Tag Archives: Bord na Móna

Irish Narrow Gauge and an Amazing Sky.


A week ago, Friday 8 March 2019, toward the end of our exploration of Bord na Mona’s Lough Rea narrow gauge network near Lanesborough Co. Longford, the sky grew textured and glowed with evening magnificence.

I made this view of an empty Bord na Mona train crossing the bog on its way to reload.

The trick making this photo work was to expose for the sky while letting the train go relatively dark. I was working with Ilford HP5 black & white film, and during processing, I used two developers followed by selenium toning of the negatives to extract the maximum shadow detail.

My intent was a moody and stark view of the train against the textured sky.

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Narrow Gauge in the Rain: Atmosphere, Charm and Action!


They said we were mad driving to the Irish Midlands in a March rain to look at bog trains.

But we did anyway.

And we did very well.

Friday March 8, 2019, Paul and Jay Monaghan and I made a foray toward Lanesborough, County Longford to observe Bord na Mona’s Lough Rea system in action.

For me this was repeat of similar trip three weeks earlier.

Here’s a hint: Bord na Mona has one of the coolest train sets in Europe.

The whole operation is like a big garden railway. Well, except that it runs in a bog.

Here’s another hint: just because rain is forecast, doesn’t mean it will rain all day!

More soon!

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Lanesborough in Colour—more Bord na Mona narrow gauge.


Last Friday’s (15 February 2019) adventure on Ireland’s Bord na Mona at Lanesborough Co., Longford proved well-timed and we caught many narrow gauge trains on the move.

Below are some more of the digitally exposed colour photos made with my FujiFilm and Lumix LX7 cameras.

Any favorites?

Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

Also check out:

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

Lumix LX7 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 90mm lens.

Lumix LX7 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Black & White on the Bog.


On Friday, 15 February 2019, during my visit with Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe to Bord na Mona’s operations at Lanesborough, I worked with three cameras to document operations.

My FujiFilm XT1 and Lumix LX7 were for exposing colour digital photos, while I employed a Nikon F3 to make classic 35mm black & white images.

I processed the film yesterday using custom tailored formulas.

The first roll was Ilford HP5 that I’d bought a couple of days earlier at John Gunn’s Camera on Wexford Street in Dublin. I processed this using a two stage development, starting with an extremely dilute solution of Kodak HC110 (roughly 1 part developer to 250 parts water) which used as presoak. The weak developer helps activate the chemical reaction and improves shadow detail without overdeveloping highlight areas.

The second stage of development involved Ilford Perceptol mixed 1-1 with water and heated to 71F. Based on past experience, I left the film in the developer for 12 minutes, then stop bath, 1stfixer, 2ndfixer, pre-wash, hypoclear, main wash (10 minutes) and final rinse in distilled water.

After drying, I scanned the negatives with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and touched up the scans using Lightroom.

Stay tuned for more photos from the Bord na Mona!

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Irish Narrow Gauge on the Roll!


Last Friday, Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I paid a visit to Bord na Mona’s (Peat Board) three-foot gauge industrial railway feeding the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesboroughin County Longford.

My first visit to Lanesborough portion of the extensive Irish Bord na Mona network was back in 2013. This is my favorite Bord na Mona operation for a variety for a reasons. It’s the most accessible by road, by far the most scenic (as bog railways go), and has great variety.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2013/10/16/bord-na-mona-lanesborough-october-2013-part-1/

On Friday, we hit the ground running, finding the elusive ash train on the move at Derraghan More gates.

So we were on the trail seeking empty and laden peat trains on the roll. It was a busy day and lots of photographs resulted! Stay tuned . . . 

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Six Years Ago Today; Ireland’s Bord na Mona near Edenderry on 3 November 2012.

On this day six years ago, Denis McCabe and I were on an exploration of Ireland’s narrow gauge Bord na Mona (Peat Board) operations radiating from the Edenderry generating station located near the village of Clonbullogue, Co. Offaly, when we discovered this view from overhead bridge over the double track narrow gauge line.

I exposed my photo using a Canon EOS7D with 200mm prime lens. Nominal overexposure resulted in a slightly washed out image.

Six years after the fact, I worked with the RAW File in Lightroom, to bring back some of the sky detail not apparent in the camera-produced Jpg, while aiming to improve colour saturation and colour balance.

