Today, Sunday 9 August 2015, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in cooperation with Irish Rail operated a steam special from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Drogheda and Dundalk with locomotive number 4.
This was my first opportunity to photograph this classic locomotive in more than four years. Special thanks to everyone at the RPSI and Irish Rail who made today’s trips a success.
It was a typical late summer’s day at the top of Ballybrophy Bank on Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork mainline in 2006.
I was expecting a procession of passenger trains down road (toward Cork). At the time there was still a good variety of intercity passenger stock and Irish Rail’s 201s were working in four different liveries. This was an opportunity to show the passage of trains.
Here, I’ve presented variation on a theme. I’d mounted my Nikon F3 with 105mm lens on Manfrotto 190PRO tripod. I kept the essential framing the same for each passing train, while making necessary changes to exposure reflecting the changes in light.
Notice how the quality of light and the position of the train changes the scene.
Normally when photographing moving trains, I’d adjust my framing, angle and the focal length of the lens to reflect changes in lighting, length of train, and the colour/shape of the leading engine as it specifically relates to background and foreground elements.
The effects of sunlight and contrast make a significant difference in the end result.
December 23, 2002 was a cold, wet, dark and mucky; in other words, typical sugar beet weather.
We were visiting the cabin at Wellingtonbridge, watching the machine load beet into ancient-looking four-wheel corrugated wagons. A steady ‘thump, thump, thump’ as the roots plopped into the wagons.
It wasn’t great for photography. But the driver of the laden beet (soon to depart Wellingtonbridge for Mallow, Co. Cork) said to me, ‘Get your photos now, this is all going away . . .’
Sadly, his prophecy came true. Old 129, a class 121 diesel built by General Motors at La Grange, Illinois in 1961, was cut up for scrap only a few months after I exposed this black & white photograph.
Irish Rail’s sugar beet traffic carried on for a few more years (three more than I thought it would). The last laden beet train departed Wellingtonbridge in January 2006. Afterwards, it was a downward spiral. Today, the wagons and loading machine are gone; the cabin is closed and the line rusty.
Yet, in the intervening months and years, I returned dozens of times, and made photos at all times of day and night. By the time the last beet train turned a wheel, I’d made hundreds of images of operation.
Yesterday, I displayed an image of Dublin’s Heuston Station bathed in green light; today, I feature Connolly Station. These Dublin railway terminals are among the oldest big city stations in continuous use in the world.
Connolly Station features classic Italianate architecture typical of many large stations world-wide.
The greening of Connolly for St. Patrick’s Day is a more subtle treatment than on some of Dublin’s structures.
Among my favorite stations on the far flung Irish Rail network was Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. The combination of a rural atmosphere with an interesting track layout and unusual curvature, high signal cabin (tower) with mechanical semaphores plus its reputation for friendly staff, made it an ideal place to spend an afternoon.
I’ve probably made fifty or more trips to Carrick over the years. While, I often timed my visits to coincide with the arrival of freight trains, on this day I photographed the scheduled crossing (meeting) of 2700-series railcars working between Waterford and Limerick Junction.
This is a scene never to be repeated. The 2700s have been withdrawn and the passing loop (passing siding) at Carrick was lifted (torn up).
Sometimes it is the most common everyday scenes that ultimately make for the rarest and most interesting photographs. Is there some everyday railway activity in your life that has gone undocumented?
A perfect opportunity to photograph old and new together.
Both are commonly seen on Irish railways, but both are foreigners. The 461 was 1923 product of Beyer Peacock in England, while the ICR was built by Rotem in Korea. Where else can you see such an eclectic combination?
The steam locomotive was one of two built for the Dublin & Southeastern, and is one of only a few operating steam locomotives in Ireland. The ICR is Irish Rail’s standard type of train for intercity services. Do you think the ICR will still be around in 91 years?
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Today saw a rare movement on a line devoid of regular traffic. Railtours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express train was operated as empty carriage across the length of the South Wexford line from Rosslare Strand to Waterford.
