Category Archives: railroads

Queens, New York April 1979—Seeking GG1s.

We were fascinated by the antique streamlined electrics.

Remarkably, in 1979 many of the steam-era former Pennsylvania Railroad behemoths were still in traffic.

Amtrak and New Jersey Department of Transportation both had GG1s on their active roster.

Sunnyside Yard was a great place to see these once magnificent machines.

Sunnyside Yard, Queens, NY April 1979.

Amtrak GG1 927 was dressed in platinum mist with a red stripe. Very 1970s.

Most fascinating was motor 4876, which on January 15, 1953 had led the Federal Express into Washington Union Station—a famously spectacular runaway that sent the GG1 crashing through the station; sinking through the concourse floor and into the basement of the station. The accident was pictured in newspapers across the nation. And in 1979, the old beast was awaiting assignment.

Here’s an adjusted scan from my original 35mm black & white negatives. Old 4876 was in a prominent position for photography.

I enlarged this scan to bring in the famous Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Working with my Leica, I exposed a variety of photos around Sunnyside yard on a visit with my family. Never mind Disney, I though Sunnyside Yard was the coolest place to be.

While I’ve run one or two of these photos previously, those images were taken from prints. I’ve recently located more the negatives from that day, nearly 41 years ago, and scanned them.

Notice the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers to the left of 4876. Kind of a cool juxtaposition.

Here’s another enlarged view that shows a Long Island Rail Road local switching. There’s a lot to digest in this view. Exciting stuff for a 13 year old obsessed by locomotives, epic urban city scapes, and post industrial settings.

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Conrail 6619 on the Boston & Albany.

I made this image while hiking the line toward Middlefield, Massachusetts from Chester. The freight was descending the grade near where the 1912-line relocation joined the original Western Rail Road alignment (seen to the left of Conrail 6619) at milepost 129 (as measured from Boston’s South Station).

Conrail’s ten General Electric C32-8s were delivered in September 1984 and in their early years largely work out of Selkirk Yard on the old Boston & Albany route.

GE assigned these unique pre-production DASH8  prototypes to Conrail for evaluation in preparation for wide-scale DASH-8 production that began a few years later. 

I had countless encounters with the C32-8s on the Boston & Albany during the mid-1980s, but never had the opportunity to travel on one.

Later this year Kalmbach Media will release my new book titled Conrail and its Predecessors.

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Pan Am Railways at Greenfield, Massachusetts on January 12, 2014.

It was on this day six years ago (January 12, 2014) that I made this close-up view of Pan Am Railways 616 as it worked west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at 400ISO at f3.5 1/400th of a second.

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Old 204 at Enfield!

I like vague titles.

My Irish friends might wonder, since Irish Rail class 201 number 204 in unlikely to have ever reached Enfield, County Meath on the Sligo Line—although the older C-Class diesel with the same number probably did pass that point (before my time).

Amtrak F40PH-2 204 almost certainly passed Enfield, Connecticut on the former New Haven Railroad’s Springfield-New Haven Line, a route now described as the ‘Hartford Line’. While I have various photos in the 1980s of the 200-series F40PH-2s, it is unlikely that I have a photo of 204 at Enfield.

Then there’s an extremely remote possibility that I have a photo in my collection of a Boston & Albany 4-4-0 with that number passing Enfield, Massachusetts on the Athol Branch. I’ll have to review my B&A roster to confirm they actually had a locomotive with that number and if it ever ran up the branch.

So!

How about Guilford Rail System’s high-hood GP35 204 working the Maine Central with MABA at Enfield, Maine?

Regular Tracking the Light readers might understand my connections to this engine.

(It’s a sister locomotive to former Maine Central 216 that now resides at Conway Scenic where I now work.)

Too many ephemeral and tenuous connections?

Just wait, I could make signaling allusions!

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Large Chrome at Cherryville!

On May 11, 2002, I worked with a Rollei Model T loaded with 120-size Fujichrome to make this view of Irish Rail 213 leading a Mark 2 set down road at Cherryville Junction, Co. Kildare (Ireland).

For the social media view I’ve cropped in on the original view, while for Tracking the Light, I’ve published the full un-cropped square.

Unfortunately in the original un-cropped version I centered up the front of the locomotive at the middle of the square. Poor composition!

I guess, I’ll have to go back and do it again!

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New England Central 437—White River Junction.

Yesterday, January 1, 2020, I paused at White River Junction, Vermont, a place I first visited to make railroad photographs nearly 35 years ago.

