Category Archives: railroads

Class 201 Retrospective: Old reliable, 203.

As part of my 20 years in Ireland/201 numerical retrospective, I’ll offer just a couple views of Irish Rail 203.

My memories of this engine are largely the blast a horn and the rush of air as it passed with Mark 3 carriages in tow on the Dublin-Cork line.

My first summer photographing trains in Ireland was characterised by gray days and dirty 201s. I don’t recall why, but Irish Rail had let its fleet become manky at that stage. Irish Rail 203 blasts through Hazel Hatch mid summer 1998. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3 and 135mm lens.
On 23 Jan 2005, Irish Rail 203 approaches Cherryville Junction with a down train from Dublin. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia with a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.

One instance stands out about the others though: I was showing some American friends around the island; we’d borded the Cu na Mara Mark3 international set at Heuston behind locomotive 215 destined for Galway. We got as far as Hazel Hatch, when 215 coiled up and we were sent into the loop to await a rescue loco from Inchicore.

Guess which engine was sent to bring us to Galway? (This is not a trick question).

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Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 2: Boston & Maine east of Reynolds.

At the end of December 2017, I revisited Mechanicville, New York with an aim of making some contemporary photos at the same angles as images I’d made back in November 1984.

Then and Now comparisons are common enough, but what makes these photos significant is that I’ve exposed both the historic photos as well as the modern images  using the same type of film and equipment (a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar loaded with Kodak 35mm Tri-X).

I describe my technique in the earlier post:

See: Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 1. [].

These pairs of photos show the Hansen Road Bridge east of Reynolds, New York, which is just a couple of miles from XO Tower at Mechanicville. In the 1984 views, my friends and I were following an eastward Boston & Maine train.

Back then the B&M route was much busier than it is today, although the line still carries a good share of freight.

Double track from Mechanicville extended east to an interlocking (which I believe was called ‘Schneiders’) east of Reynolds and near Schaghticoke. The main tracks were grade separated on approach to the interlocking, which made this a distinctive location.

Maine Central 252 leads an eastward Boston & Maine freight at Hansen Road east of Reynolds, New York. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar. November 1984.
Comparison view on  December 29,  2017 also with a Leica IIIA, 50mm Sumitar and exposed on Tri-X. Sorry there’s no MEC GP38 in this view! (You’ll need to visit the Conway Scenic to see that). The other main track was lifted in the early 1990s after a decline in freight traffic on the B&M route.
Trailing view from Hansen Road, November 1984. The open top auto racks really date the photo.
Comparison view from Hansen Road on December 29, 2017. The trees have really grown up in the last three decades.

In the 33 year interval between photos, the Hansen Road bridge was replaced, which slightly alters the angle for photography.

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TRAINS Hot Spots on Sale in Easons

Trains Magazine’s special issue ‘Hot Spots’ with my article on interpreting railroad signals is on sale at Easons on O’Connell Street in Dublin.

I exposed the lead photo at DeKalb, Illinois on a March morning 23 years ago using a Nikkormat FTN loaded with Fujichrome.

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Holywood Sunset?—Febraury 2018.

At Holywood, NI Railways skirts the Lagan estuary on its way from Belfast to Bangor.

Although a mostly overcast afternoon,  hints of colour and the occasional shaft of light appeared in the evening sky.

I’d been trying to put the pieces of a lighting puzzle together where I could feature an NIR train with the dramatic sky, but I didn’t manage to get what I envisioned.

By the time I found the optimal location for a photo with a train, the really dramatic light had faded.

I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7.

Sunset over the Lagan looking toward Belfast. Exposed with m Lumix LX7.
Train on the left; dramatic light on the right. (And no suitable location on the far side of the tracks.)
This location would have made for a perfect angle of a train with the dramatic sky, but by the time I reached this spot the light had faded. You can’t win all the prizes.

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Class 201 Retrospective: Irish Rail Class Leader Locomotive 201

To mark my twenty years photographing Irish Railways, I thought it would be a neat exercise to display images of each of the 201-class General Motors diesels in numerical order. I’ll intersperse these posts with other Tracking the Light features.

Today, I’m beginning with the class leader. This engine famously arrived in Ireland in a Russian-built cargo plane.

