On the morning of 23 November 2004, I exposed this photo of a pair of Irish Rail bo-bos (class 141/181 General Motors diesels) shunting sugar beet wagons at Wellingtonbridge, Co. Wexford, Ireland.
This was a typical scene made a bit mystical by a thick layer of fog.
To accentuate the effect of the fog and compress the elements in the scene, I worked with a 180mm Nikkor prime telephoto lens fitted to a Nikon F3 camera.
My film choice of the day was Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO 100).
I scanned this slide yesterday using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 digital scanner and processed the hi-res scan with Lightroom to scale the image for internet presentation and make minor adjustments in the color balance and contrast.
Last week, Kris Sabbatino and I drove east along the old Grand Trunk and paid a visit to Genesee & Wyoming’s small yard at Lewiston Junction, Maine.
Shortly after we arrived, a pair of EMD SW1500 switchers lettered for G&W’s Quebec Gatineau pulled into the engine facility and tied down.
Pretty neat to catch these antiques working in bright afternoon sun!
Later I looked up the details of these locomotives and was pleased to learn that they were both former Conrail, originally Penn Central locomotives. I’ll need to see if I have them in blue or black! Stay tuned.
Exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135 Fujinon zoom lens.
Yesterday, photographer Pat Yough sent me an article from the Altoona Mirror concerning Norfolk Southern’s planned demolition of the former Pennsylvania Railroad MG Tower (located on the climb from Altoona to Gallitzin, PA.)
Like the late, great New York Pennsylvania Station, MG Tower will succumb to corporate philistines who fail to value history and architecture. The rationale for such destruction may be justified to satisfy short term financial or safety prerogatives, but the loss is everyone’s. Once destroyed, this classic structure will be gone forever.
So much of the Pennsylvania Railroad has already been lost in the name of ‘progress’ and other abstract concepts. Have we learned nothing from past transgressions? So today’s railroad remain eager to erase the monuments of railroading’s glory days.
Of course the tower can be saved.
Of course future generations could benefit from its preservation.
Instead it will be but a memory ruined by those who fail to value history.
Well done Norfolk Southern! May the names of the persons condemning this structure to dust be enshrined so that everyone can relish in their achievement and congratulate them for their wisdom.
The other day, in preparation for debut of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer, the railroad operated a work extra with locomotive 1751. This ran up the former Maine Central Mountain Division to clear debris and rocks that had fallen on the line.
To move the heaviest rocks, railroad president and general manager Dave Swirk personally operated an excavator.
I traveled with the train to document its work.
On the return run, I posed a sequence of photos at the famous Frankenstein bridge.
Photos exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Today, Saturday June 27, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad the Mountaineer will make its inaugural run between North Conway and Crawford Notch.
Tomorrow, Saturday June 27, 2020, Conway Scenic will inaugurate its Mountaineer. This the rebranding of the ‘Notch Train’ that operates from North Conway over Crawford Notch using the former Maine Central Mountain Division.
Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer is the railroad’s premier scenic journey.
The Mountaineer was the historic name for the express passenger train that ran from Boston North Station to the White Mountains via Boston & Maine’s Conway Branch and Maine Central’s Mountain Division.
Last summer, I organized a special publicity train to make photos and record video of our Notch Train/Mountaineer train set. Mike Lacey was the Engineer, Joe Costello was the Conductor, Adam Bartlett assisted as trainman/videographer, and I made still photos.
A variety of these images have since appeared in advertisements, on the web, and in the pages of Trains Magazine.
It was a dull day back in April when Kris Sabbatino & I explored the abandoned Boston & Maine right of way near Lisbon, New Hampshire.
This is now a trail.
I recall back in the early 1990s, when short line operator New Hampshire & Vermont was still running trains on this line.
All just a memory now.
I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3.
I then processed the negatives using my special ‘split development’ as previously described on Tracking the Light (two development baths; one hot and weak and active, the other cool and strong to maximize tonality.)
Afterwards, I toned the negatives in a selenium bath mixed 1-9 with water.
