Earlier this month, I traveled with some friends to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland to photograph the Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge operations.
Working with Kodak Tri-X in a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens, I made this view of a laden train crossing the River Shannon.
I processed the film using a twin-stage (split development) process: presoaked in Kodak HC110 mixed 1-200 for 5 minutes; then Ilford ID1 mixed 1 to 1 for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F with gentle agitation every minute for 10 seconds. After stop bath (30 seconds), twin fixer baths of 3 minutes each and extensive rinsing, I toned the still wet negative using a Selenium batch mixed 1-9 for 8 minutes 30 seconds.
In addition to this traditional black & white photo, I also exposed digital photos using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras. Color and black & white, film and digital, yes I have most of formats covered.
It is with sadness and a sense of great loss that I must report the passing of retired Irish Rail engine driver Tony Renehan. Although it has been a decade since Tony retired from Irish Rail, he had continued to travel on rail tours and was a regular face at Irish Railway Record Society slide shows among other events.
Tony was the first Irish Rail driver that I got to know. I met him in May 1998 on the footplate of RPSI steam locomotive 461 where he sat in command of the engine. My first question to him was about the engine’s valves and we immediately stuck up a friendship.
He was a rare individual whose depth and breadth of knowledge spanned numerous subjects; historical, mechanical and others. His interests were broad within the span of railways, and he was always willing to share his knowledge, but wouldn’t bluff his way when he reached the limit of certainty.
Few men could match his understanding of railway locomotives. On many occasions we met, sometimes over a pint of stout, to discuss the details of locomotives and their operations. I was always interested in what Tony had to say, because no matter how familiar I was with the subject, Tony always had a level of insight, an angle or a question that pushed the envelope of knowledge one step further.
I’ll miss our conversations and discussions. And the file remains open on topics he’d sent me to learn more about, but on I which hadn’t yet reported back.
Friday, it was officially announced that Ireland’s Electrical Supply Board (ESB) intends to close the Lough Ree and Shannonbridge power stations at the end of 2020.
This doesn’t bode well for the Bord na Mona narrow gauge systems that exist largely to supply these stations with fuel.
A couple of weeks ago on a visit to the Lanesborough system I made this sunset view of an empty train returning to the bog for reloading.
I’ve made dozens of trips over the years to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge railways. While in recent years, it’s been understood that these railways were on borrowed time, I still find sad that they will soon be without their primary traffic.
These are fascinating and wonderful railways with lots of charm and photographic potential.
In 2020, I hope to continue photographing the systems around Lanesborough and Shannonbridge, as well as some of the other Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.
Tuesday last week, my arrival at Sallins, County Kildare by Irish Rail suburban train was merely a jumping off for a much more productive photographic endeavor.
See yesterday’s post, SUBURBAN TRAINS PASS AT SALLINS.
So Tuesday last week, I met fellow photographer Aiden McDonald outside Sallins and traveled by road for another visit to Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough narrow gauge network. This was my fourth foray in 2019 photographing on this wonderful industrial railway, and my second in less than a week.
My first visit to Lanesborough was more than six years ago and of all the Bord na Mona systems, it is my favorite.
We lucked out and met the empty ash train immediately on crossing the line near Derraghan More, County Longford.
It was bright and sunny and followed the train all the way back toward the Lough Ree Generating Station.
This was just the warm up and for the next six hours we were treated to almost non-stop action on one of Ireland’s coolest little railways.
Sadly this is an Indian Summer for the system, both literally and metaphorically. Word to the wise: time is running short.
Brilliant sunny skies in County Longford made for an auspicious foray into Bord na Mona country.
Finding narrow gauge trains is part of the challenge.
Last week I was traveling with Mark Healy and Aiden McDonald . I was acting as navigator, and worked with my iPhone and my collection of annotated Ordinance Survey maps as we scoured the bog lands looking for movement.
While the first couple of locations were quiet, when we arrived at this overhead bridge near the Lough Ree Power Station in Lanesborough, I spotted a laden train.
Within a minute, we could hear trains coming from both directions and were afforded a running meet! Neat!
I exposed these views using my Lumix LX7. Working in Lightroom, I adjusted contrast and exposure to compensate for the extremes between light and dark.
Often I assembled Tracking the Light posts several days in advance of publication (or ‘posting’).
As I write this, rain lashes at my window in Dublin.
If all goes to plan, as you read this my friends and I will be traveling on the RPSI diesel tour to Cork and Kerry, titled the ‘Cobh Rambler.’
Traveling behind diesels, especially the 1970s-vintage 071 class General Motors locomotives, has become a novelty in Ireland since the widespread purchase of Intercity Railcars in the mid-2000s, replaced most diesel hauled trains.
This has made diesel trips, such as that one planned for today, a special treat.
What promises to make this trip especially unusual is the very rare combination of 071 class and 201 class working together. There has been considerable comment and speculation as to which locomotives may work this trip. Sometimes the locomotive planned for the day is re-assigned, develops a fault, or is replaced for other reasons.
Over the years I’ve photographed most of the GM diesels in Ireland, and in this post I’ve put up a sampling of the locomotives suggested might work today’s train.
Learn more about the RPSI: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com
Tracking the Light Posts Everyday, or at least tries to.
