Last month I made this photograph of a down Irish Rail Intercity Railcar paused at Newbridge on the Dublin-Cork mainline.
I was changing trains on my way to Sallins.
Exposed using a Lumix LX7, file processed in Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation. To make the most of the nocturnal setting, I set my camera to overexpose by 1/3 of stop (+ 1/3 on my exposure compensation dial). This compensates for the specular highlights which tend to skew the camera meter toward underexposure.
In this situation under exposure would result in the image appearing too dark.
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.
Last week, Ballinasloe was to be the jumping off point for the latest of my Bord na Mona adventures (to be covered in Tracking the Light in the future).
Irish Rail’s Galway line wouldn’t be an operation characterized by variety. Except for the very occasional excursion, the vast majority of movements consist of the common 22000-series Intercity Railcars (ICRs).
So, when I positioned myself at the Dublin end of the down platform, my intent was to document the ICR that I’d arrive upon with Ballinasloe’s handsome Midland Great Western Railway station.
Why was the up-home signal green? We’d just crossed the up-Galway at Athlone.
As the 0735 Dublin to Galway train pulled away, I was startled and surprised to see a pair of 2800-series railcars ready to depart up-road. What was this?
After I made my photos, it occurred to me that this was the weekly equipment transfer for the Ballina Branch. Ah, yes. And perhaps, I should have known.
I’m happy that I had camera in hand to picture this relatively unusual movement. Sometimes, even when you think you know what to expect, something sneaks up and surprises you!
Monday, 28 October 2019 was a bright day in the Irish capital.
Although the main focus of the day was catching Irish Rail’s IWT Liners and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Haunted Expresses, the weather was conducive to making captivating photos of the more pedestrian trains.
Photographer Jay Monaghan and I had spent the day traveling around Dublin, grabbing angles of the passing trains.
In the afternoon we made our way to the Claude Road footbridge west of Drumcondra Station and set up for the outbound RPSI train.
While waiting, I made this view of an outbound ICR (intercity railcar) working the afternoon Dublin to Sligo service. In the distance is the Croke Park stadium. Further, are the iconic ‘Chimneys’ or ‘Stacks’ for the Poolbeg Generation Station.
Often I have a pretty good idea what’s on the program. Yet, sometimes when traveling, I come across completely unexpected.
So for me this was a surprise: The Linmag Railgrinder at Banteer, County Cork.
So let’s back up: last week it was dull and drizzly. I was traveling by road with Ken Fox in rural north county Cork. As we approached Irish Rail’s Banteer Station, one of the railway’s smaller halts, I spotted this Linmag rail grinder in the sidings east of the station platforms, I said, ‘whoa! Stop the Car!’
Ken found it amusing, when I leapt out, cameras in hand, to photograph this interesting rail maintenance equipment.
Irish Rail doesn’t own its own modern rail grinder so it contracts Linmag to profile its rails.
The trackage arrangement at Irish Rail’s Cobh Junction, Glounthaune gives the location great photographic interest.
Here the Cobh Branch and Midleton lines divide.
Historically, the line to Midleton (left) had continued to Youghal and was envisioned as a scheme to continue on to Waterford. Later the Cobh Branch (right) was built to reach the old port at Queenstown (Cobh).
The Cobh Branch developed as double-track suburban route, and ultimately the priority of the lines at the junction was reversed.
By the 1980s route via Midleton to Youghal had languished and allowed to go fallow. Ten years ago, after decades of inactivity, Irish Rail rebuilt and revitalized the route as far as Midleton. Today both lines are busy with passenger trains.
This week, Ken Fox gave me a tour of Cork area railways, including trips along the Cobh and Midleton routes.
I made this view from the station footbridge at Cobh Junction, Glounthaune using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
Sunday, 13 October 2019, I exposed this view of an Irish Rail 2600-series railcar at Littleisland on the Cobh Branch destined for Kent Station, Cork.
For me this was a test of the Lumix LX100 that Denis McCabe lent me.
The scene is cross-lit; so the sun is off-camera to my left, leaving the railcar on the ‘Dark Side’ while the signal cabin is brightly illuminated. Complicating the contrast are the fluffy white clouds and a polarized sky above.
This image was adjusted from the camera-RAW file using Lightroom. I darkened highlight areas to obtain greater detail, while lightening shadow regions, and used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold detail in the sky.
Two points: I find the RAW files from Lumix LX100 exceptionally sharp; and the files have very good dynamic range which gives me plenty of room to make adjustement in situations with extreme contrast.
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.
After photographing Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s private charter crossing the Liffey in Dublin, and catching the train with the TESCO painted Red Line tram at Gardiner Street, I walked briskly to make more photos of the train arriving at Connolly station.
Steam locomotive number 4 was unhooked and sent to Connolly shed, while Irish Rail 082 took its place to bring the RSPI Cravens across to Inchicore Works.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
The camera battery was flashing red and my storage card was alarmingly low on pixels. Where were my film cameras? Not with me at Connolly.
It’s a comparatively unusual occurrence to find an RPSI steam excursion side by side with an Irish Rail freight.
In fact, over the last two decades, I’ve only had a handful of opportunities to photograph steam excursions and freight together.
Last Wednesday September 11, 2019, was one of those opportunities.
Locomotive number 4 on its way from Galway to Dublin with the Steam Dreams trip was paused to take water at Athlone, when the up-IWT liner from Ballina arrived to change crews. In the lead was locomotive 234.
I made a few photographs, then the sun emerged from the clouds, so I made a few more photos!
