Five years ago, I was poised at the army bridge near Mosney over the old Great Northern line to photograph the, then new, Belmond Grand Hibernian on its run from Dublin to Belfast.
This luxury tour train made weekly tours of the Irish network in season.
Irish Rail class 201 number 216 was painted to match Belmond’s train set, and was routinely assigned to the train.
Belmond’s choice of a dark navy blue made for challenging photos in conditions other than bright sun. In photos, this shade of blue often appeared almost black, and when lightened using post processing software tended to shift green.
In this view, I selectively lightened the front of the locomotive, and applied minimal lightening to the shadow areas of the entire scene. I’ve attempted to retain the true color of the train as best I can.
Here’s another view from Kent Station in Cork exposed on a visit in 2002 using my Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
The repetitive geometry of the station roof and the extreme contrast between light and dark gives this photograph dramatic impact.
I was standing on the platform, just under the station roof at the east-end of the curved train-shed, where I was using the elliptical valance of the roof as a visual frame to bracket the pair of Irish Rail trains.
On a day trip to Cork City (Ireland) in April 2002, I made this photo using my Contax G2 rangefinder on Kodak Tri-X.
I had the camera fitted with a 45mm Zeiss lens. Key to the image tonality was an orange filter, which gives the photo a contrasty snap with lots of texture in the sky while lightening the rendiition of the shade of orange paint on the class 201 diesels.
I’d processed the film using a custom mix of Ilfotec HC.
To scan the film, I used my Epson V600 flatbed scanner with Epson Scan 2 driving software. I made nominal adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.
My Irish friends might wonder, since Irish Rail class 201 number 204 in unlikely to have ever reached Enfield, County Meath on the Sligo Line—although the older C-Class diesel with the same number probably did pass that point (before my time).
Amtrak F40PH-2 204 almost certainly passed Enfield, Connecticut on the former New Haven Railroad’s Springfield-New Haven Line, a route now described as the ‘Hartford Line’. While I have various photos in the 1980s of the 200-series F40PH-2s, it is unlikely that I have a photo of 204 at Enfield.
Then there’s an extremely remote possibility that I have a photo in my collection of a Boston & Albany 4-4-0 with that number passing Enfield, Massachusetts on the Athol Branch. I’ll have to review my B&A roster to confirm they actually had a locomotive with that number and if it ever ran up the branch.
How about Guilford Rail System’s high-hood GP35 204 working the Maine Central with MABA at Enfield, Maine?
Regular Tracking the Light readers might understand my connections to this engine.
(It’s a sister locomotive to former Maine Central 216 that now resides at Conway Scenic where I now work.)
During October’s Cobh Rambler tour, I made these views at Cork’s Kent Station on Kodak Tri-X black & white film.
The tour was operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail.
Kent’s curved Victorian train shed makes for a fascinating venue to photograph a modern railway in action, while the inclement weather on the day translated well with the traditional media.
I processed the film using a customized split development process consisting of Kodak HC110 presoak mixed 1-200 followed by primary development using Ilford ID11 1-1. The negatives were scanned using an Epsom V500 flatbed scanner with some minor final adjustment using Lightroom.
Often I assembled Tracking the Light posts several days in advance of publication (or ‘posting’).
As I write this, rain lashes at my window in Dublin.
If all goes to plan, as you read this my friends and I will be traveling on the RPSI diesel tour to Cork and Kerry, titled the ‘Cobh Rambler.’
Traveling behind diesels, especially the 1970s-vintage 071 class General Motors locomotives, has become a novelty in Ireland since the widespread purchase of Intercity Railcars in the mid-2000s, replaced most diesel hauled trains.
This has made diesel trips, such as that one planned for today, a special treat.
What promises to make this trip especially unusual is the very rare combination of 071 class and 201 class working together. There has been considerable comment and speculation as to which locomotives may work this trip. Sometimes the locomotive planned for the day is re-assigned, develops a fault, or is replaced for other reasons.
Over the years I’ve photographed most of the GM diesels in Ireland, and in this post I’ve put up a sampling of the locomotives suggested might work today’s train.
Learn more about the RPSI: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com
Tracking the Light Posts Everyday, or at least tries to.
It’s a comparatively unusual occurrence to find an RPSI steam excursion side by side with an Irish Rail freight.
In fact, over the last two decades, I’ve only had a handful of opportunities to photograph steam excursions and freight together.
Last Wednesday September 11, 2019, was one of those opportunities.
Locomotive number 4 on its way from Galway to Dublin with the Steam Dreams trip was paused to take water at Athlone, when the up-IWT liner from Ballina arrived to change crews. In the lead was locomotive 234.
I made a few photographs, then the sun emerged from the clouds, so I made a few more photos!