On Sunday June 21, 2020, I traveled to Bartlett, NH on our afternoon train from North Conway that boards at 1230.
My primary concern was to diagnose the sound quality on the train’s public address system. However when we arrived at Bartlett, I arranged with the train crew to jump off and make a few photos while the locomotive (former Maine Central GP38 252) cut off and ran around the train.
A thunder storm was brewing to the northwest, which made for a dramatic sky, despite sun on the rails at Albany Avenue in Bartlett.
Later, I learned there had been some fierce weather on Mount Washington.
I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7. These files are from the in-camera JPGs, other than scaling for internet presentation, I made no alterations digitally in regards to color balance, color temperature, contrast, or exposure.
Yesterday, June 20, 2020, Conway Scenic finally commenced its Spring/Summer season. Our opening was more than two months later than originally planned owing to restrictions imposed to contain the Cover-19 Pandemic.
We had warm weather and nearly sell-out attendance.
To provide extra seats we put on RDC Millie in the afternoon for an ‘extra’ run to Conway.
In total we operated four trains!
Conway Scenic will be open seven days a week through the summer.
I kept my FujiFilm XT1 busy, in addition to my other duties.
It has been six months since I was hired as Conway Scenic Railroad’s Manager, Marketing & Events.
At the end of March, the State of New Hampshire’s ‘Stay at Home’ order changed Conway Scenic’s plans. Employees were sent home and the railroad temporarily shuttered. Soon afterward the railroad was allowed to bring back a skeleton staff to maintain the property and equipment, prepare training materials and advertising.
While other businesses were gradually allow to reopen, until last week no date or specific conditions for tourist railroad operations had been forthcoming.
Then, eight days ago, we learned via the media that the railroad would be allowed to open from the following Monday provided that it adheres to a variety of conditions designed to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 and help protect guests and employees from infection.
At that moment we chose Saturday June 20th as the date to reopen our railroad to the public and resume scheduled excursions. In the interval, we have been preparing for Saturday.
The world we lived in 2019 has changed. Procedures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, including now-common social distancing protocols have complicated the way we must handle visitors and in ways we could not have previously anticipated. This has necessarily altered the railroad schedule to reflect new boarding practices.
In the last week we have run several test runs to help train crews and evaluate equipment, which providing me with the opportunity to make photographs fro advertising. It is those photos I present here.
Starting tomorrow, Conway Scenic Railroad will be operating seven days per week. Trains to Conway board at 0930 and 1500; trains to Bartlett board at 1230.
Bi-weekly Mountaineer excursions to Crawford Notch are planned to begin on June 27.
Owing to the uncertainty of the volumes of guests and the length of time it will take to issue tickets and safely seat our guests in adherence with the new guidelines and requirements, Conway Scenic now stresses train boarding times rather than departure times, to help insure that trains operate on schedule.
It will be great to have visitors on our trains again!
I needed a topic for today’s Tracking the Light, so I reached in to a sorting file of un-scanned slides and found this photo: Surprise!
On October 13, 2004, photographer Mike Gardner and I chased New England Central Railroad’s 608 south from Palmer, through my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.
This is a chase I’ve done countless times over the last 40 years, but just because you’ve done something before, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to find a new angle on it.
At Robbins Road in Monson, I made this dramatic trailing view of the train’s locomotives. Here we have a selection of NECR GP38s roaring away in ‘Run-8’—maximum throttle on the tooth of the grade.
The train was moving 10-12 mph, producing a rush of engine exhaust along with traction motors blowers blowing to keep the motors cool. (And prevent them from over heating) These blasts of hot air, combined with the wind from the train’s approach and passage, plus and sand from the sanders to maintain adhesion all helped stir up the ballast and fallen leaves.
It was a good chase and I wish I was there now!
I scanned the photo using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and VueScan software. My initial scan produced a 4000 dpi TIF file, which I then imported to Lightroom in order to scale it for presentation here.
June 2020 Trains Magazine features my 8-page article on New England Central.
