Exploring the former Central Railroad of New Jersey Elizabethport Shops, I found this decaying former Southern Railway E8A, still dressed in the railroad’s white, green and gold.
New Jersey Department of Transportation (antecedent to today’s NJ Transit) acquired this locomotive among others for commuter services, after Southern conveyed its passenger services (including the Crescent) to Amtrak in 1979.
I’d never seen Southern’s Crescent and in 1986, I was delighted to find this rusting vestige from an earlier era. I made a few studies of the locomotive on black and white film and with color slides. I wonder what became of this locomotive?
Porto is an ancient and attractive city built along the River Douro. It was urbanized in Roman times, so relatively modern features such as electric trams, are really just a contemporary gloss on a place with a long history.
I think it’s important to put the timeline in perspective. There’s old, and there’s ancient! Car 131 is a one hundred year old Brill. While car 218 dates from the World War II era. Both add to the city’s charm.
There are three historic routes in service. Two wind through steep and narrow streets in the city center. The third works the river-front. The sound of the clanging bells is a thread to another era.
While riding one of the cars, I overheard an elderly British woman explaining that her great grand-parents lived in Napoleonic times. Napoleon was routed from Porto by the British Duke of Wellington.
Wellington was born in Ireland (although he famously disparaged his birthplace) and in the Dublin’s Phoenix Park, across the river from my apartment, stands the Wellington Testimonial (that celebrates his military victories). I can view this giant obelisk from my window. So there you go!
Gustav Eiffel is best known for his iron tower in Paris. However, he was also a prolific bridge builder and his iron bridges share characteristics with his Parisian tower.
Two of his bridges span the Douro River in Porto, Portugal, and both of these have railway histories. One bridge is presently closed and once carried 5 foot 6 inch gauge tracks for mainline trains while the other is open to foot traffic and Porto’s tram metro on its top level, while its bottom level carries a road.
In early April, I made many photos of the more prominent bridge, called Ponte Luiz I, built in the 1880s. Porto enjoys impressive verticality, and I used the city’s natural geography to find some great angles on the span.
Portugal shares the broad Iberian standard gauge with Spain: rails are five feet six inches apart. Despite this commonality, today there are relatively few international services between the two countries.
One of the few cross-border trains is the nightly combined Lusitania/Sud Expresso connecting Lisbon with Spanish cities. The Lusitania runs Lisbon-Madrid, while the Sud Expresso is a vestige of the old Wagon Lits luxury express that once connected Lisbon with Paris, but now only goes as far as Irun on the Spanish-French frontier.
The train operates with RENFE (Spanish Railways) TALGO train hotel equipment, which makes it anomalous compared with the majority of Portuguese passenger trains.
On April 3, 2014, I planned to photograph the eastward Lusitania/Sud Expresso (train 335/310) during its station stop at Entrocamento, Portugal.
This is a big station, adjacent to freight yards, shops, and Portugal’s National Railway Museum.
The train departed Lisbon Santa Apolónia at 9:18 pm, and arrived at Entroncamento a little more than an hour later. I had less than five minutes to make photographs.
Then I quickly swapped the Lumix for my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens loaded with Provia 100F, and made a three exposure bracket. With film, I find it difficult to gauge night exposures, so I aided my efforts with my handheld Minolta Mark IV light meter.
Provia 100F has a filtration layer that minimizes undesirable color spikes caused by fluorescent and sodium lighting.
In the middle of this time-exposure exercise, I also made several handheld images using my Canon EOS 7D set for a high ISO. I figured that covered most of the angles.
I was distracted during my efforts by the arrival of a Takargo Vossloh E4000 diesel (powered by an EMD 16-710 engine) hauling a container train.
As soon as the train hotel pulled away, I repositioned to photograph the diesel-hauled container train.
My first experience with the Italian Pendolino design was in Switzerland more than 14 years ago when I was researching for my book Bullet Trains—a survey of high-speed trains and railways (published by MBI in 2001).
Here’s an excerpt from my text:
The Pendolino’s tilt system provides a luxurious, smooth ride, on sinuous track. The effect of the tilting is subtle and scarcely noticeable as the train glides a long at speed. The Pendolino has proven a successful export item, and have been ordered by Finnish, Czech, and British railways. The appeal of the Pendolino, and other successful tilting designs, such as the Spanish TALGO and Swedish X2000 is the ability to increase running speeds without a massive investment in new infrastructure.
