Category Archives: photography

My HO-scale Reading Company—April 2021 Update.

Working with my Nikon Z6 set to ISO 8000, I made these photos yesterday afternoon to document the progress on the HO-scale interpretation that I’m building with Kris Sabbatino in New Hampshire.

Since my last update several weeks ago, I’ve put down a lot more track, wired up significant portions of the railroad, and begun the task of fixing the track in place which includes laying down ballast.

Also, we have continued to acquire freight cars, mostly Reading Company hoppers. Construction is still very much in the railroad structural phase, the task of building mountains and towns is in the future!

Rather than work with a tripod, and make slow-ISO photos with very long shutter speeds and small aperture (for greater depth of field), I took the easier approach by simply boosting the ISO on the Z6.

Perhaps on my next round of photos I’ll dig out a tripod!

Thanks to Matthew Betzner for the 2021 calendar!

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Views from the Train—April 10th, 2016.

Five years ago, I traveled on the second leg of a two-day Irish Railway Record Society diesel rail tour. We had laid over at Killarney, and in the morning a select portion of the group made a round trip to Tralee and back, before heading eastward for a circuitous trip back to Dublin.

It was a gray Irish day, raining and spitting snow.

Ken Fox was our driver from Killarney in the morning, and Class 076 was our locomotive.

Traveling on the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland Cravens carriages afforded me some great views from the train as we made our way through the lush Spring countryside.

These digital images were exposed using my Fujifilm XT1.

Departing Tralee, Co. Kerry for Killarney.
Approaching Farranfore, Co. Kerry it began to snow . . .
Looking west at Limerick Junction. This scene is much changed today, as a second mainline platform has been added along with a massive modern overhead bridge.
Approaching the home signal for Tipperary on the way to Waterford.
View from the the train near Clonmel, County Tipperary.

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Ice on the Mountain.

Last week on our ascent of New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch with Conway Scenic Railroad’s Work Extra 573, we encountered several minor obstacles.

Near milepost 84, about a mile from the summit, an ice fall had blocked the line.

Our crew set out to quickly remove it and then we were on our way again.

The lighting was flat and cold when I exposed these photos with my Nikon Z6. Keep in mind that if the sky had been clear, this portion of the railroad would have been in deep shadow, conditions that may have made for more contrast and thus more difficult lighting conditions.

I adjusted the camera NEF (RAW) files using Lightroom to improve the overall appearance of the photographs.

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Easter Bunny Express

Conway Scenic Railroad opened its Spring 2021 Season with three days of Easter Bunny Express trains.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I made these photos of our train and the Easter Bunny for use in publicity and advertising.

On Saturday April 3rd, the Conway Daily Sun reproduced one of my images on page 12A of its newspaper.

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LUAS Over the LIffey—3 April 2011.

It was ten years ago today that I exposed this digital image of a Dublin LUAS tram gliding over the River Liffey on the Sean Heuston Bridge (formerly Kings Bridge).

At the time, I was working with my first, and only, digital camera, a Panasonic LX3 that I purchased primarily to use as a light meter to aid my film photography and to make social photos of my friends.

I soon learned that the Lumix was an exceptional image making machine and came to use it on almost a daily basis.

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Clearing the Mountain

On March 31, 2021, I joined Conway Scenic’s ‘Work Extra 573’ that departed North Conway, NH in the morning to open the Mountain Division over Crawford Notch.

This was the first train over Crawford Notch since last November.

In this view west of the siding at Sawyers, the train has stopped for the crew to remove fallen branches that had fouled the gauge.

I exposed the above photo using my FujiFilm XT-1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom, and converted the RAW file to DNG format using Iridient X-transformer. I then adjusted this file with Adobe Lightroom to bring in sky detail, lighten shadows, reduce contrast, and improve color saturation.

Over the course of the day-long trip, I exposed more than 300 individual photos using two cameras, while recording more than an hour of video for the company archives.

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New ENgland Central —Palmer, Mass.

Years gone by, I would have made a pass through Palmer on my way out of town to get the lay of the land on the railroad.