I made my first visit to Rigby Yard in Portland back about 1983 using directions provided to me by the late Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.
Over the weekend, I traveled with Kris Sabbatino and retraced my steps to Rigby.
Working with a Nikkormat FT with 105mm telephoto, I exposed this view on Fomapan 100 Classic black & white film, which I then processed yesterday. To obtain a greater sense of depth and texture, I aimed through some tall grass in the foreground, while focusing on the Pan Am Railways EMD diesels in the distance.
Using split development with twin development bath, I produced negatives that were ideal for scanning.
My recipe: Kodak HC110 mixed 1-300 with water and a drop of Photoflo for 9 minutes at 70 F (with minimal agitation); then Ilford ID-11 1-1 with water for 5 minutes 30 seconds (agitating very gently for three inversions once a minute); stop, twin fix bath, rinse, perm awash, 10 minute wash, and final rinse in distilled water.
Years ago I said to a fellow photographer, ‘When the scanner is silent, either the railroad isn’t running any trains, or your scanner isn’t working’.
Now that we are into the ‘long days,’ I hope to use the later sunset to make railroad photos that are not normally possible during the rest of the year.
Forty minutes to the north of North Conway, is Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic. Normally this is an elusive nocturnal operation with road freights to and from Canada passing 3-4 nights a week.
While in the 1990s, I traveled on, and made a few photographs of trains on this former Grand Trunk Railway line at locations in Maine, New Hampshire and to lesser degree, Vermont, in recent times my coverage has only featured tracks, not trains.
On June 4, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I set out in the hopes of finding one of these elusive trains . . .
We joined the route near Gorham, New Hampshire and followed the tracks west, passing Berlin, Groveton and North Stratford. Then into Vermont, to Island Pond.
We continued following the tracks all the way to Norton, on the border with Canada. We waited out the daylight at a lightly used rural grade crossing just a few miles from the Vermont-Quebec line.
As darkness fell, we retreated to Island Pond were we made photos of the station and the rising moon. No sign; not even a hint of the southward (eastward?) freight.
I learned the next day, that it didn’t operate, but that trains were scheduled to run on that day, Friday June 5th.
Finding freight cars on the move on Conway Scenic is a relatively rare event.
Other than a tank car converted to the role of water tender for steam locomotive 7470, most of the other freight cars on the property are either reserved for maintenance work or to star in photo charters and special events that typically operate in the autumn.
Last week GP9 1751 switched out North Conway’s North Yard to collect Bangor & Aroostook refrigerated boxcar 7765 for movement to the shop in anticipation of its repainting by the 470 Club.
This made for photographic opportunity, both to make unobstructed views of the car and picture it on the move behind a locomotive. Road Foreman of Engines, Mike Lacey was in his element switching the freight car with the GP9!
I was working with the crew to expose these images, which were exposed using a FujiFilm XT-1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
In April, Kris Sabbatino and I drove north into eastern Maine, and followed the old Grand Trunk Railway from Bethel toward Gorham, New Hampshire.
Grand Trunk was conceived as a broad gauge line to connect Portland, Maine with Chicago via Montreal. The route was absorbed into the Canadian National in the 1920s, and the Maine portion was spun off in the late 1980s. Today this line across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont is part of the Genesee & Wyoming family, and operated as the St. Lawrence & Atlantic.
I made these photos near a small line-side grave yard in the vicinity of Gilead, Maine using a Nikon F3 loaded with Agfa APX400. I discussed the processing of the negatives in an earlier post.
I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, so I randomly selected this slide from a group of 600-plus 35mm color slide that I’d initially gathered as material for a book on EMD diesels.
This slide didn’t make the cut.
Nor was it labeled.
So, I called up my 1996 photo notes and looked up the relevant details.
At the time I was living in Waukesha, Wisconsin and working for Pacific RailNews.
On the morning of July 27, 1996, I had driven north (railroad timetable west) along the Wisconsin Central mainline toward Byron following a northward freight.