On the afternoon of Saturday, 14 September 2019, Belmond’s Grand Hibernian was due at Connolly Station, Dublin .
Earlier I’d caught the train being shunted at Heuston Station, and expected it to make the run with Irish Rail 071 in retro orange paint.
A group of us were in place at Connolly anticipating the navy blue cruise train led by the orange loco.
But which platform would make a better photograph?
At the last minute, photographer Kevin O’Brien suggested platform 3. I owe him one for the idea. As it happened the Belmond and a late running Belfast-Dublin Enterprise approached Connolly at the same time.
My friends over on platform 2 didn’t get the view they hoped for since in the final seconds the Enterprise effectively blocked the view of the other train.
My first visit to Killarney was in February 1998. It was dark and damp.
It was my among first encounters with a class 201 diesel.
By contrast, Friday, 6 September 2019, Killarney was warm and pleasant.
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Cravens led by 4-4-0 Compound no. 85 was in the sidings, having arrived earlier from Dublin with annual Steam Dreams excursion. A scheduled Irish Rail train was just arriving.
I like the contrast between the steam locomotive and the ROTEM built InterCity Railcar. There’s more than 70 years between the two train designs , yet they co-exist on the same modern railway.
Main line steam continues to be a feature of Irish railway operations.
Friday, 6 September 2019, I made photographs of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s compound 4-4-0 under steam on its journey from Dublin Connolly to Killarney, County Kerry with the annual Steam Dreams rail tour.
This selection was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. I also made photos with my Lumix LX7 and a Nikon F3HP loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
Thanks to everyone at Irish Rail, RPSI and Steam Dreams for keeping steam alive in Ireland.
Nineteen Years ago, I was traveling with Denis McCabe and Tony Gray to photograph Railway Preservations Society of Ireland’s annual ‘Two Day Tour’.
We stopped along the N25 opposite the water from Cobh, Junction, Glounthaune, Cork, where I used a telephoto lens to expose this view of former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) steam locomotive 171 hauling Irish Rail Cravens carriages on a trip to Cobh.
At the time, an overcast day photo of 171 working tender first didn’t excite me much, and I left this slide with the other ‘seconds’ from that trip
However, in May of this year (2019)—almost 19 years to the day after I exposed the photo—I rediscovered this slide. It was still in the original box in which it was returned to me from the lab. Time has improved my photo and I think it’s pretty neat now.
I scanned it using an Epson V750 Pro flat bed scanner and processed the file using Lightroom.
On 10 May 2005, I exposed this color slide of Irish Rail’s Claremorris Liner from Claude Road in Dublin.
This was toward the end of an era; Irish Rail would only move kegs of beer by rail for another year or so after this image was exposed.
At the time I was working with an F3T fitted with a 180mm lens to make the most of the glinting kegs as the train worked west into the setting sun. To minimize flare, I shaded the front element of my lens with my trusty notebook.
On 6 April 2019, I was working with a 1980s-vintage Nikon F3HP fitted with an even older Nikkor 24mm lens to expose this view of Irish Rail 219 in ‘push-mode’ at the back of Dublin-bound Mark4 set at Kildare
This slide was among the photographs I exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F on an excursion to Kildare with Paul Maguire and Jay Monaghan to photograph the Waterford-Portlaoise Saturday steel train (seen in the distance at Kildare station).
I digitized the slide using an Epson Perfection V750 flatbed scanner and imported the TIF file into Lightroom for final adjustment and outputted a scaled JPG for presentation here.
Several weeks ago on Tracking the Light I published a digital view of this same train, exposed moments after I made this slide.
It was a cool, clear morning at Donabate on the old Great Northern Railway of Ireland north of Dublin, when I set up with a telephoto lens fitted to my Nikon N90S ( loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II slide film).
Irish Rail’s 2700-series diesel railcars were relatively new at the time, but weren’t the main feature of the morning. I was hoping to catch some NI Railways 80-Class that were on their way down from Belfast.
In retrospect, I’m glad I made use of the clear morning light. The 2700-series railcars were relatively short-lived in traffic, and they only operated in that attractive orange livery for a scant few years.
Some advice: take advantage of new trains in great light and make the best photos that you can, even when those trains don’t seem special to you. Over time your photos will age well.
Just a little while ago I was passing the usual place at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. Although mostly cloudy, I took a glimpse over the wall. A horn hooted from the Phoenix Park tunnel and an Enterprise 201 eased out onto the Liffey Bridge.
As locomotive 206 approached, running light engine toward Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works, the clouds parted and brilliant morning sun illuminated the junction.
Lumix in hand, I made these photos!
Travel Notice: Brian will be traveling over the coming days and weeks, so Tracking the Light notices and responses may become infrequent. However:
A week ago, Friday 8 March 2019, toward the end of our exploration of Bord na Mona’s Lough Rea narrow gauge network near Lanesborough Co. Longford, the sky grew textured and glowed with evening magnificence.
I made this view of an empty Bord na Mona train crossing the bog on its way to reload.
The trick making this photo work was to expose for the sky while letting the train go relatively dark. I was working with Ilford HP5 black & white film, and during processing, I used two developers followed by selenium toning of the negatives to extract the maximum shadow detail.
My intent was a moody and stark view of the train against the textured sky.