Tag Archives: Electro-Motive Diesels

Thursday Extra Post: Follow up view!

In relation to this morning’s post; Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context, I’ve received several comments (and email) suggesting that a view in between the two I originally presented might be a superior alternative.

I don’t concur, but I am willing to offer this photo as a potential third alternative.

The third option.
The third option.

I had had my FujiFilm X-T1 set  to  ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous fast) and so exposed a great many images  in rapid successionat this location.

Sometimes Tracking the Light posts more often than once per day!

Ware River Valley Vignettes‑Mass Central at Gilbertville.

Early November is a great time to explore the Ware River Valley. The trees are largely bare, yet a few colored leaves still cling to higher branches.

Vestiges of old industries survive, as the old Boston & Albany branch meanders up the valley. This is a railroad that was left for dead nearly 40 years ago, and only survived through the dedication and hard work of a handful of local people.

At least once every autumn, I make a photographic study of the line.

The old B&A station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.
The old B&A station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts.
Northward Mass-Central local freight. The ghostly vestiges of an old mill loom silently beyond the trees.
Northward Mass-Central local freight. The ghostly vestiges of an old mill loom silently beyond the trees.

Mass_Central_w_old_mill_at_Gilbertville_DSCF6162

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 I exposed these views at Gilbertville— a village in the town of Hardwick, where the old B&A station remains as a restaurant.

This building is one of many stations featured in my new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published this year by Voyageur Press. Don’t miss out! Order your copy today!

Mass-Central local freight at Gilbertville.
Mass-Central local freight at Gilbertville.

Most week days, Mass-Central’s local freight departs Palmer after 7 am and works its way up to South Barre and back serving its customers along the way. On this day I found the train working in Ware.

Tracking the Light posts every day!

 

Daily Post: Snow Exposure Quandry

Pan Am 310 East of Shelburne Falls

I exposed this image of Pan Am Railways GP40 310 leading MOED on the afternoon of February 17, 2014. By any measure this scene posed a difficult exposure.

Canon 7D in-camera Jpg of Pan Am Railways 310 east of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. To my eye, this image appears too bright. Had it been a color slide I'd say it was about a half stop 'over exposed.' This Jpg was created using the Canon's picture style profile called 'landscape' (one of several built in Jpg picture styles).
Canon 7D in-camera Jpg of Pan Am Railways 310 east of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. To my eye, this image appears too bright. Had it been a color slide I’d say it was about a half stop ‘over exposed.’ This Jpg was created using the Canon’s picture style profile called ‘landscape’ (one of several built in Jpg picture styles).

The locomotive is a dark blue, while the scene posed a full range of tones from bright white snow to deep shadows. The train was moving, and there was little time for exposure bracketing.

Using the camera’s histogram, I’d made a test exposure before the train came into the scene, and then made a series of images focused on the composition.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D, I always expose simultaneous Jps and Camera RAW files. Most of the time the in Camera hi-res Jpg proves acceptable, and simply archive the RAW files for the future.

However, in this instance when I got home, I found that the in-camera Jpg appears to bright to my eye. I re-checked the camera’s histogram for that file and confirmed that the image was exposed correctly.

Histogram.
This is the information displayed at the back of the camera. The histogram is just about ideal. The bulk of the exposure is at the center of the graph and there is virtually no clipping of shadow or highlight areas. (See my earlier post on snow exposure for graph interpretation.)

In previous posts I’ve explained that with modern digital imaging old-school film-based assessments of ‘under’ (too dark) and ‘over’ (too light) exposure do not allow for the most accurate way of selecting exposure. (see: Snow Exposure—Part 1)

Instead of using the image at the back of the camera, or even the photo on my home computer screen, to judge exposure, I use the histogram. This graph allows me to select an exposure that maximizes the amount of information captured by the camera on-site.

In this case, although the Camera processed Jpeg seemed too bright (over exposed), the camera RAW file was perfect.  Since the problem was in the camera’s translation of the RAW to Jpeg, the solution was simple:

I converted the RAW to a Jpeg manually, which produced a result that matched the scene. This retained excellent highlight detail in the snow, produced a pleasing exposure for the side of the locomotive and hills beyond, while retaining good shadow detail in the tree at the left.

Here's the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established 'picture style'. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the 'landscape' style Jpg had interpreted the image.
Here’s the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established ‘picture style’. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words it was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, only with my perception of how the ‘landscape’ style Jpg had interpreted the image.

I did not manipulate or adjust the file except to scale the image and convert it to a Jpg for presentation. (the RAW file is far too large to up-load effectively).

For more on snow exposure see:

Photo Tips: Snow Exposure—Part 1

Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

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Daily Post: Power Shot, Wisconsin Central SD45s


Byron, Wisconsin, March 23, 1996.

It had been a busy morning at Byron. This southward freight had made a meet and was just coming out of the siding, so I had ample time to make images of these SD45s.

Wisconsin Central SD45 loom large as the lead a southward freight out of the siding at Byron, Wisconsin on March 23, 1996.
Wisconsin Central SD45 loom large as the lead a southward freight out of the siding at Byron, Wisconsin on March 23, 1996.

As the train grew close, I made a couple of final images on Kodachrome with my Nikormat FT3 and 28mm Nikkor Lens. I took this low view with a wide-angle to get a dynamic photograph.

I was Editor of Pacific RailNews, and we often had a need for photographs with lots of sky to use as opening spreads. It was a style of times to run headlines, credits and sometimes text across the top of the image. I had that thought in my mind when I made this particular angle.

I was also trying to minimize the ballast and drainage ditch that I found visually unappealing, while making the most of the clear blue dome and allowing for a dramatic position for the locomotives relative to the horizon.

Variations of this image have appeared in print over the years.

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Tomorrow: ‘Oh No! I left the SD recording card in my Computer!’

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Daily Post: Claremorris, County Mayo, February 1998.

General Motors Diesel in Ireland.

Irish Rail class 181 General Motors diesel number 185 catches the afternoon sun at Claremorris, County Mayo in February 1998. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T fitted with 24mm lens, exposure calculated with a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell.
Irish Rail class 181 General Motors diesel number 185 catches the sun at Claremorris, County Mayo in February 1998. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T fitted with 24mm lens, exposure calculated with a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell.

This was among my first Irish Railway photographs. I’d hired a car in Limerick and was exploring. At the time I knew very little about Irish Rail, but I was fascinated by the Ballina branch passenger train.

What caught my interest here was the juxtaposition of the General Motors diesel with the Claremorris station sign. It was the name of the town in Irish that fascinated me. I also liked the old Irish Rail logo, which seemed to represent the double junction at Claremorrris.

I’d never have imagined then, that this would just one of the thousands of Irish railway photographs I’d expose over the next 16 years!

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DAILY POST: Maine Central at East Deerfield Yard, September 1984.

An Unconventional View of the Ready Tracks.

I was interested to find this collection of Maine Central locomotives at Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard in September 1984. At the time, Guilford’s gray and orange livery was still a novelty.

Using my father’s 21mm Super Angulon on my Leica 3A, I composed this somewhat unconventional view of the ready tracks. This lens was a favorite of mine at the time. I still use it occasionally.

Boston & Maine's East Deerfield Yard
Maine central GP38 260 and a pair of U18Bs were the subjects of interest in my September 1984 black & white photograph. Today, the contrast of the steam-era infrastructure with the diesels makes for an unusual compelling railroad photo. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens.

