Tag Archives: Erie Railroad

BUOI in the Snow, Future CP Adrian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conrail at Olean—November 6, 1988.

Yesterday I scanned this 30 year Kodachrome  25 slide using a Nikon Coolscan5000 operated with VueScan 9.6.09 scanning software.. 

The unmodified scan is a bit on the dark side. I’d been chasing Conrail ELOI (Elkhart to Oak Island) eastbound on the former Erie Railroad on typically dull western New York November day.

Many of my photos from that chase were exposed on black & white film using my father’s old Rollei Model T. At least one of those appeared in CTC Board as a Conrail new illustration back in the day.

When I reached Olean, I wanted to feature the crossing with the former PRR route to Buffalo, which was then also a Conrail secondary main line, and I made this panned view of ELOI’s lead locomotive crossing the diamonds.

I exposed this at f5.6 1/30 second to capture the motion of the locomotive.

Unmodified scan, except for scaling for internet presentation (the original is about 110MB).

After scanning, I imported the slide into Lightroom and made a variety of corrections to improve the appearance of the image. This included slight cropping to improve the level; color correction, lightening of the shadow areas and over-all contrast control.

I’ve include both the unmodified scan and corrected image here.

Corrected scan outputted as a JPG file for internet.

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Conrail BUOI at West Cameron, New York.

In Autumn 1988, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of Conrail’s BUOI (Buffalo, New York to Oak Island, New Jersey) rolling through the Canisteo Valley near West Cameron, New York.

During the late 1980s, the Canisteo Valley was among my favorite venues for photographing Conrail freights.

This is among the legions of Conrail slides that I considered for my upcoming book ‘Conrail and its Predecessors’.

I’m entering the final stages of photo selection and have begun the captioning process.

This is the same scan, but here I’ve lightened the image and warmed it slightly for improved internet presentation.

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Conrail’s OIEL—April 7, 1989.

I’m reviewing thousands of Conrail photos to make final selections for my new book on Conrail. Among the images I’m considering is this one (and similar views) of Conrail’s OIEL (Oak Island, New Jersey to Elkhart, Indiana) that I exposed on the former Erie Railroad in New York’s Canisteo Valley.

For me this image distills what was cool about Conrail’s Canisteo. The sinuous trackage with multiple-tier code lines and semaphores along a green tinted river against a backdrop of shadowy dark hills. Milepost 311 near Cameron, New York April 7, 1989. Kodachrome 25.

I like this photograph because it captures the essence of the old Erie Railroad as it winds along the Canisteo River. In the distance, you can see one of the many upper quadrant Union Switch & Signal style-S semaphores that governed train movements through the 1980s.

Will this slide make the final cut? I have hundreds of color slides exposed in the Canisteo Valley back in Conrail days.

Tough choices will be made.

Regardless, someone might complain, ‘there’s too many scenic views with semaphores in the Conrail book!’

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Happy Birthday Conrail!

Conrail began operations on April 1, 1976.

The class 1 carrier It would have been 43 years in operation today.

The name lives on as Conrail Shared Assets, the terminal operation jointly owned by Conrail’s buyers, Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film with a Leica.

I made this photo in September 1988 of Conrail OIBU (Oak Island to Buffalo) working the old Erie Railroad near Swain, New York.

May 2019 Trains Magazine features my Conrail retrospective. This is a prelude to a new book I’m working on that will cover Conrail and its predecessors—no foolin’!


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Tanks on the old Erie Railroad; Canisteo Valley New York 1987.


In March 1987, I made a trip to the scenic Canisteo Valley where I photographed trains on the former Erie Railroad.

I made this view at the Canisteo River Road crossing at West Cameron, New York of DODX 6-axle flats carrying tanks. This was an eastward Conrail BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) freight and it was rolling along at a healthy speed.

At the time, I was experimenting with my black & white process. Unfortunately, I should have experimented with film of subjects that wouldn’t have been so interesting to me 30 years after the fact.

This roll of 120 film has been largely unseen since the 1980s. My ineffective trial yielded uneven processing and negatives that were difficult to print with poor tonality.

Today, I think the subject matter is fascinating despite the inept process.

The irony was that I was adapting a formula recommended to me by former New York Central photographer Ed Nowak. The lesson here is don’t allow a New York Central photographer advise you on how to process photos of the Erie Railroad! (Railroad photography humor).

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CSX SD40-2 on the old Erie: Delaware & Hudson Sealand Train, Attica, New York.


In September 1988, I was set up at Dixon’s on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad line over Attica Hill.

Roaring up the grade with a CSX SD40-2 in the lead was this Delaware & Hudson Sealand doublestack land-bridge train bound for Little Ferry, New Jersey. The New York, Susquehanna & Western had just been appointed designated operator of the D&H, and NYSW locomotives were common on many D&H road freights.

Land-bridge trains, such as this one, reached the east coast via Delaware & Hudson trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie mainlines between Binghamton and Buffalo, New York, and NYSW’s rights on the old Erie east of Binghamton.

Catching a CSX painted locomotive was a rare find in western New York in 1988, and finding one leading on the Erie seemed like a special treat.

This represents window in time in the dynamic melting pot of western New York railroading in the late 1980s.

After exposing this black & white view using my dad’s Rollei model T, I followed the train east and exposed dozens of photos along the way.

Conrail at the Portage Bridge Letchworth Park, New York.


