Category Archives: black and white film

Reading Vista from the Vista Cruiser.

In August 1981, my family and I were on a loosely mapped vacation in Pennsylvania.

On the second day of our trip, we were driving from Hazelton to Strasburg to visit the famous Strasburg Rail Road.

Fast forward 41 years: yesterday, if you’d asked me if I’d ever photographed Conrail running freight on the old Reading Company, I’d have been hard pressed to come up with an answer.

And, yet here is a Conrail caboose crossing PA 501 near Prescott, PA exposed on the move from the rear window of our 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser!

Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens-Kodak 5063 (Tri-X) processed in Microdol-X developer.

I scanned the negative a little while ago. Unsure as to the location, I enlarged the photo. Thinking back, I recalled a train crossing over us enroute, but as a teenager wasn’t good with my Pennsylvania geography. Looking a the photo, I noticed the Route 501 sign, which gave me the needed clue.

A quick Google search placed this location near Prescott (where 501 ducks under the former Reading Company Crossline route). Looking a Google Earth, I’ve nearly confirmed the location.

Ironically, the next few frames on the roll show static cabooses at Strasburg’s The Red Caboose caboose-themed motel. Ironic, because in 1981, cabooses (of all colors) were still common on most America freight trains.

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Conrail at Milepost 119

Here’s a photo from my black & white archives that I’d completely dismissed. I’d exposed it at Huntington, Massachusetts in March 1985.

There were a few of problems with this image that irked me.

The first was cosmic. Moments before I release the shutter, a cloud coverd the front of the train. That sort of thing used to drive me nuts.

The second was strategic. I’d released the shutter a little earlier than I’d like, leaving the train just a bit distant. I didn’t have a motor drive in those days, and typically would wait for the decisive moment to take my photo.

The third was a chronic failing from my Leica 3 days. I tended to photograph slightly off level, leaving most of my photos annoyingly tilted.

All of these flaws are now easily overcome using Adobe Lightroom.

I altered the exposure and contrast to correct for the obscured sun, while bringing in sky detail partially lost to over exposure. I cropped the photo to minimize the foreground, and this pleasantly altered the composition to feature the code lines to the right of the locomotives and milepost 119 on the left. Lastly, I leveled the image, a task that take now about 2 seconds.

Looking at this photo now, I find that I’m very pleased with it. It has aged very well. The minor flaws don’t bother me, since these were easily corrected, while the overall subject fascinates me. It is the time machine I needed today.

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Here’s the original, unaltered image for comparison.

Springfield Monochrome

March 1985: working with Ilford FP4 black & white film, I made this view of Amtrak’s Charter Oak paused for its station stop at Springfield Union Station, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Amtrak F40PH 228 leads the westward Charter Oak at Springfield Union Station in March 1985.

I processed the film in Kodak D76.

As was too often the case back in the mid-1980s, I over processed my film which resulted in excessively contrasty negatives. This is easily corrected with today’s technology.

Last week I scanned the 37-year old negative using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner. I made some nominal adjustments to exposure and contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Alcos at Dublin Street

On January 27, 1984, I made a few photos of Central Vermont Alco RS-11s switching at Dublin Street in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Locomotive 3608 was a rare bird on CV’s Palmer Subdivision. I only caught it in daylight on a few occasions. This RS-11 was distinctive for its boxy chopped nose on its short hood.

I scanned this negative a few days ago using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner and made some very minor post-processing adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Crossing Tender Bangor, Maine

During a week-long vacation to coastal Maine in July 1983 to visit my grand parents, I was given the keys to the family Ford for the day. On the recommendation of my friend Bob Buck, I visited a host of interesting railroad locations in Maine.

My forth stop was at Bangor, where I photographed the Maine Central yard and a local freight switching there using my Leica 3A.

The negative for this black & white image had resided in a marked envelope until last week when I finally scanned it.

In 1983, my photographic processing abilities were rudimentary, and frankly I wasn’t very good at developing black & white film. Only recently, I was able to overcome some of the technical failings in this image by adjusting the scan I made using Adobe Lightroom.