Since that time, several additional European countries have added Pendolino trains to their fleets. I’ve photographed them in a half dozen countries, most recently in early April this year, in Portugal where they are assigned to premier services between Porto, Lisbon and Faro.
Comboios de Portugal (Portugal’s national railway, known by initials ‘CP’) has ten train-sets which work as Alfa Pendular services.
A challenge when photographing Pendolino trains is catching them mid-tilt. I’ve found one way to capture this is working from the outside of a curve using a long telephoto lens. This is most effective when the front of the train has tilted but the rear remains level with the track structure.
It helps to level the camera with an obvious line-side vertical object such as electrification masts, signals or buildings.
Another technique is to catch the train on the inside of a curve with a wider lens, but still leveling the camera with line-side vertical elements.
A visit to Portugal’s national railway, Comboios de Portugal (known by initials ‘CP’) proved rewarding and photographically productive.
After arriving at Lisbon airport, I visited the rural station at Riachos T Novas in Golega. This place is a gem. Classic manned station building with freight sidings and all the trappings of another era, but very few of the intrusions of modern construction (in other words, no wire fences, overbuilt footbridges, etc.)
The station is on the busy double-track electrified mainline between Lisbon and Entroncamento. This carries a variety of freight and passenger trains, including through trains to Porto, and Spanish border crossings. Trains passed every 10-15 minutes.
At one point the sky opened and rain fell hard for few minutes. When it passed, a double rainbow graced the sky for a few minutes. My images of a suburban train with the cosmic weather were exposed on Fujichrome and remain latent pending processing.
Interestingly, when I first arrived, a local camera club had descended en masse and was snapping away at everything. Unfortunately for the club, they departed before the rain and thus missed the glorious evening light! This was pity for them. By contrast, I worked through the best light and made the most of it.
Stay tuned for my further exploration of Portuguese railways.
In its heyday, Mullingar was an important station on the old Midland Great Western Railway. Here, the large signal cabin controlled the junction between Sligo and Galway routes. There were goods yards and locomotive sheds. It was a busy place.
Today, it’s little more than a big station serving Irish Rail’s Sligo Line. Yet, vestiges of its former glory remain. While the double line junction at the Dublin-end of the station was removed in 2003, and the signal cabin ceased to function as a block post on the Sligo line in 2005, the cabin remains. So do the platforms for the old Galway Road.
The Galway road continues toward Athlone, but vanishes into the weeds after it leaves the station. It has been more than a decade since the last train traveled the line, and that was only the annual weed-spraying run.
Semaphores and other antique infrastructure dot the plant.
The arrival of locomotive 461 allowed me opportunity to photograph the signal cabin and the old Galway side of Mulligar Station.
For me this was a flashback. Not to the glory days of the Midland Great Western, but to the late 1990s early 2000s, when I first visited Mullingar. So much had changed since then, yet so much more remains at Mullingar than many other places on Irish Rail.
Here’s just a few photos from the many images I exposed on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
When photographing a special train, I like to make the first photograph of the day count as one of the best.
Railway Preservation Society Ireland operated locomotive 461 with an excursion from Dublin Connolly Station to Mullingar on the old Midland route.
This railway was built along the banks of the Royal Canal, and canal-side running characterizes the line.
Hugh Dempsey and I set out from Dublin about an hour ahead of the train, and selected this spot as one of the best.
The sun and clouds cooperated nicely. Yet, the extreme contrast of the scene require a bit of post-processing to control contrast. I made a variety of small changes to adjust the image, including both global and localized contrast adjustment.
I made this image using my Canon EOS 3 with a 20mm lens. This outbound Cal-Train commute had just discharged passengers at the old Southern Pacific station at San Mateo.
I want an iconic modern image that said ‘California’. What better way to do that, than focus on the Cal-Train logo while incorporating the warm blue sky, palm trees, and a reflection of the sun in the window of the train?
At first glance this might look like a train heading downgrade toward the camera. In fact it is an image of rear-end helpers working the back of a eastward freight ascending Donner Pass.
In December 1989, I was familiarizing myself with SP operations on Donner Pass. I had just recently moved to Roseville, California and this made for a good base of operations to explore ‘The Hill’.
I’d been following this eastward freight. Although it was December, California was in a drought and there was very little snow in the Sierra.
I parked at the rest area off the westward lanes of Interstate 80 and walked down to the snow-shed that protected Switch 9—located east of Emigrant Gap.
