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.

Canal Boat in the Lock at Leeds

 

A Vision from an Earlier Era.

 Britain enjoyed an extensive canal network before its railways were built. In many places the canals survive, although today they are primarily corridors for pleasure craft.

South of the Leeds railway station, the historic Granary Wharf canal boat harbour has been incorporated into a revitalized area of tourism and commerce, where shops, hotels, restaurants and pubs occupy buildings and space one used for warehousing and industry.

Canal_boat_in_Lock_with_lockman_P1040760

Exposed with a Lumix LX7 at Leeds, UK.

Navigating_the_lock_Leeds_2_pan_P1040775On a cool damp August 2014 evening, I made these photos of a canal boat being lowered through a lock on the old Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

Lock from above. Lumix LX7 photo.

Lock from above. Lumix LX7 photo.

Dusk on the old canal at Granary Wharf, Leeds. Lumix LX7 photo.

Dusk on the old canal at Granary Wharf, Leeds. Lumix LX7 photo.

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TransPennine Express from Manchester Airport

Over The Hills and Not So Far Away

A few days ago, I flew from Dublin to Manchester, then hopped on the First TransPennine Express at Manchester Airport for Leeds.

It had been a while since I last made this journey, and in that time the trains and the train operators have changed.

The service is frequent, but not so cheap.

Give First credit for a wild paint scheme.

Give First credit for a wild paint scheme.

Manchester Airport is blessed with a railway terminal within its transport complex. Service to and from the airport run every few minutes to points all over the Midlands region.

Manchester Airport is blessed with a railway terminal within its transport complex. Service to and from the airport run every few minutes to points all over the Midlands region.

The interior of the Class 185 DMU has decor that reminds me 1990s German InterCity trains. Lumix LX7 photo.

The interior of the Class 185 DMU has decor that reminds me 1990s German InterCity trains. Lumix LX7 photo.

Ensconced on the class 185 DMU, I gazed out the window as the train arrived at under the shed at Manchester Piccadilly. Here the 185 reversed direction for Leeds and we crossed the services namesake hills. We ran parallel to an old canal for a while, and everywhere the landscape shows scars of industrialization.

Here's my train as it departed Leeds for York. Exposed with a Lumix LX7, August 2014.

Here’s my train as it departed Leeds for York. Exposed with a Lumix LX7, August 2014.

The train didn’t hang around and ran a steady clip, only pausing at Huddersfield before arriving at Leeds. On my arrival the skies opened up and rain cascaded down. So be it.

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Pennsylvania 4800

The GG1 is 80 years old this Year.

Hard to believe, but Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1 electric 80 years old in 2014!

PRR GG1 4800 detail Brian Solomon 661700

Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100 film.

I made this detailed view of PRR’s pioneer GG1, number 4800 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in November 1996.

This machine was different than all the others because it didn’t have Raymond Loewy’s full styling refinement and featured a riveted skin. ‘Old Rivets’ is a favorite machine.

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Wisconsin Central Limited, Byron, Wisconsin.

Sunset, June 2004.

Canadian National had acquired WCL a few years earlier, and while many through freights were operating with CN locomotives a few trains out of Fond du Lac were still assigned WCL SD45s.

I’d made a project out of recording the sounds of these 20 cylinder dinosaurs, while using choice moments to make photos.

This freight had struggled up from Valley siding, where its lead unit had warranted attention from the mechanical department before ascending the five-mile grade to Byron.

The freight was paused short of the grade crossing at Byron, and I exposed this view in the last throes of daylight using my Nikon F3 with Fujichrome slide film mounted on a Bogen tripod.

 I’ve exposed this view as a silhouette. Using my Minolta Mark IV handheld light meter in reflective mode, I sampled the mid section of the sky to calculate my camera settings then made a bracket of several exposures. While its easier to gauge exposure with a digital camera because you can see a result on-site, many digital cameras are limited when capturing a high contrast scene such as this one without making multiple exposures.


I’ve exposed this view as a silhouette. Using my Minolta Mark IV handheld light meter in reflective mode, I sampled the mid section of the sky to calculate my camera settings then made a bracket of several exposures. While it’s easier to gauge exposure with a digital camera because you can see a result on-site, many digital cameras are limited when capturing a high contrast scene such as this one without making multiple exposures.

As regular viewers of Tracking the Light might recognize, I’ve made a variety of photos at Byron, Wisconsin over the years. Key to this composition is my positioning of the codeline, which conveniently switches from one side of the tracks to the other just shy of the grade crossing.

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Yamanote Loop, Tokyo

Smoggy Morning, April 1997.

In yesterday’s Tracking the Light post, I extolled the virtues of Kodachrome film as a medium for capturing trains on the move in the fading light tinted by atmospheric pollution.

I’ve made many fine glinty photos on Fujichrome films as well. And speaking of Fujichrome and air-pollution, what better way to combine these topics than to illustrate them with this image I made of a Yamanote Loop train in Tokyo.

I exposed this view on Fujichrome Provia 100F with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

I exposed this view on Fujichrome Provia 100F with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

The sun was out, but a thick layer of smog was choking the Japanese capital, and what a wonderful filter it was too!

Look, it’s not my job to defend the planet against particulates, CO2, and etc, I have good friends that take care of that! (You know who you are). I just use the tools at hand, and a nice thick layer of air pollution can really add color to a photograph!

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Amtrak E60 at Havre de Grace.

Classic Kodachrome.

On the evening of November 23, 1992, I was poised to photograph the action on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at Grace interlocking at Havre de Grace, Maryland.

I was interested in this angle specifically to use the glint light shortly before sunset. Kodachrome film had an exceptional ability to capture detail in the extreme contrast of sunset situations.

Although it had been a clear day, there was plenty of particulates in the air from tens of thousands of automobiles driving I-95 and adjacent roads. Almost invisible to the eye, this pollution acts as a reddish orange filter and changing the quality of sunlight toward the long end of the spectrum. Kodachrome with its red-bias amplified this effect while its great dynamic range maintained excellent detail in highlight areas.

Sunset on the Northeast Corridor on November 23, 1992.

Sunset on the Northeast Corridor on November 23, 1992. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.

Working with my Nikon F3T and f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens, I had only a few minutes before the sun disappeared behind the trees at the right.

Moments before the light changed, a late-running Florida train bound to Penn Station, New York glided into the scene with a 1970s-era E60CH electric in the lead. Perfect!

I made a couple exposures as the train passed.

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Tomorrow: Smoggy Glint in the Land of the Rising Sun!

 

Boston & Maine Local Freight

South Deerfield, Massachusetts, June 1987.

I’d followed this GP7 down from East Deerfield Yard. At South Deerfield, the local stopped to switch and I made several Kodachrome slides with my Leica M2 and a few 120 size black & white negatives with my dad’s Rollei Model T.

B&M_South_Deerfield_MA_Mod1

Exposed in June 1987; processed with special recipe in July 2012.

Exposed in June 1987; processed with special recipe in July 2012.

While these images aren’t too bad, I can’t recommend waiting a full 25 years to process the film.

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Frisco Gon in the National Railways of Mexico Yards

Cuernavaca, Mexico, December 1979

On Christmas morning 1979, I’d flown on a Eastern Airlines Lockeed L1011 from Kennedy Airport to Mexico City. There my uncle Mark met me for a week of travels.

Several days later we were staying in Cuernavaca. We walked from our hotel to the railway station in Cuernavaca, where for the price of about two pesos each, we bought tickets to ride the train to Iguala through the Rio Balsas valley.