The composition works despite being foreground heavy and exposed on the ‘dark side’ of the locomotives. The image nicely integrates the infrastructure around the locomotives while offering a period look.

At the time I was studying photography at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and made regular visits to photograph the Boston & Maine.

See my earlier post: Johnsonville, New York, November 4, 1984.  

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Tomorrow: A Bird, a Tram, A Canal!

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DAILY POST: BNSF SD70ACE at Enola, Pennsylvania.

 Location and Locomotive.

Tight view of BNSF Railway SD70MAC 9261 at Norfolk Southern's Enola Yard. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.
Tight view of BNSF Railway SD70MAC 9261 at Norfolk Southern’s Enola Yard. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

Fifty years ago, it would have been pretty neat to see a Burlington GP30 at Pennsylvania Railroad’s Enola Yard. Yet for the context of that photo to be fully appreciated, it would help to have the location of the locomotive implied in the image.

A few weeks ago, Pat Yough and I were driving by Norfolk Southern’s Enola Yard and spotted this SD70ACE. These days, BNSF locomotives on Norfolk Southern and CSX are not unusual occurrences. Not in Pennsylvania anyway.

After a tight image of the locomotive, I stood back and made a few views intended to convey location.

It’s not what you see, but the images made of what you see.

The sign at the left conveys location and provides a bit of information about safety conditions at Enola. Canon EOS 7D.
The sign at the left conveys location and provides a bit of information about safety conditions at Enola. Canon EOS 7D.
In this view the sign is the subject, and the locomotive just a decorative background. Canon EOS 7D.
In this view the sign is the subject, and the locomotive just a decorative background. Canon EOS 7D.

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Daily Post; Washington Summit‑30 years After Exposure.

 Modern Technological Miracle: Post Processing.

In mid-July 1984, I heard the distinctive roar of EMD 20-cylinder engines working an eastward train on the west slope of Washngton Hill. My friends and I were positioned at the summit of the Boston & Albany route, as marked by a sign.

We often spent Sunday afternoons here. Rather than work the more conventional location on the south (west) side of the tracks, I opted to cross the mainline and feature the summit sign.

As the freight came into view, I was delighted to see that it was led by a set of Conrail’s former Erie Lackawanna SD45-2s! While these locomotives were more commonly assigned to helper duties at Cresson, Pennsylvania on the former PRR, during the Summer of 1984, all 13 of the monsters worked the Boston & Albany.

Conrail
In July 1984, Conrail 6666 leads an eastward freight on the Boston & Albany at Washington Summit, Hinsdale, Massachusetts. This photograph is unpublished and previously unprinted. It was exposed on 35mm Tri-X using a 1930s-vintage Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. Post processing allowed for localized contrast control to maximize the detail in the original negative.

I have a number of photos of these machines, both on the B&A and PRR routes. However this image of engine 6666 never made my cut. Back lighting and hazy afternoon light had resulted in a difficult negative. My preferred processing techniques of the period didn’t aid the end result, and at the time I dismissed the photograph as ‘unsuitable’.

The other day I rediscovered this unprinted view and decided to make a project of it. Now, 30 years later, I felt it was worth the effort. I scanned the negative and after about 30 minutes of manipulation using Adobe Photoshop, I produced a satisfactory image.

I made a variety of small and subtle changes by locally adjusting contrast and sharpness. These adjustments would have been difficult and time consuming to implement using conventional printing techniques, but are relatively painless to make digitally. I’m really pretty happy with the end result.

For details on this technique, click to see: Kodachrome Afternoon at West Springfield, February 1986.

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Tomorrow: Something completely different!

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DAILY POST: Trains Meet on a Summer Morning at Cassandra, Pennsylvania.

Pleasant Morning on the West Slope.

In contrast from the iced grip of winter, these photographs were made on June 30, 2010. This was a gorgeous warm summer’s morning; birds twittered the tree branches as the sun light streamed through a gauzy haze to burn away the dew.

I arrived early at the famed ‘Railfan’s Overlook’ to make photographs in the early light of day. In the distance, I could hear the thunder of a heavy train climbing east toward the Allegheny Divide at Gallitzin.

NS unit coal train with Evolution at Cassandra IMG_1734

Norfolk Southern’s busy former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline rarely disappoints, and this morning it was alive with trains.

Using my Canon EOS 7D, I worked the glinting sun to its best advantage as an eastward Pennsylvania Power & Light coal train clawed into view. As it worked the grade, a westward RoadRailer led by former Conrail locomotive glided down grade.

At the back of the coal train were a pair of freshly painted SD40Es making a classic EMD-roar as they worked in run-8 (maximum throttle).

How I wish I was enjoying a warm June morning on the West Slope right now!

 

 A Norfolk Southern coal train, likely destined for Pennsylvania Power & Light’s Strawberry Ridge plant, works west at Cassandra, Pennsylvnia. Canon EOS 7D with 24mm lens, exposed at f4 1/250th second, ISO 200. Back lit morning sun highlights the grass in the foreground.

A Norfolk Southern coal train, likely destined for Pennsylvania Power & Light’s Strawberry Ridge plant, works west at Cassandra, Pennsylvnia. Canon EOS 7D with 24mm lens, exposed at f4 1/250th second, ISO 200. Back lit morning sun highlights the grass in the foreground.

Coal train at Cassandra IMG_1742

Westward Norfolk Southern RoadRailer at Cassandra, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2010. The morning sun has caught the front element of my lens making for a bit of flare. Notice how this fogs the shadow areas and warms up the scene. Hollywood film-makers love this effect.
Westward Norfolk Southern RoadRailer at Cassandra, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2010. The morning sun has caught the front element of my lens making for a bit of flare. Notice how this fogs the shadow areas and warms up the scene. Hollywood film-makers love this effect.
I've stepped back into the shadow of a tree to control lens flare and stopped down my exposure to allow for better highlight detail on the sides of the RoadRailer. The result is a starker less atmospheric image.
I’ve stepped back into the shadow of a tree to control lens flare and stopped down my exposure to allow for better highlight detail on the sides of the RoadRailer. The result is a starker less atmospheric image.
Morning glint illuminates the helpers at the back of coal train. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens, set at 120mm and at f5.0 1/500, ISO 400.
Morning glint illuminates the helpers at the back of coal train. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens, set at 120mm and at f5.0 1/500, ISO 400.

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Interested in learning more about locomotives and viewing more stunning photographs? See my book: Classic Locomotives published by Voyageur Press.

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DAILY POST: Spirit of Summer, Lake City, Pennsylvania

Hazy Damp Morning, July 1987.

Here’s a view from my summer wanderings with TSH in July 1987. We’d camped along the Water Level Route at Lake City, Pennsylvania and spent the day watching and photographing trains.

The morning weather began heavy and damp, but as the day continued a thunderstorm rolled off Lake Erie and cleared the air.

Conrail
Conrail SD50 6793 leads a westward train on the former New York Central at Lake City, Pennsylvania at 8:05am on July 25, 1987. I exposed this with a Rollei Model T, using T-Max 400 black & white film. F5.6 1/125th of a second. Processed in Kodak D76 1:1. I calculated exposure with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell. The camera’s Carl Zeiss Tessar allows for an exceptionally sharp image. I’ve reduced the scan to just a fraction of its original size for internet display.

