Category Archives: Rail transit marathon

Transatlantic Journey

Last week, Kris and I traveled from Lancaster, Pa., to Dublin, Ireland for the first stage in an epic trip.

This is our first overseas journey since moving to Lancaster. We explored a variety of airline options, and ultimately setted on a rarely traveled path.

American Airlines operates a connecting bus from the Lancaster Airport to Philadelphia. So we booked a through round trip ticket from Lancaster to Dublin. My railroad acquaintances may wonder why we didn’t opt to take Amtrak to Philadelphia and then SEPTA Airport train to th airport.

We considered Amtrak, but the connecting bus offered a variety of practical advantages:

1) Since it was a through ticket, we could check our baggage in Lancaster and collect it in Dublin, thus saving the luggage schlep between trains at 30th Street in Philadelphia. This also cut out a train change, which would be especially problematic on the return leg.

2) The bus is operated by American Airlines, so if anything went wrong with the connection, it was on the airline to make it right. With the rail connection we were at the risk of the railroad’s not performing as planned.

3) The bus only carried a few passengers so we had plenty of space.

4) Bus connection passengers are afforded a special security option at Philadelphia that was much less taxing than having to deal with the main queue of people at security.

Although we didn’t travel by train, we did see a SEPTA Silverliner V at the airport.

We traveled on Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was a very comfortable way to cross the big pond.

Photos were made with a Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Central Vermont Alco RS-11

Forty-two years ago I regularly listened to the radio program Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adapted from the books by Douglas Adams and presented by BBC.

My father had bought a Grundig portable radio that received shortwave among other frequencies. In the wee-hours, this allowed me to tune in this exotic program from across the pond.

One of the themes of Hitchhikers was the number 42, which was the answer to the ultimate question of the Life, the universe, and everything.

During this same time, I took a photography class at the Wilbraham & Monson Academy taught by Mark Bistline. Among other things, Mark introduced me to Ilford HP5 black & white film. Until that time, I’d largely only used Kodak films.

My father drove me to the Central Vermont Railway yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed my roll of HP5 with my Leica 3A rangefinder, making a series of images of CV’s Alco RS-11 number #3614 that was idling there.

I also made a recording of the locomotive. I don’t know what became of the recording, but the HP5 negatives still remain in my collection 42 years later.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Twilight Glow at Reinholds

A week ago and a world away, wintery dusk settled over Reinholds Station, Pennsylvania.

The blue hour was golden.

Next to the old Reading station rested former New York, Susquehanna & Western GP18 1802.

This quaint setting is rare in 21st century railroading and befitting of a model railroad.

Photos were made with a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm mounted on a Bogen tripod to allow for long exposure. NEF RAW files adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

Pennsylvanian Passes Parkesburg

Parkesburg, Pennsylvania was once an important interlocking where the Enola Low Grade cutoff (Atglen & Susquehanna Branch) joined the Main Line (now Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line) via a grade separated junction.

Today, a vestige of the old low grade survives to serve local industries, but the remants of the interlocking, the town and Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad station seem like shadows of another era.

This remains a station for Amtrak’s Keystone service, but the station facilities are minimalistic and a contrast to most stations on Amtrak’s Northeast electrified routes.

Last week, Kris and I timed our arrival at Parkesburg to coincide with the late-running Pennsylvanian. This is the through train that connects Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City.

It typically runs with a diesel between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, but on this day diesel power was swaped for an electric at Harrisburg.

I made this sequence of images using my Nikon Z mirror-less digital cameras.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Energy Train on Chrome

For my birthday, my father had given me a roll of Fujichrome Provia 100F.

More than 40 years earlier, he would often provide a roll of Kodachrome (with Kodak mailer) on my special day. I still have many of those slides in my collection, most of subjects long since gone.

While visiting Cape Cod, I finished the Ektachrome that had been in my Nikon for months and loaded up the lone roll of Fujichrome Provia.