That event was before my time in Ireland, but I made hundreds of photos of engine 201 around Ireland before it was withdrawn from traffic and stored at Inchicore.

On 23 May, 2003, Irish Rail 201 leads a Dublin-Galway train at Athenry. Exposed with a Contax G2 with 28mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia.
It was on 6 April 2005, that I framed Irish Rail 201 in the bridge arch at Thurles, County Tipperary. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor lens.
Begin in 2005, Irish Rail began applying a variation of its orange and black livery to the 201s that featured largely yellow ends to make the locomotives more visible. Class 201 works a Rugby special at Cherryville Junction in 2006. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens.

Next in this series, I’ll feature never before published photos of Irish Rail’s very elusive 202.

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Retropan Test—Further Experiments with a New Emulsion.

Tracking the Light focus on creating photos and this post is about the nuts and bolts of working with black & white film, and pursuing means to refine the process.

What better way to spend a damp, windy snowy day, then to expose and process black & white film in new ways?

I’d read about ‘stand processing,’ but I’d never tried it.

Stand processing uses developer at very low-concentration with virtually no agitation for very long process times.

Among the potential advantages of stand processing is greater tonality with exceptional highlight and shadow detail. A secondary benefit is that it requires much less developer. Also, I wondered if I could better control granularity by eliminating the effects of agitation (the answer from this test was: no).

I’d previously experimented with Foma Retropan, a modern film rated at 320 that emulates the effects of traditional emulsions. For those photos I processed the film in Foma’s specially formulated Retro developer. I found the negatives to be grainy, but offering a distinctive tonality with soft highlights.

See: Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film. [] and

Unexpected Results: My Third Experiment with Retropan. []

Below are some examples of Retropan using stand development in Agfa Rodinal (mixed 1:100 with water) for 40 minutes, 10 seconds agitation at beginning of development, and again at the end. Development temp 74 F.

Retropan stand process for 40 minutes in Rodinal mixed 1 to 100 with water. 135mm lens.
Retropan stand process for 40 minutes in Rodinal mixed 1 to 100 with water. 24mm lens.

For comparison, a couple of hours later  I also exposed more Retropan and processed this in Agfa Rodinal Special (as distinct from ordinary Rodinal) but with agitation and short process times; one batch (mixed at 1:32) at 68F for 4 minutes;

Retropan 4 minutes Agfa Rodinal Special with 10 second agitation every 30 seconds, plus 9 minutes selenium toner. 24mm lens.

A second batch (mixed at 1:32) at 70F for 70 minutes. I then toned these negatives for 9 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlight detail.

Retropan 7 minutes (70F) Agfa Rodinal Special with 10 second agitation every 30 seconds, plus 9 minutes selenium toner. 50mm lens

This is a work in progress and I have no formal conclusions, but makes for some interesting images.

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Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

Yesterday I was thrilled to receive my Author’s advance copy of my Railway Guide to Europe.

This represents a culmination of more than 20 years of wandering around exploring Europe by rail, while seeking places to make photographs.

I exposed the cover photo in Germany’s Rhein Valley using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

This is aimed at helping you plan your trips around Europe by offering experience, suggestions and thoughts on where to go, how to get there, how to buy the best tickets, while hinting at what to avoid.

This is illustrated with hundreds of my best European photographs.

It goes beyond the railways and suggests myriad interesting places to visit with detailed sections on London, Paris, Vienna and Rome among other European cities.

This should be available at the end of May.

You may pre-order it from Kalmbach Books:

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Sun on the Bog; Nice Light on Bord na Mona—February 2018.

This is a follow-up to Friday’s post:

February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight. []

The Irish Midlands are famously cloudy.

However, when the evening sun shines it makes for some wonderful photographic opportunities.

In February, Denis McCabe and I waited out the clouds, and caught two pairs of laden Bord na Mona trains in bright sun.

These images were exposed near Rathangan, Co. Kildare.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

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February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight.

Since 2012, Denis McCabe and I have made detailed exploration of Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge railways networks.

See: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1 []

Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013 []

Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset []

These photos are from our most recent foray. We caught this pair of empty trains working their way east from Clonbulloge to a loading area near Rathangan.

Bord na Mona typically operates trains in pairs to ease the loading process.