We went through this exercise a few weeks back when visiting from New Hampshire.

On our way through Palmer, Massachusetts, Kris Sabbatino & I checked the signals on CSX’s former Boston & Albany route at CP83. Then we inspected New England Central’s former Central Vermont yard.

For old time sake, and to record the scene for posterity, I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm zoom lens.

The ‘Simpsons Sky’ was an added bonus. (In reference to the opening sequence of the popular animated television program)

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VIA Rail Montreal Central Station—1985

I’d traveled overnight from Toronto to Montreal on VIA Rail, one leg of a larger international rail trip in May 1985.

Working with my Leica 3A, I exposed this photo of a departing VIA Rail passenger train, as I stood in the shadow of the signal tower where I was visiting with the operator.

Backlit sun made for a dramatic effect as FPA4 6789 accelerated away from the platforms.

Unfortunately, I used my handheld meter to expose for full sunlight, which resulted in a decidedly dark Kodachrome slide.

Last night I edited my scan of the image using Adobe Lightroom, where I made a series of modifications to make for a more pleasing image.

I adjusted the exposure, contrast, color temperature, and saturation globally, while making numerous fine adjustments aimed at refining the end result.

The unaltered scan is on top, my adjusted version below.

Kodachrome 64 color slide following adjustment for internet presention.

Incidentally, years later VIA Rail 6789 was preserved and restored into Canadian National colors by the Monticello Railway Museum in Illinois.

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Thalys Departing Brussels Midi

On a whirlwind trip to Belgium, France and Germany in Spring 1999, I made this long telephoto image of the high-speed Thalys departing Brussels Midi for Paris.

I was working with my original Nikon N90S that I’d bought secondhand from Mike Gardner two years earlier fitted with a Tokina 400mm fixed telephoto that I bought from Doug Moore in the early 1990s. 

Most unusual was I was working with a short-lived slide film emulsion sold as Fujichrome MS 100/1000 that offered variable ISO through push/pull processing.

I’d rated this film at ISO 200, which gave me an extra stop over the Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO 100) that I normally used. Fuji offered processing for this film that came with a special mailer on which you would tick a box to select the desired ISO for processing.

The lighting was also unusual: it had been raining, but shafts of diffused sun light were peaking through heavy fast moving clouds.

400mm view at Brussels Midi in March 1999.

The effect of the 400mm lens compressed the complex array of track on approach to the busy Brussels terminal.

Enlarged portion of the above photo to show grain structure and detail.

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Emirates Ad Tram at Suir Road

In May, 2012, I made this Fujichrome slide of a Dublin LUAS Red Line tram covered in an Emirates advertising livery.

The in-bound tram had paused for its Suir Road station stop. This was located about a 10-12 minute walk from my old Dublin apartment.

Fujichrome Provia 100F exposed in Dublin in May 2012.

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Red Engines at Wells River, Vermont.

Two weeks ago on our northward journey, Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Wells River to photograph the Vermont Rail System freight that we had been shadowing.

Over the years I’ve photographed the former Boston & Maine routes around Well River on various occasions several times, but until this most recent trip, I never managed to catch a train in motion on this infamous span.

Infamous because, back in 1984, this bridge had been damaged and effectively shut the line to traffic until it was repaired.

Exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

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Roscrea at Dusk

On the evening of November 27, 2003, I used my old Contax G2 rangefinder to expose this Fujichrome Sensia color slide of Irish Rail’s Nenagh Branch train departing Roscrea, County Tipperary.

This was toward the end of regular locomotive hauled trains on the branch. A few weeks later Irish Rail’s 2700-series diesel railcars would assume most of the runs on this branch, although locomotives with sets Cravens carriages would still occasionally make an appearance on the line into 2004.

Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss lens.

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NHV on LPP—October 1993.

During the summer of 1993, Kodak had introduced a new flavor of Ektachrome slide film with a rating of 100 ISO and a warm color balance.

I bought a few rolls for use imaging trains with New England autumn foliage.

On October 6th of that year I drove to Groveton, NH to intercept the NHV local that worked the old Boston & Maine line toward Whitefield.