Conrail was busy and presented an unceasing parade of trains. For this view, showing a pair of SD50s, I used my father’s Rollei Model T. I went low to emphasize the weedy grass, while using the old station to frame the train and provide historical context.

The combination of the grass, the thick white sky, and hazy light says ‘Summer’ to me.

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DAILY POST: Campaign Train, Aug 2010.


New England Central at Montpelier Junction, Vermont.

Brian Dubie's campaign train
Dubie campaign train approaches Montpelier Junction, Vermont on the afternoon of August 28, 2010. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

A freshly scrubbed GP38 led a pair of Pennsy passenger cars in a classic old-school whistle-stop campaign tour of Vermont.

On August 28, 2010, my dad and I drove to the Georgia high bridge (near St. Albans, Vermont) to intercept a New England Central special train hired by gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie.

It was a sunny warm summer’s day, and we made numerous photos of the special as it worked its way south.

This pair of images was exposed at Montpelier Junction, where the train made a stop for the candidate to make a speech to his supporters. Traditionally, this was where Central Vermont met the Montpelier & Barre.

I used a telephoto for these views in order to emphasize the bunting and flags that marked the train’s distinctive qualities. Several of my photographs of the train appeared in Private Varnish.

B Dubie 4 govnr campaign train at Montpelier Jct IMG_4331

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Amherst Railway Society’s Big Railroad Hobby Show part 2

More Photos from January 25, 2014.

Amherst Railway Society‘s Big Railroad Hobby Show show is pure sensory overload. Everywhere you look there’s something or someone that seizes your interest. An old friend, an F-unit, a trolley buzzing underwire, video of a steam locomotive, the sounds of trains.

NS_high_hood_GP38s_at_xing_IMG_4129Rio_Grande_244T_IMG_4088

Paul Carver
Paul Carver.
Pioneer Valley Railroad's Dave Swirk.
Pioneer Valley Railroad‘s Dave Swirk.
Dan Howard with the Seashore Trolley Museum.
Dan Howard with the Seashore Trolley Museum.
Wait, what? A vintage fishbowl bus? At the TRAIN show?!
Wait, what? A vintage fishbowl bus? At the TRAIN show?!
Caboose and a vision of Pennsylvania's Martin Creek Viaduct in the distance.
Caboose and a vision of Pennsylvania’s Martin Creek Viaduct in the distance.
Lens-master George C. Corey.
Lens-master George C. Corey.

Highway_layout_IMG_4109

NMRA promoter.
NMRA promoter.
Railroad Museum of New England's Bill Sample.
Railroad Museum of New England‘s Bill Sample.

CSX_GP15-1_IMG_4120

Quabog Valley Modelers.
Quaboag Valley Railroaders of East Brookfield.
Boston & Albany Hudson on the Quaboag Valley Railroader's layout.
Boston & Albany Hudson on the Quaboag Valley Railroader‘s layout.

American_Flyer_IMG_4101 4-4-0_w_soldiers_IMG_4123

 

I exposed several hundred photos in a few hours, but after a while my mind began to numb. Railways of all kinds in all directions.

I guess it was a good show!

Click here for part 1.

 

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Amherst Railway Society’s Big Railroad Hobby Show—Part 1

West Springfield, Massachusetts, January 25, 2014.

NYC_F_unit_IMG_4092

This past weekend (January 25-26, 2014) was the annual Big Railroad Hobby Show sponsored by the Amherst Railway Society.

It fills four buildings at the Eastern States Exposition grounds at West Springfield, Massachusetts and attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

For railway enthusiasts it’s an epic event and an annual pilgrimage. The show is the living testimony of the late Bob Buck—long time show director and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies.

Through clever marketing, unceasing persistence and a life-long passion for trains of all scales, Bob built the show from a small railroad hobby event into a massive one.

This weekend’s show was another well-attended event. It was a virtual sea of trains and people. Here are a few photos of people I met at this year’s show and exhibits that I enjoyed.

Conrail_SD80MACs_IMG_4124

Otto Vondrak of Railfan & Railroad Magazine.
Otto Vondrak of Railfan & Railroad Magazine.
Scarlett promotes Palmer's premier railroad restaurant, the ever-popular Steaming Tender (located at the old Union Station).
Scarlett promotes Palmer’s premier railroad restaurant, the ever-popular Steaming Tender (located at the old Union Station).

 

Quabog Valley's Boston & Albany J-2 Pacific.
Quabog Valley’s Boston & Albany J-2 Pacific.

Jim_Beagle_and_company_P1600194

Berkshire Scenic.
Berkshire Scenic.
Model Station.
Model Station.
Phil and Rich.
Phil and Rich.
Rich Reed's Penn Central display.
Rich Reed’s Penn Central display.
Tucker's Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.
Tucker’s Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.

Did you attend? What was your favorite exhibit?

Stay tuned for more photos tomorrow!

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DAILY POST: Kodachrome Afternoon at West Springfield, February 1986


Making and old Slide Even Better.

Conrail
Conrail’s sunday TV9 departs West Springfield yard at 3:55 pm on February 9, 1986. The film had a decidedly red color bias (Kodachrome as it aged tended to shift towards the red). This has resulted in a pinkish cast that is especially noticeable in the snow. The image is also off-level. I corrected these problems and others after scanning the slide. See below.

Here we have a typically New England scene; a fresh blanket of snow has fallen and the sky has cleared to a clear blue dome. Perfect light right?

Not exactly. The great contrast between the brilliant bright snow and the shadow areas makes for a difficult exposure. Complicating matters was Conrail’s rich blue paint.

While I was fortunate to catch Conrail’s TV9 leaving West Springfield Yard, I faced an exposure conundrum. If I exposed for the train, I risked grossly over exposing the snow, furthermore if I simply set the camera based on the snow on the ground, I’d end up with a pretty dark slide.

In the end I compromised, and stopped down enough to retain detail in the snow, while leaving the rest of the scene reasonably exposed.

However, 28 years later I’m still not satisfied with the slide.

There are three problems. I was concentrating on the exposure and the moving train (while trying to manipulate two cameras simultaneously) and I missed the level by about two degrees. Secondly, the Kodachrome film had a decidedly red bias, which resulted in pinkish snow (hardly what my eye saw that day).

I was easily able to correct these flaws after scanning the slide. I imported it into Photoshop and made three changes.

1) I cropped and rotated the image to correct for level.

2) Using the red-cyan color balance sliders, I shifted the highlights and mid-tone areas to toward cyan to minimize the excessive red in the scene. (cyan is the color opposite of red)

3) I made a localized contrast adjustment on the locomotives by outlining the area I wanted to change and then making a slight change using the curves feature.

I’ve illustrated the original unmodified scan two intermediate steps and the final image.

