Category Archives: railroads

January 15th—GG1 4876 and the Anniversary of the Federal Express Wreck.

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.

Kodachrome 64 with Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar lens.

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East Deerfield—Twenty Two Years Ago Today.

On January 13, 1997, I exposed this Fujichrome Provia slide of Guilford’s EDWJ ready to depart Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard (Massachusetts).

This was two years prior to the Conrail divide and at the time East Deerfield was a relatively quiet place.

I was working with my N90S fitted with a Nikkor 80-200 AF zoom lens.

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Dublin—Almost 20 Years Ago.

Looking East on Wellington Quay toward the Loop Line Bridge and Dublin’s Custom House.

In March 1999, I exposed this portrait view from a rooftop on Wellington Quay. Entrance to the building was just opposite ‘The Temple Bar’.

Working with an N90S with a Tokina 400mm lens, I quickly composed this frame as Irish Rail’s evening ‘down Rosslare’ rolled across the Loop Line bridge behind an EMD-built 071 class diesel.

Last week, I scanned this Fujichrome Sensia II colour slide on using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner.

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Mark3s, Semaphores and a Crow: Irish Rail at Killarney 14 Years Ago


On this day, 10 January 2005, I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II slide of an Irish Rail train from Tralee at Killarney, County Kerry.

This was shortly before Mini-CTC resignalling would close the cabin and remove all the classic mechanical signaling.

At the time 201 diesels and Mark3 carriages were the norm and not noteworthy; but they seem pretty cool today.

I like the crow perched on the semaphore blade.

Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor telephoto, metered manually with a handheld external meter.

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Classic Chrome: BNSF piggyback on the Rio Grande.


The ‘Ides of March’ 1997; Sagers, Utah along Union Pacific’s old Denver & Rio Grande Western mainline.

Fellow photographer Mel Patrick and I were traveling back from WinteRail ’97 (held in Stockton, California) and made a project of photographing trains in the Utah and Nevada deserts.

It was at 6:38 AM that I exposed this trailing view of a short BNSF piggyback train heading eastward toward Denver.

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SEPTA Sampler—January 2, 2019.


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.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown High-Speed Line car interior. Lumix LX7 photo.
69th Street, Upper Darby. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

SEPTA Silverliner V at Woodbourne, PA. FujiFilm XT1.

The Vault brew pub in Yardley, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.


Our return train on the old Reading Company at Yardley. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Philadelphia City Hall. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Brian Solomon’s Conrail Slide Show—Wednesday January 9, 2019.

In Early October 1997, Conrail C30-7As lead a westward freight on the old Boston & Albany at Muddy Pond near Washington Summit at Hinsdale, Massachusetts.


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.

See Amherst Railway Society’s page for details:

http://www.amherstrail.org/ARS/meeting-Jan2019.php

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Houston Rail Freight at Night—December 18, 2018.


Low clouds, bright city lights, and lots of freight on the move; that was my brief experience touring Houston’s railroad yards on the evening of December 18, 2018.

Tom Kline gave my father and me a whirlwind tour and I made atmospheric grab shots as we drove around.

The photos here were made using high-ISO on my FujiFilm XT1. These were made ‘on the fly’, handheld from Tom’s truck without benefit of a tripod or set up time.

I was delighted with my results and I’ve promised Tom that someday I’ll return for some daylight photography.

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Palmer, Massachusetts—CSX B740: Three GP40-2s and calendar lighting.


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.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Stafford Springs and New England Central 608: Part 2.


On Wednesday, December 12, 2018, I revisited the scene at Stafford Springs, having made photos there two days earlier.

In fact, I’ve been photographing trains passing this Connecticut village since the early 1980s, but I find it always helps to try to look at an old place with fresh eyes.

I like the arrangement of old brick buildings, the tracks along the creek/old mill race, and other elements characteristic of southern New England.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens, I exposed these views of New England Central 608 on its return journey from Palmer to Willimantic.

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My Author’s Advance Copy of February 2018 TRAINS Arrived.

Pages 18 and 19 feature my column, in which I discuss future freight railroads and their opportunities.

