier videos.

Tracking the Light posts daily; please share.

Happy Christmas from Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light!

New Hope & Ivyland's former Reading Company station at New Hope, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a Lumix LX7 digital camera.
New Hope & Ivyland’s former Reading Company station at New Hope, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a Lumix LX7 digital camera, nominal shadow adjustment from a RAW file.
How about a happier, brighter, super-saturated version of the same photo; contrast, exposure, saturation, color balance and clarity boosted in Lightroom for maximum holiday cheer. LX7 photo.
How about a happier, brighter, super-saturated version of the same photo? Here the  contrast, exposure, saturation, color balance and clarity have been boosted in Lightroom for maximum holiday cheer. Hark the ho ho, and all that! LX7 photo.

Amtrak’s Philadelphia 30th Street Station: decorated for the Holiday Season.

In the hustle to get to where you going, don’t forget to take in the finer points of traveling.

The week around Christmas is one of the busy travel seasons for Amtrak and can be an interesting time to make photographs.

Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Station at 30th Street in Philadelphia is one of the nicest large terminals in North America.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

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Amtrak_30th_St_Station_Philadelphia_Christmas_Tree_P1360290

 

Amtrak_30th_St_Station_Philadelphia_Angel_P1360291I made these photos at 30th St. the other day with my Lumix LX7 while waiting for Amtrak train 148, which connects Washington D.C. with Springfield, Massachusetts. (This is a direct train, and one of the few that still changes from electric to diesel at New Haven.)

ACS-64 number 649 leads train 148 on track 4 at 30th Street Station. I boarded the Quiet Car.
ACS-64 number 649 leads train 148 on track 4 at 30th Street Station. I boarded the Quiet Car.

After exposure I made nominal adjustments to the RAW files using Lightroom. To clean up the images and make them more pleasing to the eye I adjusted contrast and color saturation.

Slight adjustments can make a photo ‘snap’ which gives that extra something special that helps grab your attention. Extreme adjustments can alter the image and produce far-fetched fantasy images. (Which at Christmas in Philadelphia could be a good thing, right?)

Seasons Greetings from Tracking the Light!

 

Interested in Railway Stations?

Check out my new book Railway Depots, Stations and Terminals published by Voyageur Press and available via Amazon and other distributors.

Path Photograph—27 Years Ago Today.

It was a dismal rainy evening two days before Christmas 1988. I had two Leicas. With one I was running some tests on color filtration with a new flavor of Kodak Ektachrome (remember that?) for a class I was taking in color photography.

In the other Leica, my dad’s M3, I had a sole roll of Kodak Plus-X (ISO 125, that I rated at ISO 80).

My pal TSH and I were exploring New York City area transit on one of the busiest travel days of the season, and I was making photos trying to capture the spirit of motion.

Among the images I made, was this photograph of a PATH train crossing the massive lift bridge east of Newark Penn Station.

Exposed using a Leica M3 with 50mm Summicron on Kodak Plus X (rated at ISO80).
Exposed using a Leica M3 with 50mm Summicron on Kodak Plus X (rated at ISO80).

The other day I scanned this negative and processed the image electronically in Lightroom, where I minimized the dust that had accumulated over the last three decades.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

 

Black River & Western’s North Pole Express!

In the spirit of the season, I made this image of Black River & Western’s 2-8-0 number 60 leading the North Pole Express across the Copper Hill Viaduct west of Flemington, New Jersey.

Black River & Western, former Great Western 2-8-0 number 60. Exposed on December 19, 2015 using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. File adjusted using Lightroom to control contrast and color balance.
Black River & Western, former Great Western 2-8-0 number 60. Exposed on December 19, 2015 using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. File adjusted using Lightroom to control contrast and color balance.

Season’s Greetings from Tracking the Light!

 

Tracking the Light: New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal, December 2015—a dozen new images!

I made my first photographs at the old Lackawanna Hoboken Terminal with my father back in 1976. He made his first photos there about 20 years earlier.

NJT_Hoboken_terminal_detail_P1350278

Today, Hoboken Terminal survives as one of the last great waterfront railroad terminals. Perhaps, the last great American waterfront terminal.