Here I've corrected the level; and using the color balance sliders I've shifted the color balance in the highlight and mid-tone areas to eliminate the pink-cast.
Here I’ve corrected the level; and using the color balance sliders I’ve shifted the color balance in the highlight and mid-tone areas to eliminate the pink-cast.
The last step requires a subtle localized contrast adjustment. I selected the area to be adjusted and made a very minor change to the contrast and color balance. For this example I've grossly exaggerated the area selected strictly to illustrate where I've made the changes.
The last step requires a subtle localized contrast adjustment. I selected the area to be adjusted and made a very minor change to the contrast and color balance. For this example I’ve grossly exaggerated the selected-area strictly to illustrate where I’ve made the changes. Obviously the extreme contrast change looks absurd when viewed out of context.
Here's the final image. One last change require the use of the burning tool; I made a few light passes around the seem between the area of localized contrast change to minimize the effect. My feeling is that if you can quickly perceive the adjustment, then the effect is too extreme.
Here’s the final image. One last change require the use of the burning tool; I made a few light passes around the seam between the area of localized contrast change to minimize the effect. My feeling is that if you can quickly perceive the adjustment, then the effect is too extreme.

 

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Click below to see related posts:

Springfield, Massachusetts, April 2004

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DAILY POST: Springfield, Massachusetts, April 2004

Old Pointless Arrow and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station, where Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany and New Haven once shared common space. Today, its a local Amtrak hub. Exposed with a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.
Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station, where Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany and New Haven once shared common space. Today, its a local Amtrak hub. Exposed with a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.

Ah Springfield! Probably best known because of the Simpson’s cartoon set in a mythical city of that name. Could be Springfield, Massachusetts, or Illinois, any of a couple dozen other cities with this common name.

On April 5, 2004, I met Tim Doherty for lunch and we made a few photos in Springfield.

A visit to Union Station found a westward CSX freight with a Conrail blue General Electric DASH8-40CW rolling through.

Later, we went down to an footbridge near the Basketball Hall of Fame to catch Guilford Rail System’s elusive EDPL (East Deerfield to Plainville, Connecticut) freight.

In 1982, Boston & Maine bought several Connecticut-based former New Haven Railroad operations from Conrail, and EDPL was one the only remnants of that transaction. At the time, the freight ran once a week. Catching it was a matter of planning and good luck.

Westward CSX freight rolls through Springfield Station on April 5, 2004.
Westward CSX freight rolls through Springfield Station on April 5, 2004.
Guilford's weekly EDPL against a backdrop of the Springfield skyline on April 5, 2004.
Guilford’s weekly EDPL against a backdrop of the Springfield skyline on April 5, 2004.
This slightly closer view of the same train suffers (or benefits, depending on your perspective) from tree-branch shadows on on the front of the locomotives. Contax G2 photo.
This slightly closer view of the same train suffers (or benefits, depending on your perspective) from tree-branch shadows on on the front of the locomotives. Contax G2 photo.
Guilford's EDPL with Springfield's top tourist attraction (or one would assume); the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Guilford’s EDPL with Springfield’s top tourist attraction (or one would assume); the Basketball Hall of Fame.

I exposed these photos on Fujichrome Velvia 100F (RVP100F) color slide film using my Contax G2 rangefinder with a 28mm Biogon lens. The film was processed locally in Springfield at ComColor, which back then offered a 2-hour turn-around time for E6 films (processed and mounted).

In 2008, ComColor ceased processing E6 film. At the time, I was told my rolls were ‘the last run.’

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The Amherst Railway Society ‘BIG RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW‘ is on this weekend (January 25 and 26, 2014) at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

See: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/

Brian Solomon will cover the train show in Tracking the Light.

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Daily Post: Busy Morning at West Trenton


Photographing on the former Reading Company.

 The word was out that Norfolk Southern’s Pennsylvania Railroad painted heritage locomotive was to work a detoured stack train over CSX’s Trenton Subdivision to avoid a scheduled engineering project at Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Pat Yough and I planted ourselves at the West Trenton, New Jersey SEPTA station in anticipation. A number of other enthusiasts had similar plans, so there was plenty of company.

Railroad station
Former Reading Company station at West Trenton, New Jersey on the morning of January 19, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
Railway station detail.
Detailed view of West Trenton station. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
West Trenton station's build date is carved in stone. Lumix LX3 photo.
West Trenton station’s build date is carved in stone. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA
A SEPTA train for Philadelphia’s Airport pulls into the West Trenton station. CSXT’s unit oil train K040 with BNSF locomotives waits in the distance. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CSXT oil train.
After the SEPTA local departed, CSXT KO40 led by BNSF 9688 and 5523 rolls southward through West Trenton. This section of the old Reading demonstrates how freight and passenger traffic can coexist on the same line. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CSXT symbol freight Q439   works south behind mixed consist of GE and EMD locomotives. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CSXT symbol freight Q439 works south behind mixed consist of GE and EMD locomotives. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Switchers have become relatively rare items on modern railroads so I made this grab shot of CSXT 1137 as it rolled by. Lumix LX3 photo.
Switchers have become relatively rare items on modern railroads so I made this grab shot of CSXT 1137 as it rolled by. Lumix LX3 photo.
A SEPTA Silverliner V waits to enter West Trenton Station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A SEPTA Silverliner V waits to enter West Trenton Station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

 

The much anticipated Norfolk Southern detour I5T, (running as CSXT B100-19) works northward through West Trenton. At the back of the train are a pair of NS diesels to aid with reverse moves necessary for the detour arrangements. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
The much anticipated Norfolk Southern detour I5T, (running as CSXT B100-19) works northward through West Trenton. At the back of the train are a pair of NS diesels to aid with reverse moves necessary for the detour arrangements. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

The former Reading station building at West Trenton is now privately owned (and serves a non-railroad function), while the platforms remain active for SEPTA’s regularly scheduled passenger trains to Philadelphia.

When we arrived, morning clouds were giving way to sun. A pair of westward CSX trains was holding just west of the electrified zone and the radio was alive with activity.

In a little more than an hour we caught three SEPTA trains and four freights. This kept me and my three cameras pretty busy. My goal was not just to photograph the trains, but to capture these trains in this classic railroad environment.

Norfolk Southern 8102 was in clean tuscan-red paint at it trailed at the back of nearly two-miles of double stacked containers. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens.
Norfolk Southern 8102 was in clean tuscan-red paint at it trailed at the back of nearly two-miles of double stacked containers. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens.
Trailing with of NS I5T (CSXT B100-19) passing the West Trenton tower.
Trailing with of NS I5T (CSXT B100-19) passing the West Trenton tower. Canon EOS 7D.
CSXT empty oil train K041 works northward behind the detoured stack train. BNSF locomotives make a bit of color in this otherwise drab New Jersey scene. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
CSXT empty oil train K041 works northward behind the detoured stack train. BNSF locomotives make a bit of color in this otherwise drab New Jersey scene. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

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See related posts:  Exploring SEPTATake a Ride on the ReadingPhiladelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

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DAILY POST; Retro Railroading at Greenfield


Pan Am Railway’s EDMO roars west on the Boston & Maine.

It’s almost like stepping back to the 1970s; three EMDs powered by turbocharged 16-645 diesels working under searchlight signals with a carload train.

Pan Am Railways
On January 12, 2014, Pan Am Railway’s EDMO (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard) works the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route at Greenfield, Massachusetts. The line on the left is the Connecticut River route running south toward Springfield. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

This is a nice contrast to the parade of  double-stack containers and unit trains that characterize most American mainlines. While the details of the motive power have been altered since they were built, the spirit of the operation reminds me of watching trains more than 35 years ago.

If you think about it, as point of comparison, if in 1979 you were to see 35 year-old motive power and a traditional freight train that probably would have been either steam engines, or EMD FTs leading 40-ft cars.

