Category Archives: News

February 4, 2023; Two Stations, Two GP38s, Four Photos

Four hours apart, I exposed pairs of photos of antique GP38s at two New England Railroad Stations using my Lumix LX7.

Just after 10:30am yesterday, I made a couple of images of the Snow Train departing Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway, New Hampshire Station. GP38 number 255 was positioned at the back of the train for the return run from Attitash.

Sometime around 2:30pm, I made photos of New England Central GP38 number 3845 at the station in White River Junction, Vermont. This is one of New England Central’s surviving original GP38s (with which the railroad started operations back winter 1995).

These mid-1960s era machine soldier on in regular service despite their age.

North Conway, NH.
It was 7 degrees F when I exposed this view at White River Junction on February 4, 2023.

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Amtrak 641 at Gap-Three Photos!

I find Amtrak’s old Metroliner cab cars a novelty.

These rolling antiques are vestiges of 1960s High Speed rail that have survived into the 2020s in regular revenue service.

On my exploration of the Lancaster area with Dan Cupper a few weeks ago, we stopped at Gap in the morning to photograph the westward Amtrak Keystone service No. 641, led by Metroliner cab car 9634 with ACS-64 634 at the back.

I wonder if I have a photo of this cab car in Metroliner service?

I made this telephoto sequence with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera fitted with a 70-200mm telephoto zoom. The yellow front works well with soft winter sun.

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Portraits at Paoli

What are you supposed to do while waiting for trains?

How about take portraits of each other on the railroad platform.

That’s what we did two weeks ago at Paoli, Pennsylvania!

I made some views of my brother Sean and his partner Isabelle with my wife Kris as a westward Amtrak Keystone and SEPTA trains made station stops. Then Kris made a couple of photos of me with Sean and Isabelle using my Nikon Z7-II.

Hi ISO and auto white balance makes night photos easy!

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Strasburg Rail Road Freight

Strasburg Rail Road is best known for its steam excursions, but the railroad is a common carrier and operates a thriving local freight business.

On our visit to the Strasburg, PA area last month, I was lucky to catch one of their freights on the move. This was led by the railroad’s former New York Central SW8 diesel 8618.

This classic General Motors Electro-Motive Division swticher was built for New York Central System c1953 and carried the number 9618. It is painted in a neo-New York Central scheme, and was Conrail 8618 for many years.

In the 1980s, I made many photos of Conrail switchers, and I wonder if somewhere among my slides and negatives I may have a photo of this locomotive in its former existence.

Strasburg Rail Road SW8 8618
Strasburg Rail Road local freight viewed from Carpenters.
SW8 8618 with two boxcars at Leaman Place along Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor—the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line.

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Tracking the Night: SEPTA Paoli Station

Several nights ago, Kris and I delivered my brother Sean and his partner Isabelle to SEPTA’s Paoli, Pennsylvania station on the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

It had been quite a few years since my last visit and in the interval, the station had been modernized.

It now has high-level platforms and bright daylight balanced LED lighting.

As Sean & Isabelle waited for an eastward Amtrak Keystone to bring them to Philadelphia, I exposed a series of photos of passing trains.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 70mm; f4 at 1/30 ISO 400. Focus mode: AF-S.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 44mm; f4 at 1/125 ISO 400. Focus mode: AF-S.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 30mm; f4 at 1/50 ISO 2000. Focus mode: AF-S.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 24mm; f4 at 1/200 ISO 2000. Focus mode: AF-S.

Details of the exposures are in the captions. All files adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

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Westward Freight at Rockville Bridge

Google Maps makes it much easier to navigate to the west shore of the Susquehanna River at Marysville, Pennsylvania to reach the famed Rockville Bridge.

I recall pouring over maps in the 1980s, trying to locate the correct sequence of turns to get to River Road. The challenge of this location is that the path is indirect and the main highways running parallel to the river and railroad do not facilitate straight forward exits.

