Irish Rail operates International Warehousing & Transport (IWT) container liner freights five to six days per week between Dublin Port and Ballina, County Mayo.
On 3 October 2013, Colm O’Callaghan and I photographed Irish Rail 082 working the down IWT Liner at Clondalkin on the quad track section of the Dublin-Cork line. Back then the locomotive wore the now obsolete black, silver and yellow ‘freight’ livery.
On 1 October 2018, two days ago, I caught the very same locomotive working the up IWT liner at Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin. It’s now in battle ship gray paint, as are most of the 071s, except numbers 071 and 073 that are dressed in heritage paint.
I’ve often heard railway photographers dismiss an opportunity with the excuse, ‘I already have that there.’
I’m guilty of this too.
However, everyday is different; locomotives and locations are only two elements that make a a successful railway action photograph.
Weather, lighting, angle to the tracks and the focal length of your lens all play important roles in the end result. Also consider the cleanliness of the locomotive and the variations in consist.
There was a period where Irish Rail 219 regularly worked the Dublin-Ballina IWT liner freights. When I’m in Dublin it is relatively easy for me to reach my standard location and catch the IWT on its down-road journey. In fact I often do this on my morning walk, or on the way to the supermarket.
Yet, it got to the point where if I knew that 219 was working the IWT, I wouldn’t bother with another photo of it in my standard location. (And yes I have it at other places too.)
Last week, Irish Rail operated a late IWT liner that departed Dublin in the evening, instead on its normal mid-morning path.
A group of my friends went to Cherry Orchard in the west Dublin suburbs to capture this relatively unusual move. While waiting for the freight, I made views of the evening passenger parade.
The sky was clear of clouds and sun was aligned with the Cork line making some interesting possibilities of glint and silhouette photographs.
In the 1990s, I exposed hundreds of images in this type of dramatic lighting conditions. The characteristics of Kodachrome 25 slide film made it well suited to glint photographs and I had my K25 exposures refined to a high art.
Glint photographs are more difficult to capture digitally, and I find that I have to control contrast and use digital masks/digital applied graduated neutral density filters in post processing to obtain the results that I expect.
Key to this exercise is underexposing a raw file sufficiently to retain detail in the sky and glinty areas of the image, than lighten shadows while making localized highlight adjustments in post processing.
At 1007 (10:07 am) this morning (8 February 2018), Irish Rail’s 071 (class leader of the popular 071 class of General Motors-built diesel locomotives) passed Islandbridge Junction with the down IWT Liner.
This locomotive was repainted in 2016 into the attractive 1970s-era livery.
Although, I’ve made a number of photographs of this locomotive in heritage paint before, it’s always nice to see it on the move. I’m told it had been laid up for the last few months and it’s only back on the road this week.
I realize that today’s title might not catch everyone’s eye.
How about: ‘Clean GM Diesel on a Freight’?
Or, ‘Irish Rail at Rush Hour’ ?
Anyway, this post is about light.
I was waiting on the Up IWT liner (International Warehousing & Transport Ballina, County Mayo to Dublin Northwall container train)with recently painted Irish Rail 071 class diesel number 082.
Just ahead of this Dublin-bound freight was the Up-Galway passenger train with a common set of ICRs (InterCity Railcars).
I was photographing into the sun. My intent was to work the glint effect. (That’s when the sun reflects off the side of the train).
Usually, I find this is most effective when you shade the front element of the lens to minimize flare. Notice the two variations with the ICR.
By the time the freight reached me clouds had partly shaded the sun leaving only a hint of back-lighting.
All the photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera RAW Files were all adjusted for colour balance, colour saturation and contrast using the same ratio of change. (In other words, although I’ve manipulated the final result, all the photos have received the same degree of alteration).
On the morning of 27 March 2017, freshly painted Irish Rail class 071 locomotive number 081 worked the down IWT liner.