It was raining and dark when I pictured the train ambling along a few miles south of Groveton.

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EMD Diesels Roll at Newbury, Vermont

Red diesels in the snow can make for classic photographs. This combination is much nicer than black diesels in the mud,

Kris Sabbatino and I were on our way north when we paused for a sandwich at Newbury, Vermont.

After a while, we could hear the whistle of the northward Vermont Rail System freight on its way from White River Junction to Newport.

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

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Old Boston & Maine station at Ely

It was a clear cold afternoon when Kris Sabbatino and I headed north from White River Junction following the old Boston & Maine line toward Wells River.

We were about an hour ahead of Vermont Rail System’s freight that was running to its CP Rail connection at Newport, Vermont.

I exposed these digital silhouettes using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens set to f22. In post-processing using Adobe LightroomI adjusted NEF (RAW) files .

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VRE at Manassas, Virginia

Back in June, 2015, the ever popular Norfolk & Western streamlined J-Class 4-8-4 number 611 was running trips out of Manassas, Virginia.

Photographer Pat Yough and I had traveled by train to Virginia to capture this event.

In addition to the steam locomotive, I made photographs of the more ordinary train on the move.

Working with my Canon EOS-3, I pictured this Virginia Railway Express commuter train on Provia 100F color slide film.

Last week, I scanned this slide using a Nikon CoolScan5000 slide scanner and processed the high-resolution TIF file using Adobe Lightroom.

From an historical perspective I wonder how many photos were made of this lowly commuter train in comparison to the streamlined steam locomotive?

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Morning Sun at East Northfield.

Last Monday, March 8, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I, followed New England Central’s southward 611 freight.

I drove us to my old standby location at East Northfield, where the NECR line toward Palmer, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut diverges from the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River line (now operated by Pan Am Southern).

As the train approached I exposed a series of photos using my Nikon Z6.

I’ve displayed two variations of the same image.

The top image is a camera generated JPG with color set to Nikon’s Vivid profile.

The bottom image I created from the NEF RAW file in Adobe Lightroom by manipulating color, contrast, and saturation to emulate my FujiFilm XT1’s in-camera ‘Velvia’ mode.

This in-camera JPG was created by my Nikon Z6 set to VI ‘Vivid’ color profile.
Working with Adobe Lightroom, I adjusted the Camera NEF RAW file by lightening shadows, adjusting saturation, fine-tuning contrast settings, and warming the color balance.

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Nikon Z6 Color Considerations

My Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera is an amazing tool for capturing images.

It has a tremendous ability to capture detail across a broad dynamic range.

Its RAW (NEF) files allow for a high degree of exposure latitude and post processing adjustment.

It’s unadjusted files are the closest to ‘true’ color of any camera that I have owned.

And yet, it is almost too much detail. But without the supersaturated punch that I’ve come to accept from my other digital cameras, notably my Fuji X-series.

On Monday, Kris Sabbatino and I photographed New England Central’s 611 arriving at Brattleboro, Vermont under a clear polarized blue dome. A near perfect morning, and yet contrasty with crusty snow on the ground and deep dark shadows cast along the sides of the locomotives.

I exposed for the snow to retain highlight detail with an expectation of making post processing adjustments to the NEF files with Adobe Lightroom.

My goal was to eye-up (estimate) the adjustment of my RAW files in order to emulate the richly saturated color profile automatically provided by my Fujifilm XT1 JPGs. This was an unscientific approximation without benefit from a detail study of the Nikon’s histogram in comparison with the Fuji’s.

Scaled JPG from an otherwise unaltered or interpreted NEF file. Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

I’ll plan on making a more critical project by working with these types of comparisons at a later date.

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Farleys Revisited.

As we raced east on Rt2 in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s ED-8, I kept my eye open for the turn that lead down to the railroad location on the old Boston & Maine known as ‘Farleys’.

I thought back to that February morning, 35 years ago, when working with my father’s Leica, I exposed the final frame on a roll of Kodachrome 64 of an eastward Boston & Maine loaded Bow coal train meeting the westward POPY (Portland to Potomac Yard) at Farleys.