On the morning of May 9, 1987 I exposed this view of Conrail’s BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) easing across the former Erie Railroad Portage Viaduct over the Genesee River at Letchworth Park.

I was working with my father’s Rollei Model T that he purchased in Düsseldorf, Germany 28 years earlier. My film of the day was Kodak T-Max 400 (TMY).

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Conrail Classic—SD50s on the move! A grab shot along the old Erie Railroad.

On May 2, 1987, Doug Eisele and I spent the day photographing trains on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.

We been following Conrail TV301, a double-stack train carrying APL containers on a transcontinental land-bridge movement toward the west coast. At the time, the Erie route was preferred for double-stacks.

At Dalton, New York we spotted an eastward Delaware & Hudson stack train carrying Sealand containers. This was crawling along the old Erie eastbound number two track at about 10mph, as Conrail didn’t maintain the eastward track for anything faster than that, and instead preferred to route all movements over the number 1 main.

As the Conrail train was flying along, we pulled over and bailed out the car; and I made this hastily composed photograph with my father’s Rollieflex Model T on Kodak TMY (Tmax 400).

While not a perfect composition, for me this captures the spirit of the moment, and shows the old Erie Railroad alive with heavy freight.


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Conrail Pacing View.

On September 30, 1988, I was pacing westward Conrail freight OIBU-9 between Swain and Dalton, New York on the former Erie Railroad route from Hornell to Buffalo.

From the window of my Dodge Dart, I used my Leica M2 to make this grab shot as I reached the head end of the train.

My notes from the day indicate my exposure was equivalent to f4 at 1/250th of a second with Kodachrome 25; however I probably exposed this slide at f8 1/60th of second to enhance the effect of motion. The train had three EMD locomotives (at least one Norfolk Southern behind the leader) followed by 141 cars. 8:36 AM on September 30, 1988.

For more than 30 years this Kodachrome slide sat in my file. I reviewed it the other day while searching for Conrail photos for an upcoming book tentatively titled ‘Conrail and its Predecessors.’

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On the old Erie Railroad 30 years ago Today!


This morning, January 14, 2019, I scanned a Kodachrome slide that had been hiding for 30 years.

It was on January 14, 1989 that I spent the morning photographing Conrail’s former Erie railroad line between Hornell and Buffalo, New York.

At Portageville, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of Delaware & Hudson/New York, Susquehanna & Western Sealand doublestack train symbol NY10 with SD45 3630 working east. The back of the train is crossing the old Portage Bridge over the Letchworth Gorge, so the train is walking along at about 10mph.

At the time NYSW was designated operator of Delaware & Hudson, which included D&H’s trackage rights to Buffalo.

Working with my Leica M2 fitted with a f2.0 50m Summicron, I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 at f4.5 1/250thof second at 9:14 am.
Working with my Leica M2 fitted with a f2.0 50m Summicron, I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 at f4.5 1/250thof second at 9:14 am. 


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Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Coal Train: Saving a Sunset Chrome.

On November 15, 1987, I followed a loaded PLMT coal train east from Buffalo, New York. This train had operated with Pittsburgh & Lake Erie locomotives and was being handled by Guilford’s Delaware & Hudson via trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.

Try to fit all that on the slide mount!

At the time these coal trains operated about once a week, and while it wasn’t uncommon to find P&LE locomotives, catching the trains on film was challenging.

I made this view on Kodachrome 25 with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron Lens. It’s a badly under exposed long pan (about 1/8 of a second) from a hillside off the Canisteo River Road, in the valley of that name, a few miles east of Adrian.

The original slide was made at the very end of daylight, and the slow speed ISO25 film didn’t give me the needed sensitivity to capture the scene with adequate exposure.

That’s a long way of saying; it was dark and I underexposed the film.

Here’s the scaled, but unadjusted scan. It’s about 3 to 4 stops underexposed. The slide is nearly opaque except for the sky. Exposure was about f2.0 at 1/8 second on Kodachrome 25 (ISO 25).

Thankfully, I didn’t through the slide away.

I scanned it using VueScan 9×64 (edition 9.6.09) software and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 slide scanner. It opted for manual controls; I selected 4000 dpi input, under ‘color’ I used the Kodachrome K14 color profile, and while output was set at 4000 dpi as a TIF file.

I then imported the TIF into Lightroom for color, exposure and contrast adjustment, necessary to compensate for my extreme underexposure. To hold sky detail, I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter.

Here’s my first round of adjustments. I thought the sky and overall color balance  seemed a bit otherworldly so I zeroed out the adjustments and started again. Compare this with the image below.

Although similar, this version is better balanced and looks closer to the original scene. Although underexposed, the Kodachrome film was able to capture some detail over more than 6 stops, allowing for post processing adjustment.

Although slightly grainy, the results are much improved over the original and captures my intended effect of the train rolling at speed through the Canisteo Valley at dusk.

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Style-S Semaphore Where You Wouldn’t Expect to Find One.

In my books on railroad signaling I’ve chronicled the history of Union Switch & Signal’s Style S semaphores.

See: Classic Railroad Signals

In the 1980s and 1990s, I made a project of photographing these three-position semaphores on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad route.

Recently a Style S signal has appeared in Palmer, Massachusetts in front of the railroad-themed ‘Train Masters Inn’.

A recent photo of the preserved US&S Style S semaphore in front of the Train Masters Inn on South Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts. Can you spot the erroneous installation?

