Reading Company was among the most prolific users of the Hall Disc signal, one of the earliest forms of an electrically actuated signal.
Curiously, Reading continued to install new Hall Discs years after perfection of the electric three-position semaphore.
A few of Reading’s Halls survived into the diesel era.
Reading & Northern, which operates significant sections of the old Reading Company, installed this recreated Hall Disc near its Port Clinton, Pennsylvania offices in homage to Reading’s classic signaling.
In December 2014, I made this sequence of photos using Pat Yough’s FujiFilm XT1, on a trip to photograph R&N’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was running Christmas trips to Schuylkill Haven and Minersville.
Now that I’ve endeavored to recreate the Reading Company in HO Scale, I’ve stumbled upon a quandary: How to make operating scale models of the antique Hall Disc signal?
Monday, March 22, 2021 was a clear bright day in North Conway, NH.
Not a steel wheel was turning, but Conway Scenic Railroad had a variety of equipment positioned around the yard, so in the afternoon I ventured out of my office in the North Tower of the railroad station to make a few photos.
All of these images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens. These were scaled from the camera JPG files profiled using the in-camera Velvia color palate.
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.
In August 1982, Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts brought Doug Moore, John Conn and me on a memorable Boston & Albany West End tour.
We started at Westfield and worked our way across the railroad, making it all the way to Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer station.
It was my first experience photographing Washington Hill—B&A’s big grade over the Berkshires.
We caught several Conrail freights, including one that we chased from Pittsfield east up toward Dalton.
Earlier in the trip, Bob drove us in his green Ford van along the right of way of the third track to Middlefield Station. When we reached milepost 129, we inspected one of the remaining 1830s-era stone arch bridges.
Here I made this view looking eastbound to show the GRS search light signal. Among the quirks of New York Central-era signaling was displaying a staggered ‘green over green’ for ‘clear’ on intermediate automatic block signals in graded territory. ABS Signals on the B&A Westend grades were continuously lit, while those on the East End tended to be approached lit.
You can see Bob at the wheel of his van.
I wasn’t good a picking my exposures and this frame of Kodachrome 64 was a full stop underexposed (too dark). For years this image was in my ‘3rds file’ (junk), but with modern scanning technology and Adobe Lightroom, I was able to make the image presentable again.
On the evening of June 7, 2015, I exposed these two color slides of a northward Amtrak train on CSX’s former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac pausing for a station stop at Ashland, Virginia.
This was on a trip with Pat Yough to photograph Norfolk & Western J-class steam locomotive 611. On this day, we’d made a side trip to Ashland to catch up with photographer/author Doug Riddell.
I was working with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens. At the time film choice was very limited, and so I had the camera loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F. Ten years earlier, I would have had a much greater choice of emulsions to pick from.
Last week, we heard New England Central 608 sounding for State Line from Moulton Hill in Monson, Massachusetts.
That was the call to send Kris Sabbatino and me into action.
We drove post haste through Monson, as the northward freight was approaching the ‘Monson Tunnel’ (Route 32 underpass at Academy Hill), and selected a spot well ahead of the train where the morning sun provided excellent illumination.
I made these two views using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.
After exposure, I imported the NEF (RAW) files into Adobe Lightroom where I re-profiled the color and contrast.
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.
I’ll plan on making a more critical project by working with these types of comparisons at a later date.
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.
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.
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’sdining 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.
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.
In the mid-1990s, Wisconsin Central actively pursued traffic to fill its lines with trains.
In this September 1996 photo a former Algoma Central SD40-2 leads a short stone train at Grand Avenue in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
These trains typicallyl ran with a single six-motor diesel and former Canadian National gypsum cars, often make several trips a day over the line.
I made this image using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm Nikkor lens on Kodachrome Film.
Kodachrome’s grain structure permitted superior definition in extreme exposure situations such as the locomotive headlights. Where E6 films and digital media often suffer from poorly defined headlight areas, Kodachrome had a much better ability to retain detail.
Yesterday (Sunday February 21, 2021) a clear blue dome made for excellent winter photographic conditions.
Kris Sabbatino and I went out to picture Conway Scenic’s afternoon Snow Trains.
We caught the 3pm departure passing Glen, New Hampshire.
After exposing a few Provia 100F color slides of the train crossing the truss bridge over the Ellis River, I made this view with my FujiFilm XT1 as the westward train approached the grade crossing.
I’ve presented two versions. The first is the camera-JPG using the Fuji Veliva color profile. The second is a JPG made from the camera-RAW, which I first converted using Iridient X-Transformer to a DNG file, then working in Adobe Lightroom I made very slight adjustments to the highlights and shadows to maximize the detail in the image while retaining the color profile.
Notice the difference in the amount of highlight detail in the snow, particularly to the left of the train. Also notice the tint of the green paint on the front of locomotive 216.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Snow fell on North Conway starting the evening of February 1, 2021 and kept on falling for a full day. This was a heavy wet snow that settled like concrete. There was over a foot on the ground by the time it was all done, and over 18 inches in some places.
On Wednesday, February 3rd, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its first plow extra of the season.
I made this photograph at the North Conway station as the plow was being readied for its trip west to Attitash.
Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. RAW file convert to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer and adjusted with Adobe Lightroom.
Back in the mid-1980s, I’d often catch Central Vemont’s southward road freight arriving at Palmer, Massachusetts. This would operate overnight from St. Albans, and typically arrive in the morning.