On my most recent visit, I followed Google Maps instructions to my map ‘pin’ situated at the westend of Rockville Bridge. I approached the bridge just as a Norfolk Southern freight was easing across the 48 stone arches.

I returned to the vantage point on the north side of the bridge that Kris and I had visited nearly a year ago. This allowed me to make a long telephoto view of the train and capture the dramatic sky to the east.

Photo exposed using a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. Nikon NEF RAW file adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

Photo exposed using a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. Nikon NEF RAW file adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

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Views from the Plow Extra

Thursday I traveled with Conway Scenic’s Plow Extra to Attitash, and then east from Mountain Junction down the Redstone Branch to Kearsarge in North Conway.

My primary objective of this trip was to make video footage of the plowing and plow crew for Conway Scenic, both to document the activity and to help promote the railroad.

I used my Nikon Z-series mirrorless camera to record both still photos and video. In general, I feel more confident in my ability to work with still images than video, but I still made a lot of video clips which I am now editing into a short film that will hopefully play on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page as well as other accessible media.

Below are a few of the still photos from Thrusday’s adventure on the rails.

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Christiana Station from both sides of the Main Line.

Amtrak Keystone train 643 passes Christiana westbound.

Last week, I caught up with fellow photographer, author and Trains contributor Dan Cupper, who offered to spend the day showing me railroads in the Lancaster/Strasburg area of Pennsylvania.

Among the places we visited was the archives/meeting house of the Lancaster Chapter, Inc., National Railway Historical Society which is located in the old Pennsylvania Railroad freight house at Christiana, Pennsylvania.

While I’d visited this the passenger station earlier in the week, the day our our visit had much better weather. Also, it was my first ever visit inside freight house where we were met by the chapter’s Stephen Himpsl.

Among the things we explored were views of the freight station and the old passenger station from both sides of the former PRR Main Line.

The passenger station hadn’t served in its intended role since the 1950s, but had been restored and was in good shape.

I made a variety of images using my Nikon mirrorless cameras including those presented here. Most received post-processing adjustment using Adobe Lightroom to better present the data captured by the camera’s NEF RAW files.

More to come on our explorations at Christiana and other nearby locations.

Pennsylvania Railroad sign on the old Christiana freight house.
Lancaster Chapter NRHS has a variety of artifacts and memorabilia on display, including this Lionel GG1 electric locomotive.

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Plowing Snow! Part 1

Tuesday (January 24, 2023), Conway Scenic Railroad sent its 1934 vintage Russell snow plow westward to clear the line to Attitash .

There was at least a foot of snow on the ground.

The plow operated as Work Extra 255, with former Maine Central GP38 255 at the back pushing.

I was able to stay ahead of the plow extra and made several sets of photos using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. I also recorded some video with my Z7-II mounted on a tripod.

Work Extra 255 approaches the Route 16/Route 302 grade crossing near White Mountain Oil in North Conway, New Hampshire. That’s my photo on the railroad’s billboard to the right of the tracks. I exposed it using my Fujifilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens. Silver Line Graphics did the design work on the billboard.
Work Extra 255 approached Glen-Ellis station.

Work Extra 255 clears the line near Goves west of milepost 66.

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Plow Extra Preview

Winter has finally made its footprint in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

After weeks of unseasonable weather that led to speculation that snow was a thing of the past, a series of snow storms has brought plently of snow.

Following a heavy snow fall that lasted most of the day on Monday (January 23, 2023), Conway Scenic called a plow extra on Tuesday to clear its lines.

I made these views of Work X255 in the yard at North Conway as the crew was getting ready to head west to Attitash.

I worked with the NEF RAW files in Adobe Lightroom to make the most of the dramatic sky. Adjustments included my standard repertoire; lighten shadows, darken highlights, adjust color temperature and color saturation and scale for internet presentation.

Later I followed the Plow Extra west to make photos of it clearing the tracks.

Stay tuned!