Among the film photos I made on the trip was this view of Mass-Coastal’s ‘Energy Train’ passing the harbor at Buzzards Bay on its return from Rochester, Massachusetts.

I received this processed film back from the lab last week. I was delighted! Almost every color slide was a winner!

Yard Office at Pittston

Back on November 17, 2023, Kris and I had paused at Reading & Northern’s Pittston Junction yard.

It had been months since the last time I exposed a color slide.

I had my Nikon F3 with me because we were on our way to Cape Cod, and I anticipated wanting to make a few slides of our trip.

So after making a variety of photos with my digital cameras, I dusted off the F3 and made two Ektachrome slides of Reading & Northern 2535, in what appeared as a classic railroad scene.

Why just two slides? Well, this was because after I exposed the second photo the battery in the camera died. That is one of the dangers of infrequent camera use.

When we final got to the Cape, I replaced the battery and finished off my roll of film.

Exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3 with 35-70mm Nikkor zoom. Slide scanned using a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner.

Ektachrome of the Snow

I don’t expose very much slide film any more.

The high cost of the film and processing, combined with the burden of carrying extra camera equipment, has limited my film usage to just a few rolls per year.

Last week, I received several processed rolls back from the lab, which accounted for the majority of the film photos I made during 2023.

Among these were a few photos I made on January 24, 2023 during a trip with Conway Scenic’s Snow Plow Extra that cleared to Mountain Junction and then east on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, New Hampshire.

These were exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Correcting a Camel Crossing the Connecticut

At 11:35am on August 18, 1988, I photographed Conrail C32-8 6616 leading MBSE (Middleboro to Selkirk, otherwise known as ‘The Queen’) across the former Boston & Albany bridge over the Connecticut River.

The C32-8s were among the GE’s known as ‘Camels’ because of their humpback appearance.

These were called ‘Classics’ by the folks at GE to distinguish them from the more Spartan DASH-8s produced later.

I’d parked my Dodge Dart in the riverside lot off Route 5, and made my way down to water level, where I exposed this Professional Kodachrome 25 slides.

However, in trying to get as close to the water as possible (without falling in), I managed to lose my sense of level, and the resulting image was several degrees off-axis.

For many years this slide was relegated to binder of my ‘seconds’.

The other night I scanned the slide, corrected the level and improved the color balance. (Professional Kodachrome had a tendency to shift toward the red).

Conrail Heritage Unit on the Move!

We were at the right place at the right time.

As Norfolk Southern’s unit coal train 632 rolled through Sunbury, Pa., on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Northern Central route, Kris and I chased along on the parallel Rt 147.

On the way north we’d spotted several open locations right off the road. By the time we reached the south side of Sunbury, we were already a couple of minutes ahead of the train, so we pulled off the road near mile post 260.

While I was surprised to catch a coal train on the move, and delighted to have stumbled into NS’s one-of-a-kind Conrail heritage unit No. 8098, I didn’t realise how infrequently Clearfield-originated coal trains are these days.

At milepost 260, I aimed to make some representative photos of the locomotive in nice light. At our next location about 17 miles further down the line, I hoped to make the most of the sweeping curve that Kris and I spotted on our drive northward earlier in the day.

We timed the exercise well and had time to make nice sequences at both locations. Special thanks to Dan Cupper for operational details on the coal train!

Lumix LX3—Reading Sunset

The tracks of the former Reading Company’s Lancaster & Columbia line through Lititz, Pa, were trimmed back a few blocks in recent months.

The rails were lifted where they crossed North Water Street, near the Appalachian Brewing Company.

I made these photos while experiementing with a vintage-2008 Lumix LX3. A decade ago, I’d made a lot of great photos with this compact camera model.

While I ultimately replaced my original LX3 with the more versatile LX7, I again have an LX3 in my repertoire of photographic equipment. This camera’s f2.8 Leica Vario-Summicron lens yields excellent results.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Conrail Evolution Surprise!

I was surprised to hear a whistle to the west, when we were exploring the Shikellamy State Park along the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, Pa.