I framed this trailing view to take in I-80 as well as the railroad.
How can you tell this the locomotives are trailing? There are three clues: SP normally assigned more than two locomotives to the head-end of trains on Donner Pass. The train is working the normal eastward main (although this was CTC territory, so in theory train could have used either track). For me the real tip off is the headlight, which has been dimmed, a standard practice for helpers.
It was a clear morning, an azure dome from horizon to horizon, but not much was moving on Southern Pacific at Oakland, California, except for Amtrak.
Amtrak had recently introduced its Sacramento-San Jose Capitol Corridor and some of these trains were working with its new General Electric P32-8BWH diesels, colloquially known as ‘Pepsi Cans’ because of their distinctive livery.
For me these locomotives were a refreshing change to the ubiquitous Electro-Motive F40PHs that had been the rule on Amtrak long distance services for years.
At Oakland’s Jack London Square, Southern Pacific tracks shared the street for several blocks. The most interesting location on this section of street trackage was SP’s signal bridge that spanned First Street.
I set up here to catch Amtrak train 721 Capitols working from 16th Street Station toward San Jose. This was before Amtrak closed 16th Street and developed a new station at Jack London Square a few blocks from the location of this photo.
The Great Lakes can produce dramatic climatic effects, especially at dawn and dusk.
On this day, I drove west from Rochester through torrential Spring rains. However, it was dry when I reached Niagara Falls, the line of showers having stayed well south of Lake Ontario.
I made this image of Amtrak trains laying over in the Niagara Falls yard as the sun was rising above a dark and stormy sky. The lighting was totally surreal, like a scene from the cover of a science fiction novel.
In the distance, in what I believe was the former Lehigh Valley yard, was hundreds of stored 50 foot box cars lettered in the blue and white “I Love NY” scheme.
Here’s my trick: to reduce undesirable flare, I shaded the front element of the lens using the extendable lens shade and my notebook, while I calculated exposure manually, using a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell in its ‘reflected light’ mode. I made several exposures before the light changed.
I used the light meter to carefully gauge the amount of light reflecting off the Amfleet passenger cars to avoid loss of highlight detail, while allowing the shadow areas to appear comparatively dark. This was a judgment call on my part that resulted in a more dramatic image.
On this day 38 years ago, the Consolidated Rail Corporation assumed operation of various bankrupt railroads in the northeastern United States, including Penn-Central, Erie-Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the Lehigh & Hudson River.
Conrail was bought and divided by CSXT and Norfolk Southern in the mid-1990s, and ended its independent operations in Spring 1999.
During the 23 years that Conrail dominated northeastern freight railroading, I made tens of thousands of photographs of its operations and equipment. In 2004, the book that Tim Doherty and I authored on Conrail was published by MBI. I believe this is something of a collector’s item now.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic is one of America’s treasures. This timeless railway is always a joy to visit and photograph.
The combination of its sinuous and steeply graded line with stunning Rocky Mountain vistas and authentic Denver & Rio Grande Western Baldwin-built Mikados makes for endless opportunities for dramatic photographs.
I’ve used this image in several books and calendars.
My first visit to Cincinnati was brief and focused. I was driving from Madison, Wisconsin to Roanoke, Virginia and I stopped off with the specific purpose to photograph Fellheimer & Wagner’s Cincinnati Union Station.
During a low ebb of appreciation for architecture, this magnificent building nearly succumbed to the wrecking ball.
On this night it looked to me like a dark vision from a Batman comic.
I made a few photos with my Nikons in color. But my more successful images were exposed on Fuji Acros 100 using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with the super wide-angle flat-field 16mm Hologon.
That night I took a motel in Covington, Kentucky, where I watched television news reports about a horrific theater hostage situation in Russia.
Ok, so this was really a detour into County Roscommon.
After photographing Irish Rail’s Ballina Timber, Noel and I cut cross-country via Knock and Ballyhaunis, to Castlerea, County Roscommon, to intercept the train a second time.
I hadn’t paid a visit to Castlerea in several years, but I recalled a visit to the old signal cabin before the Mini-CTC was installed (in 2007). Back then, mechanical semaphores and electric train staff instruments had been the rule.
While waiting for the timber, Noel phoned Castlerea’s foremost railway enthusiast, Sean Browne. Sean’s Hell’s Kitchen railway themed pub is a local attraction.
Sean dropped down to Castlerea station and we caught up on old times. Then, following passage of the Ballina timber train, we went for an impromptu visit to Hell’s Kitchen that Sean opened specially for us.
