My favorite Strasburg Railroad steam locomotive is former Norfolk & Western 475.
I like its classic appearance and long boiler, but I’m also drawn to the relatively unusual wheel arrangement; 4-8-0.
Historically, this type was sometimes described as a ‘Mastodon’, perhaps because of its proportions. Another name for the 4-8-0 is ‘Twelve Wheeler,’ and this, while descriptive, doesn’t invoke romantic or alusive connotations.
Sunday, Kris and I caught old 475 coming and going at Blackhorse Road. I made these photos with my Nikon Z-series digital cameras. I thought back to November 1996, when I made photos of this same engine here on Kodachrome film. A differnt media for a different time.
This morning, the combination of agricultural haze, moisture in the air, and dust high in the atmosphere from fires in western Canada made for soft rosy morning light.
I don’t make a habit of posting photos to Tracking the Light the day of exposure, so today is an exception.
A little while ago, I set up at Gap, Pennsylvania along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, now Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line, in anticipation of Keystone train 642 racing east toward Philadelphia.
As the train took the curve west of Gap, I exposed this sequence of digital photos using my Nikon Z6 with Z-series 70-200mm zoom. ISO set to 400, white balance to ‘daylight auto’. All photos adjusted using Lightroom.
Although a non-conventional view, I like the last in the sequence that features the train in the distance with the focus on the wild flowers. Isn’t this how we often see trains, just a glimpse in the distance?
The first time I witnessed Norfolk & Western 611 on the move was on a trip with John Gruber nearly 29 years ago. We’d traveled from Wisconsin to northern Indiana to catch the BIG streamlined 4-8-4 working west on the old Nickel Plate Road near Valparaiso.
In May 2015, Pat Yough, Vic & Becky Stone and I photographed 611 working out of Manassas, Virginia on the old Southern Railway.
Yesterday, Sunday May 21, 2023, Kris and I watched 611 work Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road. It was a beautiful Spring day, and we made some lovely images of the engine crossing the fields in Pennsylvania Dutch country.
I made these views with my Nikon Z-series digital cameras.
On the theme of F-units and Budd Vista domes, I thought I’d offer these views from May 2017.
I was looking through the digital archives for a photo from May 19th, and I found that for whatever reason, I’ve rarely photographed trains on May 19th! May 18th on the other hand seems to be a be popular day in my files.
So, on May 18th, 2017, I’d followed a Pan Am Railways Office Car Special on the Connecticut River Line with Tim Doherty.
We caught this classy train at variety of interesting locations.
The two F-units, known as ‘The Sisters,’ had served Conway Scenic Railroad from the mid-1990s until about 15 years ago when they were traded to Pan Am for GP38 252 and GP35 216.
My last photos of Monday’s Mountaineer Special were made just east of the Arethusa Falls grade crossing on New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
I’d explored this location for nearly four years. It appears among the early photos of the line that date back to the time of its construction. Yet is difficult to capture effectively. It is most effective of an eastward train.
My fascination is with the distinctive rocks of Frankenstein Cliff that loom ominously above the train. This time of the year can be key to making a successful photograph here. During the summer, when trees are completely leafed out, and light is thick with moisture it can be more difficult to see the cliffs above the train.
Mid-Spring can provides a better balance between the mountainous backround with foreground, while offer a hint of green foliage.
Monday’s Mountaineer Social was the first passenger excursion over Crawford Notch since November.
This famous view has been popular with photographers for generations.
I was standing on the side of Route 302 looking across the chasm toward ‘The Girders.’ Lighting here can be a challenge. Normally when the train reaches Crawford this bridge would be in shadow . On Monday, bright hazy light made for excellent conditions to capture a train in this stunning vista.
To give the passengers a good view of the scenery, Conway Scenic’s trains take easy when approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.
The train’s slow speed and a handy telephoto zoom lens allowed me to make several compositions of the train on the bridge by adjusting focal length and framing as the train climbed through the Notch.
Yesterday, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its annual Mountaineer Social demonstration/familiarization train. This was the first excursion of the 2023 season to run over Crawford Notch to Fabyan, New Hampshire.
I followed the train by road to make photos and video for upcoming advertising campaigns.
I made this telephoto sequence at milepost P79 near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing using a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.
Although back-lit, hazy clouds diffused the light which added depth.
I made some selected adjustments in Lightroom, including overall lightening of the images and softening of overal contrast
Saturday, on our way back from travels in the White Mountains, Kris and I were approaching Sawyers River.
In passing, I said, “The 12:30 Sawyers train should be running around right about now. Check to see what engine is on it today.”
“There’s the head light, hey wait, I think its the F-unit!”
This was a pleasant surprise. Turns out that 470 Club’s former Boston & Maine F7A 4268 that was restored to service in 2022, had been assigned to the Valley services for its first run of the Spring season.
We pulled into the parking lot at 4th Iron Bridge over the Sawyers River and I set up to catch the train on its return to North Conway. GP38 252 was leading eastbound while at the back was the classic F7A.
