About briansolomon1

Author of more than 50 books on railways, photography, and Ireland. Brian divides his time between the United States and Ireland, and frequently travels across Europe and North America.

Steam in the Gullet; Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s Marble City

Sunday Morning, March 22, 2015: I waited patiently at the Con Colbert Road near the top of the Gullet—the cutting west of Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.

In the distance I could see the smoke from the locomotive; it was blocked outside of Heuston Station waiting for a path.

Up and down regular passenger trains gave me an opportunity to check my focus and exposures.

The 10am Dublin-Cork passenger train was led by Irish Rail class 201 number 215. A perfect subject with which to check focus and exposure.

The 10am Dublin-Cork passenger train was led by Irish Rail class 201 number 215. A perfect subject with which to check focus and exposure.

A following Inter City Railcar gave me another test subject. I was mindful that the block front of steam locomotive 461 would result in different exposure considerations than the bright yellow front of the ICR.

A following Inter City Railcar gave me another test subject. I was mindful that the block front of steam locomotive 461 would result in different exposure considerations than the bright yellow front of the ICR.

Past experience photographing steam locomotives in contrasty light has taught me that auto focus systems can easily get confused by wafting steam and smoke. The last thing I need is for the camera to be ‘hunting for focus’ during the moment of peak drama.

I switched my Fuji X-T1 to manual focus and pre-selected a focus point. The beauty of a digital camera is the ability to inspect results on site.

If I planned this correctly, dappled light and direct backlighting would help illuminate the smoke.

Finally, the bark of the locomotive and a volcanic display of exhaust. The camera was set in ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous high) and as 461 worked its way up the Gullet I exposed several strategically timed bursts of images.

Finally, an impressive display of steam and smoke! Locomotive driver Ken Fox works engine 461 upgrade. Fuji X-T1 with 135mm lens.

Finally, an impressive display of steam and smoke! Locomotive driver Ken Fox works engine 461 upgrade. Fuji X-T1 with 135mm lens.

RPSI_461_Marble_City_in_gullet_DSCF4306

This tighter view required a nominal focus adjustment at the last instant. Success!

This tighter view required a nominal focus adjustment at the last instant. Success!

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Heeding a prophecy of doom: Irish Rail 129 at Wellingtonbridge, Co. Wexford.

December 23, 2002 was a cold, wet, dark and mucky; in other words, typical sugar beet weather.

We were visiting the cabin at Wellingtonbridge, watching the machine load beet into ancient-looking four-wheel corrugated wagons. A steady ‘thump, thump, thump’ as the roots plopped into the wagons.

It wasn’t great for photography. But the driver of the laden beet (soon to depart Wellingtonbridge for Mallow, Co. Cork) said to me, ‘Get your photos now, this is all going away . . .’

Sadly, his prophecy came true. Old 129, a class 121 diesel built by General Motors at La Grange, Illinois in 1961, was cut up for scrap only a few months after I exposed this black & white photograph.

Exposed on black & white film with a Rolleiflex Model T.

Exposed on black & white film with a Rolleiflex Model T.

 

Irish Rail’s sugar beet traffic carried on for a few more years (three more than I thought it would). The last laden beet train departed Wellingtonbridge in January 2006. Afterwards, it was a downward spiral. Today, the wagons and loading machine are gone; the cabin is closed and the line rusty.

Yet, in the intervening months and years, I returned dozens of times, and made photos at all times of day and night. By the time the last beet train turned a wheel, I’d made hundreds of images of operation.

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Topped and Tailed HOBS in the Gullet.

Or, if you prefer: locomotives fore and aft on a ballast train in the cutting.

The three-track cutting extending from Islandbridge Junction up the grade toward Inchicore in Dublin is known as “the Gullet”.

Permanent way works (track maintenance) on Irish Rail’s Cork line on Saturday March 21, 2015, required operation of HOBS (high output ballast system) trains with locomotives at both ends.

While topped and tailed operations are quite common in some countries, these have been very unusual in Ireland in modern times.

I made several views of this train with an aim to emphasize the locomotives at both ends.

Canon X-T1 image; contrast and exposure adjust in post processing.

Fuji Film X-T1 digital image; contrast and exposure adjust in post processing.

Looking west.

Looking west.

Irish_Rail-088_w_tail_lamps_on_back_of_HOBS_in_Gullet2_DSCF4247

These images were exposed using my Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera. Among the features of this camera is an adjustable fold down rear-view display that allows me hold the camera at arms length over a wall. A built in level feature is especially useful in these circumstances.

For more about the HOBS see my earlier post: Irish Rail Ballast Train—July 28, 2014.

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Canadian National Caboose passing Monson Semaphore.

This old upper quadrant semaphore was located in Monson, Massachusetts about a mile from the Palmer diamond. It served as a fixed distant to the absolute signal protecting the crossing and was always in the diagonal position indicating ‘approach’.

I made this image on July 20, 1986 of a northward Central Vermont freight (probably job 562).

Purists may note that Canadian National referred to its cabooses as ‘Vans’. More relevant was that by this date, cabooses were becoming unusual in New England. Conrail began caboose-less operation on through freights a few years earlier.

Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.

Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.

Even rarer in New England were semaphores. Yet this one survived until very recently, when Central Vermont successor New England Central finally replaced it with a color-light. See earlier post: Monson Semaphore Challenge.

A minor point regarding this composition; I’d released the shutter a moment too soon, and so the left-hand back of the caboose visually intersects with the semaphore ladder. This annoys me. Sometimes I like a bit of visual tension in an image, but in this case it doesn’t work.

 

Not that I can go back and try it again, as much as I’d like to!

 

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Eclipsed.

Or I should say clouded. This morning a solar eclipse occurred. So I understand. Heavy cloud prevailed at the beginning of the eclipse in Dublin. I walked along the Liffey hoping to glimpse this cosmic event.

I admit it did get rather dim. I made a variety of cloudy day images.