At that time the passenger service only ran about once a week.

Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

I made this view of a Frisco 50 foot gondola in the National Railways of Mexico yards near the station. At the time the old Frisco was about to be merged with Burlington Northern. I wonder if this car ever made it back to the United States?

The train ride was one of the most memorable events of my trip. Most of my photos from the train were exposed on Kodachrome film. I only made a few photos of the train itself, as it carried a intimidating armed guard in every car.

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A View From The Bronx, summer 1978.

 I don’t have a lot of bus photos, but . . .

It was probably the first week of August. It was hot, humid, and stinky in New York City. The bus carried an aroma of garbage, sweat and diesel exhaust.

My grandmother, my brother Sean and I took a cross town bus from Coop City to Forham Road to go shopping.

My grandmother paid our fare, and we went to the back. As we stopped to collect passengers, I made a series of photos with my Leica, as you do. Right?

riding-a-NY-city-bus-circa-This was one of several photos I exposed with my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar on black & white film.

The bus was ok, but I preferred our excursions on the subway.

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Kid with a Camera: Chicopee, c1978.

Reviewing an Old Roll of Black & White Film.

Memory is an indefinite media: I remember making these photos, I just don’t remember exactly when. I think it was the summer of 1978 . . .

My father had a meeting with someone in an office in or near the old mills occupied by the Lyman Outlet in Chicopee. To get away from the monotony of a kid’s life in Monson, I traveled with him.

He spent about an hour in the meeting. I wandered around the old mills making photos with my Leica 3A, mostly using a 21mm Super Angulon, but also with a 50mm collapsible Summitar that was my stable lens of the period.

To calculate exposure I used an old Weston Master III, which by modern standards wasn’t especially accurate, especially in the hands of an eleven year old.

The sidings along the side of the old mills interested me, although there was no sign of activity that day. I was equally intrigued by the brick smokestack and made a number of photographs of this, many of them using a skyward vertigo-inducing perspective.

Chicopee2_c1978_Brian_Solom Chicopee3_c1978_Brian_Solom Chicopee4_c1978_4Mod1_Brian Chicopee6_c1978_3_mod1_Bria Chicopee_c1978_5_w_tracks_m Chicopee_c1978_Brian_Solomo Lyman-Mill_Outlet_Chicopee_

While 1978, it seemed like completely normal activity for an 11 year old to wander around alone photographing century-old mill buildings with a Leica, now I’m not so sure.

These photos, like many from my early years, remained latent for more than three decades. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally got around to processing this film. By then, I’d developed a complicated multiple step chemical process to get decent negatives from old film.

Ironically, I probably ended up with better negatives than if I’d tried to process these at the time. My processing abilities from the 1970s were handicapped by inadequate understanding of the chemical processes and a tendency to keep using chemistry even after it was exhausted. My resulting negatives were often too thin to print.

I scanned these using my Epson V600 scanner. Until now, no one except me has ever seen them.

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Enterprising the Liner

Views from Dublin, July 2014.

I was waiting with Ciarán Cooney for the up-IWT liner when I made this photo of the  Cork-Dublin Mark4 push-pull in the Gullet on approach to Heuston Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

I was waiting with Ciarán Cooney for the up-IWT liner when I made this photo of the Cork-Dublin Mark4 push-pull in the Gullet on approach to Heuston Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

The Mark4 set was blocked at the signals in the Gullet, while an outbound Inter City Rail  departed Heuston Station.

The Mark4 set was blocked at the signals in the Gullet, while an outbound Inter City Rail departed Heuston Station.

Irish Rail class 201 diesel numbe 224 worked the back of the Mark4. Locomotives typically face Cork on the Mark4. Lumix LX7 photo.

Irish Rail class 201 diesel numbe 224 worked the back of the Mark4. Locomotives typically face Cork on the Mark4. Lumix LX7 photo.

Not long after the Mark4 had passed, the IWT Liner with locomotive 206 came into view. While not unheard of, it's a bit unusual to find an Enterprise painted class 201 working freight in 2014. Stranger things have happened, but I was happy enough to catch this in the sun. Lumix LX7 photo.

Not long after the Mark4 had passed, the IWT Liner with locomotive 206 came into view. While not unheard of, it’s a bit unusual to find an Enterprise painted class 201 working freight in 2014. Stranger things have happened, but I was happy enough to catch this in the sun. Lumix LX7 photo.

Most weekdays, Irish Rail’s IWT Liner works between Dublin’s North Wall and Ballina carrying intermodal freight. Class 201 General Motors diesels are most common, although Class 071 diesels work it occasionally.

In the last week of July, locomotive 206 dressed in the Enterprise livery for work on the Dublin-Belfast express passenger service, made several trips on the IWT Liner.

This offered a refreshing visual change, from the relatively monotonous parade of trains out of Dublin on the Cork line. On several occasions, I intercepted 206 in its freight duties. Making exposures with my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX7.

Another day, another liner. Locomotive 206 works around from the North Wall with the IWT liner heading for Ballina, County Mayo. Lumix LX7 photo.

Another day, another liner. Locomotive 206 works around from the North Wall with the IWT liner heading for Ballina, County Mayo. Lumix LX7 photo.

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LUAS Opportunity.

Vexing Tram Pauses at Crossing.

Since arriving back in Dublin, I’ve had good luck catching one of the two advertsting trams wandering the Red Line. Without much effort on my part, the ‘Join Me’ painted tram, has appeared at all the right moments, and I’d made several representative views of it—as featured in earlier Tracking the Light posts.

By contrast, I’ve found more colourful ‘HB ice cream’ tram, has been elusive and difficult to photograph. This seems to zip by whenever my back is turned, or when I’m walking with a mission in the opposite direction.

My fortunes changed on July 31, 2014, when the HB tram glided down Benburb Street and stopped in front of me for about four minutes while waiting to reach its Heuston stop (which, lucky for me, was occupied by the car in front of it).

Paused on Benburb Street in Dublin.

LUAS 3014 has paused on Benburb Street in Dublin.

This was just enough time to make a variety of images from different angles. Which is exactly what I’d been hoping to do, since every section of the tram is painted differently. It’s arguably the most colorful LUAS vehicle to prowl the system to date.

Each of the sections of this Alstom Citadis tram have been colored differently with LUAS themed advertising relating to HB Ice Cream. Thus simply making a head on view cannot capture the whole effect.

Each of the sections of this Alstom Citadis tram have been colored differently with LUAS themed advertising relating to HB Ice Cream. Thus simply making a head on view cannot capture the whole effect.

Lucky of me to have a moment to wander along the side of the tram and make detailed views of each of the sections.

Lucky of me to have a moment to wander along the side of the tram and make detailed views of each of the sections.

This end features a refreshing shade of blue that reminds me of another colourful tram that wandered the Red Line about two years ago.

This end features a refreshing shade of blue that reminds me of another colourful tram that wandered the Red Line about two years ago.

This trailing view made from a low angle is my favorite of the group of images because it best shows the various colour sections with minimal distractions. About this time my phone rang while the tram got the light to proceeed.

This trailing view made from a low angle is my favorite of the group of images because it best shows the various colour sections with minimal distractions. About this time my phone rang while the tram got the light to proceeed.

All these views were made with my Lumix LX7, a camera I tend to carry with me everywhere I go.

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Erie Railroad Station Salamanca—July 2004.

Remembering the Historic Building.