From here we followed the train east to Bartlett, Goves and Glen, before returning home.
I thought May 10th would be the perfect day to announce the publication of my new book titled Union Pacific and Its Predecessors.
This covers more than 150 years of Union Pacific history and includes the modern day railroad and most of its primary components (among the them Chicago & North Western, Missouri Pacific, Southern Pacific and Western Pacific)
If you ask, ‘Why May 10th?’ then you will need to read the book! (See chapter 1, pages 16 & 17).
My old pal TSH (and Tracking the Light reader) made the cover photo of UP freights at Norden, on Donner Pass.
Sunday morning I made an ambitious push to reduce the wee Reading Company to timber, nails, wires, track sections and bits of plaster. Hours of demolition erased 2 1/2 years of creation.
I’d already removed and packed away most of the remaining structures, rolling stock. Only the group of railroad company houses at Cressona Yard remained (largely because I want to preserve the scenery around the houses as well as the structures and will need to cut them away from the layout.)
My serious demolition began with the unfinished portion of the layout at the east end of the railroad.
During various stages of the work I made documentation with my Lumix LX7. These photos are to show the results of my efforts.
Kris helped remove some of the bench work and helped cut away some of the rock formations that we plan to pack away. She also made the photos of me dismantling the railraod.
Over the next few days I’ll finish the job. I’m sacrificing my HO-scale Pennsylvania for the full scale version.
I learned a lot from this exercise. Next time I’ll build it better.
Yesterday (May 5, 2023), I accompanied Wayne Duffett of TEC Associates on his annual bridge inspection of the Conway Branch.
We picked up Conway Scenic Railroad HyRail truck TC206 at North Conway and went by road to Conway, where we arranged to set down on the track. From there we proceeded timetable west to look at bridges.
It was a fine Spring morning and probably the nicest day in the Mount Washington Valley in more than a week. A perfect time to be looking at bridges.
I made notes and took photos as Wayne carefully scrutinized every bridge between Conway and North Conway.
I made these images with my Nikon Z7-II, but also exposed photos with my Lumix LX7. I’ll present some of those photos at a later date.
I received my copy of June 2023 Trains Magazine the other day in the mail.
With a cover story on the recent CP + KCS merger this features two of my stories. On page 10 is my, “Delaware & Hudson marks 200 years,” and on page 22 an eight page feature titled, “Tourist Railway Success Stories.” In that latter story, I give my wife, Kris, a couple of mentions, as well as crediting my friend (and Tracking the Light reader) Wayne Duffett credit for introducing me to the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington two-foot gauge. I also promote the Connemara Project at Maam Cross in Ireland, with a special mention for Jim Deegan.
I may be a little biased (just), but I feel this is one of the best issues of TRAINS that I’ve read in a long time!
It was a typical Irish overcast day on 3 May 2014. Using my Canon 7D, I made this selction photos of Irish Rail.
Last night, I imported my nine year old Canon CR2 RAW files into Lightroom and re-profiled them as an exercise.
Three of the four photos below were adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure. One of the images was the in-camera JPG.
One of the great advantages of working with digital RAW files in post processing is the ability to lighten the shadow areas. This small adjustment can significanly improve the appearance of photos made in dull overcast lighting.
On May 1, 2002, I arrived in Warsaw on the overnight sleeper from Dresden. I made this photo of Warsaw Central Station using Fujichrome slide film exposed with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 24mm Nikkor lens.
I was visiting London on May 1st, 2016. During the course of my travels, I made the view below of the Underground at West Brompton using a Lumix LX7.
Last night Kris and I watched a Sci-Fi film about time travel.
Afterwards, I thought about how each of my slide binders offers a form of time travel.
Lately on Tracking the Light, I’ve been offering windows in time. Each that looks back through my photographs; one week, five years, etc.
I look at this photo and I think how much has changed since I exposed this frame of Fujichrome.
I was standing at ‘the box’ at the St John’s Road in Dublin on the evening of 29 April 2007. I made the image with a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens.
Much of these scene has changed in the intervening years. The old baracks behind the train was demolished and replace by an upscale housing complex. The view of the tracks looking west has been obscured by brush and bushes (don’t ask which is which). And, these days I rarely exposed Fujichrome in Dublin with a Nikon F3.
Irish Rail’s Mark4 sets still work the Dublin-Cork run though. So that’s something.
Sometimes the traditional three-quarter view of a train is the best way to go.
Add in a little bit of elevation, over the shoulder sun, a ‘tunnel’, plus a favorite locomotive, and you can have a very nice image of a train.
That was my feeling last Friday (April 21, 2023) at Goves, near Bartlett, New Hampshire when I awaited the passage of Conway Scenic’s Sawyer River train.
I thought about making a long telephoto view of the locomotive framed inside the ‘tunnel’ below Route 302. In the end, I opted to make a traditional railroad photo using 3/4 angle and 48mm focal length with over the shoulder sun .