I asked the owner where he got it, and he indicated from a dealer in Ohio.

For point of comparison, I’ve included a few of my photos of semaphores along the old Erie.

This was a signal near Erie’s 242 milepost. The style of blade is a bit more modern than the signal in Palmer as it uses a different counterweight arrangement. However careful comparison between this blade and the preserved blade should lead to a conclusion.

Certainly, the signal in Palmer has similarities with the Erie’s; same type of blade as used on older installations, same type of finial.

Careful observers will notice the operating mistake in the way this preserved signal was installed; something that could be easily rectified.

A Susquehanna SD45 roars west at Canaseraga, New York on the old Erie Railroad mainline. Exposed on Kodachrome in May 1988.

Conrail’s BUOI is running on track 1 against the current of traffic so the semaphore is displaying ‘stop and proceed’ as this is automatic block signal territory. Believe it or not, this was exposed on May 7th, 1989 following a freak late season snow storm.

So I ask, where did this signal come from? Is it from the old Erie? And if so, where .I’d like to know.

The Train Masters Inn is a B&B located near the old Palmer Union Station. See: train masters inn.

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Erie Shadows—Piermont, New York.

Piermont, New York was the Erie Railroad’s original eastern terminus. This Hudson River port was so-designated because the railroad was intended to operate within the State of New York. The railroad developed a large pier here for transshipping goods and people via the Hudson to New York City.

The other day my brother Sean and I explored Piermont and it’s Pier. Although there’s very little evidence left of the Erie itself, I was curious to see this once important place. This is part of my on-going research and photography of the old Erie Railroad.

These images were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1. However, I also exposed a few 35mm color slides that will be useful in future slide presentations.

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Erie Railroad Semaphore—Canisteo River Valley at Cameron, New York.

Erie Railroad Semaphore—Canisteo River Valley at Cameron, New York.

I made this view during a snow squall at Cameron, New York in 1987.

This wasn’t yesterday. Exposed on black & white film using a Rolleiflex model T.

This shows the old Erie Railroad mainline at the Canisteo River Road grade crossing near milepost 314, a line then operated by Conrail.

That’s my old 1973 Plymouth Scamp parked by the side of the road.

The subject of the photo is the vintage Union Switch & Signal Style-S three-position upper quadrant semaphore.

I was on an exploratory trip of the Canisteo River Valley that contributed to many photographs of trains in this supremely scenic area.

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The Secret Muse—Seeking Vision.

Here’s key to a secret, one tightly held: More often than not I make photographs for a specific audience.

This has myriad manifests. It may be something as simple as photographing a friend’s favorite locomotive, or capturing a location once shared by a fellow photographer.

However, often it goes deeper. I’ll aim to capture a scene by working with light, shapes and subject in a way that I hope will appeal to a friend.

Sometimes, I’ll simply forward these photos directly to the person in question. To my father, I’ll send photos from my travels in Europe, to my mother, I’ll email photos of my friends and acquaintances.

I might forward an image to an editor that I made to pique their interest.

If I score something really unusual, I might goad a fellow photographer hoping to push them into exposing a similar or better photograph.

In April 1988, I made this photograph of Conrail’s BUOI working east through the Canisteo Valley near West Cameron, New York.

Yet, often my very best photographs are those that I make to fulfill a personal ideal.

What?

Ok, my most successful images are those I made to please me.

One last secret. I rarely publish these.

Why?

Because I don’t need to.

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Erie Heritage—Port Jervis, New York.

As a fan of the Erie, I’m drawn to Port Jervis out of curiosity.

Historically this was an important place on the old Erie Railroad. The Erie passed into history years ago, and now Port Jervis is little more than a minor commuter train terminal.

Today, it’s Erie heritage is honored at several locations in the town.

The old turntable west of the Metro-North station was restored in the 1990s. Former Erie E8A locomotive 833 is displayed in Erie paint on the table, with a former Delaware & Hudson RS-3 in a near-Erie livery (lettered for owner New York & Greenwood Lakes) rests nearby.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7. Not the nicest morning, but the wet dreary condition seem to suit the old Erie.

Photo exposed using a Lumix LX7 as a RAW file. I made several adjustments to exposure, contrast and color temperature to improve the overall appearance of the photo.

Not an Erie locomotive, although the Erie had plenty of similar Alco road switcher and these would have been common at Port Jervis in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Several blocks away is the restored Erie Depot and a nearby business styled as the Erie Hotel [http://theeriehotel.com/hotel] that boasts historic links with to Erie passenger travel.

I visited Port Jervis the other day and made these digital photos with my Lumix LX7.

I also a exposed a few color slides and some black & white film (pending processing).

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Soo Line on Tax Day!

Soo Line on Tax Day!
Soo Line on Tax Day! A Soo Line SD40-2 leads an eastward CP Rail freight near Dalton, New York on 15 April 2004. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss lens.

The old Erie Railroad is one of my favorite lines.

Mike Gardner and I got a very early start on 15 April 2004. We worked our way west to the Portage Bridge at the Letchworth Gorge in western New York State in time to intercept an eastward CP Rail freight.

We chased this capturing it in multiple locations along the old Erie line to Hornell. At this time Norfolk Southern was the owner operator, while CP Rail operated via Delaware & Hudson trackage rights.

Clear blue dome; bright red EMDs, and great scenery with a good quality chase road made the morning extra productive.

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Conrail at 10 mph; Arkport, New York on the old Erie Railroad.