This is a scaled version of the camera JPG. Notice the washed out sky and low colour saturation.

Working with the camera RAW file, I brought back highlight detail while improving overall colour balance and saturation to more closely resemble the original scene.

See: Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1

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Sun on the Bog; Nice Light on Bord na Mona—February 2018.

This is a follow-up to Friday’s post:

February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5jR]

The Irish Midlands are famously cloudy.

However, when the evening sun shines it makes for some wonderful photographic opportunities.

In February, Denis McCabe and I waited out the clouds, and caught two pairs of laden Bord na Mona trains in bright sun.

These images were exposed near Rathangan, Co. Kildare.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

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February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight.

Since 2012, Denis McCabe and I have made detailed exploration of Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge railways networks.

See: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1 [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-8J]https://wp.me/p2BVuC-oR

Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013 [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-oR]

Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-28X]

These photos are from our most recent foray. We caught this pair of empty trains working their way east from Clonbulloge to a loading area near Rathangan.

Bord na Mona typically operates trains in pairs to ease the loading process.

Moon-like landscape on the bog east of Clonbulloge.

Fair weather clouds were gradually giving way to sunshine.

Images were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens.

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Narrow Gauge Monochrome—A Different Approach.

Five alternative views of Ireland’s Bord na Mona railway.

Here I’m trying something different: Working with an old Leica IIIa fitted with an ancient screw-mount Nikkor 35mm lens, I exposed some Fomapan 100 black & white film.

Instead of my normal process, I opted to soup the film in Ilford Perceptol. I mixed the stock solution from powder. Recommended development time was 8 minutes, but I cut this to 6 minutes, then after complete processing (stop, fix, hypo-clear and wash) I toned the negatives with a 1-9 Selenium solution to boost highlights (and then rewashed).

It was my first time working with Perceptol; overall I was pleased with the results, which yielded fine grain, broad tonality and a somewhat softer over-all image than what I’d been getting using ID-11.

This camera-lens-film-developer combination seems to have worked well with the rustic Bord na Mona narrow gauge industrial railway. I’ve opted to display a handful of the dozen or so monochrome images I exposed that day.

Tracking the Light takes a different approach today.

Sunny Day on the Bog.

Bord na Mona (Irish peat board) operates an extensive network of narrow gauge industrial railways in the Irish midlands.

It has been nearly two years since I last explored this fascinating diminutive railway in action.

It helps to have the sun to photograph Bord na Mona, as the bog can be outright dreary on a dull wet day.

The sun seemed to have emerged from the lingering blanket of dampness that lately has prevailed across Ireland, so Denis McCabe and I made a foray to Shannonbridge, County Offaly location of the busiest Bord na Mona railway operation.

A laden Bord na Mona train clatters across the bog on the way to Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly. Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.

This side view offers an interesting perspective on the locomotive and laden peat wagons. Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Bord na Mona trains come clattering along, often running in pairs or groups, but patience is often needed to find trains on the move.

Check out Tracking the Light’s archives for previous posts on the Bord na Mona.

Further Adventures with Irish Narrow Gauge.

 

Bord na Mona’s Ash Train

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Bord na Mona freight three years ago this day!

A pair of Bord na Mona loaded trains work west toward Lanesborough, County Longford on August 9, 2013.
A pair of Bord na Mona loaded trains work west toward Lanesborough, County Longford on August 9, 2013.

I made this image on Ireland’s three-foot gauge Bord na Mona (Peat Bord) near Lanesborough on this day three years ago.

To compress the space and make the most of the two trains following one another in close succession, I used my Canon 7D fitted with a 200m telephoto lens.

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Meeting of the Gauges near Portlaoise

There are only a few places where the narrow gauge Bord na Mona crosses Irish Rail’s broad gauge lines.

If you ride from Dublin to Cork, you might catch a glimpse of the three-foot gauge tracks ducking under the mainline a ways west of the ‘Laoise Traincar Depot’ (where Irish Rail maintains its Intercity Railcar fleet).

Dublin bound Irish Rail ICR (Intercity Railcar) crosses the Bord na Mona 3-foot gauge near Portlaoise. Fuji X-T1 photo.
Dublin bound Irish Rail ICR (Intercity Railcar) crosses the Bord na Mona 3-foot gauge near Portlaoise. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Cork-bound train with a 201-class  diesel crosses the Bord na Mona 3-foot gauge near Portlaoise. Fuji X-T1 photo.
Cork-bound train with a 201-class diesel crosses the Bord na Mona 3-foot gauge near Portlaoise. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Making successful photos of trains here is tricky. They sail along at 90mph and owing to the angle of the lines, there’s very little time to position the front of the train at the crossing point.

