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.
A Busy, Bright and Clear Day Visiting Irish Narrow Gauge.
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.
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.
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.
Tune in tomorrow for more highlights from this most recent Bord na Mona adventure!
In October 2001, I was working on my book Railroad Masterpieces (Published by Krause Publications in 2002). Among the featured ‘masterpieces’ was Erie Railroad’s magnificent Starrucca Viaduct at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. A classic Jim Shaughnessy under and over view was used on the book cover.
Posting photos on Tracking the Light yesterday of Lanesborough, County Longford, reminded me of this image at another Lanesboro (albeit a different spelling) many miles and an ocean away.
On October 21, 2001, Tim Doherty and I drove to Lanesborough so I could photograph Starrucca. At the time Norfolk Southern was operating the line and very little traffic was traversing the bridge. We didn’t expect to find a train and as it happened, we didn’t see any that morning.
Later, we photographed the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Tunkhannock Viaduct and former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge. All three bridges were covered in the same section of the book, and I thought it would be neat to visit all of them in one day.
A black & white variation of this image appeared in the book, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the color version published. I’ve always liked the tree shadow on the inside of the 4th arch.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.