On March 16, 1986, I hiked west of milepost 84 on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route to photograph Amtrak train 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited(Boston section).
This was just a few months before Conrail single tracked the line between Springfield and Palmer, Massachusetts.
I was keen to document the Boston & Albany’s line that passed through the northern reaches of my home town, Monson, Massachusetts, in the railroad’s traditional directional double track configuration.
This lone image is part of my much more extensive project to document the Boston & Albany route on film.
I exposed the photo on 120 roll film using my father’s Rollei Model T. In May 2019, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. For presentation here, I adjusted contrast and exposure using Lightroom.
On April 18, 1984, I was photographing Conrail’s Boston & Albany at Warren, Massachusetts, an activity that undoubtedly coincided to a visit with my friend Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies.
Early in the afternoon, I caught a westward train with three (then new) SD50s rolling by the old Boston & Albany Warren station.
This was in double-track days, when Conrail still operated train in the current of traffic in accordance with rule 251 and the long established automatic block signals that protected movements on the line.
Cabooses were still the norm on through freights, but not for much longer. Within a few months caboose-less freights would become standard practice on the B&A route and across the Conrail system.
I made this view on Kodak 5060 safety film (Panatomic-X) using my 1930s-era Leica 3A with 50mm f2.0 Summitar lens. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using Kodak Microdol-X and then made the unfortunate choice of storing the negatives in a common paper envelope, which is where they remained until last week.
Panatomic-X. Now if there was one great black & white film, that was it. Slow as molasses, but really great film. It was rated at 32 ISO (or ASA as it was called in those days) and tended to result in some thin negatives, but it gave great tonality, fine grain, and scans very well.
I’m glad I have these negatives, ignored and stored inappropriately for all these years. If only there was still a Conrail, cabooses on the roll, and Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies to tell you all about it!
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!
Check out my selection of Conrail photos on Flicker at:
You might ask, ‘what does this have to do with railway photography?’
Nothing. And Everything.
Several years ago my concerns over the lack of long-term archival storage for my growing collection of railroad photographs (and those of my fellow photographers) led me to begin working with scientists at Creative Technology LLC, including my father Richard Jay Solomon, Clark Johnson Jr., and Eric Rosenthal, in order to find a means of preserving photography, especially digital photography, by using proven technologies.
This evolved into a much larger project aimed at preserving and storing all digital media using silver technology—similar to that used to make photographs.
NASA took an interest in Creative Technology’s concept and offered to send examples of Creative Technology’s storage media to the International Space Station to test its ability to withstand the rigors of the space environment.
Creative Technology test materials that I helped create were launched via a SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket on May 3, 2019 and docked at the International Space Station on May 6th.
This brings the Creative Technology concept closer to a commercial manifestation.
When the materials are returned in several months time, Creative Technology can further the analysis of the storage medium which hopefully will facilitate NASA’s application of this technology for long-term data storage among other applications.
Below is Creative Technology’s press release detailing the invention and its promise.
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.
NASA International Space Station Will Test Innovative Data Storage System to Preserve Vital Human Records
Can data survive in space over extremely long times and multiple human generations? The possibility of human colonies on other planets may ultimately depend on just such data stability. Now, a patented innovative long-term archival data storage system created by a Delaware-based firm is being tested on the International Space Station (ISS) for up to a year.
The system developed by Creative Technology LLC (CTech) of Hockessin, DE, applies a century-old tested archival media for photography in a completely new way for storing high-density computer data in perpetuity. Inherently secure, low-cost technology is used that cannot be hacked or altered. CTech’s archival media can be used to store critical DNA and healthcare records, financial information and contracts, family photos and records which need to preserved for multiple human generations
NASA’s ISS test will determine if data on CTech’s media can survive a hostile space environment during long-term space missions, such as the mission to Mars and beyond. Today, conventional media, such as hard drives, magnetic tape, and solid state memory, are vulnerable to decay and bit rot due to gamma and cosmic rays and age deterioration.
CTech’s media is a green technology which can be stored for long periods in normal room environments without excessive energy for cooling or maintenance, opening up a new opportunity for storing secure data for extended periods of time without the need for energy.
CTech is a group of technologists with over 300 years collective experience in human perception, image capture & display, photosensitive media, data storage & compression, and video and telecomm applications and technology. CTech sponsors have included NSA, the Naval Research Lab, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, & DARPA.
All media used today have to be continually replicated and authenticated in order to be readable even in less than one human lifetime, and that process alone incurs new errors each time the data is copied. CTech avoids that problem, saving enormous labor and energy costs over long periods.
Thirty three years ago I made this view of a northward Central Vermont freight crossing Route 32 in South Monson.
