Category Archives: railroads

Inchicore in the Details

Last month I was invited on an official tour of Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works. I joined a small group of journalists preparing a feature on the upcoming 175th Anniversary open house that occured about 10 days later (after I returned to the USA).

On my casual walk-around I had the opportunity to chat with a variety of Irish Rail employees and retirees.

In addition to some photos of locomotives and railcars, I made numerous vignettes of the shops and the details thereof using my Lumix LX7.

In a future post, I’ll include some more of the locomotive photos.

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Vermonter at White River Junction

On Thursday, May 12, 2022, Kris and I stopped by the railroad station at White River Junction, Vermont to catch train 55, the southward Vermonter.

It was a clear bright morning and pleasantly warm.

I made this pair of photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

I recalled to Kris my first visit to this station back in May 1985 when my pal T.S. Hoover and I had driven over night to witness the crew change on the northward Montrealer. An event that occurred in the wee hours shortly before sunrise.

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Three Trains at Islandbridge Junction.

Toward the end of April, for the second morning in a row, I was in position at ‘the box’ on St Johns Road in Dublin to witness the passing of Irish Rail’s down IWT liner.

It was a cosmic alignment. The sun came out just as three trains converged upon Islandbridge Junction. The first was an ICR that emerged from the Phoenix Park Tunnel and stopped across from Platform 10. The second was an ICR heading toward the tunnel.

Then the down IWT liner emerged from the tunnel weaved around both ICRs on its way through the junction.

Sometimes, it helps to be in place at the best spot and just wait out the action.

Exposed in April 2022 using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Six Lumix Views of Branch Ballast Extra

Yesterday, Thursday May 5, 2022 was a beautiful bright day in Conway, New Hampshire.

I traveled with the ballast train, which was the only train moving over the Conway Scenic Railroad.

Since the train made a number of stops to drop stone, I had ample opportunity to make photographs.

I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7, but also made a few photos of the lads working the train using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. I’m saving the Z6 photos for a later post.

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Work Extra at Puddin’ Pond

Another in my ballast train series.

Yesterday, April 22, 2022, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a Work Extra on the Redstone Line to Pudding Pond to dump ballast.

I traveled with the train and used my Panasonice Lumix LX7 to document the work.

This was the first time since the railroad acquired former Maine Central GP38 255 that it worked out the Redstone Branch as far east as Pudding Pond.

The significance of this foray east was that old 255 would have routinely worked Maine Central freights on this same section of track between the late 1960s and the early 1980s.

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Thalys at Gare du Nord—1999.

In the Spring of 1999, I traveled on the Thalys highspeed service from Brussels Midi to Paris Gare du Nord.

Shortly after my arrival in Paris, I made this view of Thalys trainsets on the platform of the station using my Nikon fitted with a 24mm lens.

At the time I was working with my old Nikon F3T loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO).

I had the film processed by A&I lab in California.

This was one of many illustrations that appeared in my book Bullet Trains published by MBI in the year 2000.

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Rock train at Frankenstein

Yesterday, April 12, 2022, Conway Scenic operated a loaded ballast train on the former Maine Central Mountain Division.

Leading the train was former Maine Central GP38 255 acquired by CSRR last October.

I arranged to be in position at the west end of the Frankenstein Bridge to catch the up-hill move, and exposed this sequence of digital photographs using my Nikon Z6 mirror-less camera with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

Although overcast, the lighting was well suited to a red locomotive with black ballast cars.

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Rockville Bridge

I wrote about Pennsylvania Railroad’s Rockville Bridge in my book Railway Masterpieces published in 2002.

“The third bridge at Rockville was started in 1900, and opened to traffic in 1902. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Rail Facts and Figures, as ‘the world’s largest stone arch railway bridge over a river’. It consists of 48 stone arch spans.”

Last month Kris and I paid a visit to the Rockville Bridge. As we approached this magnificent viaduct a westward Norfolk Southern freight was crawling across, yet we had arrived too late to catch the head end of the train on the bridge.