Railtours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express is a high-end tour train making a week-long tour of Irish Rail. This position-move was the most direct means of getting the train from Wexford to Waterford and saved a lengthy deadhead via Dublin and Cherryville. It was operated by Irish Rail in conjunction with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
This was the first time I’ve photographed a train on the South Wexford in about six years. This line is storied ground: it was a favorite subject of mine a decade ago when a regular passenger service ran from Rosslare Harbour to Waterford using vintage General Motors diesels, and Cravens carriages like those that traveled the line today.
It was also the route of seasonal sugar beet trains that loaded at Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford for processing at Mallow, County Cork. Between 1999 and 2005, I made more than 50 trips to photograph the sugar beet, a project that resulted in thousands of color slides, black & white negatives, and DAT audio recordings. I could make a book of it.
Today, I traveled down from Dublin with Mark Healy to catch this unusual move. It was strange (and sad) to see this once-familiar line with rusty rails and heavy over growth along the right of way.
While my best photos of the day were exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with my trusted Canon EOS 3, I’ve published a few of my digital results here.
I first visited Roscrea in August 1998. Denis McCabe was giving me a tour of rural Irish stations, and we stopped there to intercept the branch passenger train running from Ballybrophy to Limerick.
Back then the train consisted of an 071 diesel, a steam heating van and two ancient looking Cravens carriages. It was a cloudy morning.
Fast forward to August 2014, and Denis and I made a return visit to Roscrea. While I’ve visited this rural station on several occasions in the intervening years, what struck me was how little the station and its environs have changed.
The old signal cabin is still open and active; the mechanical semaphores remain as I remember them, the station building seems unchanged. Compared to many of the station I visited in 1998, this is one of the few that still looks the same. The Celtic Tiger years didn’t result in unnecessary uglification—er, I mean improvement—to Roscrea.
On the downside, you must know where the station is in the village. I don’t think there was any sign off the Motorway or in the town itself giving any hint of an active railway station there. It’s a real pity too. The Nenagh Branch is one of those throwbacks to another age. Unsung, unloved, and largely ignored, it soldiers on in a world that time forgot.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Last week I posted photos of freshly painted Irish Rail class 201 number 215 working the IWT liner. Today, it worked to Cork and back. I photographed it a little while ago passing Islandbridge Junction.
Irish Rail’s only four track mainline transits the west Dublin suburbs. This was built toward the tail-end of the Celtic Tiger boom years. Rail traffic flows in fits and starts, but midday on week days can result in some interesting action.
The prize this day was catching Irish Rail’s General Motors-built 071 class locomotive 079 hauling the elusive per-way ‘Rail trucks’ (rail train) on its run from Platin (on the Navan Branch) to the per-way depot in Portlaoise.
I worked with my Canon EOS 7D, which handles the cloudy bright lighting conditions admirably.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
As a follow up to yesterday’s special post, I’ve included a few more photos. Since Monday, Irish Rail’s freshly painted class 201 number 215 has been working the IWT Liner between Dublin and Ballina, Country Mayo.
Sometimes when your mind is pre-occupied with the problems of the world, the best medicine is go trackside and focus on something trivial (like hoping for sun light on a freshly painted locomotive).
Yesterday (September 9, 2014), I was poised for photography at an over-bridge near Lucan South in the Dublin suburbs. Colm O’Callaghan, Noel Enright, John Cleary and I were anxiously waiting for Irish Rail’s Up-IWT liner led by class 201 diesel number 215 (which had made its first trip in fresh paint the day before and was on its return run).
Although it was a dry bright day, a group of fair weather clouds were loitering in the sky between us and the sun . At one point all four of us were staring skyward hoping the cloud would move.
The Cork-Dublin passenger passed in cloudy light; but the Inter City Railcar behind it was blessed with sun. But then clouds returned. I fussed with my light meter.
As the freight approached, the clouds parted and the sun-light seemed to roll across the landscape.
I fired off a burst of digital images using my Canon EOS 7D, followed by a couple of Fujichrome Provia 100F colour slides with my EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens.