Sure, you could argue that Pan Am’s paint scheme is a relatively recent development, and the locomotives have been modified since the 1970s (the lead former Santa Fe SD45-2 had its 20-645E3 swapped with a 16-cylinder engine among other changes), but that belies the point.

EDMO. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
EDMO. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Tight view of Pan Am 616.  Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Tight view of Pan Am 616. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

For similar posts, click to see: Pan Am Southern at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 2013Pan Am Railways Ayer Massachusetts, January 17, 2013;  Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2Boston & Maine MERU, February 10, 1985

My book Classic Locomotives published by Voyageur Press is available from Amazon.

Also see my big hard cover classic: Modern Locomotives

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DAILY POST: Lucky Afternoon

I went to the Post Office and Scored a Train.

The other day, I had a few packages to send out. I’d delayed going to the post office until after the school buses were out, using the logic that if I waited, I wouldn’t get stuck behind one on the way back.

On the way into the PO, I heard a distant whistle. And while at the desk, a train rumbled by.

New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line runs on a slightly elevated gradient behind the Monson, Massachusetts PO. This is on the climb up State Line hill, and heavy trains make a good racket coming though town. This freight, however, wasn’t very heavy and the engines weren’t working too hard.

I made an expeditious exit after mailing my packages, and started south on Route 32. No sooner than I was south of town, I found myself looking at the back of a school bus!

And this bus then stopped, as required, at the South Monson grade crossing.

I could hear the southward climbing. It had already gone through. Fortunately, once over the tracks, the bus driver kindly pulled in to let traffic around. I sailed southward, and arrived at State Line crossing. Once out of the car, I could hear the train working.

New England Central's daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.
New England Central’s daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.

Although the light was fading, there was enough to work with. While, I’d left most of my cameras at home, I had my Lumix LX3 in my coat pocket. I set up a shot immediately south of the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, and included the granite marker at the left of the image.

After the train passed, I followed it to Stafford Springs, where I made a few more photos. As it turns out, these NECR images are my first railway photos for 2014.

New England Central's GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
NECR
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the afternoon of January 9, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.

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DAILY POST: Timber and General Motors, June 10, 2006

Westport, County Mayo, Ireland.

This pair of images will never be repeated. Here we have Irish Rail’s afternoon passenger to Dublin consisting of  Mark 3 set led class 201 number 222 (known colloquially as the ‘Bishop Tutu’).  That same afternoon, at about 3:40pm an empty timber with a mixed pair of 121/141s arrived from Waterford.

Irish Rail at Westport

The afternoon Westport-Dublin passenger is ready to depart Westport on June 10, 2006. Nikon F3 with Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens.
Irish Rail empty timber train.
Irish Rail 146 and 134 arrive at Westport with an Empty Timber from Waterford on June 10, 2006. Nikon F3 with Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens.

What was unusual that day was an electrical power cut had required the use of portable generators at the station, making for an unusual discordant cacophony at the normally peaceful location.

Despite the racket, I went about making photographs. Here, I carefully composed both views from the footbridge by the signal cabin using the same angle to show the contrasting trains in the classic scene. It was the end of an era. Soon all would change.

Since that time, Irish Rail has retired the small General Motors diesels. The 121s made their final runs in 2008, the 141s finished a couple of years later. The Mark III passenger carriages were withdrawn from traffic; today passenger trains to Westport run with Irish Rail’s Rotem-built 22000-series railcars.

I exposed both photos on Fujichrome with my Nikon F3 fitted with a 1960s vintage Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens.

I returned to Dublin on the evening passenger train, also with Mark 3s and a 201 class General Motors diesel.

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Special Post: Electric Train Music Video


Rock and Roll Panic by The Big Gunz.

Thomasina the Cat is among the stars of Rock and Roll Panic the Third Rail Mix on YouTube. See http://youtu.be/1DweE3JLpEA
Thomasina the Cat is among the furry stars of Rock and Roll Panic the Third Rail Mix on YouTube. See http://youtu.be/1DweE3JLpEA

Tracking the Light takes a diverging route: Cats, Lionel, Beer, and Rock and Roll. Take a look at my most recent production. I’ve filmed and edited a short music video.

The soundtrack is the song Rock and Roll Panic performed by The Big Gunz of  East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Popular for their evening entertainment at Dunny’s Tavern, the Big Gunz are a classic trio consisting of  Paul, Tommy, and Dennis LeBeau.

Rock and Roll Panic third rail mix was filmed with my Canon Eos 7D and Lumix LX3 cameras, and has a train in almost every scene!

Check it out, click here for the link to: Rock and Roll Panic third rail mix

http://youtu.be/1DweE3JLpEA

 

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DAILY POST: Kid with a Camera 1978

 

Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited with E8As near Palmer.

For my eleventh birthday my father gave me a 1930s-era Leica 3A and a role of film (with more to follow).

Every so often Pop would gather my brother Sean and I into the car and head over the Boston & Albany (then Conrail) to wait for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Back then, the train was still running with heritage equipment and typically hauled by fairly tired E8As.

If we were really lucky we might catch freight too.

Lake Shore Limited
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited roars along on the Boston & Albany near milepost 81, two miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts’s diamond with Central Vermont. I exposed this image in summer 1978. In a few weeks I’d start 7th grade. Weeks would pass from the time I released the shutter until I would make prints from the 35mm black & white negative.

On this day in summer 1978, we drove to Palmer. I think we’d started up the Quaboag River Valley, but realized we might not have time to reach Warren before the westward Lake Shore came roaring down the valley. So we reversed and picked a spot near milepost 81, not far from the Route 20-67 split (east of town).

We didn’t wait long. I could hear pairs of twin 12-567s working before the headlight a appeared at the bend near the old barn. And then there it was!

“I see it!”

I made several exposures with the Leica. Unfortunately, in my panic to capture the train passing I shook the camera, so the head-on view is a bit blurred.

I processed the negatives from this adventure in the kitchen sink and made prints that I placed in a homemade photo album. The negatives were well processed and have survived in good order. I scanned them a few weeks ago. My notes from the day appear to have gone missing though.

As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.
As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.

Click to see:

Kid with a Camera: Gun Hill Road, the Bronx, New York Summer 1980

Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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DAILY POST: Holiday in Hollidaysburg

Remembering  a Warm Summer Afternoon.

“Let’s get an ice cream,”  my pal T.S.H. said as we drove by Conrail’s sprawling former Pennsylvania Railroad yards at Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

Conrail, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania 6:30 pm on July 27, 1987. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 fitted with 50mm f2.0 Summicron.
Conrail, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania 6:30 pm on July 27, 1987. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 fitted with 50mm f2.0 Summicron.

There was a roadside ice cream stand on one side of the highway and the tracks on the other. I made this image showing Conrail SD40 6288, while enjoying the ice cream on the hood of the old Dodge Dart we were using as transport.

This engine had been painted with a  slogan promoting the United Way. Second out was a former Erie Lackawanna SD45-2. This was a local that had come down from Altoona with bad-order cars for the car shops.

It was July 27, 1987 and we were on the tail end of a week-long exploration of Pennsylvania. The days had been hot and hazy, but evenings offered some rosy light, (when there wasn’t a thunderstorm). We had started the day on the old Baltimore & Ohio, working our way from Confluence to Sand Patch, then drove north to Hollidaysburg.