There’s no longer a Lackawanna Limited for Buffalo, nor any of the Lackawanna EMD F3s or F-M Trainmasters that my dad saw, but New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal remains as one of the most atmospheric locations in the New York City area to make railway images.

Hints of the old order; the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western was one of the great railway companies of the early 20th century.
Hints of the old order; the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western was one of the great railway companies of the early 20th century.

While I’ve featured Hoboken Terminal previously on Tracking the Light, (see: Hoboken?!) I exposed all of these photos in one morning about ten days ago using my Lumix LX7.

My intent here was no to make one photo, but rather a group of images that capture the character of the place.

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NJT_Hoboken_terminal_detail_P1350477

I featured New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal in my new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press this year. The book is available through Amazon and other outlets.

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Tracking the Light Presents a New Angle Every Day!

NJT_4002_Hoboken_terminal_P1350262

NJT_Hoboken_terminal_P1350245NJT_Hoboken_terminal_skylight_P1350247NJT_Hoboken_terminal_detail_P1350282NJT_4201_Hoboken_trailing_view_P1350460New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal is in my new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press this year. The book is available through Amazon and other outlets.

A Window Back in Time; Exchange Place.

This is another of my ‘Then and Now’ attempts from last week’s exploration of Jersey City.

As previously mentioned: my fascination with Pennsylvania Railroad’s Jersey City waterfront terminal at Exchange Place, inspired a family trip to look for vestiges in February 1983. This is my window back in time.

Exchange Place in Jersey City as I photographed it with my Leica in February 1983. I'm looking south toward the Colgate-Palmolive Building. About the only thing left of this scene today is the bank building at the left.
Exchange Place in Jersey City as I photographed it with my Leica in February 1983. I’m looking south toward the Colgate-Palmolive Building. About the only thing left of this scene today is the bank building at the left.

Both my dad and I made a few photos. At the time I was trying to get a sense for how things looked decades earlier. (Pop, had made views of PRR MP54s by day and by night at the old terminal, which by 1983 was long gone.)
Fast forward another 32-33 years, and I find that Jersey City has been completely transformed. Most traces of Conrail’s waterfront track have been replaced by modern development, while NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail now winds through the city.

Working from my 1983 view at Exchange Place, on my recent visit I spent an hour walking around in concentric circles trying to figure out where I’d made the old photo. How hard could this be?

Complicating matters, I’d only been there once, my father was driving, and my memories from this one visit are a bit hazy.

Yes, I remember the day, and I recall making the photos, but how the various locations related to one another remained a bit sketchy. This was especially difficult because today the setting has been so completely changed that many of the landmarks in my old image are gone.

Exchange Place in December 2015: Perhaps after the renovation work on the bank building (at left) has been completed, I’ll come back and make another view.
Exchange Place in December 2015: Perhaps after the renovation work on the bank building (at left) has been completed, I’ll come back and make another view.

I’d all but given up. I went for a spin on the Light Rail, and my way back north towards Hoboken, I recognized the setting for my 1983 image.

Now then, how could I have known that my 1983 Exchange Place view was indeed at today’s NJ Transit Exchange Place light rail station!

The location of the awnings makes the direct recreation complicated. Ideally I'd need to stand back a little further with a 50mm lens perspective to precisely the same view of the bank on the right (as shown in the 1983 view).
The location of the Light Rail awnings makes the direct recreation complicated. Ideally I’d need to stand back a little further using a 50mm lens perspective to precisely recreate  the same view of the bank on the right (as shown in the 1983 view).

Construction on the bank building made for a difficult comparison view, as does the Light Rail’s supporting infrastructure: awnings, ticket machines, catenary poles, etc, which precluded standing in the exact same spot.

Actually, the bank building on the left is just about the only common anchor between my two images. Almost all the other buildings in the 1983, including the Colgate-Palmolive building in the distance, have been replaced by newer structures.

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And, while there are tracks in both views, these are on different alignments and serve entire different purposes.

Tracking the Light Transcends Time!

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NJ Transit Hudson-Bergen Light Rail; My Jersey City Gallery, 8 photos.

I arrived in Jersey City on NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail a few days ago. While I was checking out some comparative ‘now and then’ locations, I made these photos of the modern cars with my Lumix LX7.

