Five years ago, I was poised at the army bridge near Mosney over the old Great Northern line to photograph the, then new, Belmond Grand Hibernian on its run from Dublin to Belfast.
This luxury tour train made weekly tours of the Irish network in season.
Irish Rail class 201 number 216 was painted to match Belmond’s train set, and was routinely assigned to the train.
Belmond’s choice of a dark navy blue made for challenging photos in conditions other than bright sun. In photos, this shade of blue often appeared almost black, and when lightened using post processing software tended to shift green.
In this view, I selectively lightened the front of the locomotive, and applied minimal lightening to the shadow areas of the entire scene. I’ve attempted to retain the true color of the train as best I can.
On the afternoon of Saturday, 14 September 2019, Belmond’s Grand Hibernian was due at Connolly Station, Dublin .
Earlier I’d caught the train being shunted at Heuston Station, and expected it to make the run with Irish Rail 071 in retro orange paint.
A group of us were in place at Connolly anticipating the navy blue cruise train led by the orange loco.
But which platform would make a better photograph?
At the last minute, photographer Kevin O’Brien suggested platform 3. I owe him one for the idea. As it happened the Belmond and a late running Belfast-Dublin Enterprise approached Connolly at the same time.
My friends over on platform 2 didn’t get the view they hoped for since in the final seconds the Enterprise effectively blocked the view of the other train.
Yesterday, the final day of August 2019, I joined fellow photographer Paul Maguire in photographing Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on its run from Heuston Station over the Branch to Connolly (before it continued on to Belfast).
We selected a vantage point on Dublin’s Blackhorse Avenue and timed visit to minimize the waiting.
In short order flange-squeal emanating from the Phoenix Park Tunnel announced the approach of Belmond’s train before it came into sight.
I opted to use a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens in order to include the castle-like McKee Barracks on the west side of the line.
Bright sun made for a contrasty scene.
I mitigated the visually distracting effects of excessive contrast, I adjusted the camera RAW files using Lightroom. Simply by using the program’s ‘sliders’, I lightened shadows, tempered highlights, and locally adjusted exposure in the sky to allow for better detail in the clouds. I also warmed the colour-balance, while making a slight increases in overall saturation. The adjustments took less than a minute of my time.
The light was rapidly changing and shortly after the train passed a cloud eclipsed the sun. I’ve included an unadjusted image of the clouded scene to show the difference in light levels.
Yesterday was a bright sunny morning in Dublin. I coordinated my walk to SuperValu at Heuston South Quarter to neatly coincide with the passage of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner.
I timed this well and only waited a few minutes at Islandbridge Junction. Rather than my normal angle from ‘the box’, I opted for an over the wall view a little further up.
Continuing along St. John’s Road toward Dublin Heuston Station, I was surprised to hear another 071. I peered over the wall to discover that Irish Rail 073 (in heritage orange paint) had come down to shunt Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
Dashing to SuperValu, accomplished my shopping in record time, and returned trackside to catch 073 bringing the Grand Hibernianthrough the wash, and then stopped in front of me at Islandbridge Junction. As this was happening Paul Maguire sent me text to alert me that the elusive Sperry train was on its way over to me.
Minutes later, Irish Rail 076 with Sperry came across to Platform 10 where it was scheduled to run around before heading to Bray.
I walked around to Conyngham Road to catch the Sperry train on its way into the Phoenix Park Tunnel.
I’ve been unusually fortunate to catch Irish Rail’s 071 almost everyday for the last couple of weeks.
This locomotive is the class leader and features a heritage livery based on the as-delivered General Motors scheme.
It is very popular with photographers.
On Saturday 22 September 2018, locomotive 071 worked the Belmond Grand Hibernian cruise train from Dublin Heuston to Connolly Station. Until yesterday, it had been assigned to the Dublin-Ballina IWT Liner container train.
To make this view, I used my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit 12mm lens. To help bring in sky detail, I attached a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (a physical filter), then made further adjustment to RAW files in post processing using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, which allowed me to make adjustments to highlight and shadow detail.
