On 4 July 2000, I exposed this colour slide of semaphores at Blackpool North railway station.
Tracking the Light is on autopilot while Brian is traveling.
In May 1996, I exposed this color slide of Nederlandse Spoorwegen ‘Hondekop’ (dog face) electric multiple units at Eindhoven.
The Netherlands is among the countries I profile in my new book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.
Tracking the Light is on ‘autopilot’ while Brian is traveling.
On the morning of November 14, 2018, I made these views of Pan Am Railway’s EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland, Maine manifest freight) crossing the Connecticut River as it left it’s western terminus on the old Boston & Maine Railroad Fitchburg route.
This side-lit scene benefitted from diffused directional light and a textured sky.
I exposed the photos using my FujiFilm XT1 and processed the RAW files to reveal maximum shadow and highlight detail while emphasizing the rich morning light.
Sometimes the classic view is too good to pass up.
The other day clear sunny skies led Mike Gardner and me to West Warren, Massachusetts to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited passing the old mills along the Quaboag River.
This is a scene I’ve often photographed.
Here I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens with the camera set for a Velvia color profile.
On 19 May 2003, the sun was shining at Limerick Junction.
I made this view of Irish Rail 230 in Enterprise paint working an up-road bulk-bogie cement from Cork.
Using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 45mm lens, I exposed this view on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) . Key to my composition was the semaphore to the left of the train.
In recent weeks, Limerick Junction has been undergoing another major reconfiguration to install a platform on the south side of the Cork-Dublin line.
On the evening of October 23, 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.
Today Genesee & Wyoming is a name associated with more than 110 short line and freight operators in North America, Europe and Australia.
In 1987, the original Genesee & Wyoming Railroad was a New York State short line that had only recently begun to extend its arms.
This day last week (13 October 2018), I traveled on and photographed Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn diesel tour called The Southwestern.
Damp dark weather may make it difficult to expose over the shoulder lit three quarter views, and it may ruin Lumixes (See: Final Frame? Lumix LX7 Coils Up), but it’s ideal for making black & white photos on film.
Working with my battle-worn Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm pancake lens, I exposed this view of the train at Cork’s Kent Station using Kodak Tri-X.
On Monday, I processed the film using Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water. Following a presoak with exceptionally dilute HC110 to initiate development, I gave the film 7 minutes and 30 seconds in the ID11 at 68F (20C) with intermittent agitation.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and made nominal contrast adjustments using Lightroom.
More monochrome images to follow!
Irish Rail’s line from Dublin to Rosslare hugs the River Slaney north of Wexford town.
On our exploration of disused lines in county Wexford, Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin and I made a short detour to photography the ‘Up-Rosslare’ at Killurin as it ran along the west bank of the Slaney.
This is a pretty part of the line, and a place I hadn’t explored in almost a decade.
The last time I’d made a photo here, it was a 141-class diesel hauling the then ‘new’ weedsprayer. That wasn’t yesterday!
These images were made with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom, files adjusted for contrast and exposure in Lightroom.
Tracking the Light posts every day!
Trains Magazine has recently posted my sixth podcast, an interview with Mass Central’s Bob Bentley.
Listen to this podcast and others in the series by clicking on the link below.
I made this photo of Bob with Mass-Central NW5 2100 on a fine October morning about ten years ago at the railroad’s Palmer, Massachusetts yard.
This will be among the photographs I’ll present this coming Monday (8 October 2018) to the Irish Railway Record Society in Cork.
My talk, titled General Motors Diesel-Electric Locomotives in North America, will be held at 8pm on the 8thof October 2018 at the Bru Columbanus Meeting Rooms in Wilton, Cork City.
I’ve been exploring and photographing Irish railways since 1998. To mark my twenty years photography, I’ve been displaying images of each of Irish Rail’s 201-class General Motors diesels in numerical order.
On Monday, 8 October 2018 at 8pm (20.00), I’ll be giving a slide presentation to the Irish Railway Record Society in Cork on General Motors Diesel-Electric Locomotives in North America.
The talk will be held at the Bru Columbanus Meeting Rooms in Wilton, Cork City.
I will show a wide variety of colour slides detailing General Motors Electro-Motive Division diesels at work.
This will cover numerous models on many different railroads, and feature some of my most dramatic locomotive photography.
Although only partially related to my photographic work, I thought that Tracking the Light readers might be interested to learn that I’m conducting a series of audio podcasts with Trains Magazine.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be interviewing and discussing railroads with a variety of knowledgeable and interesting people, including active and retired railroaders, tourist railroad operators, railroad activists, and a few well known railroad enthusiasts and railroad publishing professionals.