(Historically CV had a ‘station’ in South Monson, and another at State Line and these were distinct locations in the railroad’s timetable.)
I exposed this black & white photo with my father’s Rollei Model T set up with a 645-size ‘super slide’ insert and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
One of the challenges of working with the Rollei twin-lens reflex is that the view finder displays a mirror image. This made gauging when to release the shutter of the train especially difficult when it was rolling away, such as in this situation.
The result? I pressed the shutter release a split second sooner than I would have preferred. Of course I didn’t see the problem until after I processed the film
I scanned this negatives, along with others from the day last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. I scaled the file for internet presentation and adjusted contrast in post-processing using Lightroom.
Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.
It was raining in Dublin, but clear and bright in Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford on 13 December 2003 when we visited to observe Irish Rail’s sugar beet operations.
Working with a Rollei Model T that I’d bought in San Francisco a few weeks earlier, I exposed a sequence of 120-size black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X of NI Railways 112 (on long-term loan to Irish Rail) that was shunting four-wheel sugar beet wagons for loading.
To obtain greater shadow detail and superior overall tonality, I rate the film at ISO 200 (one stop slower than the advertised 400 ISO) and processed it in a dilute bath of Ilfotec HC high-contrast developer.
For presentation here, I scanned the negatives last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and then scaled/sized the TIFs for internet viewing.
You could make wall-size prints from the original negatives.
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.
Monochrome; black & white; noir—what ever you like.
I made these views on an evening in late March at Porto’s Campanha Station using a Nikon F3 loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic film.
Negatives were processed using an dilute HC110 presoak (1-300 with water plus wetting agent) followed by ID11 1-1 69 F for 7 min 30 sec then following stop, fix and extended rinse, a final bath of selenium toner 1-0 for 7 min 30 sec and re-wash and final rinse in distilled water.
Working with a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic, I exposed these portraits of some of the men working Railway Preservation Society’s 18 March 2019 trips from Dublin Connolly Station to Maynooth.
I processed the film in a non-standard way to obtain a period look while giving photos optimal tonality in a contrasty situations.
First: I pre-soaked film it in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 (measured 3 parts per 1000 with water, plus wetting agent) for about 7 minutes at 72 F;
Second: primary developer consisted of Ilford ID-11 1 to 1 with water at 69 F for 6 minutes;
Third: following stop bath, two fixer baths, and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in a 1-9 selenium solution (outdoors to avoid breathing toxic fumes) for 8 minutes. This was followed by several rinse cycles and a final rinse in distilled water.
Negatives were scanned in colour to retain the selenium tint.
Working with Czech-made Fomapan Classic in my Nikon F3, I’ve wandered the streets of Dublin seeking timeless images.
By careful chemical manipulation in the processing of the negatives, I aimed to extract exceptional shadow detail, maintain rich black tones and control highlight areas.
I’ve exposed these views over the last few weeks. In many instances, I’ve set my lenses to their widest apertures both to let greater amounts of light to reach the film, but also for the effects offered shallow depth of field.
Weather, including fog, added to the challenge and the atmosphere.
Irish Rail moves zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to the port of Dublin on weekdays. The trains are short and relatively heavy. Owing to restrictions on trackage serving the mine Irish Rail always assigns the General Motors 071 diesels to this run.
Last week, 27 March 2019, Jay Monaghan and I met on the station platforms at Clontarf Road on Dublin’s north side specifically to catch the laden Tara mines passing in the gloom.
A thick wintery fog made for a dose of extra gloom just for good meaure.
I made a variety of test exposures of passing DART trains (Dublin Area Rapid Transit electric suburban service) and got into position for the Main Event.
The drumming of an EMD 12-645 diesel announced the arrival of the evening’s freight.
I made a series of photos Working with my Lumix LX7 digital camera (with ISO racked up to 800), and a Nikon F3 fitted with f1.8 105mm lens and Ilford HP5 film.
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.
Saturday, 23 February 2019, I tested a roll of Rollei 80S Retro 35mm black & white film.
This is a unusual emulsion: the film consists of a clear polyester base, which significantly alters the tonal range in scanning. This is a very fine grain emulsion that features high red light sensitivity, which makes red light appear much lighter. From what I’ve read, it also incorporates a degree of infrared sensitivity, which may be enhanced by the use of red filters.
Following recommendations by the manufacturer and various accounts published on the web, I processed my roll in Agfa Rodinal, which tends to yield a very rich black.
I exposed the entire roll in Dublin, while I made a few photographs around Heuston Station, for this exercise concentrated on views of the city. Once I feel I’ve mastered processing this emulsion, I may make some serious railroad photos with it.
The photos below are scanned using an Epson V500 flatbed scan and tidied up using Lightroom.