On a pleasant summer day ten years ago, Doug Eisele and I were following a westward Norfolk Southern empty coal train on the former Erie Railroad mainline west of Hornell, New York.

I’ve been fascinated by the old Erie route for a long time. And I’ve always enjoyed exploring the line in western New York.

NS empty coal train Salamanca NY July 2004 Brian Solomon photo 89406

The former Erie Railroad station at Salamanca, New York as seen ten years ago. Photo exposed using a Nikon F3 with Fujichrome slide film.

We caught up with Mike Zollitch who was also photographing the train, and it was Mike who showed us this angle on the old Erie station at Salamanca.

In its heyday, this was a hub of activity on the railroad, located at the east end of the yard. Those days were long gone by 2004, but the railroad was again open to through traffic after a hiatus of more than a dozen years.

I exposed photos from several angles, but only had a few minutes before the coal empties arrived into view. As it passed we continued west looking for more angles.

On July 29, 2014, a little more than ten years after I made this photo, the old Erie station was destroyed by fire. I read this sad news via Facebook in Dublin, Ireland. One more vestige of the Erie is forever gone.

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The Twilight of Steam Reviewed in Classic TRAINS

Jpeg of the Classic Trains review.

Jpeg of the Classic Trains review.

Rob McGonigal has reviewed my book The Twilight of Steam in his magazine Classic Trains. He gives special kudos to John E. Pickett’s excellent photography, while mentioning many of the contributing photographers including George C. Corey, John Gruber, Jim Shaughnessy, Ron Wright, and my late friend Robert A. Buck.

If you haven’t seen the book, check it out! I think it is my finest effort to date. All black & white and superbly reproduced. I’d examined thousands of period black & white photos and selected a choice few for inclusion. Not to be overlooked are the skilled efforts of Fred Matthews, Gordon Roth, Bill Vigrass, and Phil Weibler, who were all in the enviable position of being there when steam worked the rails.

One of the premises for the book is that the majority of the photographs were made when steam was still in regular revenue service. While there’s a few views of special trips, all the photos were made in the steam era. I’ve let a few diesels in too, albeit often off in the distance.

It’s available from Voyageur Press.

Thanks for the great review Rob!

 

View from the Cab in the Rain

Adirondack Scenic Railroad—July 2004.

When I was growing up there were always stacks of old TRAINS Magazines piled around the house. I’d page through issues from the 1950s and 1960s and soak in the black & white photo stories and short essays by editor David P. Morgan.

In July 2004, I was working on a book on Electro-Motive Division F-unit diesels for Specialty Press and organized a cab ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Utica to Thendara, New York.

It was an especially damp day. At times, torrential rain reduced visibility to an ephemeral blurred view like some pictorialist tapestry. The speedometer registered 10mph, the wheel slip light was flashing as the windshield wipers banged back and forth.  Each passing mile was a new view for me, as I anticipated every bend in the tracks. Yet expert eyes and steady hand on the throttle keep us moving safely over the road.

 I exposed this forward view from former Alaska F7A 1508 using my Nikon F3T loaded with black & white film. Although this photo didn’t appear in the book, it reminds me of those old TRAINS magazine stories that recited the drama of every railroading with black & white photos and illuminating prose.


I exposed this forward view from former Alaska F7A 1508 near Remsen, New York using my Nikon F3T loaded with black & white film. Although this photo didn’t appear in the book, it reminds me of those old TRAINS magazine stories that recited the drama of every railroading with black & white photos and illuminating prose.

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Irish Rail Ballast Train—July 28, 2014

Perspective with Dublin’s Wellington Testimonial

Irish Rail 088 leads the HOBS near Islandbridge in Dublin on July 30, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

Irish Rail 088 leads the HOBS near Islandbridge in Dublin on July 30, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

Word came over the ‘telegraph’ that an Irish Rail HOBS (high output ballast system) train was on its way over to Islandbridge Junction to run around.

I’ve photographed the HOBS on previous occasions, but its one of the more unusual trains to catch on the move. This time, I thought I’d try a slightly different perspective from my standard location.

Using my Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens, I framed the line up in a tight vertical view prominently featuring the Wellington Testimonial. This massive obelisk rises high above the Phoenix Park. It is claimed to be Europe’s largest, and it can be seen from all around Dublin.

I made several views . Unfortunately, while there was a big patch of blue sky behind me, the sun wasn’t fully out when the train arrived. So I had to do my best to work with what I had.

It didn’t take long for locomotive 088 to run around. Yet, I walked quickly, and I made and series of images of the train heading back into the Phoenix Park Tunnel.

Lumix LX7 view of the HOBS about pass into the Phoenix Park Tunnel on its way over to the North Wall. I modified the RAW file in Graphic Converter and Photoshop to improve the contrast using both global and localized adjustments.

Lumix LX7 view of the HOBS about pass into the Phoenix Park Tunnel on its way over to the North Wall. I modified the RAW file in Graphic Converter and Photoshop to improve the contrast using both global and localized adjustments.

The great thing about this exercise was the minimum time I had to wait around. Thanks to good contacts and prompt running (on the part of the HOBS) I scored several relatively unusual photos in just a few minutes!

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The Marble City Rolls in the Evening—Part 3

A Long Delay Results in an Unexpected Opportunity.

We waited at milepost 17 near Sallins for the return of locomotive 461 with Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s The Marble City rail tour from Kilkenny.

After a bit of a delay, I’d became curious and tried phoning people on the train. After a few phone calls I learned that tragedy had delayed the excursion.

It was reported that Irish Rail’s regular Intercity train from Waterford was involved in a fatality on the line and the steam special was stranded at Athy while the Gardai (An Garda Síochána is the Irish name for Ireland’s national police force) conducted an investigation.

I was told by an RPSI member on the train that it would be at least 8pm before the train was on the move.

Lumix LX7 view of the line looking toward Dublin.

Lumix LX7 view of the line looking toward Dublin.

Instead of giving up and returning to Dublin, fellow photographer Hugh Dempsey and I opted to remain trackside. After all, only the Waterford trains were affected, so there would be plenty moving to photograph. And there’s the element of curiosity, just how late would the train be?

I took the opportunity to update some local people who had turned out to watch the steam special of its misfortune.

Later, a local man took pity on our prolonged wait, and dropped down to us with cups of hot tea and biscuits (cookies). In the mean time there was some nice evening light to photograph the ordinary procession of Irish Rail trains.

The Cork-Dublin Mark4 works toward Dublin with a 201-class diesel locomotive at the back. This meets an ICR working downroad. Canon EOS 7D photo.

The Cork-Dublin Mark4 works toward Dublin with a 201-class diesel locomotive at the back. This meets an ICR working downroad. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Experimenting with the pan technique I exposed this view of a downroad ICR at milepose 17. With the same types of trains running every few minutes in the evening, I had lots of opportunity to try different angles. Lumix LX7 view.

Experimenting with the pan technique I exposed this view of a downroad ICR at milepose 17. With the same types of trains running every few minutes in the evening, I had lots of opportunity to try different angles. Lumix LX7 view.

A blast of evening sun illuminates an old CIE 20 foot container along the line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A blast of evening sun illuminates an old CIE 20 foot container along the line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An uproad ICR at milepost 17. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An uproad ICR at milepost 17. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An uproad ICR catches a wink of evening sun.  Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An uproad ICR catches a wink of evening sun. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Finally, at 9:18pm I got word that The Marble City with 461 had reached Cherryville Junction and was making its dash for Dublin—some four hours behind schedule.

