Yesterday afternoon Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt collected me at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and we made our way to the Metra station at North Glenview, Illinois, where we intended to incept outward commuter train 2125.
As anticipated, this was led my Metra’s recently painted Milwaukee Road heritage locomotive.
As the blue glow of dusk settled over North Glenview, the northward 2125 came into view, its oscillating light drawing a figure eight in the evening gloom.
Working with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras, I exposed a series of photographs as the train made its station stop.
These are a few of my FujiFilm XT1 and Lumix LX7 digital photos. To make the most of dusk, I’d set the while balance to ‘daylight’, while taking a low angle to make the unusually painted locomotive seem more dramatic.
The other day I found this Kodachrome 64 slide in my 1980s ‘Seconds File’.
‘Seconds’ meaning ‘not so good.’
Its been a long time since Burlington Northern E9s worked Chicago-Aurora commuter trains.
My photography skills in August 1984 were rudimentary and my sense of exposure was less than ideal.
So! I made a multi-pass scan of the old slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 slide scanner operated with VueScan software (version 9.6.09).
In post-processing using Lightroom, I made a host of adjustments to contrast, exposure and color balance, while manipulating shadows and highlights locally and introducing a degree of electronic sharpening in an effort to overcome some of the technical inadequacies of the original slide.
Last week I had a few minutes between trains, during which time I exposed these views of the Chicago Transit Authority’s famous ‘L’ at the Chicago Loop.
Although it is common misconception that the ‘loop’ is so named for the circular arrangement of CTA’s elevated railway downtown, the name pre-dates the ‘L’ and actually stems from Chicago’s cable car days. (Chicago, rather than San Francisco, once held title to the world’s most extensive cable operated streetcar network.)
On my 1984 visit to Chicago I’d made photos and traveled to/from the old North Western Station.
Wow, have things changed.
Yes, I’ve made some visits between then and now, but it’s been a long time.
The old station was torn down not long after my first visit and replaced with an epic glass box. Today, this is known as the Ogilvie Transportation Center.
In the mid-1990s, about the time that Chicago & North Western was folded into Union Pacific, the station’s Bush train sheds were demolished and replaced with more modern platform coverings. I made a few photos during that transition.
Still, it seems a bit strange for me to see the former North Western Station in this modern format. My impressions from 32 years ago remain only in my memory and few photos that I made with my Leicas.
I used my Nikon F3 loaded Fuji Velvia 100F and a 24mm Nikkor Lens to expose this view of an outbound Metra train headed toward Aurora.
I’ve found that a wide-angle lens is a good tool for making use of an impressive sky.
Here, I’ve offset the Chicago skyline with the old power plant at right. The skyscrapers help put the clouds above in relative perspective. By placing the theoretical horizon near the center of the frame, and thus keeping the camera body near level, has allowed for these buildings to remain on more or less on a perpendicular line with horizon.
If I’d aimed slightly more skyward, the nature of this 24mm lens design would skew the visual perspective and the buildings would seem to fall away from the film plane.
The bright blue and white paint on Metra’s MP36-3C nicely mimics the sky above, while the black band on the body of the locomotive emulates the width and tone of the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) both of which help make for a more unified composition.
For many railway enthusiasts, the number 611 immediately conveys mental images of Norfolk & Western’s magnificent streamlined 4-8-4 steam locomotive. But the number is shared with another interesting engine.
On clear morning in February 2003, I arrived in Chicago on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Marshall W. Beecher met me at Union Station and we set out to explore Chicago’s railroads.
We stopped in at A2 tower, a busy place where the former Chicago & North Western crosses the former Milwaukee Road lines from Union Station. In addition to mainline suburban trains, a yard between the two mainlines west of the tower produces a host of light engine and equipment moves.
Metra 611, one of only a few remain F40Cs, was on its way to the yard. The light was perfect and I made this portrait of the unusual locomotive. The F40C was built in 1974 for Milwaukee Road’s Chicago suburban service and the near cousin to Amtrak’s unsuccessful SDP40F. By 2003 only a few remained in service.