Additional adjustments were made globally (the entire image) to modify contrast and colour saturation to improve the appearance of the photograph.
Sunday, 16 September 2018 found unusual variety at Irish Rail’s Dublin Connolly Station.
Adding colour to Irish Rail’s parade of local and long distance trains was Belmond’s Grand Hibernian that arrived from Dundalk, and departed a half an hour later bound for Waterford. As this high-end cruise train was departing, a HOBS (ballast train) was heading from the northern line into the North Wall with Irish Rail 077.
But the most unusual train was Rail Preservation Society of Ireland’s heritage Cravens, which arrived from Inchicore behind one of Northern Ireland Railways Enterprise class 201 diesels. While the train was expected, the locomotive was a surprise.
I departed for points north before steam locomotive number 4 arrived to take the scheduled RPSI excursion from platform 5. All the while, engine 85 in Great Northern blue, which was intended for the day’s RPSI excursion was stuck on Connolly’s turntable!
On the Evening of 16 September 2018, the Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s Cravens transfer (train i.d. H260) ran from Connolly to Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works. Rather than run with an 071 class locomotive, as is often the case, it was assigned locomotive 216 specially painted for Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
The following morning, the up Grand Hibernianfrom Waterford passed the same location with Irish Rail class 071 number 083 in the lead.
While Belmond’s train often runs to and from Waterford with an 071 class locomotive, this still presents a bit variety on a railway that tends to favour uniform train sets.
All of these photos were exposed at ‘The Gullet” (the three track throat to Islandbridge Junction) from Memorial Road in Dublin.
Two Sunday Mornings in a row I walked up to the line with an aim of catching an 071 class locomotive in heritage paint leading Belmond’s Grand Hiberniancruise train on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Two Sundays, two locations, two heritage locomotives (numbers 073 and 071 respectively), and two different Irish Rail scheduled trains that got in my way.
Gosh, bad luck!
In both instances, I came away with different photos than I’d set out to make.
My question: might these photos age well? Perhaps the intrusion of the ROTEM ICRs may make these photographs more interesting in years to come?
I’m not one to get overly excited when a photo opportunity doesn’t work as planned. Sometimes it’s best to just keep making photos when a scene plays out.
PSSSST! (I also made some sneaky 35mm slides that may make the most of both situations).
On Sunday’s an Irish Rail class 071 works Belmond’s luxury cruise train, the 10-car Grand Hibernian, on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Although slightly back lit, I found the famed ‘Gullet’ offers a good place to catch this train at work.
This cutting dates from the 1840s and features three tracks.
In this instance, Irish Rail 082 was accelerating down the middle road with the posh-looking train. (‘Down’ refers to traveling away from Dublin, and doesn’t reflect the gradient, which in this situation is actually rising).
Working with both my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto and Lumix LX7, I made two sets of digital photos.
The locomotive sound was impressive as on this particular Sunday a couple weeks back the roads in the area were shut for a foot race and there was very little ambient noise compared with a typical day in Dublin. Perhaps, I should have made a recording!
A couple of weeks back, I made these views of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian luxury cruise train at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
What’s a Kodachrome sky? The old Kodak Kodachrome had the ability to capture a sunny day with vivid contrast; so when you had over-the-shoulder light with fluffy clouds dotting a blue sky we called it a ‘Kodachrome Sky’.
It think it’s safe to say that no one has ever photographed the Grand Hibernian on Kodachrome slide film! And if they have, they will never see their results in vivid colour. (Kodachrome is no longer commercially processed).
Irish Rail’s quad-track line southwest of Dublin is a popular place for photos.
Last week, Colm O’Callaghan and I made a trip down to Hazlehatch to make photos of trains on the move in the afternoon.
Belmond’s Grand Hibernian was passing down road when Colm said to me, ‘Quick, it’s the inspection car’. I had only a few seconds. I turned around and with little time to compose I fired off a few frames.
Both the train and the inspection car were in motion.