The ice cream is just a memory, but I still have the old chromes.

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DAILY POST: Black & White Scrapbook


Scans of Prints Showing Limerick Junction

Irish Rail
A Dublin bound train has the starting signal to depart Limerick Junction. In the lead is a Class 201 General Motors diesel number 215 (again!). Limerick Junction North Cabin is at the left. Exposed with a Rollei model T on black & white film.

On May 16, 2001, I was on my way from Dublin to Kilarney by train. Rather than take the most efficient route, I aimed to wander a bit on the way down.

I changed trains at Ballybrophy for the Nenagh Branch to Limerick, then traveled from Limerick to Limerick Junction where I’d time my arrival to intercept the weekday 10:34 Waterford to Limerick cement train.

At the time I was making good use of my Rolleiflex Model T to document Ireland and Irish railways in black & white.

I’d process my negatives in my Dublin apartment and make 5×7 proofing prints at the Gallery of Photography’s darkrooms at Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. Often, I schedule one day a week for printing.

Over the course of a half dozen years, I exposed several thousand black & white images, and made hundreds of prints. Sometimes I’d give prints to friends on the railroad. On more than one occasion I’d later visit a station or signal cabin and find my work displayed on the wall.

However, most of the prints remain stored in boxes. While this may help in their preservation, it doesn’t allow people to enjoy the images.

Here I’ve displayed just a few photos, where instead of scanning the negatives, I’ve scanned prints and this shows both my cropping of the image and the borders. I developed a distinctive border style for my square images that I felt worked well with the format.

In the dozen years that have passed since I exposed these photos, Limerick Junction and the trains that serve it have changed dramatically. The semaphores, cement trains and Class 121 diesels are all gone.

Irish Rail 133 works the Limerick Junction-Limerick push-pull set as the train departs the Junction on May 16, 2001. After this train departed, the signalman in the cabin gave the cement train the signal to cross the Cork line (at right), then reverse into Limerick Junction.
Irish Rail 133 works the Limerick Junction-Limerick push-pull set as the train departs the Junction on May 16, 2001. After this train departed, the signalman in the cabin gave the waiting cement train the signals to cross the Cork line (at right), then reverse into Limerick Junction.
Here a pair of Class 121s leads the 10:34 Waterford-Limerick empty cement across the 'square crossing' at Limerick Junction. In America, we'd probably call this the 'Diamond at Limerick Junction'. Although this image was exposed as a square, I cropped the negative in printing to better focus on the railway infrastructure. The top third or so of the original negative just show clouds.
Here a pair of Class 121s leads the 10:34 Waterford-Limerick empty cement across the ‘square crossing’ at Limerick Junction. In America, we’d probably call this the ‘Diamond at Limerick Junction’. Although this image was exposed as a square, I cropped the negative in printing to better focus on the railway infrastructure. The top third or so of the original negative just show clouds.
The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.
The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.

 

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END OF YEAR POST

Tracking the Light in 2013.

Searchlight signals
Blue sky and red signals; the old Boston & Maine-era searchlight protects the Bellows Falls diamond. In the steam era an old ball signal protected this crossing, then with Rutland Railroad.

Here, a potpourri of images illuminated the net; covering everything from unit oil trains to obscure eastern European transit. So, looking back, 2013 has been a productive and busy time for Tracking the Light.

My original intention with Tracking the Light was to disseminate detailed information about railway photographic technique. Over time this concept has evolved and I’ve used this as a venue for many of my tens of thousands of images.

Among the themes of the images I post; signaling, EMD 20-cylinder diesels, Irish Railways, photos made in tricky (difficult) lighting, elusive trains, weedy tracks and steam locomotives are my favorites.

Since March, I’ve posted new material daily. I’ve tried to vary the posts while largely sticking to the essential theme of railway images. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and will tell your friends about this site! There’s more to come in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Brian Solomon

General Motors Electro-Motive Division SD45 diesels
Southern Pacific 7547 leads a manifest freight timetable east at Brock, California, on SP’s East Valley line on April 28, 1991. This 35mm Kodachome image was scanned with an Epson V600. Minor adjustments were necessary using Photoshop to lighten exposure, correct contrast and color balance. The photo is seen full-frame.
Wisconsin Central
Wisconsin Central as viewed from across a cornfield at Byron, Wisconsin on December 3, 1994. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm wide angle lens on Kodachrome 25 color slide film. Scanned with a Epson V600 scanner. No post processing except as necessary to scale image for internet use and insert byline tag.
Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.
New England Central freights
New England Central freights 604 and 606 at Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX photo.
2-10-0 locomotive
Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 24mm lens with R2 red filter on Fuji Neopan 400, processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.
Bluebell Railway.
My known good spot: here a Bluebell train works the bank north of Horsted Keynes. Lumix LX3 photo.

See: Burlington Northern at Sunset, Whitefish, Montana July 5, 1994Tram in Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2008Donner Pass Part 1Bluebell Railway Revisited, July 2013-Part 2Boston & Albany Milepost 67, Brookfield, Massachusetts; Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005 . . .and more!

 

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Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Croydon Tram
This tram was difficult to miss in its iridescent special livery.
Tube station.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are among London’s largest tourist attractions. This poster describes Victorian interest in art and places photography in period context. Lumix LX3 photo.
New General Electric DASH8-40B on New York Susquehanna & Western
In 1989, New York, Susquehanna & Western served as the court appointed operator of Delaware & Hudson. By virtue of the 1976 Conrail merger, D&H had been granted trackage rights on the former Erie Railroad route from Binghamton to Buffalo, New York. On this March morning, a new NYS&W General Electric led an eastward double stack train on the old Erie near West Middlebury, New York, 384 miles from Jersey City.Exposed on 120 Kodachrome transparency film with a Hasselblad 500C with 80mm Zeiss Planar lens

 

Locomotive drive wheel
A study in motion: drive wheel, cylinder, valves and valve gear of locomotive 92212 at Kingscote. Canon EAS 7D photo.
PRR Suburban Station.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad Suburban Station as seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
rail freight

I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens, set at ISO 400 f 4.5 at 1/1000th. In post-processing I made minor adjustments to contrast and saturation to match how I perceived the light at the moment of exposure.

 

Irish Rail Gray 077 Leads Ballast Train
A landscape view of Irish Rail’s HOBS at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin on August 2, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Oil train catches the glint.
Away we go into the sunset hot in pursuit of an oil train. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at f6.3 1/1000 second at ISO 200.
CSX_oil_train_K040
First of four eastward unit oil trains; CSX K040 with a mix of CSX, KCS, and BNSF locomotives.

 

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DAILY POST: Sculpting with Light and Shadow.

Southern Pacific Truckee River Canyon Silhouette.

During the first half of 1994 I spent a lot of time photographing Southern Pacific on Donner Pass. I was especially interested in making images of hard to reach or rarely photographed locations.

June 21st is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and provides unique lighting opportunities. On this long day, I’d hoped to make some unusual images in the deeper reaches of the Truckee River Canyon.

At the time I had good access to train information, and I knew SP had a westward DVOAF (Denver-Oakland Forwarder) heading up ‘The Hill’ (as SP’s Donner Pass crossing is known, ironically).