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Decapod at Blackhorse Road

Winter sun and clear skies on Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road open a host of photographic opportunities!

For Monday’s return run of engine No. 90 from Leaman Place, Kris and I selected a vantage point at Carpenters at Blackhorse Road—where the line takes a gentle curve by an old Graveyard.

I made a few color slides using my Nikon F3 and 180m lens and then a series of digital photos with my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

The sildes remain to be processed, but I’ve posted a selection of the digital images here.

Engine 90 is a Baldwin 2-10-0, a type known as a decapod for its arrangement of ten driving wheels. I am working on a new book with Kalmbach Media tentatively titled Steam Locomotives by th Numbers that will tell the story of steam locomotive development and application using wheel arrangement as the system of organization.

Engine 90 has ten driving wheels.

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No. 90 at Strasburg.

Monday Kris and I spent several hours photographing Strasburg Rail Road 2-10-0 No. 90 under blue skies with brilliant sun.

I made this selection of photos using my Nikon Z6 and Z7-II mirrorless digital cameras.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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Norfolk & Western J at Strasburg, PA

It was frosty on Monday morning when Kris & I visited the Strasburg Rail Road. Among the equipment we photographed was the famous Norfolk & Western J-Class 4-8-4 number 611.

In recent years this magnificent late-era steam locomotive has made guest appearances on the Strasburg Rail Road.

The enormous streamliner seems a bit out of place on the rural branchline, but it was great to see and photograph this machine again.

The big locomotive was cold. We were not so fortunate to catch it in action, although over the years, I have photographed 611 on various occasions under steam.

All photos were made with a Nikon Z7-II with Nikkor Z-series 24-70mm zoom lens.

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We Arrived at Strasburg Just in Time!

January 15, 2023: Kris and I spent the day driving to Strasburg, Pennsylvania. We arrived just in time to make photos of 2-10-0 No. 90 arriving with the last scheduled train of the day.

With the setting sun just above the horizon, we had some beautiful winter light to photograph this historic machine in action. Cold weather can offer the best conditions to photograph steam locomotive because of the superior light and dramatic effects of condenstation.

I made these images using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

Strasburg Rail Road No.90 at East Strasburg station, Pennsylvania.

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Fortuity at Greenfield—January 2023

I’ve been photographing trains around Greenfield, Massachusetts for more than 40 years.

Sometimes there have been long waits. Sometimes I got lucky.

Saturday, Kris and I were driving south on I-91. I asked, “would you like to stop by East Deerfield Yard”

She said “ok!”, so we jumped off the Interstate at Route 2, and took the roundabout (traffic circle) and headed east. At that moment I saw containers rolling east on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg line.

“That’s 22K, the NS intermodal train”.

We zipped over to East Deerfield Yard—located railroad timetable east of Greenfield—where I had just enough time to make these photos using my new Nikon Z7-II.

Nothing fancy, but these are lucky shots. I was delighted!

I always like it when luck prevails!

Norfolk Southern-Pan Am Southern symbol freight 22K at East Deerfield Yard.

With these ‘in the bag’, we drove to the Connecticut River bridge for more photos. Why waste a lucky day?

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Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP38-2 at White River Junction

Yesterday, Kris & I visited White River Junction, Vermont, where I photographed a pair of EMD diesels on Genesee & Wyoming’s New England Central, including Buffalo & PIttsburgh GP38-2 No. 3511.

To emulate an image I made here in the 1980s of a Boston & Maine GP7, I framed B&P 3511 in the station canopy using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.

Below are two versions of the NEF file. The top version is scaled but otherwise unaltered. The bottom version has been adjusted with changes to shadow and highlight density, color temperature, and contrast, with nominal sharpening.

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F’s in the Snow—The Preamble.

January 7, 2023, Conway Scenic Railroad hosted Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthuasiast’s Covered Wagons in the Snow photo charter.