Adjusted and altered scan at Bangor Yard. Photo expsoed in July 1983.
Version ‘B’ with additional adjustments.

Unlike some of my photos displayed on Tracking the Light that only receive minor corrections to tweak contrast or exposure, in this image I needed to make some fairly substantial corrections to contrast and exposure, while eliminating a host of spots.

There’s virtually nothing in this scene remaining today, and now manned crossings are nearly extinct.

Just for comparison, this is an un-modified version of the same scan (scaled for internet presentation). Hard midday backlighting made for a difficult photo, poor processing on my part made it worse. Yet, the subject matter is interesting.

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Palmer Yard—Spring 1985

Another choice image from my recently scanned roll of Ilford FP4 exposed in Spring 1985.

I made this view with a 50mm lens looking timetable west at the west end of Conrail’s old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. I had driven in behind Howlett’s Lumber to photograph a Sperry rail defect detection car that was stored near the B&A freight house.

Just about everything in this scene has changed. The freight house was demolished in Janaury 1989. The large building at right beyond burned down some years later. The code lines were removed after the B&A was re-signaled in 1986-1987.

I’ve posted two versions of this photo. The top is my unaltered and uncorrected scan. The bottom reflects a series of nominal adjustments using Adobe Lightroom.

Unadjusted sca&W negative. Back in the day, I suffered from a propensity to tilt my camera to the right, leaving many fine photos flawed by being off-level. I also had a tendency to over process my negatives, which led to ‘white skies’ and excessive highlight contrast.

In this view, I leveled the image by rotating it about 2 degrees clockwise. I then adjusted sky density and contrast and make overall changes to image contrast and density to improve tonality and detail..

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Amtrak 321 leading train 448 Eastbound at West Brookfield.

I scribbled locations and dates on an envelope back in the Spring of 1985, when ‘d processed this roll of Ilford FP4.

I’d bulk-rolled the film myself, thus allowing 39 frames on one roll of film, which I then exposed with a Leica 3A between March 31 and April 6 (my notes say April 5) 1985.

I recall the day, which was a Sunday. I started photographing in Palmer, Massachusetts, where I met Mike Tylick and his young son. I then followed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany route east in pursuit of a slow moving freight.

At West Brookfield, Massachusetts I caught up with my friend Bob Buck, who was train watching while reading his Sunday newspaper.

In this photograph, I’ve posed Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited, train 448, led by F40PH-2 #321, by the 1840s-era Western Railroad passenger station, which is among the oldest surviving railroad buildings in New England.

I’d borrowed my parent’s Chevy Impala (seen at the left) as I didn’t yet have my own car. The front of Bob’s green Ford van can be seen at the right.

Conrail’s B&A was still directional double track under rule 251 that governed movements in the current of traffic by signal indication.

My photo skills weren’t fantastic, but rapidly improving.

Last night I scanned this image using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner, and adjusted the RAW file from the scanner using Adobe Lightroom. This included cropping of the top of the frame to limit the amount of sky and the bottom of the frame to minimize foreground clutter.

The actual date of the photo confounds me. I know it was a Sunday, which was either March 31 or April 6. Somewhere I have a small six-ring orange notebook filled with my photo notes from 1985. This will likely solve my date quandary. But does anyone really care?

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Slam Door Stock at Copyhold Junction Near Haywards Heath

It was a pleasant June evening in June 2001 when I made the short walk from the bed & breakfast where I was staying to this bridge at Copyhold Junction, north of Haywards Heath, England.

Although the railway line was in shadow, I exposed a few black & white photos with my Rolleiflex Model T.

This image interests me because it features a two-piece diesel-electric multiple unit of the now obsolete ‘slam door’ type. The ‘slam door’ cars featured multiple doors to allow for rapid boarding and unload and were a characteristic type of train on the old Southern Region.

While in 2001, these cars were still relatively plentiful, they were soon to be phased out in favor of more modern equipment.

