Tag Archives: #Amtrak

Amtrak California Zephyr

I love to gaze across the great expanse of the desert. On the morning of September 4, 1996, we climbed atop one of the ‘mud mounds’ at Floy in the Utah desert east of Green River and waited for Amtrak No.6—the California Zephyr.

I made this trailing view on Fujichrome Velvia slide film with my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm prime telephoto.

Amtrak’s long distance trains were in the transition between the 1970s-era F40PH-2s and the mid-1990s era General Electric GENESIS™ P40s and in this view of the California Zephyr featured one of each locomotives.

At the back of the train was a private car with its single red light marking the rear.

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Travels on the Lake Shore Limited-June 2013

On this day nine years ago, I was traveling east from Chicago to Worcester, Massachusetts on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (Train 48/448) and made these photos of the journey with my Lumix LX3 digital camera.

At the time I was working on a book about Chicago’s railroads with Mike Blaszak, Chris Guss and John Gruber.

CSX diesels at Collinwood shops, near Cleveland, Ohio.
My friend Otto Vondrak waves at Rochester, New York.
Amfleet II passenger car on Amtrak 448 near Post Road, NY.
My seat on Amtrak 448 with my old Apple laptop.
Self portrait with electronic flash having spent nearly 22 hours on the train.

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New Brunswick, NJ-April 1978

I rarely used color negative film.

One notable exception was during the Winter-Spring 1978, when I exposed two rolls of Kodacolor II that had been given to me during the previous winter holidays as a gift.

On a bright April day, my father brought me along the Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to photograph the passing trains, where I made the most of the second of two 36-exposure rolls.

Working with a Leica fitted with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex (reflex attachment), I made this view at New Brunswick, New Jersey of a southward Amtrak train led by a relatively new General Electric E60CH crossing the Raritan River.

In 2016, I scanned my old negatives, which despite being stored in glassine envelopes had withstood the passage of time reasonably well.

Kodacolor film had a distinctive color palate.

All things being equal, I wish I’d made the photo on Kodachrome slide film, but considering I was only 11 years old, I did pretty well!

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Clouded!

Fair weather clouds pose a challenge for railroad photographers. When on a sunny day, if a small puffy cloud covers the sun at the moment a train approaches it creates a difficult situation.

The cloud darkens the scene, changes color temperature, diffuses the light on the ground, and increases the difference in exposure between the sky and subjects on the ground.

Back in my Kodachrome days, having a small puffy cloud obscure the sun bascially ruined the photograph. 

The other day at Bernardston, Massachusetts, I was in place to photograph the southward Vermonter cross a  19thcentury multiple stone arch bridge.

I could hear the horn blowing. The sun was bright . . . And then, as the train came into view, a small puffy cloud momentarily covered the sun.

I exposed a sequence of digital photos as the train rolled over the bridge. Later, working with Adobe Lightroom, I made a number of changes and adjustments to my files to present several alternatives to compensate for the effects of the clouded exposure.

Image 1:

Unaltered JPG converted directly from the Camera NEF RAW file.

Corrected NEF RAW file with color temperature warmed, contrast and exposure adjusted, and highlight and shadow detail balanced.

Image 2

Unaltered JPG converted directly from the Camera NEF RAW file.
Corrected NEF RAW file with color temperature warmed, contrast and exposure adjusted, and highlight and shadow detail balanced.
Screen shot of the Lightroom control panel to show basic adjustments. In addition to the slider controls for the overall images, the bridge was digitally masked to lighten shadows and increase contrast.
This is a monochrome version of the above image with many of the same contrast and exposure changes. Using the ‘Saturation’ slider, I removed all of the color.
A warmed and saturated version of the same NEF RAW image.
This is warmed, lightened and super saturated version of the same NEF RAW image.

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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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Amtrak Train 43—Pennsylvanian at Lewistown.

In mid-March, Kris and I arrived at Lewistown Junction, Pennsyvlania a few minutes before the scheduled arrival of Amtrak’s westward Pennsylvanian (train 43). We had stopped at a nearby Sheetz for burritos to go.

Working with the Amtrak/VIA Real Time App, I learned that train 43 was running about 9 minutes behind the advertised. That allow for more time for lunch.

