Tag Archives: Conrail

Stacks on the old Erie Railroad—36 Years ago

3:36pm, May 14, 1988; milepost 309 (as measured west from Jersey City) near Cameron Mills, N.Y., Conrail intermodal train TV-301.

I exposed this photo in the reverse curves along Conrail’s former Erie Railroad mainline in New York’s scenic Canisteo River Valley east of Cameron Mills.

In the late 1980s, this valley was a favorite place of mine for photographing trains, and I made dozens of trips along the old Erie Railroad during those years.

This image was exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25 using my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit 135mm lens.

My exposure was f4.5 1.250th second. While this was my standard ‘full sun’ daylight setting, the resulting slide was about 1/2 stop too dark. This was in part because of the reduced reflective light within the confines of the valley combined with slight backlighting of the train.

After scanning using a Nikon LS-5000 (Supe Coolscan5000) slide scanner, I made a variety of small adjustments to TIF file in regards to color balance/color temperature, exposure and constrast using Lightroom to produce a more pleasing photograph.

One element of this image that’s always annoyed me is the automobile peaking out on the left side of the leading locomotive. It would be a better photo if the automobile was further ahead of the train or totally conceiled by it.

This is a small defect, considering that Conrail (as a class 1 railroad) has been gone nearly 25 years.

This is the un-modified TIF file that reflects the overall appearance of the original PKM color slide. Below is the adjusted scan.
This is the same scan following adjustments to color, exposure and contrast.

Correcting a Camel Crossing the Connecticut

At 11:35am on August 18, 1988, I photographed Conrail C32-8 6616 leading MBSE (Middleboro to Selkirk, otherwise known as ‘The Queen’) across the former Boston & Albany bridge over the Connecticut River.

The C32-8s were among the GE’s known as ‘Camels’ because of their humpback appearance.

These were called ‘Classics’ by the folks at GE to distinguish them from the more Spartan DASH-8s produced later.

I’d parked my Dodge Dart in the riverside lot off Route 5, and made my way down to water level, where I exposed this Professional Kodachrome 25 slides.

However, in trying to get as close to the water as possible (without falling in), I managed to lose my sense of level, and the resulting image was several degrees off-axis.

For many years this slide was relegated to binder of my ‘seconds’.

The other night I scanned the slide, corrected the level and improved the color balance. (Professional Kodachrome had a tendency to shift toward the red).

Conrail Evolution Surprise!

I was surprised to hear a whistle to the west, when we were exploring the Shikellamy State Park along the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, Pa.

Then when the train came into view on the far side of the river, I had vivid sense of Conrail-blue deja vu.

The last time, I’d visited this bridge, photographer Mike Gardner and I had caught the eastward Norfolk Southern freight symbol 13W led by a former Conrail GE C40-8 still in the classic Conrail paint, and then a little while later, we photographed the westward NS 41T with Canadian National locomotives. But that was back in November 2001!

From my slide archives: Norfolk Southern 13W led by a former Conrail DASH8-40C. November 2, 2001.

Fast forward: Conrail’s days as an independant Class I carrier are now a quarter century behind us, so what was this modern GE in blue paint Kris and I saw last week?

As the unit coal train (NS 632) rolled across the multiple-span truss bridge, I realized what I was looking at:

Norfolk Southern’s specially painted Conrail heritage locomotive! This is a General Electric ES44AC, engine number 8098, an Evolution-series 4,400 hp low-emissions diesel-electric.

Conrail never owned anything quite so advanced.

I made my photos and then Kris and I decided to follow the train back down NS’s Buffalo Line. This was a rare find! It was our lucky day! Lucky!

I had a couple of prime locations in mind, if we could only stay ahead of the train!

Solving a Plus-X Mystery

Among my thousands of black & white negatives is a three-ring binder that is largely filled with film exposed for class projects and related photographic studies when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The other night I located a processed, sleeved and completely unlabled roll of Kodak Plus-X. Most of the film was of Conrail trains on the former Erie Railroad in the vicinity of Hornell, NY.

In the late 1980s, I regularly frequented New York’s Southern Tier to make photos. Over the course of about five years I made dozens of trips.

I have detailed photo notes from many of these trips, so while scanning the negatives with my Epson V600 scanner, I started to solve the mystery.

I recalled the day in question, but couldn’t remember exactly when it was. The sky was gray and the landscape bare, so I surmised it was early 1989. The challenge was figuring out which day, since between November 1988 and early May 1989, I made more than a dozen trips through this area.