My most recent book Chicago: America’s Railroad Capital is a collaborative project with Michael Blaszak, John Gruber and Chris Guss, and features many one of a kind photographs. It is available now through Voyageur Press. This illustrated volume illustrates the history of Chicago’s railroad from the steam era through the present.
Take a look! Keen observers will find yet another 611 displayed in the book’s pages.
During my visit with Chris Guss in November we explored Chicago area railroads. This was both a means of making photos while proving needed opportunity to discuss the text for book on Chicago’s railroads that we were authoring (along with Mike Blaszak and John Gruber).
On the morning of November 7th, we drove to South Elgin to intercept an eastward Canadian National ethanol train working the old Illinois Central Iowa Division. Back in the mid-1990s, I knew this route as the Chicago Central & Pacific.
As it turned out the CC&P was just a short-lived regional, perhaps now almost forgotten, swept up in the wave of mergers and acquisitions that characterized the railroad dynamic of the 1990s.
Chris favored this location off a bicycle trail below a massive highway bridge. On the opposite side of the river are the tracks of the Fox River Trolley Museum.
Although we missed an earlier eastward freight, we arrived in ample time to set up for this train. I exposed several photos using my Canon EOS 7D, and made this color slide using my dad’s Leica M4 that I’d borrowed for the trip.
Making a slide with this Leica allowed me to maintain interesting continuity, since my father made many slides around Chicago with his Leica cameras in the early 1960s. (Incidentally, some of him images will appear in the book, to be published by Voyageur Press later this year).
These days while I largely work with my digital cameras, I still expose a fair bit of film (usually color slides, but sometimes black & white). I have plenty of old film cameras to choose from, and I often carry an EOS 3 loaded with Provia 100F.
Here we have an instance where everything came together nicely.
On Friday January 24, 2014, I’d got word that Amtrak’s heritage locomotive number 822 was working the westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449
This was the second time in a ten-day span that I’d be alerted to a heritage locomotive on this run. As noted in my January 18, 2014 post, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the weather wasn’t cooperative on my previous attempt at catching an Amtrak heritage locomotive.
By contrast on January 24th it was clear but very cold. I opted to make the photo at West Warren, where it’s nice and open and there’s a distinctive landscape.
Normally, Amtrak 449 passes East Brookfield at 1:30pm, and Palmer about 1:50pm. West Warren is roughly halfway between them, so I aimed to be there no later than 1:35pm
As it happened, 449 was delayed on Charlton Hill and passed more than 15 minutes later than I’d anticipated. Other than resulting in my nose getting a bit cold, this delay produced little effect on the photograph.
I opted for a traditional angle because I wanted to feature the locomotive as the primary subject this scenic setting. I picked a spot on the road bridge over the Quaboag River where I could make a view that included the old mills and waterfall, as well as a side view as the train got closer.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens, I set the motor drive to its fastest setting, and exposed three bursts of images as the train rolled east on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline.
Since the camera’s buffer will quickly become saturated when making multiple photos in rapid succession, I was careful to wait until the train was nearly where I wanted it in each of the three sets.
November Views of a Station; Get Your Photos Soon, Before its Too Late!
Brookfield, Massachusetts; Brookfield, Illinois, and now Brookfield, Wisconsin—Have you noticed a theme?
The former Milwaukee Road passenger station at Brookfield, Wisconsin is located between Canadian Pacific’s main tracks at the west end of a grade separation. This unusually situated station has provided a visual link to the railroad’s past for many years, and is one of the last structures of the old order along this line.
Today, Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities is largely free from historical infrastructure. The days of an agent working at Brookfield have long since passed. Neither passenger trains nor freights have stopped here in decades. Yet, as of today, the old building survives at its traditional location.
Here’s some advice: get your photos NOW. Don’t wait. Word on the street is that the station will soon be either moved or demolished.
And even if the street gossip changes its tune, the reality is that old wooden railroad stations are ephemeral structures: Never assume the old station that has always stood there, will be there the next time you return.
I made these photos last week while re-exploring southern Wisconsin with Pat Yough and Chris Guss . Back in the 1990s, I made a number of photos of this old station, but I’ve learned you can never have too many images of something (or someone) once its gone.