Consider this: my primary goal of my 2001 visit to this area was to photograph the nearby Bluebell Railway, a well-known preserved line famous for its steam power. Twenty years later, the Bluebell Railway remains as one of Briain’s most popular heritage railways and hasn’t changed radically in its overall appearance. By comparison, the era of ‘Slam Door’ trains (such as that pictured) working regular revenue mainline services are largely a memory. (A few have been preserved)

The lessons: an ordinary train may make for a more significant historical photo than an image of preserved train. Yet, I’d be willing to bet that the photos I made of Bluebell’s steam will still draw greater interest than the Slam Door DEMU on the move!

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Not Every Place is Pretty

Must every interesting photo feature stunning scenery?

On my visit to Leizig, Germany in 2001, I traveled on a local passenger train to the out-lying station at Rackwitz, where I spent an hour making photos of passing trains.

This was one ugly place. Low level platforms on tangent track with scruffy weeds and brush mixed in with uninspired industrial what not.

This northward freight paused for a few minutes on the mainline waiting for a signal to clear. For me this a photograph that works with texture, including the platform. But what makes it work for me are the flock of birds that filled the sky above the locomotive.

Exposed with a Rollei Model T on Fuji Neopan400 120 size film. Two versions of the same RAW scan below.

Low contrast interpretation.
This is a high contrast interpretation of the original negative that more closely represents the stark effect I was trying to achieve.

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Leipzig Tram Square

Among the desirable qualities of the Rolleiflex Model T was its square format.

While in my early years of using a Rollei I tended toward overuse of the 645 Superslide insert which provided a rectangular negative. I later decided that I preferred the basic square.

In June 2001, I traveled to Germany with a Rollei T, and exposed numerous 120 rolls of black & white film.

In Leipzig, I made this image of a tram on Fuji Neopan 400. I processed this roll using a mix of Agfa Rodinal Special. Unfortunately, I slightly overprocessed the negatives, a problem easily corrected after scanning, using Adobe Lightroom to adjust contrast and shadow density. The end result offers broad tonality.

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Blue Cement

We believe this was the second to last Wexford bag cement (also known as a ‘blue cement’ because of the covers on the four wheel freight wagons.)

Working with my old Contax G2 rangefinder, this was one of a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-XI exposed of the Irish Rail cement train on April 3, 2002.

Today, the single Bo-Bo diesel leading four-wheel wagons seems like a relic of former times.

How I miss those times.

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Wicklow Silhouette

On 3 April 2002, I traveled from Dublin to County Wexford on the morning train.

My friend and fellow railroad photographer, Hassard Stacpoole, and I were headed to Wexford town to intercept one of the last bag cement trains that was being unloaded there.

Once common, by mid-2002 Irish Rail’s bag cement runs were on the wain.

At Wicklow, our train paused in the loop to cross an up passenger train on the Dublin & Southeastern route.

Exposed on 35mm Kodak Tri-X using a Contax G2 rangefinder camera.

When our train paused at Wicklow Station made this view of a lattice-mast semaphore, which at the time was still in use to protect train movements.

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New Trams: April 2002

Although Dublin’s new LUAS tram system would not commence operations for another two years, in April 2002 the first batches of Alstom Citadis trams had already arrived.

I was invited on a tour of the Red Cow depot as a member of the Irish Railway Record Society, and made this view of tram 3013, which at the time was a ‘short’ three-section tram.

Recently I scanned this negative along with numerous other images exposed on the same roll of film. It’s amazing how much has changed over the last twenty years in Ireland.

LUAS Red Cow Depot, Contax G2 photo, April 2002.

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Irish Times in Motion

In August 2003, I was traveling on the Steam Enterprise, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Dublin-Belfast express led by compound 4-4-0 number 85—Merlin .

On board the train, this once-timeless scene caught my eye. Today, I wonder how much longer might passengers afford of the luxury of perusing the Sunday newspaper while traveling by rail? Or has this activity already become completely obsolete?

Less than 20 years ago, the smart phone had yet to grip the population and emerge as the chief vehicle for media and entertainment on board trains.

