January 15th is the anniversary of the 1953 Washington Union Terminal crash, when Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1 4876 leading the Federal Express lost its brakes and careened into the lobby of the terminal. This spectacular train wreck, on the eve of Eisenhower’s inauguration, made headlines in every major newspaper across the country.
On June 27, 1983, I exposed this view of GG1 4876 at Linden, New Jersey working from South Amboy, New Jersey to New York Penn Station with a New York & Long Branch passenger train.
On Wednesday January 2, 2019, my brother and I made an adventure of exploring the SEPTA system.
We bought Independence Passes, which offer essentially unlimited travel on the SEPTA transportation system for a day, and we sampled a variety of modes and lines.
We began at Parkside Avenue by boarding the number 40 bus (GASP!), then to the Market-Frankford rapid transit. At Jefferson Station/Market East we picked up a heavy rail train to Norristown where we transferred to the old Philadelphia & Western high-speed line to 69thStreet.
From there the Media trolley to its namesake (yes, there’s a town called Media, Pennsylvania, and it’s one of the last with a single track trolley right up the main street.) Reaching the end of the trolley line at Orange Street, we walked to the old PRR station, and boarded a train that ran through to West Trenton, New Jersey, although we alighted at Woodbourne, PA to meet our friend Pat Yough, who took us by road to a nearby pub.
Our return trip retraced our steps to Philadelphia’s suburban station, where after some trials and missteps, eventually found the appropriate bus (GASP!) and this brought us back to where we began.
The light was dreary, but I made photos anyway using with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm digital cameras.
At 730 pm this coming Wednesday, January 9, 2019, I’ll be presenting a slide show on Conrail to the Amherst Railway Society in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.
The year 2019 marks the 20thanniversary of the divide of Conrail operations between CSX and Norfolk Southern so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on Conrail’s operations.
The program will feature some of my finest vintage slides; Kodachrome and otherwise.
Amherst Railway Society’s Clubhouse is located in the old Palmer Grange Hall on the south side of South Main Street near the intersection with Route 32, a stone’s throw from the old Tennyville Bridge over CSX’s former Conrail—Boston & Albany—mainline. Ample parking is available.
Some weeks ago, I had a few minutes before running an errand. I stopped in at CP83 near the old Palmer Union Station.
My timing was nearly perfect. Not long after I arrived, I heard a familiar roar to the west.
The air was clear, and the sounds of EMD 645 diesels were resonating as they worked eastbound.
I thought, ‘must be the B740’ (the CSX local freight that typically arrives in Palmer about mid-morning to work the interchange.)
I walked up to the South Main Street bridge. As the train approached Palmer, it enters a short down grade, so the roar quieted. This change in pitch might confuse a novice visitor, who might become discouraged at the very moment a train is about to pass.
Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, CSX B740 rolled into view and took the switch at CP83 onto the controlled siding.
Perfect low and clear December sun over my left shoulder made for a calendar scene.
It was a bright morning. I had a comparatively late start.
Since the new CT Rail suburban service began operations on the ‘Hartford Line’ (New Haven-Hartford-Springfield former New Haven Railroad line), I’d been meaning to photograph one of the trains on the big bridge over the Connecticut River at Warehouse Point/East Windsor-Windsor Locks.
Last summer the sun angles didn’t suit the timetable, but now with a revised schedule and low winter sun, there are a variety of angles to be had.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm zoom, I made these views of CT Rail 4405 just before 11am on December 12, 2018.
The train is now approaching its station stop at Meriden, Connecticut.
It was announced that from Hartford the train was completely sold out. Thus demonstrating that old adage no one rides trains anymore because they’re too crowded!
I exposed these photos with my FujFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
As we roll along, the files were downloaded to my MacBook using Image Capture software, scaled for internet using Lightroom, and uploaded via Amtrak’s WiFi to WordPress for presentation on Tracking the Light.
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It was on a damp evening 15 years ago (13 December 2003), that I exposed this 35mm Fujichrome Sensia II slide using my Contax G2 rangefinder with 45mm Zeiss lens at Irish Rail’s station in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny.
At the time, Irish Rail was operating its sugarbeet trains via Thomastown and Cherryville Junction owing to bridge collapse at Cahir, County Tipperary.
I’ve always liked the rich atmosphere of this slide which conveys an era now gone. Irish Rail closed the cabin at Thomastown a few months later and removed the Thomastown loop when it commissioned the Waterford Mini CTC.
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On the evening of December 4, 2018, I panned CTrail train 4461 led by engine 6695 at the new Berlin, Connecticut station.
Berlin is brightly lit and makes for a good vantage point to watch and photograph passenger trains on the Hartford Line.
To make this pan photo, I set the shutter speed at 1/30thof second, fixed a point in my view finder and moved my camera and body in parallel with the train in a smooth unbroken motion as it arrived at the station.
Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s famous Zephyr is one of the most significant trains of the 20thCentury.
In November, I photographed the preserved Zephyr at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where the historic train set is proudly display in the lobby.
It was great to see the Zephyr in person again. Last time I saw the train back in the 1990s, it was undergoing a thorough cosmetic restoration in Wisconsin.
I’ve written extensively about the Zephyr, describe the train’s context, history and technology.
The Zephyr set important technological precedents. For propulsion, it was the first train powered by the Winton 201 diesel engine, which made it America’s first diesel-powered streamliner—a bit of trivia that might have been less important if the diesel had not ultimately vanquished steam. From a streamlined perspective it was significant as well. The body was the work of Philadelphia-based Edward G. BuddCompany and was constructed from shot-welded stainless-steel using Budd’s proprietary welding technique developed for automobile construction—From my book Streamliners—Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style.
Between Albuquerque and Raton Pass (on the New Mexico-Colorado state line) I counted three bastions of Union Switch & Signal style-T2 upper quadrant semaphores on our journey over the former Santa Fe in Vista-Dome Silver Splendor.
I watched the blades drop from the vertical as we passed—a scene I’d not witnessed for many years.
In 2018, these signals represent the last large collections of active semaphores on any North American mainline.
The Style T2 was detailed in my book Classic Railroad Signals in a sidebar titled ‘Sante Fe Semaphores Survive in New Mexico’ by John Ryan and the late John Gruber.
I exposed this vintage Fujichrome colour slide using a Nikon N90s in March 1999.
My reason for selecting Herne Hill was to picture the Eurostar in third rail territory on its run from Waterloo International to the Channel Tunnel. Catching this suburban train as it passed the junction was just happen-stance.
The old slam door cars are now more than a decade gone from revenue working, and to me this photo seems like a long time ago.
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