Category Archives: black and white film

NIR-Derry 5 April 2002

NI Railways had a minimalist presence in Derry, Northern Ireland when I visited there on 5 April 2002.

The railway station consisted of a 1960s-era bus shelter style building and a single platform serving two tracks, situated flush with the River Foyle.

I made these photos while boarding an NIR 80-class railcar bound for Belfast.

My camera was a rugged Contax G2 Rangefinder fitted with 45mm Zeiss Planar lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X black & white film. I used a red filter to alter the black & white tonality and boost contrast.

For me the film’s contrast and stark spring lighting was well-suited to the minimalist railway infrastructure.

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Geometry and Contrast—Kent Station, Cork

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.

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Midnight Sun

You’ve heard of the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’, well here it is!

On my July 2002 trip to Sweden’s Torne Träsk, I made this late evening view of the sun gracing in the northern sky.

This photo was exposed on the same 120 roll of Tri-X as yesterday’s Tracking the Light photo of an LKAB iron ore train.

Exposed using a German Rollieflex Model T. When I returned to Dublin, I processed the film in a custom mix of Ilfotec HC developer. Recently I scanned the film using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software, then made minor adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Arctic Ore at Torne Trask

On a July 2002 morning, I made this view of an LKAB class Dm3 heavy electric passing the disused electric substation at Torne Träsk, Sweden.

My friend Markku Pulkkinen and I spent several days in high summer exploring the Malmbanen that connects Swedish iron ore mining areas in the Arctic with the port of Narvik in Norway.

At that time, many of the ore trains were still powered by the massive three-section Dm3 siderod electrics.

Working with a vintage German Rollieflex Model T, I exposed this view on Kodak 120 Tri-X in the 2 ¼ inch square format. When I returned to Dublin, I processed the film in a custom mix of Ilfotec HC developer. Recently I scanned the film using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software, then made minor adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

For the Facebook output and lead-in image I cropped the square photo, but this view is uncrossed. 

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Kent Station, Cork—April 2002.

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.

Kent Station, Cork, Ireland, April 2002.

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.

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Ludmilla at Dresden

Twenty years ago on a visit to Germany, I spent a couple of days photographing around the historic city of Dresden.

This black & white photo at the Dresden Neustadt station features a former DR (East German Railways) Russian-built diesel-electric, DB class 234, a type colloquially known as a ‘Ludmilla’. 

June 2001.

Working with myvintage German-made Rolleiflex Model T, I made this photo on 120-size Fuji Neopan 400 roll film. I processed the film in Agfa Rodinal Special (not to be confused with Agfa Rodinal) mixed 1-32 with water for 3 min 45 seconds. I scanned the negative using an Epson flatbed scanner. 

Also see: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/12/20/dresden-june-2001/

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Lens, Light, Location!

There are many ways to picture a train passing the same place. The challenge is to find new and different ways to make photos at familar spots.

I work at the North Conway Station, NH which is just a short walk from my apartment, and I photograph there almost daily.

Several times in the last couple of weeks I have featured photos of the returning Conway train approaching the North Conway Station.

I’ve reviewed some of my earlier posts, while including my photos from Wednesday afternoon. These were made using my old Canon EOS7D with an older model Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.

I’d brought this 100-400mm to work so that my office partner, Trainmaster Mike Lacey, could make some telephoto digital photos with the lens.

However, before I handed the lens over to him, I figured I may as well use it capture the Valley coming up the Hill to North with GP9 1751 in the lead.

Canon 100-400mm lens extended to 340mm.
Canon 100-400mm lens extended to 250mm.

For comparison, here are two of the earlier photos previously posted to Tracking the Light.

This is the view from Tuesday’s Tracking the Light post that show the same train, at the same location, but from ground level with a very smoggy sky. Made with my Nikon Z6 mirror less with a 24-70mm lens.
Last week’s photo. This is the afternoon Valley train passing the semaphore on a bright day. Also from ground level, but at a broader angle.

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IRRS Special at Cultra

On 12 April 2003, I traveled on the Irish Railway Record Society special from Dublin to Northern Ireland. This operated with NI Railways GM 111 class diesels and NIR Mark II carriages.

I made this photo during a photographers stop at Cultra on the Bangor Line.

This was exposed using a Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with FUJI Neopan 400 black & white film.

I processed the film using Agfa Rodinal Special mixed 1-32 for 3 minutes 45 seconds at 70 degrees F. I scanned the negatives last year with an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

I’ve composed this post several days in advance as I am ‘off the grid’ for several days.