Kodak 120 size Tri-X, exposed manually using a Rollei Model-T, and processed in Ilfotec HC.

I scanned this black & white negative yesterday morning for presentation here. Ironically, when I exposed the photo, I expected to make prints from it, not scans.

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Sunset at Duncormick, Co. Wexford

In July 2003, I exposed a single frame of 120 size Tri-X looking toward the old Duncormick Station on Irish Rail’s lightly used South Wexford line.

I’d processed the film in Ilfotec HC shortly after the time of exposure. The other day I scanned this photo along with other images on the roll.

Working with Adobe Lightroom 5.0, I made use of the ‘select sky’ feature under the ‘New Mask’ option (located at the righthand side of the control panel and indicated with a pixilated circle icon) to make the sunset sky more dramatic.

Previously, I would have achieved a similar effect by creating a linear gradiation mask to make my adjustments.

The advantage of the ‘select sky’ mask is that it neatly segregates the sky area from the rest of the image and allows for a cleaner adjustment while requiring less work on my part.

In this case, to make the sky appear more dramatic, I used the ‘clarity’ slider, moving to the right (+) which increases the constrast without a substantial loss of detail.

Below are both the unaltered scan of the original black & white negative, and my adjusted version. In addition, I’ve included a screenshot of hte Adobe Lightroom control panel.

Unadjusted reversed scan from the original 120-size black & white negative. This was scaled for internet presentation.
Adjusted scan with ‘select sky’mask feature used to improve the sky contrast.
Adobe Lightroom 5.0 control panel. Notice the position of the Clarity slide while in the ‘create new mask’ -‘select sky’ mode.

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Beware of Trains

In July 2003, I made this 2/14 inch sqaure black & white photo at Limerick Junction, Co. Tipperary using a Rollei Model-T twin lens reflex.

Working with a relatively slow shutter speed, I allowed the train to blur as it passed the signals at the Dublin-end of the platform.

At that time Limerick Junction was controlled by a mix of tradititional mechanical signals and more modern color lights.

The sign makes the photo.

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At Par for Virgin.

Yes, you read the title correctly.

In July 2002, my Irish friends and I paid a visit to Cornwall in the west of England, to photograph long distance passenger trains on the old Great Western Railway main line.

To make a long story short; the car we were traveling in developed a ‘fault’ at Par, which invovled a delay to our travels, and resulted in a trip on a stink buggy ( a common bus) in order to reach the railway station.

Ultimately the automobile was repaired and so we visited myriad other destinations and locations in the south western regions of England, but in the meantine we made the best of being at the station at Par.

Using my Contax G2 rangefinder, I made this view of an approaching Virgin Cross Country ‘HST’ passenger train operating approaching Par on a bright overcast morning.

I was working with Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film that I later processed using my custom tailored recipe using Agfa Rodinal Special mixed about 1 to 60 with water. If anything, these negatives are too constrasty and required some post processing adjustment using Adobe Lightroom

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Southern Pacific at Bealville

In January 1991, I traveled with Southern Pacific Dispatcher JDS to the Tehachapis in Southern California.

Working with my Leica M2 loaded with Kodak 5063 (35mm Tri-X) black & white film, I made this photo of the helpers on the back of loaded unit coal train SNTA-C (Skyline Mine to Trona, California Coal) passing the signals at Bealville.

At the time, I was experimenting with Edwal FG7, a liquid developer that yielded high-contrast and fine grain while producing a deep black.

The other day, I scanned several rolls from this trip and others to Southern California and then processed the scans with Adobe Lightroom.

Below are two versions of the same image. The top is the unadjusted scan, the bottom reflects changes to contrast and exposure aimed a producing a more pleasing image.

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Digital Monochrome—Soo 1003.

Often I’ve described the details of my black & white film techniques on Tracking the Light.

Today’s post features a digital photograph converted to monochrome in post processing using Adobe Lightroom.

This was a comparatively simple task. Working with the Lumix RAW file, I used the ‘Saturation’ slider control to eliminate all color from the image. Then, to increase drama and contrast, I implemened some dramatic changes using the ‘Clarity’ slider that intoduced a stark contrast curve before converting the image into the final JPG file displayed here.

