Irish Rail at Carlow—21 DEC 2003,


A visit to Irish Rail’s Carlow station on the shortest day of 2003, yielded some classic black & white photos, including these two views. The Cravens were working a scheduled service from Waterford to Dublin.

Working with a recently acquired Rollei Model T (the third such cameras I’d used over a 30 year span), I exposed a single roll of 120-size Fuji Neopan 400. The Rollei made a large square negative, which I really liked.

At the time my choice process for this film was using Agfa Rodinal Special (R09) at a ratio of 1 to 31 parts with water for about 3 mins 45 seconds. In this case I selenium toned the negatives for improved highlight detail.

Final presentation here included scanning using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and some minor adjustments to contrast and cropping with Lightroom.

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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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Gare Luxembourg—Six Views of an Impressive Railway Station.


Gare Luxembourg is Luxembourg’s primary passenger railway hub. This impressive station hosts trains from Belgium, France and Germany as well as those from Luxeumbourg’s own railway, known by the initials CFL .

CFL is the abbreviation for the state railway undertaking; 

Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois.

CFL has textbook perfect track; and from my brief experience its trains were clean and operated to time.

Gare Luxembourg is a wonderful example of classic Golden Age railway station architecture that has been tastefully modernized in the latest European styles.

Luxembourg is among the countries featured in my book; Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe. See Kalmbach Hobby Store:

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304

I made these recent views using my Lumix LX7.

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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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June 2019 TRAINS and Precision Scheduled Railroading.


See page 12 of the June 2019 TRAINS Magazine for my monthly column, where in this issue I investigate perceptions of Precision Scheduled Railroading. Read it! You might be surprised.

June 2019 Trains Magazine; main cover photo by Doug Koontz.


I illustrated my column using a photo I made in January of a tail-end DPU (radio controlled remote locomotive) working an empty coal train on Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road mainline at Duplainville, Wisconsin. I exposed this with my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

I also podcast twice a month on Trains: see Sound Cloud for a complete listing of episodes:

Photo by Colm O’Callaghan

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Tara goes Thump in the Gloom of Night!

It was dry evening a few weeks back, when photographer Jay Monaghan and I ventured down to Dublin’s North Wall yards seeking the laden Tara Mines train.

First we caught it arriving from East Road, then we legged it down to Alexandra Road to make photos of it arriving at Dublin Port.

This one of the only places in Ireland where tracks share space with a road, making it a distinctive place to picture trains.

I’m fond of this atmospheric trailing view exposed in black & white using Nikon F3 with an old-school Nikkor non-AI f1.4 50mm lens.

My film choice was Superpan 200, processed using multistage development.

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Irish Rail Mark-4 Approaching Kildare.


On 6 April 2019, I was working with a 1980s-vintage Nikon F3HP fitted with an even older Nikkor 24mm lens to expose this view of Irish Rail 219 in ‘push-mode’ at the back of Dublin-bound Mark4 set at Kildare

This slide was among the photographs I exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F on an excursion to Kildare with Paul Maguire and Jay Monaghan to photograph the Waterford-Portlaoise Saturday steel train (seen in the distance at Kildare station).

I digitized the slide using an Epson Perfection V750 flatbed scanner and imported the TIF file into Lightroom for final adjustment and outputted a scaled JPG for presentation here.

Several weeks ago on Tracking the Light I published a digital view of this same train, exposed moments after I made this slide.


Exposed at 1/1000th of a second at f4.0 on Fujichrome Provia 100F

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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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New England Central 611 at Three Rivers, Massachusetts.


Thursday, April 25, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I convened at Palmer’s Steaming Tender for lunch. Afterwards we drove northward in search of New England Central’s road freight, 611.

New England Central’s clean locomotives in parent company Genesee & Wyoming’s orange, yellow and black paint, make for handsome subjects, and a welcome change to the days when patched faded liveries of the locomotive’s various former owners predominated.

Anticipating catching 611’s northward run from Palmer, we paused at Three Rivers to check some photo locations and were surprised to hear a southward train approaching.