I made the time to catch this from my often photographed location at Islandbridge Junction near Dublin’s Heuston Station.
Among the advantages of this spot is good morning lighting on westward trains (where most other places face difficult backlighting), ample elevation and the iconic Wellington Testimonial, which is located in the Phoenix Park on the north side of the River Liffey.
So do you go out in poor light to catch something unusual? That’s your choice.
Sometimes I hold off for fine weather or good light to make images. Other times I’m faced with catching something in prevailing conditions. The railway doesn’t run for sunshine.
Once a week Irish schedules an extra IWT Liner (International Warehousing & Transport—Dublin North Wall to Ballina, Co. Mayo). In recent months, this has operated with the elusive container pocket wagons (CPWs). But it doesn’t necessarily run every week.
I have plenty of photos from Islandbridge Junction, and no shortage of images depicting the IWT Liner, and while I’ve photographed the CPWs over the years, last week I knew for certain (that’s railway certain, which is at best uncertain) that the CPWs were on due to pass.
For the last week, Irish Rail class 201 number 231 has been working the International Warehousing & Transport Liner (Dublin North Wall to Ballina, Co. Mayo) with IWT identification marks on the Ballina-end and the sides of the loco.
Photographically this is a boon because it positively distinguishes the IWT liner from other trains.
While last week, I’d either been busy or out of position when 231 worked the train; but this morning I made the effort to catch it from my usual location at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
Do I have too many photos from this spot? Undoubtedly, but it’s better to have a publishable image of a distinctive train from an identifiable location, than not to have a photo of the train at all. So, for the sake of a 5-minute walk, I’ve got the IWT Liner looking the part.
Thursday morning on my way to breakfast, I made this photo of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (Dublin to Ballina) passing Islandbridge Junction.
I timed my visit well and so only waited a few minutes for the freight to pass.
I’ve often photographed the IWT at this location, so this was really just an exercise.
Soft morning clouds made for some pleasant lighting, but also a post-processing quandary.
My FujiFilm XT1 allows me to simultaneously expose a Camera RAW file and a camera interpreted JPG. Among the features of the Fuji cameras is the ability to select a film-like colour profile for the Jpg.
In this instance I’ve opted for the Velvia profile, which closely emulates the colour and contrast of this popular slide film.
Another colour adjustment is the white balance control. In this situation I selected ‘auto white balance’, which means the camera interprets the color temperature.
When I processed the photos, I wanted to see if I could improve upon the camera JPG by making subtle changes to the Camera RAW file (which has ten times more information imbedded in it than the Jpg, but serves in the same role as a ‘negative’ and is intended for adjustment rather than uninterpreted presentation).
Below are three images; the a JPG from the unmodified Camera RAW, Camera created JPG, and my interpretation of the Camera RAW file.
Incidentally, by using Lightroom, I can make adjustments to the RAW files without permanently changing the original data. This is very important since it would be a mistake to modify the original file. That would be like adding colour dyes or bleach to your original slide to ‘improve’ the result.
Thursday, 7 April 2016, Irish Rail’s IWT Liner was blocked at Islandbridge Junction. This gave me the opportunity to work some less common angles in addition to my common viewing point (often featured on Tracking the Light).
By holding my FujiFilm X-T1 above my head at arm’s length and tilting the camera’s live-view panel screen downward, I was able to make this view looking over the wall at the St. John’s Road roundabout in Dublin.
Why not try this more often? Simply because I’m not tall enough to see over the wall, so to make this view I’m actually using the camera to view the scene. It’s tiring work to hold a camera above your head while waiting for trains to appear.
Lately the sun has been an elusive orb in Irish skies. Too often, I awake to find a slate gray dome above me.
Good Friday (25 March 2016) was different. It was bright sunny morning.
Having the sun and making use of it are two different things.
In the early afternoon, Colm O’Callaghan, Ciarán Cooney and I waited at Lucan South, just east of the Adamstown Station on the quad-track in suburban Dublin.
