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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
My twin posts focused on Lena, Illinois drew considerable interest and answers.
Regarding the monster eastward Canadian National freight; the actual number of cars carried on this one train was 280 (plus three leading locomotives and a lone DPU). That’s a real whopper at 1,144 axles (24 are the locomotives)!
A number of Tracking the Light readers wrote to me about the unusual GREX drawbar connected maintenance train. I’ve compiled these below into a brief essay.
The curious maintenance train was built by Georgetown Industries (a spinoff of Texas-based Georgetown Railroad), which uses the GREX reporting marks. This train is described by the manufacturer as a Self-Powered SlotMachine® and commonly as ‘slot train’ which is designed to distribute materials. Instead of conventional gondolas, this is in effect a string of permanently connected articulated gondolas with the ends removed.
Since there are no bulkheads between cars an excavator can be used to traverse the entire length to load or unload material. The train is especially useful when a railroad is faced with limited track access time or locations that are inaccessible by road. One application is to dump ballast between the rails on ‘skeletonized’ track.
One flaw with the train is that the solid draw bar and articulated connections between cars make it impossible to set out a car in case of defect.
The Slot train’s power is a relatively new creation and appears to be based on LORAM’S boxy power unit. Georgetown has several Slot train sets that work at various places around the country, the machinery is still being evaluated or leased an as of yet, these trains are a rare sight on American rails.
Another Georgetown creation is its Dump Train, which is a series of drawbar-connected hoppers featuring a conveyor belt running under the length of the train and a swing out conveyor belt at the unloading end to deliver aggregate line-side. The style of construction gives the train a nearly European appearance.
In July (2017), John Gruber and I visited the old Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin. I was surprised to find that the railroad’s old mailbox remained.
It has been more than 22 years since the old C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific. In 1995 at the end of C&NW’s independent operations I’d made photos of this same mailbox, which for me served as a symbol of the railroad.
Now it’s a faded vestige of another era. More than just the paint has changed.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to make some views from a diesel locomotive cab.
I’m no stranger to cab-rides, but this recent trip allows me to illustrate a few ways of illustrating this great vantage point.
I’ve made no effort to hide where these photos were made from; so by including the locomotive nose or framing the tracks in the locomotive’s front windows I’ve made my vantage point obvious. I was on the engine as it rolled along.
All three views were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)
SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.
Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.
Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.
I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.
Just checking to see if you are reading this correctly.
Last weekend, July 8 and9, 2017, Patrick Yough and I made trips to Reading, Pennsylvania to photograph and travel on Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company Budd RDCs.
I grew up with the old ‘Budd cars’ and it was neat to see these machines on the roll again.
Budd introduced it’s self-propelled ‘Rail Diesel Car’ in 1949, and sold them to many railroads across North America. These cars were most common in the Northeast, and the Reading Company was among the lines that made good use of them in passenger service.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.
On June 28, 2017, I made a sequence of digital photos of CSX’s Worcester, Massachusetts-bound intermodal freight symbol Q012 passing CP64 (dispatcher’s control-point 64 miles west of Boston) at East Brookfield.
This was one of several exposures made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
It always surprises me when I find some vestige of former times that I’ve managed to overlook.
Last week my on the advice of Felix Legere, we explored the old Nashua, Acton & Boston Railroad right of way near Forge Village east of Ayer, Massachusetts.
This 24-mile 19th century railroad was among the lines melded into the Boston & Maine system. In 1875, it carried three passenger trains daily between Nashua and Concord Junction. Near Forge Village it crossed the Stony Brook railroad and a trolley line on an overpass.
The NA&B was an early casualty of Boston & Maine retrenchment and abandoned about 1925.
Today, part of the right of way is maintained as Tom Paul Rail Trail. Felix led our expedition to the railroad’s vintage stone arch bridge over Stony Brook (for which the Stony Brook Railroad was named).
I made the color photos with my FujiFilm X-T1, and the black & white with a Leica IIIa with 50mm Summitar lens.
The old McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era.
Known colloquially as the ‘Railfan’s Bridge,’ this vantage point has been featured in articles in TRAINS Magazine Railpace, and other popular literature for decades.
I first visited with my father and brother in the early 1980s, and have made countless photos here, many of which have a appeared in books, calendars, and of course on Tracking the Light.
My friend Tim coined it the ‘waste too much film bridge’ in the early 2000s, owing to our propensity to make an excessive number of photos as Guilford freight trains switched in the yard.
Although hackneyed and perhaps over frequented, it’s been a great place to catch the sunrise, make photos of the locomotives and freight cars, and work the evening glint.
At times, I’ve seen as many as 30 photographers here, all vying for position.
Imagine my surprise last month, when Tim and I arrived to photograph the elusive and much followed Pan Am Railways office car train, expecting to find a wall of lenses, and instead realized that we were the only photographers on site!
I used this opportunity to make some photos of the old bridge, soon to be replaced by a new span located 40 feet to the west.
Why is this my first farewell? Simply, the bridge isn’t yet gone. After it is, perhaps I’ll post a ‘final farewell’.
Three freight railroads, plus Amtrak share the tracks at Bellows Falls. Yet on the morning of my visit last week not a wheel was turning.
I worked with the cosmic morning light to make a few photos of the old station building and the railway environment.
Not all great railway photos need trains. And Tracking the Light is more about the process of making railway photos than simply the execution of ‘great train pictures’.
For these images I worked with my Lumix LX7 (color digital photos) and a Leica 3a with screw-mount 35mm focal length Nikkor lens (black & white photos exposed on Kodak Tri-X and processed in Ilford Perceptol).