That first visit was a warm sunny summer’s morning. By contrast yesterday’s visit was a wintery, cold and gray afternoon with hints of color in the southern sky.

New England Central local was working with GP40-2 437,  a locomotive still wearing Florida East Coast colors.

Nutt Lane, White River Junction, Vermont. January 1, 2020.

Former Boston & Maine bridge over the Connecticut River. Viewed from White River Junction, Vermont. January 1, 2020.

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Welcome 2020!

Here’s a portrait view of Conrail B23-7 2020 that I made back in 1988 east of Chester, Massachusetts. (Not seeing portrait orientation? Click on Tracking the Light!).

Although I previously posted this image on Tracking the Light, I thought it was a cool way to welcome the New Year!

I wonder what happened to this old GE diesel?

The year 2020 will see my new book on Conrail and its predecessors which is expected in the Spring from Kalmbach Media.

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New Haven on New Years Day—1980.

Happy New Years 1980s-style!

Another view from 40 years ago: I’d just returned from Mexico City via JFK. My family and I were driving home from New York City and we stopped at New Haven, Connecticut.

I made several Kodachrome slides with my Leica 3A, including this view of former New Haven Railroad electric multiple units that were stored near the station.

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Window in Time: Lagrange Maine, 1984.

On August 5, 1984, my late friend Robert A. Buck gave me an unforgettable tour of the Bangor & Aroostook in central Maine.

Among the stops on our trip was a brief visit to the disused tower at Lagrange. If you look to the right you can see Bob and his famous green van through the weeds.

I exposed this photo on Kodak Plus-X using an old Leica 3A with a Canon f1.8 50mm screw-mount lens. I processed the film in Kodak Microdol-X and stored the negatives for 35 years in an envelope. Last month I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 scanner.

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Santa Fe at Perris, California.

In January 1994, my father and I paid a visit to Perris, California, where I made some photos of this pair of rebuilt Santa Fe EMD diesels, along with the railroad station before proceeding to the Orange Empire Railway Museum.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikkormat FTN with Nikon 28mm AF wide-angle lens.

Santa Fe 2725 was a GP30u, which lost the characteristic semi-streamlined cab roof when rebuilt from a GP30 in the early 1980s.

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Steam Switcher in the Mist—four Photos.

Some of the most atmospheric moments at the Conway Scenic Railroad occur in the gloom of night after all the visitors have departed.

I made these photos last night as 0-6-0 7470 worked the yard following the last trip of the day.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 set at ISO 6400, I exposed these photos handheld. While trying to keep the ‘atmosphere’ off the front element of my lens.

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High Hood GP35 On a Cold Morning

Pure GP35s are rare in 2019. Pure high hood GP35s are rarer still.

Conway Scenic’s high-hood GP35 216, originally a Norfolk & Western locomotive, basks in the cold morning sun at North Conway, New Hampshire on Saturday, December 7, 2019.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7.

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Sunny Morning at Sunnyside—Queens, New York c1978.

I was on bright morning in 1978 that I made these black & white photos with my old Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.

I was standing with my father and brother on a Long Island Rail Road platform near Sunnyside yard. I was about 12 at the time.

My subject was the graffiti covered Flushing Line subway train.

30 years earlier my father made photos of New Haven Railroad EP4 electrics and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics from near this same spot!

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Sound of Power: Conrail Ballast Train June 1984

Just imagine the roar! Conrail C30-7 6600 leads three former Erie-Lackawanna 20-cylinder EMDs!

So far as I can remember, this was the only time I caught an SDP45 (second unit) hard at work on the Boston Line.

I made these views of an uphill BAL (Ballast train) at Middlefield, Massachusetts on a day’s photography with my old pal TSH on a beautiful spring evening in June 1984. I was a week away from my high-school graduation.

My only regret is that I didn’t have better photography skills and better equipment.

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November Evening at Newbridge.

Last month I made this photograph of a down Irish Rail Intercity Railcar paused at Newbridge on the Dublin-Cork mainline.

I was changing trains on my way to Sallins.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7, file processed in Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation. To make the most of the nocturnal setting, I set my camera to overexpose by 1/3 of stop (+ 1/3 on my exposure compensation dial). This compensates for the specular highlights which tend to skew the camera meter toward underexposure.

In this situation under exposure would result in the image appearing too dark.

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Taking A Ride on the A-train: New York City Subway

It was about 1980, when I made this interior view of an R10 subway car during a trip with my father around New York City. Pop thinks this was on the 8th Avenue line in Manhattan. It was one of three photos I made of the Subway that day .