Key to the mystery were the trains. I typically logged passing trains by leading locomotive and train symbol, while keeping track of film type, exposure notes, the time, along with other relevant details.

Conrail SD50 6746 was a clue. This was leading a westward freight. Another clue were the semaphores at milepost 337, located just west of the village of Arkport, NY. Conrail 3171 led an eastward freight and these details helped me locate the correct log sheet.

My notes from January 14, 1989 put most of the remaining pieces together and I labled both the original negative sheet with date and locations, while scanning and labeling the negatives.

Although it wasn’t noted, I recall that the black & white photos on that day were made with my father’s Leica double-stroke M3 rangefinder. I used my own Leica M2 to expose color slides.

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Sunny Morning at Creek Hill Road

A ten minute drive will take me to the Creek Hill Road crossing of Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch.

I’d been eyeing this location for a few months. Finally on a bright morning, I timed it right to catch the New Holland local freight with a pair of SD40E (former SD50) diesels in classic three-quarter sunlight.

I exposed a couple of Provia 100F color slides, which I am waiting to be returned from the lab. Then I used my Nikon Z7-II to make a series of images of the passing train.

These are part of my ongoing Conrail SD50 retrospective. These locomotives were built between 1983 and 1986, the first of which were delivered during my senior year at Monson Jr-Sr High School. I think it’s really neat that these familiar aged beasts regularly pass near my new home.

Nothing lasts forever, and I wonder how much longer I’ll have the opportunity to catch the old Conrail locomotives on the move!

The SD50—my first glimpse

In January 1984, I’d driven my parent’s 1978 gray Ford Grenada to Palmer, Massachusetts.

A set of Conrail light engines blitzed past me, and I chased after them.

In consist was a couple of brand-new EMD SD50s and a few new GE B36-7s.

This was pretty exciting stuff! I was 17 at the time.

I chased east on Routes 20 and 67. At Kings Bridge Road east of Palmer I turned toward Conrail’s Boston & Albany line, but the Conrail engines were too close for me to get a lineside photo. So, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, raised my 1930s-era Leica IIIA and shot through the windshield of the Ford.

My camera was loaded with Kodak Tri-X— film that I later processed in Kodak Microdol-X developer.

Conrail GP40 number 3214 leads a set of eastbound light engines at Kings Bridge Road. This is near the location that later became Conrail’s CP79, about three miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts yard. Kodak Tri-X with Leica IIIA.
I was very excited to catch a glimpse of Conrail 6703, a brand new EMD SD50!
I was very impressed by the length of the SD50s compared with Conrail’s older EMD diesels, including SD40 6268 seen trailing SD50 6718.
At the rear of the set of light engines were these three B36-7s.

Tracking the Light Looks Back 40 years!

Classic Kodachrome—Conrail 6717 leads TV9 at milepost 123.

If I wrote: ‘6717 WB w TV9 mp123 11-13-92’ would it mean anything to anyone but me?

It was a clear morning in November 1992. I’d set up west of Huntington, Massachusetts on Conrail’s Boston Line—the former Boston & Albany mainline grade over Washington Hill.

At that time, intermodal freight TV9 (Beacon Park, Boston to Chicago) routinely made its westward passage through the Berkshires in the morning.

On this particular day, the train was led by SD50 6717. While not unheard of, this was uncommon power for TV9, as in the early 1990s Conrail typically assigned sets of three and four GE C30-7A, C32-8 and C36-7 diesels to most of its Boston Line road freights.

Kodachrome 25 was my standard film. This traditional emulsion made it possible to expose dramatic backlit photos such this one. The nature of the grain structure and Kodachrome process, allowed the film to retain a degree of highlight detail while maintaining a clean edge between light and dark, even in high contrast situations such as this one.

Working with the locomotive exhaust and headlight, I made this dramatic silhouette of the train ascending the grade against a stark autumnal background.

I was working with my Nikon F3T with Nikkor 200mm lens set to f5.6 at 1/125th of second. To minimize flare, I shaded the front element of the lens with my notebook.

Today, the lack of ditchlights really dates the image. By the mid-1990s, ditch lights were standard on most locomotives.

The time was 8:10am. Conrail’s westbound TV9 met the eastbound SEFR near CP123 (just around the bend from my location). The eastbound passed me nine minutes later.

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Amtrak 448 at the Warren Crossovers—1983.

This was a just a routine scene from 40 years ago: Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited (Boston section) train 448 at the Warren Crossovers.

Back in the days when Conrail’s former Boston & Albany was still operated as a traditional directional double-track mainline (under rule 251), there were manual cross-overs at strategic locations, including Warren, Mass.