Our quarry was the up-IWT Liner from Ballina, which was operating with Irish Rail 233, the last 201 class diesel in the old Enterprise-livery. We caught this engine before, but it’s unlikely to survive for long in this old paint.
While the day remained bright, puffy clouds were rapidly blowing across the sky, changing and dampening the light when they blocked the sun
Anxiously, we watched the signals, and the passing InterCity Railcars. The tapestry above was becoming a maddening mixture of fluff and blue.
Would we get the liner in full sun? After all, that’s what we were out for.
With two cameras around my neck, I was prepared for either eventuality; if it was cloudy, I work with the digital camera; but if the sun came out bright, I’d make a slide. To this aim, I’d set my Canon EOS-3 at f4.5 1/1000th of a second—my full-sun setting for Provia 100F.
It was a photo finish. As the liner approached the light changed from dark to light.
I made some telephoto views with the FujiFilm X-T1; but as the IWT liner reached us the clouds began to part and I exposed a single frame of Fujichrome with my Canon. That photo remains latent in the camera. Did I get it right? It will be some weeks before I know the answer; I wont have the film processed until May.
This quiet overhead crossing of the quad-track is just past the 8 ¾ milepost from Dublin’s Heuston Station.
It offers an open view of the line with a favorable angle for down (traveling away from Dublin) trains mid-morning.
It takes a tuned interest in Irish Rail’s operations and a bit of luck. to time a visit to coincide with passage of the weekday IWT Liner (International Warehousing & Transport container train between Dublin and Ballina) and the more elusive HOBS (high output ballast system).
Getting the clouds to cooperate is trickier yet again.
A couple of weeks ago Colm O’Callaghan and I spent a strategic 45 minutes at Stucumny Bridge.
Even if you fail at catching the freight on the move, there’s always a steady parade of passenger trains.
It was rare glorious sunny day back in September 2015. Irish Rail had a full complement of trains on the move. Catching clean 071 class diesel 077 with the second IWT Liner was a bonus.
I exposed these photos along the Dublin-Cork line at Hazelhatch (about ten miles southwest of Dublin). Special thanks to John Cleary, who advised me on the day’s program, provided road-based transport and suggested some angles.
Photos by the rules:
Sunny day; tick!
Sun at least 30 degrees above the horizon and over right shoulder and positioned for evenly-lit three-quarter view; tick!
Rolling stock nearly free from shadows; tick!
Polls and wires minimized; tick!
View of railway wheels; tick!
shutter speed fast enough to stop the action; tick!
Trees and fences safely in the distance; tick!
Bonus qualifications: nominal elevation, clearly identifiable location and clean equipment.
Points subtracted: zoom lens used instead a prime ‘standard lens’. Digital used instead of film. Colour used instead of black & white. Evidence of people in some of the photos (minus two points, Tsk!)
Everyday Tracking the Light presents new material (qualified and otherwise).
Posted live from Dublin Bus. I’m on the 747 bus on the way to the airport. The Wednesday-only second IWT liner (Ballina to Dublin Port) just crossed the road. I had a perfect vantage point from my seat on the top deck.
I using my Lumix LX7, I exposed these views.
What fantastic luck!
Tracking the Light Posts Daily (but rarely from a bus)
Prelude: on Friday, August 14, 2015, General Motors-built 201-class 8208 worked the Dublin to Ballina IWT liner. I’d photographed that move on the quad-track near Cherry Orchard.
I was interested in this recently painted locomotive, which, of-course, is styled for the Dublin-Belfast express passenger service, and not freight.
Day of action: On Saturday, I saw reports of 8208 working the up-IWT liner. This was an otherwise dull afternoon. I crossed the War Memorial Park on foot. No Vikings with their long boats today.