It was April 1989 when I exposed this view of Conrail’s BUOI (Frontier Yard Buffalo to Oak Island, New Jersey) bumping along the number 2 track at Arkport, New York.

At that time this portion of the old Erie Railroad line from Hornell to Buffalo as still directional double track (rule 251) with block signals largely in the from of antique Union Switch & Signal Style S semaphores.

A 35mm black & white photograph exposed using a Leica M3 rangefinder.
A 35mm black & white photograph exposed using a Leica M3 rangefinder with 90mm lens. That’s my old (then new) Bogen 3021 tripod that I’d lent to a fellow photographer ( seen at left).

Between Hornell and Hunt, New York, Erie’s old eastward main wasn’t maintained for speeds faster than about 10mph, and when possible Conrail routed traffic against the current of traffic on the westward (number 1 track.) Not on this day though.

I was working with two Leica M rangerfinders that day; I made a similar view on Kodachrome slide film with my M2 that appeared in RailNews for its ‘Farewell to Conrail’ issue back in 1999 (a little more than ten years after I exposed it).

While Conrail was only an extant player in American mainline freight operations for a little more than 23 years, it was my favorite of the big eastern railroads.

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Upper Quadrant Semaphore on the old Erie Railroad.

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In the 1980s, I made hundreds of images of upper quadrant three-position semaphores along the old Erie Railroad in New York State, a line then part of the Conrail system.

A Union Switch & Signal upper quadrant semaphore blade, exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens.
A Union Switch & Signal upper quadrant semaphore blade, exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens.

I focused on this semaphore near Tioga Center, New York in August 1988. This is part of a sequence that portrayed the signal in its three position and this image is of the ‘approach aspect’.

Learn more about American semaphore practice in my book, Classic Railroad Signals published by Voyageur Press.

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Tracking the Light EXTRA: Conrail 27 Years Ago this Very Day!

A few minutes ago I scanned this Kodachrome slide. When I went to caption the file, I thought,
“Jan 14th 1989. Wow, that’s exactly 27 years ago.”

So, there you go.

Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 on January 14, 1989.
Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 on January 14, 1989.

I’d been photographing Conrail symbol freight BUOI-4X (extra section of Buffalo to Oak Island Yard, New Jersey). This freight worked the old Erie Railroad route and picked up re-built New York City Subway cars from the Morrison-Knudsen plant in Hornell, New York.

I made this view at the old Erie Railroad East Hornell Yards that was mostly used for storage of old freight cars. (And yes, I do have some nice photographs of the old freight cars).

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On the Erie—Off Season Snow at Swain, New York.

Snow in May? When I awoke I was astounded. But sure enough, on May 7, 1989, there was about six inches of fresh snow on the ground at Scottsville, New York.

I’d immediately mobilize to make use of the unusual weather.

Heavy wet snow with freshly budding trees was a disaster for signal code lines. Branches had brought down lines along both Conrail’s former Water Level and Erie routes.

I learned of a couple of trains working east from Buffalo on the Erie line. First I chased DHT-4, a Delaware & Hudson double stack, then I doubled back west to pick up Conrail’s BUOI led by General Electric C30-7A 6598.

Conrail_BUOI_Swain_NY_May7_1989_PX©Brian_Solomon_663569
Conrail C30-7A 6598 (built by GE in 1984) leads BUOI (Frontier Yard, Buffalo to Oak Island, New Jersey) eastward on the former Erie Railroad at Swains, New York. If you look at old maps you’ll see evidence of a Pennsylvania Railroad line that ran roughly parallel to the Erie and connected with the old Pittsburgh, Shawmut & Northern not far from this location. This photo was exposed on May 7, 1989 at about 1:20pm.

The train had 103 cars and was moving along at little more than a walking pace.

I exposed this view near Swains, New York using my father’s Leica M3 with a 50mm Summicron. The snow made for some peculiar contrast that was well suited to Kodak Plus X.

My notes from the day read: “Snow! V.Bright” with some light meter readings in footcandles to aid in processing.

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A Camel in the Snow.

General Electric delivered Conrail’s ten C32-8s in 1984. These were a group of unusual pre-production DASH-8 locomotives, and earned the nickname ‘camels’ owing to their humpback appearance.

I’ve always liked these distinctive locomotives and I had ample opportunities to photograph them on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.
Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.

In March 1988, I was skipping class at Rochester Institute of Technology and photographing along the former Erie Railroad in New York’s Canisteo Valley.

In the afternoon, light rain had changed to snow. I was set up by the semaphores at milepost 308 west of Rathbone, New York and caught Conrail’s westward doublestack train TV301 roaring through the valley with nearly two miles of train in tow.

In the lead was C32-8 6617, an old favorite from my travels on B&A. I find it hard to believe that this locomotive was less than four years old at the time.

The old Union & Switch Signal Style S semaphores were decommissioned in January 1994.

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Kodachrome File: Crazy Weather in Warsaw . . .

New York.

On the old Erie Railroad.

On May 7, 1989, I awoke to find more than 6 inches of snow on the ground at Scottsville, New York. The previous day, people had been mowing lawns.

By 11:42 am, I’d caught up with Delaware & Hudson’s DHT-4, a double stack train that was working its way east from Buffalo on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad mainline

At the time New York, Susquehanna & Western was D&H’s designated operator.

