I’ve always found railway maintenance equipment interesting: often functional antiques, no longer suitable for revenue work get cascaded into maintenance duties.
As a kid, I was fascinated by the Boston’s bright orange Type 3 streetcars that had been converted into snow plows. For me these were the relics of an earlier era.
So, I was delighted when on a visit to Poznan, Poland in 2000, I found a vintage four-wheel tram in maintenance service,. I made a few photos using my Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO).
This fortuitous encounter was the only time I caught a four-wheel tram in Poznan.
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.
It was a gray December 1997 day when I exposed this telephoto view of a Washington DC Metro train and Union Station’s Tower K using my Nikon N90s with f2.8 80-200 Nikon zoom lens.
Really it was the rows of colored position light signals displaying ‘stop’ that caught my attention.
Although the f2.8 8-200 lens offered convenience, and was both fast and sharp, it had its failings. When used wide open it tended to vignette slightly (darker exposure in the corners), but more serious was that it made me visually lazy. Instead of seeking the best vantage point and an optimal composition, I could get a pretty good angle by merely adjusting the focal length of the zoom.
On October 12, 1992, my father and I traveled on the Pittsburgh Light Rail, traversing both the 47 Shannon and Drake Shuttle routes where vintage PCC cars still roamed. Both lines are now defunct. Later in the day, my brother Sean and I revisited these lines by road to make a few more photos.
On that trip, I exposed this Kodachrome slide with my Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens.
While I was aiming to fill the frame with the rarely photographed PCC car, in retrospect I wished that I’d allowed a little more space around the streetcar.
I’m happy to have made this photo, since it was my only photographic adventure with the Pittsburgh PCCs.
In February 1999, I made a day trip from Brussels to Antwerp, Belgium.
While in Antwerp, I took the number 2 tram to its terminus at Hoboken.
You mean there’s another Hoboken Terminal? In a manner of speaking, yes. But no copper clad Bush train sheds at this one.
When I saw this PCC departing for central Antwerp, I was amused by the National Car Rental advertisement at the back of the car. That same day I expose a view of a similar tram advertising ‘Diesel’ apparel.
Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) with an Nikon N90S probably fitted with a 80-200 Nikon zoom.
The Ponte Dom Luis 1 is one of two magnificent Eiffel bridges spanning the Douro in Porto, Portugal.
On this day (April 5th), 2014, I worked with my Canon EOS 7D to make this photograph of a Eurotram crossing the bridge.
Porto is a remarkable and extraordinarily picturesque city.
Fellow photographer Denis McCabe and I were exploring Porto during a week-long photographic journey around Portugal. While the weather was good in the south of the country, it was foggy, raining and overcast in the north.
Portugal is among the countries prominently features in my book; Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe by Kalmbach Books see:
I liked the old Boeing-Vertol LRVs. (Light Rail Vehicles).
The shape of the cars lent well to photography.
The San Francisco cars reminded me a the old orange creamsicle frozen treats.
Back in December 1990, I made this view of a Boeing car leaving the Geneva Street car house for a run on the M-Ocean line. I was working with my old Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens on my F3T loaded with Kodachrome 25.
I made great use of that lens, but sold it in 1996 when I bought my 80-200mm zoom. In retrospect, I made better photos with the fixed 200mm.
It was on a misty May 2009 morning that I exposed this Fujichrome slide of a tram in the village of Bad Schandau in Germany’s Elbe River Valley.
This was just a few months before I purchased my first digital camera and when I still exposing lots of color slide film.
Yesterday I scanned this slide using an Epson V750 scanner and then processed the file using Lightroom.
Below are two Lightroom Jpgs. The top is uncorrected, the bottom reflects digital tidying up for internet presentation.
Specifically, I adjusted the gamma for better contrast by putting the darkest regions at the toe of the curve (far left) and moving the highlights to the top of the curve (far right) while increasing contrast in the middle range. I reduced the amount of magenta and increased the yellow for better color balance, and applied a small degree of digital sharpening for edge effect. (This doesn’t actually make the photo sharper, but it looks sharper on screen). Lastly, I made a nominal correction for level by slightly rotating the image (which crops it).
On January 13, 2015, Jack May and I explored NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system to make photographs.
I made this view on Fujichrome Provia100F using my Canon EOS 3 with a 40mm pancake lens—a winning combination for contemporary Transit photos with historical format continuity. (A fancy way of saying, I exposed photos of streetcars on film back in the day, and I still do!).
As a teenager living in rural Monson, Massachusetts, I thought Jersey City was a fascinating urban wonderland.
It was gritty, dirty, decayed and very urban with lots of history.
A virtual playground!
I made this photo at Exchange Place station on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson former Pennsylvania Railroad controlled Hudson & Manhattan rapid transit route between New York City and New Jersey terminals.
As a photograph it isn’t my finest, but I feel I captured my sense of wonder about PATH.
One October evening I set up on Duboce Avenue in San Francisco with my then new F3T and 35mm PC lens (perspective control lens, which allows for movement of the front element) and made this view using Kodachrome 25 color slide film.
Difficult to believe that was nearly 30 years ago!