If there was one problem with the last burst of sunlight it was that I may have overexposed my slides by 1/3 of stop. But I won’t know until I have the film processed in a few weeks time.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Most weekdays, Irish Rail’s IWT Liner works between Dublin’s North Wall and Ballina carrying intermodal freight. Class 201 General Motors diesels are most common, although Class 071 diesels work it occasionally.
In the last week of July, locomotive 206 dressed in the Enterprise livery for work on the Dublin-Belfast express passenger service, made several trips on the IWT Liner.
This offered a refreshing visual change, from the relatively monotonous parade of trains out of Dublin on the Cork line. On several occasions, I intercepted 206 in its freight duties. Making exposures with my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX7.
Word came over the ‘telegraph’ that an Irish Rail HOBS (high output ballast system) train was on its way over to Islandbridge Junction to run around.
I’ve photographed the HOBS on previous occasions, but its one of the more unusual trains to catch on the move. This time, I thought I’d try a slightly different perspective from my standard location.
Using my Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens, I framed the line up in a tight vertical view prominently featuring the Wellington Testimonial. This massive obelisk rises high above the Phoenix Park. It is claimed to be Europe’s largest, and it can be seen from all around Dublin.
I made several views . Unfortunately, while there was a big patch of blue sky behind me, the sun wasn’t fully out when the train arrived. So I had to do my best to work with what I had.
It didn’t take long for locomotive 088 to run around. Yet, I walked quickly, and I made and series of images of the train heading back into the Phoenix Park Tunnel.
The great thing about this exercise was the minimum time I had to wait around. Thanks to good contacts and prompt running (on the part of the HOBS) I scored several relatively unusual photos in just a few minutes!
A Long Delay Results in an Unexpected Opportunity.
We waited at milepost 17 near Sallins for the return of locomotive 461 with Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s The Marble City rail tour from Kilkenny.
After a bit of a delay, I’d became curious and tried phoning people on the train. After a few phone calls I learned that tragedy had delayed the excursion.
It was reported that Irish Rail’s regular Intercity train from Waterford was involved in a fatality on the line and the steam special was stranded at Athy while the Gardai (An Garda Síochána is the Irish name for Ireland’s national police force) conducted an investigation.
I was told by an RPSI member on the train that it would be at least 8pm before the train was on the move.
Instead of giving up and returning to Dublin, fellow photographer Hugh Dempsey and I opted to remain trackside. After all, only the Waterford trains were affected, so there would be plenty moving to photograph. And there’s the element of curiosity, just how late would the train be?
I took the opportunity to update some local people who had turned out to watch the steam special of its misfortune.
Later, a local man took pity on our prolonged wait, and dropped down to us with cups of hot tea and biscuits (cookies). In the mean time there was some nice evening light to photograph the ordinary procession of Irish Rail trains.
Finally, at 9:18pm I got word that The Marble City with 461 had reached Cherryville Junction and was making its dash for Dublin—some four hours behind schedule.
It passed us just before 10pm, which made for a rare summer evening view of an Irish steam special. Most RPSI trips run in daylight! Using film I’d have been out of luck, but thanks to advances in digital photograph I was able to make a distinctive image.
Yes all true, but I’d traveled down to catch the return leg of steam hauled The Marble City rail tour operated by the Railway Preservation Society Ireland.
Earlier in the day I’d photographed the train departing Dublin (as featured in yesterday’s Tracking the Light post The Marble City Tour at Islandbridge.)
I departed Dublin Heuston on the 1430 suburban train heading for Sallins. I was fortunate to travel on a five-piece intercity rail car (ICR), which was comfortable and mostly empty.
Arriving Sallins, County Kildare at 2:55pm, I had time for a leisurely bacon and cabbage lunch at the Lock 13 Pub—located along the Grand Canal a short walk from the station. I’d arranged to meet fellow photographer Hugh Dempsey after 4pm to explore some track side locations nearly in anticipation of photographing locomotive 461 with The Marble City.
The special was scheduled to depart Athy at 2:55 pm and according to Irish Rail company literature would depart Kildare at precisely 5:23 pm and 30 seconds. Armed with this information we scouted a bridge near milepost 17 and waited.