Among my first conversations was with John Gruber about his latest book: Beebe & Clegg—Their Enduring Legacy.
To listen click here: https://soundcloud.com/user-312824194/conversations-with-brian-solomon-episode-4
My hope is to allow my guests expertise and perspectives to entertain and inform my listeners and enable all of us a great appreciation and understand of railroad topics ranging from freight cars and locomotives, signals, stations and short lines to how to avoid snakes while making photos.
A new Podcast will be released every two weeks. My aim is to keep these to between 16 and 20 minutes.
Earlier this week it was organized for me to travel on the footplate of Great Northern Railway of Ireland 85.
The thrill of experiencing a steam locomotive cab on the main line is a rare privilege.
My job was to make photographs and stay out of the way.
Locomotive 85 is a three cylinder compound 4-4-0, a 1932 product of Beyer Peacock.
The compound arrangement is what intrigued me, but like the low droning throb sounding from the 20 cylinder diesel powering an EMD SD45, this element of the steam equipment is beyond my ability to picture.
Instead, I had to settle for making images of the crew at work and the locomotive in motion.
The footplate offers a rough ride, while swirling coal dust and locomotive exhaust complicate photography and the handling of sensitive equipment. The lighting is at best difficult. Staying out of the way often means that I wasn’t always able to get the angle I really wanted and needed to make due with where I was able to stand.
Special thanks to everyone at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) and at Irish Rail for making my locomotive journeys possible.
For details about the RPSI and scheduled steam and diesel trips see:
1998 and 2018
As it happens, Irish Rail 223 was one of the first Irish locomotives I put on film.
Additional views of 223 were exposed digitally in recent weeks.
Comparatively little rolling stock in service back in 1998 remain active on Irish Rail today.
Who could have guessed that I’d be making photos of Irish Rail 223 more than 20 years after I caught it at Tralee on that cloudy Febraury morning!
On Sunday’s an Irish Rail class 071 works Belmond’s luxury cruise train, the 10-car Grand Hibernian, on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Although slightly back lit, I found the famed ‘Gullet’ offers a good place to catch this train at work.
This cutting dates from the 1840s and features three tracks.
In this instance, Irish Rail 082 was accelerating down the middle road with the posh-looking train. (‘Down’ refers to traveling away from Dublin, and doesn’t reflect the gradient, which in this situation is actually rising).
Working with both my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto and Lumix LX7, I made two sets of digital photos.
The locomotive sound was impressive as on this particular Sunday a couple weeks back the roads in the area were shut for a foot race and there was very little ambient noise compared with a typical day in Dublin. Perhaps, I should have made a recording!
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In the mid-1930s, Milwaukee Road introduced its high-speed streamlined Hiawatha on its Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities route where elegant purpose-built shrouded 4-4-2 and 4-6-4 Alco steam locomotives whisked trains along in excess of 110mph.
Today, Amtrak’s Hiawathas have Siemens Chargers on the Milwaukee end, and former F40PH Control-Cab/baggage cars, known as ‘Cabbages’ on the Chicago-end.
While Amtrak provides an excellent corridor service, today top speed is just 79mph.
I can’t help but think that as a nation we’ve lost the plot on this one.
We went from elegant, fast steam streamliners to this?
I’m on my way from Dublin toward Belfast on the cross-border Enterprise.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I made these photos and I’m posting them via the Enterprise Wi Fi using my Apple MacBook.
The light weight Lumix LX7 with its easy to use controls and flexible zoom lens makes it an ideal travelogue device. Yet, it’s more than just a snapshot camera.
It makes simultaneous RAW and Jpg files while allowing adjustment of exposure via shutter speed and aperture controls. Plus it has a variety of pre-sets and automatic modes.
Here’s four views of Irish Rail 221; two film, two digital; two orange, two green & silver; two with passenger, two with freight; one in snow, three without; but all showing this machine on the move.
This is part of my on-going series depicting Ireland’s class 201 diesel electrics to mark my 20 years photographing in Ireland. Photographic details in the captions.
Question: do head-on telephoto views portray the shape of the 201-class effectively?
On July 1, 2010, I exposed this sunrise glint view of an eastward Norfolk Southern freight led by an Evolution-Series General Electric diesel-electric at the Railfan’s Overlook in Cassandra, Pennsylvania.
I adjusted the file using Lightroom to balance the contrast between highlights and shadows and make for a more pleasing image.
Notice the effect of the backlit leaves and grass.
Tracking the Light is on autopilot.
Using my Canon EOS7D, I exposed this sequence of photographs along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Mainline east of Greensburg, Pennsylvania on June 29, 2010.