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Dublin Monochrome Sunset—12 APril 2003.

I’d just returned to Dublin from Belfast on an Irish Railway Record Society special train.

Working with my Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film, I composed this silhouette of the signals and buildings near Dublin’s Connolly Station.

I processed the film using Agfa Rodinal Special mixed 1-32 for 3 minutes 45 seconds at 70 degrees F. I scanned the negatives last year with an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

This post was prepared in advance as I am ‘off the grid’ for a few days.

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Irish Rail’s Class 121—The locomotive itself!

In October 2002, I exposed this black & white photo of Irish Rail ‘s class 121 that was in the dead-line at Inchicore in Dublin.

Although I have hundreds of photos of the 121 locomotives at work on Irish Rail, I never witnessed the first of the class at work.

This historic locomotive was cut up along with many other 121s in early 2003.

Exposed on black & white film using a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.

Brian Solomon is traveling ‘off the grid’ for the next few days.

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Paulins Kill Revisited

This is a post about a viaduct.

In March 2007, Pat Yough and I made a visit to the abandoned former Lackawanna Paulins Kill Viaduct in western New Jersey.

I was researching a book on railroad bridges, and needed to fill some gaps in my photographic coverage.

This was one of several massive concrete bridges built by the Lackawanna in the early 20th century. It has been disused since Conrail abandoned the Lackawanna Cutoff in the early 1980s.

Since that time the line has been repeatedly studied for reopening.

Previously on Tracking the Light in Jan 2014 I featured color photos of the bridge exposed the same day as these B&W images.

I made these photos on Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film using my Contax G2 rangefinder with 28mm Zeiss Biogon lens. I processed the film in Rodinal Special mixed 1-32 with water at 68F for three minutes and 15 seconds.

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Tracking the All-Retro

I’ll be introducing a new format for Tracking the Light. This will be an ALL-RETRO format. Only black & white film photos will be displayed. These will only be exposed with traditional cameras using hand-ground glass and mechanical shutters.

Instead of scanning, latent (exposed and unprocessed negatives) will be sent directly to subscribers along with the correct chemistry for processing on-site. I will supply detailed instructions on how to process the film and make your own prints.

Instead of the post office, I will use the Railway Express Agency, so you will need to collect your ‘Tracking the Light’ post at your nearest REA office. I will supply a list of offices via telegram.

Owing to the added complexity of distributing Tracking the Light using all-retro means, I will only post annually with shipments carefully timed to arrive on April 1st!

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is a rail-photo blog.

Zoom Preview

This evening (February 17, 2021) at 7pm Eastern time, I’m schedule to give a Zoom slide show on my Conway Scenic Railroad photography to the 470 Club.

Below is just a brief preview of the slide show, which draws on more than three decades of photography, but focuses on my work for Conway Scenic over the last two years.

I’ve included a host of film images as well as my digital work.

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Wheels at Whitehead.

On August 23, 2003, I made these studies of steam locomotive drivers at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Whitehead shops in Northern Ireland.

I was working with a vintage Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm lens and loaded with Kodak 120 size Tri-X.

I processed the film in my old Dublin apartment on Synge Street using the following recipe:

Ilfotec HC mixed to a dilute ratio, stop bath , two fixer baths, long rinse, perm awash, the toned in Selenium 1-9 for 9 minute, second rinse.

The Selenium provides better highlight definition and superior contrast.

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Ballast at Tipperary

In August 2003, I exposed this photo of an Irish Rail ballast train at Tipperary that was in the passing loop.

At the time I was working with a Rolleiflex Model T that used 120 size roll film.

I was using Kodak Tri-X (400 ISO) that I processed in Ilfotec HC and toned in Selenium to improve the highlights. I scanned the photo last night using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

There is an amazing amount of detail in this photo. I’ve enlarged one small section of it as an example.

At the time Irish Rail class 141 number 169 was one of the last locomotives operating with the old ‘IR’ logo, a herald remarkably similar to the Portuguese Railways logo.

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Mansfield—Then and Now—Two Photos, 34 years.

My recent visit to Mansfield, Massachusetts led me to recall visits there back in the mid-1980s.

Thursday evening, I started digging through my negative6s from 1985-1988, of which there are thousands.

I ritually worked with a Rollei Model T, exposing 120 size B&W roll film with a ‘Super Slide’ adapter that gave me 16 645-size negatives per individual roll.

On August 19, 1986, photographer Bob Karambelas and I visited Mansfield on a whirlwind rainy day tour of south eastern Massachusetts.