Might the old station be preserved? Quite possibly, but it won’t be trackside, and thus will have lost its context. This location without the station will just be another characterless wide-spot along the line. Someone might call this ‘progress’; I call it ‘change’.
On Saturday November 9, 2013, I worked with three cameras and photographed the Brookfield station from a variety of angles as the sun came in and out of the clouds. Two eastward Canadian Pacific freights passed giving me ample opportunity to put the old station in context.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr on the last lap to Chicago.
Last Saturday afternoon, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I finished up a day’s photography on the former Burlington ‘Triple Track’ around La Grange, Illinois.
We inspected Metra’s Congress Park Station, which consists of two narrow platforms along the busy mainline. Here the sun held a little longer than other places where trees were causing difficult shadows.
Shortly before sundown, we caught an outward Metra train. An automated voice announced that this train wouldn’t stop. After it passed, I spotted a headlight on the horizon. Mistaking this for a relatively slow moving freight, I returned to the car for a longer lens.
Pat Yough shouted to me, as the train was approaching quickly. I hastily returned to the platform, making test exposures as I ran.
The resulting photos are what our friend Tim Doherty calls ‘Hail Marys.’ I had just enough time to compose and pop off a few frames as the Zephyr blew through Congress Park.
Amtrak Number 6, the California Zephyr approaches Congress Park, Illinois at sunset on November 9, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm.
And there are still six tracks, but now it is in effect two parallel lines; a four-track electric suburban route run by Chicago’s Metra, and a double track line run by Canadian National.
On November 7, 2013, Chris Guss gave me a whirlwind tour of Canadian National operations in Chicago, largely focused on former Illinois Central lines.
We scoped this location on East Pershing Street south of downtown, knowing that Canadian National’s southbound freight from Waterloo, Iowa (symbol 33891) was on its way. We didn’t wait long before it came into view.
In the course of about 25 minutes, we caught the freight followed by a wave of passenger trains run by Metra, South Shore and Amtrak.
The old Illinois Central catenary adds an element of intrigue to the gritty atmosphere of this line.
While waiting for trains, an enthusiastic baker came by and offered us butter cookies. Tasty too!
I exposed photos with three cameras, working with both my Canon EOS 7 and Lumix LX3, plus my Dad’s Leica M4.
During out short visit the sky over Lake Michigan quickly changed from blue to gray, a weather condition all to typical of Chicago.
In early July 1995, Sean Graham-White and I spent several days working with the Belt Railway of Chicago for an article on Clearing Yard for Pacific RailNews.
At the time, I was PRN’s Associate Editor and Sean was among our regular contributors.
Sean had organized with the railroad for us to interview employees and make photographs. BRC assigned an Assistant Yardmaster to drive us around and provide introductions.
Among the facilities we toured was the KCBX Terminal (a bulk commodity trans-loading facility for barges) that was routinely served by a BRC local.
On July 2, 1995, the local was worked by a pair of BRC’s vintage Alco C-424 diesels. These locomotives were very popular with railway enthusiasts, but could be a bit elusive and hard to find running, unless one was very familiar with Chicago-land operations.
I made a number of images of the Alcos and the facility, but most of these did not run in the magazine article, which instead focused on BRC’s Clearing Yard rather than the Alcos or the KCBX terminal.
As a result of my careful marketing analysis, I’ve determine the best ways for Tracking the Light to go viral are:
1) Encourage Sperry to plan a safely staged ‘derailment’ on Dublin’s LUAS route (to demonstrate the dangers of hidden rail fractures, perhaps) using former a Central Vermont Railway switcher painted in Irish Rail grey and then photograph it on a dull day using my Lumix LX-3. (Along the lines of the theatrically arranged ‘cornfield meets’ of the late Victorian era.)
2) Hire a Korean guy with sunglasses to dance around near the tracks. (Gangnam Style) —hey, with more than 1.5 Billion hits, something must be working, right??
3) Offer free Twinkies to all Tracking the Light subscribers.