The light was fading fast when I made this view of an uproad Irish Rail ICR at milepost 17. What could expect of the steam special?

The light was fading fast when I made this view of an uproad Irish Rail ICR at milepost 17. What could expect of the steam special?

It passed us just before 10pm, which made for a rare summer evening view of an Irish steam special. Most RPSI trips run in daylight! Using film I’d have been out of luck, but thanks to advances in digital photograph I was able to make a distinctive image.

Exposed at 9:51pm on July 27, 2014 with a Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens, set at ISO 3200 1/80th of a second at f2.0. White balance set for ‘daylight.’ To keep the locomotive sharp, I panned slightly. I processed the camera RAW file in Photoshop to lighten the image slightly and improve contrast.

Exposed at 9:51pm on July 27, 2014 with a Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens, set at ISO 3200 1/80th of a second at f2.0. White balance set for ‘daylight.’ To keep the locomotive sharp, I panned slightly. I processed the camera RAW file in Photoshop to lighten the image slightly and improve contrast.

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Irish Rail to Sallins, July 27 2014

Sun, Clouds, Rain,  Railcars and . . .

Yes all true, but I’d traveled down to catch the return leg of steam hauled The Marble City rail tour operated by the Railway Preservation Society Ireland.

Earlier in the day I’d photographed the train departing Dublin (as featured in yesterday’s Tracking the Light post The Marble City Tour at Islandbridge.)

I departed Dublin Heuston on the 1430 suburban train heading for Sallins. I was fortunate to travel on a five-piece intercity rail car (ICR), which was comfortable and mostly empty.

Interior of my train at Heuston Station Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.

Interior of my train at Heuston Station Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.

Irish Rail's Rotem-built Intercity Rail Cars are comfortable trains. Lumix LX7.

Irish Rail’s Rotem-built Intercity Rail Cars are comfortable trains. Lumix LX7.

Arriving Sallins, County Kildare at 2:55pm, I had time for a leisurely bacon and cabbage lunch at the Lock 13 Pub—located along the Grand Canal a short walk from the station. I’d arranged to meet fellow photographer Hugh Dempsey after 4pm to explore some track side locations nearly in anticipation of photographing locomotive 461 with The Marble City.

The Lock 13 Pub at Sallins, County Kildare. Lumix LX7 photo.

The Lock 13 Pub at Sallins, County Kildare. Lumix LX7 photo.

Sallins station with a foreboding sky. An ill wind was blowing; beware beware! LX7 photo.

Sallins station with a foreboding sky. An ill wind was blowing; beware beware! LX7 photo.

The 1600 Dublin-Cork ICR approaches Sallins at speed. An automatic voice warns, 'please stand back, train now approaching.' Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

The 1600 Dublin-Cork ICR approaches Sallins at speed. An automatic voice warns, ‘please stand back, train now approaching.’ Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A few minutes later another ICR passes, this time in the Dublin-bound direction. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A few minutes later another ICR passes, this time in the Dublin-bound direction. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

The special was scheduled to depart Athy at 2:55 pm and according to Irish Rail company literature would depart Kildare at precisely 5:23 pm and 30 seconds. Armed with this information we scouted a bridge near milepost 17 and waited.

Shortly after we arrived at milepost 17 the sky opened. It was like standing in Niagara Falls. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Shortly after we arrived at milepost 17 the sky opened. It was like standing in Niagara Falls. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An uproad ICR races toward Dublin in the rain. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An uproad ICR races toward Dublin in the rain. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

The usual procession of up and down passenger trains passed, mostly using the common Irish Rail Rotem-built ICRs—like the one I’d traveled down on.

The weather changed from sunny to pouring rain rather suddenly; uncomfortable, but not unusual.

We’d expected The Marble City to pass by about 5:50pm. More ICRs up and down, but no sign of the steam. By 6:30pm we were wondering what had gone wrong.

After another hour we learned that there had been a fatality on the line south of Cherryville Junction (where the line to Kilkenny and Waterford diverges from the mainline to Cork) and 461 with The Marble City was being held at Athy! Oh no.

That didn’t bode well at all!

Stay tuned for more. . . . !

The down Dublin to Cork Mark4 approaches milepost 17.

The down Dublin to Cork Mark4 approaches milepost 17.

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The Marble City Tour at Islandbridge.

Score One for the Sun!

Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s July 27, 2014 ‘The Marble City’ tour was scheduled to depart Connolly Station in Dublin at 0935.

It was essentially at sunny morning, but when I arrived at my spot in Islandbridge, a location known colloquially among local photographers as ‘the Box’, a band of light cloud was muting the sun.

I waited patiently, Canons at the ready, for the sounds of locomotive 461 exiting the Phoenix Park Tunnel.

Finally: a shrill whistle, a puff of steam and the clatter of carriages over the Liffey—and then! Yes, at the last possible moment the sun emerged. I exposed a few slides and these digital photos.

The Marble City tour passes Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin on the morning of July 27, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens; ISO 200 f8 1/500 sec.

The Marble City tour passes Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin on the morning of July 27, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens; ISO 200 f8 1/500 sec.

Locomotive 461 at Islandbridge Junction. I can near see my apartment from here.

Locomotive 461 at Islandbridge Junction. I can almost see my apartment from here.

As quickly as it had come, the train was gone. Yet, for several minutes, I could hear the engine working up the ‘gullet’ toward Inchicore.

Little did I know, but nearly 12 hours later, I’d photograph the late running return trip! Stay tuned!

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Searching Dublin Streets For Colourful Trams—Part 2

Unusual Weather for Photography.

For several days in a row it was clear, warm, sunny and bright in Dublin. In summer? Who would have thought? Walking around the city center one Friday afternoon, I made a point of trying to make some more photos of the pair of advertising trams prowling the LUAS Red Line.

After following the line on foot from Heuston Station, I slipped into a trackside café on Abbey Street for a late lunch. Here I sat by the window to keep an eye on things while I ate. The first of two trams glided westward shortly after my arrival, so I exposed some interpretive photos from inside the café.

A LUAS Citadis tram colourfully decorated to advertise icecream glides down Abbey Street in Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.

A LUAS Citadis tram colourfully decorated to advertise icecream glides down Abbey Street near Liffey Street in Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.

Second of two images I made while having lunch. For me the 'HB' ice cream tram has been the more difficult of the two advertising trams on the Red Line.

Second of two images I made while having lunch. For me the ‘HB’ ice cream tram has been the more difficult of the two advertising trams on the Red Line.

As I was paying my bill, the second one passed in the opposite direction. This was easy enough to catch on foot, because it has to stop at the traffic lights before crossing O’Connell Street. The tram was destined for ‘The Point’ in Dublin’s docklands, and I estimated it would be about 20-25 minutes before it returned on its outward (westbound) trip.

On Abbey Street near the intersection with O'Connell Street in Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.

On Abbey Street near the intersection with O’Connell Street in Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.

I walked further, looking for an ideal place to catch it, finally deciding on the reverse curves near Busáras (Dublin’s central bus station) that I felt would best show the tram’s colors in a distinctive location.

This outbound tram takes the corner near Busáras (Central Bus Station) in Dublin. Clear blue skies and rich afternoon sun isn't what I'd expect for Irish weather in July! Lumix LX7 photo

This outbound tram takes the corner near Busáras (Central Bus Station) in Dublin. Clear blue skies and rich afternoon sun isn’t what I’d expect for Irish weather in July! Lumix LX7 photo

A brief pause at traffic lights at Gardner Street allow opportunity for another photo. Lumix LX7 image.