Rather than catch this at one of many easy to reach locations off Interstate 80, I decided to hike west of Floriston, California toward old Iceland—where SP’s grade separated mainline came back together. My intention was to photograph the Harriman-era truss bridge with the train in evening sunlight.

Southern Pacific Donner Pass
Southern Pacific’s DVOAF Denver-Oakland Forwarder) works west in the Truckee River Canyon near Iceland at 6:00pm on June 21, 1994. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Nikon F3T with f4 200mm lens. Image was scanned full-frame (with edges showing) using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. One of the benefits of Kodachrome was the ability to expose images like one this with deep inky black shadows. In comparison, other media tend to suffer from bland shadow definition.

As was often the case with SP, my desired westward freight ‘fell down’ (it was delayed) and didn’t reach my location in time. I stayed in place despite this set back. I was rewarded with a dramatic sequence of images, culminating with this silhouette.

The front of the locomotive has plunged into deep shadow, yet a shaft of sunlight has illuminated the engineer. It stands out among my hundreds of Donner Pass images, and is one of my favorite. I just can’t believe its been nearly 20 years since I exposed it!

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Special Christmas Post: Lionel Train Circles the Tree.

Thomasina-the-Cat and an NW2.

Happy Christmas from Tracking the Light!

In this classic scene, my old Lionel NW2 works a local freight as Thomasina-the-Cat oversees operations.

Thomasina-the-Cat watches a Lionel NW2. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 using a mix of natural and incandescent light; f2.2 at 1/8th of second, ISO 200, auto white balance, manual focus.
Thomasina-the-Cat watches a Lionel NW2. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 using a mix of natural and incandescent light; f2.2 at 1/8th of second, ISO 200, auto white balance, manual focus.

Thomasina doesn’t know much about Christmas but she loves to watch the train.

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DAILY POST: In the Spirit of Christmas


Cold, Holiday Lights, and Trains.

New England Central
New England Central’s local freight with locomotive 3015 idles in front of the Palmer Yard (Massachusetts) office. I exposed several images, this one was at about 15 seconds.

The other night in Palmer, Massachusetts an arctic breeze was blowing, but that didn’t stop me from making time exposures to capture the holiday spirit.

I exposed these photos despite numb hands and cold feet. I used my Lumix LX-3 (choice night camera in cold weather) fitted to a large Bogen tripod.

Years ago, I fitted plastic-foam pipe insulation to the tripod legs (as per recommendation by experienced cold-weather photographer Mike Gardner). This makes it easier to handle the tripod when it’s very cold.

My exposures varied from about 1.6 seconds at f2.8 (ISO 200) to 25 seconds at f4.0 (ISO80). I set the camera manually using the histogram from test exposures to gauge my settings.

Christmas lights on dark nights make for exceptionally difficult contrast. If you overexpose to allow good shadow detail the lights get blown out (losing their color[s] as a result). Underexpose to feature the lights and the sky and shadows turn to an inky black.

Somewhere in between is a compromised setting. Rather than ponder the subtleties of the histogram as the blood in my toes congealed, I opted to take a series of images, one after the other, and select the best of the bunch in a warm environment later on.

Palmer's star railroad themed restaurant is the Steaming Tender; this has been colorfully decorated with holiday lights. I made a series of exposures from several angles. This one was exposed correctly for the lights and looked good in the histogram, but appears too dark in my opinion. I prefer the image below.
Palmer’s star railroad themed restaurant is the Steaming Tender; this has been colorfully decorated with holiday lights. I made a series of exposures from several angles. This one was exposed correctly for the lights and looked good in the histogram, but appears too dark in my opinion. I prefer the image below.
This is about one stop brighter. While I feel it looks better overall, one noticeable flaw is that the 'Steaming Tender' sign is overexposed and the lettering isn't readable. Ultimately the solution may be to blend the two images in post processing, but I've not bothered to do that yet.
This is about one stop brighter. While I feel it looks better overall, one noticeable flaw is that the ‘Steaming Tender’ sign is overexposed and the lettering isn’t readable. Ultimately the solution may be to blend two images of different exposures in post processing, but I’ve not bothered to do that yet.
New England Central's 3015 pauses in the yard for a 25 second time exposure. I wonder if the car adds an element of interest to the photo? If not now, maybe in years to come. Lumix LX3 photo.
New England Central’s 3015 pauses in the yard for a 25 second time exposure. I wonder if the car adds an element of interest to the photo? If not now, maybe in years to come. Lumix LX3 photo.
Palmer Mass.
Looking toward CP83 (interlocking at the west end of Palmer) and the old Union Station (now the ever-popular Steaming Tender restaurant). A westward CSX intermodal train from Worcester is gliding through the scene. I exposed this at about 5 seconds at ISO 200. It is about 1.5 stops ‘over exposed’ as per the camera meter, but by using a much lighter exposure I’ve captured the effect of the moonlit high clouds and textures of the snow. On the downside, some of the Christmas lights have blown out (become seriously overexposed).

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DAILY POST: Revisiting Derby Curve.

Photographing on the old Boston & Maine in the Snow.

Old Boston & Maine.
Pan Am Railways’ local freight ‘FI-1’ works west at Derby on its return to Fitchburg Yard. This is the approximate location of the photo in Ball’s book, but a bit higher. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

A few weeks ago I called into Tucker’s Hobbies to visit with Rich Reed who was working the counter. I picked up a copy of Don Ball Jrs’ classic book Americas Railroads, The Second Generation.

I remember finding a copy of Ball’s book at the Wilbraham Library when I was in Junior High School and being very impressed by the photographs and their arrangement.

In October 1981, my parents drove me to Brattleboro, Vermont on a windy, rainy evening to watch a slide show that Ball was presenting. After the show, I spoke to him briefly. I met him once again, two years later on Steamtown’s Vermont final run from Bellows Falls to Rutland. Ball was running the operation at the time.

Anyway, as I was thumbing though the pages, I came across an image at the bottom of page 29 of a pair of Boston & Maine GP9s in the 1970s-Blue Bird livery with a long freight. The location looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. The caption read ‘Lunenburg, Massachusetts.’

This puzzled me. I’m usually very good with picking out specific locations. I have a memory for that sort thing  . . . most of the time.

“Hey Rich, where’s this?”

“Lunenburg, that’s Derby Curve just west of the new interlocking. We were there a few months ago to roll by the NS intermodal train.”

Indeed we were, I remember!

So then, on Thursday, December 19, 2013, Rich, Paul Goewey and I were back in that part of the world, and we went to the very spot where Don Ball made his photograph. That wasn’t really why we were there, but we were.

The reason for our visit was that the lighting angle suited a westbound train. More to the point, Pan Am Railways’ POED (Portland to East Deerfield) freight had stalled about a mile to the west. A light engine had come out from Ayer and had tied onto the head-end to assist the train up to Gardner.

A Boston-bound MBTA train shoves eastward with the locomotive at the back. This is one of the old 'screamers' featured on Tracking the Light on December 21, 2013.
A Boston-bound MBTA train shoves eastward with the locomotive at the back. This is one of the old ‘screamers’ featured on Tracking the Light on December 21, 2013.

Instead of standing precisely in Ball’s shoes, I scrambled up the side of the hill to get a slightly higher angle. We photographed the parade trains, including the struggling POED. Looking back at Ball’s photo, it is interesting to see how much the location had changed over the years. And the railroad too!

