Category Archives: railroads

Irish Rail 225 Crosses Gardner Street in Dublin.


It was just an ordinary day when I made this impromptu view of Irish Rail 225 working a Mark 3 push pull set on Dublin’s Loop Line crossing over Gardner Street Lower.

What was common in 1998 seems pretty neat today. I’m glad I exposed the slide!

To make the most of this photograph, I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Scoolscan5000 then imported the TIF file into Lightroom for contrast and exposure refinement plus colour balance and colour temperature adjustment.


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NEW ENGLAND CENTRAL Elephant Style—Four GP38s Lead 608—Two Slides from 2004.

New England Central 608, working from Palmer, Massachusetts to Willimantic, approaches Mansfield Depot, Connecticut on October 11, 2004.

For today’s Tracking the Light, I fished out a pair of slides I made back in October 2004 during a chase with New England Central 608 south from Palmer, Massachusetts.

On that day the freight was led by four GP38s, all facing southward, and I was seeking a location to capture this unusual event. (For the record, out of the photograph, there was a fifth GP38 in consist facing north).

Although imperfect, owing to clutter and brush in the foreground, I selected this elevated view north of Mansfield Depot.

I scanned the slides last night in preparation for this post. I don’t think they’d ever been out of the box before. Luckily I’d recorded the date and particulars on the slide box which saved me have to scan through my notebooks from 15 years ago.

I do recall that a friend of mine was visiting from across the pond and he was impressed by the ‘colletion of GMs’ as he called them, working that morning’s train.

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Close Cropped Caboose: Central Vermont freight at South Monson.

Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.


Thirty three years ago I made this view of a northward Central Vermont freight crossing Route 32 in South Monson.

(Historically CV had a ‘station’ in South Monson, and another at State Line and these were distinct locations in the railroad’s timetable.)

I exposed this black & white photo with my father’s Rollei Model T set up with a 645-size ‘super slide’ insert and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

One of the challenges of working with the Rollei twin-lens reflex is that the view finder displays a mirror image. This made gauging when to release the shutter of the train especially difficult when it was rolling away, such as in this situation.

The result? I pressed the shutter release a split second sooner than I would have preferred. Of course I didn’t see the problem until after I processed the film

I scanned this negatives, along with others from the day last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. I scaled the file for internet presentation and adjusted contrast in post-processing using Lightroom.

Northward Central Vermont freight South Monson, Massachusetts on May 16, 1986.

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Palmer, Massachusetts—Track Changes soon! (Four views on Tracking the Light)


On the way back from some errands this morning (May 18, 2019), I stopped at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts


Although not a wheel was turning, I was fascinated to discover some brand new points waiting for installation near the famous ‘diamond’ crossing (where CSX crosses New England Central) .

Using my Lumix LX7 digital camera I made these views of what appear to be a power derail.

Stay tuned!

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Mass-Central along Route 181 in Palmer.


On the way toward the interchange in Palmer, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch follows and crosses state Route 181.

So often I have driven this way.

Catching a train here isn’t especially difficult since it runs southbound most weekday afternoons, but making a photo without any highway traffic in the way can be really challenging.

All it takes is one truck or a school bus to pull up to the crossing at the last minute and the whole scene changes, and usually not for the better!

On this May day, we were lucky!

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Irish Rail 129 Leads the Friday Norfolk Liner at Kildare.


May Friday Freight.

Years ago among the treats of Friday freight operations in Ireland were the extra moves. One of my favorites was Friday’s Dublin-Waterford Norfolk liner, which tended to get unusual locomotives and operated down-road midday.

On this day, the train had been held in Kildare during a spell of bright sunshine, but when it finally got the signal to proceed down-road clouds dimmed the scene.

Working with a Nikon N90s and a borrowed 300mm lens I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide of Irish Rail 129 leading the Norfolk liner through the crossovers west of Kildare station. This was way back in May 2001—18 years ago!


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CT Rail, Farmington River and Fishermen.

Last Thursday, May 9, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I set up at the former New Haven Railroad stone arch viaduct over the Farmington River at Windsor, Connecticut to catch CT Rail ‘s southward commuter train number 4407 .

When we arrived a line of a half dozen fishermen were in position on the south bank of the river.

Shortly before the train was due to pass, most of them concluded fishing and began to pack up.

