My author’s advanced copy of the July 2018 Trains has been eagerly awaited.
In addition to my monthly column, I authored and illustrated two large feature articles.
The first is a detailed nuts and bolts discussion on Positive Train Control signaling, the second a travel guide to one of my favorite places: Germany’s Rhein.
I’m extremely pleased with how both stories turned out. Special thanks to my hosts at SEPTA for allowing me to better understand the intricacies of their modern signaling. And thanks to everyone at Trains Magazine for bringing these stories to print!
I’ve been reviewing hundreds upon hundreds of photos for my book on European Railway Travel.
Here’s a view I like but it didn’t make the cut because I’m using a similar angle that works better. It was one of several views that I made on film, although was also working with my digital cameras that day.
This pictures the famous ‘Hanging Viaduct’ in the Mosel Valley near Bullay.
Two years ago I visited this unusual railway construction with my friends Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe.
Another example of some photos that didn’t make the final cut for my book on European Railway Travel.
You might think that catching a train with medieval castles in the background is pretty neat.
But I have many photos at this curve at Oberwesel on the busy Rhein left bank route. I’ve selected several potential candidates from this excellent German location and these two just didn’t seem book worthy.
As mentioned last week, I’m in the final lap of assembling a book on European Railway travel.
This image is among my ‘outtakes’ from the section on Germany.
I have hundreds of photos along the Rhein. I like this one because it shows the twin tunnels on the right bank opposite Oberwesel, but the wires in the sky annoy me, as does the clutter in the river at right and shrub on the left.
Dusk is a great time to make captivating images, provided you get the exposure right.
I made this view at Buchloe, Germany in southwestern Bavaria. It was a little while after sunset, and the cool glow of a winter’s evening sky made for some interesting lighting. The platforms at the station were lit using common sodium vapor lamps, while a lamp in the yard on the left appears to be of the mercury vapor variety.
Among the advantages of twilight is the ability to find a good balance between natural and man made light. Once the glow in the sky fades, the black of night makes balanced exposures more difficult.
Here, I opted to use a Fujichrome emulsion (probably Provia 100F) that had filtration layers designed to minimize discoloration from the spectral spikes typical of man-made lighting, such as sodium and fluorescent sources. These spikes are largely invisible to the human eye, but can produce unnatural color casts on slide films.
One of the features of this image is the old DB Class 218 diesel, a type known colloquially as a ‘Rabbit’ because of its rabbit-ear exhaust stacks.
On 30 April 2002, I found myself in Dresden and perishing low on film.
I’d been photographing in Poland and Slovakia for the better part of two weeks and underestimated how many photos I’d make. (Those who know me well, will recall this being a common occurrence on big trips).
Anyway, I’d found a shop with some black & white film, and exposed a roll of HP5 using my Nikon N90S, (trying to stretch out what little slide film I had left), and making parsimonious use of my 120 film.
This had me in a knot, as Dresden is a visually fascinating place, and I was seeing images everywhere I looked!
When I got back to Dublin, I processed the roll of HP5 in ID11 (Ilford’s relative equivalent to Kodak’s D76) and sleeved it, but I never got around to making prints.
The other day (May 2016), I was searching for some German tram photos, when I rediscovered this roll mixed in with a host of other unprinted B&W negatives from the mid-2000s.
What immediately caught my eye was this silhouetted image of a preserved four-wheel tram. Searching the internet, I can conclude this is a museum car operated by the StrassenbahnmuseumDresden.
Several lines come together at Rastatt, Germany, which is an historic city south of Karlsruhe.
Since most through traffic is focused on to a short double track section immediately south of Rastatt , the station serves as a holding area for southward trains queued up to pass through this bottleneck.
In addition to DB’s trains, freight is run by a of variety open-access and private operators. Freights share tracks with passenger trains including high-speed TGV and ICE services and the famous Karlsruhe tram-trains.
I made this selection of images on 19 April 2016 using my FujiFilm X-T1.
Evening sun with a textured fair-weather sky combined with well maintained paving stones and a healthy tree at left made for a visually compelling setting.
Freiburg, Germany still operates some of its vintage Duewag trams that feature a streamlined body and rounded front-end.
To make the most of the svelte classic tram I opted for a low angle and favored the angle of sun for reflective glint. The bicyclist was a fortuitous subject that makes for a more interesting photograph by introducing a human element.
To expose this image I worked my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with the rear live-view display tilted upward, which allowed me to compose the photo while holding the camera relatively low to the ground.
I adjusted my 18-135mm zoom lens to near its widest angle.