Then when the train came into view on the far side of the river, I had vivid sense of Conrail-blue deja vu.

The last time, I’d visited this bridge, photographer Mike Gardner and I had caught the eastward Norfolk Southern freight symbol 13W led by a former Conrail GE C40-8 still in the classic Conrail paint, and then a little while later, we photographed the westward NS 41T with Canadian National locomotives. But that was back in November 2001!

From my slide archives: Norfolk Southern 13W led by a former Conrail DASH8-40C. November 2, 2001.

Fast forward: Conrail’s days as an independant Class I carrier are now a quarter century behind us, so what was this modern GE in blue paint Kris and I saw last week?

As the unit coal train (NS 632) rolled across the multiple-span truss bridge, I realized what I was looking at:

Norfolk Southern’s specially painted Conrail heritage locomotive! This is a General Electric ES44AC, engine number 8098, an Evolution-series 4,400 hp low-emissions diesel-electric.

Conrail never owned anything quite so advanced.

I made my photos and then Kris and I decided to follow the train back down NS’s Buffalo Line. This was a rare find! It was our lucky day! Lucky!

I had a couple of prime locations in mind, if we could only stay ahead of the train!

Retro Digital—1st Test

My first digital camera was a Panasonic Lumix LX3. I bought it on the recommendation of Eric Rosenthal in October 2009.

I made tens of thousands of photographs with that wee camera. It finally gave up the ghost in June 2014. I replaced it with my first Lumix LX7.

By that time I had bought a Canon EOS-7D, which I was relying upon for much of my heavy photography. However, I carried the Lumix with me everywhere. As I’ve explained previously, the camera you use is the one in your hand. So, while I often have with me a BIG camera, a Lumix is typically at the ready in my pocket.

I later bought a Fuji XT1, which largely supplanted the Canon. In 2020, I bought my first Nikon Z, which largely supplanted the XT1. By that stage, I was on my third Lumix LX7. In 2022, our friend Bill Keay gave Kris and me a brand new Lumix LX3. Still in the box, this camera had been his father’s and he wanted us to have it.

Although I’ve been using an LX7 for almost 10 years, on reflection I’ve often felt that I had made better photos with the old LX3, despite the more modern camera (LX7) with its faster lens, longer zoom range, and better operating software.

The other day I finally unboxed the 2008-vintage LX3, charged its battery and set it up to shoot JPG and RAW at its highest resolution.

Kris and I drove over to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylania, where I made a series of comparison views. The files below are all RAW and unaltered in post processing except for scaling. Each is identified by the camera used.

LX3 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Revisiting Norfolk Southern’s Buffalo Line

The former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Central route north of Harrisburg toward Northumberland, Pa., (and beyond) is operated by Norfolk Southern as its Buffalo Line.

In the late-1990s, toward the end of the Conrail-era, photographer Mike Gardner and I began exploring this route, and continued our photography along the line ifor several years after Norfolk Southern assumed operations. However, it had been more than twenty years since I had taken a serious look of the railroad north of the Harrisburg area.

A few days ago, we had a rare sunny day, so Kris and I made an adventure of following the east bank of the Susquehanna River compass north toward Sunbury.

We stopped at few locations. At Sunbury, I was curious get re-acquaited with the railroad and its connections. On the north side of town, we visited the Shikellamy State Park, where Mike and I had caught NS freight 41T back in November 2001. At that time NS was still operating the line as a through freight route all the way to Buffalo, NY.

Here’s another contemporary view of the Susquehanna River bridges at the Shikellamy State Park located on an island between Sunbury and Northumberland, Pa.

As I was photographing the bridges from the park, I heard a whistle to the west . . .

Stay tuned for more!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

On the Pier at Searsport

Among my black & white negatives from years gone by, is a sheet of 16 frames of 120 Kodak Tri-X that I exposed using my father’s old Rolleiflex Model-T in August of 1986.

I’d spent a week in Maine visiting with my friend Robert A. Buck, proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts.