It turns out that the Farmington River bridge is more famous as a place to fish than as a place to picture trains. There’s a plaque about the fishing and everything! Who knew?

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with a 12mm Zeiss Touit.

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Newton Centre—Revisited.

Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.


When I was a young child my family lived in Newton Centre, an historic suburb of Boston located on the old Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, a railroad that had been converted into a trolley line in 1960.

As a five year old, I’d watch MBTA’s PCC cars pass though, typically operated in multiple sets of two and three cars.

The old B&A railroad station was a relic from former times.

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, after dropping my father on the Logan Express bus for a trip to Portugal, I met some fellow photographers and we visited MBTA’s Newton Centre station on the Green Line.

This was the first stop on our photography of MBTA’s trolley car system.

It was a rare sunny day, and I made these digital photos of the trolley cars as they rolled between Boston and Riverside.

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Sun in the Ware River Valley!


Last Monday, May 6, 2019, was the first properly sunny day after many days of gloomy overcast weather.

In the afternoon, Paul Goewey, John Peters and I followed the Mass-Central Railroad’s line northward toward South Barre. We intercepted the southward freight. This was led by GP38 1750 with the short hood in the lead.

At Ware, it worked a short surviving segment of the old Central Massachusetts, which had run parallel to the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch (the line that comprises most of Mass-Central’s present operation). This old line is used to reach Kanzaki Paper, one of several carload shippers in greater Ware.

I exposed these photos with FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

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Roscrea, County Tipperary—Only a Test.

Here’s a scan of one of my negative strips showing the exposure bracket.


Hiding in my negative file was a page of 12 photographs.

This was a test roll from late 2003. I believe I was testing my recently purchased Rollei Model T; and I may been testing exposure/processing for Fuji Neopan 400 film.

In either case, I’d set up my camera fixed to a Bogen tripod on the Irish Rail platform at Roscrea, County Tipperary and made photos at dusk of the signal cabin and station.

This is on the lightly used Nenagh Branch, which even today retains its old cabins and embodies the rustic charm of a rural branch line.

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Amtrak’s Vermonter passes West Northfield.


In late April, Mike Gardner and I made visit to the old graveyard at West Northfield, Massachusetts (south of the junction at East Northfield on the old Boston & Maine), to photograph Amtrak 56 (the Vermonter) on its way to St Albans, Vermont.

Light cloud softened the afternoon sun, which was slightly back-lit at this location for a northward train. To make the most of the old stones and put the entire train in the picture, I opted for my 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

I made minor adjustments to the RAW file in Lightroom to present better contrast in the JPG image presented here.

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May 10, 2007 was the Big Day for the Railroad Never Sleeps


On May 10, 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleeps published by Voyageur Press. (The book is now out of print and may be collectible).

I’d selected May 10thbecause of the historic significance of the day. Not only was America’s First Transcontinental Railroad completed on this day in 1869, but several over significant railroads events occurred on this day, including the famous speed run of New York Central 999 west of Batavia, New York in 1892.

On May 10, 2007, I played an active role in making photographs and coordinated with Genesee Valley Transportation to ride a locomotive on their former New York Central Falls Road (now Falls Road Railroad) and boarded the train at Lockport, New York.

My aim was to make photos of the crew to capture the feeling of an active short line railroad. Hal Reiser shadowed the train making photos from the ground, and at one point collected me so I could also make trackside views.


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Photo exposed on Fujichrome using a Rolleiflex Model T. Middleport, New York on the Falls Road.

On this Day: Beer by Rail!



On 10 May 2005, I exposed this color slide of Irish Rail’s Claremorris Liner from Claude Road in Dublin.

This was toward the end of an era; Irish Rail would only move kegs of beer by rail for another year or so after this image was exposed.

At the time I was working with an F3T fitted with a 180mm lens to make the most of the glinting kegs as the train worked west into the setting sun. To minimize flare, I shaded the front element of my lens with my trusty notebook.

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Dark Sky Over Donner Pass—150th Anniversary of America’s 1st Transcon.

Multiple pass scan adjusted.
Unadjusted scan with inky shadows.


In the early 1990s, Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass was the domain of EMD Tunnel Motors—distinctive six-motor locomotives specifically configured for the route to better accommodate the difficulties operating in tunnels and snow-sheds at high altitudes.

