Tag Archives: BNSF

BNSF on the move in Missouri.

Rolling east on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, I made a variety of photos of BNSF freights from the train as we crossed Missouri on the way from Kansas City to Chicago.

Here we have one view from a Superliner, one from the dutch door of Silver Splendor and one from that car’s panoramic dome.

Over taking an eastward freight as viewed from Silver Splendor’s dome. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo from the dutch door. A BNSF westward stack near Bosworth, Missouri.
Along the Mississippi near Ft Madison, Iowa, the view from an Amtrak Superliner. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Sunrise at Argentine, Kansas.

Two weeks ago Amtrak’s Southwest Chief greeted a frosty sunrise at BNSF’s sprawling Argentine Yards, west of Kansas City.

I made these digital photographs from the dome and vestibule of Silver Splendor,the former CB&Q Vista-Dome in which I was traveling cross-country.

A rosy sunrise tints my perspective; it sure made this famous yard look like a neat place.

BNSF westbound at Argentine Yard.

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Dusk at Raton, New Mexico.

These days the only regular trains to use the old Santa Fe Raton Pass crossing are Amtrak 3 and 4, the Southwest Chief. The days of helpers over the three percent are all but a memory.

This day two weeks ago: Arriving on No.4, we had more than ten minutes at Raton to stretch our legs and take in the mountain air.

I used the opportunity to make some twilight images of Silver Splendor, the Budd-built Vista-Dome that I was traveling on.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Zeiss 12mm Touit lens, I exposed several views in the blue glow of evening. Dusk is a great time to balance the light inside the passenger car with outside illumination.

f2.8 1/15th of a second, ISO 1600.
f3.6 1/15th of a second, ISO 1600.
f3.2 1/15th of a second, ISO 1600.

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New Mexico Revisited: Soaking in BNSF’s Transcon on the Move.

It had been more than 20 years since my last visit to New Mexico. This was my first by rail.

I was on my way east with Dave and Rhonda Swirk and Derek Palmieri of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, documenting  Budd Vista-Dome Silver Splendor on its journey from Los Angeles to its new home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

As we glided east at the head-end of Amtrak number 4 theSouthwest Chief,we met or overtook dozens of freights, many of them intermodal trains, on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon.

Wow, BNSF sure runs a lot of freight!

Dave Swirk enjoys breakfast near Gallup, New Mexico. Exposed using a FujiFIlm XT1.
View from Silver Splendor near the Arizona-New Mexico state line.
BNSF westward freight near the Gallup, NM station .FujiFilm XT1.
BNSF eastward freight as seen east of Gallup. Lumix LX7 photo.
BNSF’s former Santa Fe has several long sections of split alignments, where mainline tracks are not adjacent. A westward freight can be seen off in the distance to the north of Amtrak No. 4. Lumix LX7 photo.
BNSF westward intermodal freight. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
BNSF westward intermodal freight. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Amtrak No.4 paused at Marmon, NM for traffic to clear. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

I exposed these photos digitally using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.

Part of the challenge of making photos of trains from the train is trying to compose while in motion of moving subjects. Not only does this make if difficult to level the camera, but it leads to motion blur and other potential defects.

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‘Santa Fe All the Way!’ Arizona Sunrise Rolling East on the BNSF Transcon.

Last week, I awoke to sunrise east of Flagstaff, Arizona riding in Budd Vista Dome Silver Splendor as it traveled east on Amtrak no.4, the Southwest Chief.

The luxurious 1956-built stainless steel dome is a classic car from America’s streamlined era.

It was on its way to a new home on the East coast after years being based in California.

The pleasure of traveling in a Vista Dome is enjoying its comfortable elevated panoramic view of the passing scenery. An added bonus on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon is the unceasing parade of freights.

Sunrise on the Santa Fe east of Flagstaff, Arizona on November 18, 2018. Notice the headlight of an approaching BNSF freight.
Sunrise on the Santa Fe east of Flagstaff, Arizona on November 18, 2018.
Overtaking an eastward BNSF freight east of Dennison, Arizona. 90mm view.
Rolling east at Winslow, Arizona. 90mm view from Silver Splendor.

These images were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1. Some of the photos were adjusted in post processing to compensate for the dome’s tinted glass.

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BNSF Stack Train at Fullerton, California—November 2018.