This claims to be ‘the only pub with a train in the bar.’
This ‘train’ is, more precisely, a locomotive. Irish Rail’s A55—one of the surviving 1950s-era Metropolitan Vickers-built diesel electrics—is the Hell’s Kitchen center-piece display.
Sean has collected an impressive collection of railway memorabilia, most of it from Ireland. A Conrail hard hat on display impressed me! Every item of historical value comes with a story, so we had a good visit with Sean.
This was interrupted, when Noel learned that the IWT liner from Dublin to Ballina was getting close. We said farewell to Sean and went back trackside to find a suitable photo location! (As you do).
I’d arrived at Foxford, Co. Mayo having traveled from Dublin by train. Noel Enright collected me there, and we immediately began discussing a location to photograph the Ballina Timber that would depart the Ballina yard upon arrival of the 2800-series that I traveled on to Foxford. Got all that?
South of Foxford near Ballyvary, the Ballina branch runs along the base of some low hills. In previous years, I’d explored some of these location, and Noel had a spot in mind. If we could find it quickly.
Although it was overcast, I was keen on an elevated broadside view of this train in order to show its cargo. There isn’t much bulk rail freight on the move in Ireland, and the pair of weekly Ballina timber trains are well worth the effort. But they’re not as impressive head-on.
We found our hillside. And after a few minutes we could hear the 071-class General Motors diesel in the distance. Noel said, ‘It’s 078.’ Ah! That one. Over the years I’d made dozens of photos of this diesel. But this was the first time I seen it in its new grey livery.
Soon we spotted the headlight and the timber train came into view. I made a series of photos with three cameras.
Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York, January 8, 1986.
It was a cold afternoon with more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground. Soft wintery sun made for directional pastel lighting, ideal for railway photography.
I found this Baltimore & Ohio local freight working sidings adjacent to Conrail’s former New York Central mainline. At the time, what interested me was the GP30 still wearing B&O blue with the classic capitol dome on the nose, and the caboose. By that date both types of equipment were getting scarce.
Technically, CSX had been the umbrella over Chessie System (the marketing name for the affiliated B&O, Chesapeake & Ohio, Western Maryland railroads) for several years. But this didn’t seem important to me. I was blissfully unaware of CSX, or that it planned to soon sell B&O’s former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh lines to Genesee & Wyoming.
In fact, by summer, B&O operations would be conveyed to G&W’s newly created Rochester & Southern, and two years later remaining BR&P lines to G&W’s Buffalo & Pittsburgh.
Even more dramatic, in 1987 CSX would meld B&O into its new CSX Transportation; a system-wide rebranding that would soon affect all of CSX’s railroads. Ironically, one of the first locomotives I photographed in CSXT paint was a former B&O GP30!
It’s always fun to play with a new piece of equipment. I’d just bought a 16mm flat field Hologon super wide angle lens for my Contax G2 and I used this to make some dramatic photos inside Washington Union.
This lens is specially corrected to eliminate barrel distortion (commonly associated with super wide lens design) but it must be kept completely level to avoid perspective convergence to vertical lines in the image. A bubble-level is provided in the clip-on viewfinder to aid with the leveling process.
For this image, rather than make any effort to keep the camera level, I happily embraced the effect of perspective convergence to make for a dramatic image of Washington Union’s magnificent barrel-vault ceiling.
On March 13, 2014, I bought a day-return from Dublin Heuston to Foxford, Co. Mayo, and traveled on the 7:35 am Galway train. My train was well patronized, but I had no difficulty finding a seat.
It was foggy in Dublin. Ensconced in my seat, I observed that my train departed Heuston precisely on time and soon was rolling down-road at track speed.
My train was a four-piece Rotem-built Intercity Rail Car, of the type that is now standard for most Irish Rail Intercity services.
Except for some rough spots west of Kildare, the ride quality was comfortable and smooth.
At Portarlington, we diverged from the Dublin-Cork mainline and traveled on the single track branch toward Athlone. At Clara we crossed (met) an uproad train.
I changed trains at Athone. Here another four piece ICR was waiting to continue the journey toward Co. Mayo. At Castlerea we met the Ballina-Dublin IWT liner, a train I’ve often photographed.
Upon reaching Manulla Junction, I again changed trains, this time for the 2800-series railcar that works the Ballina Branch. Years ago this would have been a single General Motors class 141/181 Bo-Bo diesel electric with a short Craven set.