This was more than a decade before the North East Corridor was electrified, and a dozen years prior to the demise of Conrail.

I’ve included a digital photo from my earlier post ‘Purple Trains’ and a single frame from a roll of Kodak Tri-X exposed on that day. I processed the Tri-X in Kodak D76.

Mansfield, Massachusetts on August 19, 1986.
Almost the exact same location in November 2020.

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West Springfield at Dusk.

In July 1983, ,Bob Buck and I were attending a weekly summer gathering of the West Springfield Train Watchers, a semi-formal group consisting of mostly retired railroaders who assembled with permission of the railroad at the west end of Conrail’s West Springfield, Massachusetts yard.

I say ‘semi-formal’ because member Norvel Parker printed cards for all the members. Somewhere I still have mine.

Toward the end of the evening, I made this photo with my Leica 3A of a westward freight making a pick-up.

Adjusted photo.

In later years, I photographed some of the members, which was probably far more valuable as a record, than making photos of the trains.

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Lancaster, New Hampshire.

In late July 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I were returning from a wander around far northern Vermont, when we paused at Lancaster, New Hampshire.

This was shortly before sunset. I had HP5 loaded into a Nikkormat FTN.

I made these images using ambient light, then processed the film using a custom tailored two stage development recipe:

Before primary processing, I presoaked the film in HC110 diluted 1-300 for 6 minutes; then for primary development I used Ilford ID11 1-1 at 70F for 7 minutes, followed by ‘stop’, ‘first fix’ ‘2nd fix,’ 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse and final wash.

I scanned these negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

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New York Central Transformed—Rochester, New York 1986.

On the afternoon of September 12, 1986, I exposed this photograph of a westward Conrail double-stack container train on the former New York Central Waterlevel Route passing the Amtrak Station at Rochester, New York.

The old New York Central era tower was still standing, and the station platforms, complete with the old ‘Rochester’ signs dated from the New York Central era.

In the lead was a twenty-year old former New York Central GP40, and I was just short of my twentieth birthday.

Yet, this double stack train was unlike anything ever seen on the old New York Central. Among the big changes imposed under Conrail was a clearance improvement program that allowed for much taller trains.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film. Negative cropped for presentation here.

My book Conrail and its Predecessors is available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

See: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

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Pup WOrks Holyoke—1985

In August 1985, on a drive through Holyoke, Massachusetts on my way from collecting film from Frantek (a local photographic supplier in South Hadley), I stopped at the old Boston & Maine station, where I photographed Boston & Maine SW1 1124 working the north-end of the yard.

Holyoke, Massachusetts in August 1985.

Holyoke was a fascinating post-industrial setting, where vast empty brick mill buildings told of time long gone.

The station hadn’t seen a passenger train in years.

Even the EMD SW1 was a relic of former times.

These diminutive switchers, rated at just 600 hp, were known as ‘Pups’.

I exposed this view using a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon f1.8 50mm lens.

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Four Views from the New Haven Line—1980.

When I was young, my brother and I would take the train from Springfield or Hartford to visit my grandparents in the Bronx. Starting in 1977, I’d always carry my vintage Leica 3A fitted with 50mm Summitar lens and loaded with Kodak black & white film.

We typically traveled on an Amtrak Budd RDC or SPV-2000 self-propelled railcar to New Haven, where we would change for a through train to either Rye, New York or Grand Central. My parents would buy us tickets and I’d usually take care of the travel logistics.

I don’t recall the specifics of this trip. These images were on an isolated strip of negatives stored in a glassine negative envelop with only ‘1980, Amtrak/C-Dot New Haven Line’ to identify it.

C-dot train at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
New SPV-2000 on the Danbury Branch at South Norwalk, Connecticut.
New SPV-2000 on the Danbury Branch at South Norwalk, Connecticut.
Stamford, Connecticut

I doubt that I was photographing through the glass—If you know what I mean.

I would have processed the film in the sink at home in Massachusetts using Kodak Microdol-X developer.

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Monochrome on the Redstone Branch.

On July 3, 2020, Conway Scenic sent engine 216 out on the Redstone Branch to collect a Boston & Maine boxcar I’d been using for advertising.

I documented the move with digital photos, as previously presented, and also on film.

For these images, I worked with a Nikon F3 with f2.5 Nikkor 105mm lens and Fomapan Classic 100 black & white film. I first sampled Fomapan on a trip to the Czech Republic in 2016.

Operating 216 was Adam, a Conway Scenic engineer trainee.