We decided to wait a little while to see if another freight would come along.

Finally after about 45 minutes, I could hear a GE diesel chugging away on the far side of the Susquehanna. As the train started across the bridge, the evening sun emerged from the clouds, producing some very fine light to photograph the train.

I exposed these photos with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens firmly mounted on my mid-1990s vintage Bogen tripod.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens set at 170mm, f5.0 1/500th of a second, ISO 200.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens set at 76mm, f5.0 1/500th of a second, ISO 200.

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Three years ago at Luso

On this day three years ago (26 March 2019), Denis McCabe and I photographed CP (Comboios de Portugal) train IC513 crossing the massive valley-spanning viaduct at Luso-Bucaco, Portugal.

I made this pair of coming and going photos using my Fuji XT1 mirror-less digital camera.

The top photo required a bit of contrast adjustement using Adobe Lightroom, while the bottom photo is simply a scaled version of the in-camera JPG.

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Rare Bird on the Reading & Northern

A week ago (March 18, 2022), Kris and I called into the Reading & Northern at Port Clinton, Pennsylvania.

We obtained permission to be on the property and make photos.

Although, I had visions of seeing something older, grander, and of greater personal interest, I was impressed by the vintage EMD diesels sitting outside the company offices.

Reading & Northern 2000 was a classic SD38, a 2,000 hp six-motor EMD, built for the Penn Central in 1970, and later served Conrail.

Where the GP38 was a common type (as were the GP40 and SD40 models), the SD38 was unusual—a real rare bird with just 63 built.

I’ve only photographed a scant few SD38s in all my years wandering North American rails, including those operated by Conrail, the US Steel roads: Bessemer & Lake Erie, Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range, and Elgin, Joliet & Eastern; and at least one Grand Trunk Western unit, that back in 1986 showed up on Central Vermont in Palmer, Massachusetts leading a cable laying train.

So here we find this rare diesel, ripe for a few photos: I made this photo with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series lens. But, I also exposed a frame or two of HP5 using an antique Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.

Soon we were on the verge of finding something rarer, cooler, and the reason for our visit . . . stay tuned!

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Snow and Shadows at Esbenshade

Fresh snow and fierce wind made for challenging conditions on the Strasburg Rail Road at Esbenshade Road.

The subtle texture and stark environment of the windswept cornfields with the a steam locomotive makes for a timeless scene.

I exposed these views on Saturday March 12, 2022 using my Nikon Z6 with Z-series 70-200mm lens.

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Overgrown freight wagon—Prague

On a visit to Prague, Czech Republic in October 2016, I bought several rolls of locally produced Fomapan black & white film.

At a suburban station to the east of the city center, I made this view of an old four-wheel freight wagon parked on a siding and consumed by the local vegetation.

This photo is a scaled Jpg from the original scanned negative. I made no adjustment to the scanned file in regards to contrast, exposure or sharpness.

Fomapan 100 black & white film exposed with a Nikon F3 camera.

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Stacumni Bridge Two photos a year minus a Day.

I visited Stucumni Bridge on the Dublin-Cork line on March 9, 2016 and March 8, 2017.

On both visits I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 to photograph Irish Rail trains on the quad track.

I only noticed the succession of dates when preparing this post. Kris said, ‘That’s really cool, you should include both photos.

I think it’s interesting that I selected a similar focal length and angle for both images.

The1020 down Heuston Station to Portlaoise train passes Stacumni Bridge on March 9, 2016.
Irish Rail’s UP IWT Liner with Container Pocket Wagons on March 8, 2017.

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CSX Q300 on the Reading

Ten years ago today (February 28, 2012), I made this photo of CSX Q300 on the old Reading Company at West Trenton, New Jersey.

My old Lumix LX3 was a little tricky to use when making action photos of trains. If the camera was in full ‘auto’ mode and I pressed on the shutter release the camera would hesitate for a moment.