I set my Fuji X-T1 to ‘CH’ (continuous high), which automatically exposes a burst of images in rapid succession.

 

Owing to infrequent operations on the narrow gauge, it will be a challenge to try to score an ‘under-and-over’ image here. But at least that’s a goal for another day.

 

 

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Further Adventures with Irish Narrow Gauge.

Bord na Mona, September 2014.

Bord na Mona loads near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Bord na Mona loads near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

I’ve received great interest in my various previous posts on Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge turf railways. [See: Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching SunsetBord na Mona, Lanesborough, August 10, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013.]

In summary: After a decade of my relative neglect, in the last two years I’ve made a dozen or so excursions to explore and photograph Ireland’s Bord na Mona railways.

These consists of several rather extensive three-foot gauge networks largely focused on the delivery of milled peat to electrical generating stations in Ireland’s midlands counties.

The largest and busiest network is that focused on the Shannonbridge power plant along the River Shannon. Although this network demands the most amount of turf and in theory runs the most number of trains, it is one the more difficult systems to photograph.

This is partly a function of the bogs served by the railway, which are largely inaccessible by road. Also, some of the trains cross the Shannon by a bridge, and there is no comparable road bridge, so it makes following these trains very difficult.

However, I’ve found that using good maps and remaining patient pays off. On this September afternoon about a month ago, Denis McCabe, Colm O’Callaghan and I visited several locations on the Shannonbridge system.

Based on previous experiences, we aimed for known good locations. While we only found a few trains moving, the photography was successful. This a sampling of my recent results.

Hunslet builders plate on a old Bord na Mona locomotive. Lumix LX7 photo.
Hunslet builders plate on a old Bord na Mona locomotive. Lumix LX7 photo.

Bord na Mona locomotives at Shannonbridge. Lumix LX7 photo.
Bord na Mona locomotives at Shannonbridge. Lumix LX7 photo.

panel track trucks. Lumix LX7 photo.
panel track trucks. Lumix LX7 photo.

Bord na Mona empties approach a grade crossing near the Blackwater depot. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona empties approach a grade crossing near the Blackwater depot. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona loads catch the evening sun near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Bord na Mona loads catch the evening sun near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

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Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset

Empties Climbing Away from the River Blackwater at Corbane.

In August 2014, Denis McCabe and I continued our on-going exploration of the Bord na Mona (Irish Peat Board) narrow gauge railway network. (see: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013, and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train, among other previous posts).

We followed a pair of empties from Shannonbridge, eastward toward Ferbane. Access is limited, owing to the nature of the bogs. Toward the end of the day, we set up at the N62 highway overpass, where the Bord na Mona’s line climbs away from the River Blackwater.

Bord na Mona's three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

My challenge was making the most of the backlit scene. The sun was setting almost immediately behind the train. I opted for my 200mm lens in order to compress the perspective, eliminate the sky, and minimize the effects of flare. I positioned myself near post on the side of the road to help shade the front element of my lens.

Here the effects of backlighting combined with the long telephoto lens make for a cinematic look; the exhaust of the locomotive is more pronounced, the wavy condition of the tracks are exaggerated, and the pastoral scene made more impressive.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.

I particularly like the silhouette of the train driver in the cab, which emphasizes the human element.

My only disappointment with the photos is that the following train hadn’t effectively enter the scene. (Often Bord na Mona trains working in pairs follow one right after the other. In this situation, the following train was just around the bend.) But, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to make images with two or more Bord na Mona trains, so I’ll settle for this one of a lone train.

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Ireland’s Bord na Mona at Lanesborough, October 2013—Part 3

Intense Activity is Followed by Quiet Periods.

Bord na Mona.
A pair of laden trains work a double track section near Lanesborough. Digital image exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

A close view of the second of two laden trains. Lumix LX3 photo.
A close view of the second of two laden trains. Lumix LX3 photo.

By virtue of its operations, Bord na Mona peat trains tend to operate in pairs. This suits both loading and switching, since trains often need to reverse into or out of temporary loading spurs.