Belmond is a high-end tour train operator that since 2016 has served Ireland with its Grand Hibernian sleeping car train.
This has been a popular topic for railway photographers as it represented a return of the Mark 3 carriage to Irish rails and makes for a decidedly different passenger train in contrast with Irish Rail’s regularly scheduled services.
Yet, as previously mentioned on Tracking the Light, the train itself is challenging to capture in images owing to its largely unbroken dark navy-blue paint.
In dull light this looks nearly black.
I’ve found that the most effective photographs of the Belmond Grand Hibernian are made in bright sunlight.
These views were exposed at ‘the Gullet’ west of Dublin’s Heuston Station. One was made with my Lumix LX7 with the Vivid colour profile; the other two with my FujiFilm X-T1 using the Velvia colour profile.
Files were scaled in Lightroom for internet presentation, but were not altered in post processing in regards to exposure, colour balance, colour temperature or contrast.
A couple weeks ago, I met fellow photographer Jay Monaghan in Cabra to document the passing of Belmond’s luxury tour train that was making it’s scheduled move to Dublin’s Connolly Station.
Using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera, I opted for this portrait-oriented (vertical) telephoto view to accentuate the Dublin Mountains. In contrast to my view, Jay executed a very nice wide-angle photograph that better shows the cutting and the length of Belmond’s train.
The Grand Hibernian uses 10 custom refurbished former Irish Rail Mark3 carriages, making it the longest regularly scheduled passenger train in Ireland.
In this instance an Irish Rail class 071 diesel is working the train, but for most moves Irish Rail 216 specially painted in Belmond navy-blue is assigned to it.
In season, Belmond’s high-end excursion train makes tours of Irish railways.
For the first time, Irish Rail’s Killarney simultaneously hosted passenger trains from three different operators.
In addition to its own scheduled service from Tralee to Mallow, Belmond’s Grand Hibernian, and Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express were in the station.
I was one of several photographers on site to capture the moment.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm X-T1. To compensate for changeable lighting, I processed the camera RAW files in Lightroom, making a variety of small adjustments to exposure, contrast, and saturation to produce more effective photographs.
On 14 September 2016, I posted some black & white photos of an excursion train at Waverton near Chester in the UK. See: Three Mysteries.
My luck was catching this train, but I knew very little about it.
Several readers wrote to me with suggestions and the consensus was that I’d photographed Belmond’s Northern Belle excursion train, which often runs in central England.
That theme fits nicely with the more recent photos I’ve been running of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on Irish Rail. However, it is truly coincidental, as the film had sat latent on my desk for more nine years!
I’d all but forgotten about the special move when I finally processed the film this month.
So there you go!
(Special thanks to everyone who wrote to me with details on the Northern Belle!).
Sunday morning was overcast. Not the best weather for photographing Belmond’s dark blue Grand Hibernian. (Luxury cruise train).
However, since when the sun is out, the cutting at Cabra in Dublin is badly shadowed the best time to try this location is on an overcast morning.
Exploring this option, I found the most dramatic angle was the trailing view. Using a telephoto perspective, I was able to draw in the Dublin Mountains in the distance.
These images were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I processed all three images using Lightroom.
I made nominal global adjustments to contrast and saturation and sharpened for the computer screen. Also, I used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better retain detail in the sky.
There’s a certain thrill to having two trains approach simultaneously.
Saturday, Denis McCabe, David Hegarty and myself had selected a bridge near Mosney (mp25) on the old Great Northern Railway Dublin-Belfast line as a good place to catch Belmond’s Grand Hibernian cruise train.
The Belmond train departed Dublin Connolly behind an Irish Rail local passenger train and its progress was slowed when it encountered restrictive signals.
Another Irish Rail local was scheduled in the Dublin direction.
Fifteen years ago, if you told me that I’d be out on a Sunday morning specifically to photograph a 201 class diesel with Mark 3 carriages on Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork line, I wouldn’t have believed you!
This morning Colm O’Callaghan and I did just that.
The dark blue color is difficult to photograph satisfactorily though.
Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog on Railway Photography.