Historically (pre-1960), the Warren Crossovers also served the Warren Yard and the long unsignaled eastward running track from West Warren that had allowed slow moving freights to keep out of the way of faster eastward trains.

These crossovers were removed after Conrail installed TCS signals and single-tracked the B&A east of Palmer in 1986.

I made these photos on Kodachrome using my Leica 3A during the second week of October 1983.

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Classic Chrome—Cass Street Hornell

Here’s another classic K25 slide from that wonderfully perfect autumn day on October 14, 1988.

I’d been following Delaware & Hudson PLMT (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie-Mount Tom) unit coal train that was rolling east on Conrail’s Southern Tier (former Erie Railroad) main line.

The old Cass Street Tower had controlled the Junction where the original Erie Maine Line that went west via Andover, New York diverged from Erie’s Buffalo Line that went via River Junction and Attica, New York. By 1988, the Buffalo Line was the preferred route for most freights.

Delaware & Hudson had trackage rights on Conrail between Buffalo and Binghamton, NY. By mid-1988, Guilford Transportation Industries had relinquished control of the D&H, and New York, Susquehanna & Western was the court appointed operator of the line.

NY&W had acquired a fleet of former Burlington Northern SD45/F45s that it assigned to road freights.

I was fan of the SD45, and when I caught this coal train slogging east on the old Erie, I did my best to keep up with it, making photographs with my old Leica M2 along the way. This view at Cass Street was one of just 16 places I photographed the train that morning.

Cass Street, Hornell, New York at 10:30am on October 14, 1988. Leica M2 with 50mm lens, Kodachrome 25 f4.5 1/250 sec.

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NS Local at Horseshoe Road

Leaving the supermarket, I heard an engine sounding for Greenfield Road.

It was about the time I normally hear Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local heads toward its Pennsylvania namesake.

I drove via Hartman Station Road and spotted the train with an NS SD40E running long-hood first.

Turning onto Horseshoe Road, I continued in the direction of the local freight’s eastward path.

I arrived at the Horseshoe Road grade crossing with enough time to set up a shot looking across freshly mowed grass.

That’s old Conrail SD50 number 6729 (built in 1983), reincarnated as Norfolk Southern SD40E 6312!

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Amtrak 915 in Delaware

In the fading of sun of December 22, 1992, I made this Kodachrome slide of Amtrak AEM-7 915 slowing for its Newark, Delaware station stop on its way toward Philadelphia and New York’s Penn-Station. In the distance is a Conrail local freight.

Nikon F3T with Nikon f4.0 200mm lens.

Working with glint light was always a challenge. And I’d made a series of exposures of the train. This is probably my darkest; f8 1/125 with K25.

Greatly enlarged section of the same scanned slide.

On Wednesday, I stopped by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania to continue research for my next book, and paused to make these contemporary photos of old 915 using my Lumix LX7.

I also featured 915 then and now photos on Tracking the Light back in April. See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/amtrak-915-1981-and-2023/

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Eureka at ZY!

I’ve scoured through hundreds of Conrail slides. Finally, in my Erie box, I had my Eureka! moment when found what I’ve seeking:

Conrail SD50 6753 (now NS 6342) leading a freight in nice light. (See recent posts).

This was exposed at the grade crossing at East Hornell, New York. Conrail 6753 was leading BUOI-4X on January 14, 1989. The train had made a pick-up at M-K in Hornell consisting of recently rebuilt New York City subway cars and was about to make its move to go through the cross-overs and then reverse back onto its train.

Conrail’s BUOI was a daily symbol freight connecting Buffalo’s Frontier Yard with the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Oak Island Yard near Newark, New Jersey. On this day, traffic was sufficient to warrant two sections, thus ‘BUOI-4X’ (X for eXtra).

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with my old Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron.

So why ‘ZY?’ That was the old Erie two-letter telegraph code for CP East Hornell. My friends and I continued to refer to CP East Hornell as ‘ZY’ even though this designation had been discontinued years earlier.

Interestingly, if you locate this place on Google Maps, you’ll find on Magee Road a marker for ‘ZY Crossing Station.’ Someone at Google respects Erie history!

Someday I’ll tell another story about this day, but not today .

My Lumix LX7 photo from Monday September 18, 2023 that spurred the quest to find Conrail 6753.

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Main Street Attica—March 23, 1989

March 23, 1989 was a busy day on the old Erie Railroad.

Between Conrail and the Delaware & Hudson, the railroad was alive with trains.

I’d spent much of the day around Attica, New York, where the line snaked around on its climb over Attica Hill.