I helped arrange and organize this uncommon trip and spent countless hours working with Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown, members of the 470 Club (which owns the two former Boston & Maine F7As that were the stars of the day) and the Conway Scenic staff to refine the details.

Mother nature cooperated and provided several inches of fresh powdery snow the night before the trip.

The morning of the trip, I conducted a safety briefing with Mass Bay’s people, and Kris and I made photos of the F-units in the North Conway, NH yard.

We traveled on the train and during the course of the trip we made hundreds of winter F-unit inspired images.

More to follow over the coming days!

Nikon Z-6 Mirrorless digital camera with 70-200mm lens.
Nikon Z-6 Mirrorless digital camera with 70-200mm lens.
Nikon Z-6 Mirrorless digital camera with 70-200mm lens.

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Cleaning the Rhonda Lee

Yesterday, in preparation for excursions this coming weekend, Conway Scenic’s Buildings & Grounds crew cleaned the cars with a power washer.

The ambient temperature was just above freezing combined with a high dew point led to some visually atmospheric conditions to try out my Z7-II.

I made these photos as NEF RAW files and made nominal adjustments using Adobe Lightroom.

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Main Line Crew Change 35 Years Ago.

On the afternoon of January 29, 1988, Conrail TV7 was changing crews at Buffalo’s Frontier Yard on the old New York Central Water Level Route.

Compositionally, this photo has always both intrigued and annoyed me. I wish I’d either got a little closer or framed in a way so that the top of the locomotive hadn’t been cutoff.

As it stands the image is awkward and imperfect, yet it serves as a window in time to another era.

Inbound and outbound crews were preserved for posterity.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 fitted with 50mm f2.0 Summicron. Scanned with a Nikon LS5000 scanner.

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New Years/New Camera: Nikon Z7-II

Since September 2020 I’ve been regularly photographing with a Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera. This offers great flexibility and exception image quality with its 24.5 megapixel full frame sensor

On New Years Eve my new Nikon Z7-II mirrorless camera arrived. The Z7-II is even more powerful than the Z6 and features a 45.7 megapixel CMOS sensor that Nikon boasts offers 

‘maximum color depth and dynamic range.’

New Years Day, Kris and I went for a drive in western Maine and stopped along the way to make photos.

Kris made this photo of me with the new Nikon Z7-II at Harrison, Maine.

Learning a new camera takes time. In my initial setup, I thought I’d profiled the Z7-II camera to work in both JPG and RAW. However, although I’d set up the RAW specifications, I’d failed to select the correct output setting and only exposed in JPG.

Although disappointing, this wasn’t a huge problem since the files straight out of the camera were extraordinary, even without the ability to make major adjustments.

Below are a selection of images scaled from the in-camera JPG files. In some situations, I’ve also enlarged a portion of the photo to demonstrate the capabilities of the sensor in regards to sharpness, etc.

My intention is work with both the Z6 and Z7II. Initially assigning my 24-70mm Z-series lens to the Z7II, and various telephoto lenses to the Z6.

Grave yard at Lovell, Maine. Full frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto.
Enlarged portion of the above JPG.

Tree in Lovell, Maine. Exposed at f22; Image is Ffull frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto.
Enalrged portion of the above JPG.
Grave yard at Lovell, Maine. Full frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto.
Enlarged portion of the above Jpg.
Church at Waterford, Maine. Full frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto.
Larged portion of the photo above to demonstrate sharpness.
Kris with her FujiFilm X-T4 at Harrison, Maine. Exposed full frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto.
Enlarged view of the above photo to demonstrate sharpness.
Harrison, Maine; exposed full frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto. The causeway at the upper right is a vestige of the long-defunct Bridgton & Harrison two-foot gauge railroad.
Kris at Harrison, Maine; exposed full frame using the Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series telephoto.

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Happy 2023!

Tracking the Light wishes you a Happy New Year!