The triple-track mainline at Fullerton, California is a great place to watch and photograph trains.

In addition to a steady procession of transcontinental container traffic, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains operate over the line and make stops at the old Santa Fe station.

Centralized Traffic Control with bi-directional signaling on all three lines allows dispatchers flexibility to route trains in either direction over any mainline track. There are crossovers immediately east of the station platforms.

The challenge of photographing from the pedestrian bridge is navigating the wire mesh. While my Lumix LX7 with its small diameter lens did a better job of getting through the fence, I opted for my Fuji camera because I wanted a longer telephoto lens to bring in the stack train which had stopped on the middle line waiting for a signal.

BNSF Stack Train at Fullerton, California. I made this view on Friday November 16, 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
I made this view on Friday November 16, 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
Trailing view of the eastward double stack at Fullerton featuring locomotives working remotely as ‘Distributed power’ at the back of the train.

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June 26, 2010—Eight Years Ago Today at Steward, Illinois.

Sunset on BNSF’s old C&I Sub at Steward, Illinois June 26, 2010.

I exposed this sunset view using my Canon EOS7D eight years ago today (June 26, 2010).

To allow for more visible detail in highlight and shadow areas I adjusted the camera RAW file using Lightroom and scaled the output for internet presentation.

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Rolling Along with 22K—Lesson in making Pacing Shots.

We were in hot pursuit of Pan Am Southern intermodal freight 22K with three BNSF Railway GE diesels in the lead.

The sun was out.

Rich Reed was driving.

I rolled down the back window, set my Lumix to the smallest aperture (f8) and set the shutter speed dial to ‘A’ mode, which automatically picks the corresponding shutter speed based on the aperture setting.

Since f8 lets the less light to the sensor, the camera program compensated by selecting a slow shutter speed.

I exposed a burst of images as we drove along side the locomotives.

Does it matter that we were in Shirley, Massachusetts?

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BNSF C4s Where?!

This is about location and something unusual.

A week ago, Rich Reed, Paul Goewey and I were making a survey of Pan Am/MBTA operations around Fitchburg, Massachusetts, when we came across intermodal freight 22K stopped east of Fitchburg yard.

Driving up to the head-end, we were surprise to find that the train was led by three BNSF Railway GE diesels, with one of the ‘C4’ (model ES44C4; a six-axle/four-motor riding on a variation of the A1A truck) in the lead.

The train was stopped just west of MBTA’s North Leominster platforms to allow the morning commuter rush to pass unimpeded. This gave us ample opportunity to make photographs.

I was keen to show these BNSF locomotives (nearly 1,000 miles from home rails) operating in Boston suburban territory.

Simply photographing the train/engines really wasn’t good enough, since without some geographically identifying feature, these images could be anywhere.

While I made some close photos of the engines for the record, but I also made a point of exposing images that included station signs and other features to positively identify where we were.

Morning sun on Pan Am Southern intermodal freight 22K at North Leominster on April 20, 2018.
The big GE diesels weren’t the only thing displaying the BNSF logo in North Leominster!
Not the most graceful composition, but it shows where we are.
MBTA 406 heading to Boston’s North Station overtakes 22K at North Leominster.
As MBTA 406 accelerated away from the station, I made a photo of the trailing locomotive with the BNSF GEs beyond. MBTA operates its trains in push-pull mode (locomotive only at one end, cab control car at the other).

One the commuter rush cleared, 22K got permission to proceed and continued east toward its terminus at Ayer, Massachusetts, leading to more photographic opportunities. Stay tuned!

Admittedly not the most scenic location, but this view from the North Leominster parking garage identifies where we are.

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BNSF’s Four Fours. (It’s about a number).

Just luck. Last summer John Gruber and I were along the mighty Mississippi at Savanna, Illinois and photographed a westward BNSF freight with DASH9-44CW 4444.

That’s a lot of four.

Low afternoon sun made for some nice light at Savanna. BNSF 4444 works west. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

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The Famous Keddie Wye

BNSF in the Feather River Canyon Part 2

The old Western Pacific Junction at Keddie, California between WP’s east-west transcon line from Oakland to Salt Lake City and the Inside Gateway/High Line route north to Bieber was once one of the most photographed bridges in California.