I processed the film using customized split-development that begins with a very dilute solution of HC110 with PhotoFlo as a presoak followed by primary development with Ilford ID11. After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner then imported the scans into Lightroom for final adjustment and scaling for presentation.

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North Conway Station after March Snow

Last March on my way to work I exposed a series of black & white photos of North Conway, New Hampshire. Fresh snow blanketed the ground, with a clear blue sky above.

Such a contrast with July . . .

I made this photo using Kodak Tri-X exposed with a Nikon F3 with 105mm Nikkor Lens.

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Gorham Monochrome

Back on April 3, 2020, I exposed a handful of photographs on Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400) at the old Grand Trunk Railway station in Gorham, New Hampshire.

This was on a photo adventure in the White Mountains with Kris Sabbatino.

Last month I processed the film using specially tailored split development by first soaking the film in a very dilute HC110 solution, then using a more active solution of ID11. After stop, and dual fixing baths, I washed the film, rinsed in permawash, and washed for a full ten minutes before toning the still wet negatives in a selenium solution for 7 minutes. After rewashing, and drying, I cut the negatives and stored them in archival polypropylene sleeves.

Yesterday, I scanned them using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson software.

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Monochrome Millie—Four Photos

Conway Scenic Railroad’s Budd Company RDC-1 is named ‘Millie’.

A month ago, I organized a training exercise and publicity trip with this single-unit self propelled car.

In addition to digital photos and video, I exposed a few black & white photos of the car in the yard at North Conway.

For these images I used Fomapan 100 Classic loaded in a Nikon F3 with f1.8 50mm lens.

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The Old Mountain at Steep Falls, Maine.

The former Maine Central Mountain Division across Maine is a disused, but largely intact relic of former times.

On Saturday, June 6, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I inspected portions of this former main line on our return from Portland.

I made these photos at Steep Falls on Fomapan 100 Classic with a Nikkormat FT.

Route 113 crossing at Steep Falls.
Looking toward Portland, Maine.
Looking toward St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

I processed the film on Sunday using split development for maximum tonality: HC110 1-300 for 9 minutes at 71F followed by ID11 1-1 for 6 minutes 68F.

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Revisiting Rigby Yard in 2020

I made my first visit to Rigby Yard in Portland back about 1983 using directions provided to me by the late Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.

Over the weekend, I traveled with Kris Sabbatino and retraced my steps to Rigby.

Working with a Nikkormat FT with 105mm telephoto, I exposed this view on Fomapan 100 Classic black & white film, which I then processed yesterday. To obtain a greater sense of depth and texture, I aimed through some tall grass in the foreground, while focusing on the Pan Am Railways EMD diesels in the distance.

Using split development with twin development bath, I produced negatives that were ideal for scanning.

My recipe: Kodak HC110 mixed 1-300 with water and a drop of Photoflo for 9 minutes at 70 F (with minimal agitation); then Ilford ID-11 1-1 with water for 5 minutes 30 seconds (agitating very gently for three inversions once a minute); stop, twin fix bath, rinse, perm awash, 10 minute wash, and final rinse in distilled water.

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Remnant of the B&H two foot Gauge at Harrison, Maine.

The common-carrier Maine two-foot gauge railroads vanished from the scene many moons ago.

A couple of months back, Dwight Smith pointed me to photo hanging on the wall of the North Conway ticket office that shows himself on a Bridgton & Harrison train. “That was taken of me eighty years ago when I was 15.” Well that sort of puts things in perspective!

So on a recent photography adventure with Kris Sabbatino, we paused at Harrison, Maine, the most northerly point on the defunct Bridgton & Harrison. Using my smart phone, I summoned a vintage USGS topographical map from the University of New Hampshire collection and used this to locate where the railroad had been.

We checked a few locations, before I spotted this old causeway and bridge abutments.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Southern Pacific at Troy, California—July 1991.

I’d left San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning and drove to the Sierra.

In the early hours of July 14, 1991, an SP eastward freight ascending Donner Pass had stalled near Alta. This resulted in a pair of following eastward freights being held; one at Colfax and one near Alta.

This was the second of two following freights, which developed its own difficulties at Gold Run when the train went into ‘emergency’.

I made the most of SP’s difficult time, by photographing the procession of trains at various points on The Hill (as Donner was known).

As the summer sun approached midday, I drove to Troy, where I’d previously scoped out this high vantage point with a commanding vista.

My project for the day was to find ways of suitably using the harsh high light in the Sierra, conditions that had been vexing me.