I’m including two photos to usher in 2023. The first is one of the last photos that I made in 2022: a telephoto image of Mount Washington that I made from the viewing area off Route 302 near Bretton Woods yesterday afternoon when Kris and I were returning from Littleton, New Hampshire.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire, as photographed on December 31, 2022. Notice the route of the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

The second image is from a scan that I made yesterday evening of a vintage Kodachrome 25 color slide . I’d exposed this view of Conrail’s PASE (Palmer to Selkirk) on the afternoon of June 1, 1989. This is among my classic chromes and shows Conrail’s 6611, one of ten distinctive GE-built C32-8s that regularly operated over the Boston Line (former Boston & Albany main line) beginning in 1984. My slide had remained in the yellow Kodachrome box from the time it was processed until yesterday.

Conrail PASE was a short-lived symbol freight that forwarded traffic from Palmer, Massachusetts to Selkirk Yard near Albany, New York. This view was made at milepost 84, located within the town of Monson, Mass., just over the Quaboag River from Palmer, which can be seen in the distance.

The BIG event for me on New Year’s Eve was the arrival of my latest camera! I hope to feature photos from this picture making machine over the coming weeks. I’ll reveal details about this new camera in upcoming posts during 2023! Stay tuned . . . .

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SD60 at Clyde

Here’s another slide from the ‘3rds file’.

October 17, 1987: I was set up along the New York State Barge Canal at Clyde, New York and photographed an eastward freight led by SD60 6841.

At the time this was one one of only a handful of SD60s on the Conrail system. It was originally an EMD demonstrator. I deemed it unusual and in my notes I wrote. ‘SD60!’

Unfortunately, I’d over exposed the slide by at least a full stop, and it was this defect that landed it in the junk pile for more than 30 years.

Scanning allowed me to easily correct for most of effects of overexposure, while postprocessing in Lightroom enabled color and contrast corrections.

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Moment in Time-August 14, 1988.

Conrail and the town of Palmer, Massachusetts were replacing the old South Main Street Bridge immediately east of the signals at CP83.

I made this view from the old bridge that was in its final weeks. New retaining walls had just been installed and machinery was working near the old Palmer Union station as Conrail’s eastward SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) took the conrolled siding to make a meet with a set of westward light engines holding on the main track.

The old bridge featured classic wooden decking and makes for an interesting foreground. To make the most of the bridge and railroad code lines, I framed the scene with my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with an f2.0 35mm Summicron.

A Central Vermont local freight was working the interchage track to the right of the Conrail freight.

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Christmas Village

My wife has an annual tradition of setting up an elaborate Christmas village as a central part of her holiday decorations. She has had some of her decorations for many years and these have great sentimental value.

I helped this year by setting up the railroad portions of the village including stations, signals and the railroad cars and locomotive.

After it was complete, I made a few photos using my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z6 digital cameras.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo
Nikon Z6 photo.
Nikon Z6 photo.
Nikon Z6 photo.
Nikon Z6 photo.

Happy Christmas Eve from Tracking the Light!

Conway Scenic X255

Yesterday morning, Conway Scenic Railroad assigned former Maine Central GP38 255 on a Work Extra sent to Conway, NH., to collect a flatcar for the maintenance-of-way department.

Working with my Nikon Z6, I made this view of the train returning to North Conway, climbing the 3 percent on the approach the yard.

My goal was to capture the cool, wintery sky.

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MBTA Norfolk-Trailing View

On our return from Cape Cod last month, we paused at Norfolk, Massachusetts for lunch and to roll by MBTA Train 2706 on its way to Boston, South Station.

During an earlier visit to Norfolk two years ago, Kris and I noted that MBTA/Keolis was working to install two-main track (signaled in both directions on both tracks) on this portion of the Franklin Line—a former New Haven Railroad route that was at one time graded for directional- double track, but in my lifetime has been a single track railroad. 

Some progress was made and on this visit I noted that new signals and crossovers were in place on both sides of Norfolk, however the track through the station has not yet been completed, and the signal heads turned away, indicating they were not yet in use.