Moon-like landscape on the bog east of Clonbulloge.

Fair weather clouds were gradually giving way to sunshine.

Images were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens.

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It was Twenty Years Ago Today that I made my First Trip on Irish Rail.

On 27 February 1998, I traveled on Irish Rail from Limerick to Dublin, changing at Limerick Junction and Kildare.

Today also marks the anniversary of my first visit to Dublin.

I made these photos at Limerick Junction on 27 February 1998 while changing trains. Since that day, I’ve made hundreds of railway trips around Ireland and exposed countless thousands of photos.

Posted from Dublin on 27 February 2018.

Irish Rail 128 with a Mark3 push-pull set  had just arrived at Limerick. I traveled on this train; it was my first Irish Rail experience. I was astounded that a ‘switcher’ had hauled the train! (Irish Rail’s 121 class diesels were built by General Motors and based in part on the SW-series switchers, but were geared for mainline speeds.) Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with 135mm lens.
Now this was promising! Rail freight on the move at Limerick Junction. At the time I didn’t know if I was looking toward Dublin or away from it. Turns out that the train on right was the ‘Up Ammonia’ from Cork. (Dublin was at my back) Live and learn! My connecting  train was to arrive from Cork after the Up Ammonia had passed. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with 135mm lens. 

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This Day 12 Years Ago—An old GP9 on the Move.

On this day (February 19, 2006), I exposed this photo of Guilford’s ‘Sappi Job’ at Fairfield, Maine.

In the lead is an old Boston & Maine GP9 that had been built in 1957 using some trade-in components from World War-II era FT diesels.

I was traveling with Don Marson and Brian Jennison and exposed this view on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens.

Last weekend, I was making use of that same lens to photograph Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.

On the morning of February 19, 2006 (12 years ago today) Guilford Rail System GP9 51 leads the ‘Sappi Job’ off the old Maine Central Hinckley Branch at Fairfield, Maine on its way toward Waterville. Note the vintage GRS searchlight to the right of the locomotive.

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Empty Coal Train Hatzenport, Germany.

The Mosel Valley is a wonderfully scenic setting to picture trains on the move.

In September 2015, my friends and I hired a car at the Köln airport and drove to the Mosel for several days of photography.

We selected this vantage point high above the railway line in Hatzenport and photographed a procession of freight and passenger trains.

I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens; ISO 640 f7.1 at 1/250th sec. White balance was set manually to ‘shade’ to warm up the scene. RAW file converted to a Jpg for presentation.

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Changing Trains.

Changing Trains.

As a railway photographer, I’ve often used changing trains as an opportunity to make photos.

Years ago I made photos at New Haven, Connecticut on the way to and from New York City.

Last week I changed from the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise to an NI Railways local train at Portadown, Co. Armagh.

In the ten minutes at Portadown, I made these views with my Lumix LX7. Locomotive 8208 in the siding was an added bonus.

Normally this end of the Enterprise painted 201 diesels are facing the Enterprise train sets.

Tracking the Light Special: Irish Rail 071 in Heritage Paint—Now.

At 1007 (10:07 am) this morning (8 February 2018), Irish Rail’s 071 (class leader of the popular 071 class of General Motors-built diesel locomotives) passed Islandbridge Junction with the down IWT Liner.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1with 90mm Fujinon lens. It’s a bit misty in Dublin. Image scaled from in-camera Jpeg without post processing contrast or exposure adjustment.

This locomotive was repainted in 2016 into the attractive 1970s-era livery.

Although, I’ve made a number of photographs of this locomotive in heritage paint before, it’s always nice to see it on the move. I’m told it had been laid up for the last few months and it’s only back on the road this week.

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March 2018 Trains Magazine Features My Photo of Amtrak 611.

I was pleased to learn the my wintery photo of Amtrak ACS-64 611 was selected for the cover of the March 2018 issue of Trains Magazine.

Using my Canon EOS 7D and a telephoto lens, I exposed this view on a visit to Branford, Connecticut with Patrick Yough just over three years ago.

On January 10, 2015, Amtrak ACS-64 No. 611 leads train 161 westward at Branford, Connecticut.

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Looking Like a Scene from Kubrick’s 2001: A Stereo Space Odyssey.