The usual procession of up and down passenger trains passed, mostly using the common Irish Rail Rotem-built ICRs—like the one I’d traveled down on.
The weather changed from sunny to pouring rain rather suddenly; uncomfortable, but not unusual.
We’d expected The Marble City to pass by about 5:50pm. More ICRs up and down, but no sign of the steam. By 6:30pm we were wondering what had gone wrong.
After another hour we learned that there had been a fatality on the line south of Cherryville Junction (where the line to Kilkenny and Waterford diverges from the mainline to Cork) and 461 with The Marble City was being held at Athy! Oh no.
It was a glorious bright Spring day in April 2003. For years, a single Irish Rail class 121 had worked a short push-pull Mark 3 set on the Limerick-Limerick Junction shuttle. But when I made this photograph the set was on borrowed time.
Earlier in 2003, Irish Rail had suddenly withdrawn most of the 121 class, and most were quickly reduced to scrap. Only two remained in service and it was rumored they might soon go the way of the others.
As it turned out, the 121 with Mark 3 set didn’t last much longer Limerick Junction shuttle and this was among my last photos of in that service. However, the locomotives struggled on much longer than I anticipated. I last photographed them in permanent way service in Dublin in early 2008, nearly five years later. Not that I’m complaining.
A few weeks ago, Ciarán Cooney asked me about photos I’d made of Irish Rail’s Athy Cement. This used to run weekdays from the cement factory near Limerick to a cement silo off a short branch that crossed the River Barrow in Athy, County Kildare. It was the only train to use this branch.
On several occasions, I’d made the effort to photograph this train, which tended to arrive laden in the very early morning, then depart empty after it had discharged. Most of the times I saw it, it ran with a single Bo-Bo General Motors diesel (class 141 or 181).
I caught it crossing the Barrow at Athy on a fine spring morning, May 3, 2002.
That was more than 11 years ago, but it doesn’t seem so long.I think I last photographed this train about 2005, shortly before it was discontinued. While cement trains worked Irish Rail for a few more years, they are now extinct.
Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.
Back then, Irish Rail operated three daily ammonia trains between Marino Point, County Cork and Shelton Abbey near Arklow, County Wicklow. These were tightly scheduled and normally operated with the common 201-class General Motors diesels.
I was tuned into these trains, and made an effort to catch them in interesting locations. The traffic ended with little warning in 2002, so the photos I made are now prized images!
In addition to color slides, I exposed thousands of black & white images of Irish railways on 120 size film between 1999 and 2005 (and a few here and there since).
Most of these photos have never seen the light of day. This rare photo of the Ammonia train was just one of several exposures I made on that bright May afternoon in 2001.
Why didn’t I make a color photo? And who said I didn’t? Must color and black & white be mutual exclusive? Why not make a color photo and convert it later? Why color anyway?
I’ve often worked with multiple formats at the same time. Black & white has a number of advantages and I’ve long prided myself on mastering this archaic image-making process.
Irish Rail’s timber is elusive enough, so far as I’m concerned. It only operates two or three days a week, and often seems to get canceled when I’m out for it.
The weather was mixed; a bit of rain in the morning, a few bursts of sun in the afternoon. In other words, a typical May day in Ireland, if a bit on the cold side. The foliage was lush and green.
The down IWT liner (Dublin-Ballina) ran later than I anticipated, while the up IWT was more or less as expected.
Timber trains made their appearance as hoped. Since the timber must run around at Kildare station to change direction (it runs from Waterford to county Mayo, and there’s no direct chord at Cherryville Junction to facilitate a move for trains moving from the Waterford Line to the West), this allows opportunity to catch the timber train twice.
All in all, it was a productive day photographically.
Since most of Irish Rail’s passenger services are now provided by common 22000 series Rotem-built InterCity Railcars (ICRs), I’ve only included at few of the many passenger trains that passed that day.
Among the difficulties of living within sight of the railway is the chance that such proximity may breed photographic apathy and slough. One the plus side, when something rumbles by, all I have to do is look out the window!