I made this series of photos with my Nikon Z6 fitted with 70-200mm Z-series zoom and a Panasonic Lumix LX7 as the train approached its Lewistown station stop. Amtrak P42 number 99 was in the lead. At the back were a pair of private cars.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

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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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Amtrak 50th Anniversary Unit

Last Novemeber, Kris & I timed our visit to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania to coincide with the passage of train 42, the eastward Pennsylvanian, which was led by General Electric Genesis P42 No. 108 painted for the passenger operator’s 50th Anniversary (1971 to 2021).

I made these views of the specially painted diesel using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

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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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When Amtrak 2 leads No. Eight at Dusk.

I was afraid that if I called this post ‘Empire Builder Part 2’ it might get lost in the shuffle.

Last Saturday (November 13, 2021) Kris and I waited for Amtrak’s westward Empire Builder at Duplainville, Wisconsin.

I wanted to catch it passing the vintage GRS Searchlights that date from the Milwaukee Road era.

Dusk is one of the most effective time to photograph searchlights.

One of the great benefits of modern digital cameras is the ability to stop the action in low light. For these photos I had the ISO set to 1600, which allowed me a 1/640th second shutter speed.

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Empire Builder—Part 1

The light was fading.

No 8 was running late.

Kris and I arrived at Duplainville, Wisconsin where the Canadian National’s former Wisconsin Central crosses Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road. We were there just in time to see that the signals were cleared for an eastward train.

We got into position, post haste, to roll by Amtrak’s eastward Empire Builder—train No. 8.

Amtrak No.8, the Empire Builder rolls toward Brookfield Wisconsin.

As No. 8 blitzed by, I made these images working with my Nikon Z6 mirror-less digital camera. I processed the images in Lightroom to make the most of the NEF files recorded by the camera.

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Elkhart Interlude

On our way west a week ago, Kris and I paused at the old New York Central hub at Elkhart, Indiana.

This brief visit coincided with the passage of Amtrak’s westward Capitol Limited that was making its station stop on the way from Washington D.C. to Chicago.

We also visited the small railroad museum located opposite Norfolk Southern’s main line from the old New York Central station, where former NYC Mohawk 3001 is a prominent static display. 

Curiously, that evening when we checked into our hotel in Wisconsin, we were assigned room 3001.

I made this selection of photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera fitted with a Z-series f2.8 70-200mm zoom lens.

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AEM-7 and an E-unit—August 1981.

My grandparents had a grand view of the old New Haven Railroad at Pelham Bay Park from their apartment in Co-op City, The Bronx, New York.

Using my old Leica IIIa, I made hundreds of photos of trains rolling along under wire.

This is among the more unsual photos from their 19th floor terrace. On a visit in August 1981, I made numerous photos of diesels underwire, as the result of a failure with the early 1900s electrification that had forced Amtrak to tow its normally electrically hauled trains with diesels.

In this photo, one of Amtrak’s few remaining EMD E8As hauls a then-new AEM-7 electric and train eastward toward New Haven.

At the center of image is Goose Island.

Exposed using a Leica IIIa with 50mm Sumitar lens.
Enlarged portion of the train showing the diesel and electric locomotives.

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AMtrak E-Units at Brookfield.

Labor Day weekend 1978: my dad brought my brother and me out to roll by Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at the route 148 overpass in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Working with his ‘motorized’ (mechanical wind-up) Leica 3A, I made a rapid fire sequence of the train as it roared west behind E-units.

I processed the film in the kitchen sink and made a few prints, then for the next four decades the negatives rested quietly in the attic.

I used this Epson scan of one of the negatives from that day as one of the opening photos in my program titled ‘Tracking the Light’ that I presented live last night to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the Pearl Street Station in Malden, Massachusetts.

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Alco Sleeper

In February 1984, I made this view of Amtrak RS-3 No. 120 switching a heritage sleeping car in the rain at South Station, Boston using my old Leica IIIA with 50mm Summitar lens.

Virtually nothing of this scene remains today.

Exposed on Kodak 5063 35mm Tri-X film, processed in Kodak Microdol-X fine grain developer. Negative scanned with an Epson V750 scanner.