What’s not evident from most photographs is that this impressive looking bridge can be viewed from California Highway 70—the main road through the Feather River Canyon.

The famous Keddie Wye.

On a dull October 2003 afternoon I made this view of the famed ‘Keddie Wye’ (as the junction is popularly known).

Contrast and texture make this photo work. My color slides from that day of the train crossing the bridge are less impressive.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

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BNSF in the Feather River Canyon-1

On October 30, 2003, I spent a day photographing BNSF and Union Pacific trains on the old Western Pacific route through California’s Feather River Canyon.

This exceptionally scenic route has long been a popular place to picture trains.

Although photogenic, one of the conceptual problems with the canyon making the balance between train and scenery work.

Too much train, and the canyon becomes a sideshow. Too much canyon and the train is lost in the scenery.

One way to make balanced is through the clever use of lighting.

That’s what I’ve done here.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

I’ve pictured an eastward BNSF climbing through Rich Bar, and by back lighting the train, I’ve helped emphasize it’s form that might otherwise be lost in the darker reaches of the canyon.

 

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Looking Down on BNSF—Savanna, Illinois, July 2017.

A long long time ago, back in the 1990s, I’d travel with Mike and Tom Danneman (and others) to the Mississippi River Valley to photograph the old Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route to the Twin Cities.

Among our favorite vantage points were river-side bluffs in the Mississippi Palisades State Park north of Savanna, Illinois.

The line on the east bank was Burlington Northern back then. Today it is BNSF Railway (reflecting the 1995 merger between Burlington Northern and Santa Fe).

On a bright afternoon in July, John Gruber and I returned to this old haunt and put ourselves in position to make a few photographs.

As hoped, BNSF operated several trains, and we exposed views from the tops of the bluffs. I made these with my FujiFilm X-T1.

Any favorites?

Looking timetable east toward Savanna.
You can hear eastbound whistle for a crossing a mile or so before they come into view.
A little glint off the river makes for nice atmosphere.
Is this train carrying  oil or ethanol? From this height I wasn’t sure.
Like many trains in the West, this unit tank train had a DPU at the back. (Distributed power unit, railroad lingo for a radio-controlled remotely operated locomotive).
A westward intermodal train races up-river toward the Twin Cities from Chicago. I remember when seeing a double stack train was a BIG deal.
Look an old fashioned car load train!

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Mississippi River: View from a Speed Boat

A couple of weeks back, John Gruber organized a speed-boat trip on the Mississippi River geared at watching trains.

I learned a few things and found the experience exhilarating.

Here’s one of the views made of a BNSF train from the river near the Illinois- Wisconsin state line at East Dubuque, Illinois.

Thanks to Sam Weber.

Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.

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California Sunrise—August 2016.

The sinuous alignment of the old Southern Pacific in the Tehachapis is ideally suited to lining up sunrise photographs.

A blanket of airborne particulates filtered the rising sun, softening the light and giving it a luminous golden tint.

In the 1990s, I made many glint photos on Kodachrome. This one I exposed digitally and adjusted contrast in post processing to make for a more pleasing image.

Where K25 slide film would have retained the ring of the sun, now I have to settle for a golden blob of light.

BNSF_nb_Sunrise_Caliente_DSCF2768-2
BNSF symbol freight Z-LPKNBY7-05L (priority intermodal train from Logistics Park Kansas City to North Bay, California) catches the glint at Caliente, California. ISO 200 at f20 1/500th of a second.

A key to making an image such as this one is manually setting the aperture to control the amount of light reaching the sensor. I metered manually and ignored the camera’s recommended exposure, which wouldn’t have given me the desired effect.

Since I was preparing a classic silhouette, I wasn’t interested in retaining detail in the shadows, but instead aimed to hold tonality in the sky.

Where my ‘normal’ daylight exposure with ISO 200 is about f8 1/500th of second, for this photo, I closed down the aperture to f20, which made for two and half stops less exposure.

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One Month Ago: In the Shadow of the Santa Fe—San Bernardino, California—Six Images.

August 4, 2016 was a blistering hot day in San Bernardino. I arrived by Metrolink from Santa Ana, and departed a little while later by Metrolink for LA Union.

San Bernardino was a big deal on the old Santa Fe Railway; freight yards, locomotive shops, and a classic station.