My Podcasts are advertised on page 5. To listen in click this link:

http://trn.trains.com/photos-videos/2018/09/conversations-with-brian-solomon

This the second issue that features the new redesigned image.

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Amtrak Sunset at Beaumont, Texas.

Sunset Sunsets Part 3.

This was a long stop with a crew change; the New Orleans crew exchanged for a crew to take the train to San Antonio.

I had about ten minutes to wander around and make photos before we were westward bound again.

These views were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss Touit lens.

What amazed me was how quickly the sun sets in Texas in December. Not long after the train was underway again, I noticed the sky was completely dark.

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Rolling Across the Connecticut River: CT Rail 4405 in Color!

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.

It helps to have a nice clear morning!

CT Rail 4405 runs weekdays from Springfield, Massachusetts to New Haven. Connecticut. Seen cross the Connecticut River near East Windsor/Warehouse Point, Connecticut.


Trailing view of the same train. By working with a zoom lens (variable focal length) I was able to rapidly adjust my perspective and expose several distinctive views of the same train as it crossed the bridge

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Amtrak at Lafayette, Louisiana—Monday December 17, 2018.


Traveling on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited on our way from New Orleans to Houston, the train made a long station stop at Lafayette, Louisiana.

Well it was long enough for me to get out for a few minutes and expose a few photos.

It was 22 years and 11 months ago that I gave a lecture in Lafayette. That was my last visit here, and it seems like a lifetime ago.

Photos were exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, adjusted in Lightroom for contrast and saturation.

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New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal


NOUPT serves Amtrak’s City of New OrleansCrescent, and tri-weekly Sunset Limitedplus the seasonal train ride styled as the Polar Express.It’s also the city’s bus terminal.

This station was among the very last city terminals constructed during the era when the private railroads ran their own passenger trains.

Only ticketed Amtrak passengers were permitted onto the railroad platforms.

Here are few views exposed the other day.


Amtrak’s Polar Express train ride-set.

Amtrak’s Polar Express train ride-set.
Amtrak’s Polar Express train ride-set on left; Sunset Limited on right. File adjusted for contrast and highlight and shadow detail maximization.

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A Dozen Views from the Crescent.

Exploring the train, gazing out at the rolling panorama and nipping off for moments during station stops allows for snapshots of our journey.

Below are just a few of many views exposed on the way to New Orleans on Amtrak’s Crescent.

Gainesville, Georgia.

Gainesville, Georgia.
Breakfast in the diner.
Georgia-Alabama border.

Station stop at Anniston, Alabama.

Near Anniston, Alabama.

Rolling south on the old Southern Railway toward Birmingham.

Frisco 2-8-2 displayed near Birmingham, Alabama.

Baldwin switcher near Birmingham.

Birmingham, Alabama.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Meridian, Mississippi.

Meridian, Mississippi.

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Greenfield, Massachusetts: Pan Am’s EDRJ on the move!


As we drove north on Route 5, I said to Mike Gardner, “It’s 2:30, EDRJ should be getting organized to head west.” At that very moment, the scanner squawked:

“EDRJ, proceed west on signal indication.”

That was timely!

So we went to my old standby location in Greenfield. We had enough time to set up, when the chug of vintage General Electric diesels announced the approach of EDRJ.

I made these views with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Misty 220 degree Panoramic View at Peach Tree Station, Atlanta.

If you are not viewing on Briansolomon.com, click the link to Tracking the Light for the FULL view!

A misty morning greeted Amtrak number 19, the Crescent, Sunday December 16, 2018.

I walked to the front of the train during our extended stop and exposed this 220 degree panoramic composite view using my Lumix LX7.

Using a preset in the ‘SCN’ mode, the camera automatically stitches together a series of photos exposed in rapid succession to make for a broad panoramic image.

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Live from Amtrak’s Crescent.

Live from Amtrak’s Crescent.

This evening we boarded Amtrak’s Crescent, train 19,at Wilmington, Delaware. 

Although, dull and about to drizzle, I made this late afternoon photos at the former Pennsylvania Railroad station using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.’