This was among my more successful images. Working with my old Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron, I exposed Ilford FP4 that I later processed using Edwal FG7 developer. At the back was a two unit helper. The sounds of EMD 645 diesels toiling in ‘Run-8’ (full throttle) was impressive and not soon forgotten.

Many of my other images from the day were exposed on Kodachrome 25, some using a circular polarizing filter as a means to mitigate the effects of Sierra high light. I’ll save those for another day.

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Mount Webster from the Time Before.

In August 1984, on my first solo visit to Montreal I spent an afternoon at Central Station hanging around in the tower and photographing train-movements in and out of this busy terminal.

Among the numerous fascinating photos I made that day was this view of CN multiple unit 6749 with a commuter train to/from Duex Montagnes, Quebec.

Today, old CN 6749 is Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mount Webster, a snack car known to employees as ‘the table’ car since it was retrofitted with tables and a snack counter.

I spent Monday measuring and mapping this same car to prepare seating charts for Conway Scenic’s 2020 season.

I never could have imagined on that August day so long ago that I’d be working with 6749 in New Hampshire.

Same car; different time.

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Conway Scenic 7470 Gone Retro—August 2019.

Last night, I was inspecting scans of some black & white negatives from last summer that are stored on my hard drive.

These are some photos from a Sunday morning in early August at North Conway, New Hampshire of locomotive 7470.

All of these are from a roll of Fuji Acros 100, exposed with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens and processed with split-bath/multi-stage development using a weak bath of HC110 followed by Rodinal for primary development.

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An SD45 Emerges from the Mists of Time.

Just now I was searching for another photo, and I came across this scan from a 35mm black & white negative that I exposed in June 1989.

This was on a routine trip to East Deerfield. It was a foggy morning, as mists clung to the Connecticut River Valley and over Boston & Maine’s sprawling yards behind me.

I was standing at the famous ‘Railfans Bridge’ where countless thousands of photos were exposed over the years (and that’s just my personal collection, not to mention all the photos made by countless other photographers).

I was working with my father’s M3 fitted with a 90mm Leitz telephoto.

At the time, a long-hood forward SD45 at this common location probably didn’t rate my A-list. Yet any SD45 on the move would have warranted my attention.

Look at the old B&M phone box to the left of the locomotives.

When I revue my old photos, I am routinely surprised how the common has become cool.

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Genesee & Wyoming Alco RS-1.

Working with a Calumet 4x5in camera, I exposed this single frame of black & white film (probably Kodak Tri-X) at the Genesee & Wyoming shops in Retsof, New York on February 10, 1988.

The old RS-1 was stored out of service at the time in its bicentennial paint.

I tray processed the film in a diluted solution of Kodak D76.

Several years ago I scanned this image and dozens of other 4×5 black & white photos using an Epson V750 scanner.

This image, while scaled, represents the unadjusted 4×5 scan.

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Central Vermont at Palmer—May 17, 1985.

This was a common scene in the mid-1980s; Central Vermont’s southward road freight with a large collection of GP9s crossing the Palmer diamond.

What I find remarkable looking at this image is how few trees were around the tracks back then as compared with today.

At the bottom is a view of the New England Central at the same location a few weeks ago.

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Happy Birthday Conrail!

Conrail began operations on April 1, 1976.

On May 14, 1985, I photographed this Conrail GP10 with a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose working as a local freight toward its interchanged with Pioneer Valley Railroad at Westfield, Massachusetts.

The location is just west of milepost 107 in Westfield. At the right is my father’s 1978 Ford Grenada, which was the car I drove a lot before getting my own set of wheels in 1986.

At the time of this photograph, Conrail rarely assigned GP10s to its New England Division locals, which makes this a relatively unusual photo in my collection.

My new book Conrail and its Predecessors published by Kalmbach Books will be available soon!

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01309

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Top of the Boston & Albany—May 1985.

In the mid-1980s, my friends and I would convene at Washington Summit on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline.

Located in the Berkshires, several miles timetable east of the old station at Hinsdale, the summit offered a good view in both directions and a pleasant, quiet place to wait for trains.

On this May 1985 afternoon, the chugging of an eastward freight could be heard for several miles before it came into view. I opted to frame the train with the Top of the B&A sign.

This sign was replaced in the 1990s; Conrail was divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1999; the old Bullards Road over bridge (seen in the distance) was removed in 2003; and the trees have grown much taller. So there’s not much left of this scene today, although the tracks are still there.

Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with Canon f1.8 50mm lens.

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