In the afternoon, I caught Conrail’s BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island, NJ), the daily mixed freight. This was often a huge train and some days in ran in two sections.

In this view, BUOI has just crossed Main Street in Attica, and has begun to bog down on its eastward climb. In the lead are two Conrail SD50s. These are numbers 6773 and 6763. I found this slide looking for the elusive 6753, which appeared on Tracking the Light a few days ago as Norfolk Southern 6342.

Conrail’s 135 SD50s spanned the number series from 6700 to 6834. Over the course of my years photographing Conrail trains, I’m sure I saw nearly all of them. At the time they seemed so common.

The quest for SD50 6753 continues!

Kodachrome 25 slide exposed with a Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron lens. Image cropped slightly for presentation here.

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Elephant Style at School Road

At 7:11 am on May 4, 1989, I parked my 1981 Toyota Corolla on School Road in Batavia, NY.

I was moments ahead of a Conrail westbound freight symbol SENF-X (Extra section of the Selkirk to Niagara Falls train). I’d heard this on my scanner and knew that the fill on Byron Hill at School Road offered a nice broadside view of the tracks.

With my Leica M2, I made this Kodachrome view of a pair of Conrail SD50s rolling west. I located this image the other night while searching for a suitable photo of Conrail 6753, and thought it was a pretty neat photo.

While the pair of SD50s ‘elephant style’ (tail to trunk) is cool, what catches my eye today is the freshly painted Conrail 50ft box car. I wish that I’d made a photo full frame of that car. Today, any clean railroad-owned boxcar is worthy of attention. Back then, I just wasn’t all that impressed. And there’s a lesson for you!

A year earlier, I photographed the same leading SD50 (6793) on May 1st at CP402 in Batavia. I’ll need to find that photo. In the mean time, stay tuned for a nice view of Conrail SD50 6753 (now Norfolk Southern SD40E 6342-See yesterday’s post).

Kodachrome 25 color slide exposed at f3.5 1/250 second with a Leica M2 and 35mm Summicron lens on May 4, 1989. Scanned with a Nikon LS5000 scanner at 4000 dpi using VueScan software.

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And the Search is on . . .

Following up on yesterday’s post about the former Conrail SD50 working Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch, I’ve started searching my 1980s Conrail files looking for a photo of SD50 6753 at work.

Traditionally my system of organization was not oriented around locomotives, nor set up to find a particular engine by number. Typically, I filed photos by railroad, division, and location, usually grouped by era.

I have countless thousands of slides from the 1980s depicting Conrail all around the system. Some show locomotives, others focus on other elements of the railroad. These were organized by historic routes. I have boxes of Boston & Albany, New York Central Water Level Route, Erie Railroad, PRR, etc.

For the SD50 search, I’ve started with my Conrail-New York (state) box from 1987-1989 that largely covers the Water Level Route from about Utica, NY to roughly Westfield, NY, with various forays elsewhere. Mixed in with the Conrail photos are some of Delaware & Hudson, Norfolk Southern, and New York, Susquehanna & Western.

On March 10, 1989, I visited Dunkirk and photographed a parade of freights rolling along the Waterlevel Route. At 10:39am, I made a sequence of images of a westward mixed freight led by a Conrail SD50 using my Leica M2 loaded with on Kodachrome 25.

This was Conrail 6777, not 6753. But (hopefully) we’ll find the elusive locomotive eventually.

A westward Conrail freight at Dunkirk, New York has SD50 6777 in lead. I made both these images at 10:39am using my Leica M2. Exposure is f4.5 1/250th of a second.
35mm Summicron lens with Leica M2 loaded with Kodachrome 25. Dunkirk, NY. March 10, 1989.

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More Classic Conrail-‘Look Ma No Ditchlights!’

Recently I retrieved several cartons of slides long stored out of sight.

Most of these were in their original yellow Kodak boxes. By-in-large these are the slides that didn’t meet my exacting standards at the time of exposure.

As I’ve illustrated in previous episodes of Tracking the Light, today these boxes contain lost gems.

A photograph that I rejected 30 years ago for a minor defect may look pretty good today.

This view of Conrail C30-7A No. 6550 eastbound at Palmer, Massachusetts caught my attention. Not only is this the class-leader for one of my favorite Conrail locomotives, but it was exposed in bright October sun in a style much the way I’d like to photograph the train today.

So what was wrong with this photo? Why did this sit in the dark for 33 years? Three points come mind.