Why not make this photo on film? All things being equal, I wish I had exposed a black & white negative, but in this instance I was traveling light: I kept my repitoire of cameras flexble and was working with just two digital bodies, and no film at all.

Perhaps next time, I’ll bring a single film camera with lens.

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Window on Killarney

September 30, 2016, on the advice of Ken Fox, I traveled to Killarney for an unusual convergence.

Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Explorer and the Belmond Grand Hibernian—Ireland’s only two high-end tour trains were both scheduled to arrive at Irish Rail’s Killarney on the same afternoon.

I made my photos and then returned to Dublin on-board Irish Rail’s regularly scheduled train that was worked with one of the common Hyundai-ROTEM Intercity Rail Cars (ICRs).

I made this view on board the ICR using my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens loaded with Ilford HP5 processed.

I processed the film in Kodak HC110 mixed 1-64 with water at 68f for 4 mins. Later I toned the processed negatives in a Selenium solution mixed 1-9 for 9 minutes. This last step boosted the highlight detail to give a silvery glisten.

Negatives scanned with an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner.

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Tracking the Light—On Screen

Ten days ago, I presented my Power Point presentation titled ‘Tracking the Light’—named after this blog—to the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts in the Pearl Street Station restaurant in Malden, Massachusetts.

I was allowed to open the back door which faced the Orange Line and former Boston & Maine commuter rail tracks.

Inside the station were paintings depicting how the station used to be.

Dave Brown of the Mass Bay RRE helped me work the computer that projected my pre-recorded program that featured 196 photographs.

Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown works the projection computer.
Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown works the projection computer.

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Hi-Hood SD45 December 1987.

In the late 1980s Kodak introduced its new T-grain T-Max black & white emulsions.

I quickly adopted these new films in place of Kodak Tri-X and Kodak Plus-X.

After about a year of trial and error with the T-Max films, I opted to return to the more traditional non-T-grain emulsions. In the mean time I committed countless unrepeatable scenes to T-Max.

This photo features a freshly-painted (and only recently acquired) Guilford SD45 eastbound at Greenfield, Massachusetts. I exposed it on 120-size TMY (T-Max 400) film using my father’s Rollieflex Model-T.

Part of the difficulty was that I insisted on developing the film in straight Kodak D76 instead of the recommended T-Max developer. I did this to save money; when I was at RIT in Rochester (actually Henrietta), New York, photo students received basic photo chemistry as part of their lab fee, which meant I could get all the D76 I wanted without any additional cost, while T-Max developer had to be purchased.

What I saved in developer, I’ve paid 100-fold in laborious print making and difficult scanning.

However, using Adobe Lightroom I’ve finally been able to get decent tonality out of these 34 year-old photos.

Springfield Terminal SD45 679 leads an eastward road freight at Greenfield, Massachusetts on December 19, 1987.

The SD45 has always been a favorite locomotive, and at the time I was quite pleased to catch Guilford’s latest motive power in fresh paint.

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AEM-7 and an E-unit—August 1981.

My grandparents had a grand view of the old New Haven Railroad at Pelham Bay Park from their apartment in Co-op City, The Bronx, New York.

Using my old Leica IIIa, I made hundreds of photos of trains rolling along under wire.

This is among the more unsual photos from their 19th floor terrace. On a visit in August 1981, I made numerous photos of diesels underwire, as the result of a failure with the early 1900s electrification that had forced Amtrak to tow its normally electrically hauled trains with diesels.

In this photo, one of Amtrak’s few remaining EMD E8As hauls a then-new AEM-7 electric and train eastward toward New Haven.

At the center of image is Goose Island.

Exposed using a Leica IIIa with 50mm Sumitar lens.
Enlarged portion of the train showing the diesel and electric locomotives.

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October 25, 1985—Palmer Diamond

This day has always been a special one for me!

On this day 36 years ago, I spent the afternoon making photos at Palmer, Massachusetts.