Here are examples from both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
It was just an ordinary day when I made this impromptu view of Irish Rail 225 working a Mark 3 push pull set on Dublin’s Loop Line crossing over Gardner Street Lower.
What was common in 1998 seems pretty neat today. I’m glad I exposed the slide!
To make the most of this photograph, I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Scoolscan5000 then imported the TIF file into Lightroom for contrast and exposure refinement plus colour balance and colour temperature adjustment.
A visit to Irish Rail’s Carlow station on the shortest day of 2003, yielded some classic black & white photos, including these two views. The Cravens were working a scheduled service from Waterford to Dublin.
Working with a recently acquired Rollei Model T (the third such cameras I’d used over a 30 year span), I exposed a single roll of 120-size Fuji Neopan 400. The Rollei made a large square negative, which I really liked.
At the time my choice process for this film was using Agfa Rodinal Special (R09) at a ratio of 1 to 31 parts with water for about 3 mins 45 seconds. In this case I selenium toned the negatives for improved highlight detail.
Final presentation here included scanning using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and some minor adjustments to contrast and cropping with Lightroom.
On 6 April 2019, I was working with a 1980s-vintage Nikon F3HP fitted with an even older Nikkor 24mm lens to expose this view of Irish Rail 219 in ‘push-mode’ at the back of Dublin-bound Mark4 set at Kildare
This slide was among the photographs I exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F on an excursion to Kildare with Paul Maguire and Jay Monaghan to photograph the Waterford-Portlaoise Saturday steel train (seen in the distance at Kildare station).
I digitized the slide using an Epson Perfection V750 flatbed scanner and imported the TIF file into Lightroom for final adjustment and outputted a scaled JPG for presentation here.
Several weeks ago on Tracking the Light I published a digital view of this same train, exposed moments after I made this slide.
Most of the Portuguese main line network is electrified, which makes diesel hauled trains something of a novelty.
Among the regular diesel hauled trains are freights by Portuguese open access operator Takargo, such as this one led by a Vossloh-built Euro 4000 diesel-electric locomotive.
This unusual looking machine sounds familiar since it is powered by a General Motors Electro-Motive Division designed 12 cylinder 710 diesel engine. The Euro 4000 is a cousin of Ireland’s 201 class locomotive and the America F59PHI, also powered by variations of the 12-710.
I made these photos from the platforms at Porto Campanha.
I’ll admit that if you’re not closely familiar with Irish Rail’s Dublin operations my title to today’s Tracking the Light post might seem cryptic.
Two of the Irish Rail 201 class General Motors diesels, 231 and 233, are painted in a minimalist silver, black and yellow livery. These are colloquially known in the enthusiast community as ‘raccoons’ (or ‘badgers’).
Engine number 233 has been shy lately and rarely seen out on the mainline.
RPSI stands for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
RPSI owns an historic set of Cravens-built passenger carriages.
These are stored/maintained at Irish Rail’s Inchicore works (repair shops), and when they are required for an excursion, Irish Rail makes a transfer run across Dublin to deliver them to Connolly station for boarding.
The graded three-track line from Islandbridge Junction to Inchicore runs through a cutting along Con Colbert Road known as ‘the Gullet’.
While I’ve covered most of this previously, I figure it doesn’t hurt to review the esoteric every so often to avoid confusion.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.
Just a little while ago I was passing the usual place at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. Although mostly cloudy, I took a glimpse over the wall. A horn hooted from the Phoenix Park tunnel and an Enterprise 201 eased out onto the Liffey Bridge.
As locomotive 206 approached, running light engine toward Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works, the clouds parted and brilliant morning sun illuminated the junction.
Lumix in hand, I made these photos!
Travel Notice: Brian will be traveling over the coming days and weeks, so Tracking the Light notices and responses may become infrequent. However:
Working with my Lumix LX7 I made these three evening glinty views of Irish Rail trains to and from Cork at Dublin’s Heuston Station.
I’ve always loved the soft orange glow of filtered evening light.
Where’s the filter you ask? It’s in the sky. A mix of clouds and pollution—particulates and other stuff—alters the spectral qualities of the setting sun by pushing the color balance toward the red-orange end of the spectrum.
Here’s a few black & white views exposed last week on Kodak Tri-X of Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to the North Wall/Connolly.
Recently, Irish Rail has expanded service on the Grand Canal Docks—Hazel Hatch/Newbridge run and now trains run at least hourly throughout the day.
Following a Grand Canal Docks bound passenger train was the daily Up IWT Liner (Ballina to North Wall, Dublin).
Since these trains were coming out of the relatively harsh midday sun, I opted to work with black & white film, which makes the most of the contrast and allows me to control shadow and highlight detail to a greater degree than with my digital cameras, while giving the images a period look.
To maximize tonality and detail from the negatives I employed a ‘split process’ using two developers.