Among his other guests was photographer Brandon Delaney. During our visit, Brandon and I spent several days exploring Maine railways, including Bangor & Aroostook, Belfast & Moosehead Lake, Canadian Pacific and Maine Central.

On a visit to Searsport, I made this photo of the freight that ran four or five days a week from Northern Maine Junction (near Bangor) to Searsport. The locomotives were working trackage that served the Searsport Pier.

Film was precious. I only brought a few rolls of 35mm Kodachrome and several 120 rolls of black & white.

This scene was back-lit, but I felt it was sufficiently worthy to invest one frame. I scanned it the other day and made a few improvements to contrast, eliminated some spots and scaled the output for presentation here.

A lot has changed since August 1986. I wonder when the last train used the Searsport Pier?

Gray Day at Creek Hill Road

The weather was mild and the light was dull when I crossed Willow Road and spotted the headlight of Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch freight.

I zipped down the line to Creek Hill Road in Leola, Pa., where I opted for a slightly different angle than the one I posted from this location on Tracking the Light a few days ago.

In these views, I composed photos to include the road.

Also, where in my previous encounters with the New Holland Branch local, locomotives were working back to back on the train. On this day, sequentially numbered GP38-2s were ‘topped and tailed’ (to use a British descriptive phrase). In other words, there were locomotives positioned at both ends of the train.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Seasonal Changes at Carpenters Cemetery

Over the last few months, I’ve exposed photographs of Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road from a similar angle at Carpenters Cemetery near Blackhorse Road.

I find it fascinating to see how the light and environment changes with the seasons.

Subtle changes in the growth in the surrounding fields, the relative height of the sun in the sky, combined with changes in color temperature owing to humidity, clouds, and dust in the atmosphere are evident is this sequence of photos.

Early autumn 2023.
Late Autumn 2023.
Mid-January, 2024

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

The Legacy of Buffalo & Pittsburgh 207

Here’s another example of tying the threads together.

A few days ago, Wayne Duffett sent me a photo of a bridge on the Buffalo & Pittsburgh that he’d inspected some years back. In his story about the bridge (that was involved in a fire) he made mention of B&P GP9 number 207 that later was sold to the Finger Lakes Railroad, becoming its 1751.

About a dozen years ago, Conway Scenic traded a pair of second-hand GE diesels to the Finger Lakes for 1751 and has been making good use of the locomotive ever since.

While I’d become very familar with 1751 on Conway Scenic, photographing it working a great variety of trains and featuring it in magazine and billboard advertising, I wondered if I’d ever seen it before.

The other night, I was sorting through a collection of my slides that I’d separated from the main collection about 30 years ago. This was labled as “Misc Roster” and consisted of several hundred locomotive photographs organized by railroad.

Among these photos was a pair of Kodachrome 25 slides exposed on May 18, 1989 of Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP9 number 207 at Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard in Rochester, NY.

At the time the B&P was a relatively recent addition to the Genesee & Wyoming family, and 207 was among the few locomotives that was in B&P’s version of the G&W corporate colors. I think it was the first such B&P locomotive I’d photographed in G&W orange yellow & black paint. B&P 207 was a bit unusual in that it had come from the Chessie System, while most of B&P’s GP9s were former Norfolk & Western units.

I’d completely forgotten that I’d made this image, although once I saw it, I recall walking the tracks at Brooks Avenue one early evening to photograph the engine.

I wonder if somewhere I have a photo of this locomotive in Chessie System paint? If so, that will be a discovery for another day.

Near Hart’s Location, NH.

M&H Bridge Inspection Report

Wayne Duffett of TEC Associates included my 2007 photo of Middletown & Hummelstown 2-6-0 number 91 crossing Swatara Creek on the cover of the railroad’s 2023 Bridge Inspection Report. Wayne dedicated the report to the memory of railroad’s Wendell Dillinger who passed away in late 2023.