While ED8 wasn’t quite as thrilling as that rolling meet, it was pretty neat to soak in the sight and sounds of this 106-car freight grinding up the grade toward Erving.

I exposed this photo using my Nikon Z6 with an aim to adjust the RAW (NEF) file to maximize the data presented so as to compensate for the excessively contrasty scene.

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Against the Sun at Millers

After photographing Pan Am Southern’s eastward ED8 passing searchlight signals at Lake Pleasant (See Monday’s Post), the chase was on!

Kris Sabbatino and I rolled eastward after the 106 car freight as it ascended the grade up the valley of the Millers River.

At Millers Falls, Massachusetts, we paused at the overhead bridge near the center of town that spans both former Boston & Maine and Central Vermont lines (now operated by Pan Am Southern and New England Central respectively) for a dramatic photo looking into the the afternoon sun.

Working with my Nikon Z6, I made a sequence of coming and going photos as the train roared by.

Later, I adjusted exposure, contrast and color using Adobe Lightroom to make for more pleasing images.

We continued after the train making more photos along the way!

ED8 rolls through Millers Falls, Massachusetts on Saturday March 6, 2021.

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Red Engines in the Snow

Yesterday, Saturday March 6, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I visited White River Junction, Vermont.

Hard crusty snow covered the ground under a bright polarized sky. Visually appealing conditions, but contrast and difficult to capture.

Key to making successful snow photos is exposing for the snow correctly.

If the snow is overexposed (too light), detail is lost and it becomes an amorphous white blob. If it is underexposed, then the snow will be rendered gray and other elements of the scene appear too dark.

Most automatic camera metering does not recognize snow and has a inherent bias to render it as gray instead of white, which if left unattended at the time of exposure will result in an underexposed file.

For this photo, I exposed manually. I gauged my exposure from experience, and allow the meter to read 2/3s of a stop over exposure. This still renders texture in the snow, but allows for easy corrections for the rest of scene in post production.

Below I display two versions of the camera RAW file exposed with my Nikon Z6 (NEF format). The top is the scaled but unmodified file. The bottom has been adjusted to make the most of the data recorded and lighten shadow areas while correcting color balance.

Vermont Rail System EMD diesels idle on the former Boston & Maine at White River Junction.
This the Adobe Lightroom work window showing the position of correction sliders after corrections were implemented to the create the second version.

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Dreary Evening On the Erie

This Kodachrome slide has languished in the darkness for 32 years.

I’d followed a westward empty Conrail coal train through New York’s Canisteo Valley on the evening of April 7, 1989.

It had been an overcast day with laden clouds. Yet traffic had been heavy on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad lines in western New York.

At the time Conrail was routing coal empties west from Hornell via the old Erie main line that went through Alfred and Andover, then operated as the Meadville Line.

West of Hornell this route ascended a steep grade that brought heavy trains to a crawl.

In the fading light of that April evening, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide along Canacadea Creek. If I recall correctly, my shutter speed was about 1/30th of a second.

Why such a slow film?

That is what I had in my Leica M, and so I made do.

Here are two versions of the scanned image. The first is scaled but unmodified. The second is a heavily modified image to make the most of the extremes of Kodachrome’s capturing ability while adding drama to the scene.

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Chessie System at Willard

Willard, Ohio, July 21, 1988: CSXT was still a novelty and many locomotives were still painted for CSX’s Chessie System and Seaboard System components.

My pal TSH and I were traveling around central Ohio on our summer 1988 adventure.

I made this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.

I scanned this slide in January 2021 using a Nikon Coolscan5000 scanner, and made minor adjustments to color, contrast and exposure using Adobe Lightroom.

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Central Vermont Feature

Yesterday, my author’s copies of NRHS Bulletin Vol 83, No. 4 arrived with my feature story, ‘Growing Up with Central Vermont’.

This personal story of my experiences with the old CV includes a variety of my photos of the railroad exposed between 1977 and 1993.