A brief pause at traffic lights at Gardner Street allow opportunity for another photo. Lumix LX7 image.

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Push Pull at Dromkeen.

Back in the Day.

It was a glorious bright Spring day in April 2003. For years, a single Irish Rail class 121 had worked a short push-pull Mark 3 set on the Limerick-Limerick Junction shuttle. But when I made this photograph the set was on borrowed time.

Irish Rail’s Limerick Junction shuttle near Dromkeen, County Limerick on April 19, 2003. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens.

Irish Rail’s Limerick Junction shuttle near Dromkeen, County Limerick on April 19, 2003. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens.

Earlier in 2003, Irish Rail had suddenly withdrawn most of the 121 class, and most were quickly reduced to scrap. Only two remained in service and it was rumored they might soon go the way of the others.

As it turned out, the 121 with Mark 3 set didn’t last much longer Limerick Junction shuttle and this was among my last photos of in that service. However, the locomotives struggled on much longer than I anticipated. I last photographed them in permanent way service in Dublin in early 2008, nearly five years later. Not that I’m complaining.

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Earlier that day, I'd made this view of the same Limerick Junction shuttle at Oola. This was previously published on tracking the light. Photo was also exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens.

Earlier that day, I’d made this view of the same Limerick Junction shuttle at Oola. This was previously published on tracking the light. Photo was also exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens.

 

Maine Central Tracks in the Snow.

Lincoln, Maine 1996.

 

Exposed on Fujichrome 100 with an F3T fitted with Nikon 80-200mm lens.

Exposed on Fujichrome 100 with an F3T fitted with Nikon 80-200mm lens.

In the heat of summer sometimes it’s nice to remember how things are in the winter.

Looking compass south on the Maine Central at Lincoln, Maine in the Winter of 1996.

The trick is exposing so there’s some texture in the snow without making the image so dark that the snow appears battleship gray and the shadows become opaque. Controlling flare helps.

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LUAS Ad Tram At Heuston Station

A Bit of Colour for the Summer.

I arrived back in Dublin aware that LUAS had a couple of trams working the Red Line in colourful advertising liveries. As I was on the 747 bus passing the city centre from the airport, I noted one of these working its way toward the Docklands.

Although I’ve been gone a few months, my memory of LUAS timings had the wheels turning in my head as the bus wandered its circuitous path through Dublin’s inner city.

By the time the bus arrived a Heuston Station, where it terminates its airport run, I calculated that the brightly coloured Citadis couldn’t be more than a few minutes away. So, with my luggage in tow, I marched toward my preferred morning location.

Just then it came into view.

The shade of yellow on the front of the 'Join Me' LUAS tram reminded me of the Portugese multiple units I photographed in April. Lumix LX7 photo.

The shade of yellow on the front of the ‘Join Me’ LUAS tram reminded me of the Portugese multiple units I photographed in April. Lumix LX7 photo.

Thankfully, it made a prolonged stop at Heuston, giving me time to dig out my LX-7 from the camera bag and reset it. I’d last been making multiple exposure HDR images of real 747s at Logan!

Air France 747 at Boston's Logan Airport on the previous evening.

Air France 747 at Boston’s Logan Airport on the previous evening.

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Southern Pacific at Roseville, December 1989.

Tunnel Motor and a Donut Shop.

Trains crossing vast western vistas make for compelling images, yet, back in 1989 I also made an effort to document western railroads in ordinary urban environments.

in December 1989, this Southern Pacific eastward freight was easing up to the east end of Roseville Yard, preparing to depart for its run over Donner Pass. Its EMD diesels with 20-cylinder 645E3 engines pulsed their dynamic sounds of power.

Southern Pacific 8233 at Roseville, California. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 with f2.0 50mm lens.

Southern Pacific 8233 at Roseville, California. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 with f2.0 50mm lens.

I framed it up in the trees and featured a non-descript donut shop that was part of the scene. Also, I placed my car in the photo. Soon, I was rolling east on I-80, thinking about where to catch the freight on the grade.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 with f2.0 50mm lens.

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Clio Viaduct, California

Under Clear Western Skies.

On the morning of November 11, 2003, John Gruber and I set off from Reno, Nevada and drove up to Union Pacific’s former Western Pacific main line

Although we weren’t expecting it, we caught this BNSF westward freight near Reno Junction and followed it for many miles.

Western Pacific was built by virtue of improved bridge design. Tower supported steel viaducts such as this one allowed for relatively inexpensive construction of very large and tall spans. A century later the bridge remains in service.

Western Pacific was built by virtue of improved bridge design. Steel tower-supported viaducts, such as this one, allowed for relatively inexpensive construction of very large and tall spans. More than a century later the bridge remains in service.

I opted for this view of the famous Clio Viaduct west of Portola, California, where 11 years earlier, I’d exposed a Kodachrome slide of Union Pacific’s Challenger from nearly the same angle.

For this photograph I use my Nikon F3T and Fujichrome slide film.

Personally, I like the bit of glint reflecting off the second locomotive.

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Pleasant Valley Sunset

Union Pacific’s Encina Hill in eastern Oregon on June 12, 1993.

Looking west on the Union Pacific. I exposed this view on Kodachrome 25with a Nikon F3T fitted with a f1.8 105mm lens. Kodachrome had excellent dynamic range that allowed it to capture detail and color from the brightest highlights to the deepest shadows. Look carefully. Follow the tracks around the bend to the right; a train has passed, but the exhaust from its helpers can still be seen illuminated by the setting sun.

Looking west on the Union Pacific. I exposed this view on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a f1.8 105mm lens. Kodachrome had excellent dynamic range that allowed it to capture detail and color from the brightest highlights to the deepest shadows. Look carefully. Follow the tracks around the bend to the right; a train has passed, but the exhaust from its helpers can still be seen illuminated by the setting sun.

Pleasant Valley siding on Union Pacific’s mainline in eastern Oregon is aptly named. I made this image on Kodachrome 25 while traveling with Brian Jennison.

We’d driven up from Nevada to intercept Union Pacific’s Challenger, locomotive 3985, that was running trips toward Portland. The weather was excellent and this was a good excuse to photograph this remote but scenic section of heavily traveled steeply graded mainline.

I remember the scent of sage and the wide open skies and the relative quiet; qualities I associate with the great American west.

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Tomorrow: BNSF on the Western Pacific!

 

Colorful Consist Crossing the Connecticut River.

July 10, 2014.

We were waiting for Pan Am Southern’s westward empty autorack, train 206. This was just the gravy: Earlier Mike Gardner, Brian Jennison and I, had already had a productive summer’s day following the Mass-Central and caught Amtrak’s Vermonter in perfect light at Millers Falls.

As we waited for 205, Pan Am’s dispatcher routed its eastward counterpart, loaded autorack train 206 (destined for Ayer, Massachusetts), through the yard at East Deerfield to get it around a track gang.

Pan Am Southern train 206 crosses the Connecticut River at East Deerfield, Massachusetts on the evening of July 10, 2014.

Pan Am Southern train 206 crosses the Connecticut River at East Deerfield, Massachusetts on the evening of July 10, 2014.

This was an unexpected bonus! The train was led by a colorful consist of General Electric diesels. A Union Pacific Evolution-series was up front, followed by a curious former Conrail and/or LMS DASH8-40CW lettered for Canadian National and sublettered for CN’s subsidiary Illinois Central. Trailing was a common Norfolk Southern DASH9-40CW.