During the darkest part of the eclipse, I made this view of Grattan Bridge. Could be an ordinary dull day.

During the darkest part of the eclipse, I made this view of Grattan Bridge. Could be an ordinary dull day.

Panoramic view of the River Liffey during the darkest moments of the eclipse.

Panoramic view of the River Liffey during the darkest moments of the eclipse.

I wasn't the only one on Grattan Bridge hoping for a peak at the sun. Panoramic view.

I wasn’t the only one on Grattan Bridge hoping for a peak at the sun. Panoramic view.

About 10am, thinking I’d missed the event, I gave up and went for breakfast. I’m told that about that time the clouds parted and the sun (with moon shadow) made a fleeting appearance in the sky over Dublin. Ironically I watched the remainder of the event on Sky News in the cafe where I enjoyed a full Irish breakfast.

Wrong location, bad luck, and poor timing.

(Apparently they had a great view on the Faroe Islands.)

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Classic Kodachrome: Montreal-built at State Line Crossing.

In the mid-1980s, Canadian National Railway’s Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s were commonly operated on its Central Vermont Railway subsidiary.

It might seem odd in retrospect, but I wasn’t keen on these peculiar locomotives when they were common. Although they were derived from an Alco design, and I was big fan of Alco, I thought they were ugly and not ‘real’ Alcos. I much preferred Central Vermont’s own Alco RS-11s.

  Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex.

June 25, 1986, State Line Crossing, Monson, Massachusets. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 65mm Elmar using a Visoflex.

My ill-founded prejudices never stopped me from making photographs of the M-420s. And even back in 1986, I was pleased to catch this one leading Central Vermont’s freight 562 across Route 32 in Monson, Massachusetts (immediately north of the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line).

This is the top of State Line Hill and it was all downgrade from here. I’m standing on a pile of ballast for elevation.

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Sky Tram at Dusk.

Here we have a variation on a theme. Previously I published photos on Tracking the Light of Dublin’s LUAS specially painted Sky tram, and on a different day a panned image of a LUAS tram crossing Kings Bridge (Sean Heuston Bridge) near Heuston Station.

The other night on my way over to the Irish Railway Record Society premises (where I’m doing a bit of research in the library), I noted the one-of-a-kind Sky painted tram working outbound.

I dug my Fujifilm X-T1 out of my back pack and made a series of panned images in ‘flutter mode’ of the tram crossing the bridge at dusk.

Exposed digitally using a Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 6400 at 1/8 of a second at f7.1, 32.5mm focal length with a 18-135mm lens.

Exposed digitally using a Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 6400 at 1/8 of a second at f7.1, 32.5mm focal length with a 18-135mm lens.

The Sky tram paused at Heuston Station. In just a few more minutes the last of the blue would fade from the evening sky.

The Sky tram paused at Heuston Station. In just a few more minutes the last of the blue would fade from the evening sky.

Often, I build on past efforts, and this a good example of putting the pieces together. Visually, of course.

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Southern Pacific, Bealville, California 1993.

We heard the thunderous roar of EMD 645-E3 diesels laboring upgrade in ‘Run-8’ (maximum throttle.) Thick fog at Bealville in the California Tehachapis amplified the sound.

I was traveling with my friend and fellow photographer Brian Jennison, a veteran of Tehachapi railroad photography.

As the sound faded in and out, I looked for an angle; walking back and forth, I finally settled on this view on the outside of the curve at the often-photographed Bealville horseshoe.

 A version of this image appeared in Pacific Railnews in the mid-1990s when I worked for Pentrex Publishing.


A version of this image appeared in Pacific Railnews in the mid-1990s when I worked for Pentrex Publishing.

On Southern Pacific all train movements were deemed either ‘eastward’ or ‘westward’ in their relation to the direction traveled from milepost 0 in San Francisco, regardless of the compass. In the Tehachapis, a train may be traveling in all directions at the same time owing to the exceptional sinuosity of the trackage.

This uphill freight was moving railroad timetable east.

In the lead was a Rio Grande SD40T-2. It had a transitional lighting arrangement, that included its as-built headlight and oscillating lights, plus recently added ditch-lights and a ‘gumball’ rotating yellow light atop the cab. Again the fog has accentuated the locomotive’s lights.

I was working with my Nikon F3T with Nikkor f1.8 105mm telephoto mounted on my Bogen 3021 tripod and loaded with Fuji 100 slide film (what I used to call ‘Fujiahundred’). I metered the scene with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell.

The sound show was far more impressive than any image I could have made of the train’s approach and passing. I wish I could stand there again in the fog on that April 4, 1993 morning!

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TRACKING THE LIGHT SPECIAL: Dozens of Photos from Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day-March 17, 2015

It’s been a wild and colourful (mostly green) St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin! Here’s just a few of the many photos I made with my Fuji X-T1.

Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade attracted some half million people. The other million were queuing to cross the Ha’Penny Bridge over the Liffey.

St_Patrick_Liffey_Street-DSCF3920

Stilted_DSCF3704Silly_hats_at_Parade_DSCF3623

See my Dublin Page for more photos!

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Silver-girl_3_DSCF3329Silver-girl_flying_1_DSCF3413Spires-of_color_DSCF3495St_Patrick2_DSCF2948Music_Girl_DSCF3206 Naff_Seller_Henry_Street_DSCF3882 Orange_and_Blue-DSCF3702 Out-of_a_Hat_DSCF3679 Pipers_DSCF3009 Ravens_DSCF3758

Hand_guy_DSCF3578 High-Five_DSCF3148 Hipster_Leprechauns_DSCF3688 Horses_w_carriage_DSCF2781 Kid_w_flag_DSCF3006 LUAS_Smithfield_DSCF3937 Mad_gingers_w_sun_glasses_DSCF3664

Bicycles_2_DSCF3798 Blue_DSCF3443 Butterfly_lady_DSCF3161 Cheerleaders_DSCF3262 Contortionist_DSCF3588 Dancing-bugs_DSCF3477 Flag_wavers_2_DSCF2924 Fox_and_fire_best!_DSCF3738 Grand_Marshall_DSCF3064 Great_pink_wing_DSCF3518

St_Patricks_Day_Golf_GTI_DSCF2971StPatricks_GTi_DSCF2768Sun2_DSCF3568Tri_color_kid-on_Bike_DSCF3807Tuba_in_the-Rain_DSCF2880Wow_DSCF3147

See my Dublin Page for more photos!