 NYS&W SD45 3614 (former Burlington Northern) leads Delaware & Hudson DHT-4 on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad mainline to Buffalo near milepost 374 (measured from Jersey City).

NYS&W SD45 3614 (former Burlington Northern) leads Delaware & Hudson DHT-4 on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad mainline to Buffalo near milepost 374 (measured from Jersey City).

More to the point, the late season snow had contributed to a signal failure, and the freight was stopped at red signal near Warsaw, and awaiting instructions from the dispatcher. I made this photograph using my Leica M2 loaded with Kodachrome 25. I had the camera fitted with a Visoflex and 200mm Telyt (which was a combination I was using a lot back then).

Since DHT-4 wasn’t moving, I opted to play around with some non-standard compositions. This slide was in my ‘Seconds box’ (not to be projected to an audience) for 25 years. I also have some more conventional views as well.

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Conrail from the Archives: Along the Erie Railroad November 1988.

From Common to Classic.

I made this square-format black & white photograph on the morning of November 6, 1988 using my father’s old Rollei Model T.

Conrail C30-7A 6595 leads ELOI eastbound along the Allegheny River west of Allegany, New York at 11:58am on November 6, 1988. Exposed on ISO 400 Kodak Tri-X with a Rollei Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar, f5.6 1/250th of a second.
Conrail C30-7A 6595 leads ELOI eastbound along the Allegheny River west of Allegany, New York at 11:58am on November 6, 1988. Exposed on ISO 400 Kodak Tri-X with a Rollei Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar, f5.6 1/250th of a second.

At the time, I was traveling with Pete Swanson in his 1980s-era Renault Encore. We’d driven down from the Rochester area, and at 11:11 am we intercepted Conrail’s ELOI (Elkhart, Indiana to Oak Island freight) working east on the former Erie Railroad mainline west of Salamanca.

Track conditions made this a fairly easy chase, and we made several images around Salamanca, New York.

A few weeks earlier, I’d made some photo copies of USGS topo maps for the Salamanca area, and on a previous trip scoped out this location, located between Carrollton and Allegany, New York.

Although only a short distance from old highway 17 (at that time I don’t think the grade separate Route 17 had been completed), this location require a little fore-knowledge as it wasn’t obvious from the road.

Conrail had recently performed some work along this section of old Erie route which opened up photo locations such as this one. Today, the line is operated by the Western New York & Pennsylvania.

A tightly cropped portion of the above photo. I scanned my old negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.
A tightly cropped portion of the above photo. I scanned my old negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner.

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Norfolk Southern on the old Erie Railroad in August

I thought it would be nice to take a look back at summer; warm, green and sunny!

Norfolk Southern M3T plies the old Erie Railroad near Portageville, New York on August 20, 2010. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens at ISO 200, f6.3 1/800th of a second. Auto white balance.
Norfolk Southern M3T plies the old Erie Railroad near Portageville, New York on August 20, 2010. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens at ISO 200, f6.3 1/800th of a second. Auto white balance.

I exposed this photograph near Portageville, New York on August 20, 2010. A Norfolk Southern SD60M was working an extra eastward freight symbol M3T on the former Erie Railroad.

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Tomorrow, a look back along the Erie route to 1988.

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November Snow, New York’s Southern Tier.

November 19, 1986.

It had hardly snowed at all in Rochester when I departed before dawn in my 1973 Plymouth Scamp. I found the traveling treacherous on Interstate 390 , but I was determined to made photos in the snow along the former Erie Railroad mainline.

I arrived at Gang Mills as the storm was clearing to the east. The sun was just starting to poke out from behind the clouds and there was a fresh layer of snow over everything.

I had three cameras with me that day, including my roommate’s Canon A1 that was loaded with a fresh roll of Kodachrome 64 (a gift from Kodak). Using my Leica, I exposed a few photos of eastward Conrail APL Stack Train TV-302 that was changing crews. Then plotted my course east.

Conrail's TV302  was changing crews at Gang Mills_NY at 8:50 am on November 19, 1986. I had only a few minutes to figure out what to do and I'd never followed the old Erie east of Gang Mills before. Exposed with my room mate's Canon A1 with 50mm lens. Kodachrome 25.
Conrail’s TV302 was changing crews at Gang Mills at 8:50 am on November 19, 1986. I had only a few minutes to figure out what to do and I’d never followed the old Erie Railroad east of Gang Mills before. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film with my Leica 3A with 65mm Elmar f6.3 1/200th of a second.

While I knew the line west toward Hornell through the Canisteo Valley, this was my first trip eastward along the former Erie toward Binghamton. I neither had good maps nor a scanner, but I had an eastbound train, fresh snow, sunlight and Kodachrome. (And the desire to make photos!).

Over the next few years, I’d become very familiar with the old Erie mainline in this area, but rarely would I have conditions like this again.

I found the old Chemung station. Not long after I got out of my car, I could hear the stack train roaring along; GP40-2s with nearly two miles of train. That old Canon A1 had a motor drive and I used it! Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Canon A1 and 50mm lens.
I found the old Chemung station. Not long after I got out of my car, I could hear the stack train roaring along; TV-302 with GP40-2s and nearly two miles of train. That old Canon A1 had a motor drive and I used it! Kodachrome 64 exposed at f9 1/250th of a second with my roommate’s  Canon A1 and 50mm lens. 9:50am on November 19, 1986. My Sekonic light meter with incident attachment indicated 320 foot candles (and that is about a stop brighter than normal daylight conditions owing to the snow)

Another frame in the motor drive sequence.
Another frame in the motor drive sequence.