There are several nice photo locations within a ten minute walk of Islandbridge. On the downside, over the last decade I’ve covered these nearly to the point of exhaustion. Yet, that doesn’t keep me from taking advantage of them.
Shortly before 11am on Tuesday April 29, 2014, I heard the distinct roar of an Irish Rail 071 class diesel (built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division). I glanced out the window to see a gray locomotive roll into the Phoenix Park tunnel with a wagon transfer for Dublin’s North Wall.
Ah! A grey locomotive and the elusive wagon transfer!
I made a call to alert a friend, and a short while later I got a call back to say that the wagon transfer had collected three flats and was on its way back. The locomotive was 085 which wears a variation of the gray and yellow livery introduced a year ago.
It was a rare clear sunny morning, and I was keen to make a color slide of this engine passing Islandbridge Junction. Armed with good information, I walked five minutes up the road to my often-used location and waited. Less than 15 minutes passed before 085 appeared from the tunnel with the three flats.
I exposed a few digital images with my Canon EOS 7D and 100mm lens, before executing a color slide (or two) with my EOS 3 with 40mm lens. I was home less than 30 minutes after leaving. Back to the book writing! I’m presently researching a book on North American signaling.
A clear bright day and an excellent crowd made for a great day out with locomotive 461 and the preserved Cravens carriages.
The train boarded at Dublin’s Connolly Station and ran directly to Wicklow with stunning views of Dublin bay from Killiney and Bray Head.
At Wicklow, the special was overtaken by a holiday ‘relief’ special to Gorey that operated with the freshly painted candy apple green 29000 set.
A short trip was run from Wicklow to Greystones and return, with some spirited running along the beaches south of Greystones.
Engine 461 is a former Dublin & South Eastern 2-6-0 goods engine, so it was working on old home rails. The locomotive was steaming well and made for a great performance.
Reported difficulties with the points at Wicklow resulted in minor delays on the return trip, but clear signals up to Dublin and excellent running by the steam crew found us back at Connolly only a few minutes behind the advertised.
I traveled on the train, and used opportunities at station stops to make photos of the crew.
These are some of my digital results. I also used my old Nikon F3 with a 24mm lens to exposed some Fuji Acros 100 black & white film. Somehow steam and B&W seems like an appropriate combination! Those images remain latent, and perhaps will be a topic for a future post!
Several weeks ago, Irish Rail released one of its 29000-series suburban railcars in a fresh new two-tone green and yellow livery.
My initial haphazard attempts at finding this train on the move were unsuccessful. However, on April 21, 2014, I got lucky.
I was riding Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Easter Eggspress led by steam locomotive 461, when at Wicklow, our train was overtaken by an Easter Monday ‘relief’ from Connolly to Gorey worked by set 0129117 (formerly 29117) in the new livery!
Armed with this knowledge, I consulted my operations expert for advice on when the train would return to Dublin.
After the Easter Eggspress arrived back in Dublin, I made my way over to Platform 6. Here I scored these views of the freshly painted train that arrived about 15 minutes later.
Soft early evening sun made for nearly perfect lighting conditions. After the train discharged its passengers, it worked back over the Loop Line toward Pearse Station and the old Boston sidings.
I always like to catch a new livery as soon as I can; Before it gets dirty, before someone decides to change it.
Tomorrow: Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Easter Eggspress!
A few years ago Irish Rail rebuilt a portion of its old line between Clonsilla and Navan. This had been closed in the early 1960s and the right of way had largely returned to nature.
In late 2009, I’d explored the rebuilding as tracks were being installed, but I’d been negligent in my photography of this new route since that time.
On Wednesday, April 16, 2014, I rode the LUAS tram to Dublin’s Docklands and walked over to Irish Rail’s Dockland station at the North Wall. This was built during the Celtic Tiger boom, which had also resulted in abandonment of most of Irish Rail’s North Wall freight yards.
I went for a relaxing spin directly to the end of the new branch at ‘M3 Parkway’. The track was in superb condition.
On my return trip, I changed trains at Clonsilla. Instead of returning via Docklands, I rode directly to Connolly Station. Later, I learned that two hours before my trip the elusive Sperry train had made a run to M3 Parkway and back! I had no idea. Right place, wrong time. Lucky miss, I guess.