One: the photo is ever so slightly off level, probably about 1 degree. Back in the 1990s I was very sensitive about maintaining level. I typically carried a line-level with me at all times and almost always used a tripod to help ensure level. This is less of a problem today because my Nikon Z series and Lumix LX7 both feature a level in the heads up display.

Two: My composition is ever so slightly ‘off’. All things being equal, I should have positioned the camera slightly lower to the ground so that I could see a gap above the top of the rail to more clearly show the wheels better. Also this may have minimized the trees behind the locomotives.

Three: I was a film snob in 1990. Normally, I used Kodachrome 25. But for some season I loaded my camera with Kodachrome 64. I found this film did a poor job of rendering the sky which tended to appear as a greenish blue ‘aqua’ shade rather than the bluer ‘azure’ that was common with K25.

While I can’t do much about problem No. two, fixing the level and adjusting the color profile are easily accomplished in post processing. The top photo is my unaltered original; the bottom is my adjusted version, and I altered the sky to appear more like it would with K25.

Scan from my original Kodachrome 64 slide. This is unaltered (without correction). Exposed using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 Nikkor 200mm lens.
This my corrected version of the orginal scan. My goal was to make it look more like a Kodachrome 25 slide.

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Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern

In 2007, I’d made several trips to the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern while I was working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania.

I thought it was time to revisit this classic all-American tourist railroad This is a little more than an hour’s drive from our new home, so on our way to the Philadelphia suburbs last Sunday, Kris and I made a wee detour.

It also of special interst to me now. Although my old ‘Wee Reading Company’ is but a memory, I’m looking for ideas for my new railroad. I don’t have space yet, but someday it will be time to revisit the building of another HO-scale Reading interpretation.

The Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern will celebrate its 60th Anniversary later this year. The railroad operates a bit of the Reading’s Schuylkill & Lehigh Branch, a rural branchline cast away by the Reading more than a decade before the coming of Conrail.

I exposed these photos at Trexler with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkon Z-series zoom.

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Conrail TV-300 in the Canisteo Valley

Thirty-five years ago today, March 23, 1988, at 8:16am, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of Conrail’s TV-300 roaring east on the former Erie Railroad mainline east of Adrian, New York in the Canisteo River Valley.

I was perched upside a hill with my Leica M2 fitted to a Visoflex with Leitz 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod.

I’d driven down in the early morning from my apartment in Scottsville, New York, having scoped out this spot several weeks before.

I arrived about 10-15 minutes ahead of the train, which I could hear from several miles away; the rolling thunder of the stack wells behind a classic throbbing of EMD diesels.

A little more than a decade later, I returned to this place with photographer Mike Gardner and repeated the exercise with an eastward CP Rail freight. By that time Conrail had reduced the old Erie to single track.

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MBTA at CP 4-Allston, Mass

In preparation for my Keynote speech on the history of New England Railroading to the New England Rail Club last night, I culled through hundreds of representative images.

Ulimately, I displayed 67 slides, including a variety of 19th century views and maps, along with more than a dozen of my own images.

Among the photos that I didn’t display was this photo of an MBTA train taking the crossover on the Boston Line at CP4 near Allston, Massachusetts on October 6, 2011.

My talk was attended by several hundred members of the club and well-received.

Exposed using my Canon 7D with 200mm f2.8 lens.

iPhone photo by Kris Sabbatino

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On This Day; Sunburst & Contrail at Muddy Pond.

On the afternoon of February 28, 2016, I made this wintery view at Muddy Pond near CSX’s summit of the Boston Line.

This is the old Boston & Albany main line, which was once the principal lifeline from Boston to the West.

I wonder where that jet was headed?

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1.

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Conrail at West Warren-from the forgotten chrome file.

Last night I found a box of Kodachrome 25 slides from January 1998 exposed using my original Nikon N90s of trains in New England and Quebec. These were in order of exposure having never been labeled or projected.

The film was processed by A&I Lab in Los Angeles.

I made this view from the South Street bridge in West Warren, Massachusetts of Conrail light engines running west on the Boston Line. To the right of the train is the Quaboag River.

The photo was made in the late light of the day and the shadow from the bridge can be seen in the foreground.

Scan made using a Nikon LS-5000 Scanner driven by VueScan software.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using an Nikon N90S with 50mm Nikkor lens. January 1998.

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Misty Morning at Christiana, PA.

It was a retro 1970s moment at Christiana, Pennsylvania, when I made these coming and going views of Amtrak Keystone train 648.

The Conrail caboose to the right of the train is former Erie Lackawanna that was painted in an usual variation of COnrail blue at Erie’s Meadville, Pennsyvlania shops in 1976.