Railroading is about change; and much in these views has changed in the intervening 8 years.
I was traveling with John Gruber on this day eight years ago, when we stopped at the famous Rochelle, Illinois diamonds to photograph this Union Pacific eastward freight.
I opted for a classic view with short telephoto perspective, over the shoulder light, and locomotives framed under the signal bridge.
Here’s the follow up to my June 25thposting Palmer’s Busy Bright Morning [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5Az].
A lone loaded auto-rack was spotted in CSX’s Palmer Yard.
CSX’s local freight B740 had arrived from West Springfield Yard.
B740’s crew discussed arrangements with the dispatcher to reverse out of the yard (westward) with the auto-rack on the interchange track and then pull forward onto the controlled siding at CP83.
The reason for this was to avoid using the normal freight connection from the controlled siding into the yard because of the length of the auto rack was at risk of derailing over the tight switches.
The crossover at CP83 from the interchange track to the controlled siding was installed in 1995 to facilitate Amtrak’s Vermonter, which was then operating via Palmer and changed directions here to go between CSX and New England Central’s route on its Springfield, Massachusetts-St Albans, Vermont portion of the run.
The passenger crossover at CP83 has been rarely used, since Amtrak’s Vermont returned to the more direct routing in December 2014 (running north of Springfield on the Boston & Maine Connecticut River line via Greenfield to East Northfield).
It was a fortuitous situation to catch this rare move in nice morning sun.
B740 then continued east to East Brookfield, where CSX autoracks are unloaded on the East Brookfield & Spencer.
On November 15, 1987, I followed a loaded PLMT coal train east from Buffalo, New York. This train had operated with Pittsburgh & Lake Erie locomotives and was being handled by Guilford’s Delaware & Hudson via trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.
Try to fit all that on the slide mount!
At the time these coal trains operated about once a week, and while it wasn’t uncommon to find P&LE locomotives, catching the trains on film was challenging.
I made this view on Kodachrome 25 with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron Lens. It’s a badly under exposed long pan (about 1/8 of a second) from a hillside off the Canisteo River Road, in the valley of that name, a few miles east of Adrian.
The original slide was made at the very end of daylight, and the slow speed ISO25 film didn’t give me the needed sensitivity to capture the scene with adequate exposure.
That’s a long way of saying; it was dark and I underexposed the film.
Thankfully, I didn’t through the slide away.
I scanned it using VueScan 9×64 (edition 9.6.09) software and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 slide scanner. It opted for manual controls; I selected 4000 dpi input, under ‘color’ I used the Kodachrome K14 color profile, and while output was set at 4000 dpi as a TIF file.
I then imported the TIF into Lightroom for color, exposure and contrast adjustment, necessary to compensate for my extreme underexposure. To hold sky detail, I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter.
Although slightly grainy, the results are much improved over the original and captures my intended effect of the train rolling at speed through the Canisteo Valley at dusk.
There’s little left to remind you of the historic building that once served passengers at Berlin, Connecticut.
In December 2016, during construction of the modern building, the historic New Haven Railroad station was suspiciously destroyed in a fire.
Last weekend was my first visit to the new station. This features some impressive looking architecture, elevators and a high glass enclosed footbridge.
However, it seems to be notably lacking a proper waiting room where passengers can get out of the elements, and features only a ‘portapot’ in place of proper toilets.
In place of our friendly ticket agent, there’s a modern CT rail ticket machine to dispense tickets. You can buy your Amtrak ticket on-line, over the phone, or using an App on your smart-phone.
Also on the ‘plus side’ the station is well suited to photography and will make for a nice place to board and photograph trains. Also, with the expanded Amtrak service and new CT rail Hartford Line trains, there’s more service than there has been in many years.
Today, Irish Rail 216 wears a one of a kind navy-blue livery and is seasonally assigned to Belmond’s luxury Grand Hiberniancruise train.
This has become one of the most popular trains to photograph in Ireland and I’ve caught it here and there over the last few years.
For my 201 retrospective, I thought I’d present a few photos of 216 before it was blue.
Stay tuned for more soon!
I experienced the new CT rail Hartford Line commuter train for the first time on Saturday.
I had this distinct sense of Déjà vu.
Then I reviewed the cover of my new book: Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.
Wow! It’s like a German train at Berlin. Berlin, Connecticut, that is.
I’m commenting on the paint liveries, not the equipment or the services.
Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I exposed more than 100 photos of the new Connecticut commuter rail service on the Hartford Line.
There’s nothing like the first day.
Train rides were FREE.
Yesterday, June 16, 2018 the long awaited CT Rail Hartford Line Commuter service commenced.