I made the photo on a visit to the M&H with railroad historian Kurt Bell. At the time I was researching for my book Railroads of Pennsylvania, published in 2008 by Voyageur Press.

I exposed the original image on Fujichrome slide film using my Canon EOS-3 with a 28mm lens. It was windless on the morning of September 27, 2007, allowing for a mirror-like surface of the Swatara.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Cities Sprinter in the Snow

Last month, during the brief spell of frost and snow, Kris and I rolled by Amtrak Keystone 615 at Bird-in-Hand.

It was so bright, it was hard to keep my eyes open.

The train was running lefthand (on the close track rather than far track) with a 600-series Siemens ‘Cities Sprinter’ high-horsepower electric at each end.

Solving a Plus-X Mystery

Among my thousands of black & white negatives is a three-ring binder that is largely filled with film exposed for class projects and related photographic studies when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The other night I located a processed, sleeved and completely unlabled roll of Kodak Plus-X. Most of the film was of Conrail trains on the former Erie Railroad in the vicinity of Hornell, NY.

In the late 1980s, I regularly frequented New York’s Southern Tier to make photos. Over the course of about five years I made dozens of trips.

I have detailed photo notes from many of these trips, so while scanning the negatives with my Epson V600 scanner, I started to solve the mystery.

I recalled the day in question, but couldn’t remember exactly when it was. The sky was gray and the landscape bare, so I surmised it was early 1989. The challenge was figuring out which day, since between November 1988 and early May 1989, I made more than a dozen trips through this area.

Key to the mystery were the trains. I typically logged passing trains by leading locomotive and train symbol, while keeping track of film type, exposure notes, the time, along with other relevant details.

Conrail SD50 6746 was a clue. This was leading a westward freight. Another clue were the semaphores at milepost 337, located just west of the village of Arkport, NY. Conrail 3171 led an eastward freight and these details helped me locate the correct log sheet.

My notes from January 14, 1989 put most of the remaining pieces together and I labled both the original negative sheet with date and locations, while scanning and labeling the negatives.

Although it wasn’t noted, I recall that the black & white photos on that day were made with my father’s Leica double-stroke M3 rangefinder. I used my own Leica M2 to expose color slides.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Sunny Morning at Creek Hill Road

A ten minute drive will take me to the Creek Hill Road crossing of Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch.

I’d been eyeing this location for a few months. Finally on a bright morning, I timed it right to catch the New Holland local freight with a pair of SD40E (former SD50) diesels in classic three-quarter sunlight.

I exposed a couple of Provia 100F color slides, which I am waiting to be returned from the lab. Then I used my Nikon Z7-II to make a series of images of the passing train.

These are part of my ongoing Conrail SD50 retrospective. These locomotives were built between 1983 and 1986, the first of which were delivered during my senior year at Monson Jr-Sr High School. I think it’s really neat that these familiar aged beasts regularly pass near my new home.

Nothing lasts forever, and I wonder how much longer I’ll have the opportunity to catch the old Conrail locomotives on the move!

Winter Afternoon Excursion at Blackhorse Road.

There hasn’t been a lot of snow this winter in Strasburg, Pa.

So, when about six inches fell a couple of weeks ago, Kris and I decided to make the most of it.

These photos were made braving the cold at Blackhorse Road to capture Strasburg Rail Road’s 4pm excursion to Leaman Place.

There’s such a contrast in the seasons, it’s hard to fathom that this is same crossing where we made many photos during the summer months.

I converted one of the images to monochrome for dramatic effect. All were exposed digitally using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

The SD50—my first glimpse

In January 1984, I’d driven my parent’s 1978 gray Ford Grenada to Palmer, Massachusetts.

A set of Conrail light engines blitzed past me, and I chased after them.

In consist was a couple of brand-new EMD SD50s and a few new GE B36-7s.

This was pretty exciting stuff! I was 17 at the time.

I chased east on Routes 20 and 67. At Kings Bridge Road east of Palmer I turned toward Conrail’s Boston & Albany line, but the Conrail engines were too close for me to get a lineside photo. So, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, raised my 1930s-era Leica IIIA and shot through the windshield of the Ford.