A railcar sunset? No, it’s not a metaphor, it really was a railcar at that time of day.
On April 15, 2014, I was passing the Heuston shed and notice that the soft orange light of the setting sun had illuminated this cavernous space. Lucky for me, there was a train approaching platform 4. (If it had been lined to any of the other platforms this photograph wouldn’t have worked.)
Using my Lumix LX3, I made this panned view. It captures the motion while helping to visually separate the front of the train from the interior ironwork. The low light allows for a pleasing glint effect without becoming overbearing or distracting.
Good Friday has a long-standing tradition of being a special day on Irish Rail. The weather is usually fine, and there’s always something interesting on the move.
This year Good Friday again met, and exceeded, expectations. The previous day had been a disappointment.
On Thursday, April 17, 2014, my friend Colm O’Callaghan and I had been out for the Irish Rail Sperry train. (Previously in Tracking the Light, I’ve highlighted this elusive rail-defect detection train, see: Sperry Train at Islandbridge Junction on August 30, 2012). On that day, we waited in vain under increasingly cloudy skies. As it turned out the Sperry’s plan for the day was cancelled.
When Good Friday dawned clear and bright, I wondered if there was anything on the move. I’d set out for the shops to get some breakfast, but had the wisdom to bring some of my cameras with me.
On the way, I stopped at my familiar Islandbridge Junction overlook (near Heuston Station), where I noted that a railcar transfer was in progress. I made some photographs. Then, I heard from Colm: the Sperry train was expected to depart Dublin’s North Wall after 10am! Wheels were turning!
My morning shopping trip was suspended as we headed ‘down road’ to find places to intercept one of Ireland’s most difficult quarries. This Sperry rail-defect detection train only makes a few trips a year, and it had changed its program on a moment’s notice!
Our quick action and careful thought paid off. As it turned out, the Sperry was working up and down on the quad track section of the Cork line. So, we had several excellent opportunities for photography. Assisting our efforts were regular updates and communications from like-minded photographers up and down the line from our positions. (Thanks guys!).
For me the day’s highlight followed a tense moment at Stacumny Bridge (near Hazelhatch), when the up-road IWT Liner (Ballina to Dublin container train) and the Sperry train (working down road) approached us simultaneously! This had all the ingredients for a photographic disaster.
Trying to position for two moving trains in opposite directions takes skill and a lot of luck. We were very lucky. In the end, while I didn’t get what I’d anticipated, instead, made a once in a lifetime photograph: the near perfect rolling meet between the liner and Sperry train under full sun! Yea!
The downside: by the end of the day my poor old Panasonic Lumix LX3 developed a minor intermittent electrical fault. While, I was still able to make photographs with it, its reliable performance is now in question. After near five years of hard service, my favorite ‘everywhere camera’ may need to be replaced! In the meantime, I’ve got my Canon EOS 7D, plus Canon film cameras and my old Nikons to fall back on.
Ok, so this was really a detour into County Roscommon.
After photographing Irish Rail’s Ballina Timber, Noel and I cut cross-country via Knock and Ballyhaunis, to Castlerea, County Roscommon, to intercept the train a second time.
I hadn’t paid a visit to Castlerea in several years, but I recalled a visit to the old signal cabin before the Mini-CTC was installed (in 2007). Back then, mechanical semaphores and electric train staff instruments had been the rule.
While waiting for the timber, Noel phoned Castlerea’s foremost railway enthusiast, Sean Browne. Sean’s Hell’s Kitchen railway themed pub is a local attraction.
Sean dropped down to Castlerea station and we caught up on old times. Then, following passage of the Ballina timber train, we went for an impromptu visit to Hell’s Kitchen that Sean opened specially for us.
This claims to be ‘the only pub with a train in the bar.’
This ‘train’ is, more precisely, a locomotive. Irish Rail’s A55—one of the surviving 1950s-era Metropolitan Vickers-built diesel electrics—is the Hell’s Kitchen center-piece display.