So finding matched sets of modern General Electric four-motor diesels (such as those pictured here) leading freights proved to be highly unusual in the greater scheme of daily operations.

I made this photo in June 1992 at Yuba Pass. Although it has appeared in several places, including Pacific Rail News, I thought it was timely to present it on Tracking the Light. Friday, May 10, 2019 will be the 150th anniversary of the completion of America’s ‘First Transcontinental Railroad’ of which the original Donner Pass crossing was a key component.

This image was exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens. To compensate for the inky shadows, I made a multi-pass scan using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and then imported the hi-res TIF file into Lightroom for adjustment. What you see here are both the unaltered scan and the adjusted versions, both scaled as Jpgs for internet presentation.

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New England Central Spring at Vernon, Vermont!


Yesterday, May 6, 2019, my old friends Paul Goewey, John Peters and I made a foray to Brattleboro to intercept New England Central’s 611 on its southward run to Palmer. We didn’t have to wait very long!

At Vernon, we paused to make photographs. I’ve always been partial to the view with the farm and the unusually tall tree.

The morning sun was lightly dappled by clouds making for some slight diffused light. Working with a Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1, I made a series of photographs as the freight roared passed. Soon we continued our pursuit, aiming to make more photos in the lush Spring greenery and low morning sun

Lumix LX7
FujiFilm XT1.
FujiFilm XT1.

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Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass Crossing—Newcastle.


In the spirit of the first Transcontinental 150thanniversary celebrations, I’m posting these views that I made at Newcastle, California on an exploratory trip over Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass in November 1989.

I was perched atop the tunnel, railroad-east of where the line crosses Interstate-80 on its ascent from Roseville Yard to Donner Summit. The roar of EMD 645 diesels made for a great sound show as the train disappeared into the tunnel below me.

Although not my most memorable photos on Donner, these were among the very first that I made. Thousands more followed over the years.


Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with Leitz 135mm lens.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with Leitz 135mm lens.


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Cross-lit Crossing the Connecticut.

In late April, after an interlude to photograph Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, Mike Gardner and I resumed our photo chase of New England Central’s northbound 611 (Brattleboro, VT to Palmer, Massachusetts and return), that would soon follow Amtrak’s train on it way north toward Brattleboro.

We arrived at the west end of the old Central Vermont Railway bridge over the Connecticut River (near the junction with Pan Am’s Boston & Maine at East Northfield) shortly before the freight crossed it.

Mike assumed a position at the classic location on the south side of the bridge, while I improvised with a view on the north side.

Why photograph from the ‘dark side’?

In this instance, I feel that the north side of the bridge offers a superior view of the setting, while cross lighting the train adds a sense of drama.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto.


Lumix LX7 photo.


Lumix LX7 photo.

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Portrait-View: Boeing Silhouette on the Streets of San Francisco.


If this image seems familiar, it is because it’s been published on several occasions, first in Passenger Train Journal issue 210 in the mid-1990s.

It is among my favorite view of the San Francisco Muni light rail.

Working with my old Nikon F3T and a 200mm f4 lens, I made this photo of an in-bound L-Taraval car (worked by a 1970s-era Boeing-Vertol LRV) as it crested Ulloa Street on its way down toward West Portal in early December 1990.

The remarkable consideration is that this is a Kodachrome 25 slide. My shutter speed was about 1/60thof a second. When I lived in San Francisco, I had an un-cropped hand-printed Type R print of this scene pinned to my wall.

The maze of wires just makes this photo!

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Millers Falls High Bridge—Revisited.


The early 20thcentury pin-connected deck truss over the Millers River at its namesake Millers Falls, Massachusetts is one of my favorite places to picture New England Central freights.

On our chase of New England Central last week (Thursday April 25, 2019) photographer Mike Gardner and I arrived at Millers Falls several minutes ahead of 611 on its return run to Bellows Falls, Vermont from Palmer, Massachusetts.

We set up on the sidewalk of the Route 63 highway bridge over the river. For these views I opted for a more southerly position on the road bridge in order to feature budding trees that indicates the arrival of Spring in the Millers valley.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed several digital views as the train’s leading locomotives eased over the antique spans. To me, the SD45/SD40 style locomotives  seem out of proportion with the steam era bridge, which of course is half the attraction, long may it last!