I found my spot, and was poised at the Con Colbert Road bridge over the three track-line in a cutting (known colloquially as ‘the Gullet’). Moments before the liner appeared, the sun briefly emerged from the clouds. Lucky me! And so this Saturday-freight eased up to the ‘Bridge of Signals’ giving me plenty of time to expose photographs.
First, I made a few strategically composed color slides with my Canon EOS 3 with 100mm lens, then exposed some digital photos with my Lumix LX7
Not bad for few minutes away from the computer on a weekend afternoon.
It’s become a tradition to visit Kildare on Good Friday. This day has a history of seeing a good number of freights as well as passenger trains.
Kildare offers a good place to photograph freights running between Waterford and Ballina, since trains need to reverse direction here owing to the lack of a direct connection in the westward direction at Cherryville Junction.
On Good Friday, April 3, 2015, there was the added bonus of a locomotive exchange for the laden timber. Locomotive 071 (the class leader) had come down from Inchicore in Dublin and waited for the arrival of the timber from Ballina (with engine 078).
Although the weather wasn’t the best, I had ample opportunity for photographs. All of these images were exposed between 10:48 and 12:08 am using my Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.
Tomorrow: Good Friday highlight, a freshly painted locomotive in freight service at Cherryville Junction.
I exposed these photos with my Fuji X-T1 a little while ago (7 March 2015). Compare these photos made in soft afternoon sun with my image of the same freight train at the same location last Saturday (28 February 2015)
Locomotive 071 is the class leader; one of Irish Rail’s 18 General Motors-built model JT22CW dual-cab six-motor diesel-electrics.
A little while ago, I caught Irish Rail 206 wearing a fresh new dress leading the afternoon IWT Liner from the top of the Phoenix Park Tunnel in Dublin. I made these photos with my Fuji X-T1.
I think the new photography mode is: ‘ISO 6400 and be there’. It was pretty dark. This was my first glimpse of the locomotive in this new livery. I’m sure there’ll be ample opportunity to catch it in better light, but thanks to improved technology I was able to make the most of the moment.
It helps to be near the tracks. In Dublin, my oft-photographed location at Islandbridge Junction is only a five minute walk away.
It wasn’t the brightest day, last week when I made the opportunity to make a few photographs of Irish Rail’s Dublin (North Wall) to Ballina IWT Liner. This is a freight train that I’ve photographed very often owing to its operational regularity and proximity. It was the perfect subject to try out my new Fuji X-T1.
I wandered up to my location as Irish Rail was shuffling some 22K series ROTEM-built Intercity Railcars (ICRs). While these are a dime a dozen (or is that ten euro cents for ten?) and the light was flat, I put the camera to use. What better time to practice?
The liner made its appearance and I exposed a burst of images in ‘Provia’ mode. (The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera has traditional Fuji film profiles programmed into it.)
As luck would have it, the liner wasn’t moving very quickly and it looked as if it wouldn’t stay ahead of the 11 am passenger train to Cork, so my friend and fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan traveled to Hazelhatch at the end of the quad-track.
We made it in enough time to watch the 11am passenger overtake the IWT Liner and made some photos of the train.
My Fuji X-T1 has a tilting rear display, a first for me. This allowed me to hold the camera high over the railing on the footbridge at Hazelhatch and frame up a series of images.
After the train passed, I could hear the class 071 diesel-electric roaring away in ‘run-8’ (maximum throttle) for at least five minutes. I grew up to the sound of turbocharged EMD diesels, so its always a treat to hear an old 645E3 working.
When I got home, I pored over the files fresh from the X-T1. These were some of the first action shots with my new camera. Not too bad considering the dull light. More to come!
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.
Every so often the sun shines in Ireland. When it does, it helps to be in position to make photographs. As it happened, on Friday September 27, 2013, Colm O’Callaghan and I were at Stacumny Bridge, near Hazelhatch in suburban Dublin.
Our aim was to photograph the down IWT (International Warehousing and Transport) liner which had an 071 class diesel leading. Stacumny Bridge is a favorite location to catch down-road trains mid-morning because of the broad open view of the tracks and favorable sun angle. I’ve post photos from this location on previous occasions.