An old smoke stack still reads Santa Fe.

Santa_Fe_Stack_DSCF2067

During my short visit there was a steady procession of BNSF freights.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. In post processing, (using Lightroom) I adjusted contrast and lightened shadows to compensate for the harsh effects of midday sun.

BNSF_San_Bernadino_DSCF2096BNSF_San_Bernadino_DSCF2098

Santa_Fe_stack_San_Bernadino_DSCF2099

The old Santa Fe station hosts a museum and offices.
The old Santa Fe station hosts a museum and offices. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

San_Bernardino_Station_DSCF2062

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California Freight Cars—18 New Photos.

Too often railway photography focuses on the head-end.

When traveling, I tend to take a greater interest in what’s behind the locomotive(s).

I made these views of freight cars while exploring Union Pacific and BNSF in California.

Chip_car_Bealeville_DSCF2267

JB_Hunt_stacks_Woodford_DSCF2249

BNSF_3_bay_hopper_DSCF2266

Tank_car_DSCF2265

It’s interesting to see the mix of modern and antique cars on the roll. Some of these are more than four decades old, others are nearly new.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I exposed photos in a variety of lighting situations.

Articulated_autoracks_DSCF2685

Articulated_autoracks_DSCF2687

BNSF_ATSF_grain_car_at_Bealeville_sunset_DSCF1366

BNSF_ATSF_grain_car_at_Bealeville_sunset_DSCF1368

BNCoil_train_cars-DSCF2203

BN_Coil_train_cars-DSCF2204

BNSF_Coil_train_cars-DSCF2207

BN_chip_car_DSCF2211

BNSF_grain_hopper_DSCF2085

P&W_autorack_Bealeville_DSCF2347

BNSF_JB_Hunt_stacks_trailing_Caliente_DSCF2816

Coil_car_DSCF1324

BNSF_earthworm_grain_cars_at_Bealeville_sunset_DSCF1364

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Taking a Spin on Los Angeles-area Metrolink.

Metrolink is nearly a quarter century old, having commenced operations in 1992.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed traveling and photographing the Los Angeles-area Metrolink. The comfortable coaches, variety of locomotives, and interesting route structure makes it one of the more interesting suburban railways in the United States.

Interior view of a Rotem double deck
Interior view of a Rotem double deck

In addition to lines focused on Los Angeles Union Station are several non-radial routes/services, which makes Metrolink unusual among American commuter lines.

All trains are diesel powered with double-deck cars. The newer Rotem-built cars are my favorite to travel in.

Detail of a Rotem-built double deck.
Detail of a Rotem-built double deck.

Using my Lumix LX7 (and other cameras), I’ve made dozens of images from the train, as well as interior views of the equipment, and of course views of the trains and stations.

One of the older cars.
One of the older cars.
Rotem double-deck detail.
Rotem double-deck detail.
Rolling along through suburban LA.
Rolling along through suburban LA.
Passengers board a morning train.
Passengers board a morning train.
Rolling toward Los Angeles Union Station behind a BNSF AC4400CW.
Rolling toward Los Angeles Union Station behind a BNSF AC4400CW.
Paused at Riverside.
Paused at Riverside.
BNSF local freight at San Bernardino.
BNSF local freight at San Bernardino.

Metrolink_view_from_the_train_San_Bernardino_P1500667

Metrolink_View_from_train_P1500705

Metrolink_View_from_train_P1500699Metrolink_View_from_train_P1500710

Metrolink_view_from_train_Burbank_Airport_P1500730

Ticket to ride.
Ticket to ride.

Metrolink_View_from_train_P1500700

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Bealeville Sunset—golden lining to the cloud of pollution.

Dark clouds with silver linings? Not at sunset.

Combine agricultural dust from the San Joaquin Valley with Los Angeles-area air pollution and you get some wonderful golden light. Throw in a few wild fires and it gets even better!

All that pollution acts as a huge red-orange filter.

On this evening in late July 2016, fellow photographer David Hegarty and I were fortunate to be in place in the California Tehachapis to make good use of the golden light.

As previously featured on Tracking the Light, the railroad was a bit backed up. This enabled us to find a train at the moment of sunset.