NJT_Hudson_Bergen_light_rail_Harsimus_Cove_P1350295Hudson-Bergen_lightrail_Jersey_City_P1350331Morris_Canal_plaque_P1350329Hudson-Bergen_lightrail_Jersey_City_P1350335Hudson-Bergen_lightrail_Jersey_City_P1350322Hudson-Bergen_lightrail_Jersey_City_P1350316Hudson-Bergen_lightrail_Jersey_City_P1350336Hudson-Bergen_lightrail_Jersey_City_P1350343

Tracking the Light Posts Original Photos!

Jersey City 1983 and 2015, Dramatic Changes and Comparisons in Time and Place.

(for those viewing via Facebook or other sites, you’ll need to click the link to Tracking the Light for the full effect.)

Then and Now, I think.

Back in 1983, I was fascinated by the Pennsylvania Railroad’s waterfront operations in Jersey City, especially at Exchange Place.

On a family trip, we spent an hour or so exploring the decay around Jersey City so that I could make photos that I’d ultimately planned to use to build a diorama/model railroad.

23 years previously, my father had made photos at the old Exchange Place Terminal. We had difficulties locating anything definable at the site of the once massive station, but made a few photos around the Conrail former PRR yards.

Conrail_9212_and_7546_at_Exchange_Place_Jersey_City_NY_Feb1983©Richard_Solomon_664473
In February 1983, my father exposed this view of Conrail locomotives at Jersey City on Kodachrome 64 using his Leica. I made some similar views that are less impressive as stand alone photographs, by proved useful in trying to relocate this place last week.

Over the last year, I’ve taken a few trips through Jersey City on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and found the place totally transformed from my mental images of the place stemming from the early 1980s.

So, I decided to try to recreate some of our 1983 angles, and  last week armed with maps and photos in-hand I went exploring.

This USGS topo map shows the way Jersey City would have been c1950. I've placed a blue arrow to show my photo location. (Manhattan Island is located at the far right).
This USGS topo map shows the way Jersey City would have been c1950. I’ve placed a blue arrow to show my photo location. (Manhattan Island is located at the far right).

When a cityscape changes beyond recognition, it can be difficult to produce practical ‘now and then images.

These photos are part my work in progress.

I made some cheap copies of the 1983 photos and started exploring Jersey City. While I'd expected to find the 1983 site covered with modern development, I was surprise that the location of our locomotive photo remained undeveloped, albeit surrounded by modern buildings.
I made some cheap copies of the 1983 photos and started exploring Jersey City. While I’d expected to find the 1983 site covered with modern development, I was surprise that the nearest location of our locomotive photo remained undeveloped, albeit surrounded by modern buildings.
Is this the exact spot where we made our photos in 1983. I'm not sure, but one I climbed up the embankment, it seemed very familiar, although the setting has been transformed. Sorry, no vintage EMD NW2 switchers in December 2015! Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Is this the exact spot where we made our photos in 1983? I’m not sure, but when I climbed up the embankment it seemed very familiar, although the setting has been transformed. Sorry, no vintage EMD NW2 switchers in December 2015! Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light Re-explores Old Locations!

NYCTA Number 7 Train, Queensboro Plaza, December 2015.

I’ll call this, Flushing Line Revisited. My first visit was with my dad about 1968. They’ve changed the cars since then

The New York metro-area generates its own quality of light. By afternoon on this day a mix of high cloud and four flavors of atmospheric pollution had tinted the skylight grayish orange with hints of smoggy yellow.

I've adjusted contrast in post-processing with the use of a digitally applied gradated neutral density filter to help balance the sky detail.
I’ve adjusted contrast in post-processing with the use of a digitally applied gradated neutral density filter to help balance the sky detail.
A slightly closer view of the same train. Note the inbound train on the lower level of the elevated structure. Both are moving.
A slightly closer view of the same train. Note the inbound train on the lower level of the elevated structure. Both are moving.

I made these views with my Lumix LX7 from the Manhattan-end of the double-deck Queenboro Plaza station. The Manhattan skyline looms in the distance.

Tracking the Light posts Daily!