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Amtrak at the Vernon Backwater

Immediately south of the old Central Vermont Railway yard at Brattleboro, Vermont is a causeway across the Vernon Backwater of the Connecticut River.

This is another old favorite place of mine to picture trains on the move.

Today, brush growing on the causeway poses a visual challenge. Where years ago the causeway offered an unobstructed view of a train, today, careful positioning is necessary to avoid cropping the front of the locomotive as it works its way south over the man-made fill.

The other day Kris and I visited this location, arriving just a few minutes before Amtrak’s southward Vermonter was expected.

I made this photo using my Nikon Z6.

I scaled the in-camera JPG using Lightroom, without making modifications to density, color temperature, contrast, or color balance.

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Amtrak at Cheapside

The other day, Kris and I intercepted Amtrak’s northward Vermonter, train 54, crossing the former Boston & Maine bridge at Cheapside in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

For me the train was the ‘frosting’. The cake is the cool 1920s-era deck truss bridge.

I’ve driven by this structure hundreds of times, but only rarely photographed trains on it.

Catching Amtrak in low afternoon sun made for excellent conditions to make the most of the bridge.

Exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
Exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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Amtrak at Oakland

On an afternoon in August 2009, I stood atop a parking garage near Jack London Square in Oakland, California where I made this view featuring an Amtrak Capitols train against a backdrop of the city’s sprawling port facilities.

I was working with a Canon EOS3 fitted with a 100-400mm zoom lens to expose a Fujichrome slide. This was several months before buying my first digital camera.

During my five week stay in California that year I exposed more than 80 rolls of color slide film. Many of my photos featured scenes around San Francisco Bay. At the time I envisioned writing a book on San Francisco, but I didn’t get sufficient interest from my publishers at the time to move that proposal forward.

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Three years ago on August 5th, John Gruber dropped me off at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station where I photographed Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service before boarding a train for Chicago Union Station. There I changed for the eastward Lake Shore Limited.

I made these images using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit.

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30th Street Solari Board-June 4, 2015

I was traveling from Philadelphia to Virginia on June 4, 2015.

Working with my first Lumix LX7, I made these photos of Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, focusing on the classic Solari Board that displayed arrivals and departures.

Philadelphia 30th Street Station.

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Amtrak at Prospect Park

In December 2014, Pat Yough lent me his FujiFilm XT1. At the time I was seriously considering this camera system.

We drove to Prospect Park near Philadelphia, Pa., where I put the camera through its paces. I wanted to see how it handled sunset situations.

Among the test photos I made was of this northward Amtrak train on the Northeast Corridor led by then-new Siemens ACS-64 Number 607.

Ultimately, I bought an XT-1, and I’ve been using one for more than 6 years.

This photo was adjusted from the camera RAW using Adobe Lightroom to manipulate shadow and highlight settings as well as fine adjustment to color temperature.

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Amtrak’s Empire Builder on the Milwaukee Road

Historically, the Seattle-Chicago Empire Builder traveled on Burlington’s rails east of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Amtrak’s modern incarnation of the Empire Builder uses CP Rail’s former Milwaukee Road east of St Paul, following a route across central Wisconsin.

Today, the Empire Builder is among the oldest names still used by an Amtrak train.

I made this photo near Reeseville, Wisconsin on a photographic adventure with John Gruber back on August 22, 2011.

Exposed using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Tracking the Light is a daily rail-photo blog by Brian Solomon

Amtrak is 50 Today!

May 1, 1971, Amtrak was born—Fifty years ago today.

I wrote about Amtrak’s 50th anniversary in my May 2021 Trains column.

To commemorate this half-century mark on Tracking the Light, I’m posting this scan of a color slide I that I exposed back in October 2000 of Amtrak P42 No. 1 crossing the Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts.

At the time, I was working to fulfill a assignment for Mark Hemphill, then editor of Trains. Ultimately, Trains used a similar view of this same locomotive on this same bridge that I made a few days later. That photo showed P42 No. 1 panned using a slow shutter speed to convey speed.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S. Amtrak train No. 449 the Lake Shore Limited, westbound at West Warren, MA.

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Amtrak at Middlefield

Here’s an old slide from my Fujichrome archive.