A lesson in Night-photography.

It was an arctic evening at East Brookfield when we crossed the bridge over the tracks near CP64.

There it was, making an alien roar: the Loram rail-grinder in the old sidings.

Hard snow on the ground and the moon rising.

‘This will just take a couple of minutes’.

We were on our way to a gig at Dunny’s Tavern, but I wanted to make a few photos of this machine. Interestingly, it was my old friend Dennis LeBeau that both invited us to the gig and alerted me to the Loram grinder.

I tried a few photos using my Lumix LX7 in ‘night mode’. But the extremely low light levels didn’t make for great results.

Handheld ‘Night Mode’ has its limitations. This isn’t the sharpest photo and the shadow areas are muddy and lacking detail.
Another view in ‘Nightmode’. Compare this view with the photos below.

So then I balanced my LX7 in the chain-link fence, dialed in 2/3s of a stop over exposure, set the self-timer to 2 seconds, pressed the shutter and stood back.

I did this several times until I made an acceptably sharp photo.

I exposed a RAW file using A-mode with 2/3s of a stop over exposure. By using the self-timer I minimized vibration. In lieu of a tripod, I positioned my Lumix LX7 in the chainlink fence. (Special secret technique!). This is the unmodified RAW file in the Lightroom work window.


I manipulated the RAW files in Lightroom to better balance the information captured during exposure.

Using contrast and exposure controls in Lightroom, and gauging my efforts using the Histogram (top right) I adjusted my photo to look like this.
The improved image from the RAW file.

I know someone will moan about the tree at left. There’s nothing I can do about that, it’s part of the scene. Sorry 2001-fans, no black slab! So far as I can tell, anyway.

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NI Railways—Lisburn Station Details in Color.

Last week, using my Lumix LX7 I exposed these detailed views of the old Great Northern Railways (of Ireland) station at Lisburn, County Down.

I also made a few photos with a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens on Kodak Tri-X. I’ll need to process those and scan them before I can present those here.

Sunset over the station’s chimneys. Lumix LX7 photo.
Schedule alteration notice. Don’t be waiting for that last train!
Evidence of the old order.
Belfast-bound CAF railcar departing Lisburn.

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CSX Stack Train at Mine Dock Park—January 13, 2018.

On this visit to Mine Dock Park along New York’s Hudson River, I focused on a southward CSX doublestack container train. In the wide-angle view I made use of ice floes in the river as a compositional aid.

Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm lens.

Compare these frosty views with the autumnal images made from atop the nearby rock cutting in my earlier post: CSX on the Hudson at Mine Dock Park—November 18, 2016.

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Jim Shaughnessy with his latest book: Essential Witness.

Last month I visited with Jim Shaughnessy, who shared with me his latest book Essential Witness that features some of his finest vintage black & white photographs.

I’ve enjoyed this wonderful book, not only for the exceptionally well composed images of railroading, and its beautiful black & white reproduction but because Jim has photographed in many of the same places that I often make my own images.

This gives me a greater perspective and appreciation for both railroading and railroad photography.

I made these portraits of Jim using my Nikon F3 with 50mm lens. Keeping with tradition, I exposed Kodak Tri-X processed in Ilford Perceptol stock.

Jim is selling signed copies of his book. You may contact Jim via email at:

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Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 1.

Back in the mid-1980s, my friends and I made trips to Mechanicville, New York where the adjacent Boston & Maine and Delaware & Hudson yards lent to lots of action and a great variety of diesel locomotives.

The yard was an early casualty of Guilford’s short lived consolidation of B&M and D&H operations. By 1986 the yard was a ghost town.

In more recent times a small portion of the yards were redeveloped for intermodal and auto-rack facilities, but very little of the sprawling trackage remains

In December, I returned to Mechanicville with a Leica IIIA and Sumitar loaded with Kodak Tri-X in an effort to recreate the angles of photos I exposed in November 1984 using the same camera/film combination.

To aid this exercise, I scanned my old negatives and uploaded these to my iPhone. The viewfinder of the Leica IIIA presents difficulties as this is just a tiny window and not well suited to precision composition. (Topic for another day).

Also complicating my comparisons was the fresh layer of snow in the 2017 views.