A timetable-southward BNSF freight gets a green signal at Belleville, California. FujiFilm X-T1 photo. Image was not altered in post processing except to scale for internet presentation.
A timetable-southward BNSF freight gets a green signal at Belleville, California. FujiFilm X-T1 photo. Image was not altered in post processing except to scale for internet presentation.
California golden glint; exposed digitally using a Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
California golden glint; exposed digitally using a Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. Sorry about the wires. I’d crop them, but then the photo would have been ‘altered’. Right?
Here I've included the setting sun. This shows the angle of the light relative to the train necessary to produce the glint effect. I'm standing at the Bealeville grade crossing.
Here I’ve included the setting sun. This shows the angle of the light relative to the train necessary to produce the glint effect. I’m standing at the Bealeville grade crossing.

These images have not been altered digitally in post processing, except for scaling necessary for digital presentation. To maintain the rich rosy glow, I selected a daylight white balance, and was very careful with my exposure, which I selected manually to maintain texture in the sky.

And yes, I also exposed a slide using Fujichrome Provia 100F.

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Caliente Traffic Jam—Traffic in the Tehachapis.

Having been stuck in a few Los Angeles area-tailbacks lately, I’ll say, it’s no fun. However, when the railroad gets jammed, it can make for some bountiful photographic opportunities.

Union Pacific owns and dispatches the old Southern Pacific route over the Tehachapis, yet BNSF (operating on a trackage rights arrangement inherited from the Santa Fe ) runs the lion’s share of the traffic. The mix of UP and BNSF plus outstanding scenery and blazing sun have the stage set.

To adapt a hackneyed Hollywood phrase; ‘Light, cameras, action . . .’

On this late July afternoon UP wasn’t having a good day. One of its northward trains developed braking problems descending near Cable and northward trains began to stack up behind it, including the BNSF ‘Earthworm’ unit grain train that we’d photographed earlier in the day (see: The Earthworm and a Joshua Tree)

UP’s southward trains hadn’t faired much better; as a very heavy manifest had struggled upgrade at a walking pace adding to more congestion.

By evening, UP’s northward train had reached Caliente, where it held the mainline short of the first intermediate signal (as instructed by the dispatcher),while a BNSF southward manifest was in the siding.

More southward trains were coming behind this train, as the loaded northward earthworm crawled downgrade and stopped at the pit of the Caliente horseshoe, short of the grade crossing.

Gridlock!

Three trains at Caliente and nothing moving. Furthermore, a pair of UP Z-trains were making a meet at Cliff.

At this point it was like shooting fish in a barrel, to use another handy cliché, and the evening light was only getting better.

Stay tooned! 😉

Trains on all tracks and nothing moving; UP DPUs on the back of a northward freight on the mainline, a BNSF northward train in the siding, while on the upper level of the horseshoe is the BNSF 'Earthworm' grain train, with its headend holding on the opposite side of the grade crossing 180 degrees behind me.
Trains on all tracks and nothing moving; UP DPUs on the back of a northward freight holding  the mainline, a BNSF northward train in the siding, while on the upper level of the horseshoe is the BNSF ‘Earthworm’ grain train, with its headend holding on the opposite side of the grade crossing  behind me.
Head-end of the Earthworm grain train. Just standing there in warm California sun. I think Kodak exited the Kodachrome business too soon!
Head-end of the Earthworm grain train. Just standing there in warm California sun. I think Kodak exited the Kodachrome business too soon!
Finally, the BNSF Earthworm gets a signal. Here's today's photo lesson. By shifting the focus from the locomotives to the ballast in the foreground I've altered the natural perspective. Essentially, I'm tricking the eye into looking down and this makes the scene seem more like a diorama. Of course you may need to view this image larger than 3x5 inches to get the full effect.
Finally, the BNSF Earthworm gets a signal. Here’s today’s photo lesson: By shifting the focus from the locomotives to the ballast in the foreground I’ve altered the natural perspective. Essentially, I’m tricking the eye into looking down and this focus combined with the pastel lighting makes the scene seem more like a diorama. Of course you may need to view this image larger than 3×5 inches to get the full effect.
Ok, enough playing around, here I've focused on the main event and the rails have been to squeal.
Ok, enough playing around, here I’ve focused on the main event as the rails have begun to squeal.
Looking railroad timetable north (formerly  this was west under the old SP timetable); The earthworm descends toward Bakersfield.
Looking railroad timetable north (formerly this was west under the old SP timetable)  the earthworm descends toward Bakersfield.
First set of DPUs (distributed power units—railroad speak for un-manned radio-controlled remotely-placed locomotives.)
Here we have the first set of DPUs (distributed power units—railroad speak for un-manned radio-controlled remotely-placed locomotives.)
And a new BNSF GE-built Tier IV works as a second set of DPUs at the back of the grain train.
And a new BNSF GE-built Tier IV works as a second set of DPUs at the back of the grain train.
Some quick driving to a pre-selected overlook granted me a final view of the Earthworm as it rolls along Caliente Creek. Who said, 'you can't have your cake and eat it'?
Some quick driving to a pre-selected overlook granted me a final view of the Earthworm as it rolls along Caliente Creek. Who said, ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’?