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Dublin’s Gone Green for St. Patrick’s Day!

I’ve been keeping my Lumix busy making night photographs of Dublin on the run up to St. Patrick’s Day. In previous posts I’ve featured Irish Rail’s Heuston and Connolly Station bathed in green light. Today, I’m exhibiting some of the city’s other structures.

Clery's on O' Connell Street, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Clery’s on O’ Connell Street, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Dublin City Hall. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Dublin City Hall. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Story Teller Bus with greened old bank, College Green, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Story Teller Bus with greened old bank, College Green, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Dublin Docklands. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Dublin Docklands. Lumix LX-7 photo.

LUAS Green Line with Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

LUAS Green Line with Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Royal College of Surgeons.

Royal College of Surgeons, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

Bank of Ireland on College Green, Dublin.  Lumix LX-7 photo.

Bank of Ireland on College Green, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Trinity College on College Green, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Trinity College on College Green, Dublin. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Heuston Station, Dublin.

Heuston Station, Dublin.

Here’s just a few from my Fuji X-T1. Notice the different colour profile.

Four Courts, Dublin, lit for St. Patrick's Day. Fuji X-T1.

Four Courts, Dublin, lit for St. Patrick’s Day. Fuji X-T1.

Four Courts, Dublin, lit for St. Patrick's Day. Fuji X-T1.

Four Courts, Dublin, lit for St. Patrick’s Day. Fuji X-T1.

Mellows Bridge, Dublin, lit for St. Patrick's Day. Fuji X-T1.

Mellows Bridge, Dublin, lit for St. Patrick’s Day. Fuji X-T1.

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Connolly Station in Green Light.

Yesterday, I displayed an image of Dublin’s Heuston Station bathed in green light; today, I feature Connolly Station. These Dublin railway terminals are among the oldest big city stations in continuous use in the world.

Connolly Station features classic Italianate architecture typical of many large stations world-wide.

Exposed with a Lumix LX-7 mounted on a mini Gitzo tripod with ball head; ISO 80 f2.0 1/3.2 seconds daylight white balance.

Exposed on Talbot Street with a Lumix LX-7 mounted on a mini Gitzo tripod with ball head; ISO 80 f2.0 at 1/3.2 seconds with daylight white balance. Pity about the refuse sacks on the footpath.

Exposed with a Lumix LX-7 mounted on a mini Gitzo tripod with ball head; ISO 80 f2.0 at 1 second, daylight white balance.

Exposed with a Lumix LX-7 mounted on a mini Gitzo tripod with ball head; ISO 80 f2.0 at 1 second, daylight white balance. This was made at 7pm on March 13, 2015.

The greening of Connolly for St. Patrick’s Day is a more subtle treatment than on some of Dublin’s structures.

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An Irish Rail 29000-series DMU cross Talbot Street on the Loop Line Bridge. Lumix LX7 photo.

An Irish Rail 29000-series DMU cross Talbot Street on the Loop Line Bridge. Lumix LX7 photo. Connolly Station is directly behind me.

 

Dublin Heuston Station Green for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s become an annual tradition to bathe Dublin’s iconic buildings with green light on the run up to St. Patrick’s Day. I exposed this view of Heuston Station on March 12, 2015 using my Lumix LX-7.

Lumix LX-7 image; f1.8 1/3.2 seconds, ISO 80, auto white balance, Vivid color profile.

Lumix LX-7 image; f1.8 1/3.2 seconds, ISO 80, auto white balance, Vivid color profile.

For me one of the most effective times to make night photographs is when there’s still a hint of daylight remaining.

More photos of the Greening of Dublin tomorrow!

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Virgin along the Exe.

Here we are with another catchy title. Yet, it’s fairly descriptive, and  neatly covers for the fact that I’m separated from my notes from the day. What?

Back in July 2002, some of my Irish friends and I were photographing along former Great Western lines in the west of England. On this day, we scoped out an elevated location—often pictured in magazines—at Dawlish Warren.

When were arrived at there, I was shocked to find about 40 other photographers with a similar idea in mind.

Class 47 at Dawlish Warren. Nice spot, but I didn't know I'd need to take a number and join the queue to make a photo there.

Class 47 at Dawlish Warren. Nice spot, but I didn’t know I’d need to take a number and join the queue to make a photo there.

My friends and I made a few photos, but it takes some of the fun out of the challenge when you’re in such a large group (and not really part of the group). I think most of the folks were after Class 47 diesels that were then still working some Virgin Cross Country trains.

So, we abandoned the popular place, and migrated east toward Exeter where we found this remote location along the River Exe. (And here I suffer from my notes being in Massachusetts, and me in Ireland; what was the name of this spot? It was near a church, along the River . . .Ah! sounds like the line from a song, oh well).

Classic: Virgin HST at speed.  Exposed with a Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss lens on Fujichrome Film. 1/1000th of a second.

Classic: Virgin HST at speed.
Exposed with a Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss lens on Fujichrome Film. 1/1000th of a second.

I was pleased to catch a bright red and yellow Virgin HST racing along. While not uncommon at the time, the HST is among my favorite trains in the UK. I think I was in the minority among the folks at Dawlish Warren; they didn’t seem to have any interest in the HST’s at all!

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Irish Rail Relay Train on the Move.

Sometimes you have to walk the steps one at a time to get the best view.