So, when one train appears, its ‘buddy’ is usually close at hand. Sometimes these operate very closely, often only a few yards apart, other times they might separated by five or ten minutes.

Mid-morning, laden trains return toward Lanesborough while empty train prepare to head out to loading areas in the surrounding bogs. The result is that a parade of trains tend to converge on double track sections near the Lough Rea Power Station.

Once the loads are in and the empties have gone out, the line is again quiet, although maintenance trains will occasionally appear during these lulls. After lunch the whole sequence repeats.

Bord na Mona
A Bord na Mona gatekeeper closes the level crossing as a pair of laden trains approach. There are only a handful of manned crossings on the Bord na Mona network. Most crossings are operated by the train drivers. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
First of two trains crosses the highway at Derraghan More on the main road from Mullingar to Lanesborough. This is pretty and rarely visited part of Ireland. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
An older locomotive with working siderods handles at maintenance train near Lanesborough in October 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

A panel train at a remote level crossing near Mount Dillon. Bord na Mona is like an enormous model railway and uses fixed track panel sections to reach peat harvesting areas. Lumix LX3 photo.
A panel train at a remote level crossing near Mount Dillon. Bord na Mona is like an enormous model railway and uses fixed track panel sections to reach peat harvesting areas. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

For the photographer the bursts of intense action is both opportunity and a challenge. Everything seems to happen at once, making for chances to catch two or more trains in a photo. However, if you are out of position, you could miss everything.

Headlights are often not illuminated in daytime and sometimes it is the sound of a train that gives you advanced notice.

The bogs are quiet enough. Listen for the sounds of Wagon Master locomotive roaring along with a syncopated clatter of wagons. The trains don’t travel very fast, but you need to be ready for when they arrive.

Bord na Mona
A pair of empties at Derraghan More on the way out to the bog for loading. Digital image exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona
Lumix LX3 view of the same pair of empties at Derraghan More. October 2013.

Back lit trailing view features some nice evening clouds. Lumix LX3 view.
Back lit trailing view features some nice evening clouds. Lumix LX3 view.

See yesterday’s post for more on Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough netwrok:

Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, October 2013—Part 1

Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, October 2013—Part 2 

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Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, October 2013—Part 2


Close Ups, Details and Alternate Views: A Look Beyond the Obvious.

While photographing Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge last week, I was looking for different angles. I’ve made nearly a dozen trips to the Bord na Mona in the last year and I wanted to capture the essence of the operation up close.

Bord na Mona
Link and pin coupler between track panel bogies. Lumix LX3. Notice the photographer’s shadow.

This is a gloss free industrial railway. It’s like a big beat-up tin plate train set that has seen lots of use, and doesn’t adhere to prototype railroading in any normal conventions.

Tracks are laid down here and there. Curvature is very tight, in many places there’s no ballast. Junctions appear with little notice. And the trains bounce along at a grinding amble.

Points. Lumix LX3 photo.
Points. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Level crossing warning. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona.
Track panel train. Lumix LX3 photo.

Track panels and panel train. Reminds me of Lionel or American Flyer. Somewhere out in the bog must be the world's largest Christmas tree! Lumix LX3 photo.
Track panels and panel train. Reminds me of Lionel or American Flyer. Somewhere out in the bog must be the world’s largest Christmas tree! Lumix LX3 photo.

Bog tracks. Lumix LX3.
Bog tracks. Lumix LX3.

Photographing an empty. Lumix LX3 photo by Brian Solomon.
Fellow photographer documenting  an empty train near Derraghan Cross. Lumix LX3 photo by Brian Solomon.

Bord na Mona
Tight telephoto view of an empty train scuttling along behind a Wagon Master locomotive. Canon 7D with 200mm lens.

A cow observes an empty train. Lumix LX3.
A cow observes an empty train. Lumix LX3.

See previous posts for more views on the Bord na Mona:

Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, October 2013—Part 1

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Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, October 2013—Part 1

A Busy, Bright and Clear Day Visiting Irish Narrow Gauge.

A laden Bord na Mona approaches Lanesborough in October 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scanning.
A laden Bord na Mona approaches Lanesborough in October 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.

Last week, Mark Healy and I made another venture to photograph Bord na Mona’s (Peat Board) three-foot gauge industrial railway. This time we chose the network focused on feeding the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesborough in County Longford.