Lumix LX7 photo at Wilmington, Delaware.
Amtrak train 156; Lumix LX7 photo at Wilmington, Delaware.
Amtrak ACS64 651 on train 156; Lumix LX7 photo at Wilmington, Delaware.
Train 161 at Wilmington, Delaware. Lumix LX7 photo.
Wilmington, Delaware. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak’s Crescent at Wilmington. FujiFilm XT-1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Viewliner sleepers on Amtrak’s Crescent at Wilmington. FujiFilm XT-1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Hall of mirrors! FujiFilm XT-1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. 

I’ve adjusted the camera RAW files in Lightroom to boost color saturation and contrast in an effort to improve the overall appearance of the photos.

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Delaware Railway Relics—December 15, 2018.

It hasn’t been a bright day, but I don’t visit northern Delaware very often, and in my short visit I made the most of my time investigating some railway vestiges.

Eric Rosenthal brought my dad and I to inspect sights on the Wilmington & Western on our way to catch Amtrak’s Crescent at Wilmington’s Amtrak Station.

I made these views using my Lumix LX7 and then processed the RAW files on my MacBook. To upload the images I set up a personal ‘hot spot’ on my iPhone and linked the MacBook via WiFi.

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Engine Change at New Haven.

It’s the ‘blue hour’ at New Haven, Connecticut.

Amtrak’s Vermonter is one of a few trains that still changes engines at New Haven, as result of it running through from non-electrified territory to the north.

In the case of Amtrak 55, the common GE-built P42 diesel (number 192) was exchanged for a Siemens-built ACS-64 high-voltage electric. 

Amtrak added a coach to the front of the train too. A wise move considering how crowded this train is.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I set the camera to ISO 1600 and the white balance to ‘auto’, and made some photos from the platform during our 24-minute pause at New Haven Union Station.

Many years ago, my late friend Bob Buck recalled to me a story of a child gazing out the window at the steam, smoke and wires, “Pa, is this hell?” “No son, this is New Haven!”

Video uploaded from my iPhone.

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Posting Live from Amtrak Train 55!

I’m traveling toward Wilmington, Delaware aboard Amtrak Train 55, the southward Vermonter. 

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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East Deerfield Railfan’s Bridge Update: Views from the New Bridge.

The old McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) had been a popular place to photograph trains.

Guilford SD26 632 leads EDRP (East Deerfield-Rouses Point) westbound at McClelland Farm Road on August 30, 1987. Kodachrome slide exposed using a Leica M2.

Known colloquially as the ‘Railfan’s Bridge,’ this vantage point had been featured in articles in TRAINS Magazine, Railpace and other popular literature for decades.

For more than a year a new bridge, parallel to the old bridge, has been under construction.

Last week, December 6, 2018, photographer Mike Gardner and I made a brief visit to East Deerfield to inspect progress.

The old bridge was still in place, while the new bridge was open and mostly complete.

Inevitably, fences will be installed, and how these may affect photography has yet to been seen. However, looking to the east, the view has been complicated by the erection of new electrical lines.

Below are a few views of the new and old McClelland Farm Road bridges.

Panoramic view of the new and old bridges.

The view looking west from the new bridge.
Here’s the sorry state of the old bridge. How many thousands of photos were made from this span?


Looking east from the new bridge.


The view from the new bridge looking toward the East Deerfield Loop.

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Thomastown Cabin at Dusk—On this Day 15 Years Ago.


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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CTrail 6695 on the Move.

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.

New Haven bound Trail 4461 arrives at Berlin, Connecticut on December 4, 2018.

Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.

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Northfield, Massachusetts: New England Central Timeless Monochrome?

Last week on a trip along the Connecticut River Valley with fellow photographer Mike Gardner, I exposed this view of New England Central job 611 at Northfield, Massachusetts.

Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with a Nikkor f1.8 50mm lens. Film scanned using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner. Negatives adjusted using Lightroom.

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Views from the Lake Shore Limited at Rochester, New York.

View from Amtrak 48 at Rochester’s new station. 

Heading east on the back of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited,  I exposed these views from the dutch doors of Silver Splendorat Rochester, New York on its cross country journey.