Over the last few weeks, Irish Rail’s Relay train has made visits to the Dublin area en route from its base at Port Laoise to the Navan Branch (where it was involved in track maintenance) and back again.

The Relay train is one of those elusive trains operated by permanent way department, which makes it a special prize to catch on the move.

Irish 088 leads the Relay train up road near Clondalkin. Sister loco 074 is heading down road light engine as a 'swap' for the loco working a laden timber train to Waterford.

Irish 084 leads the Relay train up road near Clondalkin. Sister loco 074 is heading down road light engine as a ‘swap’ for the loco working a laden timber train to Waterford.

Irish Rail 084 with Relay train up road near Clondalkin. Exposed with Fuji X-T1.

Irish Rail 084 with Relay train up road near Clondalkin. Exposed with Fuji X-T1.

Trailing view of the Relay train. This the gantries at the back are used in the relaying of track.

Trailing view of the Relay train. This the gantries at the back are used in the relaying of track.

Keeping close tabs on the railway aids in finding these trains. But equally important is patience track side and sensing when and where to look.

Irish Rail 084 brought the train up road on February 27, 2015. Like the bullet fired skyward, what goes up must come down. But when?

On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, I took the LUAS down to Spencer Dock and walked to the road bridge that overlooks Irish Rail’s yard at Dublin’s North Wall. There I noted a gray 071 (loco 084) with the Relay train. When the guard came down and started the locomotive, then a few minutes later hung the tail lamps at the back of the train, I knew that it would soon be on the move.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015: Irish Rail 084 with the Relay train at Dublin's North Wall. The engine has just been started. Any bets when it might depart? Exposed with Fuji X-T1.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015: Irish Rail 084 with the Relay train at Dublin’s North Wall. The engine has just been started. Any bets when it might depart? Exposed with Fuji X-T1.

But how quickly would it depart? That’s the million-dollar question (subject to the local exchange rate). Calls were made, transportation arranged, and weathermen consulted . . .

More than two hours later, I caught it on the quad-track section of Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork mainline at Stacumny Bridge (near mp 8 ¾). As it turned out, the Relay train followed the down IWT liner.

An Irish Rail 22K Rotem-built Intercity Rail Car flies up road at milepost 8 3/4. Fuji X-T1 photo.

An Irish Rail 22K Rotem-built Intercity Rail Car flies up road at milepost 8 3/4. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Waiting at Stacumny Bridge near milepost 8 3/4, I was rewarded by the passage of the IWT Liner with locomotive 8209 wearing an unfinished version of the new Enterprise livery. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Waiting at Stacumny Bridge near milepost 8 3/4, I was rewarded by the passage of the IWT Liner with locomotive 8209 wearing an unfinished version of the new Enterprise livery. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Not long after the IWT liner worked down road, the Relay train came into view. Success! (And yes, I exposed a slide of this elusive train.) Waiting here for a month of Sunday's wouldn't reward you with this photo. (The Relay train tends to run on weekdays.)

Not long after the IWT liner worked down road, the Relay train came into view. Success! (And yes, I exposed a slide of this elusive train.) Waiting here for a month of Sunday’s wouldn’t reward you with this photo. (The Relay train tends to run on weekdays.)

Irish Rail 084 with Relay train passes Islandbridge Junction on March 10, 2015. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Irish Rail 084 with Relay train passes Islandbridge Junction on March 10, 2015. Fuji X-T1 photo.

These digital photos are the teasers: I used my EOS-3 loaded with Provia 100F (the real McCoy, not simulated) for some slides of the action.

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Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page Features New Photos.

During the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with my new Fujifilm X-T1digital camera by making photos on the streets of Dublin. I’ve presented a sampling of my results on Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page (CLICK HERE).

The camera can yield fantastic results, but successfully manipulating its various modes, colour profiles, features, switches, levers and other controls takes patience to master.

Compare the Fuji’s results with the myriad of images on my Dublin page exposed over the last two years.

More to come!

Wood Quay at sunset. March 4, 2015. Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera fitted with an 18-135mm zoom lens.

Wood Quay at sunset. March 4, 2015. Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera fitted with an 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Classic Kodachrome: Metro-North Waterbury Branch

I made this non-conventional view of the Waterbury Branch shuttle on November 16, 1992.

NH painted FL9 on Waterbury Branch Nov 16 1992 by Brian Solomon 232045

Using my F3T with Nikor 200mm lens mounted on a tripod, I aimed away to catch the train trailing in order to feature the New Haven painted FL9 locomotive working in push-mode at the back of the consist.

I worked with the ‘around the corner’ lighting that emphasized the textures of the sides of the locomotive and cars, the frost covered ground, while making for a gossamer-like background of trees and electrical wires.

In this composition, I’ve carefully included the electrical pole at top right. It would have been easy enough to crop this out, but I’ve left it in because it serves as an important visual element.

The insulators and wires atop the pole catch the light and draw the eye away from the main subject, while putting context to the network of wires behind the train and so adding a degree of depth to the whole photograph.

Too often, subtle compositions like this one have been cropped by philistines. Simplifying the image doesn’t necessarily make for a better photograph. If I wanted a tighter simpler view, I would have exposed it that way.

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Negative and Positive; the Black & White Experience.

For many years, a crucial part of my photographic process was quite literally the chemical processing of my black & white negatives.

Having loaded film onto reels in darkness, and spent 25 minutes to an hour pouring fluids into and out of tanks, there would be a moment of truth . . .

Often the film will have held latent image from expeditions far and wide. Here were moments captured on silver halide, but until this second never before seen.

As I opened the tanks, I’d be wondering, ‘What was on the film?’

Did I capture what I was hoping too? Were my exposures correct?

I peel off the film from the reels dripping wet and hold them to the light.

The negatives would tell me in an instant what I wanted to know.

The image that I'd see dripping from wash water was something like this. Did I have it? Was this worth printing? Maybe . . .