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Tehachapi Revisited—Just like I remembered, but different.

Last weekend, I gazed down upon that famous spiral officially known on the late Southern Pacific as Walong, but to the rest of the world as the ‘Tehachapi Loop’.

It was, and still is, one of the great places to watch trains; and on this day it didn’t disappoint. I’d been away a long time and now I was back.

The last time I was here, I’d stayed with my friends Dave and Helen Burton, who lived just over the hill on the north side of the spiral. Back then, Southern Pacific still owned the line, and the merger that was to consume the Santa Fe Railway was still more than a year away.

Now, SP, Santa Fe, and Dave and Helen are all just memories.

It was strange to watch a train traverse the loop. I was delighted to see it, but sad. It was like seeing some weird vision of the future.

So, I made these images—my first digital photos of this often-photographed landmark—while thinking back to earlier times.

BNSF_stack_train_Walong_CA_Tehachapi_Loop_DSCF0845

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I dedicated books to both of my friends: to Dave, I dedicated my BNSF book of 2005.

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Blinded by the Brightness: BNSF GE AC4400CWs work passenger trains—Los Angeles July 2016.

Here’s recent view with the Lumix. All that blue sky confused my exposure!

Lots of BNSF AC4400s at Los Angeles Union Station working the LA-end of Metrolink trains.

Photo by Brian Solomon July 2016. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Photo by Brian Solomon July 2016. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

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Searchlight Sunset—Chana, Illinois.

It was the evening of June 15, 2004, and I was out along the old Burlington C&I line at Chana, west of Rochelle, Illinois. The sunset was this amazing tapestry of color, like a Turner oil painting. I had a few minutes to make the most it.

I had several Nikons loaded with different types of Fujichrome and my old Rolleiflex. I made this view with a Nikon F3 and my Nikkor 180mm telephoto.
I had several Nikons loaded with different types of Fujichrome and my old Rolleiflex. I made this view with a Nikon F3 and my Nikkor 180mm telephoto.

The old General Railway Signal searchlight signal with its classic finial and the code lines beyond made for good silhouette subjects. I blasted through about a half a roll of film before the color faded. I’ve found you have to make the most of these cosmic moments when they happen.

Often there’ll be a great sunset, but I won’t be in a position to use the light for anything constructive, and so I’ll just have to gaze at it with regrets. Seeing a missed opportunity in a sunset; that’s one of the downsides of being a photographer.

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Lost Treasure of the Golden Swoosh.

I’ve been prevailed upon to tell this tale:

Was it January 11th 2015, when word came over the wire?

Fellow photographer Pat Yough said to me, and I repeat, ‘the Golden Swoosh has been sighted at Buffalo and is heading this way.’

‘The what?’ said I.

‘The Golden Swoosh! It’s all the rage. Something about the black swoosh is yellow on one of the BNSF GE’s.’

‘Whoa. Back the trolley up. What’s all this about?’

So far as I can determine, sometime ago a four-lettered shoe company produced a special runner (that’s an ‘athletic shoe’ in American parlence). And, this deluxe edition shoe carried a yellow tinted zinger on the side and was known as ‘the Golden Swoosh’.

This curious term, it seems, was then transferred to a BNSF Railway General Electric Evolution-Series locomotive painted in a one of a kind variation of the company’s livery.

Instead of black lettering with angled underline (a ‘swoosh’ as it were), the ‘BNSF’ lettering and corporate underline logo was painted yellow thus creating a unique adaptation of the BNSF image on locomotive 7695.