At Byron it met two eastbounds, the second of which was this Canadian National rock train led by Grand Trunk Western former Detroit, Toledo & Ironton GP40 6404.
CN had worked out an arrangement to run its rock trains over WC. Notably, this was several years before CN acquired Wisconsin Central, and at the time catching GTW locomotives on the WC was a novelty, if not unusual.
Working with my Nikon F3T with 105mm lens, I exposed this slide at f6.3 1/500 at 741am. I noted that this was my ‘full daylight’ setting for Fujichrome Sensia 100.
On April 21, 2016, I made a rail-trip from Basel, Switzerland across northeastern France that included a three-hour stop-over in Strasbourg, where I explored the city by tram.
It was a warm sunny day and I made this 35mm Provia 100F color slide using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
Strasbourg was the first city to adopt this style of low-floor tram car sold as ‘Eurotram’. Similar cars were later ordered for service in Milan, Italy, and Porto, Portugal and have previously been featured on Tracking the Light.
It was more than twenty years ago, back on March 4, 2000, that I exposed this view of Irish Rail 141-class diesel-electric 159 racing northward on the Northern at Donabate.
Denis McCabe, the late Norman McAdams and I were out for a bunch of special trains coming down from Belfast. I wasn’t expecting it, but this light engine was a bit of a bonus.
I was working with Sensia II (ISO) in a Nikon N90S fitted with a manual focus Tokina f5.6 400mm lens that I’d bought second-hand from my friend Doug Moore several years earlier.
Yesterday when I scanned the slide, I thought there was excessive dust on the emulsion and so rescanned after considerable attention with a can of compressed air to clean it. It was only on close inspection that I realized that the ‘specks’ in the sky were, in fact, birds, and not dust!
Although Conway Scenic Railroad is presently prevented from opening public excursions owning to restrictions necessitated to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, last Tuesday, May 26, 2020, we organized a special work extra led by GP9 1751. This was a training special to give our engineer trainees an opportunity to learn first-hand how to operate a locomotive and train under the supervision of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Road Foreman of Engines and Train Master, Mike Lacey.
As the railroad’s Manager for Marketing and Events, I helped plan this extra train, and organized several media stops during the runs in order to film and photograph the train for the company’s media archives. These stops and run-bys gave our trainees experience in using the air brake system to control the movement of the train and bringing it safe stop.
We made three runs from North Conway to Conway and return on the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch.
I made video with the company’s Sony video cameras and exposed still digital photos using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens. In addition, I also made a few 35mm color slides on Provia 100F using my old Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
The weather provided some ideal photographic conditions. During photo stops, the train’s conductor assisted me with train positioning.
I deemed the day as a great success. Here are a few of the digital still photos.
Back in 1990, I got a good deal on a 100 foot roll of Agfa 400 speed black & white film. I took quite a few photos with this, mostly of street scenes in San Francisco, and processed it in D76 1-1, much the way I would have processed Kodak Tri-X.
That was a mistake.
Fast forward 30 years and I thought I’d give Agfa 400 black & white another go.
This time I used a more refined process.
On April 12, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I visited St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where we made a variety of photos around the former Maine Central truss bridge, located at the far west end of the old Mountain Division. I worked primarily with 90mm and 50mm Nikon lenses. The light was dull April overcast, which I thought would be a good test for Agfa 400.
Since I didn’t have access to my processing equipment and chemistry, I wasn’t able to develop the film until recently, but last weekend I finally souped the Agfa. I decided to try Rodinal Special (NOT to be confused with Rodinal) which is formulated for higher speed emulsions.
Before introducing the Rodinal Special (mixed 1-25), I presoaked the film for 5 minutes at 70 F in a very dilute bath of HC110 (mixed 1-300 with water and a drop of Photoflo-wetting agent). This was followed by the main development using my Rodinal Special mix for 4 minutes 30 seconds at 68 F; stop bath; twin fixer baths; rinse; permawash; first wash; selenium toner mixed 1-9 for 8 minutes; rinse and final wash.