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Gilbertville: Mass-Central, the old Mills, and the Boston & Albany Station.


It was a scene made for black & white; Monochrome in the Ware River Valley.

Last week, I exposed these views on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 105mm Nikkor prime telephoto (not a zoom) at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.

I processed the film with two stage development to my custom tailored process and scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.

Psssst! Don’t be too disappointed, but I also made a few digital photos in color!

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New England Central—Power Shot!


After photographing New England Central’s southward 611 at Three Rivers, Massachusetts, photographer Mike Gardner and I worked northward scoping photo locations, while the 611 crew swapped its southward train at Palmer for its northward consist.

(New England Central 611 is the weekday turn that runs from Brattleboro, Vermont to Palmer and back.)

We inspected angles at Cushman north of Amherst and at other locations, but settled on the open area off Depot Road in Leverett, Massachusetts near the site of the old Central Vermont station.

I opted for a low angle to feature some fresh green grass in the foreground, using my 12mm Zeiss Touit fitted to my FujiFilm XT1 using the adjustable rear panel display to hold the camera close to the ground. (No, I’m not lying on the ground).

The combination of the very wide angle lens and low viewpoint helps accentuate the size and shape of New England Central’s locomotives.

The lead locomotive began its career as an EMD SD45 with classic angled (or ‘flared’) air-intakes at the back. 

Although during the course of re-building, the locomotive had its 20-cylinder 645 engine swapped for a less powerful 16-cylinder 645 diesel, the machine still has its an impressive profile.

Soon we were hot in pursuit of 611, racing northward on Route 63 to our next location.

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Conrail Local at Dunkirk: Kodachrome and Color-Correction.


Working with Kodachrome 25, I exposed this view of a Conrail local freight on the Water Level Route at Dunkirk, New York on March 10, 1989.

Although Kodachrome was among my favorite films, it was by no means perfect. The film tended to be unusually sensitive to aging and temperature which could affect its color balance and overall color bias.

When it was too fresh from the manufacturer the film tended toward a cyan (blue-green) bias; as it aged and/or endured storage in hot environments the film shifted toward a red/magenta bias.

This slide suffers from a cyan bias, so I made some nominal corrections using Lightroom to better balance the color for a daylight setting.

I’m not using a perfectly calibrated computer screen, so my adjustments are still less than perfect, but I feel these restore the scene to more or less how it looked to my eye on the day.

Since everyone viewing this image will see it on different screens and with different eyes, and because it is impossible to know how each screen is biased, I cannot know if my corrections will improve the image for the individual viewer or not. Such are the challenges with color photography! There is no one correct answer.

Slide scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 using VueScan software; color output settings set to Kodachrome K14, with color balance set for ‘White Balance’ which appear to offer the best overall balance at the time of the scan. No adjustments in post processing.


Working from the same slide scan, I made color adjustments in Lightroom aiming to achieve a more neutral overall balance, while retaining a rich blue sky. Additional adjustments were implemented to lower contrast and slight boost shadow areas while retaining a rich black in the deepest shadow areas..


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Double Deck on a Viaduct: Luxembourg Railways on Chrome.


This image was the first frame in my second to last box of slides exposed in April 2019.

Standing on an ancient wall in Luxembourg City, I focused on a locomotive-hauled double-deck passenger train as it rolled northward on a hazy Monday afternoon.

I scanned this slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner then worked in Lightroom to make nominal adjustments to correct the color balance.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F using a Nikon F3 with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated with a Minolta Mark4 lightmeter.

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Color Slide at Lisbon Oriente—April 2019.


Yesterday, I received back a big box of processed color slides.

Among them was this view on Fuji Provia100F exposed earlier this month at Lisbon Oriente using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens.

For this batch of film I used Richard’s Photo Lab in California. I’m still poring over my results and plan to post more slide scans soon.

Scanned using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 at 4050 dpi, scan scaled and adjusted for internet presentation using Lightroom.

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Meet the man behind the maps!

Conversations with Brian Solomon—Episode 20.

In Trains Magazine’s latest Conversations with Brian Solomon, I interview Rick Johnson, the magazine’s long-time map creator.