4) Plan a merger with LeakyWiks.
5) Encourage everyone who enjoys the site to spread the word (and links) with their friends and urge regular visitors to subscribe! (there’s a box for comments toward the bottom of the posts and a box to tick that enables the subscription feature—admittedly this is a bit Kafkaesque, and hopefully I’ll find a better means of enabling subscriptions soon!)
Incidentally, my elaborate plans to import a German electric for demonstration were to be aborted, unfortunately Amtrak didn’t get the memo! 😉
Last week I rode from Chicago Union Station over the former New York Central Water Level route to Albany and then via the Boston & Albany to Worcester, Massachusetts.
A familiar run, I first made this trip in August of 1983 and I’ve done it many times since. However, both my first trip and most recent have a commonality: I began these trips with some photography on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy ‘Triple Track’ near Aurora, rode a ‘scoot’ into Chicago and changed for the Lake Shore at Union Station.
While I enjoy train travel, I’m not especially keen on really long runs. My usual limit is about 8 hours. I make exceptions for the Lake Shore. For me this is one of the most interesting American runs.
The queuing process at Chicago Union leaves much to be desired. It reminded me of a recent experience with jury duty. Yet once ensconced in my seat in an Amfleet II coach I was happy enough.
We departed Union Station 3 minutes after the advertised and gradually lost more time over the course of the run. I don’t mind this especially, after all the train’s long standing nick-name is, “The Late for Sure Limited.’
Gliding east in the darkness, I squinted to pick out familiar landmarks, as this trip is the thread that really ties my recent posts together.
At 9:37 pm we eased over the 21st Street Bridge; a few minutes later we clattered across the diamonds with the old Rock Island at Englewood, and at 9:58 we raced through Hammond-Whiting, Indiana. I noted where Chris Guss and I had stood a week earlier to photograph both an EJ&E freight and NS’s Interstate Heritage Unit.
Northern Indiana was alive with trains. We passed a CSX stack train at Curtis on the adjacent former Baltimore & Ohio. East of Michigan City we overtook a South Shore freight led by a pair of GP38s roaring along under wire like an apparition from another era. I heard the Doppler blast as the South Shore hit a crossing alongside of us. It was just a momentary glimpse in the night and not far from a spot where Mike Danneman made photos on an icy February afternoon some 18 years ago.
A seeming endless parade of Norfolk Southern freights greeted us on the Water Level Route. Every few minutes a low base roar would precede locomotives blasting by on an adjacent main track. Although Conrail has been gone 14 years, I still find it odd that Central’s old Water Level Route is now run by two separate railroads.
I dozed off, waking briefly at Toledo to watch an oil train roll east, and empty hoppers used to move fracking sand clatter west. Somewhere between Toledo and Berea, Ohio we lost about an hour.
Near Berea we met the rising sun and passed the old tower—sacred ground visited by my late friend Bob Buck and countless other fans over the years. This is the divide, from here east we were rode on CSX tracks.
We paused for Cleveland, then Erie, and for many miles we ran parallel to the former Nickel Plate Road, which now carries Norfolk Southern freight east of Cleveland. I was pleased to see many photographers line-side; my train’s journey was well documented!
At Buffalo, I had a pleasant surprise: instead of taking the normal route via CP Draw and CP FW, we were routed over the Compromise Branch that takes a more northerly (and slightly longer route) through Buffalo, rejoining the other line at CP 437 (the control point near the ghastly decaying remnants of Buffalo Central Terminal). Amtrak’s 48/448 serves the suburban Buffalo-Depew station instead of the old terminal.
Behind me a woman traveler was on the phone describing her trip on Amtrak from Oregon: “We live in such an amazing country! Crossing the plains I saw endless herds of wild Bison and red Indians on horseback! There were wagon trains crawling dusty trails against purple mountains and rainbows! And amber fields of grain! Is that wheat, do you think? And Chicago was like the emerald city, its towers scraping the sky. Such a skyline! And all through the Midwest big factories making the produce of America! It’s just wonderful!”