The image that I’d see dripping from wash water was something like this. Did I have it? Was this worth printing? Maybe . . .

Then came the arduous, but necessary steps of drying, sleeving, and then, if I got to it, printing the negatives.

Sun streams through the clouds as an eastward SBB train glides through the station at Visp, Switzerland in June 2001. Exposed on 120 size black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T.

Sun streams through the clouds as an eastward SBB train glides through the station at Visp, Switzerland in June 2001. Exposed on 120 size black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T.

Learn more about how I processed film: Black & White revisited; Old Tech for a New Era part 2—Secrets Revealed! 

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HST’s Paddington—Contrasts

London offers wonderful contrasts linking the 19th century Victorian-era with more modern eras.

Paddington Station was the terminal for the Great Western Railway—Brunel’s broad gauge empire. Since that time the world has changed beyond recognition.

Today, albeit much enlarged, Paddington remains as an important urban hub.

When I visited in May 2010 the shed was filled with 1970s-vintage HST sets in modern paint, operated by First Great Western.

Paddington, May 2010. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

Paddington, May 2010. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

Such a difference in decades fascinates me.

What will this scene look like in another ten years? In another 100 years?

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Railway Preservation Society of Ireland 461 to Drogheda Photo Album.

Below are a selection of photos that I made with my X-T1 of the trip to Drogheda on Thursday, March 5, 2015.

Over the years I’ve traveled on many RPSI trips, so this was more an exercise to put my camera through its paces, trying different modes, and making photos of the people as well as the equipment.

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Children board the special at Dublin’s Connolly Station.

Old 'flying snail' logo on 461's tender.

Old ‘flying snail’ logo on 461’s tender.

At Connolly Station, Dublin.

At Connolly Station, Dublin.

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RPSI staff discuss operations at Connolly Station.

RPSI staff discuss operations at Connolly Station.

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It was a significant event; it is my understanding to have been the last trip with old Cravens carriages in the traditional orange and black livery.

Immediately after the trip the carriages were brought over to the Inchicore Works where they will be painted in RPSI’s new blue and cream livery to match the rest of the train.

On arrival at Drogheda.

On arrival at Drogheda.

The last outing for orange  Cravens; once a staple of Irish Rail's passenger fleet.

The last outing for orange Cravens; once a staple of Irish Rail’s passenger fleet.

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Drogheda.

Drogheda.

In the loop at Skerries as a down road ICR passes.

In the loop at Skerries as a down road ICR passes.

The steady beat of an 071 class General Motors diesel leading a laden Tara Mines zinc train at Skerries.

The steady beat of an 071 class General Motors diesel leading a laden Tara Mines zinc train at Skerries.

Trailing view of the Tara Mines train that overtook the RPSI special at Skerries.

Trailing view of the Tara Mines train that overtook the RPSI special at Skerries.

On arrival at Connolly, locomotive 071 coupled onto the RPSI carriages to bring them over to the Inchicore Works. On the left is Irish Rail 231 on the Enterprise for Belfast.

On arrival at Connolly, locomotive 071 coupled onto the RPSI carriages to bring them over to the Inchicore Works. On the left is Irish Rail 231 on the Enterprise for Belfast.

 

Thanks to everyone at the RPSI and Irish Rail for making this trip a great day out for all involved!

 

Learn more about the RPSI and click on this link: http://www.steamtrainsireland.com/

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Tracking the Light Extra Post: Irish Rail 071 leads Saturday’s IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction.

I exposed these photos with my Fuji X-T1 a little while ago (7 March 2015). Compare these photos made in soft afternoon sun with my image of the same freight train at the same location last Saturday (28 February 2015)

Locomotive 071 is the class leader; one of Irish Rail’s 18 General Motors-built model JT22CW dual-cab six-motor diesel-electrics.

To make the most of slight diffused afternoon light, I opted to use the camera’s ‘Velvia’ colour profile, which emulates the characteristics of Fuji’s slide film of the same name.

To make the most of slight diffused afternoon light, I opted to use the camera’s ‘Velvia’ colour profile, which emulates the characteristics of Fuji’s slide film of the same name.

The 18-135mm zoom lens on the Fuji X-T1 allows to rapidly change the its focal length.

The 18-135mm zoom lens on the Fuji X-T1 allows to rapidly change the its focal length.

Here's last week's Saturday down IWT Liner (International Warehousing & Transport container train from Dublin's North Wall to Ballina, County Mayo).

Here’s last week’s Saturday down IWT Liner (International Warehousing and Transport container train from Dublin’s North Wall to Ballina, County Mayo).

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Tracking the Light Special: Steam Locomotive Panorama.

On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s 2-6-0 number 461 ran a special trip from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Drogheda and return.

This was a great opportunity to put my new Fuji X-T1 through its paces.

I exposed a great number of images on the day, including this panoramic view of the train on the station platform at Drogheda.

Panoramic composite exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Panoramic composite exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

This long and narrow image is a camera produced composite: I exposed several similar images, by sweeping the camera across the scene laterally as the camera flutters away. The resulting image is sewn together in camera.

I’ll post more photos of my adventures with 461 tomorrow!

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Prague: Tatra Tram on Cobbled Streets

A visit to Prague in May 2000 fulfilled my desire to make gritty urban images. Using my Rolleiflex Model T and Nikon F3T, I exposed dozens of photographs of eclectic Bohemian architecture and electric railed vehicles.

Tatra Tram on Cobbled Streets—cropped view.

Tatra Tram on Cobbled Streets—cropped view.

This image of Tatra T3 working westbound on Prague’s number 9 route is typical of my photography from that trip.

Prague is one of those great cities that seems to beckon a photo at every turn. Or certainly that was my impression.

I’m presenting two versions of the image: the first is tightly cropped view made possible by the camera’s excellent optics and careful processing of the film (also for some adjustments for contrast in digital post-processing); the second is a pure, un-cropped image. Take your pick!