The cab car is one of the former PRR/Penn Central self-propelled Metroliner cars developed by Budd in the 1960s and characterized Amtrak’s high-speed services in the 1970s and early 1980s. Later these cars were modified and routinely operated to Harrisburg on this route.

Former Metroliner cab car leads Amtrak 648 eastbound at Christiana, PA.
Amtrak ACS64 669 works at the back of Keystone train 648 at Christiana, PA.

Photos were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II and adjusted for contrast, exposure and color temperature using Adobe Lightroom.

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Hojack Swing Bridge, Jan 10, 1988.

Thirty-five years ago, I made this view of a Conrail coal train working the Charlotte Running track at Charlotte, Rochester, New York. At that time, a short vestige of the old Hojack Line (Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg) still crossed the Genesee River.

This was exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 50mm Leitz Summicron lens.

It was among the images featured in my 1989 article on the railroads of Rochester published in Railpace Newsmagazine.

Looking at Google Earth last night, I gather there’s very little left of this scene today!

On January 10, 1988, I made this Kodachrome slide of Conrail SD50 6779 leading a coal train at Charlotte, NY.

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Happy 2023!

Tracking the Light wishes you a Happy New Year!

I’m including two photos to usher in 2023. The first is one of the last photos that I made in 2022: a telephoto image of Mount Washington that I made from the viewing area off Route 302 near Bretton Woods yesterday afternoon when Kris and I were returning from Littleton, New Hampshire.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire, as photographed on December 31, 2022. Notice the route of the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

The second image is from a scan that I made yesterday evening of a vintage Kodachrome 25 color slide . I’d exposed this view of Conrail’s PASE (Palmer to Selkirk) on the afternoon of June 1, 1989. This is among my classic chromes and shows Conrail’s 6611, one of ten distinctive GE-built C32-8s that regularly operated over the Boston Line (former Boston & Albany main line) beginning in 1984. My slide had remained in the yellow Kodachrome box from the time it was processed until yesterday.

Conrail PASE was a short-lived symbol freight that forwarded traffic from Palmer, Massachusetts to Selkirk Yard near Albany, New York. This view was made at milepost 84, located within the town of Monson, Mass., just over the Quaboag River from Palmer, which can be seen in the distance.

The BIG event for me on New Year’s Eve was the arrival of my latest camera! I hope to feature photos from this picture making machine over the coming weeks. I’ll reveal details about this new camera in upcoming posts during 2023! Stay tuned . . . .

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SD60 at Clyde

Here’s another slide from the ‘3rds file’.

October 17, 1987: I was set up along the New York State Barge Canal at Clyde, New York and photographed an eastward freight led by SD60 6841.

At the time this was one one of only a handful of SD60s on the Conrail system. It was originally an EMD demonstrator. I deemed it unusual and in my notes I wrote. ‘SD60!’

Unfortunately, I’d over exposed the slide by at least a full stop, and it was this defect that landed it in the junk pile for more than 30 years.

Scanning allowed me to easily correct for most of effects of overexposure, while postprocessing in Lightroom enabled color and contrast corrections.

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This is a ‘Bad’ Photo??

Recent news of exceptional snowfall in western New York State led me to review some of the photos I made during my years in Rochester, NY in the 1980s.

I was digging BIG box of slides lettered ‘3rds’—those that had been deemed unworthy during an edit many years ago and put aside. Certainly some of those slides are poor interpretations. But mixed in are some gems.

On January 27, 1988, I made this photo of a westward Conrail Trailvan piggyback train west of downtown Rochester, New York at milepost 374 (included in the image a lower left) at Lincoln Park. The train was kicking up snow as it raced along the former New York Central Waterlevel route.

My camera of choice was a Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 90mm Elmarit that was loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film.

The most likely reason that I rejected this photo was because it was partially overcast. Other than that it looks pretty good to me today!

Scanned at 4000 dpi with a Nikon LS 5000 scanner and VueScan software. I imported the TIF file into Lightroom and outputted three versions; the top is scaled but unaltered, the bottom two versions benefit from a variety of minor corrections to level, color temperature, exposure and saturation. The middle version is warmer than the bottom.

Unadjusted Scan, Kodachrome 25 exposed with Leica M2 and 90mm Elmarit lens.
Adjusted version of the above photograph with changes aimed at improving overall appearance.
Slightly cooler color temperature.

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Moment in Time-August 14, 1988.

Conrail and the town of Palmer, Massachusetts were replacing the old South Main Street Bridge immediately east of the signals at CP83.