Using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens, I made these trailing views of train 2706 looking toward Walpole and Boston.

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Conrail SD80MAC scanning trial

I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide on Jan 11, 1998 of Conrail SD80MACs leading SEBO eastbound approaching CP83 in Palmer, MA.

Below, I’ve posted five different examples of scans all from the same slide. All were made with an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. All were scaled from TIF RAW files using Lightroom without alterations in post processing (In otherwords other than scaling, I didn’t make changes to the files to alter the appearance of the scans.)

In addition to the full scan of each slide is a greatly enlarged view to better judge the quality of the scan

The first three were exposed with Epson Scan 2 software; the last two using VueScan 9.7.96. The purpose of these various scans is to show how minor changes in scanning may alter the end appearance of the scan.

V600 with Epson Scan 2 software, no mask at 3200dpi. (no sharpening).
Enlarged view: V600 with Epson Scan 2, no mask at 3200dpi. (no sharpening).
V600 with Epson Scan 2, low mask at 3200dpi. (minor sharpening).
Enlarged view: V600 with Epson Scan 2, low mask at 3200dpi. (minor sharpening).
V600 with Epson Scan 2, middle mask at 3200dpi. (Moderate sharpening).
Enlarged viewl V600 with Epson Scan 2, middle mask at 3200dpi. (Moderate sharpening).
V600 with VueScan_9.7.96, no mask at 3200dpi. (no sharpening).
Enlarged view: V600 with VueScan_9.7.96, no mask at 3200dpi. (no sharpening).
V600 with VueScan_9.7.96, medium mask at 3200dpi. (moderate sharpening).
Enlarged view; V600 with VueScan_9.7.96, medium mask at 3200dpi. (moderate sharpening).

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Streetcar at Night on ET160 Comparative Scans

Last night I made two scans of an ET 160 (Tungsten balance) Ektachrome slide. This film was designed for use with incandescent lighting.

I exposed this slide as part of sequnece of night images at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, CT in December 1993.

The first scan was using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered with Epson Scan 2 software. The second was using a Nikon LS5000 Slide scanner powered with the latest VueScan software (version 9.7.96).

Other than scale the scans for presentation here, I made no changes to color, exposure, sharpness etc.

I’ve included a greatly magnified portion of each scan for comparison.

Epson V600 scan; 3200 dpi TIF format, scaled for internet.
Nikon LS 5000 scan at 4,000 dpi TIF format, scaled for internet.

V600 scan enlarged.
Nikon LS 5000 scan enlarged

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Five Angles on an FL9

Over the years, I’ve photographed hundreds of locomotives, on scores of railways, in dozens of countries.

Occasionally I’ve opted for the classic ‘three-quarter’ roster angle. More often I’ve opted for various more dramatic, interpretive, or dynamic views.

A long time ago I learned that when I find some equipment resting in a accessible location, to photograph it from a great variety of different angles, because you never know what might suit a book or magazine article later on.

Two weeks ago on our visit to Cape Cod, I had the opportunity to make a sequence of photos of this former New Haven Railroad FL9 that now works for Cape Cod Central and was assigned to the west end of the Polar Express at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

I have countless photographs of FL9s in various schemes when they worked for Amtrak, MTA, CDOT and Metro North, so this was an opportunity to do something a little different.

Perhaps the FL9’s most distinctive external attribute is the A1A Flexicoil truck at the rear of the locomotive.

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Millie & Santa Lumix Sequence

Monday, RDC 23 ‘Millie’ made a trip to Conway with a holiday charter.

I was rostered as the ‘motorman’ and so ran the car as per train order.

At Conway, I switched to Marketing-mode and made a series of Millie with Santa and her passengers using a Lumix LX7..

As an excercise in compositional comparison, I’ve posted most of Millie’s Santa sequence, and in order of exposure..

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