This shows Amtrak P42 number 57 leading train 448 (Lake Shore Limited) eastbound on the old Boston & Albany at Middlefield, Massachusetts—more specifically the site of the old B&A Middlefield Station.

I made this slide nearly 20 years ago using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a 28mm Biogon wide-angle. It is part of multiple frame sequence show the passing train.

I scanned it using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner and adjusted the TIF file in Adobe Lightroom.

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Amtrak at Ashland, Virginia

On the evening of June 7, 2015, I exposed these two color slides of a northward Amtrak train on CSX’s former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac pausing for a station stop at Ashland, Virginia.

This was on a trip with Pat Yough to photograph Norfolk & Western J-class steam locomotive 611. On this day, we’d made a side trip to Ashland to catch up with photographer/author Doug Riddell.

I was working with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens. At the time film choice was very limited, and so I had the camera loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F. Ten years earlier, I would have had a much greater choice of emulsions to pick from.

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Lake Shore at Palmer, MASS.

We maintained an old tradition: watching the passage of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at Palmer, Massachusetts.

Kris Sabbatino and I met some old friends at CP83 in Palmer where we enjoyed takeout from the Steaming Tender (located inside the historic Union Station).

I looked up at the signals and said, ‘449 ought to be hitting the circuit at CP79 any second now.’ And on cue the light cleared to ‘green over red’.

I made these photos of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited hitting the Palmer diamond using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens. I set the camera manually with a 1/1600th of a second shutter speed to better freeze the motion of the train.

Amtrak 449 is the Boston section of the train, which joins the New York section at Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer.

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Silver Meteor—St Johns RIver.

A few days after Christmas 1984, my father and I set up for photographs at the St Johns River bridge on the former Atlantic Coast Line just north of Sanford, Florida.

I made this trailing view of Amtrak’s northward Silver Meteor on Kodachrome 64 using my Leica 3A rangefinder with 50mm lens.

The color in the slide was unusually pastel and had shifted to a blue-cyan bias, so after scanning, I imported the photo into Adobe Lightroom to adjust the color and improve sharpness and saturation.

Color corrected scan of an original Kodachrome slide.

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New Year’s Eve 1988—Springfield Union Station.

On this day 32 years ago I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 slide film using my old Leica M2 rangefinder with an f2.0 50mm Summicron lens.

Kodachrome slide adjusted using Adobe Lightroom to control contrast, correct for color, and improve exposure.

Low sun and dark clouds made for a moody dramatic setting.

An Amtrak shuttle working the Springfield, Massachusetts to New Haven, Connecticut run has just departed Springfield Union Station.

The towers on either side of the train historically housed the elevators that connected the platforms with a below-track concourse.

Back in the day, I hand-printed an 11×14 inch Cibachrome print from this slide.

Happy New Year’s Eve from Tracking the Light!

339 at 399—Unusual Perspective.

Note: To get the full picture, you will need to view this post on Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light.

I like to find non-standard angles and unusual perspectives to make common subjects, uncommon.

In April 1989, an Amtrak F40PH leading Amfleet, was about as common as it got.

I’d set up along Conrail’s former New York Central Waterlevel Route at milepost 399, near the School Road grade crossing, east of Batavia, New York.

Working with a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt prime telephoto attached using a Leica Visoflex and fixed to a Bogen 3021 tripod, I selected a rail-level view.

My angle deliberately forces the eye away from the primary subject. Why do this? The bright Amtrak train already dominates the scene, so by forcing the eye downward it makes for an unusual angle that better captures your attention.

An unwise photo editor, might try to crop the bottom 20 percent of the image in a misguided effort to center the train from top to bottom.

Sadly, photographer’s compositions are too often foiled by less insightful editors.

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On this Day 2014: Overcast at Overbrook.

On December 5, 2014, my brother and I, stood on the platform at Overbrook, Pennsylvania along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D, I exposed this photo of an approach medium aspect on an old PRR position light signal. At left, Amtrak’s westward Pennsylvanian—train 43—glides toward the station behind P42 number 71.

I made a host of minor modifications in post processing aimed at improving the camera RAW file.