The opening spread is a photo, previously unpublished, of train 444 crossing the Palmer diamond in September 1977, which I exposed using my father’s Leica IIIC.

An unexpected surprise was the cover story of the magazine, which is a detailed article on Metro North by my old friend (and Tracking the Light reader) Walter E. Zullig Jr!

CV_Ry_447_Vernon_Vt_May14_1986_Fuji50 with Leica.

Although a nice photo, the above view of Central Vermont’s northward road freight at Vernon, Vermont, did not make my final cut for photos submitted to the NRHS Bulletin.

Special thanks to Bulletin Staff Editor Jeff Smith for bringing my article to print.

The NRHS Bulletin’s email is: bulletin@nrhs.com

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Hoboken Terminal—1982

In December 1982, my father and I visited the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Hoboken Terminal on the Hudson River waterfront opposite Manhattan.

I thought this ancient decaying relic of the Golden Age of American railways was just about the most fascinating place on the planet.

Rotten, yet grand, elusive, yet filled with intrigue. I exposed a series of Kodachrome slides using my 1930s era Leica 3A with Sumitar lens.

There’s no doubt; I was born in the wrong era. At age 16, my interests lay in the world decades before my birth.

Lackawanna Terminal has been tidied up since that day. Today, one of the old DL&W electric multiple unit cars serves as Conway Scenic Railroad’s dining car Chocorua, while another former DL&W car is coach 3202 Hurricane Mountain. Oddly enough, I write this in the shadow of Hurricane Mountain in North Conway, New Hampshire.

I scanned the slide portrayed here just a little while ago. I offer two versions. One is a scaled RAW scan without interpretation, the other is an ‘improved’ version of the same scan. I lightened this, adjusted the contrast and color temperature.

Modified version of the above scan.

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Grand Trunk Station Groveton, NH.

It was a wintery weekend a few weeks ago, when Kris Sabbatino and I briefly revisited the forlorn former Grand Trunk station along Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic at Groveton, New Hampshire.

I made these digital studies using my Nikon Z6 digital camera, and processed the files for color and contrast in Adobe Lightroom.

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Reading & Northern 425 near Auburn, PA.

On December 13, 2014, Pat Yough and I visited Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company main line near Auburn, Pennsylvania where the former Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch crossed on a through truss bridge.

Working with my Canon EOS-7D fitted with a 100mm lens, I exposed a sequence of Reading & Northern’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was leading a Christmas excursion toward Schuylkill Haven.

This is among the scenes that inspired me to recreate the Reading Company in HO scale.

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Antracite Country in HO—Progress

On snowy Saturdays and dark evenings, we’ve continued to recreate a vision of Eastern Pennsylvania anthracite country in HO Scale.

Yesterday, I focused on track laying and preliminary wiring.

My girlfriend Kris Sabbatino made these photos of the wee railroad using her new FujiFilm XT4.

See my previous posting for earlier photos of the wee railroad:

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/wp-admin/post.php?post=30559&action=edit

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Reading Company 2102 Location Unknown

In May 1963, my father exposed this Kodachrome slide of Reading Company class T-1 4-8-4 number 2102 leading one of the railroad’s popular Iron Horse Rambles.

21 years ago, I ran this photo across two pages in my large format book Locomotive published by MBI.

Today, this image of great interest to me as part of our on-going model railroad project, which aims to recreate the spirit of the Reading Company in anthracite country.

Leica M3 with Summicron lens. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon.

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Change at Crewe.

On April 9, 2000, I was traveling across the UK from Oxford to Holyhead (and then on to Dublin), and changed trains at Crewe.

During my layover, I exposed this 400mm view of new Class 175 diesel railcars arriving from Holyhead.

I was working with a Nikon N90s loaded with Fujichrome. The lens was an older model Tokina f5.6 400mm that I’d bought years earlier from Doug Moore.

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Ontario Midland 1987

I paid a visit to the Ontario Midland at Sodus, New York on a windy October day in 1987.

The sky was a tumble with autumnal clouds blowing off Lake Ontario with occasional patches of blue sky.

