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.
It was a warm November morning, when Kris and I visited Huntingdon, Pennsylvania on the old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division.
Years ago, my old pal TSH and I would visit his grandmother who lived in Huntingdon. Kris and I drove around the village and I located the row house where Gram H. once lived. Then we proceeded to the Amtrak station to wait for the eastward Pennsylvanian.
Norfolk Southern fielded a few freights ahead of Amtrak, including this short local frieght led by a lone SD70ACU. Back in the old days, a pair of GP38-2s would have been standard on the local.
Photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 with f2.8 70-200mm zoom lens.
In my capacity as Manager of Marketing & Events at Conway Scenic Railroad, I’ve launched a cross-media advertising campaign to promote the railroad’s winter season Snow Trains that run from the North Conway, New Hampshire Station to the Attitash Whistle Stop near the village of Bartlett.
This service begins today (January 8, 2022) and runs weekends through March 6, plus holidays and vacation weeks.
I exposed the original photograph of GP7 573 on the Snow Train during the 2021 Snow Train season using my Fujifilm XT1 fitted with a 12mm Zeiss Tuoit.
This image is featured in Conway Scenic billboard advertising as well as print ads in the Conway Daily Sun, Vibe magazine, Union Leader, Portland Magazine, among other area publications.
In addition to advertising the train, I’ve worked closely with Conway Scenic Railroad Train Master, Mike Lacey in refining numerous details of Snow Train operation. This has included working out running times, drafting the operating timetable, producing public schedules, etc.
I plan to travel on the first Snow Trains this morning! (Saturday January 8, 2022)
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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.
In my archive of Kodachrome slides, I found this view from October 1982.
I’d been traveling on a Mystic Valley excursion that was returning from a run through the Hoosac Tunnel.
At Greenfield, Massachusetts we overtook an eastward Boston & Maine freight led by Maine Central run-through power.
In the lead was GP38 255.
At the time, locomotive 255 was just one of 13 Maine Central GP38s.
Today 255 is Conway Scenic’s latest purchase.
Interestingly, in October 1982, Maine Central’s Mountain Division was still open as a through freight route.
My 39 year slide is a difficult image. Hard backlighting, combined with suboptimal exposure on my part led to a pretty dark slide. Worse, in processing Kodak didn’t produce the best result, which suffers from a heavy magenta color bias.
I scanned the image and then made a series of adjustments to make it better. I’ve also included a recent photo of former Maine Central 255 on Conway Scenic.
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!
Much has changed at the summit of the Allegheny Divide in 22 years.
In the 1990s Conrail enlarged the tunnel clearances on one tunnel and added a second track while abandoning an adjacent bore. Conrail operations were conveyed to Norfolk Southern in 1999, and a new bridge was built over the tracks.
Last month on our visit to the Tunnel Inn at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, I made a variety of photos of Norfolk Southern trains passing through the tunnel.
I thought it would be neat to pair these helper images with vintage photos of Conrail trains from approximately the same location that I made on Kodachrome 25 back in July 1989.
My first visit to Horseshoe Curve, Pennsylvania was memorable. It was summer 1981; we arrived in our Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, and as we got out of the car, I could hear a westward train in the distance with the unmistakeable sound of an SD45 in the lead.
Without wasting a moment, I ran the 200 plus steps from the parking lot to the park in time to catch a Conrail 6100-series SD45 leading a freight passing the former Pennsylvania Railroad K4s Pacific that was then on display at the Curve.
Fast forward forty years. This November, Kris and visited the famous Curve on an unseasonably pleasant morning. Not long after we arrived, we heard the thunder of a climbing westward freight, and together we enjoyed its circumfrential passage up the valley.
I made these photos as the Norfolk Southern freight squeeled around the famous Horseshoe Curve.
Last month Kris and I booked two nights at the Tunnel Inn in Gallitzin, PA, located at milepost 248, immediately west of the tunnels below the Allegheny Divide at the summit of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.
I love Pennsylvania.