This location was recently cleared of brush by the railroad, which makes for a nice place to picture a train in motion.
My favorite Conway Scenic locomotive is GP38 252. I’ve been making photos of this engine for forty years. But it has special signifcance for me because it is almost exactly the same age as me.
It was delivered to Maine Central at St. Johnsbury, Vermont in early November 1966; I was delivered at the end of October that year. I wonder what day 252 left Electro-Motive’s factory in LaGrange, Illinois?
Simply catching a work train on the roll is only half the fun.
Seeking out its work area and photographing it in action tells a story.
Last week, I exposed these action photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Work Extras at work along the line.
My cameras of choice for these images are my Nikon Z-series mirrorless digital. With a 24-70mm zoom on one, and a 70-200mm zoom on the other I have great flexibilty for making photos of trains and people.
The only problem is the weight! These cameras are fairly heavy.
All the images were processed from Nikon NEF RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.
Alex is a passenger train operator in Germany that connects Munich and Lindau among other routes.
Seven years ago (18 April 2016) a group of us had selected an overhead bridge near Lindau to catch an Munich bound train. I exposed this photo using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens set to 18mm.
The lighting was uniform and bright, which illuminate the train nicely, and I liked the subtle Spring colors. However, the unmodified RAF/RAW file tends to display a slightly overexposed white sky.
To correct for the relative over exposure, I imported the camera RAF (Fuji RAW) file into Lightroom and used the ‘select sky’ feature, which automatically identifies the sky areas, and then used the ‘highlights’ slider to lower the sky density relative to the rest of the photo and thus better display detail and make for a more realistic image.
It was a dull day on Switzerland’s Gotthard Pass on 17 April 2016, when my Irish friends and I focused on trains working though the loops at Wassen.
Looking toward the top level the railway’s sinuous ascent of the pass, I had a decent view of this concrete arch.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I exposed a telephoto view of an Italian Pendolino working through the Alps toward Milan.
I’ve posted two views. The first is the XT1’s in-camera JPG with Fuji’s Velvia color profile. The second photo is a JPG crafted with Adobe Lightroom from the in-camera Fuji RAW file. I made adjustements to contrast, highlights and color saturation.
Last week, after a season of heavy snow in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, a mid-April heatwave hit the area.
Although it was 75 degrees F, I was standing in about 18 inches of crusty icy snow near the 3rd Iron Truss over the Saco River. I was here that I photographed Conway Scenic’s Work Extra climbing toward Sawyer River behind former Maine Central GP38 252.
The train was hauling felled trees collected along the line up to a location near Rt 302 where they will be recycled.
Bright Spring sun with leafless trees and snow on the ground certainly made for some unusual lighting conditions.
April 13, 2019: I traveled on Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s The West Awake rail tour that operated on Irish Rail from Dublin to Claremorris, Ballina and Westport, Co Mayo and featured rare multiple-unit operation of 071 class diesels.
I made these views using a FujiFilm XT1 mirrorless digital camera.
The Fuji’s built-in color profiles provided excellent color and contrast for the soft directional lighting characteristic of the West of Ireland. I made minor adjustments to color and contrast in post processing that effectively tweaked the images for improved appearance here.
Work trains are among my favorite subjects. So, yesterday morning when Conway Scenic Railroad’s Extra 1751 departed North Conway’s North Yard, I zipped over to Intervale a few photos and then followed the train west to Glen, New Hampshire.
The train was sent out to collect recently felled trees along the Mountain Division. Thearrangement of a GP9 hauling flatcars and a caboose at the back makes for some throwback images.
While the train was working at Glen, I arranged to make a few views from the caboose.
Later, to help promote Conway Scenic, I posted some of these images to the railroad’s social media where they caught significant notice: Wwithin 12-hours they had reached more than 16,000 viewers.
Photos exposed with a Nikon Z7-II as NEF RAW files then processed with Adobe Lightroom.
On January 25, 1993, I rolled by Southern Pacific Co. Modoc train (symbol ROEUM-Roper to Eugene, Manifest) climbing the grade at the Rt395 highway crossing near Viewland, California, where I exposed this single frame of Kodachrome of the helper as it trailed away into the desert fog.
Union Pacific abandoned this unusual railroad many years ago.
Between 1992 and 1994, I made at least a half dozen trips to the remote Modoc Line to capture freights on the move.
Saturday and Sunday—April 8th and 9th—Conway Scenic scheduled its Easter Bunny Express. These were the railroad’s first public excursions since Snow Train operations concluded at the end of February. The event was popular with very good attendance and helps instill a love for the railroad in the next generation.
On Saturday, clear blue skys and brilliant bright sun made for excellent photographic conditions, so I dusted off my Nikon Z mirrorless cameras and made a host of photos for the railroad’s social media and other marketing.
I made adjustments to the NEF camera RAW files using Adobe Lightroom to lower contrast and take the edge of the photos, while warming the color temperature and slightly increasing overall saturation.