Under a clear sky with a blazing sun over my left shoulder, I made this view of a Comboios de Portugal (Portuguese Railways) local passenger train pausing for a station stop at Valega.
This small town benefits from a regular interval stopping passenger service on the busy double-track Lisbon-Porto mainline that hosts high-speed Alfa Pendolino, InterCity long distance, and lots of freight trains on the same rails.
My first experience with the Italian Pendolino design was in Switzerland more than 14 years ago when I was researching for my book Bullet Trains—a survey of high-speed trains and railways (published by MBI in 2001).
Here’s an excerpt from my text:
The Pendolino’s tilt system provides a luxurious, smooth ride, on sinuous track. The effect of the tilting is subtle and scarcely noticeable as the train glides a long at speed. The Pendolino has proven a successful export item, and have been ordered by Finnish, Czech, and British railways. The appeal of the Pendolino, and other successful tilting designs, such as the Spanish TALGO and Swedish X2000 is the ability to increase running speeds without a massive investment in new infrastructure.
Since that time, several additional European countries have added Pendolino trains to their fleets. I’ve photographed them in a half dozen countries, most recently in early April this year, in Portugal where they are assigned to premier services between Porto, Lisbon and Faro.
Comboios de Portugal (Portugal’s national railway, known by initials ‘CP’) has ten train-sets which work as Alfa Pendular services.
A challenge when photographing Pendolino trains is catching them mid-tilt. I’ve found one way to capture this is working from the outside of a curve using a long telephoto lens. This is most effective when the front of the train has tilted but the rear remains level with the track structure.
It helps to level the camera with an obvious line-side vertical object such as electrification masts, signals or buildings.
Another technique is to catch the train on the inside of a curve with a wider lens, but still leveling the camera with line-side vertical elements.
A visit to Portugal’s national railway, Comboios de Portugal (known by initials ‘CP’) proved rewarding and photographically productive.
After arriving at Lisbon airport, I visited the rural station at Riachos T Novas in Golega. This place is a gem. Classic manned station building with freight sidings and all the trappings of another era, but very few of the intrusions of modern construction (in other words, no wire fences, overbuilt footbridges, etc.)
The station is on the busy double-track electrified mainline between Lisbon and Entroncamento. This carries a variety of freight and passenger trains, including through trains to Porto, and Spanish border crossings. Trains passed every 10-15 minutes.
At one point the sky opened and rain fell hard for few minutes. When it passed, a double rainbow graced the sky for a few minutes. My images of a suburban train with the cosmic weather were exposed on Fujichrome and remain latent pending processing.
Interestingly, when I first arrived, a local camera club had descended en masse and was snapping away at everything. Unfortunately for the club, they departed before the rain and thus missed the glorious evening light! This was pity for them. By contrast, I worked through the best light and made the most of it.
Stay tuned for my further exploration of Portuguese railways.