I’d made my first visit to Gallitzin on a family holiday back in the summer of 1981—40 years ago. There was no Tunnel Inn back then.
In the 1980s, my old pal TSH and I would make photos from the bridge over the line adjacent to the building that would later become the Tunnel Inn.
On arrival last month, Bob, the proprietor of the Tunnel Inn offered Kris and me a room overlooking the tracks named for the old Pennsylvania Railroad MO Tower. (The tower had controlled movements through the interlocking at Cresson, several miles to the west of Gallitzin.)
The Inn is nicely furnished and decorated inside, and there’s a nice tavern just a short walk down the road. Across the tracks is a preserved Pennsylvania Railroad N8 caboose.
Minutes after we checked in to the Tunnel Inn, the first of many Norfolk Southern trains rolled by.
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.
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.
Way back in the days of Blue, Mike Gardner and I paid a visit to Cassandra, Pennsylvania. We called into the Railfan’s Welcome Center and were given a memorable tour by the mayor of the borough, and then spent the afternoon photographing Conrail trains from the famous Overlook Bridge.
That was November 1998, and only a few months before Conrail’s class 1 operations there were to become part of Norfolk Southern.
Some 23 years later (has it really been THAT long?), Kris and I paid a visit to the same bridge.
The paint has changed. The old PRR position-light signals are gone. The trains are longer. But Cassandra is much the way I remember it back in 1998.
In 1998, I was photographing on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90S with an 80-200mm f2.8 Nikkor zoom. Last month, it was a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 zoom. (But many other cameras in between.)
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.
The wee village of Steward, Illinois is located amongst a glade of trees where the old Burlington makes a sharp bend on its westward run between Aurora and Savanna—where the line reaches the Mississippi River.
Steward is just a few miles from the busy crossing at Rochelle, where the old Burlington crosses the very busy Union Pacific former Chicago & North Western east-west line between Chicago and the Omaha/Council Bluffs gateway.
Twenty-five years ago, I’d occasionally frequent Steward to photograph trains on Burlington Northern/BNSF.
A few weeks ago on our way east, Kris and I stopped briefly in the village of Steward to photograph the preserved former Burlington station there.
This was one of the railroad’s standard pattern stations, in other words a building using a standardized floor plan that was applied to many similar structures along the company’s lines.
It appears that the building was moved both across and away from the tracks since it last had served as the company’s station building at Steward. Notice the position of the bay window on the ‘wrong’ side of the building. As built, the bay window would have been on the track-side of most station buildings.
I made these images using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
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
At the train watching platform in Rochelle, Illinois, a scanner is perpetually broadcasting railroad radio chatter.
On our brief visit there a couple of weeks back, Kris and I overheard BNSF’s dispatcher discussing with unknown parties the status of an eastward unit tank train tied down near Steward.
Armed with this knowledge we drove railroad east through the sprawing industry and cornfields toward Steward, where we found the afforementioned freight. It was crew-less and its headlight extinguished.
I made these photos with my Nikon Z6 and 70-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.
Kris and I visited Rochelle, Illinois two weeks ago and found this clean pair of BNSF SD40-2s in the siding east of the Union Pacific crossing. I made a few photos with my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z6 digital cameras.
The light was dull, the landscape uninspiring, but the bright orange paint on the old diesels made for a photogenic subject.
I wonder if in my travels I had ever previously crossed paths with either of these two antique Electro-Motive diesels.
Since my first visits to the Highway F bridge over the Wisconsin Central tracks at Byron, Wisconsin in 1994, the railroad here had been functionally transformed.
In the late 1990s, two main track (both lines signalled for bi-directional operation) replaced single main track, the old signal code lines were removed, while a modern highway bridge was installed in the place of the old span.
Canadian National acquired Wisconsin Central two decades ago, and today the freight trains are significantly longer than they were 25 years ago.
It was snowing hard when Kris and I paused to watch this southward CN double stack train ascending toward the summit of Byron. I thought back to Wisconsin Central days, and scanned the comparison view from 1994 made from a similar vantage point on the old bridge.
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.