Among my favorite stations on the far flung Irish Rail network was Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. The combination of a rural atmosphere with an interesting track layout and unusual curvature, high signal cabin (tower) with mechanical semaphores plus its reputation for friendly staff, made it an ideal place to spend an afternoon.
I’ve probably made fifty or more trips to Carrick over the years. While, I often timed my visits to coincide with the arrival of freight trains, on this day I photographed the scheduled crossing (meeting) of 2700-series railcars working between Waterford and Limerick Junction.
This is a scene never to be repeated. The 2700s have been withdrawn and the passing loop (passing siding) at Carrick was lifted (torn up).
Sometimes it is the most common everyday scenes that ultimately make for the rarest and most interesting photographs. Is there some everyday railway activity in your life that has gone undocumented?
Irish Rail’s Sugar Beet season was a busy time for me, photographically. The season began in early September and usually ran through early January, depending on the volume of the harvest. In the early 2000s, I’d typically be in Ireland from late-October through the early weeks of the new year.
While I’d miss the brighter, dryer, warmer days early in the beet season, I’d make up the difference by photographing on the dark, wetter, colder days in November and December.
The atmosphere of the beet season is what I remember. The dampness, the muck, the dirty old four-wheel wagons. The sounds of General Motors diesels accelerating out of passing loops, and working in Run-8 on wet track.
Irish Rail’s staff were always friendly, and between trains there would a welcome cup of tea in a signal cabin or gate keeper’s shack.
Over much of the route traditional mechanical signaling was still the rule. The slap of lever and the thunk of a semaphore blade falling into place was the sign that something was about to happen.
And there was the smell of the beet. Especially in the fields around Wellingtonbridge, County where beet was grown.
The last laden beet train rolled towards Mallow, County Cork in January 2006, a little more than three years after I made this image.
I’ve always liked to make macro views of railways. Examining the texture, colors, and shape of the equipment, track and structures allows for better appreciation of the subject.
One of the best times to make close ups and detail photographs is under dramatic lighting; low sun or stormy light, where richer qualities make for more pleasing tones. Even the most mundane and ordinary subjects seem more interesting with great light.
Yet, detailed views can also make use of dull days when by focusing on texture and using extreme focus can compensate for flat lighting.
Irish Rail made for an especially good subject for detailed images, in part because there was so much antique equipment to photograph. Well-worn infrastructure is inherently fascinating. Here out in the open metal has been doing a job for decades and often it shows the scars from years of hard work, like an old weaver’s time weathered hands.
I’ve made hundreds of Irish Rail close-ups over the years. Here a just a few. Look around railways near you and see what you find! Sometimes the most interesting photographs can be made while waiting for trains.
One of my all-time favorite Irish Rail subjects was the annual weedspraying campaign. Every spring, a Bo-Bo would be allocated to haul the ancient looking contraption that functioned as the weed spraying train. Over the period of several weeks this would gradually make its way across the network.
Highlights of the campaign typically included travel over a variety of lines closed to traffic and this made for high adventure! [scene censored to protect the innocent]. I also made countless images of the train on regularly used lines.
Yet, finding the train could be a challenge, as it often didn’t hold to its program. Equipment difficulties were among the cause for delay.
On this bright morning in the second week of May, several of us had intercepted locomotive 175 with the spray train at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary and followed the train toward Waterford. I made this image from the Fiddown bypass just east of the old station at Fiddown. The distant signal for Fiddown gates can be seen in the distance.
General Motors Single Cab Diesels Wander Far and Wide in their Final Years.
In their final few years of service, Irish Rail 124 and 134 worked a great variety of services. For me, simple knowing these two engines were out there, made photographing Irish Rail more interesting.
Sometimes I knew where they were, other times one would appear unexpectedly. Occasionally they’d get paired together and stay that way for a while, but more often than not, they’d be paired with one of the 141/181 class Bo-Bos.
All of my images of 121s at work were made on film (slide and black & white negative). By the time I’d acquired my first digital camera, old 124 and 134 were no longer active.
Sifting through my slides from their last five or six years, I’ve found numerous images of these engines. As I’ve mentioned previously, every time I saw one, I expected it to be the last time, so I made the most of every opportunity. Here’s a lesson: never expect that you’ll see something again; so photograph to the best of you ability when you have the chance.
At noon on May 13, 2006, David Hegarty and I photographed this Modern Railway Society Ireland special exiting the tunnel at Ferrycarrig, County Wexford on the old Dublin & South Eastern Railway. The gorse lined tunnel made for an unusually scenic view. My notes from the day indicate that driver Ray Collins was at the throttle.
We followed the train, catching it again on the South Wexford line near Robbinstown, and later in the day between Waterford and Carrick-on-Suir at Fiddown, then one last time at Nicholastown Gates. It wasn’t the brightest day in Ireland, but that didn’t stop us for making some memorable images.