The real trick was keeping the composition interesting as the action rapidly unfolded.
In post-processing I darkened the sky and lightened the shadow areas to improve overall contrast.
Which of the three images is your favorite?
(This essay was composed while transiting the Channel Tunnel between Calais and Folkstone on 30 April 2016).
The railways around Karlsruhe, Germany are some of the most versatile and most thoroughly integrated in the world.
Karlsruhe was the pioneer of the ‘Tram-train concept,’ which enabled trams to utilize the heavy rail network.
As a result, trams can travel on city streets and reach beyond using the DB network.
Rastatt, south of Karlsruhe is a busy place where you can see high-speed passenger trains, Intercity and Regional Express passenger trains, freights, and Karlsruhe tram-trains using the same rails.
I made these views of a French TGV and tram-trains in April 2016 using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. It was a bright morning and nearly ideal for photography.
The imaging challenge at Rastatt is making the shadows work for you and not against you. The curve of line, platform canopies and shadows cast by catenary masts and wires all result in visual elements that can make or break an image.
In early September, my friends and I witnessed the passage of this old German class 140 electric in classic green paint.
Every day in late morning or early afternoon it would work south along the Rhein’s Right Bank (east side) with a freight.
On this day we hiked out to the Loreley statue on a peninsula near the famous Loreley Rock at bend in the river. I made these photos with my FujiFilm X-T1. As the freight drew closer, I opted to pan, which helps set apart the green locomotive from the hillside beyond.
Among the distinctive features of Germany’s Mosel Valley route is the Hanging Viaduct southwest of Bullay.
To avoid a circuitous loop in the Mosel, this double track electrified line crosses the river on a combined road/rail bridge and punches through a ridge. Upon exiting the tunnel, the line clings to a steep hillside populated with vineyards supported by an unusual curved Hangviadukt, a ‘hanging viaduct.’ (A sort of half-bridge, whereby half the structure is built into the hillside.)
Earlier this month, Denis McCabe, Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and I made a visit to this famous structure, photographing it from a variety of angles.
The railway cooperated by running a variety of trains. Footpaths through the vineyards and surrounding areas offer many vantage points.
In addition to mainline trains, a branch railcar traversed the viaduct in each direction hourly.
MittlerheinBahn operates modern Siemens-built electric multiple units on all-stops local trains on the picturesque Left Bank route between Köln and Mainz, Germany.
Trains operate on an hourly basis throughout the day, with more frequent services at peak times.
The service is affordable, comfortable and the scenery provides an unending tapestry of wonder.
These trains come at such regular intervals, it would be easy enough to let their passage go undocumented while waiting for more unusual movements, such as freights with colourful engines. But I always try to make the most of all trains.
Over the course of a week I exposed dozens of images of MittlerheinBahn’s trains, often using them as a catalyst for complex scenic compositions. Would these views work if there were no trains in them?
Pairs of red electrics leading more or less uniform consists of coal cars make for great subjects as they wind their way along the supremely scenic Rhein Valley.
Most locomotive-hauled trains traversing Germany’s Rhein Valley work with just a single locomotive, and an ever-greater number of passenger trains use electric multiple units.
By comparison to continual parade of these more common trains, dual-red electrics on coal trains/and empties are relatively rare, and only make an appearance every few hours (often just after you move to change locations).
Here I display two empty trains train, both exposed on 10 September 2015. The first is a morning view on the Left Bank with a pair of DB class 185 electrics, the second is in the evening on the Right Bank across from Oberwesel.
There’re some locations that just jump out at you. This view of the Rhein’s Right Bank is one of them. The combination of the river with vineyards rising above punctuated by the ruins of a medieval castle make for a postcard view.
The railway is an added bonus. Red Die Bahn locomotives are a nice touch. It helps to have bright afternoon sun.
Exposed near Rudesheim, Germany using my FujiFilm X-T1
There we were, poised at Filsen on the Right Bank line anticipating a northward train, but not knowing what would come around the bend next.
Previously, my attention to the signals, had revealed that once the signal cleared to green, a train would pass within 3-5 minutes. However, more than 8 minutes had passed. I wondered what was the cause of the delay.
Then, we were surprised by a lone DB class 145 electric hauling an exceptional load: twenty axles distributed the weight of this Schnabel railcar.
While this was not what I expected to see on the move, my cameras were ready to record what passed. In addition to these digital images, I exposed a 35mm colour slide for posterity.