It’s just as well I shot this as a digital image and not as a color slide. I couldn’t have fit all this information on the slide mount! (Although I did exposed a frame of black & white film).

We never saw Pan Am’s 205 that day.

Nor did we catch the following unit grain train with BNSF locomotives leading. You can’t win all the prizes.

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Tomorrow: Union Pacific Sunset!

 

Massachusetts Central, July 10, 2014—Retro Views

Black & White in the Modern Age.

Here are a few views I made with my Rolleiflex Model T of Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany branch on July 10, 2014.

Why black & white? Why film? Why in 2014?

Mass-Central GP38 1751 crosses the Route 32 bridge in Ware, Massachusetts on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

Mass-Central GP38 1751 crosses the Route 32 bridge in Ware, Massachusetts on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

Former Boston & Albany freight house at Gilbertville, Massachusetts along the Mass-Central's Ware River Branch on July 10, 2014.

Former Boston & Albany freight house at Gilbertville, Massachusetts along the Mass-Central’s Ware River Branch on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. The film was processed in Kodak HC110, dilution B (1 part developer to 32 parts water) at 70 degrees F, for 6 minutes using three agitation inversions every 30-60 seconds.

Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. The film was processed in Kodak HC110, dilution B (1 part developer to 32 parts water) at 70 degrees F, for 6 minutes using three agitation inversions every 30-60 seconds.

Mass-Central 1751 works north of Gilbertville on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

Mass-Central 1751 works north of Gilbertville on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

There’s no question, digital photography is easier. If I desire a square black & white image, all I have to do is set my Lumix LX7 to a 1:1 aspect ratio using a switch on the camera, and set the ‘photo style’ to ‘monochrome’ using the function button.

This set up procedure takes just a few seconds, and I can switch back to color quickly and easily whenever I choose.

Working with the Rolleiflex is more cumbersome; the camera is klutzy to load, it only makes 12 frames per roll of film, and the film takes about an hour to process in the darkroom (dry to dry). Then I need to cut and sleeve the negatives and then scan them for presentation here.

Yet, I still do this. Not for every photograph, not on every outing, but I still go through the motions of using black & white film.

Why? I have five reasons:

1)    I like it.

2)    It gives me a subtle ‘retro’ quality that I can’t really get from digital.

3)    It allows me visual continuity: I’ve been making black & white railroad photos since the 1970s. Why stop now?

4)    I can still do it: I have the cameras, the film, the darkroom and the skills to get great results.

5)    The B&W film medium is known to be archival. I process my film using a two bath fixer, permawash and rinse for 15 minutes in clean running water. They are stored in archival sleeves. Barring the unforeseen, the negatives I processed should still be in good condition for viewing in 50 to 100 years, maybe longer. They will need no extra attention regarding ‘back up’, except to store them in a safe dry place.

This last point is not true with digital photos.  I make three backup copies of every digital image and store them in separate locations, but digital remains an ephemeral media. Hard drives, DVDs and all other existing means of commercially-available digital storage will, in time, go bad. Hard drives can fail, suddenly, completely and without warning. The information will be lost. The photos will vanish. Like the tide coming in on a child’s sandcastle, the images in their digital form will be washed away, forever.

Mass-Central at South Barre, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

Mass-Central at South Barre, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.

A cropped section of the above photo, enlarged to show detail. One of the flaws with WordPress web media is that images are automatically compressed which lowers the quality for ease of display.

A cropped section of the above photo, enlarged to show detail. One of the flaws with WordPress web media is that images are automatically compressed which lowers the quality for ease of display.

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Tomorrow: Colorful consist on a bridge!

 

On the Old Nickel Plate Road, April 1988.

New General Electric DASH-8s Nose to Nose.

In April 1988, I was exploring locations along Conrail’s former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’ west of Dunkirk, New York. Parallel to this line was the old Nickel Plate Road.

Where the former New York Central Line was a highly engineered grade-level route  and crossed the terrain on high earthen fills, Nickel Plate was built to a lighter standard and used plate girder viaducts over the valleys of rivers and streams.

Lighter engineering often results in more interesting photographs.

Exposed on black & white negative film using a Rolleiflex Model T with f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. By using a 645 ‘superslide’ insert, I obtained a rectangular negative size instead of the more common square associated with the Rollei T. This gave me a more conventional photographic aspect. In retrospect, I’ve found that I prefer Rollei photos made in the square format.

Exposed on black & white negative film using a Rolleiflex Model T with f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. By using a 645 ‘superslide’ insert, I obtained a rectangular negative size instead of the more common square associated with the Rollei T. This gave me a more conventional photographic aspect. In retrospect, I’ve found that I prefer Rollei photos made in the square format.

I caught this Norfolk Southern freight working toward Buffalo over a tower-supported plate-girder trestle near Westfield, New York.

At the time, Norfolk Southern had recently purchased a fleet of General Electric C39-8s and tended to work these long hood first. I found this arrangement fascinating and so I made a variety of images of the big GE diesels working ‘hammer head’ style.

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One Less Diamond, July 22, 1986

Palmer, Massachusetts.

I exposed this image using a Rolleiflex Model T with fixed f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens.

I exposed this image using a Rolleiflex Model T with fixed f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens.

Twenty-eight years ago I made this photo. It was the day after Conrail began single-tracking the Boston & Albany route. On July 21, 1986, track forces had cut in CP83 at Palmer, and CP92 in Springfield, removing the old number 1 (westward) track from service.

The remains of the second diamond crossing with Central Vermont are in the foreground. A westward empty autorack is taking the new switch at CP83 in front of the Palmer Union Station.

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Massachusetts Central, July 10, 2014

Palmer to South Barre, Massachusetts.

Trying to see the railroad differently; I’ve been photographing the former Boston & Albany Ware River branch for more than 30 years, so finding new angles is a bit of a challenge.

On July 10, 2014, I met Mike Gardner, Paul Goewey and Brian Jennison in Palmer with the expressed goal of following Mass-Central’s daily freight northbound.

It was a bright morning following a night of heavy rain and mist still clung to the valleys. Mass-Central was working with GP38 1751, one of two locomotives acquired last year and custom painted into a variation of the 1950s-era Boston & Maine ‘Bluebird’ livery.

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Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Thorndike, Masschusetts on the morning of July 10, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Thorndike, Masschusetts on the morning of July 10, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

After the train passed Thorndike, (a few miles from Palmer yard), it slowed to a craw then stopped unexpectedly. Trees had fallen on the line. This delayed it while crews cut the trees with chain saws. In the mean time, Paul showed me an angle near Forest Lake that I’d never seen before.

Track speed on the line is a casual 10 mph. The trick isn’t trying to keep up with the train, it’s trying to stay focused on the subject. In addition to the slow running, Mass-Central spends a lot of time switching freight cars, and often in places that aren’t conducive to summer-time photography.

A plow warning signal near a crossing at Forest Lake. Mass-Central still retains many of these simple steam-era signals. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A plow warning signal near a crossing at Forest Lake. Mass-Central still retains many of these simple steam-era signals. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Mass-Central at Forest Lake where the water is covered with lilly pads and other growth. Thanks to Paul Goewey for showing me this angle. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Mass-Central at Forest Lake where the water is covered with lilly pads and other growth. Thanks to Paul Goewey for showing me this angle. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Where? Ware. That's right. Mass-Central 1751 crosses the old bridge over Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.