Sean has collected an impressive collection of railway memorabilia, most of it from Ireland. A Conrail hard hat on display impressed me! Every item of historical value comes with a story, so we had a good visit with Sean.
This was interrupted, when Noel learned that the IWT liner from Dublin to Ballina was getting close. We said farewell to Sean and went back trackside to find a suitable photo location! (As you do).
I’d arrived at Foxford, Co. Mayo having traveled from Dublin by train. Noel Enright collected me there, and we immediately began discussing a location to photograph the Ballina Timber that would depart the Ballina yard upon arrival of the 2800-series that I traveled on to Foxford. Got all that?
South of Foxford near Ballyvary, the Ballina branch runs along the base of some low hills. In previous years, I’d explored some of these location, and Noel had a spot in mind. If we could find it quickly.
Although it was overcast, I was keen on an elevated broadside view of this train in order to show its cargo. There isn’t much bulk rail freight on the move in Ireland, and the pair of weekly Ballina timber trains are well worth the effort. But they’re not as impressive head-on.
We found our hillside. And after a few minutes we could hear the 071-class General Motors diesel in the distance. Noel said, ‘It’s 078.’ Ah! That one. Over the years I’d made dozens of photos of this diesel. But this was the first time I seen it in its new grey livery.
Soon we spotted the headlight and the timber train came into view. I made a series of photos with three cameras.
On March 13, 2014, I bought a day-return from Dublin Heuston to Foxford, Co. Mayo, and traveled on the 7:35 am Galway train. My train was well patronized, but I had no difficulty finding a seat.
It was foggy in Dublin. Ensconced in my seat, I observed that my train departed Heuston precisely on time and soon was rolling down-road at track speed.
My train was a four-piece Rotem-built Intercity Rail Car, of the type that is now standard for most Irish Rail Intercity services.
Except for some rough spots west of Kildare, the ride quality was comfortable and smooth.
At Portarlington, we diverged from the Dublin-Cork mainline and traveled on the single track branch toward Athlone. At Clara we crossed (met) an uproad train.
I changed trains at Athone. Here another four piece ICR was waiting to continue the journey toward Co. Mayo. At Castlerea we met the Ballina-Dublin IWT liner, a train I’ve often photographed.
Upon reaching Manulla Junction, I again changed trains, this time for the 2800-series railcar that works the Ballina Branch. Years ago this would have been a single General Motors class 141/181 Bo-Bo diesel electric with a short Craven set.
When I arrived in Foxford I was met by my friend Noel Enright. We spent the rest of daylight photographing trains and visiting friends. I’ll post those adventures soon! Stay tuned.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Dublin is a quiet place on Christmas morning. Almost everything is shut. The roads are relatively empty. The buses aren’t running. There are scant few people on the normally busy streets. And the railways are asleep.
Irish trains don’t run Christmas Day. And Dublin’s terminals are locked up tight. It’s a strange sight to see Heuston Station by daylight with nothing moving around it. This normally busy place is unnaturally quiet.
Yet, what better time to make architectural views of the 1840s-built terminal?
There are no buses or LUAS trams to interfere with the station’s classic design. Cars are relatively few. You can stand in the middle the street to compose photos with little chance of being run over.
I’ve always liked to make macro views of railways. Examining the texture, colors, and shape of the equipment, track and structures allows for better appreciation of the subject.
One of the best times to make close ups and detail photographs is under dramatic lighting; low sun or stormy light, where richer qualities make for more pleasing tones. Even the most mundane and ordinary subjects seem more interesting with great light.
Yet, detailed views can also make use of dull days when by focusing on texture and using extreme focus can compensate for flat lighting.
Irish Rail made for an especially good subject for detailed images, in part because there was so much antique equipment to photograph. Well-worn infrastructure is inherently fascinating. Here out in the open metal has been doing a job for decades and often it shows the scars from years of hard work, like an old weaver’s time weathered hands.
I’ve made hundreds of Irish Rail close-ups over the years. Here a just a few. Look around railways near you and see what you find! Sometimes the most interesting photographs can be made while waiting for trains.