Un-cropped view of a tram on the number 9 route in Prague.

Un-cropped and unmodified view of a tram on the number 9 route in Prague.

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Classic Kodachrome: Burlington Northern SD70MACs near Edgemont, South Dakota

This is one of my favorite Burlington Northern images. Tom Danneman, TSH and I were photographing Powder River coal operations in May 1995.

We caught this empty train working west of Edgemont with nearly new SD70MACs. Burlington Northern had only a few months left before consummation of merger with Santa Fe.

Three Burlington Northern SD70MACs lead coal empties west of Edgemont, South Dakota on May 26, 1995. Three SD70MACs were standard Powder River coal train power. This photo was run large as an opening spread in my book Modern Locomotives: High-Power Diesels, 1966-2000, a title published by Motorbooks in 2002.

Three Burlington Northern SD70MACs lead coal empties west of Edgemont, South Dakota on May 26, 1995. Three SD70MACs were standard Powder River coal train power. This photo was run large as an opening spread in my book Modern Locomotives: High-Power Diesels, 1966-2000, a title published by Motorbooks in 2002.

Shortly before the train arrived into view some thin clouds softened the sun. While this effect tends to spoil a photo, especially those made on Kodachrome, in this rare case, I think it actually made for a better image.

I feel that the slightly subdued contrast works well with the foreground grasses, the framed tree, and the dark paint on the locomotives.

I exposed this on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T with 35mm perspective control lens mounted on my Bogen 3021 tripod.

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Belgian Narrow Gauge PCC

On March 26, 2013, I had 47 minutes to change trains at Antwerpen Centraal (Antwerp Central Station).

I used my time to wander around and make photos, including this image of some old PCC trams working narrow gauge tracks near the station.

Antwerp. Exposed with my Lumix LX3

Antwerp. Exposed with my Lumix LX3

My previous visits to Antwerp were plagued by dull light, which too often afflicts coastal regions along the North Sea. This morning I was rewarded with low rich sun.

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LUAS at Night, Benburb Street, Dublin; Two versions of one image.

I made this photograph the other night using my Lumix LX-7 set for ‘Monochrome’.

The complexity of the scene features several visual layers.

Here are two versions of the photo. The top image is the camera generated Jpeg, unmodified except for scaling. The bottom image is the result of some modifications in post processing.

The unmodified file; this is the camera generate Jpeg, scaled for internet presentation.

The unmodified file; this is the camera generate Jpeg, scaled for internet presentation.

This version was modified from the camera RAW file.

This version was modified from the camera RAW file.

Using the ‘levels’ slider, I’ve lightened the mid-range shadows to reveal greater amounts of detail inside the pub and improve the overall contrast. Then I made some localized contrast adjustments with the dodging tool.

With the saturation slider I de-saturated the image, removing all color. Although, I’d exposed it in ‘Monochrome’, the camera-file gave the file a bluish hue that I didn’t feel was necessary or desirable.

I like the second version of the image better. However my changes have had the secondary effect of de-emphasizing the LUAS tram that was the original primary subject.

Comparison of the two versions shows a little bit of work can improve a digital image.

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Grab Shot: Conrail November 1984.

Here’s another gem from my Conrail files. I have tens of thousands of Conrail photos, many of them exposed in black & white.

This image caught my eye. November 1984 was a busy month photographically, and I exposed almost all my photographs that month with an old Leica 3A. (My original camera had suffered a failure, so I was using one of my dad’s.)

This was exposed mid-month, probably on a Saturday. I was traveling with some friends. We’d seen Conrail PWSE (Providence & Worcester to Selkirk, New York) working the old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, and were heading west to find a location.

The train got the jump on us, and there was a panic as we saw the train racing west behind us: “There it is!” I made this grab shot looking down the road at North Wilbraham toward one of the few grade crossings on the B&A route west of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Conrail PWSE races across the grade crossing at North Wilbraham, Massachusetts in November 1984. Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summicron. Photo cropped to eliminate unnecessary foreground.

Conrail PWSE races across the grade crossing at North Wilbraham, Massachusetts in November 1984. Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. Photo cropped to eliminate unnecessary foreground. Notice my careful placement of the locomotives in relation to the trees and poles.

For me this captures the scene. North Wilbraham isn’t the most salubrious environment, but so what? Not every place is a park and it shows the way things were in the mid-1980s. I can hear ‘The Cars’ (Boston band) playing on the radio.

Need a close up of Conrail’s B23-7s? I have lots of those too.

Now wouldn’t this have been a cool angle 40 years earlier with one of Boston & Albany’s class A1 Berkshires hauling freight under a plume of its own exhaust?

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A Camel in the Snow.

General Electric delivered Conrail’s ten C32-8s in 1984. These were a group of unusual pre-production DASH-8 locomotives, and earned the nickname ‘camels’ owing to their humpback appearance.

I’ve always liked these distinctive locomotives and I had ample opportunities to photograph them on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.

In March 1988, I was skipping class at Rochester Institute of Technology and photographing along the former Erie Railroad in New York’s Canisteo Valley.

In the afternoon, light rain had changed to snow. I was set up by the semaphores at milepost 308 west of Rathbone, New York and caught Conrail’s westward doublestack train TV301 roaring through the valley with nearly two miles of train in tow.

In the lead was C32-8 6617, an old favorite from my travels on B&A. I find it hard to believe that this locomotive was less than four years old at the time.

The old Union & Switch Signal Style S semaphores were decommissioned in January 1994.

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Saturday Special Post: Freshly Painted 206 Works IWT Liner

This has been an interesting week for locomotives working Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (International Warehousing & Transport container train Dublin to Ballina). Most of the time a standard green and sliver class 201 leads the train. But over the last week, a variety of differently painted locomotives have had this assignment.