My father and I traveled on the first train from Berlin, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts. It was a bright clear morning.
Contrast was a challenge, and for some of these photos I imported the camera RAW image into Light Room for exposure, color balance and exposure adjustment.
Today, June 16, 2018, the long awaited CTRail service began public operation on the Springfield-Hartford-New Haven Line.
Free rides were on offer on both the new CTRail trains and some Amtrak services.
CTRail staff at Berlin supplied complimentary tickets!
My father and I traveled on the first northward train (CTRail 6400) between the new station at Berlin, Connecticut and Springfield. The train was very well attended!
More free train rides are available on the route tomorrow (Sunday June 17, 2018).
I made many photographs over the course of the day and I’ve yet to look at all of them. Stay tuned for more tomorrow!
Tracking the Light posts EVERY Day! (Sometimes twice!)
For the last month, New England Central’s 608 (Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts and back) has continued to run with a pair of GP38s.
(I missed the day when 608 ran with three!)
What’s so special about this?
These locomotives began with New England Central when it commenced operations in February 1995, and have continued to work the railroad in the same paint (if not the same numbers) ever since.
Originally there were a dozen, but the ranks have thinned.
New England Central has changed owners twice since 1995; it was originally a RailTex property, then RailAmerica, today Genesee & Wyoming.
NECR has acquired or borrowed many other diesels over the years.
Yet for me the few surviving blue and yellow GP38s offer a sense of continuity, and also represent a throw-back to when EMD’s 645 diesels were dominant on American railroads.
How much longer will New England Central continue this vintage railroading?
Will these GP38s see G&W corporate colors? Will they be reassigned elsewhere on the expansive G&W railroad family? Will newer locomotives assume their duties?
Never take anything on the railroad for granted; eventually everything changes.
Change makes old photos more interesting.
Last week I made these views of New England Central’s northward 611 freight as it crossed the Connecticut River bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts.
The longer days feature the evening sun in a northerly position that allows for sunlight on the nose of the locomotive as it crosses the bridge.
Although I’ve often worked the south side of this span, this was the first time I’ve made successful photos of a train from the north side.
I was watching the light and the effect of reflections in the river as I composed my photos.
For these digital images I was working with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily.
Irish Rail 215. Is this my least favorite of the 201 class locomotives?
It’s probably my most photographed.
My first recognition of the 215-effect was on a trip to Galway many years ago. Friends were visiting from America and we were traveling on the Mark3 International set.
Soon after departing Dublin Heuston, it was evident that the train was in trouble. We weren’t making track speed. When we got to Hazelhatch, our train took the loop. Old 215 had failed. We waited there for about 40 minutes until 203 was summoned for a rescue.
Some months later, I returned from Boston to Dublin, and on the front page of the papers was 215 at Heuston Station—on its side! It had derailed.
And which loco worked the very first publically scheduled Mark IV set from Dublin to Cork?
Out for the down train, take a guess which loco I’m most likely to catch!
Uh! There it is again. Damn thing is a like a shadow.
Good ol’ 215.
It was a lucky shot. I was changing trains at the Köln Hauptbahnhof in 1999, when I made this photo from the platforms at the east side of the station.
A DB Class 120 electric had been specially painted by or for Märklin model trains to commemorate the 70thanniversary of Disney’s Mickey Mouse.
One of the great things about exploring German railways is a tremendous variety of trains complete with unexpected surprises in the form of specially painted locomotives, antiques on the roll, and special trains.
We were trying to overtake the New England Central ballast train extra
I rolled down the passenger-side window of my friend’s Golf, and exposed a series of photos with my Lumix.
I’ve described this technique previously; I adjusted the f-stop (aperture control) manually to its smallest opening (f8), my ISO was at its slowest setting (80), and I put the camera to aperture priority.
I intended this combination of settings to automatically select the appropriate shutter speed for ideal exposure, while using the slowest setting to allow for the effect of motion blur.
I kept the camera aimed at the locomotive while allowing for ample foreground to blur by for the effect of speed.
This works especially well to show the large diesel working long-hood forward, which is not its usual position.
We’d heard there was an extra move.
We didn’t know what it was.
I got a bit confused as to where the extra was in relation to the regular northward New England Central 611 (that runs weekdays from Brattleboro to Palmer and back).
After being out of position, and some quick driving to recover, we managed to get the extra on the move at Vernon, Vermont.
This consisted of the lone New England Central former Southern Pacific ‘tunnel motor’ (SD40T-2 number 3317) hauling some ballast cars.
Unusual to say the least!
The regular freight followed about an hour later.
Both photos were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens.