Tag Archives: #Amtrak

Moving Day!

Today the moving truck comes to get our heavy stuff—furniture and what-not— to bring to our new house.

We’ve already moved the bulk of our smaller items including more than 135,000 color slides, 15,000 B&W negatives, and hundreds of books, notebooks and related materials.

In the spirit of this transition, I thought I’d post this view I made along Jefferson Drive, near our Greenfield apartment in Lancaster, Pa.

Amtrak ACS-615 leads train 642 on its eastward journey from Harrisburg toward Philadelphia.

This was among the locations just a very short drive from the aparment. Our new house is closer to the Strasburg Rail Road and the former PRR’s Port Road Branch, and just a 15 minute drive from Amtrak’s Harrisburg line, so I still plan to post regular photos from these locations.

(even when ‘in-transition’)

Amtrak Keystone 618

For the next weeks the sun will be rising and setting on the north side of Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line where it runs parallel to Jefferson Drive in Lancaster.

I’ve been making a project of working the light at this familiar location.

Amtrak Keystone train 618 is a good choice because this is scheduled to depart Lancaster at 1945 (745pm) which can result in some dramatic backlit photos.

On this occasion, Amtrak ACS-64 number 615 was leading. This elusive electric was on my list of Amtrak locomotives to photograph on the move. I guess I can tick that box!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

No. 30 passing Point of Rocks.

Recalling a trip along the old Baltimore & Ohio that I made with my old pal TSH some 35 years ago, I brought Kris and Seamus-the-Dog on a brief exploration of the railroad along the Potomac River.

We aimed to catch Amtrak No. 30 the Capitol Limited rolling through Point of Rocks, Maryland.

The signals have changed from the classic B&O Color Position Lights to more common traffic-light style color-light hardware. The station at Point of Rocks is boarded up and appears a bit rough around the edges. But, it was neat to see this old territory again and brought back memories from that earlier time.

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z-series mirrorless digtal cameras.

Alcos and F-units—42 years ago.

On the morning of June 10, 1982, my father and I arrived at Washington Union Station on Amtrak’s Night Owl having traveled overnight from New Haven in the sleeper.

Working with my 1930s-vintage Leica 3A 35mm rangefinder, I made this selection of black & white photos from the station platforms.

And the topics of interest were the antique Washington Terminal Alco RS-1s and MARC F-units.

My photography wasn’t sophisticated, but today they photos take me back. It was a different world then!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Pushing the Envelope: Position Light at Dusk

I drive by this signal almost daily.

It’s not an easy item to represent photographically.

In light of midday, the lights are nearly lost in the inky ring.

At dusk, the lights standout, but they are are easily overexposed which has the unintended effect of desaturating the light color.

A more complicated problem is stopping a fast moving train when the light is optimal for catching the signal lights at their correct density and hue.

Focus is another issue. In this situation, I was working with an f2.8 70-200mm zoom wide open (f2.8). I set my shutter speed manually to 1/640th of a second. According to the camera meter this resulted in about 2/3s stop (-0.7) under exposure. ISO was set to 5000. My focus point was on plane with the signal. The signal and near track are sharp, but the train suffers both from motion blur and being slightly out of focus.

Not a lot of options to do better. But, I’ll keep trying.

Amtrak Keystone train 620 eastbound near Greenfield in Lancaster, PA. Westward signal 64.5 displaying ‘approach’ with amber lights.
Amtrak Keystone train 620 eastbound near Greenfield in Lancaster, PA. Westward signal 64.5 displaying ‘approach’.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Amtrak E60 603—Then and Now.

I am in the process of preparing a book about Amtrak’s rolling stock.

Over the last few weeks I’ve poured over hundreds of color slides exposed from the 1970s until the mid 2010s.

Among them was this view of Amtrak GE-built E60 number 603 leading a New York City bound long distance train on the North East Corridor at Linden, New Jersey on August 1, 1986. I exposed this on Kodachrome using a Leica 3A attached to a Visoflex with Leitz 200mm Telyt telephoto lens.

This locomotive is significant because it was preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, just a few miles from where Kris and I live. We drive by it all the time.

The other evening we paused outside the museum, and I exposed a few digital photos of the old electric using my Nikon Z6.

Amtrak E60 number 603 at Linden, New Jersey on August 1, 1986.
Amtrak 603 catches the evening light at Strasburg, Pa.

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Working the Curve

The reverse curves on the old Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania offer endless photo opportunities.

Amtrak Keystone train 649 is a regular subject for me in the afternoon.

A couple of weeks back, I suspected that train 649 would be worked by ACS-64 no. 642, which specially painted for American Veterans.

I surmised this correctly, however, the locomotive was working the back of the train rather than in the lead (as I would have preferred for photography).

That said, Amtrak doesn’t operate its trains for my amusement, so I made due with the configuration as I found it.

Images exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm zoom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Sunrise at Greenfield

A few days ago I posted an evening glint photograph made with a 35mm lens of an eastward Amtrak Keystone passing Jefferson Drive, near Greenfield in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

(see: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/35mm-sunset-glint/_)

These images were made at sunrise few days later from almost the same vantage point, but using a telephoto zoom (Nikkor Z-series 70-200mm) of eastward Keystone service train 642 (led by Amtrak ACS-64 608).

I thought it would make for an interesting comparison to show how differently a location appears at different times of day and with different focal length lenses.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

35mm Sunset Glint

Working with my Z6 with AF Nikkor 35mm f2.0/D attached via a Nikon FTZ adaptor, I made this imag sequence of Amtrak Keystone 618 racing eastward at Jefferson Drive in Lancaster, PA.

I timed my arrival just a minute ahead of the train.

My objective was to see how the traditional 35mm lens would handle the glinting sunset on my Z-series digital camera. I adjusted my exposure manually (aiming for overall underexposure to better capture the effects of the bright sun), then made changes to the camera’s NEF RAW files in post processing to make for overall appealing photographs.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Season’s Call for the Blossoming Trees

By the time you read this, the pink blossoming trees along Jefferson Drive in Lancaster will have leafed out in their Spring greenery.

Toward the the end of the blossoming season, Kris & I took a morning drive with our new puppy, Seamus. We paused briefly along Jefferson east of the westward signal.

Soft lighting made for a good time to catch an eastward Amtrak Keystone as it raced toward Philadelphia along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

I exposed a sequence of images to frame the train in the blossoms of one of the trees along the road. This was my fourth attempt in this sequence of pink tree photos.

I’ve included both a full frame and tightly cropped version of my favorite from the rapid-fire sequence of digital photos.

Autumn Sunset at Greenfield

In the summer, the sun sets to the north of the old Pennsylvania Main Line at Greenfield. And during the long days, Kris and I made a number of photos of Amtrak trains on their way to and from Harrisburg under wire.

Now into autumn, the sun is in the southern sky, which lends for a new dimension on this Greenfield location,

I made this photo of westward Keystone train 667 zipping along the old Pennsy with a nicely illuminated autumn evening sky.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Glory to the old Metroliner Cabs

In its day, the Budd-Metroliner was America’s answer to the Japanese Shinkansen. This fast electric train (MP85) was built for Pennsylvania Railroad and some briefly carried PRR-Keystone heralds before Penn-Central assumed operations of PRR’s lines in 1968. The Metroliner service was introduced using the Metroliner cars in the early years of Penn Central.

In 1971, Amtrak assumed operation of the Metroliner and continued to use the former PRR/PC trains for fast services on the former PRR between New York and Washington D.C.

The Metroliner body style was the basis for the Budd-built Amfleet cars that were introduced in the mid-1970s, and which remain standard for many Amtrak trains today.

Amtrak later assigned locomotive hauled Amfleet consists to its Metroliner services. In their waining years as self-propelled electric trains the former Metroliner train sets worked Amtrak Keystone services to Harrisburg.

Today, some of the much modified old Metroliner cab cars survive on Amtrak’s five-car push-pull sets, many of which are assigned as standard consists to the New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg Keystone trains. Until 2014, these consists also routinely worked the Vermonter when it was still routed via Palmer, Massachusetts.

I made these views of Amtrak’s former Metroliner cab cars passing Gap, Pa., a couple of week ago.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Rosy Keystone Approaching Greenfield.

Yesterday evening (June 28, 2023), poor air quality made for a rosy sunset in Lancaster, PA.

Kris and I took a short drive over to Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line to catch Amtrak’s Keystone service train 653 that was down about 18 minutes from the advertised.

I especially liked the trailing view because the stainless steel train caught the rich evening light.

I made some minor adjustments in Lightroom to make the most of the reddish glow.

Amtrak Keystone train 653 westbound. Nikon Z6 with 80-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom set to 175mm; f2.8 1.1250 sec, ISO 800.
Clear signal at 64 dot 5. 175mm f2.8 1/2000th of a second, ISO 800.
Glinting Amfleet at Greenfield.
Sunset in a smoky sky. June 28, 2023.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

OH NO! When Auto Focus Fails . . .

The other day I had an ‘oh no!’ moment involving the autofocus system on my Nikon Z6 fitted with a 70-200mm zoom.

Most of the time the autofocus with my Z-series cameras works very well. On rare occasion it misses completely.

I was set-up at Christiana, Pennsylvania along Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line waiting for westward Keystone service number 605 in order to catch it passing the old PRR station.

I’d set the autofocus to ‘single-point’ (which allows to preselect a distinct point in the frame as the desired place of sharpness) and the system to ‘AF-C’ (continuous), a mode that in theory should continuously adjust the focus on the subject point.

There were three complicating conditions that in combination yielded an undesirable result. 1) The scene was back-lit with bright morning sun, which can make it more difficult for the autofocus system to quickly pick the focus on the desired point. 2) The train was moving faster than 90mph, which not only made it difficult to focus, but gave me no room for error when the shutter was released. 3) The headlights on Amtrak’s ACS-64 use a form of LEDs that produce a wavelength that can momentarily confuse the autofocus system on the camera. I’ve experienced these unfortunate effects previously.

The result was one photo where the focus was slightly off, followed by a second closer image where the focus was missed completely.

One solution for future efforts; I can use the autofocus to pre-focus on the desired location and the switch it off, thus avoiding the condition where at the last split second the focus shifts. But this too is a gamble, and doesn’t always work as hoped.

Although close to what I’d hoped to capture, the autofocus missed slightly and the front of the engine is not precisely sharp. The focus a actually about 40 ft further back. While this may appear sharp enough for internet presentation, it not great in terms of precision focus.
A split second later I made this slightly closer image, and in this one the camera focus system was confused altogether. I wasn’t aiming for a abstract image, but rather a nice sharp image of the train with the old station in background. Considering the speed at which this train was moving, but the time the camera refocused, the headend was alread passed me.

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Christiana Station from both sides of the Main Line.

Amtrak Keystone train 643 passes Christiana westbound.

Last week, I caught up with fellow photographer, author and Trains contributor Dan Cupper, who offered to spend the day showing me railroads in the Lancaster/Strasburg area of Pennsylvania.

Among the places we visited was the archives/meeting house of the Lancaster Chapter, Inc., National Railway Historical Society which is located in the old Pennsylvania Railroad freight house at Christiana, Pennsylvania.

While I’d visited this the passenger station earlier in the week, the day our our visit had much better weather. Also, it was my first ever visit inside freight house where we were met by the chapter’s Stephen Himpsl.

Among the things we explored were views of the freight station and the old passenger station from both sides of the former PRR Main Line.

The passenger station hadn’t served in its intended role since the 1950s, but had been restored and was in good shape.

I made a variety of images using my Nikon mirrorless cameras including those presented here. Most received post-processing adjustment using Adobe Lightroom to better present the data captured by the camera’s NEF RAW files.

More to come on our explorations at Christiana and other nearby locations.

Pennsylvania Railroad sign on the old Christiana freight house.
Lancaster Chapter NRHS has a variety of artifacts and memorabilia on display, including this Lionel GG1 electric locomotive.

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1980s-Retro passes Gap, Pennsylvania.

I was lucky last Wednesday as Amtrak P42 number 145 wearing ‘Phase III’ heritage paint was leading train #42, the eastward Pennsylvanian.

Although the so-called Amtrak Phase III was introduced in the mid-1970s, for me it represents the predominant scheme that adorned Amtrak locomotives during the 1980s. I made countless color slides of F40PH diesels, and AEM-7 and E60 electrics in this scheme.

Amtrak repainted a several of its P42 Genesis diesels in 2011 to mark the railroad’s 40th Anniversary. In addition, several of Amtrak’s dual-mode 700-series Genesis units have also been painted in this scheme.

I was delighted to catch Amtrak 145 working the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania, and made a series of digital images using my Nikon Z-series digital cameras.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom. Photo cropped for effect.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Amtrak’s Pennsylvania at Gap—A Two-Camera, Six-Frame sequence.

I often work with multiple cameras. Since purchasing my Nikon Z7-II at the end of last year, I now often work with both my Nikon mirrorless cameras in tandem. I’ve fitted my Z-series 70-200mm zoom to my Z6, and a Z-series 24-70mm to the Z7-II.

This arrangement gives me the flexibility to make a variety of different angles quickly, swaping back and forth between the two cameras as needed.

In addition to that, I’ll often have my Lumix LX7 at hand and sometimes an older Nikon loaded with film.

Last week, I was poised at Gap, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line that is now operated by Amtrak. Most of Amtrak’s trains are Keystone corridor push-pull sets powered by Siemens-built ACS-64 electric locomotives. An exception is the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian that runs daily and its typically led by a GE-built P42 Genesis diesel.

I got a tip that the eastward Pennsylvanian (train 42) was running with a P42 wearing one of the heritage paint schemes and I was in position to make the most of that train, while waiting on its late-running westward counterpart (train 43). Watching a train tracking ap on my phone, I wondered which train would reach me first.

I heard a GE chugging to the east and turned to find train 43 working west led by P42 number 117 . First I made a few images with the Z6 and 70-200mm, then made a few close up photos with the Z7-II and 24-70mm, before making a couple more trailing views with the Z6. I’ve included six of these images here in order of exposure to provide a sense of how I made the most of these cameras in tandem.

Z6 with 70-200mm.
Z6 with 70-200mm.
Z7-II with 24-.70mm
Z7-II with 24-.70mm
Z7-II with 24-.70mm
Z6 with 70-200mm.

Minutes after train 43 went by, I spotted train 42 in the distance with the aforementioned heritage-painted locomotive in the lead. Stay tuned for those photos!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light is Daily!

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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