I have my favorites. Can you guess which these are?
June 7, 2017 was a rare crystal clear day. Paul Goewey and I headed north to Vermont to retrace the path of the old Rutland Railroad, and retrace our own footsteps.
Many years earlier, we had made a similar trip to this railroad to photograph Maine Central RS-11 802 that had been loaned to the Green Mountain Railroad for the run from Bellows Falls to Rutland.
Where our 1983 adventured occurred in November on a gloomy gray day that soon turned snowy, this most recent trip benefitted from very fine conditions.
As we drove toward Rutland on Vermont Highway 103, we recalled the details of the earlier trip
In Rutland we located VRS freight 263 that was getting ready to depart. Positioning ourselves on the grade to Mount Holly we waited. Once the freight passed our first spot we entered in its pursuit, as one does, to make more photographs.
Among the spots we preselected was this view of the Cuttingsville Trestle. I selected an angle similar to that featured by famous photographs made in Rutland Railroad days by accomplished photographer Jim Shaughnessy.
I’ve included the technical details in my caption above.
It’s that time of year when the setting sun aligns with CSX’s old Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts.
I made these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
The camera’s color profile was set to ‘Velvia’ mode. White balance at ‘A’ (automatic). While I exposed both a Camera RAW and Jpg simultaneously, these views are strictly camera-produced Jpg files scaled for internet presentation.
Gauging my exposure with the in-camera matrix meter, I set the aperture and shutter speed manually leaning toward ‘under exposure’ to ensure good highlight detail.
In July 2017 TRAINS, I look back at the effects and consequences of the Beeching Era on British Railways. Take a look on pages 16-17!
I’ve illustrated this discussion with a photo I made on the preserved Great Central Railway in 2004. This was part of a sequence exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO100) color slide film (Tracking the Light tie-in).
Earlier in the month I’ve highlighted various photographic adventures with New England Central 608 (freight that works from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back). Today’s post focuses on the southward journey.
Over the years, I’ve photographed many trains climbing the former Central Vermont Railway grade over State Line Hill, and beyond into Connecticut, so this chase is old hat for me.
Yet, I’m always looking for a new angle, or to place today’s train in a classic setting that I may have captured years ago.
These views are all from the morning of May 17, 2017 and exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I made this view of an Arborway-bound PCC car about 1980. I’d exposed the photo using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar, probably on Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.
I scanned this from a print I made back in the day. During that period (1978-1982) I often traveled with my father to Boston and I made a lot of photos of MBTA transit operations. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep precise notes on this print.
Here’s one of the photos displayed yesterday for comparison.
This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.
One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.
Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.
I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).
A few days ago, I displayed black & white photos I made at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in hard morning sunlight. See: Going Against the Grain.
Where the earlier images used an unusual film type (Foma Retropan), today’s image was made on Ilford HP-5, but with some special processing.
In both posts, black & white photos feature New England Central 608 (a freight that runs between Willimantic, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts) passing downtown Stafford Springs shortly after sunrise.
Today’s image was exposed from Main Street in Stafford on the opposite side of the tracks from the earlier photos, which provides a different perspective on the train and village.
Part of this exercise is aimed at demonstrating black & white photographic technique, however I’m also hoping to show how different angles at the same location can result in significantly different photos.
Also, that it’s possible to make interesting photos in difficult lighting situations, if you apply a creative approach to your photography.
I’m done here yet! To be continued on another day.
The other morning in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, I exposed this view of New England Central’s northward freight that runs daily from Willimantic, Ct., to Palmer, Massachusetts.
The train was coming hard out of a clear morning sun. Using a Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor 35mm screw-mount lens, I exposed this view on Foma Retropan 320.
Retropan is a comparatively coarse grain emulsion that offers a distinctly different range of tones than expected with Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X, or other black & white films in the same sensitivity range.
It also produces a characteristic halo-effect in bright highlight areas.
I processed the film more or less as recommended using Foma’s specially formulated Retro Special Developer, and then scanned it with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. I made minor adjustments to contrast in Lightroom.
As I anticipated, my results from this experiment are more pictorial than literal.
Tracking the Light posts something different every day.
This Saturday, May 6, 2017, I will present a variation of my Boston & Albany program to the New York Central System Historical Society convention, to be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
I am listed as the guest speaker and my illustrated talk will begin at about 7pm. This will feature material from the Robert A. Buck collection, and images from the lens of William Bullard (early 20th century photographer), as well as a selection of my own work on the B&A, which spans more than 40 years.
For information on the convention and registration forms see the New York Central System HS website: www.NYCSHS.org
Five alternative views of Ireland’s Bord na Mona railway.
Here I’m trying something different: Working with an old Leica IIIa fitted with an ancient screw-mount Nikkor 35mm lens, I exposed some Fomapan 100 black & white film.
Instead of my normal process, I opted to soup the film in Ilford Perceptol. I mixed the stock solution from powder. Recommended development time was 8 minutes, but I cut this to 6 minutes, then after complete processing (stop, fix, hypo-clear and wash) I toned the negatives with a 1-9 Selenium solution to boost highlights (and then rewashed).
It was my first time working with Perceptol; overall I was pleased with the results, which yielded fine grain, broad tonality and a somewhat softer over-all image than what I’d been getting using ID-11.
This camera-lens-film-developer combination seems to have worked well with the rustic Bord na Mona narrow gauge industrial railway. I’ve opted to display a handful of the dozen or so monochrome images I exposed that day.
Tracking the Light takes a different approach today.