The cars were not air-conditioned and the open fans intrigued me.

This was in that unsavory era on the Subway when the subway cars were decorated inside and out with graffiti.

Exposed on black & white film with my old Leica 3A 35mm camera.

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New ENgland Central November Sunrise at Stafford Springs

Yesterday morning (November 26, 2019) was misty with a hint of orange in the sky.

New England November mornings can make for cosmic settings for railroad photos.

I made my way to downtown Stafford Springs to catch New England Central’s 608 winding its way through town.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I exposed this 90mm view of the northward freight as it crossed Route 32 in the center of town at 717am. (A little earlier than I expected).

Three GP38s in the classic New England Central blue and yellow (or navy and gold, if you prefer) paint scheme were in the lead.

It was the start of an auspicious and productive day of railroad photography!

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Central Vermont RS-11 at Palmer—October 1984.

Back in October 1984—35 years ago— I made this nocturnal view of Central Vermont RS11 3606 at the Palmer, Massachusetts yard.

With my Leica mounted on a tripod, I exposed this view using a mix of existing light and electronic strobe for fill light. I’d work with a large Metz flash that allowed me to control the quantity of light being emitted. To soften the blast, I’d squelch the emission to about 1/4th and wrap the flash head in a white trash bag. I’d then make a series of blasts from different angles while leaving the shutter open.

My old Leica 3A had a ‘T’ setting that would leave the shutter open indefinitely. An exposure such as this would require about 30 secs to a minute for me to make the blasts.

This was one of at least four frames that I exposed that October evening so long ago! My notes from the day have vanished, much to my disgust, as I tended to keep records of all my photography.

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Conrail and Conway in December 2019 TRAINS Magazine.

Travels have kept me on the move. But last night I finally sat down with the paper copy of December 2019 Trains and read my column on page 13 that talks about New York Central and Conway Scenic.

Cover of Dec 2019 trains.

There I am on page 13!

Here’s the scene I wrote about in the column but didn’t picture in the article. I made a couple of color slides here too.

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More Adventures with the Ash Train!

Tuesday last week, my arrival at Sallins, County Kildare by Irish Rail suburban train was merely a jumping off for a much more productive photographic endeavor.

See yesterday’s post,  SUBURBAN TRAINS PASS AT SALLINS.

So Tuesday last week, I met fellow photographer Aiden McDonald outside Sallins and traveled by road for another visit to Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough narrow gauge network. This was my fourth foray in 2019 photographing on this wonderful industrial railway, and my second in less than a week.

My first visit to Lanesborough was more than six years ago and of all the Bord na Mona systems, it is my favorite.

We lucked out and met the empty ash train immediately on crossing the line near Derraghan More, County Longford.

It was bright and sunny and followed the train all the way back toward the Lough Ree Generating Station.

This was just the warm up and for the next six hours we were treated to almost non-stop action on one of Ireland’s coolest little railways.

A meet with a pair of empty trains returning to the bog for reloading.

Sadly this is an Indian Summer for the system, both literally and metaphorically. Word to the wise: time is running short.

Photo adjusted with digitally applied ND Grad using Light Room. A bit heavy handed here by my normal standards of adjustment, but possibly necessary for a more successful image.
Leading the ash train was one of the last locomotives on the Lanesborough system still working in the older Bord na Mona paint livery. This photo also benefits from wee bit of digital adjustment to the sky.

These photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Classic Dublin with Low October Sun—Claude Road.

Monday, 28 October 2019 was a bright day in the Irish capital.

Although the main focus of the day was catching Irish Rail’s IWT Liners and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Haunted Expresses, the weather was conducive to making captivating photos of the more pedestrian trains.

Photographer Jay Monaghan and I had spent the day traveling around Dublin, grabbing angles of the passing trains.

In the afternoon we made our way to the Claude Road footbridge west of Drumcondra Station and set up for the outbound RPSI train.

While waiting, I made this view of an outbound ICR (intercity railcar) working the afternoon Dublin to Sligo service. In the distance is the Croke Park stadium. Further, are the iconic ‘Chimneys’ or ‘Stacks’ for the Poolbeg Generation Station.

135mm view with a FujiFilm XT1.
Wideangle photo exposed with a Lumix LX7.

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Irish Rail 225 Back On the Roll!

After nearly a decade hiatus from revenue service, Irish Rail class 201 number 225 is again working trains.

