It was a damp day back in 2005, when I made this 400mm view using my recently acquired Canon EOS-3 with a rented 100-400mm Canon image stabilizer zoom l.ens
In the lead was Irish Rail 185 (known in some circles as ‘Super Bo-Bo’ which delighted observers because it was missing the cowling around the exhaust and produced more sound than others of its class).
Sugar beet was loaded at Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford and transported by rail via Waterford and Limerick Junction to a processing plant in Mallow, County Cork.
In this view, exposed west of Kilsheelan, County Tipperary, by using a long telephoto lens, I compressed the train of very short four-wheel beet wagons into a virtual snake of rolling beet.
I first visited Roscrea in August 1998. Denis McCabe was giving me a tour of rural Irish stations, and we stopped there to intercept the branch passenger train running from Ballybrophy to Limerick.
Back then the train consisted of an 071 diesel, a steam heating van and two ancient looking Cravens carriages. It was a cloudy morning.
Fast forward to August 2014, and Denis and I made a return visit to Roscrea. While I’ve visited this rural station on several occasions in the intervening years, what struck me was how little the station and its environs have changed.
The old signal cabin is still open and active; the mechanical semaphores remain as I remember them, the station building seems unchanged. Compared to many of the station I visited in 1998, this is one of the few that still looks the same. The Celtic Tiger years didn’t result in unnecessary uglification—er, I mean improvement—to Roscrea.
On the downside, you must know where the station is in the village. I don’t think there was any sign off the Motorway or in the town itself giving any hint of an active railway station there. It’s a real pity too. The Nenagh Branch is one of those throwbacks to another age. Unsung, unloved, and largely ignored, it soldiers on in a world that time forgot.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
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.
During sugar beet season Irish Rail was tight for motive power, as the six to seven extra laden trains per day, plus returning empties, tended to tax the railway’s small locomotive fleet to its limits.
Beet season was always a good time to make photographs. During the 2004 season I was fortunate to catch surviving class 121 diesels several times working laden trains. The tuned ear could always pick out the sound of a 121 over the other classes.
On November 22, 2004, David Hegarty and I caught this mixed pair with 124 in the lead, hauling a laden beet train just passed Nicholastown Gates between Clonmel and Cahir, County Tipperary.
It was a hard pull up the bank from Clonmel to Nicholastown, and just east of the gates the line leveled out. We could hear the pair clattering away in run-8 for several minutes before they appeared. The gates were manually operated, and would be closed well ahead of the train.
The S-bend at Nicholastown was among our favorite locations on the line; I’ve made dozens of images here.
Exposed with a Nikon F3T with f2.8 180mm lens on Fujichrome slide film.
In 2003, Irish Rail operated its sugar beet trains via Kildare because the normal routing between Waterford and Limerick Junction was closed as result of a bridge collapse at Cahir, County Tipperary. On December 6, 2003, I was in place at Cherryville Junction (where the Waterford Road joins the Cork Road—a few miles west of Kildare Station) to catch a laden sugar beet train on its way from Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford to Mallow, County Cork. (Since there is no direct chord at Cherryville to allow a movement from the Waterford Road onto the Cork Road in the down direction, this sugar beet train would continue up to Kildare where the locomotive would run around, thus allowing the train to reverse direction for its onward journey to Mallow.)
It was a characteristically dull day. I was working with a Rollei Model T (120 size roll film fitted with a f3.5 Zeiss Tessar) and Fuji Neopan™ 400 film. Key to obtaining the desired tonality was my process. For developer I used Agfa Rodinal Special™ 1:32 with water for 7 minutes, then after dual fixing baths, Perma Wash™ for 3 minutes, and 10 minutes in running water, I toned the negatives in selenium solution (mixed 1:9 with water) for 9 minutes, then re-washed for 20 minutes in running water. (Warning: selenium is poisonous and should be handled with extreme care in a well-ventilated room). See: Installment 6: Black & White revisited; Old Tech for a New Era part 2—Secrets Revealed!.