In the spirit of the moment I made this trailing view. At the time I feared I was 'wasting film'; today I'm glad I did! Canon A1 with 50mm lens exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film.
9:50am on November 19, 1986: In the spirit of the moment I made this trailing view at Chemung, New York. At the time I feared I was ‘wasting film’; today I’m glad I did! Canon A1 with 50mm lens exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film. f9 at 1/250th of a second.

An hour after I let TV-302 go, I found a westward Delaware & Hudson freight crawling along at restricted speed. I learned later that snow had knocked some of the code lines down and the signals were displaying 'stop and proceed'. This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 25 slide flim.
An hour after I let TV-302 go, I found this westward Delaware & Hudson freight crawling along at restricted speed and about to stop. I learned later that snow had knocked some of the code lines down and the signals were displaying ‘stop and proceed’. This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 64 slide film, f4.5 1/250th sec.

This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 25 slide flim.
This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 64 slide flim. If you look very carefully, you’ll see this signal is displaying a red light, which in automatic block signal territory indicates ‘Rule 291, Stop and Proceed.’

The westward D&H freight was soon on the roll again. There was a time when Boston & Maine GP40-2s seemed very common. Looking back, I didn't make as many photos of them as I now wished I had, and I'm glad to have this 28 year old slide.
The westward D&H freight was soon on the roll again. There was a time when Boston & Maine GP40-2s seemed very common. Looking back, I didn’t make as many photos of them as I now wished I had, and I’m glad to have this 28 year old slide.

In the afternoon, I returned to Gang Mills Yard (west of Corning, New York). By then the snow had begun to melt. An eastward Delaware & Hudson BUAB was rolling through at 3:50pm. I made some black & white photos of this train with my Rolleiflex, but I was experimenting with my processing at the time for a class project, and I've never been satisfied with the negative. Perhaps I'll scan them and see what I can salvage digitally. Kodachrome 25 color slide.
In the afternoon, I returned to Gang Mills Yard (west of Corning, New York) where I caught a parade of freights. By then the snow had begun to melt. An eastward Delaware & Hudson BUAB was rolling through at 3:50pm. I made some black & white photos of this train with my Rolleiflex, but at that time-period I was experimenting with my processing for a class project, and I’ve never been satisfied with the resulting  negative. Perhaps I’ll scan it and see what I can salvage digitally. This is a Kodachrome 64 color slide.

Erie Railroad Station Salamanca—July 2004.

Remembering the Historic Building.

On a pleasant summer day ten years ago, Doug Eisele and I were following a westward Norfolk Southern empty coal train on the former Erie Railroad mainline west of Hornell, New York.

I’ve been fascinated by the old Erie route for a long time. And I’ve always enjoyed exploring the line in western New York.

NS empty coal train Salamanca NY July 2004 Brian Solomon photo 89406
The former Erie Railroad station at Salamanca, New York as seen ten years ago. Photo exposed using a Nikon F3 with Fujichrome slide film.

We caught up with Mike Zollitch who was also photographing the train, and it was Mike who showed us this angle on the old Erie station at Salamanca.

In its heyday, this was a hub of activity on the railroad, located at the east end of the yard. Those days were long gone by 2004, but the railroad was again open to through traffic after a hiatus of more than a dozen years.

I exposed photos from several angles, but only had a few minutes before the coal empties arrived into view. As it passed we continued west looking for more angles.

On July 29, 2014, a little more than ten years after I made this photo, the old Erie station was destroyed by fire. I read this sad news via Facebook in Dublin, Ireland. One more vestige of the Erie is forever gone.

Please share this post and links to Tracking the Light with anyone who may be interested in the Erie Railroad and the old station at Salamanca.

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Conrail at Gang Mills, New York

May 9, 1987.

I’d been out along the former Erie Railroad since before dawn that day. The tracks had been alive with freight. By early afternoon, I was down at Gang Mills Yard, near Corning, which served as a local hub for freight.

Exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25, with my college roommate’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens. The film was processed by Kodak in Rochester, New York with in 48 hours of exposure.
Exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25, with my college roommate’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens. The film was processed by Kodak in Rochester, New York with in 48 hours of exposure.

Back then General Electric B23-7s were a common locomotive. I’d grown up with these diesels working locals and road freights on the Boston & Albany route. I always like their classic GE style and their great sound. My B&A engineer friends despised them because of their ‘slow loading,’ ‘low cab doors,’ and other perceived inadequacies.

I made this photo at the engine terminal. I liked all the Conrail signage behind the locomotive. There’s nothing especially unusual about this scene, it was as ordinary as it got for the time, but today this really says, “Conrail” as I remember it.

Conrail ended independent operations at the end of May 1999, fifteen years ago. Between 1976 and 1999, I exposed thousands of views of Conrail. In 2004, Tim Doherty & I authored an illustrated book on Conrail for MBI.

 

Learn more about the evolution of the railroad network, see my book: North American Railroad Family Trees published by Voyageur Press.

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Tomorrow: Conrail on smoggy morning! (Yous got a problem wit dat?)

 

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Hey now, Look at This: Something Old, Something Different.

Guilford SD26 at Silver Springs, May 2, 1987.

I thought I try something different; so I reached into a Logan slide storage box on the shelf and fished out a slide. This is what I found!