I made this view on Kodachrome 25 slide film with my Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron.

I’d missed a wink sun on the Alco RS-11 by a few moments.

I wonder why I didn’t wait a little while to see if it would have come out again?

Below are three versions of the photo. The first is my uncorrected scan, the second and third are variation with corrections to exposure, contrast, saturation and color balance implemented with Adobe Lightroom.

RAW uncorrected scan, scaled for internet presentation. Sodus, New York, October 17, 1987.
Adjusted scan.

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Stainless Steel Sunburst

A few days ago on my walk to the North Conway station where I work, I made this sunrise sunburst of Conway Scenic’s Budd Vista Dome Rhonda Lee.

The secret to making this type of photo is manually selecting a very small aperture (in this case f22) with a wide-angle lens (16mm in this case), while allowing the sun to intersect a dark area (station roof).

It is also helpful to have a relatively dark sky, in this situation against a polarized winter sky.

I’ve made good use of this effect over the last few months where stark winter weather has given me plenty of opportunities for sunburst.

Incidentally, this image was made without the benefit (or detraction) of external filters. Nor was it substantially modified in post processing.

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Empty Branch Train—May 20, 2006

It was a lovely Spring morning in Claremorris, County Mayo, when I made this telephoto trailing view of the empty Irish Rail Ballina Branch train approaching the yard.

Finding a ‘mixed pair’ of 121/181 diesels on the passenger train was a rare event by 2006, and certainly worthy of my attention.

Irish Rail 075 that had been assigned to work the branch passenger train had failed at Ballina day or two previously, and the older EMDs were borrowed from their freight assignment to fill in.

I exposed this Fujichrome slide using my Nikon F3 with a short telephoto, probably a 105mm, from the road bridge west of the Claremorris Station.

Irish Rail 124 and 184 lead the Ballina Branch train.

I scanned the slide last night using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner set to 3200 dpi. Then I made nominal color/contrast corrections in Adobe Lightroom before scaling the image for internet presentation.

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Zoom Preview

This evening (February 17, 2021) at 7pm Eastern time, I’m schedule to give a Zoom slide show on my Conway Scenic Railroad photography to the 470 Club.

Below is just a brief preview of the slide show, which draws on more than three decades of photography, but focuses on my work for Conway Scenic over the last two years.

I’ve included a host of film images as well as my digital work.

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Silver Meteor—St Johns RIver.

A few days after Christmas 1984, my father and I set up for photographs at the St Johns River bridge on the former Atlantic Coast Line just north of Sanford, Florida.

I made this trailing view of Amtrak’s northward Silver Meteor on Kodachrome 64 using my Leica 3A rangefinder with 50mm lens.

The color in the slide was unusually pastel and had shifted to a blue-cyan bias, so after scanning, I imported the photo into Adobe Lightroom to adjust the color and improve sharpness and saturation.

Color corrected scan of an original Kodachrome slide.

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A Moment of Sun Near Ballybrophy—2 slides.

It was a dull Friday afternoon in mid June 2005, when DH and I were exploring locations along the Cork Road (Dublin to Cork) between Mountrath, Co Laois and the top of Ballybrophy Bank.

We’d stopped in sight of the tracks on a lightly traveled dirt road, and were cleaning the car, when off to the east we heard the distant drumming of a class 071 in Run-8 (full throttle).

Irish Rail’s class 071s are mid-1970s era EMD diesel-electrics, built with Dash-2 technology and powered with 12-cylinder 645E3 (turbocharged) engine. Their sound is distinctive.

I grabbed my Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO). As the Friday-only ‘Down Kerry’ (Dublin Heuston to Tralee) came into view, the sun peaked out from a thick overhead cloud-bank. Irish Rail 072 was driven by Irish Rail’s Ken Fox, who recognized us and gave a few friendly blasts of the hooter (horn).

As the train passed on its ascent toward Ballybrophy, the sound intensified—a characteristic of the doppler effect. We could hear the aged EMD until Ken shut off at the top of the bank—several miles distant.

I scanned these slides a couple of weeks ago.

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