Where? Ware. That’s right. Mass-Central 1751 crosses the old bridge over Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.

The Whistle Stop was closed so I opted to feature the station building that is often blocked with cars. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

The Whistle Stop at Gilbertville was closed so I opted to feature the station building that is often blocked with cars. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Or, for an alternate view. . . .

Or, for an alternate view. . . .

Pastoral scene near Barre Plains. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Pastoral scene near Barre Plains. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

South Barre is as far as the Mass-Central goes. Beyond that the old B&A branch is abandoned. Having done well with the northward run, we opted for lunch, then moved on to other lines.

I worked with three cameras; my Lumix LX7 and Canon 7D, plus my old Rolleiflex Model T. (This isn’t the same old Rollei, that I used back in the 1980s, but one similar to it.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t functioning perfectly in the morning, and I missed a few photos before I got it working. Now, to process the film!

South Barre, where Mass-Central reaches the old mills by way of a spur that crosses Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.

South Barre, where Mass-Central reaches the old mills by way of a spur that crosses Route 32. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Tracking the Light Daily Post: SEPTA at Overbrook, Pennsylvania—Part 2

Another day another Angle.

On evening July 2, 2014, my brother Sean and I returned to Overbrook. I wanted to get there a bit earlier to focus on SEPTA’s electric locomotive-hauled rush hour services, including the named ‘Great Valley Flyer.’ Also, I wished to feature the signaling more closely. Those vintage Pennsylvania Railroad position lights won’t be around forever.

The lighting was more diffused than the previous day, but this offered different opportunities.

SEPTA Silverliners meet at Overbrook on July 2, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

SEPTA Silverliners meet at Overbrook on July 2, 2014.  Here we have a classic view that features the trains, the railway station and ornate passenger shelters, plus SEPTA’s connecting bus. If every town could only be as fortunate as Overbrook! Lumix LX7 photo.

SEPTA's Great Valley Flyer crosses over at Overbrook. Pat Yough had warned me of this in advance, so I was prepared. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

SEPTA’s Great Valley Flyer crosses over at Overbrook. Pat Yough had warned me of this in advance, so I was prepared. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Only a handful of SEPTA's suburban trains run with electric locomotives; most are EMUs. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Only a handful of SEPTA’s suburban trains run with electric locomotives; most are EMUs. Canon EOS 7D photo.

SEPTA's Great Valley Flyer, one of the system's few named trains. What other modern commuter operators have named suburban services? I wanted to feature the train passing the tower.

SEPTA’s Great Valley Flyer, one of the system’s few named trains. What other modern commuter operators have named suburban services? I wanted to feature the train passing the tower.

SEPTA's Great Valley Flyer doesn't serve Overbrook. Lumix LX7.

SEPTA’s Great Valley Flyer doesn’t serve Overbrook. Lumix LX7.

Often it helps to revisit locations several days in a row. Becoming more familiar with a place, helps to find different ways to photograph it.

Yet, with familiarity comes the risk of complacency. When a subject becomes so familiar that you stop seeing it in new ways, have you lost the edge? Is finding a new place the best time to make a photo, or at least perceive an opportunity?

Overbrook is hardly a new place for me, yet it is also one I’ve yet to master.

Rule 290, Restricting, displayed in classic Pennsylvania Railroad fashion using a reverse diagonal row of lights on the second head.

Rule 290, Restricting, displayed in classic Pennsylvania Railroad fashion using a reverse diagonal row of lights on the second head.

An inbound train approaches Overbrook. I was happy to catch a train with a restricting aspect displayed on the opposite signal. Canon EOS 7D photo.

An inbound train approaches Overbrook. I was happy to catch a train with a restricting aspect displayed on the opposite signal. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Minutes later an express train zips through Overbrook on track 2. Notice the signal on the far side of the tracks has cleared to 'Approach'. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Minutes later an express train zips through Overbrook on track 2. Notice the signal on the far side of the tracks has cleared to ‘Approach’. Canon EOS 7D photo.

One last view. This outbound express tends to run with a locomotive hauled consist. I positioned myself to feature the locomotive and the tower. Lumix LX7 photo.

One last view. This outbound express tends to run with a locomotive hauled consist. I positioned myself to feature the locomotive and the tower. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Happy Birthday to Tracking the Light!

It has been two years today (July 19, 2014) since Tracking the Light’s first Post (July 19, 2012).

The first installment featured this image on the Central Vermont Railway crossing the Connecticut River.

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.

Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted on July 19, 2012.

Click HERE to check out the inaugural post.

Tracking the Light has been posting daily since March 2013.

To date, the most popular item was posted January 20, 2013: TRACKING THE LIGHT NEWS FLASH: Photos of Philadelphia Schuylkill River Bridge Derailment. This alone received more than 800 views.

In the last two years of Tracking the Light, I’ve covered a variety of themes, posted thousands of images, and visited many places.

What was your favorite Tracking the Light story?

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

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Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Trailing view at the Palmer diamond in the glinty evening light. A CSX westward intermodal train makes for a graphic subject. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

 

Four years ago today: John Gruber with his vintage Nikon F on a restored North Shore car at the Illinois Railway Museum. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

Four years ago today: John Gruber with his vintage Nikon F on a restored North Shore car at the Illinois Railway Museum. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

N&W 611 surrounded by the enemy.

N&W 611 surrounded by the enemy.

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CSX Q423 (or L423) was working Palmer yard. In this view it pulls passed CP83 to double its train out of the yard. I exposed several telephoto views with the LX-7. By keeping the camera relatively low to the ground, I've minimized foreground distractions while allowing for a more dramatic perspective on the locomotives.

CSX Q423 (or L423) was working Palmer yard. In this view it pulls passed CP83 to double its train out of the yard. I exposed several telephoto views with the LX-7. By keeping the camera relatively low to the ground, I’ve minimized foreground distractions while allowing for a more dramatic perspective on the locomotives.

Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.

Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.

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Irish Rail 220 leads Monday's Dublin-Ballina IWT liner seen west of Kildare, near Cherryville Junction. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

Irish Rail 220 leads Monday’s Dublin-Ballina IWT liner seen west of Kildare, near Cherryville Junction. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

A closer horizontal view with the same camera-lens combination. I adjusted the exposure by a one-third stop, opening to f8.0 to compensate for the lack of sky in the image. Locomotive 085 features a variation of the gray and yellow paint scheme introduced last year. This features the traditional three-digit locomotive number in larger fonts on the cab. This in addition to the recently introduced European multiple number printed in tiny type elsewhere on the engine.

A closer horizontal view with the same camera-lens combination. I adjusted the exposure by a one-third stop, opening to f8.0 to compensate for the lack of sky in the image. Locomotive 085 features a variation of the gray and yellow paint scheme introduced last year. This features the traditional three-digit locomotive number in larger fonts on the cab. This in addition to the recently introduced European multiple number printed in tiny type elsewhere on the engine.

This car works interlaced track where up-hill and down hill lines overlap. Canon EOS 7D.

This car works interlaced track where up-hill and down hill lines overlap. Canon EOS 7D.

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Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400 image stabilization zoom lens set at 135mm; f8 at 1/500th of second, ISO 200.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400 image stabilization zoom lens set at 135mm; f8 at 1/500th of second, ISO 200.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated manually.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated manually.

Locomotive 461 works west along the Royal Canal near Enfield on March 23, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 20mm lens and firmly mounted on a Bogan tripod. Focus and exposure set manually.