Although we departed Dublin under cloudy skies, by the time we reached the Midlands, the clouds parted and we enjoyed most clear sunny weather for the remainder of the day.

Empty train heads out for reloading against a backdrop of the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesborough. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scanning.
An empty train rocks and rolls as it heads out for reloading against a backdrop of the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesborough. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.

From past experience, I’ve found that clear days are by far the best time to photograph Bord na Mona’s trains at work. The heavily harvested moon-like landscape of the peat bogs doesn’t translate as well on dull days. Also, the brown and cream livery on the locomotives and aluminum peat wagons look best with sun on them.

Finding a clear day in the Irish Midlands isn’t so easy. The weather is famously dull and changeable. On more than one occasion I’ve found that a forecast for fine weather proved overly optimistic.

Bord na Mona
Backlit view of a laden Bord na Mona train as it approaches the highway bridge at Derraghan Cross in October 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.

For this excursion, I brought four cameras. Yes, four. In addition to the two digital cameras (Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D), I had my Canon EOS-3 and a Rollei Model T 120-size camera both loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F.

There’s certain types of images that I still like to put on film. Also, while I expose a lot of digital images (and make multiple back-ups of each and every file) I’m very reluctant to trust digital imaging for long term applications.

So, in the event of a digital apocalypse, I’d like to have a few Bord na Mona photos on color transparency film for posterity.

My film has yet to be processed, so here are a few of my recent digital results.

Bord na Mona
An empty scuttles below the road at Derraghan Cross. Lumix LX3 photo.

A pair of laden trains amble toward Mountdillon on their way to Lanesborough. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.
A pair of laden trains amble toward Mountdillon on their way to Lanesborough. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.

 

A bit of foliage at Mountdillon. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.
A bit of foliage at Mountdillon. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. Photo unmodified except for scaling.

A lone locomotive with a per-way vehicle rests quietly on the bog. The turf has been exposed for harvesting and blackened by recent rains. This can make for some very tricky exposures. I used my handheld Minolta Mark IV light meter to help gauge the settings. Also, I made several test photos to keep the tones within an acceptable range. Simply using the camera meter resulted in a washed out locomotive and a lightly colored bog. Lumix LX3
A lone locomotive with a per-way vehicle rests quietly on the bog. The turf has been exposed for harvesting and blackened by recent rains. This can make for some very tricky exposures. I used my handheld Minolta Mark IV light meter to help gauge the settings. Also, I made several test photos to keep the tones within an acceptable range. Simply using the camera meter resulted in a very washed out locomotive and a lightly colored bog. 
Lumix LX3 Photo.

Tune in tomorrow for more highlights from this most recent Bord na Mona adventure!

Also see previous Tracking the Light posts on Bord na Mona, including: More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, August 10, 2013, Irish Bog Railways—Part 5, August, 2013, and Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013.

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More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013.

 

Shannonbridge and More!

Last week, Mark Healy and I made a foray into Irish bog lands searching for narrow gauge peat trains operated by Bord na Móna  (Peat Board). We’d been watching the weather closely and tried to time our visit for a bright clear day.

We got it wrong. Despite a rosy sunrise in Dublin and generally good forecast, we faced fog, cloudy and just general overcast in County Offaly.

After more than a half dozen visits to this rarely photographed industrial railway, I thought I was beginning to have an understanding of their operations.

I got that wrong too! While, we’d photographed a dozen trains by the end of the day, actual operations were quite different than what I expected.

Bord na Mona
Trailing view of Bord na Móna’s Shannonbridge empty ash train returning to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
Laden peat train near Shannonbridge, September 2013. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

Laden trains approach Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.
Laden trains approach Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

Initially we worked the lines radiating out from Shannonbridge. Our first train was the ever-elusive ash train. That was a bonus for us. After about five hours, having photographed several loaded and empty trains, we decided to head east toward Edenderry, which is the focus of another of Bord na Móna’s networks.

On the way we stumbled upon an obscure Bord na Móna operation. Driving east on highway R357 east of Cloghan, Mark noticed a level crossing. “Hey! There’s a pair of trains.” I mistook these for trains heading to Shannonbridge

My error was corrected when we chatted to one of the drivers. Turns out these were empty trains heading out loading to bring peat to the Derrinlough briquette factory. Just dumb luck to catch this operation.