The trick was to use the manual setting and then ‘queue-up’ the camera by presssing the shutter release halfway in preparation for making a photo. In this way the camera shutter would release almost instantaneously when pressed the remainder of the way, thus allowing for a composition with full-frame view of a moving train, such as this one.

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Classic Conrail at CP79

After a light snowfall in December 1993, I set up at CP79 east of Palmer, Massachusetts, where an eastward Conrail freight led by DASH-8-40C 6069 was holding on the Controlled Siding to meet a set of light engines rolling west behind B23-7 1992.

I was working with my Nikon F3T fitted with an Nikkor AF28MM lens. Since the F3T wasn’t equipped with autofocus, I set the focus manually.

This lens offered a wide perspective and tended to vignette the corners of the photo. Also because it was relatively wide, the relative motion of the leading locomotive to the film plane was greater than with a longer focal length lens, and resulted in a slight blurring, despite a 1/250th of second shutter speed.

My film choice was Kodachrome 25.

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2001 Sunset at Heuston Station

On an evening in Spring 2001, I made this monochrome silhouette at Dublin’s Heuston Station using my Rollei Model T. The photo brings back memories of another time.

The place has much changed in the intervening 21 years since the click of the shutter.

This shows Irish Rail class 141/181s working as shunters, a practice that ended about a dozen years ago when locomotive hauled consists were phased out in favor of modern self propelled Intercity Railcars (ICRs). Among the other changes: the platform arrangement was altered and extended, while the trainshed roof restored.

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Plowing Snow!

Friday, February 11, 2022, New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic operated its vintage Russell snow plow with former Maine Central Railroad GP38 255 pushing it west toward Attitash.

I followed the plow by road and made a few select digital photos with my Nikon Z6 fitted with 70-200mm lens.

To get a good snow exposure I dialed in ‘+3’ to the expose compensation, which helps keep the snow white. I metered manually with the in-camera ‘matrix meter’, then set both shutter speed and aperture manually.

Although I set the camera’s focas point, I let the Nikon’s autofocus system work as intended.

In a few instances, I hiked into locations to get the best angle where the snow was the deepest. On more than one occasion I found myself up to my hips in snow.

It was a good day out with the plow!

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a video for Conway Scenic on the operation of the plow. This was mostly filmed in 2021. It is available on You Tube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp5Qg-5_B6M

Intervale, NH.
Intervale, NH looking west toward Mount Washington.
Clearing the line at Glen, NH.
Glen, NH.
Working upgrade along Route 302 west of Glen, NH.

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On this Day 2014—Acela at West Haven

Eight Years ago—February 7, 2014—I made this trailing view of Amtrak’s Acela Express racing eastward at West Haven, Connecticut.

My father and I spent the morning along the former New Haven Railroad electrified mainline photographing Amtrak and Metro-North trains in action.

f7.1 at 1/1000 of a second, ISO 200.

Exposed digitally using my Canon EOS-7D with a prime 200mm lens.

Yesterday, I made some snowy photos with this same old Canon, which after a dozen years still makes excellent images.

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Evening Plow Extra at Glen

Yesterday evening Conway Scenic Railroad operated a work extra with GP38 252 and the company’s vintage Russell snow plow.

I wrote the orders for the train, then went out along the line to make some photos with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

Low pastel sunlight made for some beautiful snowy scenes.

I caught the plow extra at Glen, NH, not far from the Ellis River crossing.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom lens.

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Big DIesels at West Springfield.

On a session of the West Springfield Train Watchers, I made this view of four BIG Conrail diesels at the west end of the yard.

It was the evening of July 19, 1983.

I traveled there with Bob Buck in his green Ford van.

As dusk settled, I set up my Leica 3A on a tripod, carefully keeping the yard lights at the edge of the frame. I opened the shutter using the ‘T’ setting and illuminated the train with a Metz strobe to compensate for the inky shadows of the summer evening.