Step back 27 years . . . Doug Eisele and I had started the morning on the old Erie Railroad near Attica, New York. When Conrail’s heavy BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) freight came growling upgrade we followed it on side roads to Silver Springs. Here it took the siding for a westbound.

The signals read ‘yellow-over-red-over-red’—approach. What came along was Delaware & Hudson’s East Binghamton to Buffalo freight with a freshly painted former Santa Fe SD26 trailing.

It was precisely 11:18 am on May 2, 1987 at Silver Springs, New York. Exposed with a Canon A1 with 50mm lens on Professional Kodachrome 25 slide film.
It was precisely 11:18 am on May 2, 1987 at Silver Springs, New York. Exposed with a Canon A1 with 50mm lens on Professional Kodachrome 25 slide film.

At the time I wasn’t especially impressed by the D&H train. It was rolling hard out of the sun on tangent track. But, I rarely let an opportunity get away, so I made this going away view to show the signals and the meet.

In retrospect, I find this photo fascinating. The signals that interested me then, are all the more interesting today; the SD26 and leading GE U23Bs are all long gone; and Conrail’s former Erie operations faded into Norfolk Southern fifteen years ago. So, it’s pretty neat to look back and see what has changed!

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Tomorrow: Ghost of the Northern Pacific!

 

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Semaphore Dawn—Tracking the Light Daily Post.

Adrian, New York, May 1987.

 A thick Spring fog blanketing the Canisteo Valley acted as a sound envelope. The combination of moisture and the valley’s walls produced an acoustic environment that enhanced the railroad experience. Making this special was the almost total void of other human made sounds.

The trickle of  water from the nearby Canisteo and a light breeze through the trees was punctuated by the distant roar of an eastward train. Engine noise and the clatter of freight cars gradually swelled as it worked from Hornell down the valley on the former Erie Railroad.

I’d positioned myself at lightly used private crossing near westward signal 318 (measured in miles from Erie’s Jersey City terminus). A hint of blue in the sky marked the rising sun.

After more than ten minutes, I’d listened to the mournful warning blasted for the public crossing in the village of Adrian, two miles to the west. The roar grew louder. Then finally, there was a hint of headlight piercing the fog.

Semaphore at dawn
Delaware & Hudson’s symbol BFOA (Ford autorack train destined for Ayer, Massachusetts) blasts by a former Erie upper quadrant semaphore east of Adrian, New York at 5:20am on May 16, 1987. This vintage signal, one of several dozen protecting the railroad in the Canisteo Valley was the primary intended subject. This image was first published in Pacific RailNews in the 1990s. Images like this one will help illustrate my new book; Classic Railroad Signals that I’m now assembling for publication later this year by Voyageur Press.

My college roommate had lent me his Canon A1 35mm SLR, which I’d loaded with professional Kodachrome 25 slide film. I had this tightly positioned on a tripod.

 

When the train began to illuminate the scene, I opened the shutter. This closed again moments before the headlight of the lead locomotive left the scene, leaving a truncated streak of light to represent the train’s passage.

 

Images like this one will help illustrate my new book; Classic Railroad Signals that I’m now assembling for publication later this year by Voyageur Press.

 

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Tomorrow: Like the Ribs of some Ancient Beast.

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DAILY POST: Susquehanna SD45 and an Erie Semaphore, Canaseraga, New York.


How Change Affects Composition.

On April 7, 1989, I exposed this Kodachrome slide at f4.0 1/125th of a second using my Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens. Today, if I visited the same location, I’d make a completely different image because all the elements that encouraged this composition are gone. This slide is a little bit of history.
On April 7, 1989, I exposed this Kodachrome slide at f4.0 1/125th of a second using my Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens. Today, if I visited the same location, I’d make a completely different image because all the elements that encouraged this composition are gone. This slide is a little bit of history.

Three elements of this image interested me when I exposed it on April 7, 1989.

The Union & Switch & Signal Style S upper quadrant former Erie Railroad semaphore; New York, Susquehanna & Western’s former Burlington Northern SD45; and the unusual grade separated mainline, where the eastward track is on a higher level than the westward line.

I could write in detail about anyone of these three things. And someday I will. But not now.

Instead, I’ll examine the composition in a effort to offer a lesson on observing change.

The reason I made this photo in the way I did was specifically to juxtapose the signal with the locomotive. The grade separation not only offered added interest, but facilitated the over all composition because it allowed the locomotive to be relatively higher in the frame while enabling me to include the entire signal (complete with base of mast mechanism and subsidiary boxes/equipment) without producing an unbalanced image.

Today, none of the main elements in the photo are in place. If you were to visit Canaseraga, New York (located about 10 miles railroad-west of Hornell on the former Erie Buffalo mainline) you would find that the semaphore is gone; as is the old eastward main track. If by chance there’s an SD45 in the photo (unlikely, but not inconceivable) it would be on the close track.

In other words, the essential components of the image have changed to such a degree that there is little reason to consider making a photo at this location. And that’s the point!

When photographers (myself included) make railway images, they consciously and unconsciously include (and exclude) line side infrastructure which helps define and structure the photographs.

Changes to railway infrastructure alter the way we see the railroad, and thus the very way we compose and plan photographs. By anticipating change, we can make more interesting images and preserve the way things look for future viewers.

When trackside make careful consideration for those elements you may include or deliberately exclude. Might you be missing a potentially great image by trying to avoid some wires or litter along the line? Is an old fence potentially a graphic element that not only will help located the photo in the future but also key to a dramatic composition?