And this curious painted variation was eastbound on CSX leading a laden oil train destined for Philadelphia.

The wire was live with reports. It was seen south of Selkirk and rolling down along the Hudson on CSX’s River Line.

But then, just as it seemed that this locomotive note-worthy for its yellow underline, was nearly upon us, word came in that it was at Kearny Yard where it was tied down and without a crew.

And so, another day passed, swooshless.

Finally, after long last, on the evening of January 13th the famed ‘golden swoosh’ was again on the move.

The weather was cold and the sky was dark. Pat and I visited Neshaminy Falls on the old Reading Company. No swoosh. Then to Langhorne where CSX’s Q417 passed in the gloom (144 axles led by engines CSX 8768 and 8836). This was followed by CSX’s Q191 led by 5359 and 509 followed by containers.

CSX Q191 rolls though Langhorne, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company Trenton Line on January 13, 2015. Canon EOS 7D photo.
CSX Q191 rolls though Langhorne, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company Trenton Line on January 13, 2015. Canon EOS 7D photo.

In the end we went to Woodbourne: finally a headlight appeared on the horizon. The catenary glistened. and the low chug of a GE engine shook the ground.

And there, leading a mighty train of oil, was the ‘Golden Swoosh.’

I racked up the ISO to make some effort to mark its passing.

‘There it is!’

My Canon captured this view of the famed 'Golden"Swoosh.'
My Canon captured this view of the famed ‘Golden”Swoosh.’

BNSF_golden_swoosh_IMG_9954BNSF_golden_swoosh_IMG_9955

And there it goes.

Sort of reminded me of the time Britain’s Queen Elizabeth waved to me on one of her trips through Dublin in 2011.

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Savanna, Illinois Revisited—June 24, 2010.

On a blustery winter morning I find it nice to look through photos made on warm summer afternoons.

In June 2010, I had just bought my Canon EOS 7D DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and made an extended drive around the Midwest to visit friends, gather materials for a book, and test the camera. This went on for several weeks.

On the afternoon of June 24th, I revisited familiar territory along the Mississippi River at Savanna. Not yet fully trusting the digital camera, I exposed a number of slides from the top of the bluff.

A BNSF double stack container train works along the former Burlington main line near Savanna, Illinois. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm lens set at 150mm. ISO 200.
A BNSF double stack container train works along the former Burlington main line near Savanna, Illinois. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm lens set at 150mm. ISO 200.
Trailing view of the same stack train; exposed my new EOS 7D with 400mm lens set at 235mm. ISO 200.
Trailing view of the same stack train; exposed my new EOS 7D with 400mm lens set at 235mm. ISO 200.

I made this pair of images from river level of an eastward BNSF double stack was headed toward Chicago.

Of the two, I much prefer the second photo. For me this better portrays the railroad in its environment with a variety of secondary subjects to add interest.

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Daily Post: Twenty Cylinders in 2013

Finding an old EMD Locomotive at Work Near its Birth Place.

Followers of Tracking the Light may have noticed that I have a penchant for Electro-Motive Division 20-Cylinder diesels. Not only have I featured these in many of my books, but also they have made regular appearances in my Daily posts.

In 2013, true 20-cylinder EMD locomotives have become really rare machines. Many of the surviving SD45/SD45-2 locomotives have been ‘de-rated’ and are now actually powered by variations of the 16-cylinder 645 engine.

Not that this difference really affects the photos, but for the purest, a true 20-cylinder locomotive has no match. For me, it’s the sound that makes the difference.

When I lived in California, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe both still had substantial fleets or 20 cylinder diesels. These days there are probably more old EMD F units in daily service than 20-cylinder 645s. (Maybe? Anyone know?)

Last week (Tuesday November 12, 2013), John Gruber and I were driving from Madison, Wisconsin toward Chicago to meet Chris Guss and Pat Yough. Chris rang me before lunch to say that an Illinois Railnet freight was ready to depart BNSF’s Eola Yard and had an old SP SD45 in the lead. A real SD45.

EMD SD45 7440
While not the prettiest locomotive, Illinois Railnet’s ex SP SD45 was worth the drive.
I even exposed a slide with my dad’s Leica M4. This photo was made with my Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. I was balanced on a rock in the Fox River to get just the right angle. Nice to have the sun too!