Check out this latest podcast on Sound Cloud via the link below.


I worked with Rick Johnson to create this New England railroad map to illustrate my feature article in November 2018 Trains.

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Steamy Night at Mallow: Cravens for the Kerry Road.


On the evening of 26 Nov 2005, I exposed this Fujichrome slide on the platform at Mallow, County Cork.

A relatively long exposure was needed, so I mounted the camera on a Manfrotto tripod. The swirling steam leaking from Irish Rail’s Cravens carriages added to the mystique of the image.

This was a regularly scheduled train for Tralee, and toward the end of locomotive-hauled Cravens service on the Cork-Kerry runs. Not too long after this photo was made Irish Rail replaced the old steam-heated Cravens on this run with diesel railcars.

Slide scanned using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner; TIF file imported into Lightroom for color correction and contrast control then exported as a scaled JPG for internet display.

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Tracking the Light EXTRA: Lake Shore Limited with P42 number 156 heritage paint.

It’s the elusive ‘bloody nose’, again.

In late 2017, I got lucky and caught this heritage locomotive on several occasions, after years of it eluding me entirely.

This afternoon (April 24, 2019), thanks to a tip from my friend Paul Goewey, I caught old 156 again, albeit second unit out, on today’s westward Amtrak Lake Shore Limited (Boston section), train 449.

The view is from the bridge over the railroad and Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts.

Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens set to the Velvia color profile. Files exported from the camera as JPGs and scaled using Lightroom for internet presentation. No adjustments to contrast, color or exposure.

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Blue Locomotive and Semaphores: Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.


Just a light engine running toward Waterford to collect a laden sugarbeet train. 

Except the light engine was NI Railways 112, a northern engine that had wandered far and wide on Irish Rail in the mid-2000s.

And the setting was Carrick-on-Suir where mechanical signaling and an antique track arrangement had survived. The date was 11 December 2004. It all seems so incongruous now.

I made this photo on Fujichrome Sensia-II using a Nikon F3 with 180mm telephoto lens. 

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Old Station at Santa Fe, Mexico.

Lots of people of have made photos at the station in Santa Fe, NewMexico.

I made this one from the window of the train at Santa Fe, Mexico, 200 km south of Mexico City.

Forty years ago, my uncle Mark and I were on an adventure. My old Leica 3A was loaded with Kodachrome and with it I made a scant few interesting images of the Mexican railways, of which this is one.

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Beautiful Station at Santarem, Portugal.


Many Portuguese railway stations are decorated with elaborate blue tile murals. These are considered national treasures.

Santarem station is a wonderful example and features more than a dozen unique murals. This is a busy station on the Lisbon-Porto mainline and makes for a great place to watch and photograph trains.

On the day we visited it was overcast, which aided exposing photos of the murals under the canopy of the station that may have been shadowed on a sunny day.

Photos exposed in March using FujiFilm and Lumix digital cameras.

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RPSI’s The West Awake—Eight Views from the Train.

One of the pleasures of traveling on an historic train is the ability to make photos of the line and passing scenery.

Modern cameras with rear-displays make this much easier since it isn’t necessary to have your eye to the camera to compose photos, while built-in line levels aid in composition.

Adjustable ISO ratings allow selection of more appropriate shutter speeds for action images.

This is a selection of photos I made from Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s The West Awake excursion on 13 April 2019.

Photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1. The Fuji benefits from an extendible and adjustable rear display that is especially useful on these trips.

Roscommon.

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Westport, County Mayo: Contrasts of Modern train in a Traditional Station—Three photos.


13 April 2019: during RPSI’s The West Awakerail tour, I made these views from the platform at Westport station of an Irish Rail ICR.

I like the contrast between the modern Rotem-built diesel railcar and the traditional station setting.

Would these photos have been better if the sun was shinning brightly? (Keep in mind, I was on the northeast side of the line in the late afternoon).

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Classic Chrome: Amtrak F40s at New London, Connecticut.

On March 24, 1997, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon photographing around New London, Connecticut. This was shortly before Amtrak began electrification.

I made this view of a pair of F40PHs leading train 175 west of the New London station.

Who would have thought the omnipresent Amtrak F40 would be the subject of a classic photo?

Exposed on Kodachrome using a Nikon N90S with 80-200mm AF zoom lens.


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