Indeed. Was she on number 8? Or perhaps one of those ‘Great Trains of the Continental Route’ as advertised in my August 1881 Travelers’ Official Guide?
At Rochester, my old friend Otto Vondrak came down for a brief visit. He and I share various Rochester-area experiences. Then eastward into ever more familiar territory.
At Schenectady, a Canadian Pacific freight overtook us on the Delaware & Hudson before we resumed our sprint to Albany-Rensselaer, where we then sat for an eternity waiting for station space. Here 48 and 448 are divided, with the latter continuing down the Hudson to New York City.
East of Rensselaer, I paid extra special attention to our progress. There are few railroads I know as well as the B&A. At 4:38pm we met CSX’s Q283 (empty autoracks) at Chatham. We paused at CP171 (East Chatham) to let pass our westward counterpart, train 449. At Pittsfield, CSX’s Q423 (Worcester to Selkirk) was waiting for us.
The highlight of the trip was the sinuous descent of Washington Hill’s west slope. There was test of the Westinghouse brakes near the deep rock cut east of Washington Station, and I continued my trip through time and space. Familiar places and landmarks blitzed by the glass; Lower Valley Road, Becket, Twin Ledges, old Middlefield Station, Whistler’s stone bridges along the valley of the Westfield’s west branch, the old helper station at Chester, and east through Huntington, Russell, and Woronoco.
At West Springfield we passed the old Boston & Albany yard. Watching the parade of trains in evening at the west end of the yard were ghosts of departed members of the West Springfield Train Watchers; among them founding member Norvel C. Parker, Stuart Woolley—retired B&A fireman, Joseph Snopek—photographer and author, and of course, Bob Buck—B&A’s greatest fan and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies. I waved and they waved back. (Hey, at least I wasn’t seeing herds of wild bison!)
After a stop at Springfield Station, I was on my final leg of this journey. We rattled over the Palmer diamonds—where I’ve exposed countless photos over the years, and raced up the Quaboag River Valley, through West Warren, Warren, West Brookfield, Brookfield, and East Brookfield—where my friend Dennis LeBeau and his loyal dog, Wolfie, were line-side to salute my passage.
At Worcester, my father, Richard J. Solomon was poised to collect me. And so concluded my latest Lake Shore epic. And, yes, 448 was indeed late: 1 hour 15 minutes passed the advertised. Tsk!
Dick Gruber did the driving, John offered historical context, while I made notes. We all made photos. I was working with three cameras; my EOS-3 film camera loaded with Provia 100F slide film, my EOS 7D digital camera, and Lumix LX-3.
John Gruber, says as we inspect a grade crossing near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, ‘Passenger trains were allowed 75mph through here. The Hiawatha’s Atlantics worked here towards the end. It was probably the last regular trains they worked. When I saw them they were pretty dirty.’
Visions of high-speed service on this route were revived in recent years (as part of a Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison route) then dashed again when political philosophy interfered with transport reality. Track speed is 10mph, and the only service is Wisconsin & Southern’s (WSOR) local freights.
We drove from DeForest, pausing for lunch near Sun Prairie, to a lightly used grade crossing near Deansville where we intercepted the WSOR local freight. This was hauled by a clean pair of GP38s clattering upgrade with a long string of ballast cars and mixed freight at the back.
WSOR’s burgundy and silver makes for a pleasant contrast with rural scenery. I can only imagine what it was like with a streamlined A1 Atlantic clipping along with light-weight passenger cars at speed. Different worlds.
For more on Wisconsin & Southern locomotives click here.
Chicago is well suited for night photographs. On the evening of June 11, 2013, Chris Guss and I took advantage of warm and windless weather to make a variety of railway images in the downtown area.
I employ a variety of techniques to make night photos. This evening, however, I emphasized my Canon EOS 7D and turned up the ISO to unusually high settings in order to stop the action.
Where color slide film essentially topped out at 400 ISO. My 7D allows me to dial in up to 6400 ISO. Does this offer the same clarity of ISO 100 or 200? No, of course not. But, it’s not so bad either. Is this high ISO technique the only way to make night photos? Hardly, there are many good ways to go about exposing images at night and this is just one.