I was keen on making the most of the Conrail C30-7s and SD45-2s leading the evening westbound. These were rare locomotives and worthy of my attention at the time. On the recommendation of my friend and fellow photographer Doug Moore, I’d wrapped the head of the strobe in a white garbage bag to soften and diffuse the light.

Looking back this photo, what strikes me is the relative sophistication my composition. Yet, for years this image sat dormant because of its poor technical qualities. I over processed the film, leading to coarse grain and excessive contrast.

Conrail C30-7s and SD45-2s at West Springfield, Massachusetts on July 19, 1983.

I asked Kris why my early photos benefit from great composition despite their poor technical quality. She suggested that this was because I was making photo for joy of the subject without too much concern for technique.

Over the years my overall techique improved, but as my technical qualities were refined my compositions grew less innovative. Eventually my improved techniques resulted in superior images, but I still look back at my early efforts trying to see what I saw.

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Remembering the PRR

Fifty-Four years gone: The late great Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was America’s largest, busiest, and most intensive railroad.

On our trip to Pennsylvania in November we experienced plenty of action along the rails of the former Pennsylvania Railroad. But we also saw several examples of Pennsylvania Railroad freight equipment preserved for display.

I made these digital images of restored PRR equipment as it appeared to me in November 2021.

PRR GP9 7048 at Horseshoe Curve—Altoona, PA.
PRR GP9 7048 at Horseshoe Curve—Altoona, PA.
PRR F30A flatcar at Horseshoe Curve.
PRR N5C caboose at Gallitzin, PA.
PRR-X31A boxcar at Hollidaysburg, PA.
PRR-X31A boxcar at Hollidaysburg, PA.
PRR-X31A boxcar at Hollidaysburg, PA.

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T-6 Square

This is not a problem.

In 2007 while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania, I visited the Middletown & Hummelstown, a short line operating a short section of the former Reading Company.

I made this 2 1/4 inch square Fujichrome transparency using my Rolleiflex Model T.

The focus of the image was the Alco Products builder’s plate on the model T-6 switcher.

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Conrail at Milepost 119

Here’s a photo from my black & white archives that I’d completely dismissed. I’d exposed it at Huntington, Massachusetts in March 1985.

There were a few of problems with this image that irked me.

The first was cosmic. Moments before I release the shutter, a cloud coverd the front of the train. That sort of thing used to drive me nuts.

The second was strategic. I’d released the shutter a little earlier than I’d like, leaving the train just a bit distant. I didn’t have a motor drive in those days, and typically would wait for the decisive moment to take my photo.

The third was a chronic failing from my Leica 3 days. I tended to photograph slightly off level, leaving most of my photos annoyingly tilted.

All of these flaws are now easily overcome using Adobe Lightroom.

I altered the exposure and contrast to correct for the obscured sun, while bringing in sky detail partially lost to over exposure. I cropped the photo to minimize the foreground, and this pleasantly altered the composition to feature the code lines to the right of the locomotives and milepost 119 on the left. Lastly, I leveled the image, a task that take now about 2 seconds.

Looking at this photo now, I find that I’m very pleased with it. It has aged very well. The minor flaws don’t bother me, since these were easily corrected, while the overall subject fascinates me. It is the time machine I needed today.

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Here’s the original, unaltered image for comparison.

Norfolk Southern Local at Hunt

It was a warm November morning, when Kris and I visited Huntingdon, Pennsylvania on the old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division.

Years ago, my old pal TSH and I would visit his grandmother who lived in Huntingdon. Kris and I drove around the village and I located the row house where Gram H. once lived. Then we proceeded to the Amtrak station to wait for the eastward Pennsylvanian.

Norfolk Southern fielded a few freights ahead of Amtrak, including this short local frieght led by a lone SD70ACU. Back in the old days, a pair of GP38-2s would have been standard on the local.

Norfolk Southern local freight passes HUNT tower in Huntingdon, PA.

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 with f2.8 70-200mm zoom lens.