First I use a very weak solution of Kodak HC110 mixed 1 to 250 to water. To intensify the detail in shadows while avoiding over processing highlight areas, I keep the developer temperature comparatively high (73F) and allow it to work to exhaustion. My second developer is Ilford ID mixed 1-1 for 6 minutes 45 seconds with one minute agitation intervals. Then stop; fix 1, fix 2, rinse for 3 minutes, hypoclear, then a series of final washes. Dry and scan.
In the summer of 1999, I was standing on the footbridge at Kildare station where I focused on Irish Rail 225 leading Mark3 carriages as it approached at speed.
My first Nikon N90S was loaded with Ilford HP5 and fitted with an old Tokina 400mm fixed focal length telephoto.
The train was common; my photograph was unusual. Working with extreme telephoto compression, I’ve framed the train in the arch of road-bridge, which has the effect of accentuating the pattern of the crossovers east of the bridge.
I recall the piercing Doppler squashed screech of 225’s horn as it neared the platforms, warning passengers to stand back.
The memory of that sound and the following rush of air as the train raced past puts me back in that place in time nearly 20 years gone. I know too well how I was feeling at the time. Strange how one photograph of a train can summon such memories and feelings.
The other evening I made a few handheld photos of Irish Rail class 201 diesel number 217 River Fleskat Dublin’s Heuston Station.
217 was working a Mark4 set on the 2100 schedule to Cork.
There are myriad approaches to night photography. In this instance, I worked with my Lumix LX7 without a tripod.
I’m fortunate because I have an unusually steady hand. The Lumix further aids my efforts because it has image stabilization.
I set the camera to ISO 200, and working in ‘A’ (aperture priority) I manually set the lens aperture to its widest opening, which in this case is f1.8. The wider the aperture, the more light passes through the lens to reach the sensor, so having a ‘fast’ lens (one with a small maximum aperture number, such as my f1.8 lens) is a huge benefit.
This set up allowed me work with a 1/10 of second shutter speed, which is adequate speed for a static photograph.
If I had been using my FujiFilm XT1 with the kit zoom lens, my widest aperture would have been about f4.5, which is nearly two full stops slower than f1.8, which means at ISO200, I’d require about ½ second exposure to obtain a comparable result, which is too slow for a sharp handheld image in most instances.
Another way of approaching this would be raise the ISO. So with the FujiFilm set up just described, I could increase the ISO setting to 800, which would boost the effective sensitivity of the sensor by two stops (bringing me back up to 1/10thof a second using f4.5). However, this would also boost the noise level and reduce sharpness.
Back in the old days, I would have used Kodachrome, and that would have required a tripod, and probably some filters to colour-correct for the artificial light. Today, digital cameras when set to ‘auto white balance’ do an admirable job of balancing the colour for fluorescent, sodium vapor and other forms of artificial light that tend to tint an image.
Normally for night work with the Lumix, I’d dial in a 1/3 over exposure compensation (+ 1/3 on the exposure compensation dial) however in this situation the relatively bright night sky where low cloud was illuminated by lots of artificial light combined with the silver body of the locomotive and bright platform lighting, obviated the need for boosting the exposure by 1/3 of a stop.
However, I did make some very subtle changes in post processing to help visually separate the roof of the locomotive from the sky.
Recently discussions of Irish Rail’s Sligo Timber have led me to ask, ‘When did this traffic end?’
Sometimes my memory offers a clear picture of the past, in other situations it is fuzzy and lacking desired detail. This is among the reasons I try to apply detailed labels and captions to my photographs near the time of exposure.
I recall the Sligo timber’s revival in Spring 2002, and my many opportunities to photograph timber trains on the Sligo Line and in around Dublin in the years that followed, but I’m unable to remember when the last train operated.
On guessing, I thought 2007 or 2008 was pretty close. So on reviewing my photo files, I was a bit surprised to find this photograph dated 21 May 2009.
I exposed this view on Fujichrome from my regular spot at Islandbridge Junction, which shows Irish Rail 232 in the modern green livery leading a timber out of the Phoenix Park Tunnel. The construction-progress of the apartments at left helps me confirm the date of the photo.
So, when was the final movement of timber by rail from Sligo? I must have been away.
My penultimate post for 2018 that features Ireland’s 201-class diesels focuses on locomotive number 233—second to last in the series (201-234).
In recent times this has worn the minimalist ‘raccoon’ livery, while for a number of years it wore the older Enterprise scheme.
I exposed these views of 233 in the Dublin area over the last three years.
I’ve been featuring the Irish Rail 201 diesels as part of my 20 years in Ireland photography retrospective. I started with the class leader number 201, and have progressed sequentially. Take a wild guess as to which locomotive I’ll conclude the series! (This is not a trick question. You don’t need to consult a crystal ball or take a class in advanced mathematics.).