Lo and behold! It was 611 on its southward run.

Lucky bonus.

After photographing the southward move, we continued our drive north to inspect locations . . . Stay tuned for more!

Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Lessons of Time: Orange Railcars on the Causeway—Donabate, March 2000.


It was a cool, clear morning at Donabate on the old Great Northern Railway of Ireland north of Dublin, when I set up with a telephoto lens fitted to my Nikon N90S ( loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II slide film).

Irish Rail’s 2700-series diesel railcars were relatively new at the time, but weren’t the main feature of the morning. I was hoping to catch some NI Railways 80-Class that were on their way down from Belfast.

In retrospect, I’m glad I made use of the clear morning light. The 2700-series railcars were relatively short-lived in traffic, and they only operated in that attractive orange livery for a scant few years.

Some advice: take advantage of new trains in great light and make the best photos that you can, even when those trains don’t seem special to you. Over time your photos will age well.

Irish Rail at Donabate, 4 March 2000.

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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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Telephoto on the Beet: 400mm at Kilsheelan, Co. Tipperary.


It was a damp day back in 2005, when I made this 400mm view using my recently acquired Canon EOS-3 with a rented 100-400mm Canon image stabilizer zoom l.ens

In the lead was Irish Rail 185 (known in some circles as ‘Super Bo-Bo’ which delighted observers because it was missing the cowling around the exhaust and produced more sound than others of its class).

Sugar beet was loaded at Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford and transported by rail via Waterford and Limerick Junction to a processing plant in Mallow, County Cork.

In this view, exposed west of Kilsheelan, County Tipperary, by using a long telephoto lens, I compressed the train of very short four-wheel beet wagons into a virtual snake of rolling beet.

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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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Low Angle Telephoto View: Ovar, Portugal.


To make for a more dramatic photograph, I used my FujiFilm XT1 with the rear-display tilted skyward, which allowed me place the camera at platform level.

The display’s heads-up detail includes exposure and a leveling information that makes it easier to set the camera and expose at arm’s length.

Standing on the platform of Portuguese Railway’s passenger station at Ovar (south of Porto on the Porto-Lisbon mainline), I made this view using a fixed focal-length (not a variable focal length zoom) 90mm telephoto. This lens and angle compresses the scene, lowers the depth of field, and owing to the relative proximity to the ground and focus on the trains minimizes the foreground.


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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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Lisbon Oriente at Night.


Lisbon Oriente was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in the early 2000s.

I made these nocturnal photos handheld with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime lens set at 1/15 at f2 ISO 6400.

The combination of high ISO made possible by modern digital cameras and a fast telephoto lens enabled me to make photos that had been virtually impossible with old Kodachrome slide film.

Not only was Kodachrome slow, but it had very poor reciprocity failure which made it difficult to calculate night exposure, and it didn’t respond well to artificial light.

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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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Classic Chrome: New New York City R-62A Subway Cars on Conrail—May 1986.


I like the apparent redundancy of today’s title.

Back in May 1986, I made this Kodachrome view of brand-new Bombardier-built New York City R-62A subway cars at Conrail’s West Springfield Yard (Massachusetts).

The cars would come down the Central Vermont Railway to Palmer where they were interchanged to Conrail for delivery to New York City.

Check out the vintage Trailer-Train flatcars carrying the subway cars.

Below is the scaled unmodified scan; and an adjusted scan correcting contrast, color temperature and level.

Exposed on K64 using a Leica; scanned this morning using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 slide scanner and processed in Lightroom. Scaled, but otherwise unmodified scan.


This is an adjusted scan that corrects for contrast, color temperature and level.

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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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Crazy places to put tracks!

Lisbon trams—Part 2.

Old four wheel cars and ancient buildings are part of the attraction to Lisbon’s antique tram network, but for me the best part are the crazy track arrangements.

This network has some of the most extreme trackage of any railway in the world relying on adhesion principles for traction. In other words: no racks, cogs or cables.