Locomotive 461 works west along the Royal Canal near Enfield on March 23, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 20mm lens and firmly mounted on a Bogen tripod. Focus and exposure set manually.

I'd only had my Canon EOS 7D for a few weeks when I made this study of geometric shapes. Metra F40PHs at Harvard made for a colorful subject. Exposed with my Canon 200mm lens handheld at f13 1/250th of a second.

I’d only had my Canon EOS 7D for a few weeks when I made this study of geometric shapes. Metra F40PHs at Harvard made for a colorful subject. Exposed with my Canon 200mm lens handheld at f13 1/250th of a second.

The unusual curved York train shed was built between 1871 and 1877. A Virgin Cross Country HST pauses at York on 4 July 1999. This was led by one of the less-common varieties of the Class 43 power units that featured buffers. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia using a Nikon N90S with 24mm lens.

The unusual curved York train shed was built between 1871 and 1877. A Virgin Cross Country HST pauses at York on 4 July 1999. This was led by one of the less-common varieties of the Class 43 power units that featured buffers. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia using a Nikon N90S with 24mm lens.

16mm Hologon view of Cincinnati Union Station.

16mm Hologon view of Cincinnati Union Station.

Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

Conrail

In July 1984, Conrail 6666 leads an eastward freight on the Boston & Albany at Washington Summit, Hinsdale, Massachusetts. This photograph is unpublished and previously unprinted. It was exposed on 35mm Tri-X using a 1930s-vintage Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. Post processing allowed for localized contrast control to maximize the detail in the original negative.

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Here's the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established 'picture style'. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the 'landscape' style Jpg had interpreted the image.

Here’s the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established ‘picture style’. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the ‘landscape’ style Jpg had interpreted the image.

The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

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Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.

The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.

The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.

Cumbres & Toltec former Denver & Rio Grande Western three-foot gauge line, Colorado.

Cumbres & Toltec former Denver & Rio Grande Western three-foot gauge line, Colorado.

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Tracking the Light Daily Post: On The Main Line at Overbrook, Pennsylvania—Part 1

Visual Quandaries in a Fascinating Place—July 1, 2014

Overbrook retains much of its Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line heritage. Not only is it a surviving portion of four track line, but it retains an active tower, traditional PRR position light signaling, plus its old station buildings and historic signage.

SEPTA at Overbrook.

Outbound SEPTA Silverliner V approaches Overbrook on a sunny evening, July 1, 2014. All the elements are here, but what is the best way to put them together in a dynamic image? Can one photo really do Overbrook justice? Canon EOS 7D photo with 100mm lens.

It remains a busy place with a regular interval SEPTA suburban service and Amtrak Keystone trains.

Curiously, it features track-work dating to an earlier era of railroad engineering. It is located on a sweeping curve with a full set of crossovers set in and around the station and low-level platforms.

Without getting into a detailed discussion on modern railroad engineering, let me just say, that there’s no way an interlocking and station would be situated like this today.

The interlocking at Overbrook is a vestige of steam-era railroad engineering. Today railroads wouldn't consider placing crossovers on curve in the middle of a busy station with low level platforms. Note the signal displaying 'Restricting' with a classic PRR aspect. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. July 1, 2014.

Looking west on the Main Line: The interlocking at Overbrook is a vestige of steam-era railroad engineering. Today railroads wouldn’t consider placing crossovers on curve in the middle of a busy station with low level platforms. Note the signal displaying ‘Restricting’ with a classic PRR aspect. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. July 1, 2014.

Yet, for all this historic railroad interest, Overbrook is a challenging place to make photographs. The curvature which adds so much character to the place, also makes it difficult to find a satisfactory photographic angle. While there is lots of antique infrastructure, it’s hard to find way to include it in balanced compositions.

Further difficulties are caused by nearby trees and a large overhead arched bridge that cast shadows on the line.

On successive evenings, July 1st and July 2nd, 2014, my brother Sean and I visited Overbrook to watch the evening parade of trains. Working with my Lumix LX-7 and Canon EOS 7D, I exposed images from a variety of angles. I was particular interested in featuring the old Pennsylvania signaling.

A vintage PRR position light signal (designed by A.H. Rudd) displays 'Approach Medium'. This signal is controlled by Overbrook tower, one of several classic interlocking towers on the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A vintage PRR position light signal (designed by A.H. Rudd) displays ‘Approach Medium’. This signal is controlled by Overbrook tower, one of several classic interlocking towers on the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Outbound SEPTA local at Overbrook catches the evening sun on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Outbound SEPTA local at Overbrook catches the evening sun on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Why make one photo when you can snap away! Which do you like better? The closer image or the distant one.

Why make one photo when you can snap away! Which do you like better? The closer image or the distant one?

SEPTA logo catches the evening glint at Overbrook on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

SEPTA logo catches the evening glint at Overbrook on July 1, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Sean Solomon checks the SEPTA app on his iPhone.

Sean Solomon checks the SEPTA app on his iPhone.

An inbound SEPTA local pauses at Overbrook station. The shinny silver train makes for a dynamic subject, but does this convey the spirit of Overbrook? Lumix LX-7 photo on July 1, 2014.

An inbound SEPTA local pauses at Overbrook station. The shiny silver train makes for a dynamic subject, but does this convey the spirit of Overbrook? Lumix LX-7 photo on July 1, 2014.

An eastward Amtrak Keystone passes Overbrook Tower. The signal displays Approach Medium. Canon EOS 7D photo.

An eastward Amtrak Keystone passes Overbrook Tower. The signal displays Approach Medium. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Cab car trailing. Remember the Metroliner? Long gone, but the cab cars survive—for now.

Cab car trailing. Remember the Metroliner? Long gone, but the cab cars survive—for now.

An outbound Silverliner IV accelerates away from Overbrook after 8pm on July 1, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

An outbound Silverliner IV accelerates away from Overbrook after 8pm on July 1, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tomorrow, Happy Birthday to Tracking the Light!

Overbrook Part II to follow.

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Amtrak Keystone Catches the Sun at Wayne.

The Last Twinkle of Glint.

On June 30, 2014, Pat Yough and I arrived at SEPTA’s Wayne Station minutes before sunset. We’d already spent a productive afternoon and evening catching the evening rush-hour on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

I was interested by the ‘around the corner’ light effect west of Wayne. The nearest eastward SEPTA train was half an hour away. Thankfully, this Amtrak Keystone arrived before the sunset.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens set at ISO 400, f9 at 1/500th of a second. White balance set to ‘daylight’ to avoid allowing the camera to balance for sunset conditions which would have minimized the reddish-orange effect of sunset.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens set at ISO 400, f9 at 1/500th of a second. White balance set to ‘daylight’ to avoid allowing the camera to balance for sunset conditions which would have minimized the reddish-orange effect of sunset.

For this image, I’ve cropped the leading former Metroliner cab car, and focused on the trailing AEM-7 and Amfleet coaches. The AEM-7s are running on borrowed time and I was happy to make this simple graphic image of one of the old electrics.

Calculating exposure wasn’t easy. My initial guess for exposure was about a stop too bright. I manually dialed the f-stop downward as the train entered the frame and the glinting sun reflected back towards me.

I’ve made many images like this on slide film. Kodachrome was a particular good means of capturing the glint effect. Its combination of a black & white film base (using a traditional silver halide grain structure) plus a wide exposure latitude tended to produce excellent results.

This day, Pat exposed a slide on Fujichrome, but I was limited to using my digital cameras.

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