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.
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 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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In later years, I photographed some of the members, which was probably far more valuable as a record, than making photos of the trains.
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.
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.
My book Conrail and its Predecessors is available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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!
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.