Photographer, Otto Vondrak caught us at the Rochester station,  a place much changed from my visits here in the 1980s.

A westward CSX local meets Amtrak in Rochester, New York. Lumix LX7 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo of a westward CSX local freight.

FujiFilm XT1 photo of a westward CSX local freight.

CSX local at Goodman Street Yard in Rochester. FujiFilm XT1.
Amtrak 48 at Goodman Street Yard, Rochester, New York.

Seeing the ‘new’ Rochester from the windows of the train was a bit surreal.

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Burlington’s Zephyr on Display

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.

You can buy my book from Amazon see:

https://www.amazon.com/Streamliners-Locomotives-Trains-Speed-Style/dp/0760347476

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Conversations with Brian Solomon Episode 11

Today, Friday December 7, 2018, Trains Magazine released Episode 11 of my podcast Converstions with Brian Solomon.

Bob Bentley of Massachusetts Central is my featured guest in an interview conducted at the Palmer Public Library in Palmer Massachusetts.

Bob Bentley with Massachusetts Central’s NW5 at Palmer, Massachusetts in 2008.

See Trains at:

http://trn.trains.com/photos-videos/2018/09/conversations-with-brian-solomon

Or listen to the podcast on Sound Cloud:

https://soundcloud.com/user-312824194/conversations-with-brian-solomon-episode-11

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Chicago Metra in Transition—November 2018

In recent months, Chicago Metra has been painting its older EMD diesels in a modern livery.

My first experience seeing these old engines in new dress was approaching Chicago Union Station on Amtrak number 4.

I made these views ‘on the fly’ from the dutch door of former Burlington Vista Dome Silver Splendor(nee Silver Buckle) that was rolling over old home rails on the last lap of the run from Los Angeles.

I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 18-135mm zoom lens, which gave me necessary compositional flexibly as the scenes rapidly changed.

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Frontier Yard, Buffalo, December 3, 1988.

It was 30 years ago today that I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide at the east-end of Buffalo’s Frontier Yard.

In this view, there are two westward freights on the former New York Central Water Level Route.

I was fond of Conrail’s six-motor General Electric diesels, and C36-7 6620 caught my eye.

Looking east on the former New York Central on December 3, 1988. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed at f4.5 1/250th of a second.

My notes from the day have gone missing, which is unusual and annoying, because I’ve generally made a habit of keeping detailed note from each trip over the years.

However, I recall that I was traveling with Doug Eisele and Pete Swanson and that we made a tour of Buffalo area freight operations. I exposed this view using my Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.

The day began bright and clear, but by midday clouds had rolled in from Lake Erie.

 

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Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Sunrise at Argentine, Kansas.

Two weeks ago Amtrak’s Southwest Chief greeted a frosty sunrise at BNSF’s sprawling Argentine Yards, west of Kansas City.

I made these digital photographs from the dome and vestibule of Silver Splendor,the former CB&Q Vista-Dome in which I was traveling cross-country.

A rosy sunrise tints my perspective; it sure made this famous yard look like a neat place.

BNSF westbound at Argentine Yard.

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Semaphores on the Santa Fe—Five Photos.

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.

The view of a semaphore dropping from ‘clear’ to ‘stop and proceed’ as seen from Vista Dome Silver Splendor on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

Lumix LX7 photo near Las Vegas, New Mexico.

East of Las Vegas, New Mexico. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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.

Classic Railroad Signals was published by Voyageur Press in 2015. It is available at:

https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9780760346921/Classic-Railroad-Signals.html?direct=1

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Silver Splendor at Los Angeles Union Heading East on Number Four.

One week ago, former Chicago Burlington & Quincy Budd-built Vista dome Silver Splendor (originallySilver Buckle) was positioned behind the baggage car on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, train number four.

This elegant stainless steel streamlined car was about to embark on a transcontinental journey towards its new home.

Amtrak 87 leads train no.4 waiting to depart Los Angeles on Saturday August 17, 2018.

Photos exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

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Flash from the Past: Southern Region Slamdoor EMUs at Herne Hill, London.

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.

Tracking the Light is on autopilot while Brian is Traveling.

Typically, Tracking the Light posts daily.