It is these types of thoughts than can make the difference when trying to compose great (or at least, relevant) railway photos.

See: Erie Mainline Revisited and Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores.

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Erie Mainline Revisited

On August 22, 2010, Norfolk Southern SD60M 6777 leads symbol 048—a special move of James E. Strates cars—working eastward at West Cameron, New York. Photo made with a Canon EOS 7D in manual mode fitted with a 24mm lens; exposure f3.5 1/500 at ISO 200. (Jpeg and RAW files exposed simultaneously)

Originally Posted September 28, 2012.

On Sunday August 22, 2010, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I were making photos in western New York south of Rochester, when we got word of an unusual train on Norfolk Southern’s former Erie Route. Having worked this territory for more than 25 years, I navigated a course cross country to intercept our mystery train south of Silver Springs at Castile, New York. We were both curious to see what this was. As it turned out it was a single SD60M leading a portion of the James E. Strates Show train. We made our photo at Castile near the remains of old Erie Railroad water tower, then chased eastward. We followed it to Swain, Canaseraga, Arkport, and to Hornell, New York, then into the Canisteo River Valley. Among the locations we chose was at West Cameron, New York, a spot on the inside of curve, where in the 1980s I’d often photographed Conrail and Delaware & Hudson trains passing a former Erie Railroad  Style-S upper quadrant semaphore (see Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores posted on September 23). Conrail had single-tracked the old Erie route through the Canisteo Valley in 1993-1994, so it had been a long time since the semaphore came down, yet a portion of the old westward main was retained at West Cameron for use as a setout track, so despite changes, this location didn’t look substantially different to me than it had ‘back in the day’ .

In 1988, Conrail SD50 6700 leads eastward BUOI (Buffalo to Oak Island) carrying New York City subway cars rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen at Hornell. This passes a semaphore on the westward main track at West Cameron, New York. Photo made with a Rollei Model T, a twin-lens reflex featuring a 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held light meter. Negative scanned with an Epson V500 scanner.

Afterwards, I searched back over my 120-size black & white negatives, and located this view made with my old Rollei model T of Conrail’s BUOI in 1988. Compare these two photographs made at virtually the same location, at approximately the same time of day, yet more than 22 years apart. There are many advantages to working the same territory repeatedly over the years. While familiarity may lead to boredom, it can likewise lead a photographer to make interesting comparisons.

A lesson: keep making photographs despite changes that appear to make the railway less interesting.

Former Erie Railroad Mainline, West of Union City, Pennsylvania, October 8, 2009

Four Years Ago Today.

Western New York & Pennsylvania Alco diesels.
I exposed this image after sunrise just west of Union City, Pennsylvania. I was working with a pair of Canon EOS-3s. This photo was made with the EOS-3  loaded with Fujichrome Velvia 100 and fitted with a 24mm lens.

On the morning of October 8, 2009, I made a project of photographing Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad’s westward freight HNME (Hornell to Meadville) that was working along the former Erie Railroad mainline in northwestern Pennsylvania.

I started before dawn near Niobe Junction and followed the train to its terminus at the former Erie yard in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Speed restrictions on the line made for ample opportunities to photograph the freight as the sun brightened the sky.

See Tracking the Light post from December 11, 2012, Erie October Morning, for more images of this train exposed on October 8, 2009.

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

See my Dublin Page for images of Dublin’s Open House Event in October 2013.

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Delaware Lackawanna Freight Near Scranton, Pennsylvania, October 14, 1997

Lucky Photograph on the old Lackawanna Mainline.

Mike Gardner and I were poking around Scranton on October 14, 1997. Although the foliage was nearing its autumnal peak, the sky was dull, so we were mostly exploring locations.

Alco diesel
A Delaware-Lackawanna freight led by an Alco C-425 diesel passes below a former Erie Railroad bridge near Scranton, Pennsylvania on October 14, 1997.

We drove into this spot along the old Lackawanna triple-track mainline used by Steamtown excursions and Delaware Lackawanna freights. I was curious about the abandoned former Erie line that crosses in the distance on a truss.

Neither of us expected to see a train, but to our surprise this Delaware Lackawanna local returning from Moscow came down grade. Even with 100 speed Fujichrome Provia 100F my exposure was difficult. I think this image was made at f4.0 at 1/60th of second with my Nikon F3T and 80-200mm zoom.

Interestingly, a decade later I made a project of photographing Delaware-Lackawanna operations while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania published by Voyageur Press. Between 2005 and 2007, I traveled about a half dozen times to Scranton and had several very productive chases of trains PT97/PT98 on this route.

Here’s an excerpt from  Railroads of Pennsylvania:

Visitors to Steamtown will be pleased to see the occasional passing of freight trains on the old Lackawanna mainline. These are not for demonstration but rather are revenue-earning for profit freight trains operated by Genesee Valley Transportation’s Delaware Lackawanna railroad. Since 1993, Delaware Lackawanna has provided regular freight service in Scranton. Today, the railroad operates on three historic routes. The most significant is eastward on the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline. Here D-L freights share the line with Steamtown excursions, much in the way the historic DL&W’s coal trains shared tracks with its famous Phoebe Snow. Three days a week D-L freights make a round trip eastward over the Poconos, through the Delaware Water Gap to a connection with Norfolk Southern at Slateford Junction near Portland, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

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