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Alcos at Dublin Street

On January 27, 1984, I made a few photos of Central Vermont Alco RS-11s switching at Dublin Street in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Locomotive 3608 was a rare bird on CV’s Palmer Subdivision. I only caught it in daylight on a few occasions. This RS-11 was distinctive for its boxy chopped nose on its short hood.

I scanned this negative a few days ago using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner and made some very minor post-processing adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Norfolk Southern at Hollidaysburg.

On our way east on Route 22 last November, Kris and I overtook a Norfolk Southern local freight with a GP40-2 slug set that was switching on a vestige of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Hollidaysburg, PA.

I made these digital photos working with my Nikon Z6 and 24-70 and 70-200mm zoom lenses.

The stone retaining wall along the road caught my attention.

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Amtrak 321 leading train 448 Eastbound at West Brookfield.

I scribbled locations and dates on an envelope back in the Spring of 1985, when ‘d processed this roll of Ilford FP4.

I’d bulk-rolled the film myself, thus allowing 39 frames on one roll of film, which I then exposed with a Leica 3A between March 31 and April 6 (my notes say April 5) 1985.

I recall the day, which was a Sunday. I started photographing in Palmer, Massachusetts, where I met Mike Tylick and his young son. I then followed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany route east in pursuit of a slow moving freight.

At West Brookfield, Massachusetts I caught up with my friend Bob Buck, who was train watching while reading his Sunday newspaper.

In this photograph, I’ve posed Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited, train 448, led by F40PH-2 #321, by the 1840s-era Western Railroad passenger station, which is among the oldest surviving railroad buildings in New England.

I’d borrowed my parent’s Chevy Impala (seen at the left) as I didn’t yet have my own car. The front of Bob’s green Ford van can be seen at the right.

Conrail’s B&A was still directional double track under rule 251 that governed movements in the current of traffic by signal indication.

My photo skills weren’t fantastic, but rapidly improving.

Last night I scanned this image using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner, and adjusted the RAW file from the scanner using Adobe Lightroom. This included cropping of the top of the frame to limit the amount of sky and the bottom of the frame to minimize foreground clutter.

The actual date of the photo confounds me. I know it was a Sunday, which was either March 31 or April 6. Somewhere I have a small six-ring orange notebook filled with my photo notes from 1985. This will likely solve my date quandary. But does anyone really care?

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Noctunal Views from the Tunnel Inn.

Among the features of staying at the Tunnel Inn in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania is the porch at the back of the building that over looks the Main Line.

This is equipped with lights designed to illuminate the railroad to aid in the views of passing freights.

On our second evening at the Tunnel Inn back in mid-November (2021), I exposed this sequence of eastward Norfolk Southern freight 36A (Conway Yard to Edgemore, Delaware).

This was an enormous freight. In addition to head-end power, there were both mid-train and tail-end distributed power units (remote control diesels).

I made all these photos using my Nikon Z6.

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255 From the Wisps of Time

In my archive of Kodachrome slides, I found this view from October 1982.

I’d been traveling on a Mystic Valley excursion that was returning from a run through the Hoosac Tunnel.

At Greenfield, Massachusetts we overtook an eastward Boston & Maine freight led by Maine Central run-through power.

In the lead was GP38 255.

At the time, locomotive 255 was just one of 13 Maine Central GP38s.

Today 255 is Conway Scenic’s latest purchase.

Interestingly, in October 1982, Maine Central’s Mountain Division was still open as a through freight route.

My 39 year slide is a difficult image. Hard backlighting, combined with suboptimal exposure on my part led to a pretty dark slide. Worse, in processing Kodak didn’t produce the best result, which suffers from a heavy magenta color bias.

I scanned the image and then made a series of adjustments to make it better. I’ve also included a recent photo of former Maine Central 255 on Conway Scenic.

Unaltered Kodachrome slide of Maine Central 255 at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Adjusted slide.

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GP38-2 with WInter Sky . . .

. . . Sky ‘enhanced’, that is.