EDPO at Derby
Pan Am Railways was having a difficult time. POED with 102 cars and weighing 4,882 tons, had stalled climbing the hill west of Shirley when its lead locomotive suffered some electrical difficulties. To get the train moving, this Norfolk Southern GE DASH8-40C was sent from Ayer to assist. The train is on the move heading west at Derby Curve just after 1:34 in the afternoon. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Trailing view of Pan Am Railway's POED. The failed locomotive is a former Southern Pacific SD45. I wonder, had I seen this locomotive on Donner Pass or climbing the Siskiyou Line? Anyone have a roster handy? Today its Pan Am 611, what was it back then?
Trailing view of Pan Am Railway’s POED. The failed locomotive is a former Southern Pacific SD45. I wonder, had I seen this locomotive on Donner Pass or climbing the Siskiyou Line? Anyone have a roster handy? Today its Pan Am 611, what was it back then?

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DAILY POST: Screamer’s Swan Song?

MBTA F40PHs Roar West on the Fitchburg.

On Thursday (December 19, 2013) I made these photos of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter trains on the old Fitchburg route.

A screamer roars west of Derby on December 19, 2013. Pan photo exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.
A screamer roars west of Derby on December 19, 2013. Pan photo exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

For some 35 years, Electro-Motive F40PH diesels have worked these lines. MBTA’s early F40PHs supply head-end power from the 16-645E3 prime mover by running the engine at high rpms. The result is a high-pitched scream that has given these locomotives their nickname.

Replacement locomotives are on their way and the first have already arrived. How much longer will these old screamers work the Fitch? Bets anyone?

Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.

 

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DAILY POST: Vermont Twilight

Ghost of the Balls in Bellow Falls.

Searchlight signals
Blue sky and red signals; the old Boston & Maine-era searchlight protects the Bellows Falls diamond. In the steam era an old ball signal protected this crossing, then with Rutland Railroad.

Twilight, apparently, may strictly defined by the specific position of the sun below the horizon.

‘Civil Twilight’ as defined by the National Weather Service, is ‘the time at which the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon.’ Key to this period is that ‘there is enough light for objects to be clear distinguishable.”

I’ve always used the term in a more general sense to indicate the time of day when there’s a glow in the sky (before sunrise or after sunset). I suppose, the more appropriate title for these evening photographs would ‘Dusk at Bellows Falls.’

Anyway, it was the end of day’s photography in October 2004, when Tim Doherty and I visited Bellows Falls to witness the arrival of Guilford Rail System’s WJED (White River Junction-East Deerfield) freight.

This train worked interchange from Vermont Rail System’s Green Mountain Railroad and I made a series of atmospheric images at the passenger station. In the lead was a former Norfolk Southern high-hood GP35, a rare-bird indeed.

Bellows Falls is one of my favorite places to make railway images. I’ve been visiting as long as I can remember. My family had been taking day trips to Bellows Falls, and some of my earliest memories are of the tracks here. But, I’ve rarely made photos here at this time of day.

Twilight? Dusk? Evening? How about: dark enough to warrant a tripod, but light enough to retain color in the sky?

Guilford’s WJED eases past the Bellows Falls passenger station. Exposed using a Nikon N90S with Fujichrome.
Guilford’s WJED eases past the Bellows Falls passenger station. Exposed using a Nikon N90S with Fujichrome.
WJED shoves back on the interchange to collect cars from the Green Mountain Railroad.  The Rutland had been gone more 40 years when I made these photos; more than 50 now. Which went first? The Rutland or the balls at Bellows Falls?
WJED shoves back on the interchange to collect cars from the Green Mountain Railroad. The Rutland had been gone more 40 years when I made these photos; more than 50 now. Which went first? The Rutland or the balls at Bellows Falls?

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DAILY POST: Irish Rail at Ballybrophy, June 2006.

Views of Action and Architecture

Ballybrophy is a rural station on Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork main line. It’s probably the smallest community on the route to retain an active passenger station and survives as result of it being the connection to the Nenagh Branch.

Most trains blitz the place at track speed. A few miles east of the station is a summit known as the top of Ballybrophy Bank. Here a lightly used road crosses the line on a bridge which offers a nice view for Cork trains.

Irish Rail
A Dublin-bound train led by an 071-Class flashes through Ballybrophy. What this photo can’t convey is the sound. I could hear this General Motors locomotive in full ‘run-8’ (maximum throttle) for several minutes before the train appeared into view. Powered by a 12-cylinder 645 turbocharged diesel, this machine makes a characteristic drumming sound that permeates the landscape. The sound receded as the train charged to ‘the top of Bally Bank’. Contax G2 rangefinder with 28mm Biogon lens.

I’ve made many visits to Ballybrophy over the years, both to ride the Nenagh Branch and to photograph trains on the mainline.

These images were exposed on an unusually sunny June 3, 2006 using my Contax G2 rangefinder.

 

The classic old stone railway station at Ballybrophy is a treasure. There’s plenty of time between trains to study the architecture. Contax G2 with 45mm lens.
The classic old stone railway station at Ballybrophy is a treasure. There’s plenty of time between trains to study the architecture. Contax G2 with 45mm lens.
Freshly painted Irish Rail 215, a General Motors-built 201 class diesel, leads a Cork-bound train that has just crested ‘Bally Bank’ on its down-road run. Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.
Freshly painted Irish Rail 215, a General Motors-built 201 class diesel, leads a Cork-bound train that has just crested ‘Bally Bank’ on its down-road run. Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.

The classic old stone railway station at Ballybrophy is a treasure. There’s plenty of time between trains to study the architecture. Contax G2 with 45mm lens.

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DAILY POST: Rochester & Southern EMD Switcher


Brooks Avenue Yard, September 23, 1987.

Among my favorite locomotives are Electro-Motive’s classic end-cab switchers, of the sort introduced in the mid-1930s with EMC model SC.

I became familiar with this type as a result of an O-Gauge Lionel NW-2 dressed for Santa Fe that my father bought for me about 1972. Later, I watched and photographed full scale switchers on Penn-Central, Conrail and Boston & Maine.

This type in effect emulated the shape of the common steam locomotive, allowing the engineer to look down the length of the hood, instead of a boiler. Electro-Motive wasn’t first to use this arrangement, which Alco introduced in the early 1930s. But, it was the Electro-Motive switcher that I found to have a classic sound and shape.

EMD SW1200
Rochester & Southern SW1200 107 is posed in front of the Brooks Avenue yard office between 9:45 and 10:15 am on September 23, 1987. I made this photograph with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film. At the time was doing a lighting test with my Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter. Puffy clouds were rapidly passing over and intermittently blocking (and diffusing) the sunlight. I made careful notes of changes in exposure which varied by two full stops between ‘full sun’ and shaded. —
Incidentally, I published this image on page 53 of The American Diesel Locomotive (MBI Publishing, 2000).

 

 

When I was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1980s, Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard was just a few minutes away. I routinely stopped by the yard to see what was going on.

At that time, R&S 107—a former Southern Pacific SW1200—could be routinely found drilling cars. Over the years, I made a number of images of this old goat.

I left Rochester in 1989. I wonder what has become of this switcher? Does it still sport the SP-order oscillating lights?

See previous Tracking the Light posts:  Lehigh Valley 211 at Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York;  Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction, November 4, 1987; and Two Freights 24 Hours Apart

 

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