I stepped up the pace, and with creative driving and some vital landing instructions from Chris and Pat, John and I arrived at the old Burlington bridge over the Fox River west of Aurora just in time to catch this relatively obscure Chicago-land freight railroad at work. I owe this image to teamwork and the ability to react quickly. Hurray!

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Santa Fe at West Pittsburg, California, November 1990.

EMD SD45-2 Under a Blue Dome.

I’ve posted this image as another example of my work with a perspective control lens. This was a tool I made excellent use of in the early 1990s. On the recommendation of J.D. Schmid, I bought a Nikon 35mm PC ‘Shift’ lens for my Nikon F3T.

Among the advantages of a perspective control lens is the ability to shift the front element. This can be used to keep vertical lines from converging, but also to alter the image in subtle ways.

Santa Fe freight
Santa Fe SD45-2 5809 thunders east with a freight at West Pittsburg, California in November 1990. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 film with a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens at f4 1/500th of a second.

It was a clear Saturday morning in the Bay Area, and Brian Jennison and I were on one of our jaunts looking at area railroads. We stopped near the old station location at West Pittsburg (no ‘h’), California. (I believe the palm trees in the distance are an indication of where the building once stood.) Here we photographed several trains.

For this eastward freight, I positioned the camera relatively low to the ground and raised the front element of the 35mm PC to near its maximum. I didn’t quite keep the camera level. The result includes a large amount of crystal blue sky, while minimizing the foreground and keeping the vertical elements of the lead locomotive nearly parallel with the image frame.

I feel the subtle effect allows the locomotive visually surge forward, seeming to charge along. This was my intent. Santa Fe 5809 is an SD45-2, a machine powered by EMD’s 3,600 hp 20-cylinder diesel.

In their heyday these were powerful machines that produced an awe inspiring low-base sound in the high-throttle positions. I hoped to convey that power visually while making use of the California sky.

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Amtrak’s Southwest Chief east of Las Vegas, New Mexico, September 1998

 

 

General Electric Genesis Diesels and Style T Semaphores.

Railways can offer tremendous technological contrasts. Among my photographic themes is juxtaposition of the oldest technology along side the most modern. When I made this image, there was roughly 60 years between development of the signals and the locomotives.

Amtrak with Semaphore
Exposed with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens on Fujichrome slide film. I didn’t record my exposure, but the image was made at dusk, and I probably had the camera set to about 1/2 second at f2.8

I made this image during an exploration with Mel Patrick of the former Santa Fe mainline across northern New Mexico and eastern Colorado. At that time BNSF still maintained many of the old Union Switch & Signal Style T-2’s dating from the steam-era.

The Union Switch & Signal Style T-2 was featured in my book Railroad Signaling published by Voyageur Press. Here’s an except from my text: “US&S’s T-2 is a three-position upper quadrant type with a top of mast mechanism. Typical semaphore height measured 22 feet 6 inches from the ground to mechanism.”

Traffic on this line was relatively light, with only Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and a couple of BNSF freights daily. Then, as today, most of BNSF trans-con freight was routed via the Belen Cutoff (through Abo Canyon) to the south.

 

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Burlington Northern, Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, July 12, 1994.

Revisiting the Badlands.

Empty coal train, North Dakota.

BN SD60Ms westbound at Sentinel Butte. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film; shutter and f-stop information unrecorded; metered using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held light meter.

In mid-July 1994, I spent several days photographing along Burlington Northern’s former Northern Pacific mainline in western North Dakota. Here the railway snaked through the Badlands, with the landscape characterized by unusual geological formations.

On the evening of  July 12, 1994, BN sent a fleet of westward empty coal trains (described as ‘coal cars’ on the railroad) over the NP between Mandan, North Dakota and Glendive, Montana. At 7pm I caught this empty led by an SD60M at Sentinel Butte. Fast moving fair weather clouds made for some complicated lighting and a tricky exposure, but ultimately resulted in a more dramatic photograph.

This was my second experience with this line. My first was viewing the line from the dome of the North Coast Limited some 24 years earlier. I was only four years old on that trip, but the train ride gave me lasting memories. My dad exposed slides from the dome and dutch-doors of the train and from the Vista dome, but I wasn’t yet working with cameras.

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