The other day on a brief visit to Palmer, Massachusetts,Kris and I paused for a minute to make a photo of this Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP38-2 at the New England Central’s former Central Vermont yard. (Both NECR and B&P are part of the Genessee & Wyoming family.)

I thought of the countless photos that I’ve made of locomotives here over the last 45 years. Yet, I had never seen this locomotive here before. (Or certainly not in its current guise anyway.)

I made the image toward the end of daylight. Rich winter light graced the late afternoon sky, while the locomotive was largely bathed in shadow.

Lumix LX7 photo. I arranged my composition to show more than just the locomotive, but also feature the road, yard tracks, freight cars, and of course the clouds. To minimize the effects of some distracting glint on therighthand number board on the locomotive, I took the photo from a relatively low angle.

To make for a more pleasing image, I balanced the highlights and shadows and made adjustments to color temperature and contrast using Adobe Lightroom. The Sky Mask tool sampled this work. I felt my initial edit was a bit heavy handed so I toned it down a bit for presentation here.

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Coal Hoppers at Horseshoe Curve

In this November 2021 view at the World Famous Horse Shoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania, I pictured in classic fashion, a westward hopper train (empty coal train) climbing the Main Line toward Gallitzin.

Eighty-one years ago, we might have seen an equivalent scene with a pair of PRR L1s Mikados. Where Norfolk Southern has hundreds of GE Dash 9s, PRR had more than 500 2-8-2s.

I wonder what will be leading freights on the Curve in 2102?

Exposed digitally using a Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

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Stuffed Tank at Loon

I love just the title of today’s post.

Two months ago, on our way back from Lincoln, New Hampshire, Kris and I paused near the enterance to the Loon Mountain resort so I could photograph the preserved locomotive on display.

This Porter 0-4-0T is a vestige of the old East Branch & Lincoln logging railway that once operated an extensive network of lightly build lines to tap timber traffic along what is now the Kancamgus Highway.

It was a crisp warm autumn afternoon when I focused my Nikon Z6 on this relic of the steam age. There’s a quality to this photo that just says: Nikon to my eye. That’s neither good nor bad, but it will deserve greater investigation in the coming months.

Slight back lighting helps set off the dark locomotive from its background. Even ‘three quarter’ sun would be less effective.

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Helpers at Gallitzin—1989 and 2021

Much has changed at the summit of the Allegheny Divide in 22 years.

In the 1990s Conrail enlarged the tunnel clearances on one tunnel and added a second track while abandoning an adjacent bore. Conrail operations were conveyed to Norfolk Southern in 1999, and a new bridge was built over the tracks.

Last month on our visit to the Tunnel Inn at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, I made a variety of photos of Norfolk Southern trains passing through the tunnel.

I thought it would be neat to pair these helper images with vintage photos of Conrail trains from approximately the same location that I made on Kodachrome 25 back in July 1989.

Conrail SD40-2s working as rear-end helpers at milepost 248 in Gallitzin, PA. July 1989.

Norfolk Southern helpers, November 2021.
Norfolk Southern helpers, November 2021.

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Amtrak Pennsylvanian at the Curve—Six Photos

I timed our visit to Horseshoe Curve to coincide with the passage of Amtrak’s eastward Pennsylvanian—train 42.

I made this sequence of the New York- bound train as it descended the curve using both my Nikon Z6 and Lumix LX7 cameras.

Rich Novmeber sun and late season foliage made for a pleasing combination in contrast with the metallic Amtrak equipment.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom
Lumix LX7 photo.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom.
Norfolk Southern GEs work west passing Amtrak 42 at Horseshoe Curve. Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor Z-series zoom

All five images were adjusted in post processing using Adobe Lightroom.

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Blue Cement

We believe this was the second to last Wexford bag cement (also known as a ‘blue cement’ because of the covers on the four wheel freight wagons.)

Working with my old Contax G2 rangefinder, this was one of a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-XI exposed of the Irish Rail cement train on April 3, 2002.

Today, the single Bo-Bo diesel leading four-wheel wagons seems like a relic of former times.

How I miss those times.

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