Level crossing gate.
Closing the level crossing gates on Ireland’s R357 east of Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

Rare photo of briquette train.
A Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna train near Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona.
A Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna train crosses highway R357 near Cloghan, County Offaly. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Trailing view of Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna trains near Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

 

We finished the day inspecting operations near Mt Lucas and Edenderry. Pity about the lack of sun.

I’ve dealt with Bord na Móna several times in previous posts.

Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013; and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train.

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Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, August 10, 2013

A Pleasant Summer’s Day Exploring an Irish Narrow Gauge Railway.

Bord na Mona trains.
Laden Bord na Mona trains approach Lanesborough, County Longford on the morning of August 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Last winter, I made several visits with my friends to Bord na Mona’s network focused on the Lough Ree Power Station at Lanesborough, County Longford. (See: Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013), On Saturday, August 10, 2013, I returned for another day of photography on this fascinating system.

Having explored various Bord na Mona railways (see: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013), I find that the lines around Lanesborough are the most interesting and photogenic. Here variety of scenery and operations are exceptionally conducive to my photography.

Summer offers more pleasant temperatures and longer days, but also brings more foliage, taller grass and other challenges that I didn’t experience in February!

Bord na Mona trains.
A tractor cuts road-side hedges near Lanesborough. Taller grass made this location more difficult than in February. Canon EOS 7D photo.

I think its safe to say that I didn’t get bored with Bord na Mona. From the first moment trackside, the railway seemed to be buzzing with trains. The section of double track running east from Lanesborough toward Mountdillon was especially busy.

 

Bord na Mona trains.
Empties work the double track east of Lanesborough on August 10, 2013. The Lough Ree Power Station looms in the distance. Canon EOS 7D photo.

I even had another opportunity to catch one of the ash trains on the move. (See: Bord na Mona’s Ash Train). Perhaps my bold proclamation of its elusivity has tipped the scales in my favor—a sort of reverse jinx, as it were.

Or maybe, its my persistence. It’s nice to get a lucky catch, but likewise, the more time spent trackside, the better the odds of seeing the unusual, as well as the elusive, the rare, and the obscure. Having a better sense for when trains run helps too!

Bord na Mona trains.
An empty Bord na Mona ash train passes Mountdillon on its way back to the Lough Ree power station at Lanesborough. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona trains.
Running meet on the double track between Mountdillon and Lanesborough. An empty rake of peat wagons meets an empty ash train. The intense clattering of narrow gauge trains gives the network a feeling of a large model railway.

Bord na Mona
An empty rake near Derreghan Cross Roads with the expanse of harvested boglands on the right.

 

Bord na Mona
Empty trains take a passing siding at Derraghan More on the way out to be reloaded. Canon EOS 7D.

Bord_na_Mona_
An empty rake waits for a pair of laden trains near Derraghan More. Canon 7D photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bord na Mona’s Ash Train

An Elusive Catch.

For me anyway! On Saturday, August 3, 2013, I scored a few photographs of Bord na Mona’s ash train on the move near Shannonbridge, County Offaly. (Yes, and by the way, that’s ash train, and not ASH TRAY. Just to clarify.)

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Bord na Mona’s laden ash train works east from the West Offaly power station at Shannonbridge. The ash train carries waste ash (left over from the burning of peat) for disposal back into the bog. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Now, someone at Bord na Mona might read this and say, “Elusive ash train? Why that’s scheduled to run every day at 2 pm.” Or, perhaps, it is scheduled to run every third Saturday after the first full moon on months that don’t end in ‘R’. (But, none-the-less, scheduled).

Irregardless, so far as I was concerned, photographing the ash train on the move was a real coup! In the last year, I’ve made a half dozen ventures to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge lines, this was the first time I’d seen an ash train on the move. Certainly, I’ve seen them before, just not rolling along out on the road.

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Trailing view of Bord na Mona’s ash train near Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona, ash train.
The laden ash train roars along at a walking pace near Blackwater. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast modified in post processing.

Yet, I’d call it elusive! It’s all a matter of perspective. More on elusive (or at least unusual trains) in future posts.

Incidentally, unlike elusive trains, Tracking the Light regularly posts new material almost every day! So, to use an obsolete cliché, stay tuned!