In some places the only points of reference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ views are the electrical lines crossing the yard.

Horizontal view from November 24, 1984. An eastward B&M freight is about to cross the diamond with Maine Central 252 in the lead.
Nearly the same angle in December 29, 2017.
November 24, 1984.
December 29, 2017 at the same location.
Delaware & Hudson C-420 406 crossed Viall Avenue in Mechanicville, New York on November 24, 1984.
Looking east at Viall Avenue on December 29, 2017. Note the change of grade crossing signals.

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West Chester Raiway C-424 Upclose

I made this study of  West Chester Railway C-424 using my Panasonic Lumix LX7. Soft afternoon sun allowed for superb tonality and color.

This is a former Canadian Pacific locomotive. I wonder if I’d crossed paths with it  in years gone by on forays to Vermont, Quebec or Ontario?

It’s entirely possible.

Lumix LX7 photograph.

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Difference of Seasons: July versus January—Two Views.

Here are two views of the same train: led by the same locomotive, at the same location, more or less at the same time of day, exposed using the same camera with the same lens.

Both photos show New Engand Central job 608 led by GP38 3845 working northward in the morning along Plains Road in Willington, Connecticut (south of Stafford Springs).

Photos were exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. The slight difference in angle may be attributed to the inconvenience of a mushy snow bank along the road in winter view that was not a problem in the summer.

New England Central 3845 north on July 28, 2017.
New England Central 3845 north on January 9, 2018.

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Four Angles on the Same Freight—L427.

Mike Gardner and I stopped in at Hinsdale, Massachusetts and found CSX L427 (Portland, Maine via Pan Am to Selkirk< New York) stopped on the old Boston & Albany mainline waiting for a crew change.

This had a cool all-EMD locomotive consist; SD60M, SD40-2, SD60M. On a line that tends to be dominated by GE diesels, this symmetrical EMD arrangement is unusual.

We took the time to make photos from a variety of angles.

From the gazebo in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.
It brightened up briefly for this classic three quarter angle.
I actually exposed more than a dozen photos, but I like these the best.

Why settle for one view when you can have many?

Icy Morning with CSX Q022—Variations on a Location

It was a bitterly cold morning just after sunrise when I made these views looking across a field off Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts (near CP79, the control point 79 miles west of South Station, Boston, that controls the switch at the east-end of the control siding at Palmer.)

All were made from the same vantage point.

I was working with two cameras. My FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, and my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake.

The exposure, color profiles and color temperature of the cameras were set up differently, which explains the slight difference in overall density and tint.

Do you have a favorite? And why?

Digitally exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 90mm telephoto.
Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

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On This Very Day 65 Years Ago!

On January 15, 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric number 4876 leading the Federal Express from Boston lost its airbrake and careened out of control on approach to Washington Union Station.

The train crashed most spectacularly and old 4876 sunk through the floor of the station concourse. It made national news and photos of the GG1 in the debris of the station was seen on most major papers across the country.

That wasn’t the end of 4876. The locomotive’s remains were remanufactured by the Pennsylvania Railroad and 4876 was restored to traffic. It operated for another 30 years.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, my family and I made a project of photographing 4876. At that time it was operated by NJDOT the precursor to today’s NJ Transit.

April 1979, Sunnyside Yard, Queens, New York.
June 1983, more than 30 years after its famous incident, 4876 catches the sun at South Amboy, New Jersey.

Last April (2017) in Basel, Switzerland, I saw a model of the famous GG1 in a shop window.

GG1 in Basel, Switzerland. Lumix LX7 photo.

Less than a month later (May 2017), I photographed New England Central 608 at State Line crossing in Monson, Massachusetts; and this photo’s camera’s pre-assigned sequential file number was . . . (oh just take a wild guess—first four digit number that comes to mind).

NECR_3809_w_608_State_Line_Monson_DSCF4876.jpg. Oh look, calendar light! Hmmm.

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BNSF’s Four Fours. (It’s about a number).

Just luck. Last summer John Gruber and I were along the mighty Mississippi at Savanna, Illinois and photographed a westward BNSF freight with DASH9-44CW 4444.

That’s a lot of four.