I made this view from the old bridge that was in its final weeks. New retaining walls had just been installed and machinery was working near the old Palmer Union station as Conrail’s eastward SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) took the conrolled siding to make a meet with a set of westward light engines holding on the main track.

The old bridge featured classic wooden decking and makes for an interesting foreground. To make the most of the bridge and railroad code lines, I framed the scene with my Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with an f2.0 35mm Summicron.

A Central Vermont local freight was working the interchage track to the right of the Conrail freight.

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Conrail at Electric Light Hill

East of the station and yard at Palmer, Massachusetts, Conrail’s former Boston & Albany passed the abutments of the Southern New England—a pre-World War I railroad scheme aimed at connecting Palmer with Providence.

Bob Buck referred to this location (milepost 81.81/81.82) as Electric Light Hill. It was near a electric substation, and not far from where the old interurban electric line crossed the Quaboag River.

I made these photos on a Spring 1982 evening. Conrail freights had backed up at the block signals, likely because the Central Vermont was occupying the Palmer diamond to the west..

While I recall relatively little about the events, I do remember the excitement of seeing a second headlight to the east after the first westbound had passed me.

I made these photos with my Leica 3A on black & white film, probably Kodak Tri-X, which I would have processed in Kodak Microdol-X. In those days, I had a tendency to over process the film which made for some pretty dense highlights and relatively grainy photos.

Looking west at milepost 81.81; notice the old abutments built to carry the Southern New England.
A second westbound freight was right on the heals of the first.

Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

Wrestling with a Tripod in the Rain.

New York’s Canisteo Valley was among my favorite places to photograph in the late 1980s. The lure of the Erie Railroad and the old Union Switch & Signal Style S signals had captivated my interest.

On the morning of July 19, 1988, my old pal TSH and I were on one of our annual summer rail-photo adventures. We had started before dawn, and picked up a westward Conrail OIBU rolling though the Canisteo toward Hornell, New York.

Trains moved right along on the former Erie Railroad mainline and racing ahead of it in a Dodge Dart, I parked and leaped out of the car at a preselected location at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) and began to set up my photograph.

I was working with equipment I borrowed from my father. The Leica M2 loaded with PKM (Kodachrome 25 professional) was mine, but the 200mm Telyt mounted with a bellows on a Leica Visoflex viewfinder and positioned on a antique Linhof tripod were his.

In our hasty chase, I’d cut my set up time too fine. It was lashing rain and I was struggling to set up and level the tripod, while trying to focus the camera using the Rube Goldburg Visoflex arrangement. My exposure was about f4 1/8 of a second.

Conrail’s BUOI came into view before I had time to refine my composition: this imperfect photo was the result. I recall the frustration of fighting with the equipment as the roar of the train intensified and the rain obscured my vision.

Let’s just say, that at the time I wasn’t impressed with my image. I’d cropped too much of the foreground and the whole image is off level. So for 30 years, it sat in the Kodak yellow cardboard slide box that it had been returned to me from lab in.

Last year, I scanned it. Ironically, this damp-day silhouette closely captures the spirit of Conrail’s Canisteo Valley that had captivated my photographic interest. The reflection of the headlight on the glossy codelines is the finesse that I didn’t manage to capture in most of brighter-day photography.

I’m glad I didn’t throw the slide away.

This morning I cropped and leveled the image in an effort to correct for my failings in 1988. I’m not sure I improved it any.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Welcome 2020!

Here’s a portrait view of Conrail B23-7 2020 that I made back in 1988 east of Chester, Massachusetts. (Not seeing portrait orientation? Click on Tracking the Light!).

Although I previously posted this image on Tracking the Light, I thought it was a cool way to welcome the New Year!

I wonder what happened to this old GE diesel?

The year 2020 will see my new book on Conrail and its predecessors which is expected in the Spring from Kalmbach Media.

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The Tragedy of my Missing Notes.

I scanned some negatives the other day. These were exposed with my Leica 3A on Ilford FP4 and processed in D76.

I’d driven to Chester, Massachusetts where I photographed several eastward Conrail trains on the Boston & Albany line. This was before Conrail single-tracked the route and it was still directional double track with automatic block signals under rule 251.

This view shows an eastward TV (trailvan) freight waiting for a green signal after crossing over from the westward to the eastward main. It had just come down the hill, against the current of traffic, on the westward main to Chester, while a test train led by SD50 6703 had worked east on the eastward main. (Parallel eastward moves).

Conrail’s GE-built C30-7A (6594) and C32-8 (6614) diesels were less than a year old.