Right Bank passenger services are largely provided by Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbahn. Trains are operated by VIAS Gmbh as Stadt-Expresses use Stadler Flirt electric multiple units and make local stops between the Koblenz Hbf (on the Left Bank) and the Frankfurt area.
Every hour all day long (with half hourly intervals at peak times) these modern Flirts glide along the supremely scenic Rhein Valley, working between the seemingly continuous parade of freights on the same line.
The cars stand out nicely against lush back drops and make for interesting photographic subjects. The tricky part is selecting the correct exposure to avoid over-exposing the lightly coloured trains.
Every so often, events in the news play a role in my daily photography. Last week, I was waiting with my friends for a Regional Express on the platform at Mainz, Germany, when an unscheduled train of InterCity carriages arrived.
There was no destination given on the depart boards.
The doors did not open.
No announcement was made.
A glance at the passengers on-board told the story. This was a trainload of refugees operated by DB AG as part of a greater humanitarian effort in Germany.
Seeing the people on board, appearing weary and exhausted, I thought of my own ancestors, who more than a century ago fled their home countries to seek a better life.
In the case of last week’s passengers, DB provided a nice comfortable train for this portion of their journey.
After a few minutes pause, the nameless service was on its way again.
Die Bahn/Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) operates an intensive nation-wide railway network. The traffic on many lines is impressive.
Conveying volume in photographs is perhaps best done with image sequences.
On the morning of September 12, 2015, Stephen Hirsch, Denis McCabe, Gerry Conmy and I arrived at the Bonn-Beuel station (located on the Right Bank line between Koln and Koblenz) to make a few photographs.
Our choice of locations was fortuitous. As it turned out, planned line works at the Bonn Hauptbahnhof on the Left Bank line had resulted in diversions, and this normally busy line was pushed to its potential capacity.
In addition to the normal half-hourly passenger service and parade of freights, the line was also handling InterCity and EuroCity long distance express trains, plus a mix of freights that might ordinarily use the Left Bank route.
In addition to the two main tracks, Bonn-Beuel has passing loops (passing sidings), which were well used this day. In several instances, a train was held on the main track, while higher priority traffic was routed via the loops around it.
This selection of images is intended to demonstrate how DB handled a mix of traffic on a double track mainline; keep in mind that stopping passenger trains and freights coexisted on the same route.
I’ve included the time that each photograph was exposed, and organized them in chronological order.
I decided to relocate to the island platform, as this offered a better angle for the sun.
To avoid getting blocked again, I walked further south along the platform.
The Right Bank of the Rhein is a busy freight corridor. Trains run in waves, and often follow each other several minutes apart on their north-south journey across Germany.
Kaub station sits wedged into a hillside with a castle above, and a sweeping curve to the south. In the afternoon, the sun swings around, which makes it a great place to photograph trains on the move.
Bombardier’s TRAXX locomotives family includes several classes of electrics. While the DB red class 185s may seen repetitive, open access operations make for a bit of variety. It seems that there’s always another freight working its way up or down the Rhein Valley. And this provides an opportunity to refine photographic angles and technique.
I made this selection using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
The fine art of the pacing shot was perfected many years ago. In the steam era, Jim Shaughnessy and others paced big steam across the prairies and grasslands in a quest for dramatic images.
I was traveling along the west bank of the Rhein a couple of days ago with Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and Gerry Conmy.
The railway here is exceptionally busy. The sun was bright and we were searching for photographic locations.
‘Green signal. Southbound.’
A minute later, ‘there’s a train overtaking us!’
I unrolled the window, switched my Lumix on, set it to ISO 80 at f8 and used the ‘A’ (aperture priority) mode, and exposed this series of images in rapid succession.
By using the settings described above, I allowed the camera meter to adjust the exposure to compensate for changing lighting conditions, while insuring the slowest possible shutter speed to maximize the effect of background blur.
Complicating the exposure was the reflective silver paint.
Other than scaling for internet presentation, I have not altered these images in post processing.
Yesterday (September 10, 2015) was an exceptionally clear and bright day in the Rhein Valley.
The conditions were ideal for photographing across the river, which opened up numerous photo locations.
Gerry Conmy, Dennis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I selected this view near St. Goarhausen. Behind us is the double track west bank (or ‘Left Bank’) line.
In addition to DB (Deutsche Bahn—Germany Railways), there a great variety of private and open access operators on the Rhein Valley lines.
I used my Lumix LX7 to capture a southward freight led by a Siemens Taurus electric against an impressive cliff-face as intermodal ships pass in the river. There’s always something interesting to watch alone the Rhein. This was just one of dozens of trains we photographed yesterday.