While waiting for the liner, we got word of an up road wagon transfer. And caught that a few minutes before the liner came down. Then we heard that there was a permanent way department (PWD or ‘Per way’) ballast train coming up road as well. This was one of the elusive high output ballast trains (HOBS) I’ve mentioned in other posts.
Although an annoying small cloud softened the light at Stacumny when the HOBS roared up road. We pursued the train up to Dublin and caught it again reversing into the old Guinness sidings at Heuston Station.
For the all hours scouring the countryside for photos on dull days, it’s rewarding to catch a clattering of interesting action in just over an hour on a bright day. This is down to watching the weather, combined with patience and persistence and a good bit of luck.
Tomorrow: Tracking the Light looks back 13 years at Stacumny Bridge. What a change!
Tracking the Light posts new material on a daily basis.
For the last decade or so, Irish Rail has focused largely on its passenger operations. These days long distance passenger trains are dominated by fleets of Rotem-built InterCity Rail cars (ICRs), with locomotive-powered trains only working Dublin-Cork (class 201 diesels with Mark 4 push-pull) and Dublin-Belfast (class 201 diesels with De Dietrich push-pull). To the casual observer, it might seem that all the Irish Rail trains are ICRs. Certainly they seem to be everywhere.
Last Thursday and Friday, David Hegarty & I visited midland counties in search of freight trains. These are good days to be out, since Irish rail fields a variety of scheduled freight on its route to County Mayo via Portarlington, Athlone, and Roscommon. This single-track line has a rock and roll profile across undulating countryside.
It’s gorse-season, and the gold-tinged blooming bushes works well with Irish Rail’s ‘safety yellow’ on the front of most trains. Getting the sun out is an added bonus. One minute there’s bright sun, the next its lashing rain. Sometime, I didn’t have to wait that long. They call it Spring. It’s as good an excuse as any.
In addition to these digital photos exposed with my Canon 7D and Lumix LX-3, I also exposed a couple of rolls of film, including the first roll of Fuji Velvia 50 that’s been in my Canon EOS 3 in about six years. When using slide film, I usually work with 100 ISO stock. The Velvia 50 is an accident, and I’ll be curious to see how those slides turn out. Thanks to Noel Enright for logistical advice!
This time last week (Thursday March 21) I was getting ready to fly to Brussels. My bag was packed; my passport and tickets were organized. Then word came over the telegraph that an 071 was to work Irish Rail’s second Dublin-Ballina IWT Liner (International Warehousing and Transport)
As previously mentioned on Tracking the Light (see: Irish Rail at Clondalkin, February 21, 2013), Irish Rail runs a weekday container train between Dublin and Ballina. On Thursdays, traffic demands a second Dublin-Ballina train.
In recent months, Irish Rail has largely assigned its common 1994-1995 General Motors 201-Class diesels to this freight service, and the older General Motors 071-Class have only worked it infrequently. So, when I heard that Irish Rail 075 was on the train, I was keen to make some photos.
I had two hours before I needed to aim for Dublin Airport—plenty of time. On the downside, the weather wasn’t so cooperative. It was overcast, very windy, and spitting rain. Not my favorite conditions, but I’ll make photos in just about any circumstances. So, when my friend Colm O’Callaghan suggested we make the effort, I grabbed my travel bag and cameras and headed out the door.
This would require only a very short wait, or so we thought! When we arrived at Cherry Orchard, an industrial area in the west Dublin suburbs, the telegraph informed us that the second IWT was still in the yard at the North Wall. In other words, it hadn’t left yet, and was still at least 20 minutes away. An hour ticked by. In the mean time we caught the Ballina-Dublin ‘up IWT’ liner with a 201-class.