On this occasion, 444 was lead by a colorful mix of locomotives including Grand Trunk Western GP38 5808 and a couple of GTW GP9s, a CV GP9, and a Canadian National M-420.
I must have been so enthralled by the array of motive power that I didn’t mind my exposure. My original slide is about 2/3s of a stop over exposed. Which means the photograph is too light.
Back in the day, I’d instantly reject an image of this quality as ‘unsuitable’ for projection. Although, I labeled the slide, I filed it away with my ‘3rds’, where it was protected from the light for more than 34 years.
I scanned it the other day using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner, making a multiple pass scan to extract the most amount of data possible in a 4000 dpi scan, then imported the TIF file into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.
The actual adjustment required to correct for over exposure required just a few seconds of my time. Using the histogram as a guide, I lowered the exposure, set the black and white limits and exported as a JPG for presentation here.
Below is the unadjusted scan, followed by my exposure adjusted scan.
At first glance this view from November 8, 2005, might appear to be an ordinary container train.
It is not.
During its final season carrying sugar beet, Irish Rail took the tops off some 40ft container and fitted them to bogie (8-wheel) flat wagons to haul beet from Wellingtonbridge Co. Wexford to the sugar factory at Mallow, Co. Cork.
These unusual freight haulers were known as ‘bogie beet wagons’, since Irish Rail’s traditional beet wagons were rigid-base four wheelers.
In this photograph at dusk, a laden sugar beet freight reverses into Limerick Junction, having just come up the line from Waterford that crosses the Dublin-Cork main line at grade (to the right of the signal cabin).
The locomotive will cut off and run around the train in order to proceed to Mallow. This was necessary because there was no direct chord at the Junction to facilitate a direct move. The lights at left had been installed to make it easier to reverse the train at night.
I exposed this photo on a tripod using my Contax G2 Rangefinder with 45mm lens using Fujichrome Sensia slide film. I scanned the slide with an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.
Yesterday, November 25, 2020, we brought a light engine to Conway, NH to help decorate Conway Scenic Railroad for the holiday season.
At Conway, as we were finishing our decorating, I set up to capture the scene with my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm lens, I heard the characteristic honk!-honk!-honk! of migrating geese . . .
I quickly repositioned and readjusted my zoom to incorporated the V-formation of the birds.
After I arrived back in North Conway, I downloaded the files to my MacBook Pro and adjusted this one to post it on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page and for transmission to the Conway Daily Sun for an up-coming article.
Among the hundreds of 35mm slides returned to me from the processing lab the other day was this Kodak Ektachrome E100 slide of Conway Scenic Railroad 573 and 4266 leading the 2020 Railfan’s Day photo freight that I helped organize.
September 5, 2020 was a perfect clear day with rich blue sky and warm late-summer sun.
In addition to a great number of digital photographs, I also exposed color slides for slide shows and to keep for posterity.
With slides I get the best of both worlds; analog archival material and a scannable transparency that is easily digitized for internet presentation.
I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner, set to 4000 dpi and a ‘White Balance’ color profile.
Below I’ve attached the VueScan control window that shows my various manual settings; the RAW uninterpreted scan of the slide, and the adjusted scan after I altered shadow and highlight contrast and other parameters in Adobe Lightroom.
On November 9, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a special Mountaineer for the benefit of its employees and their guests. This used a foreshortened consist and departed earlier than normal, It proceeded west under clear sunny skies where it made a stop at Bartlett, NH to pause for passengers and to collect catered meals.
Upon arrival at Crawford Station, GP35 216 ran around, while we had the opportunity to make photos. After this short stop, the special then proceeded eastbound and made a second stop at the site of the Mount Willard Section House-onetime home to the famous Evans Family.
Here I made a number of unusual photos while the train was tied down on the Willey Brook Bridge.
All photos were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
At one time an extension of the New Haven Railroad’s Old Colony Division reached all the way around Cape Cod to the historic fishing village at Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Last weekend my girlfriend and fellow photographer, Kris Sabbatino brought me to Pamet Beach in Truro, where the railroad had once crossed the Pamet River on a trestle (near the site of the former Truro Station).
We made photos of the vestiges of the right-of-way and did our best to trace the line.
At Conway Scenic Railroad, our Budd RDC ‘Millie’ is a former New Haven car. This was built in 1952, several years before the line to Provincetown was abandoned. Standing on the beach in the fading light of sunset, I wondered if Millie ever crossed the trestle at Pamet?
Back in July (2020), I posted a photo of Guilford Rail System 252 under the title ‘Unexpected Surprise’. See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/07/23/unexpected-surprise/
The significance of the locomotive is that Maine Central 252 (pictured) is now owned by Conway Scenic, where I now work as the Manager of Marketing.
Today’s TTL photograph portrays the same train, Guilford’s EDLA (East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts) a little later on the same May 1997 evening.
After photographing it near Farleys, Mike Gardner and I had continued east on Route 2.
Here on the Wendell-Erving town line, I had aimed to recreate a photo that I’d made with photographer Brandon Delaney a dozen years earlier, when I caught an eastward train from the same spot. In that earlier photo a derelict barn was standing to the left of the road.
In this view all the remained of the barn was the foundation.
I offer two variation of the same photo. The top is a straight scan without post processing adjustment to contrast, color etc. The second features my processing to improve the appearance of the image.