I exposed this image using my father’s Rollei model T loaded with Kodak VPX (Verichrome Pan) 120-size black & white film that I later processed in Kodak D76 developer.

At that time I was attending Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts where I was studying photography and music.

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AMtrak E-Units at Brookfield.

Labor Day weekend 1978: my dad brought my brother and me out to roll by Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at the route 148 overpass in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Working with his ‘motorized’ (mechanical wind-up) Leica 3A, I made a rapid fire sequence of the train as it roared west behind E-units.

I processed the film in the kitchen sink and made a few prints, then for the next four decades the negatives rested quietly in the attic.

I used this Epson scan of one of the negatives from that day as one of the opening photos in my program titled ‘Tracking the Light’ that I presented live last night to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the Pearl Street Station in Malden, Massachusetts.

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The DART—April 2003

In April 2003, I was traveling on rail-tour returning to Dublin from Belfast, when I made this pacing view of an Irish Rail DART suburban electric train rolling along on an adjacent track.

I was working with my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a 28mm Zeiss Biogon, and loaded with Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film.

This is among the photos that I intend to present tonight (October 21, 2021) to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at Malden, Massachusetts.

By working with a comparatively slow shutter speed, I was able to convey the sense of motion.

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Take a Note: NHSE at Chester—October 20, 1985.

For many years, I recorded my photographic adventures with detailed note pages that were organized by date and included: time, location and train information, exposure and camera information, and sometimes interesting or noteworthy details of operations.

On October 20, 1985 (36 years ago today) I was working with my father’s Rolleiflex Model T in tandem with my Leica 3A, when I pictured Conrail’s NHSE (Cedar Hill Yard, New Haven, Connecticut to Selkirk Yard, New York) ascending the old Boston & Albany grade at milepost 126.4 in Chester, Massachusetts.

At that time the New Haven trains still routinely carried cabooses.

Displayed here are the black & white photo exposed with the Rollei with 645-size insert (note notches for ‘Super Slide’ format). I was using Kodak Verichrome Pan 120-size film that I’d processed in D-76 developer.

These are among the photos that I plan to show at my talk to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on Thursday evening in Malden.

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Bob Buck—Ten Years Gone

My late friend Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts was born on this day in 1929, and died on this day in 2011.

Bob was a great connector of people and introduced me to many of my life-long friends.

I made this photo of Bob holding court at the West Springfield Train Watchers in the summer of 1986. This loosely affiliated group of retired railroaders and enthusiasts would meet at the west end of the West Springfield, Massachusetts yard to watch trains and trade stories.

In the early 1980s, I’d often travel with Bob to West Springfield.

I made this view using my father’s Rollieflex model T with a 645-size insert to obtain the desired aspect ratio.

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Caboose at the Diamond—August 1982

Working with my old Leica IIIA loaded with Kodak black & white, I made this trailing view of a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose at the back of an eastward Conrail freight on the old Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts.

The institution of the caboose on American freight trains was still going strong in August 1982. But within just a couple of years, cabooses on mainline through freights would become scarce.

Changes in technology and crew reforms accelerated by the Staggers Act of 1980 facilitated the elimnation of the caboose on most freight trains by the late 1980s. Conrail began eliminating cabooses on through freights on B&A route in April 1984.

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GP9 at Ware—1987.

The other day I was digging around for some Boston & Albany negatives that I’d exposed back in the 1980s in preparation for a program that I’m putting together for the Mass Bay RRE.

Among the negatives I found was a roll of Kodak TMY (T-Max 100) black & white film that I’d exposed with my father’s Rollei Model-T on December 28, 1987.

I’d followed the Mass-Central freight from Palmer up to Ware in a light snow fall. The train had stalled on Ware Hill, but eventually got where it was going.

In this view Mass-Central’s GP9 7015, a former Conrail unit, was holding the mainline, while Mass-Central’s CF-7 2443 switched at the southend of the yard.

It was a gray day, but well suited to the subtle tonality of the Kodak black & white film. I scanned the negatives using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software. I made some nominal adjustments to contrast to improve presentation here.