Then my phone rang; a client needed a photo immediately. A difficult proposition considering that the photo was buried on a hard-drive that I hadn’t planned to access for another week! My plans changed, I had to head home and address this request before making for the airport. My two-hour cushion had just been eroded. Still no IWT liner, and time was running out.
We gave up and were about to leave, when the telegraph came to life: the IWT had passed Islandbridge! It was on its way and not far off. Unfortunately, a clattering of passenger trains preceded it. Another 10 minutes gone. Finally, we heard the approaching roar of a 12-645 turbocharged diesel! Our perseverance paid off: 075 with the ‘down IWT’.
I dashed home, sent off the requested photo, then made for Dublin Airport on the 747 Airport Bus. Stay tuned for my photographs of Belgian railways . . .
The program begins at 1900 (7pm) upstairs at the Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, LONDON NW1, (advertised as a 5 minute walk from London’s Euston station). A nominal donation of £3.50 is asked of non-IRRS members (members £2.50)
This morning (February 21, 2013), Dublin dawned frosty and dull. On Thursdays, Irish Rail runs a pair of intermodal freight liners between Dublin port and Ballina, County Mayo for shipping company IWT (International Warehousing and Transport). Today, the first of the two IWT Liners (as the freights are generally known) departed the yards at the North Wall just after 9:31 am. As it was led by a common 201-class diesel and the weather remained especially dull outside, I opted to let it pass undocumented, as I’ve often photographed this train in nice light. The second train, however, was running with Irish Rail 074, one of the 1970s-era General Motors-built 071 class diesels, which is of greater interest to me. So this afternoon, my friend Colm O’Callaghan and I went to a favored spot near Clondalkin in the western suburbs at milepost 4 ¼ , where we waited patiently in Baltic conditions. While the temperature was a balmy 3 degrees Celsius (about 37 Fahrenheit), the biting wind and general dampness made it feel much colder. Just ten days ago I was out in much colder conditions at Palmer, Massachusetts (USA), where it was about -17 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit), and it hadn’t felt so bad. There’s nothing like a raw Irish day to cut through you.
Clondalkin is on the short stretch of quad-track mainline between Cherry Orchard (no cherries near the place!) and Hazelhatch that was expanded from the old double-line at the end of the Celtic Tiger-era boom years. The slight curve at the end of a long tangent in an area of industrial estates makes for an interesting setting to capture trains on the roll. However, it isn’t the nicest place to stand around exposed on a cold day. Complicating photography are high palisade fences and other fencing on the bridge that requires some creative solutions to overcome. While waiting for the down IWT liner, we witnessed the usual parade of passenger trains, all running to time, on the new Irish Rail time table.
The mildly overcast conditions encouraged us to make a cross-lit view of the liner from the north side of the line, rather than the more traditional three-quarter angle from the south side. I like the north side view on a dull day because it offers a better angle on the quad track and signaling.
This morning (Monday 5 November 2012) was unusually colourful for Irish Rail; on a railway primarily populated by Rotem-built 22000-series Intercity City Railcars and Class 201 (General Motors model JT42HCW) diesels with Mark IV trains, the course of just a few minutes saw passage of Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s historic 2-6-0 461 (on trial from Inchicore) followed by the weekday IWT intermodal liner (Dublin North Wall to Ballina, County Mayo) led by class 071 number 083 (General Motors model JT22CW). While it was a mostly sunny, a thin band of cloud managed to dull the light for 461, but bright sun prevailed for the liner. Stacumny is just a short jaunt for me (thanks to a lift from a friend). By noon I was home in Dublin, where I spent the afternoon processing B&W film. By constrast this morning’s efforts were made with my Canon 7D with 200mm lens. I also exposed some Provia 100F, but that will be in the camera for a while yet.
Brian Solomon will be giving an illustrated talk titled: “Ireland from an American Perspective 1998-2003” at the Irish Railway Record Society’s Heuston Station premises in Dublin at 7:30pm on Thursday November 8, 2012. Admission free.