There were a few hiccups in the washing. And as a result I ended up with precipitate on the negatives, so I ended up repeating the wash cycle yesterday morning, then soaked the negatives in distilled water with a drop of Photoflo before re-drying and scanning.
Now for the judgement. . . .
These are straight scans; only scaled for internet and without alterations to exposure, contrast, or sharpness.
Last summer I interviewed career railroader Mike Lacey on his experiences working for Erie Lackawanna and Conrail as part of my ‘Conversations with Brian Solomon’ podcasts with Trains Magazine. This is episode 39 in the series.
Mike is a fifth generation railroader.
You can listen to my Trains interview:
I have the pleasure of learning from Mike, who is now the Road Foreman of Engines and Train Master at Conway Scenic Railroad.
I made these photos in the last week of Mike in the cab of locomotive 1751, a former Baltimore & Ohio/Chesapeake & Ohio GP9.
Mike is also featured in my June 2020 Trains Magazine column.
The tracks are in place. The famous ball signal still stands. But it has been months, years perhaps, since the last revenue train visited the old Boston & Maine line through Whitefield, New Hampshire; longer still for the former Maine Central, which has become overgrown.
These lines remain on the periphery of the American general network; but for how much longer?
On April 25, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I visited Whitefield on a trip exploring Coos County. I made these photos on Fuji Acros 100 black & white negative film.
Saturday we processed the film in Agfa Rodinal Special (not to be confused with ordinary Rodinal) for 3 minutes 45 seconds, then following regular processing and washing, we toned the negatives in selenium solution for 9 minutes and rewashed following archival procedure.
Last night I scanned the film using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.
The old Beechers Falls Branch was a vestige of Maine Central’s foray into Quebec that survived on Maine Central’s system in later years as a truncated appendage accessed by trackage rights over Boston & Maine and Grand Trunk lines.
After Maine Central gave up, various short lines had operated the trackage. Today the line to Beechers Falls, Vermont is a trail.
Beechers Falls itself is a curiosity on a narrow strip of land wedged tightly between New Hampshire and Quebec.
On Saturday (May 23, 2020) Kris Sabbatino and I explored this abandoned line.
I made these photos where the Branch crossed the upper reaches of the Connecticut River at Canaan, Vermont.
Working with a Nikkormat FT with an f2.8 24mm Nikkor lens, I exposed Ilford HP5 400 ISO black & white film.
Although I intended to process this in Ilford ID11, yesterday, I realized that I was all out of that developer, so instead I worked with Kodak HC110, which I mixed as ‘dilution B’ (1-32 with water). Before my primary process, I mixed a very weak ‘presoak’ (1-300 with water and Kodak Photoflo) and soaked the film for five minutes, then introduced my primary developer for 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Last night Kris and I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner with Epson’s provided software.
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Clearing the big fill on the approach to North Conway yard has opened up some excellent photographic potential.
However, since the railroad is closed because of business restrictions imposed by the State of New Hampshire to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, I have had to organize a few special moves (without passengers) over the fill to make photos/video for Conway Scenic marketing purposes.
I exposed these views last week in cooperation with Conway Scenic operating crews.
This morning bright sunny skies and a cool breeze reminded me of California.
So I scanned this Fujichrome color slide using a Nikon Coolscann5000 slide scanner.
Working with VueScan software, I set the color brand to ‘Ektachrome’ and the slide type to ‘E6’ and the color balance to ‘Landscape’, while under the ‘Input’ menu I selected ‘fine mode’ and ‘multiple exposure’ to obtain the highest quality scan.
After scanning as a hi-res TIF file, I then imported the file to Adobe Lightroom to scale the image for internet presentation. This is necessary because the original scan is 116.8 MB, which is far too large to up load for Tracking the Light. Why make such a large scan in the first place? When I take the time to scan a slide, I aim to capture as much data stored in the original in order to archive the photo long term.
The primary subject is a former Sacramento Northern four-wheel Birney Safety car that was operating at the Western Railway Museum on the day of my May 2008 visit.