My camera was loaded with Kodak Tri-X— film that I later processed in Kodak Microdol-X developer.

Conrail GP40 number 3214 leads a set of eastbound light engines at Kings Bridge Road. This is near the location that later became Conrail’s CP79, about three miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts yard. Kodak Tri-X with Leica IIIA.
I was very excited to catch a glimpse of Conrail 6703, a brand new EMD SD50!
I was very impressed by the length of the SD50s compared with Conrail’s older EMD diesels, including SD40 6268 seen trailing SD50 6718.
At the rear of the set of light engines were these three B36-7s.

Tracking the Light Looks Back 40 years!

Brooks Avenue—Spot my Scamp!

During 1987 and 1988, I spent a fair amount of time around Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard.

This was a former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh yard and located near the Rochester, NY airport, on the southwest side of the city.

On January 27, 1988, I made this black & white photo on 120 size film Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model-T with a 645-size insert. My goal was to overexpose the film and then underprocess it to maximize tonality.

I processed it using a diluted mix of Kodak D-76. It was a good effort, but I was still learning to master this technique.

The primary subject was R&S’s recently acquired SW1200 number 107, a former Southern Pacific switcher that still featured SP’s distinctive full lighting package (including both white and red oscillating lights, visable above the cab).

Upon scanning the original negative the other day, I was delighted to see that my old Plymouth Scamp is also featured. I’d parked the car in the yard, and it is visable in the distance to the left of the switcher. That Scamp was my first car. I drove it for tens of thousands of miles in the mid-1980s making photos across New York and New England.

Tracking the Light Posts new material every day!

Ongoing site technical problems

Over the last few days the WordPress platform has developed glitches.

WordPress is the host platform for Tracking the Light and handles the email subscriptions among a great variety of other functions related to the presentation of Tracking the Light.

Portions of the email subscription list no longer appear to be receiving the daily updates.

I have no ability to correct this problem. The technical problems are both beyond my reach and my understanding.

If you have stopped receiving the daily emails, try checking and bookmarking the Tracking the Light homepage at:

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

I’m sorry for these ongoing technical problems.

Brian Solomon

Most Trams

On 27 January 2009, I visited the industrial city of Most, Czech Republic with photographers Tim Doherty and Denis McCabe.

We briefly photographed the city’s trams where I made these images on Fujichrome using my Canon EOS-3.

Most was a stark contrast from Prague. Where the Bohemian capital is famous for its beautiful and intricate classic architecture, cobble-stone streets and culture, Most was mostly concrete and heavy industry.

Both places making for interesting settings to photograph railway vehicles!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Test Pattern

Every so often Tracking the Light suffers from a technical problem.

Over the last few days a number of regular subscribers have let me know that they stopped receiving the daily email notifications. However, many of TTL’s subscribers have continued to receive them. I don’t know why this has happened, nor do I know how to best address the problem.

Over the last few hours, I’ve implemented a variety of changes to WordPress, which is the Tracking the Light platform. These changes have included installing a host of updates and installing a new Theme. The ‘Theme’ affects the visual presentation, and as a result of this change Tracking the Light should look different. In conjunction with the new theme, I deleted many of the older themes, which was among the actions recommended to improve security and performance.

I am hoping that the changes and updates will address the problems, however I’m am not a computer wizard and I’m not fluent on the details of how to correct all problems facing my WordPress platform.

I’ve included a photo for your enjoyment. Thank you for your patience!

Brian Solomon

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day! (or at least aims to)

475 crosses an Arctic Landscape.

Paradise Lane was being whipped by a razor’s wind. Although the ambient temperature was 20F, with the windchill it felt much colder.

Strasburg Rail Road 4-8-0 No. 475 was working its way back toward the East Strasburg Station,

Braving the wind and cold, I made these photos with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom

The fine blowing snow and locomotive exhaust made for more dramatic images.