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Slug Set at Rices—February 1985.

In February 1985, my old pal TSH and I made a big adventure of chasing Guilford’s GP40-2 slug set (300-100-301) that was leading a westward empty coal train.

We picked this train up at East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) and followed it west toward the Hoosac Tunnel.

TSH drove, I navigated and when we stopped line side, I made black & white photos using my Leica IIIA loaded with Ilford FP4 that I’d bulk loaded into reusable cassettes from a 100ft roll.

I exposed this view at the Rices interlocking along the Deerfield River near Charlemont, Massachusetts.

Today, this scene is very much overgrown, and the interlocking is long gone. For me the photo invokes the thrill of the chase on a cool stretch of the old Boston & Maine.

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Grain Train on the Slide!

When I was at the Rochester Institute of Technology, one of my professors discussed the ‘Ratio of Success’, which defined how many photos you typically took in order to get a really good one.

By one standard this averaged about one per roll of film. Or a ratio of 1 to 36.

For the last three days on Tracking the Light, I’ve been displaying photos from a single roll of Kodak Plus X exposed on Conrail’s former Pennsylvania Railroad lines back in the summer of 1989.

I wouldn’t want to bore everyone by displaying all 36 frames, but lets just say, on this day I was having a better than average ratio of success!

Exposed with a Leice on Kodak Plus-X in summer 1989.

This one portrays a Conrail unit grain train descending ‘The Slide’ east of the tunnels at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.

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Conrail SD40-2s at MG Tower

Here’s another frame from a roll of 35mm Plus X exposed on a summer 1989 trip to the old Pennsylvania Railroad with my old pal TSH.

Until today, this picture has not seen the light of day.

35mm Plus-X exposed with a Leica M3 and 90mm Elmarite. Negative scanned using a Epson V750 flatbed scanner and digitally processed in Adobe Lightroom.

I processed the film 32 years ago in Kodak D76, sleeved the negatives, and made a select few prints, of which this image was not one of them.

It was a dull day, and I was working with a tight budget, where I saved my Kodachrome for the best shots. What seemed a bit pedestrian in 1989, really captures my attention now.

I like the photo today because it frames the desceding train in the steam-era PRR signal bridges, features the famous MG Tower (recently demolished by Norfolk Southern), and captures the drama of a heavy train bathed in brake shoe smoke. It is an image from another era, now gone.

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Conrail 6666 at Cresson, PA.

Working with a Leica M3 fitted with a 50mm Summicron, I exposed this photo of Conrail SD45-2 6666 on the wye at Cresson, Pennsylvania in July 1989.

I loaded the camera with Kodak Plus-X (ISO 125). Interestingly, back then I rarely used this once-popular film in the 35mm format as instead I tended to prefer either Kodak’s Tri-X (ISO 400) or Ilford FP4 (ISO 125).

I don’t recall why I opted for Plus-X on this day at Cresson, but reviewing my negatives, I now find that this fllm offered pleasing tonality and I wish I’d tried it more often!

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GP35 Works East at Warren

There was a thrill of listening to an eastward freight ascending the Boston & Albany grade on approach to Warren, Massachusetts and wondering what locomotives would round the corner.

In February 1984, I was in my final term of high school. It was a warm weekend morning when I visited Bob Buck’s Tucker’s Hobbies. Bob advised me of an approaching Conrail freight and I walked briskly to the Route 67 bridge east of the old passenger station, where I made this photo.

The freight was led by an eclectic collection of EMD and GE diesels. It was one of only a very few times that I caught a GP35 leading a freight on the Boston & Albany.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Leica IIIA.

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Alco Sleeper

In February 1984, I made this view of Amtrak RS-3 No. 120 switching a heritage sleeping car in the rain at South Station, Boston using my old Leica IIIA with 50mm Summitar lens.

Virtually nothing of this scene remains today.

Exposed on Kodak 5063 35mm Tri-X film, processed in Kodak Microdol-X fine grain developer. Negative scanned with an Epson V750 scanner.

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