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Bord na Mona ash train near Blackwater, August 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

 

Irish Bog Railways—Part 5, August, 2013

Photographing Irish Bog Railways.

In a follow up to yesterday’s post, here’s a few more images from my early August adventure with Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge. I was working with three cameras: my Lumix LX3, my Canon EOS 7D digital SLR (single lens reflex) and my Canon EOS 3 35mm SLR.

Since it will be a while before the slides are processed, all the images here are from the digital cameras.

Irish Bog Railway
Under showery skies, a Bord na Mona train heads out across the bog for reloading. Canon EOS 7D.

Irish Bog Railways
Loading of a Bord na Mona train. Canon EOS 7D.

 

Bord na Mona
Road bridge over the Bord na Mona double track line near Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona track laying machine and an empty train. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
An empty Bord na Mona train returns to the bog for reloading. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Peat hoppers and the harvested peat bog near Shannonbridge. Lumix LX3 photo.

Maintenance train with sunny skies and weedy tracks. Lumix LX3 photo.
Maintenance train with sunny skies and weedy tracks. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Empty train growl along the bog. Despite their small size, Bord na Mona trains can be heard a long way before the arrive. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
Laden Bord na Mona train under a textured sky. Soon it will rain. Canon EOS 7D photo.

I’ve found my visits to photograph the Bord na Mona railways exceptionally rewarding and productive and I look forward to more photography trips in coming months.

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Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013

 

Bord na Mona’s Blackwater Network Revisited.

It was fifteen years ago that I made my first acquaintance with Ireland’s bog railway, a narrow gauge network operated by Bord na Mona (peat board). At that time, a tourist train run as the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly made regularly scheduled trips from the Blackwater depot near Shannonbridge in County Offaly.

As I recall, it was an oppressively damp day. Having arrived under swollen skies, I checked in at the booking office, skeptical if the line was even in operation, only to learn that not only was it running, but that the first couple of trains were sold out!

Using the time between tourist trains, I made some black & white photos of the peat trains, then returned to ride the line.

On another occasion two years later, I returned with my father, and family friend Tom Hargadon, and made another spin out on the bog. Since that time, the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly excursion has been discontinued.

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
My August 2013 visit to the Blackwater network found the bog under rapidly changing skies. Lumix LX-3 photo. Contrast modified in post processing.

 

A Busy Irish Narrow Gauge Industrial Railway.

In early August 2013, I reacquainted myself with Bord na Mona’s Blackwater network, having explored other of Bord na Mona’s railway operations in recent months. See earlier posts:

Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1

Irish Bog Railways Part 2 

Irish Bog Railways Part 3 

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
Empty Bord na Mona narrow gauge train heading out to be loaded. August 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Blackwater is from my experience, by far the busiest of Bord na Mona’s operations, as the West Offaly power station at Shannon Bridge has the most voracious appetite of the peat burning plants served by Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways. Quite simply there were trains crawling everywhere I went.

The day featured a rapidly changing sky. This made for some wonderful lighting and visual effects, but also resulted in me getting unexpectedly soaked when the sky suddenly opened up. One minute it was sunny, the next there was near horizontal rain! On my next visit I’ll bring plastic bags and a jumper!

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
In addition to laden and empty peat trains, Bord na Mona operates various type of maintenance  trains. Many of these are hauled by older and more eclectic looking locomotives. August 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.

Bord na Mona
A sudden downpour drenches the boglands near Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
A laden Bord na Mona train crosses the Shannon near the West Offaly power plant. Discharge from the plant warms the river making it ideal for lilly pads to grow. Lumix LX3.

 

See tomorrow’s post for more Irish Bog Railway photos!

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Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013

Bord na Mona trains
A pair of Bord na Mona laden peat trains revese upgrade on temporary track near Annaghmore, County Longford. To maintain adhesion, sand is applied to the rails.

Saturday, March 2, 2013, some of my Dublin friends and I made another foray to County Longford to explore Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough/Mountdillon narrow gauge railway network. As I mentioned in Irish Bog Railways; Part 2, this is one of several extensive Bord na Mona narrow gauge railway systems. This one primarily serves the Lough Ree Power Station along the River Shannon. (Last autumn, we explored Bord na Mona’s network focused on the Edenderry Power plant, see Irish Bog Railways; Part 1)

Bord na Mona
A coupled pair of laden Bord na Mona trains struggles upgrade, laying sand down as they ascend a short steep grade on the run back toward Mountdillon. This is the same stretch of track pictured in Irish Bog Railways–Part 2.

