Over the years I’ve used a great variety of Camera-film combinations.
In 2009, I largely worked with a pair of Canon EOS-3s loaded with Fujichrome.
On an October trip to photograph along the old Erie Railroad, I had one of my EOS-3s fitted with a Canon 100-400mm. The morning of the 6th, I caught Western New York & Pennsylvania’s HNME (Hornell, New York to Meadville, PA) arriving a Meadville.
A dozen years earlier I’d photographed the same Montreal Locomotive Works diesel working the Cartier Railway in Quebec using Nikon cameras loaded with Kodachrome.
I wonder how I might capture this scene today with my current camera combinations?
These twin semaphores were located near milepost 317 on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad in the Canisteo River Valley east of Hornell, New York.
Although visible from the Canisteo River Road, to reach them required a short walk across a farmer’s field.
The difficulty of capturing this pair of signals with a train was the tight angle on a tangent during normal operations.
My solution to this visual problem was to photograph the signals with a train moving against the current of traffic.
The challenge was finding a train running ‘wrong main’ at the right time of day.
In January 1988, I had my opportunity. A Conrail double-stack had been given a Form-D to run against the current of traffic on the No. 1 track from Hornell to Gang Mills. I raced ahead in time to jog through the field and set up east of the signals.
Working with my Leica M2 and my dad’s 135mm Elmarit lens, I made a series of Kodachrome slides. This image was first the in the sequence and nicely shows the signals and stacks in the scenic valley.
This Kodachrome slide has languished in the darkness for 32 years.
I’d followed a westward empty Conrail coal train through New York’s Canisteo Valley on the evening of April 7, 1989.
It had been an overcast day with laden clouds. Yet traffic had been heavy on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad lines in western New York.
At the time Conrail was routing coal empties west from Hornell via the old Erie main line that went through Alfred and Andover, then operated as the Meadville Line.
West of Hornell this route ascended a steep grade that brought heavy trains to a crawl.
In the fading light of that April evening, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide along Canacadea Creek. If I recall correctly, my shutter speed was about 1/30th of a second.
Why such a slow film?
That is what I had in my Leica M, and so I made do.
Here are two versions of the scanned image. The first is scaled but unmodified. The second is a heavily modified image to make the most of the extremes of Kodachrome’s capturing ability while adding drama to the scene.
On November 24, 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I were wrapping our photography for the day, having spent it following the old Erie Railroad mainline in New York state. A railroad then operated as part of Conrail’s Southern Tier District.
Just after sunset, we were visiting the old bridge (since removed) over the east end of the Gang Mills Yard (near Corning, New York). A bit of evening ‘drop under’ sun had tickled the clouds pink, when a headlight appeared to the west.
Working with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm lens, I made a sequence of photos on Kodachrome 200 of the passing Conrail piggyback train. This film offered speed, but it was difficult to work with. Not only was K200 grainy, but it had a fairly narrow expose latitude as compared with either Fuji Sensia or Kodachrome 25.
At the time I made the slide, I’d exposed for the sky, aiming to retain the texture and color, but as a result the tracks and train were a bit under exposed. Last night, I made a multiple pass scan from a slide in the sequence. Then in post processing, I lightened the foreground, while adjusting color and contrast for a more pleasing image, yet one that hopefully looks like it was exposed on Earth, and not on Mars.
Below are two comparisons. The first is the unadjusted scan (scaled for internet), the second is my adjusted scan.
Last summer I interviewed career railroader Mike Lacey on his experiences working for Erie Lackawanna and Conrail as part of my ‘Conversations with Brian Solomon’ podcasts with Trains Magazine. This is episode 39 in the series.
Mike is a fifth generation railroader.
You can listen to my Trains interview:
I have the pleasure of learning from Mike, who is now the Road Foreman of Engines and Train Master at Conway Scenic Railroad.
I made these photos in the last week of Mike in the cab of locomotive 1751, a former Baltimore & Ohio/Chesapeake & Ohio GP9.
Mike is also featured in my June 2020 Trains Magazine column.
In the June 2020 Trains Magazine my monthly column features an interview with career railroader Mike Lacey, who started with Erie Lackawanna in 1968 and cut his teeth at the former Erie yards at Meadville.
I made this view on a visit to Meadville with fellow photographers Pat Yough and Tim Doherty on October 12, 2008.
Western New York & Pennsylvania’s former New York Central C-430 3000 was working the yard with engineer Chris Southwell at the throttle.
Exposed with Fujichrome Velvia100F using a Canon EOS-3.