Today, I can make photos digitally, that would have been all but impossible with film. (Although, that’s never stopped me from exposing a few slides here and there anyway).
Infrastructural Views Fresh From the Digital Cameras.
The other day, I landed at Midway where I was met by Chris Guss. We immediately set to work making images of America’s most railroad intensive city. It’s been nearly two years since I was last here; and nearly 30 years since my first visit. Time passes and much has changed, yet there are many vestiges of old railroads.
There’s always a wheel turning in Chicago, but these pictures are more about the railroad infrastructure than the trains themselves. There’s a book in this somewhere.
Eighteen years ago today, May 20, 1995, I made this image of a CC&P former Illinois Central GP9 (still wearing pre-Illinois Central Gulf, IC black) working across the Burlington Northern crossing at East Dubuque, Illinois.
For me, this image of a train emerging from the inky depths of a leaf-covered, stratified cliff, crossing another set of tracks and reaching out of the frame, neatly sums up the short history of the CC&P.
During the mid-1980s, Illinois Central Gulf dramatically trimmed its route structure. Among the lines carved out of ICG, was the Chicago-Omaha/Sioux City CC&P. Born at the end of 1985, this ambitious regional line competed for east-west traffic on the its Chicago-Omaha trunk, while serving on-line customers. After a little more than a decade, Illinois Central (by it then had dropped the ‘Gulf’ in its name—adopted as a reflection of the early 1970s merger with Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) reacquired CC&P.
During the relatively short interval of CC&P independence, the railroad never re-painted all of its locomotives, many of which had been in inherited from ICG. Shortly after, CC&P was melded back into the IC family, it too was absorbed by Canadian National. At the time of this photo, CN was actively using trackage rights on BN, and its trains crossed CC&P’s line 8 to 10 times daily.
Railroad Family Trees Coming Soon!
My book, tentatively titled Railroad Family Trees will be available from Quayside Publishing Group later this year.
It’s been nearly 18 years since Union Pacific absorbed the Chicago & North Western system. I was fortunate to have been in position to photograph C&NW in its final year of independence.
C&NW’s busiest route was its largely double-track Chicago-Council Bluffs mainline. Yet, long before C&NW was formally merged with UP, this route had functioned as an eastward extension of UP’s east-west mainline. In the early 1990s, many trains operated with UP run-through locomotives.
I found C&NW’s surviving secondary lines even more photogenic. Yet, these lines represented just a shadow of C&NW’s once sprawling empire. Many routes had been fragmented or abandoned. Once busy secondary mainlines, served as little more than lightly served freight feeders. Several C&NW operations had been physically isolated from its core network, with the railroad relying on haulage arrangements in place of its own lines.
C&NW held onto its identity into its last days. Its historic herald was still proudly displayed on equipment and infrastructure. Vestiges of its former greatness survived as visual cues to an earlier era. So its final year, C&NW retained these threads of corporate continuity. While the appearance of C&NW continued for a while under Union Pacific operation, once it was part of the UP system, these threads were less meaningful.
I made roughly a thousand C&NW images between June 1994 and May 1995 (UP’s intended merger date in late April 1995 was ultimately postponed a few weeks, despite reports to the contrary). These are just a sampling of those efforts.
In the mid-1990s, I’ve made a variety of similar images along the Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Council Bluffs mainline that offers a literal depiction of the classic textbook illustration showing railroad tracks to demonstrate perspective.
Why C&NW? The angle of tracks and arrangement offers classic simplicity. This is a largely tangent east-west double-track line that crosses comparatively open landscapes in western Illinois and central Iowa, where installation of advanced signaling combined with burying of code lines and other communications minimized line-side poles and wires.
I’ve exposed for the sky that produces a silhouette of tracks and equipment. C&NW’s highly polished mainline rails nicely reflect the evening sky. For added interest I’ve included a set of interlocking signals in the distance. If I placed them too close, the signals will have become the subject, and that was not the intent of this image.