Here are examples from both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
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.
Friday morning, 6 September 2019, I took position at the far end of Dublin Connolly Station platform 4 to photograph RPSI’s Empty Cravens arriving from the Inchicore Work in preparation for boarding and departure of the annual Steam Dreams excursion. (More on that tomorrow!).
I wanted to make both long telephoto and wide angle views of the train. To accomplish this I could use my FujiFilm XT1 with a telephoto and then switch to my Lumix LX7 as the train approached.
However, for the sake of convenience instead I opted to work exclusively with the XT1 for this sequence, and fitted the camera with a 18-135mm zoom lens.
There’s no one ‘right’ way to execute an image (or images) but different equipment choices will produce varied results.
One reason for my using the XT1 for the whole sequence was a function of the lighting conditions. My Panasonic Lumix LX7 is an excellent camera in many respects. However, I’ve found that it has a slightly narrower dynamic range, probably owing to smaller file size.
In many situations this subtle difference doesn’t matter, but with Friday’s lighting, I wanted to be able to pull in sky detail in post processing, and from past experience the XT1 RAW files leave more to work with than those from the LX7.
Yesterday, the final day of August 2019, I joined fellow photographer Paul Maguire in photographing Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on its run from Heuston Station over the Branch to Connolly (before it continued on to Belfast).
We selected a vantage point on Dublin’s Blackhorse Avenue and timed visit to minimize the waiting.
In short order flange-squeal emanating from the Phoenix Park Tunnel announced the approach of Belmond’s train before it came into sight.
I opted to use a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens in order to include the castle-like McKee Barracks on the west side of the line.
Bright sun made for a contrasty scene.
I mitigated the visually distracting effects of excessive contrast, I adjusted the camera RAW files using Lightroom. Simply by using the program’s ‘sliders’, I lightened shadows, tempered highlights, and locally adjusted exposure in the sky to allow for better detail in the clouds. I also warmed the colour-balance, while making a slight increases in overall saturation. The adjustments took less than a minute of my time.
The light was rapidly changing and shortly after the train passed a cloud eclipsed the sun. I’ve included an unadjusted image of the clouded scene to show the difference in light levels.
In 1998 on a visit to the Irish Railway Record Society Dublin premises, I took a few minutes to photograph from the far end of platform five. I recall, that at the time, this area was accessible without the need to pass through the main station nor transit a ticket barrier. This was four years before construction of platforms six, seven and eight.
Working with a Nikon F3T fitted with an old non AI f2.8 135mm lens, I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia (ISO 100) colour slide of a two-piece 2600 ‘Arrow’ departing Heuston for Kildare.
The Spring evening sun was setting on the north side of the tracks and heavy particulates in the air made for a red-orange tint.
I exposed the slide for the highlights by carefully examining the overall lighting situation with my handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter and setting the camera manually. This prevented gross overexposure and loss of highlight detail, while making for a relatively dark slide.
Recently, I made a multiple pass scan using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 operated with Vue Scan software, and then imported the high resolution TIF into Lightroom to adjust shadow areas for greater visual detail.
My intent was not to negate the effect of shadows, but simply to reduce the impenetrable inky effect and allow for better separation in the darker areas.
It was just an ordinary day when I made this impromptu view of Irish Rail 225 working a Mark 3 push pull set on Dublin’s Loop Line crossing over Gardner Street Lower.
What was common in 1998 seems pretty neat today. I’m glad I exposed the slide!
To make the most of this photograph, I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Scoolscan5000 then imported the TIF file into Lightroom for contrast and exposure refinement plus colour balance and colour temperature adjustment.
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.
It was raining in Dublin, but clear and bright in Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford on 13 December 2003 when we visited to observe Irish Rail’s sugar beet operations.
Working with a Rollei Model T that I’d bought in San Francisco a few weeks earlier, I exposed a sequence of 120-size black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X of NI Railways 112 (on long-term loan to Irish Rail) that was shunting four-wheel sugar beet wagons for loading.
To obtain greater shadow detail and superior overall tonality, I rate the film at ISO 200 (one stop slower than the advertised 400 ISO) and processed it in a dilute bath of Ilfotec HC high-contrast developer.
For presentation here, I scanned the negatives last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and then scaled/sized the TIFs for internet viewing.
You could make wall-size prints from the original negatives.
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.
It was a damp day back in 2005, when I made this 400mm view using my recently acquired Canon EOS-3 with a rented 100-400mm Canon image stabilizer zoom l.ens
In the lead was Irish Rail 185 (known in some circles as ‘Super Bo-Bo’ which delighted observers because it was missing the cowling around the exhaust and produced more sound than others of its class).
Sugar beet was loaded at Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford and transported by rail via Waterford and Limerick Junction to a processing plant in Mallow, County Cork.
In this view, exposed west of Kilsheelan, County Tipperary, by using a long telephoto lens, I compressed the train of very short four-wheel beet wagons into a virtual snake of rolling beet.
On the evening of 26 Nov 2005, I exposed this Fujichrome slide on the platform at Mallow, County Cork.
A relatively long exposure was needed, so I mounted the camera on a Manfrotto tripod. The swirling steam leaking from Irish Rail’s Cravens carriages added to the mystique of the image.
This was a regularly scheduled train for Tralee, and toward the end of locomotive-hauled Cravens service on the Cork-Kerry runs. Not too long after this photo was made Irish Rail replaced the old steam-heated Cravens on this run with diesel railcars.