For me the AEM-7s will always be ‘meatballs’. This name is twice-removed metaphorical allusion. The AEM-7 was derived from the Swedish class Rc electric. The allusion to meatballs is a reference to ‘Swedish meatballs’ and thus shortened to just meatballs, with Sweden being implied.
On December 27, 1986, my old pal TSH and I paid a visit to Bridgeport, Connecticut on a tour of former New Haven Railroad properties.
I made this photograph using my father’s Rollieflex Model T with 645 ‘super slide’ insert.
In my mind the composition made perfect use of the rectangular window. I wonder what I would have come up with if I’d exposed the view as a square?
In the days after exposing this photograph I made a large print, 11×14 or 16×20 in size, which has sadly vanished. Perhaps, someday I’ll make another.
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.
On Friday, 15 February 2019, during my visit with Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe to Bord na Mona’s operations at Lanesborough, I worked with three cameras to document operations.
My FujiFilm XT1 and Lumix LX7 were for exposing colour digital photos, while I employed a Nikon F3 to make classic 35mm black & white images.
I processed the film yesterday using custom tailored formulas.
The first roll was Ilford HP5 that I’d bought a couple of days earlier at John Gunn’s Camera on Wexford Street in Dublin. I processed this using a two stage development, starting with an extremely dilute solution of Kodak HC110 (roughly 1 part developer to 250 parts water) which used as presoak. The weak developer helps activate the chemical reaction and improves shadow detail without overdeveloping highlight areas.
The second stage of development involved Ilford Perceptol mixed 1-1 with water and heated to 71F. Based on past experience, I left the film in the developer for 12 minutes, then stop bath, 1stfixer, 2ndfixer, pre-wash, hypoclear, main wash (10 minutes) and final rinse in distilled water.
After drying, I scanned the negatives with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and touched up the scans using Lightroom.
As New England Central 608 approached downtown Stafford Springs on January 14, 2019, I set my Nikon F3 to expose a textured image.
The old buildings adjacent to the tracks are as much of a visual attraction as the train itself.
Working with an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed three frames of Kodak Tri-X.
To process the film, I used my custom tailored split process, that uses two developers, followed by selenium toning of the fixed negatives. This maximizes the tonality of the film, while giving me glossy highlights. A secondary effect of the toner is the slight lavender hue.
After processing, I scanned the negatives in color using an Epson V750 scanner.
Although Brian is traveling, Tracking the Light still Posts Daily.
In this instance, New England Central’s southward 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer turn) was crawling across the antique Millers Falls Highbridge in its namesake Massachusetts town.
My vantage point was the 2007-built Route 63 highway bridge.
This is more than a century newer than the parallel railway span.
First I exposed a burst of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm lens. Then I made a single black & white photo on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.
By design the black & white view is textured. I realize that black & white doesn’t appeal to everyone, yet I’ve worked in black & white for my entire life, and I often find my traditional film photos more interesting to look at than the digital images.
In addition to digital photos, I made a select few film photographs.
For me there’s something fascinating and compelling about putting a relic of former times on film. It’s just more real.
Photos were exposed using a Canon EOS3 with 40mm pancake lens on Kodak Tri-X; and the film processed in Ilford ID11 stock developer mixed 1 to 1 with water for 7 minutes 30 seconds at 68F, then scanned with a V500 flatbed scanner and imported into Lightroom for final adjustment.
Yesterday, I had one frame of film left in my Nikon F3.
I’d been exposing photos of Dublin’s North Side and I wanted to process the film before dinner.
I exposed this view of Heuston Station and the old Kingsbridge (now Sean Heuston Bridge) on frame 37.
The sky was impressive; dark blue with textured clouds rolling across it like a flowing tapestry.
To make the most of the usual light, I did a few tricky things.
I exposed the film for the sky and clouds with the intention of some non-standard chemical processing.
To make the most of the shadows with out roasting the highlights, I presoaked the film in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 at 75F for 6 minutes with very little agitation. Then, I drained the presoak solution and processed the film in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes (considerably less than the recommended time).
This day last week (13 October 2018), I traveled on and photographed Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn diesel tour called The Southwestern.
Damp dark weather may make it difficult to expose over the shoulder lit three quarter views, and it may ruin Lumixes (See: Final Frame? Lumix LX7 Coils Up), but it’s ideal for making black & white photos on film.
Working with my battle-worn Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm pancake lens, I exposed this view of the train at Cork’s Kent Station using Kodak Tri-X.
On Monday, I processed the film using Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water. Following a presoak with exceptionally dilute HC110 to initiate development, I gave the film 7 minutes and 30 seconds in the ID11 at 68F (20C) with intermittent agitation.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and made nominal contrast adjustments using Lightroom.