I made this image of an outbound Metra-Electric multiple-unit in the summer of 1996. This heavily traveled former Illinois Central suburban line remains a rarely photographed operation. I’ve always thought it was odd that it’s so infrequently pictured. Often, photographers neglect the most common subjects. So, there’s a lesson on seeing the ordinary in interesting ways.
On February 25,1995, I made this atmospheric image of an inbound Metra train on the ‘Burlington Triple Track’ at Highlands, Illinois (Today a BNSF mainline). A mix of thin high clouds and smog has tinted the winter sun. A cropped version appeared on the cover of Passenger Train Journal issue 217. At the time, I was employed as an Associate Editor at Pentrex Publishing, including PTJ, and often contributed photograph to the Pentrex magazines.
Chicago suburban passenger railway, Metra operated the only fleet of Electro-Motive Division F40Cs a six-motor cowl-type passenger locomotive similar to Amtrak’s SDP40F, but equipped with HEP (headend power), and featured corrugated stainless-steel side paneling. The 5 EMD F40Cs, were acquired through Metra predecessor agency for service on Milwaukee Road. Numbered 600-614, the F40Cs were the last Metra heritage units in regular passenger service.
These were an unusual modern application of a six-motor diesel for passenger service. Since the mid-1970s, most passenger locomotives have been four-motor ‘B-B’ models.
They exhibit General Motors classic well-balanced utilitarian appearance, and are similar to other cowl models built from the late 1960s and mid-1970s.
On June 25, 2010, I used my Lumix LX-3 to expose this backlit image of an eastward BNSF intermodal train hugging the east bank of the Mississippi River near Savannah, Illinois. My vantage point is a limestone outcropping atop the bluffs in Illinois’ Mississippi Palisades State Park
I exposed the image in manual mode, using the camera meter to gauge exposure for the river to avoid blowing out the highlights in the water. I turned all the automatic features, (including the auto focus) ‘off’, thus giving me a virtually instantaneous shutter release that allowed me to neatly fill the frame.
One of the difficulties with many small cameras is a ‘shutter lag’—an undesirable delay from the time the shutter button is released and the actual moment the shutter opens. This unfortunate problem handicaps a photographer’s ability to capture the decisive moment and greatly limits the potential for railway action photography. For me one of great advantages of the Lumix LX-3 is the ability to disable automatic functions and thus obviate the problems associated with a delay. The other camera’s other great advantage is its Leica Vario-Summicron lens, noted for remarkable sharpness and clarity.
In August 1984, I made a ten-day adventure of riding Amtrak. I visited Montreal via the Montrealer, then to Washington D.C., where I boarded the Cardinal for Chicago. It was my first visit to America’s ‘Railroad Capital’; I spent three days wandering around, riding trains and transit, exposing every frame of film I brought with me. At that time, my standard camera was a 1937-built Leica IIIA that my father gave me for my 10th birthday. In addition to this Leica, for this trip, my dad gave me loan of its clone, which he’d bought years before complete with wind-up mechanical drive. Since the drive was weighty, I left it at home. Fitted to this camera was an obsolete collapsible Leitz 50mm Elmar with non-standard f-stops (f3.5, f4.5, f6.3, f9 & etc). While a remarkably sharp piece of glass, this lens suffered from antique coatings that made it inadequate for my color photography and made it susceptible to excessive flare. As a result, I relegated this lens to my B&W work, while using my 50mm f2.0 Summitar for color slides. Among the B&W photos I made was this image of Chicago Regional Transportation Authority F40PH 161 at Chicago & North Western Station.
What I remember best from this solo trip was arriving in Evanston, Illinois, where I had a pre-booked and pre-paid hotel room waiting for me, only to be told in a sneering manner by the woman at the desk that I, ‘wasn’t allowed to stay at the hotel, because I was a minor’. She then began to admonish me for traveling alone! I was 17. I was incensed! “Lady, I’ve been traveling for weeks by myself, and you’re the first to cause me a problem because of my age! So! You’d rather have me on the street than in your hotel?” I walked out. Not one to waste time, I resorted to staying in the Evanston YMCA, which was primitive, but adequate, cheap, and didn’t interfere with my travel because of age.