See: SPECIAL POST: Irish Rail 206 in a New Livery; February 25, 2015 and Extra Post: Enterprise 8209 Works IWT Liner.

At 1:51pm on Saturday, February 28, 2015, Enterprise locomotive 206 wearing fresh paint approaches Islandbridge Junction near Hueston Station in Dublin. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1.

At 1:51pm on Saturday, February 28, 2015, Enterprise locomotive 206 wearing fresh paint approaches Islandbridge Junction near Hueston Station in Dublin. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1.

Enterprise locomotive 206 wearing fresh paint approaches Islandbridge Junction near Hueston Station in Dublin. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1.

Enterprise locomotive 206 wearing fresh paint approaches Islandbridge Junction near Hueston Station in Dublin. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1.

I exposed these photos a little while ago in Dublin using my Fuji X-T1 camera.

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High-speed AVE Train from Above.

I exposed this unusual angle of a RENFE high-speed AVE train at the modern Cordoba Station in September 2001.

Cordoba, Spain. The reflection on the front of the train adds a crucial highlight to the image.

Cordoba, Spain. The reflection of the station skylight on the front of the train adds crucial highlights to the image.

The train was paused. The challenge was using my Rolleiflex Model T to look over the railing and down on the train.

The Rollei is a twin-lens reflex. Normally to compose an image you look down into the camera through a mirror and lens arrangement which projects on an interior screen.

If holding the camera at waist-level and looking down doesn’t suit the situation, there’s also a field-finder—which is just a window the helps you gauge the rough limits of the image area.

Neither of these tools were of any use to me when facing railing about six feet tall and my subject below me.

So, I held the camera above me and looked up into to it. Composing a scene in reverse (as is always the case when looking in the Rollei) is difficult enough, but doing this while craning my neck was especially tricky.

I made one exposure and a moment later the train accelerated away toward Seville.

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Dusk in Dublin—Fuji X-T1 Exercise

Sunday, February 22, 2015 had been a wet windy day, but as evening approached, I saw the clouds clearing in the west. I made an opportunity to experiment with my X-T1.

The dramatic lighting effects of a winter evening in Dublin are as good a time as any to make photographs, and I’ve found that among the strengths of my new camera is working in low light.

Harcourt Street, Dublin. ISO 1600

Harcourt Street, Dublin. ISO 1600

To retain the hues of dusk, I switched the white balance setting from ‘auto’ to ‘daylight,’ while I upped the ISO dial to its higher ranges, and selected the ‘Velvia’ color profile.

My 18-135 lens is a remarkably sharp piece of glass and its built-in image stabilization allowed me to work hand-held in lighting situations that would have been all but impossible with my film cameras.

 

In bound LUAS Green Line tram glides down Harcourt Street at dusk. ISO 1600; 1/30th of a second.

In bound LUAS Green Line tram glides down Harcourt Street at dusk. ISO 1600; 1/30th of a second.

Pan of LUAS tram on Harcourt Street. ISO 3200 f4.0 1/30th of a second.

Pan of LUAS tram on Harcourt Street. ISO 3200 f4.0 1/30th of a second.

Pan of LUAS tram on Harcourt Street. ISO 3200 f4.0 1/30th of a second.

Pan of LUAS tram on Harcourt Street. ISO 3200 f4.0 1/30th of a second.

I exposed about 140 images over the course of an hour and one half. That’s equivalent to just less than 4 rolls of slide film. I admit that sounds like a lot, however when I found an interesting scene, I’d bracket my exposure, while experimenting with various metering and focusing modes while pushing the limits of image stabilization.

This was an opportunity to test the camera’s capabilities, while working in a visually familiar environment. So, I revisited streets where I’ve photographed frequently over the years.

 

Montague Street looking west.

Montague Street looking west.

Whelans of Wexford Street. 135mm setting, ISO 1600.

Whelans of Wexford Street. 135mm setting, ISO 1600.

Wexford Street looking south.

Wexford Street looking south.

Chinese New Year lamps on Castle Market.

Chinese New Year lamps on Castle Market.

Crecent moon. ISO 3200; 135mm.

Crecent moon. ISO 3200; 135mm.

Dublin Bus takes the corner at Dame Street and South Great Georges Street.

Dublin Bus takes the corner at Dame Street and South Great Georges Street.

Zoom-pan of a traffic on Dame Street.

Zoom-pan of a traffic on Dame Street.

The evening glow looking west on Dame Street. Hundreds of years ago there was a gate to the old city down there.

The evening glow looking west on Dame Street. Hundreds of years ago there was a gate to the old city down there.

This is a sampling of Sunday’s efforts. I exposed RAW and Jpgs of each photo; presented here are scaled versions of the Jpgs. Other than the necessary size reduction for internet presentation, I’ve not manipulated, adjusted or otherwise enhanced these photos in post-processing.

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Extra Post: Enterprise 8209 Works IWT Liner.

Thursday, February 26, 2015: Today Enterprise 8209 wearing a new livery (or rather what appears to be about half of the new Enterprise livery) worked Irish Rail’s Dublin (North Wall) to Ballina IWT Liner.

Irish Rail operates container trains for International Warehousing & Transport most weekdays, however it is unusual to find this locomotive working the train. The 201 Class are General Motors-built locomotives technically similar to the F59PHI used in North America.

Irish Rail's IWT Liner passes Platform 10 near Heuston Station. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Irish Rail’s IWT Liner passes Platform 10 near Heuston Station. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Irish Rail's IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station on February 26, 2015.  Fuji X-T1 photo.

Irish Rail’s IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station on February 26, 2015. Fuji X-T1 photo.

A classic roster view: Irish Rail's IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station on February 26, 2015.  Fuji X-T1 photo in 'Velvia' mode. (And yes, yes, I made one in 'Provia' mode too. And a slide.)

A classic roster view: Irish Rail’s IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station on February 26, 2015. Fuji X-T1 photo in ‘Velvia’ mode. (And yes, yes, I made one in ‘Provia’ mode too. And a slide.)