Low afternoon sun made for some nice light at Savanna. BNSF 4444 works west. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

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Advance Copy of Trains’ Hot Spots features my signals article.

The other day I got a nice surprise. My author’s Advance Copy of Trains’ Hot Spots arrived in the post box. (mail box).

I like advance sections of Trains. Something special. Something  Extra. Just like in olden times with timetable and train order rules. Gotta love that!

Check out my article on page 11, ‘Reading the Lights,’ about railroad signals.

See: Kalmbach Publishing.

Look for this cover at media outlets near you!
Tag line on the cover! That’s cool! Page 11, that’s me.
Signaling enthusiasts will get the subtle humor in this photo.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts

Every Day.

Connecticut Trolley Museum Winterfest—2017.

Snow, crisp cold air, and lots of decorative holiday lights: that’s the attraction of Connecticut Trolley Museum’s Winterfest.

Here’s a tip (two really): When making photos in this environment it helps to have a good solid tripod. And, if you going to bring a tripod that uses a clip-on system to attach the camera to the tripod head, IT REALLY HELPS to make sure you have your clip!

Last night, I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 firmly mounted on a Gitzo Trip. I planned my visit to the Connecticut Trolley Museum to coincide with sunset, so that I could make use of the last of daylight before the inky black of night set in.

Connecticut Company car 1326 in the Tunnel of Lights. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Connecticut Company car 1326 in the Tunnel of Lights. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Connecticut Company car 1326 in the Tunnel of Lights. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. RAW File with Tungsten light balance, shadows boosted in post processing.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Boston Elevated Railway car. FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Connecticut Company 1326 with FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.

I experimented with my camera’s pre-programmed color temperature settings while also trying various Fuji film color profiles. With one or two images, I adjusted the RAW files to make the most of the scene.

By the time I was done with my first round of photography my fingers were pretty numb.

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CSX near Washington Summit.

Western RailRoad of Massachusetts; Boston & Albany; New York Central System; Penn Central; Conrail; CSX.

CSX is the current operator of the Boston & Albany route.

I made this photo earlier this month of train Q263 westbound at Muddy Pond approaching Washington Summit .

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

In recent years CSX freight volumes over the B&A route have been declining.

Saturday (December 16, 2017), we learned that Hunter Harrison, CSX’s Chief Executive Officer passed away.

I can’t help but wonder what will become of the B&A, and how Hunter’s controversial strategies have affected this route in the few months he was at the reigns of CSX.

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Searchlight Sunset at Athol, Massachusetts.

Here are some views I made the other evening at Tyters interlocking, west of Athol, Massachusetts, where the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg goes from two to one track westbound.

Intermodal train symbol 23K from Ayer, Massachusetts was heading into the sun.

Over the last few years Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern has replaced many of its old General Railway Signal searchlight heads with modern signal hardware. Yet some of the old signals survive, for now.

Image exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm set at 66mm, (making this equivalent to a 100mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera)
Searchlight hardware has been out of favor since the 1990s and in recent years have been replaced at rapid rates. I’d composed an editorial on this subject for Pacific RailNews back in 1996.

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An Unusual Scene: MBTA at South Station, Boston December 2017.

I made this night photo at South Station with my Lumix LX7.

Recently I was looking through a MENSA puzzle book that contains nearly impossible puzzles. It inspired me to post this image.

This is an unusual scene for Boston. Keen observers of MBTA operations should be able to spot what makes this an uncommon view. What’s at my back is an important clue.

Do you know what makes this an uncommon photo?

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Housatonic at Housatonic—Revisited!

In June 2016, I posted on Tracking the Light some views of the Housatonic Railroad at Housatonic, Massachusetts (located along the Housatonic River).


In November 2017, I returned to this location in advance of the approaching northward Housatonic freight NX-12 that featured two early 1960s-era GP35s in the lead followed by 32 cars (28 loads, 4 empties) and another GP35 at the back.

I find the railroad setting here fascinating. The combination of the traditional line with wooden ties and jointed rail in a setting of old factories, freight house and passenger station makes for a rustic scene out of another era.