I exposed these black & white views with my Nikon F3 on 1 April 2019 while exploring Lisbon with fellow photographer Denis McCabe.

What better way to spend April Fool’s Day?

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Classic Chrome: Cal-Train 7thStreet San Francisco.


Working with my old Nikon F3T and an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of a Cal-Train ‘Commute’ departing San Francisco, seen taking the bend at 7thStreet in February 1992.

Interestingly, lately I’ve been making good use of this same camera and lens combination for exposing black & white negatives and Fuji Provia 100F color slides.

If this image seems familiar, its because back in the 1990s it appeared in various publications.

I scanned the slide this morning using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner and processed the hi-res TIF file in Lightroom to adjust color and produced a scaled file for internet presentation.

Typically, I scan Kodachrome slides at 4000 dots per inch (or higher) to maintain the high resolution of the original photographs. Since these files are in the 120-170MB range they require scaling to upload them to WordPress for presentation here.

The San Francisco street-scene and skyline have changed considerably since this February 1992 view.

Tracking the Light is a work in progress and publishes new material daily! 

Lisbon: narrow streets and trams—Part 1.


This could be a book, or at least part of one.

Lisbon is visually intense and everywhere I looked I saw photos to be made.

This is the first is multi-part series of photos that I made on Lisbon streets on 1 April 2019.

Exposed on Fuji Acros 100 with a Nikon F3, processed in Rodinal.

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Porto Campanha at Night—four photos.


Monochrome; black & white; noir—what ever you like.

I made these views on an evening in late March at Porto’s Campanha Station using a Nikon F3 loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic film.

Negatives were processed using an dilute HC110 presoak (1-300 with water plus wetting agent) followed by  ID11 1-1 69 F for 7 min 30 sec then following stop, fix and extended rinse, a final bath of selenium toner 1-0 for 7 min 30 sec and re-wash and final rinse in distilled water.

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Mystical Railway Viaduct—Luxembourg.


Not many people travel to Luxembourg to photograph railway bridges.

I made this view on Fuji Acros 100 black & white film using a Nikon F3 fitted with a f1.8 105mm Nikkor prime telephoto.

To enhance the mystique of the viaduct, I opened the lens to nearly its widest aperture and focused on the tree branches.

Later, with a digital camera I photographed trains crossing the bridge in color.

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Faces of Steam: Portraits of RPSI’s train crew.


Working with a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic, I exposed these portraits of some of the men working Railway Preservation Society’s 18 March 2019 trips from Dublin Connolly Station to Maynooth.

 I processed the film in a non-standard way to obtain a period look while giving photos optimal tonality in a contrasty situations.

First: I pre-soaked film it in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 (measured 3 parts per 1000 with water, plus wetting agent) for about 7 minutes at 72 F;

Second: primary developer consisted of Ilford ID-11 1 to 1 with water at 69 F for 6 minutes;

Third: following stop bath, two fixer baths, and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in a 1-9 selenium solution (outdoors to avoid breathing toxic fumes) for 8 minutes. This was followed by several rinse cycles and a final rinse in distilled water.

Negatives were scanned in colour to retain the selenium tint.

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Busy Time on the Branch—Views from Dublin’s Conyngham Road.

On Monday afternoon, 15 April 2019, I made this sequence of photos from Dublin’s Conyngham Road.

In just a few minutes I photographed four trains passing over the Branch that connects Islandbridge Junction with lines to Connolly Station/North Wall yards.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7; files adjusted for colour balance and contrast using Lightroom.

At 1452 (2:52pm a Hazelhatch-Grand Canal Docks ICR passed; note the signal with feather at left).

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TESCO Tram Prowls Dublin Streets.

Yesterday (Monday, 15 April 2019) I made these photographs of LUAS Tram 5003 working Green Line trackage in the Dublin City Centre using my Lumix LX7.

This is one is decorated for the Tesco supermarket chain and is one of four trams presently wearing colorful full-body advertising liveries.

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Railway photography by Brian Solomon

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