Unlike Irish mainline railways, Bord na Mona operates on very lightly built track. Temporary spurs are laid out on the bog for loading trains with harvested turf. While these temporary tracks may only stay in place for weeks or months, Bord na Mona main trunks are well established, with some in place for five decades. Key routes are built with broadly spaced double-track The nature of the operation requires that trains are run cautiously, and rarely exceed 15 mph. Typically peat trains operate in pairs to assist with loading and reverse moves. At times these may be coupled together. In addition to trains of peat gather rakes, Bord na Mona also runs a host of maintenance trains, including fueling trains used to supply machines working in harvesting areas.

Bord_na_Mona_hedgerows_double_track_Lanesborough_IMG_0444
A bustle in the hedgerow; near Lanesborough on March 2, 2013.

The railway’s setting ranges from bucolic rolling woodlands to other-worldly landscapes consisting of heavily harvested bog lands. Trains announce their presence by a distinctive clattering that pierces the relative serenity of the bog. The combination of diminutive locomotives, track panels with steel sleepers, short trains and sections of hastily built temporary track, makes the whole operation seem like a vast, but delightful model railway.

Irish narrow gauge turf railway.
Gatekeeper gives a laden train a wave on March 2, 2013. Catching the flashing lights on the gates requires a bit of practice. Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX-3.

Saturday began dull and misty, but brightened toward the end of the day. I made several hundred images with my digital cameras, while exposing more than a roll of Fuji Provia 100F with my Canon EOS 7D. Our conversations with Bord na Mona staff, found them hospitable and knowledgeable. We returned to Dublin, happy with our day’s efforts while formulating plans for our next adventure on Ireland’s elusive 3-foot gauge railways.

Bord na Mona bridge at Mountdillon.
Bord na Mona bridge at Mountdillon.

Train driver holds recent issues of the Irish Railway Record Society Journal. This compact magazine covers contemporary and historical Irish railway topics including Bord na Mona operations. It is available through membership of the IRRS.
Train driver holds recent issues of the Irish Railway Record Society Journal. This compact magazine covers contemporary and historical Irish railway topics including Bord na Mona operations. It is available through membership of the IRRS. See Irish Railway Record Society

Bord na Mona
Empty train negotiates a tight curve on the double track Bord na Mona line between Lanesborough and Mountdillon on March 2, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D.

Lough Rea Power Station
An afternoon view finds soft light on the Lough Ree Power Station at Lanesborough, County Longford. Bord na Mona’s operations on its Lanesborough railway network are largely focused on delivering peat to this plant. Other activities include operation of an ash train that takes away waste ash from the plant.

Some blooming gorse adds a splash of color to a bleak landscape. Loading areas on the bog, offer open views of the trains in an austere otherworldly environment.
Some blooming gorse adds a splash of color to a bleak landscape. Loading areas on the bog, offer open views of the trains in an austere otherworldly environment.

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Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013

Ireland’s Bord na Móna  (Peat Board) was the topic of my post, Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1 in November 2012. Yesterday, February 16 2013, I made another exploratory trip into the bog. Where previous investigations focused on operations at Edenderry, County Offaly, this trip was to the network that serves the Lough Ree Power Station along the River Shannon at Lanesborough, County Longford. Among the peculiarities of Bord na Móna’s narrow gauge operations are its temporary sidings laid out on the bog for the purpose of loading trains. Until put in place, these tracks resemble those of an oversized model railway and are in fixed sections held together by steel sleepers (ties), and often stacked in piles awaiting installation. The bog itself is spongy and wet, thus ill suited to permanent infrastructure. Since temporary track is only used at very slow speed for short periods of time, niceties normally afforded railway lines, such as grading, leveling, and drainage, aren’t considered.

wavy tracks
Bord na Móna feeder for temporary track near Mt Dillon, County Longford; exposed with a Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO 400, f4.5 1/640th second.

This telephoto view exaggerates the undulating quality of a roadside Bord na Mona spur used to access an area of bog ready for harvesting. This particular section of track may be left in place for years to tap short-lived harvesting spurs.

This photographic adventure is among my works in progress; I plan to display more images of Bord na Móna in upcoming posts.

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