Yesterday, Monday 28 October 2019, photographer Jay Monaghan and I walked up to Cabra and patiently waited for 225 that was leading the down IWT Liner (North Wall in Dublin to Ballina, County Mayo.)

Giving the train an extra bit of color were 11 hot-pink ‘ONE’ 40-foot containers, which are relatively new to Irish Rail.

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CONRAIL EXTRA APRIL 1, 1989

For me Conrail was always interesting to watch; I never knew what might show up next.

On April 1, 1989, Conrail was 13, having begun operations on that date in 1976.

I awoke to find heavy snow blanketing the fields and trees of western New York. I met up with Doug Eisele and we drove out into the late season snow seeking trains.

The coolest thing we photographed that day was this Conrail HAZ extra running east from Niagara Falls over the Southern Tier route.

I was always keen on the former Erie Railroad, so that made this comparatively unusual move of great interest to me.

Today, I’m keeping my mind focused on completing my Conrail book. If it’s not Conrail, I’m not paying attention, which has complicated breakfast options. (That’s a Big Blue joke).

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Conrail Rolling!

At 351pm on September 20, 1989—Just over 30 years ago—I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron near Silver Creek, New York.

Although a favorite slide, this is one of thousands of Conrail photos I reviewed for my latest Conrail book that didn’t make the final cut.

This weekend I’ll put the final touches on the manuscript and send my selection of photos to Kalmbach so that the book may enter its next phase of production.

Tracking the Light Rolls with Conrail this weekend!

Cobh Junction‑Glounthaune, Co. Cork—Revisited.

The trackage arrangement at Irish Rail’s Cobh Junction, Glounthaune gives the location great photographic interest.

Here the Cobh Branch and Midleton lines divide.

Historically, the line to Midleton (left) had continued to Youghal and was envisioned as a scheme to continue on to Waterford. Later the Cobh Branch (right) was built to reach the old port at Queenstown (Cobh).

The Cobh Branch developed as double-track suburban route, and ultimately the priority of the lines at the junction was reversed.

By the 1980s route via Midleton to Youghal had languished and allowed to go fallow. Ten years ago, after decades of inactivity, Irish Rail rebuilt and revitalized the route as far as Midleton. Today both lines are busy with passenger trains.

A Cobh Branch train bound for Kent Station, Cork approaches Glounthaune station.

This week, Ken Fox gave me a tour of Cork area railways, including trips along the Cobh and Midleton routes.

I made this view from the station footbridge at Cobh Junction, Glounthaune using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

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Lumix LX100 at Littleisland, Co. Cork.

Sunday, 13 October 2019, I exposed this view of an Irish Rail 2600-series railcar at Littleisland on the Cobh Branch destined for Kent Station, Cork.

For me this was a test of the Lumix LX100 that Denis McCabe lent me.

The scene is cross-lit; so the sun is off-camera to my left, leaving the railcar on the ‘Dark Side’ while the signal cabin is brightly illuminated. Complicating the contrast are the fluffy white clouds and a polarized sky above.

This image was adjusted from the camera-RAW file using Lightroom. I darkened highlight areas to obtain greater detail, while lightening shadow regions, and used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold detail in the sky.

Two points: I find the RAW files from Lumix LX100 exceptionally sharp; and the files have very good dynamic range which gives me plenty of room to make adjustement in situations with extreme contrast.

More Lumix LX100 photos soon!

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Through the Mists of Rhein!

One September 2019 morning on Germany’s Rhein, clear skies were obscured by a thick mist hugging the river. As the warm rays of the rising sun graced the tops of the nearby hills, the mist cleared, which made for some cosmic lighting.

I exposed these photographs digitally using my FujFilm XT1. But I also exposed a few colour slides using a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens.

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The Cobh Rambler—Crew Portrait at Mallow

Before Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s  The Cobh Rambler  departed Mallow on Saturday evening (5 October 2019) for Dublin, I was given an important task. 

A group portrait was hastily organized for me to expose.

Sometimes gathering railwaymen for a portrait is like herding cats, but there’s a long tradition in posing them in front of locomotives.

Smiling alongside locomotive 232 leading The Cobh Rambler are some the RPSI members and Irish Rail employees that made our excursion a roaring success.

For this photo I used my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Special thanks to everyone that made  The Cobh Rambler  a great day out!

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Limerick Junction—5 October 2019.

Arriving on Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s  Cobh Rambler,  I photographed four trains at Limerick Junction during the train’s brief pause.

The weather was dire, but that’s all part of the challenge.

New footbridge at Limerick Jct.

More photos from the Cobh Rambler soon!