Working with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens I made a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X. And, I also exposed a sequence of digital color photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Freight house at Housatonic, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X with a Nikon F3 fitted with a 50mm Nikkor lens. Film processed in Kodak D76 1-1 with water for 7 minutes 20 seconds at 68F.
Freight house and factories, looking north from the westside of the tracks. In today’s railroad world, this scene is decidedly rustic. 
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to improve shadows and highlights.
Tri-X black & white photo of Housatonic Railroad freight NX-12 working northward.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to lighten shadows and control highlights.
Tri-X photo with 50mm lens.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.

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Connecticut River Crossing—Contrast Adjustment.

Last week I exposed this view of New England Central 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer) crossing the Connecticut River at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

New England Central 611 crosses the Connecticut River at East Northfields, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Fuji Film XT1.

To compensate for the back lit high-contrast scene, I made a few necessary adjustments in post processing.

Working with the Camera RAW file, I applied a digital graduated filter across the sky and locally lowered highlight density, while altering the contrast curve and boosting saturation.

I then made global adjustment to contrast and saturation across the entire image, while brightening the shadow areas. The intent was to better hold detail in the sky.

To make this possible, it was necessary to expose for the sky, and allow the train and bridge to become comparatively dark. I did this knowing I’d make adjustments after the exposure.

For more detail on this photographic technique see: Irish Rail 085 with Ballast Train at Sunset—lessons in exposure and contrast adjustment. 

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Eclectic Diesel Consist Crosses the Road.

The real topic is about how to use a wide angle lens when faced with a backlit subject.

Last week, while photographing Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11, Pat Yough and I were faced with finding suitable locations for the northward run. Complicating our challenge was the clear blue sky, which resulted in harsh back lighting at most locations.

Our train had an unusual consist of four diesels, led by one of CSX’s new SD40E3 ‘Eco’ units, but also featured one of Norfolk Southern’d former Conrail SD80MACs (third unit out).

We scoped several locations and ultimately settled on a broadside view near Penns Grove, New Jersey where the railroad crosses Perkintown Road.

To make the most of this setting, I opted to use the large tree by the side of the road as compositional frame, and exposed a series of images with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.

Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11 works northward at Perkinstown Road near Penns Grove, NJ.
A variation of the previous image; one of more than a dozen digital images I exposed as the train worked across the road crossing.

This extremely sharp lens allows for exceptional clarity in backlit situations. In post processing I lightened shadows and nominally reduce the contrast to minimize unpleasant qualities associated with back lighting.

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Photographing SEPTA’s Rarest Electric at Jefferson Station, Philadelphia

SEPTA has a small fleet of electric locomotives; seven are AEM-7s (kin to Amtrak’s now retired fleet), one is a similar model ALP44 built by ABB Traction in 1996.

This one SEPTA ALP44 carries the road number 2308. It is among the regional rail operator’s most elusive locomotives. NJ Transit also operated ALP44s, but these have been out of service for a number of years.

Last week (November 2017) I was in the right place at the right time and caught 2308 arriving at Temple University (station) with a train destined for Thorndale. I boarded and traveled to Jefferson Station (formerly called Market East), where I made these images using my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Soon SEPTA will be receiving a fleet of new Siemens-built electrics, so I would assume that old 2308 is on borrowed time.

Recognizing rare equipment is part of making interesting railway images.

Is SEPTA’s 2308 the modern-day equivalent of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s DD2 electric (a rarely photographed, one-of-a-kind machine that looked similar to PRR’s common GG1)?


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Bright Sun on CSX at Palmer.

The other morning I noticed the points at CP83 in Palmer on CSX’s former Boston & Albany line were set for the controlled siding.

Since CSX’s local freight B740 from West Springfield, Massachusetts often arrives at Palmer in mid-Morning, I thought it was likely I could make some photos.

Bright autumn sun in this classic location made for excellent conditions.

I didn’t have to wait long at the South Main Street overpass, when I heard the short freight dropping down grade toward the Palmer diamond.

I made this sequence using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon lens.

CSX local freight B740 takes the controlled siding at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. This will allow B740 to access the leads to Palmer yard and make its interchange.
The classic view of B740 arriving in Palmer. Trains on the controlled siding make for a more pleasing angle to photograph because they are further from south side of the cutting. October morning sun is pleasing light.
Is this view too close?
Trailing view looking toward the Palmer yard.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.