Yesterday, I featured locomotive 206 working the Ballina to Dublin IWT Liner which featured a more complete variation of the new paint scheme. At least today, I had the sun, fickle as it may be!

I was lucky because the train was blocked at Islandbridge Junction, giving me an opportunity to expose a few colour slides and then hoof it up the road for another angle.

The IWT works up the 'gullet' on its way west. Fuji X-T1 photo.

The IWT works up the ‘gullet’ on its way west. Fuji X-T1 photo.

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Flirt in the Glint.

On the evening of May 13, 2011, I was along the shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee)at Radolfzell, Germany, where I made this evocative photograph of a Stadler Flirt electric railcar catching the soft setting sunlight as it approached the station.

Did my title sound like something else? Somehow ‘Backlit Railcar’ just didn’t cut it.

Exposed digitally using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 200mm lens; ISO 200 f5.6 1/500th of a second.

Exposed digitally using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 200mm lens; ISO 200 f5.6 1/500th of a second.

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SPECIAL POST: Irish Rail 206 in a New Livery; February 25, 2015.

A little while ago, I caught Irish Rail 206 wearing a fresh new dress leading the afternoon IWT Liner from the top of the Phoenix Park Tunnel in Dublin. I made these photos with my Fuji X-T1.

Irish_Rail_IWT_liner_w_loco_206_in_new_paint_DSCF0767 Irish_Rail_IWT_liner_w_loco_206_in_new_paint_MOD1_DSCF0773

I think the new photography mode is: ‘ISO 6400 and be there’. It was pretty dark. This was my first glimpse of the locomotive in this new livery. I’m sure there’ll be ample opportunity to catch it in better light, but thanks to improved technology I was able to make the most of the moment.

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Conrail Crossing the Connecticut at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

I considered leaving out the second ‘Connecticut,’ but for the sake of clarity I’ll risk sounding redundant. The real topic is the nearly tragic tale of the photograph itself.

I’d pulled this Kodachrome slide from my old box of ‘3rds’— my category meaning ‘just above garbage’. In otherwords, if I got tight for space, I’d pitch it.

For years I wondered what had happened to this slide!

For years I wondered what had happened to this slide!

In August 1987, I’d made several trips to photograph Conrail’s New Haven to Selkirk (symbol NHSE) on the former New Haven Railroad New Haven—Springfield line.

The challenge of this project was that the train departed Cedar Hill Yard (near New Haven) very early in the morning. If I recall correctly, it went on duty there about 3am. My strategy was either to drive past the yard in Hartford to see if it was there, and then pick a location for a photograph, or simply set up and wait.

On this day, August 18, 1987, I was waiting on spec. I’d figured, at least I’d catch a few of the southward Amtrak trains, and if Conrail’s NHSE didn’t show up, I’d head off elsewhere.

After selecting my spot by water level, and after Amtrak’s Bankers went south, I was rewarded by a pair of SD40-2s leading a very long NHSE. The light was nearly perfect and I exposed several frames of Kodachrome 25.

When the slides came back I was sorely disappointed. These had two flaws: the color had shifted red (often a problem with Kodachrome that was too close to its expiry date); but worse, the images were off level (tilted). The second problem was especially galling because I’d featured the river so prominently.

Into the ‘3rds’ bin! At that time I could go back to Windsor on any given day and repeat my effort. Except that I didn’t.

Years went by. I remembered the morning of the photograph and I recalled exposing the slides. In searching, I’d found slides of NHSE from other days. But this image was missing, as were quite a few other images from the same period.

Finally, I found it again, and quite by accident. In looking for photos for a book project (Conrail, probably), I opened the big box of ‘3rds’ to see what was inside . . . and, isn’t it amazing to see how slides improve with age?!

Now with desktop scanning and post-processing technologies, the job of adjusting color balance and cropping to improve level are remarkably easy.

And there’s a lesson in photography (well two, really).

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Cumberland, Maryland May 1985.

In the course of a ten-day Amtrak trip, I spent twenty-four hours at Cumberland, Maryland, where I made a variety of photos of Chessie System’s Baltimore & Ohio.

I found many railroaders on the B&O to be cordial and helpful. A man in this trackside office near the west-end of the sprawling Cumberland Yard invited me to make a photograph from his window.

Cumberland, Maryland as seen from a yard-side office in May 1985. I remember making the photograph, but I can't recall what function the office served. I was there only once. I also recall that it was very warm for May and I was happy to get out of the sun. Exposed with a Rollei Model T on Kodak B&W film, scanned with an Epson V600 scanner.

Cumberland, Maryland as seen from a yard-side office in May 1985. I remember making the photograph, but I can’t recall what function the office served. I was there only once. I also recall that it was very warm and humid for May and I was happy to get out of the sun. There appears to be a thermometer in the window which reads about 85 F.  Exposed with a Rollei Model T on Kodak B&W film, scanned with an Epson V600 scanner.

I exposed the image on Kodak black & white film using my dad’s Rolleiflex Model T that I’d borrowed for the duration of the trip. I also made a few color slides that day. I’ve always liked the framing of the B&O locomotive.

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Irish Rail’s Ballinsloe Cabin on its Final Day

On May 23, 2003, I exposed this photo of a signalman setting the points at Ballinsloe Cabin just a few hours before the historic structure was relieved its operational functions as part of the commission of a Mini-CTC system on Irish Rail’s Galway Line.

Exposed on black & white film using my Rolleiflex Model T.

Exposed on black & white film using my Rolleiflex Model T.

It was the end of an era at Ballinasloe, but one that was a long time in coming. On my first visit to the cabin five year earlier I was warned of its impending closure. Delays in installing the Mini-CTC ultimately prolonged the cabin’s closure. By the time I made this image, the signalman I’d visited in 1998 had retired!

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