Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.



Irish Rail’s Sperry rail inspection train at Islandbridge Junction, Dublin August 30, 2012.

Camera: Canon 7D fitted with an EF 28-135mm zoom.

Every so often everything comes together nicely. Yesterday (August 29, 2012), I learned that Irish Rail would be running its Sperry inspection train up to Dublin for stabling at the sidings near Heuston Station. This suits me well, as I’m staying just a short walk from Islandbridge Junction, immediately west of Heuston. While I caught the train yesterday afternoon, the conditions were less than ideal, although typically Irish; it was heavily clouded and lashing rain. I racked up the ISO to 800 on my Canon 7D digital camera and popped off a few frames, which I was happy to get. In 14 years of photographing Irish railways it was the first time I caught the Sperry train on camera.

What’s a ‘Sperry train?’ In the early part of the 20th century, a hidden rail fracture caused a serious derailment on the Lehigh Valley Railroad in New York. This tragic incident inspired prolific inventor Elmer Sperry to devise a system of inspecting rails. This consisted of a magnetic induction profile. For many years self-propelled black and yellow ‘Sperry Cars’ have been seen making the rounds on American railways. In more recent years, Sperry Rail devised a testing system using ultrasonic equipment to reveal rail fractures. Today, Sperry provides rail-defect detection services in many countries. On today’s train, Sperry’s detection equipment is in the yellow container riding on a flat wagon immediately behind the locomotive. The yellow tank wagons are to assist with braking.

A perfect sunny day greeted me this morning. I’d heard the train was due to depart the old Guinness sidings at Heuston about 9 am, so I was in place at that time. For this exercise I used my Canon 7D fitted with a EF 28-135mm lens. This arrangement gives me great flexibility, produces high quality images, and allows me to post images very quickly after exposing them. Another benefit is the digital medium allows me to make test frames that I can analyze on site to check for proper exposure, adequate focus, as well as framing and etc. For this image, the famed Wellington Testimonial (located at the east end of Dublin’s Phoenix Park) is featured. I’ve made many photos here before, but sometimes with film I’ve inadvertently cropped the top of monument while focusing on a moving train. I tried to avoid this mistake today, and with digital I could check right away, and not wait days or weeks to find out. With the camera set manually (in ‘M’ mode) I made several exposures bracketing my crop and exposure. This one was made at f6.3 1/500th of second at ISO 200; lens set to about 35mm. I made two files in camera; a large Jpg and a RAW. I made no adjustments to this image, other than scaling the large Jpg to 1024 pixels on the long side and adding my name and copyright information.

I feel I’ve had a productive morning so far! Later, I also caught one of Irish Rail’s IWT Liners, an intermodal container train that runs from Dublin Port to Ballina, County Mayo. Today, this was led by one of Irish Rail’s 201-class General Motors diesels wearing the Enterprise livery. While not unheard of, it is a good catch to see one these in freight service.

Irish Rail’s IWT Liner passing Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, photo by Brian Solomon

For more Irish Rail Sperry Train photos see: Sperry Train-Under Clear Skies

Interested in learning more about Dublin? Check out my ePub for iPad: Dublin Unconquered, now available on iTunes for just 4.99.



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One comment on “Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012

  1. While it can be intimidating at first, ive learned that the manual mode can be my friend. Some really great pictures can come out of making the plunge into manually adjusting your digital camera. I have made plenty of mistakes, but the learning is what makes it fun. It looks like the housing boom of the last decade has produced some sort of “architecture” in Dublin. Will it survive the decades or be laughed at ?

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