When I arrived in Foxford I was met by my friend Noel Enright. We spent the rest of daylight photographing trains and visiting friends. I’ll post those adventures soon! Stay tuned.
A Nearly Literal Interpretation of the Southern Pacific Logo.
In January 1994, I spent several days photographing along Southern Pacific’s Tucumcari Line in central New Mexico.
One morning I made this image of the sun on the horizon with classic Union Switch & Signal Style B lower quadrant semaphores at Polly.
For me it is nearly the literal translation of SP’s safety logo with semaphores and the sun. The only difference is SP’s sun was setting (thus the ‘Sunset Route’) while mine is rising.
I’ve published variations of this image many places, including my original signals book titled Railroad Signaling. Presently, I’m working on its sequel, classic signaling which will focus on steam-era hardware.
A funny way to spend American Independence Day: I was on my way from London to Scotland, and I stopped over at York to intercept Britain’s most famous steam locomotive, engine 4472, better known as Flying Scotsman.
This was my first visit to York, and I was fascinated by the Victorian train shed. Using my Nikon N90S, I exposed a variety of images on Fujichrome.
Five months later, I returned with my Rolleiflex to document the shed on medium format film. Both those photos and the images of Flying Scotsman may be the topics of future posts.
A thick Spring fog blanketing the Canisteo Valley acted as a sound envelope. The combination of moisture and the valley’s walls produced an acoustic environment that enhanced the railroad experience. Making this special was the almost total void of other human made sounds.
The trickle of water from the nearby Canisteo and a light breeze through the trees was punctuated by the distant roar of an eastward train. Engine noise and the clatter of freight cars gradually swelled as it worked from Hornell down the valley on the former Erie Railroad.
I’d positioned myself at lightly used private crossing near westward signal 318 (measured in miles from Erie’s Jersey City terminus). A hint of blue in the sky marked the rising sun.
After more than ten minutes, I’d listened to the mournful warning blasted for the public crossing in the village of Adrian, two miles to the west. The roar grew louder. Then finally, there was a hint of headlight piercing the fog.
My college roommate had lent me his Canon A1 35mm SLR, which I’d loaded with professional Kodachrome 25 slide film. I had this tightly positioned on a tripod.
When the train began to illuminate the scene, I opened the shutter. This closed again moments before the headlight of the lead locomotive left the scene, leaving a truncated streak of light to represent the train’s passage.
Images like this one will help illustrate my new book; Classic Railroad Signals that I’m now assembling for publication later this year by Voyageur Press.
Ten years earlier in my Pacific RailNews days, I’d often photographed along the Wisconsin Central. By 2004, the railroad had been absorbed by CN, yet quite a few of WC’s old SD45s were still on the move.
It might surprise some regular readers, but photography wasn’t the prime reason for my visit. Rather, I was trying to make high-end audio recordings of the old SD45s working in multiple. As I’ve explained in other publications; the SD45’s 20-cylinder 645E3 produces a distinctive low-frequency sound when working in the mid- throttle positions. I wanted to preserve these sounds that had been so familiar to my earlier railroad experience.
So what does that have to do with this CN DASH 9?
Simple opportunity; that is all. I’ve never been one to squander a chance to make a photograph.
This CN General Electric was leading a southward freight toward the yards at North Fond du Lac, and I set up this image at Subway Road a little ways north of the yard.
Unfortunately, a thermal cloud covered the sun moments before the locomotive reached the optimum position. This would have been a greater problem if I’d been using Kodachrome. As it happened, I was exposing Fujichrome.
I’ve made a few minor post-processing adjustments to the slide scan designed to improve the contrast and color balance.
What about the audio recordings? I made most of those late at night when there was minimal interference from random noise, but that’s really the topic for another time.
On Saturday March 8, 2014, and Irish friend and I were exploring the extremities of the Bord na Mona network near Allenwood. My Ordinance Survey map showed a line with a lift bridge at the crossing of the Grand Canal, and I wondered if this was still in place.
A drive along the tow path revealed that the bridge was out of service (the lift span had been removed). On the far side of the canal an old wagon lay abandoned. Yet, the three foot gauge tracks remain—albeit buried in the muck.
Derelict railways always fascinate me. How long had it been since a Bord na Mona train last used this bridge?
I made several photos with my Lumix LX3, and a couple of colour slides with my Canon EOS-3.
Will this ruin still be there on my next visit? One never knows.