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Irish Locomotives Yesterday and Today?

Often I assembled Tracking the Light posts several days in advance of publication (or ‘posting’).

As I write this, rain lashes at my window in Dublin.

If all goes to plan, as you read this my friends and I will be traveling on the RPSI diesel tour to Cork and Kerry, titled the ‘Cobh Rambler.’

Traveling behind diesels, especially the 1970s-vintage 071 class General Motors locomotives, has become a novelty in Ireland since the widespread purchase of Intercity Railcars in the mid-2000s, replaced most diesel hauled trains.

This has made diesel trips, such as that one planned for today, a special treat.

What promises to make this trip especially unusual is the very rare combination of 071 class and 201 class working together. There has been considerable comment and speculation as to which locomotives may work this trip.  Sometimes the locomotive planned for the day is re-assigned, develops a fault, or is replaced for other reasons. 

Over the years I’ve photographed most of the GM diesels in Ireland, and in this post I’ve put up a sampling of the locomotives suggested might work today’s train.

Irish Rail 078 with the Steel Train at Kildare on 7 April 2019.
Irish Rail 225 at Tralee, Co. Kerry in August 1999. Exposed with a Nikon N90S on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO).
Irish Rail 232 with up IWT Liner at Stacumni Bridge near Hazelhatch in March 2017.

Learn more about the RPSI: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

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Medieval Window on the Railway—two views.

The old city walls at Oberwesel, Germany feature a 13th century watch tower.

The builders of the tower were clearly railway enthusiasts ahead of their time.

Ok, so you’d have to wait for about 600 years before your first train went by!

I revisited the watch tower last month and made these photos with my FujiFilm XT1.

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The Power of the Dark Side—Sankt Goarshausen.

Sometime, long ago, back in film days someone concluded that three-quarter sun made for the most desirable lighting conditions for locomotive photos.

While its true that in many instances low, three-quarter sun will yield a pleasing result, this is but one lighting solution, and not always the most effective for every setting.

Whoa! WAS that blasphemy?

In September, we hiked into a vineyard south of Sankt Goarshausen, Germany. Blue skies and high thin clouds gave us soft directional lighting with an elevated view of the Right Bank line on the Rhein. In the distance a castle loomed above the river-side Sankt Goarshausen village.

Opting for the dark side presented better contrast that helps visually distinguish the train from the landscape. In this situation because the setting is so visually complex and compelling it helps to make the train stand out, since the train was intended as our subject.

Sure, we could have visited this place earlier in the day, but would that have yielded more effective images?

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Parallel Moves: Belmond and Enterprise—Three photos.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 14 September 2019, Belmond’s Grand Hibernian was due at Connolly Station, Dublin .

Earlier I’d caught the train being shunted at Heuston Station, and expected it to make the run with Irish Rail 071 in retro orange paint.

A group of us were in place at Connolly anticipating the navy blue cruise train led by the orange loco.

But which platform would make a better photograph?

At the last minute, photographer Kevin O’Brien suggested platform 3. I owe him one for the idea. As it happened the Belmond and a late running Belfast-Dublin  Enterprise  approached Connolly at the same time.

My friends over on platform 2 didn’t get the view they hoped for since in the final seconds the Enterprise effectively blocked the view of the other train.

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Lidl Tram Prowls Dublin’s LUAS Red Line—3 photos.

In recent weeks, two advertising trams have been working the LUAS Red Line in Dublin. Previously, I featured a view of the white TESCO tram.

In this post, I ofter a few view of the brightly adorned Lidl advertising tram.

This really stands out and distinguishes it from the multitude of LUAS Citidis trams on the Dublin network.

Abbey Street, Dublin.

On Benburb Street at Blackhall.
Smithfield, Dublin

I made these photos with my Lumix LX7.

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Sunday Steam Charter Crosses the River Liffey.

Yesterday, Sunday 22 September 2019, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated a private charter from Dublin Connolly station to Graystones, County Wicklow and return.

For more on RPSI excursions see: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

Photographer Jay Monaghan and I made a run on the LUAS into the Dublin city centre to intercept the return leg, and exposed views of the excursion crossing the Loop Line Bridge.

Congestion at Connolly resulted in the train holding for platform space, giving us time to leg it over to the station for more views. Stay tuned!

Lumix LX7 photo. RAW file adjusted for contrast and localized exposure control, exported as a JPG for internet viewing.
FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm lens. RAW file adjusted for contrast and localized exposure control, exported as a JPG for internet viewing.

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