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.
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!
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.
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.
I was lucky last Wednesday as Amtrak P42 number 145 wearing ‘Phase III’ heritage paint was leading train #42, the eastward Pennsylvanian.
Although the so-called Amtrak Phase III was introduced in the mid-1970s, for me it represents the predominant scheme that adorned Amtrak locomotives during the 1980s. I made countless color slides of F40PH diesels, and AEM-7 and E60 electrics in this scheme.
Amtrak repainted a several of its P42 Genesis diesels in 2011 to mark the railroad’s 40th Anniversary. In addition, several of Amtrak’s dual-mode 700-series Genesis units have also been painted in this scheme.
I was delighted to catch Amtrak 145 working the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania, and made a series of digital images using my Nikon Z-series digital cameras.
I often work with multiple cameras. Since purchasing my Nikon Z7-II at the end of last year, I now often work with both my Nikon mirrorless cameras in tandem. I’ve fitted my Z-series 70-200mm zoom to my Z6, and a Z-series 24-70mm to the Z7-II.
This arrangement gives me the flexibility to make a variety of different angles quickly, swaping back and forth between the two cameras as needed.
In addition to that, I’ll often have my Lumix LX7 at hand and sometimes an older Nikon loaded with film.
Last week, I was poised at Gap, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line that is now operated by Amtrak. Most of Amtrak’s trains are Keystone corridor push-pull sets powered by Siemens-built ACS-64 electric locomotives. An exception is the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian that runs daily and its typically led by a GE-built P42 Genesis diesel.
I got a tip that the eastward Pennsylvanian (train 42) was running with a P42 wearing one of the heritage paint schemes and I was in position to make the most of that train, while waiting on its late-running westward counterpart (train 43). Watching a train tracking ap on my phone, I wondered which train would reach me first.
I heard a GE chugging to the east and turned to find train 43 working west led by P42 number 117 . First I made a few images with the Z6 and 70-200mm, then made a few close up photos with the Z7-II and 24-70mm, before making a couple more trailing views with the Z6. I’ve included six of these images here in order of exposure to provide a sense of how I made the most of these cameras in tandem.
Minutes after train 43 went by, I spotted train 42 in the distance with the aforementioned heritage-painted locomotive in the lead. Stay tuned for those photos!
It was a retro 1970s moment at Christiana, Pennsylvania, when I made these coming and going views of Amtrak Keystone train 648.
The Conrail caboose to the right of the train is former Erie Lackawanna that was painted in an usual variation of COnrail blue at Erie’s Meadville, Pennsyvlania shops in 1976.
The cab car is one of the former PRR/Penn Central self-propelled Metroliner cars developed by Budd in the 1960s and characterized Amtrak’s high-speed services in the 1970s and early 1980s. Later these cars were modified and routinely operated to Harrisburg on this route.
Photos were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II and adjusted for contrast, exposure and color temperature using Adobe Lightroom.
Tuesday morning in Strasburg was cloudy and dull. I made my way over to Leaman Place where Strasburg Rail Road’s line connects with Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line to Harrisburg.
I made these photos of westward and eastward Keystone trains zipping along under wire. The typical operation has an Siemens ACS64 electric at one end and a Budd-built former Metroliner cab control car at the other.
Both images were adjusted for color temperature, shadow and highlight detail and contrast in post processing.
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.
Another classic from my files: this Kodachrome slide was exposed on my epic trip to Montreal with Tom Carver 30 years ago.
Among the inspirations for the trip was a tip that Tom received that CP Rail had placed back into freight service several of its ‘Bigs’- a nickname for its six-motor Montreal Locomotive Works diesels.
These classics had been stored owing to a downturn in traffic, but placed back into service in early 1993, which presented an opportunity to see and photograph these rare diesels at work. So, despite exceptional cold, Tom and I had braved winter in Montreal.
Only about a dozen or so of the six-motor MLWs were working at that time and mostly in relatively short-haul freight services. We followed one freight to the Port of Montreal. I made this view using Tom’s 28mm lens in Hochelaga neighborhood of Montreal on the afternoon of January 12, 1993.
On this day, photographer Tom Carver and I were at Val Royal, Montreal to photograph Canadian National’s electric suburban trains.
In the orange glow of evening on a memorably cold day, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my old Nikon F3T with Nikkor 200mm lens.
Little did I know then, that 30 years later I’d be working daily with some of these very same cars: Conway Scenic Railroad operates former CN electric cars 6739, 6743, 6745 and 6749 as coaches on its excursion trains.
Thirty-five years ago, I made this view of a Conrail coal train working the Charlotte Running track at Charlotte, Rochester, New York. At that time, a short vestige of the old Hojack Line (Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg) still crossed the Genesee River.
This was exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 50mm Leitz Summicron lens.
It was among the images featured in my 1989 article on the railroads of Rochester published in Railpace Newsmagazine.
Looking at Google Earth last night, I gather there’s very little left of this scene today!
Saturday, Kris and I traveled on the Mass Bay Special, “Covered Wagons in the Snow” that worked Conway Scenic from North Conway to Notchland. We went out on the headend, traveling with Train Master Mike Lacey on GP38 252, then traveled eastbound on the passenger cars where we participated in a few of the photo runbys.