The test train (not pictured) was a ballast train with caboose that provide a load for SD50 6703 equipped with flange lubricators which spent several months working back and forth on the B&A route.

So what’s the tragedy?

My negative envelope has minimal information; just the locations and ‘April 1985’. I have my notebook from 1985, but this trip isn’t mentioned. My photo album is also scant on the details from the day. I believe the specific note-page from this day has ‘gone missing’ and so I’ve had to recall the details from memory. This is a problem, since I cannot recall the exact date, and I’m unsure as to specifics such as train symbols.

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30 Years ago in CTC Board

In November 1989, I had my first CTC Board Cover Feature on Conrail’s Boston & Albany.

Ironically, I received my contributor’s copy a few weeks after I’d moved to California.

I found a copy of the magazine yesterday while digging around for a missing notebook from the 1980s.

Cover photo exposed using my Leica M2 with 35mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film—Conrail TV8B at CP-79 east of Palmer, Massachusetts.

Sometimes when you look for one thing, you find something else!

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For me Conrail was always interesting to watch; I never knew what might show up next.

On April 1, 1989, Conrail was 13, having begun operations on that date in 1976.

I awoke to find heavy snow blanketing the fields and trees of western New York. I met up with Doug Eisele and we drove out into the late season snow seeking trains.

The coolest thing we photographed that day was this Conrail HAZ extra running east from Niagara Falls over the Southern Tier route.

I was always keen on the former Erie Railroad, so that made this comparatively unusual move of great interest to me.

Today, I’m keeping my mind focused on completing my Conrail book. If it’s not Conrail, I’m not paying attention, which has complicated breakfast options. (That’s a Big Blue joke).

Tracking the Light is Conrail Focused Today.

Conrail Rolling!

At 351pm on September 20, 1989—Just over 30 years ago—I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron near Silver Creek, New York.

Although a favorite slide, this is one of thousands of Conrail photos I reviewed for my latest Conrail book that didn’t make the final cut.

This weekend I’ll put the final touches on the manuscript and send my selection of photos to Kalmbach so that the book may enter its next phase of production.

Tracking the Light Rolls with Conrail this weekend!

BUOI in the Snow, Future CP Adrian.

Although it was more than 25 years ago, it really doesn’t seem so long since I made this Fujichrome Velvia slide of Conrail’s BUOI (Road freight from Buffalo to Oak Island) along the former Erie Railroad in the Canisteo Valley.

I’d followed the train east from Rock Glen, New York. Steady snow made for slippery road conditions so I took it easy.

Here I’d caught up with the train, which had reached the newly created siding east of Adrian, that would soon become ‘CP Adrian’ (CP for dispatcher Control Point).

Work was under way at the time, but the new color light signals hadn’t been commissioned and the old semaphores that had governed movements under rule 241 (current of traffic) remained in place, but deactivated.

Working with my Nikon F3T and 105mm lens, I exposed this view as the train waited for permission to proceed east.

Velvia was a finicky film and it was tough to nail the exposure in some conditions Getting the snow exposure right was tricky, but since the train wasn’t moving I made a bracket—in other words I exposed several slides with slight exposure variations. You can see that it was relatively dark by the illumination in the number boards on 6118.

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Conrail SD70 Roars West at Batavia!

From late 1998 through early 2000, I was almost continuously on the road.

I made lots of photos, sent them for processing, plucked out a few choice slides for books, slide shows, etc, and then put the rest in a carton which I promptly mis-placed.

I recalled photographing this Conrail westward freight at CP406 in Batavia, New York in January 1999. I’d been traveling with GVT’s local freight with an Alco RS-11. Although one of the photos from this morning was recently published in September Trains Magazine as an illustration for my discussion on Alco diesels, I couldn’t locate the rest of roll, or most of the other photos from that trip! 

In fact many others from 1999 were also beyond reach.

So, Monday (Aug 26, 2019) in my continuing quest for Conrail images, I finally found the long lost box, in it were a great many photos that have remain unseen since the demise of Conrail at the end of May 1999. Twenty years ago.

Conrail’s ‘convention cab’ SD70s were short-lived on the Water Level route east of Cleveland. These were built to Norfolk Southern specs during the Conrail split, assigned NS numbers and then all went to NS following the divide (as intended). This view was one of the only photos I ever made of a Conrail SD70 on the CSX side of Conrail before the split.

It was the last of the Conrail SD70s and only about two months old when I made this photo in January 1999. I think it is safe to say that 2580 was the last New locomotive built for Conrail (as a Class 1 mainline carrier). Thoughts?

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s with 80-200mm zoom lens, scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000.

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