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Amtrak’s California Zephyr along the Truckee River

In June 1994, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using a Nikkormat FTN fitted with a Nikon AF28mm lens (focused manually) of Amtrak number 5, the westward California Zephyr as it worked upgrade along the Truckee River on Southern Pacific’s famous Donner Pass crossing.

The other day, I scanned this slide and then imported the unmodified scan into Adobe Lightroom to make corrections.

Kodachrome 25 was an amazing film with very fine grain and a tremendous exposure latitude. Among the difficulties with the Kodachrome emulsions was its cyan/red color bias. When the film was fresh it tended toward a cyan (blue-green) bias, and as it aged it shifted red.

The roll I used was relatively fresh and required significant color adjustment to produce a near neutral bias.

I’ve included scaled versions of: the unmodified scan, the color and contrast adjusted scan, and the Lightroom work window. 

Uncorrected scan.
Adjusted scan.
Lightroom work window showing contrast and exposure adjustment sliders and the corrected histogram. Notice that I manually moved the black point to the left, while lightening shadows and reducing overall contrast. This helps correct for the effect of midday sun in the California Sierra.

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Amtrak at 150 mph!

At Mansfield, Massachusetts, Amtrak’s Acela Express trains are allowed up to 150 mph.

The other day, Kris Sabbatino and I stopped by the former New Haven Railroad Shoreline Route to witness these high-speed trains in motion.

We caught Amtrak train number 2167 (Boston -Wash D.C.) approaching maximum speed.

This gave a short blast before passing the MBTA station platforms, which provided a few seconds advance warning.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 set for ‘Turbo-flutter’—what I call the fast motor drive ‘continuous high’ setting—I exposed a burst of three digital images as the train raced by.

My shutter was set to 1/2000th of a second.

I converted the RAW files using Iridient X-Transformer image conversion software that makes these into DNG files for adjustment by Adobe Lightroom.

Below are the three closest images in sequence.

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Sunrise at the Benicia Bridge with Ektachrome—August 1993.

A few weeks ago on Tracking the Light, I described my early experiences with Kodak’s Ektachrome LPP (a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition), of which I received a free-sample from Kodak back in August 1993.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/10/06/kodak-lpp-a-tunnel-motor-and-a-camel/

Among the other photos on that roll, was this view exposed shortly after sunrise of Amtrak’s Los Angeles-bound Coast Starlight crossing Southern Pacific’s massive Benicia Bridge near Martinez, California.

Full frame scan of a 35mm Ektachrome LPP slide exposed in August 1993.

I had loaded the film into a second-hand Nikkormat FTN that I fitted an f4.0 Nikkor 200mm telephoto.

This slide sat in the dark until I scanned it on October 6, 2020.

Much enlarged crop of the same slide to better show Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.

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August 3, 2016—Pacific Surfliner at Gaviota.

In Spring 1994, I’d exposed some Kodachrome 25 slides of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight crossing the steel tower supported trestle at Gaviota, California.

On August 3, 2016—four years ago today—I returned with my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera and captured an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner crossing the same bridge.

I made contrast and saturation adjustments in Lightroom as part of my final scaled image for presentation here.

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SPV2000 at Windsor Locks May 1985.

I made this photograph at Windsor Locks, Connecticut showing a southward Amtrak SPV2000 making its station stop.

The Budd SPV2000s only worked this Amtrak ‘branch’ for about six years and during that time they were rarely photographed.

Lets just say, I’ve seen more of my own photographs of these cars on the Springfield-New Haven run than all other published views of the cars. (And I only have a few photos).

It’s too bad. I thought the cars looked pretty cool. And they were fun to ride on. Plus, you never knew when one might show up hauled by an Alco RS-3 or some other locomotive!

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Five Years Ago!

On this day, January 11, 2015 I made this telephoto view of Amtrak AEM-7 944 working the back of New York City bound Keystone train passing Torresdale, Pennsylvania.

At that time, Amtrak’s AEM-7s were on the wane and photographer Pat Yough and I were capturing the relatively brief transition period between the AEM-7s and new Siemens ACS-64 electrics.


Canon EOS-7D fitted with a prime 200mm lens, ISO 200 f5.6 1/1000 sec.

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