I was working with three cameras; my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens; my new Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens; and a Lumix LX7.
Someone asked me how many camera’s I had. “Here? Or in total?”
“All of them.”
I lost track at 13. That’s probably bad luck.
Below are a selection of images that I made using the Z6 with 70-200mm lens. All were processed digitally using Adobe Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation here.
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.
Snow was falling on Conrail’s Southern Tier route on January 7, 1994. This portion of former Erie was alive with through freight
I made this view of the westward OIBU passing the old station at Silver Springs, New York, where Erie had maintained an interchange with the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, later B&O. Since 1986, this facilitated a connection with G&W’s Rochester & Southern.
Yesterday, Conway Scenic operated a Work Extra on the Conway Branch using GP9 1751. I traveled on the train and at Conway I made several photos of the locomotive collecting a flatcar from some rarely traveled trackage beyond the station.
On the way down, I made a vareity of photos with my Lumix LX7, and noticed that the battery was going flat.
After I exposed a view of the locomotive on the siding, the camera shut down. So, I climbed back on board to get my new Nikon Z7-II to get a few more photos. What I’ve displayed below are unadjusted RAW files from both cameras followed by adjusted versions of each aimed at improving exposure, contrast, shadow and highlight detail, and color temperature.
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.
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.
The other day there was nice afternoon light in the yard at North Conway, NH. The 470 Club’s famous pair of F7As were positioned on the Short Track in front of Conway Scenic’s 1874 passenger station building and the passenger consist was out on the branch which made of a nice photo opportunity.
I made this series of three-quarter roster-style views, making slight changes to my angle to alter foreground and background. Among the items I was trying to include were the station building and the flags in the distance, while also paying attention to the clouds and making slight exposure adjustments.
Recent news of exceptional snowfall in western New York State led me to review some of the photos I made during my years in Rochester, NY in the 1980s.
I was digging BIG box of slides lettered ‘3rds’—those that had been deemed unworthy during an edit many years ago and put aside. Certainly some of those slides are poor interpretations. But mixed in are some gems.
On January 27, 1988, I made this photo of a westward Conrail Trailvan piggyback train west of downtown Rochester, New York at milepost 374 (included in the image a lower left) at Lincoln Park. The train was kicking up snow as it raced along the former New York Central Waterlevel route.
My camera of choice was a Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 90mm Elmarit that was loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film.
The most likely reason that I rejected this photo was because it was partially overcast. Other than that it looks pretty good to me today!
Scanned at 4000 dpi with a Nikon LS 5000 scanner and VueScan software. I imported the TIF file into Lightroom and outputted three versions; the top is scaled but unaltered, the bottom two versions benefit from a variety of minor corrections to level, color temperature, exposure and saturation. The middle version is warmer than the bottom.
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.
It was a heavy hazy day at Council Bluffs in August 1998, when I made a few photos of Union Pacific E9 949.
Working with a Nikon N90s fitted with a Nikkor f2.8 80-200mm lens, I first made a ‘telewedge’—a cute name for a three-quarter ‘wedgie’ style roster shot that was exposed with a telephoto lens.
Then I made a few close ups from essentially the same vantage point, but using a even longer telephoto setting.
I scanned these Provia 100 RDP II slides using a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.96 software using the ‘fine’ mode and 4,000 dpi, and ‘autolevels’ color balance. Although scaled for internet presentation, I made no adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure or sharpness.
In the early 1990s, Amtrak’s F40PH was the ubiquitous long distance passenger locomotive.
When I made this photo on the evening of February 22, 1992, the F40PH seemed very common.
Amtrak had more than 200 F40PHs. I have thousands of photos of them from New Hampshire to California; from Quebec to Florida. Yesterday morning on my way to work I wondered, ‘Did I photograph them all?’
I scanned this Kodachrome slide using VueScan software and a Nikon LS5000 ‘Super Coolscan5000’.
Below are two versions, both scaled from the hi-res original scan using Adobe Lightroom. The top has ot been modified in post processing, while the bottom is the same scan following a series of minor modifications aimed at making a better image.
Modern LED information signs have become commo place on many passenger railroads as means of identifying trains.
The challenge for photographers is capturing the messages displayed by these signs.
Many LED do not produce continous light output and pulse or flicker. To the human eye the light souce seems continuous, but when photograhing at comparatively fast shutter speeds some or all of the LEDs are between pulses and appear dark in the photograph.
Where banks of LEDs are employed these may appear in images as meaningless arrangements of spots, or missing significant portions of the intended message.
One way to capture the lights is to work with a comparatively slow shutter speed, usually 1/60th of a second or less. The difficulty is that to stop a moving train, it is normally recommended to work with faster shutter speeds (often 1/250th of a second or faster).
Another consideration is the relatively low amount of light produced by LED that full daylight these often appear dim. Photographing LED signs in low light, on an overcast day or at dawn, dusk, or evening, allows the lights to appear brighter relative to ambient lighting conditions.
On a visit to Norfolk, Massachusetts with Kris in November, I made this sequence of images of MBTA Train 2706 at various shutter speeds to show how the lights in the sign appears at 1/640th, 1/250th, and 1/60th of a second.