In August 1984, I was on a big solo rail adventure. Among the places I visited by train was Montreal.
My friend Brandon Delaney had recommended Dorval as a place to watch trains. Here, double-track Canadian Pacific and Canadian National mainlines ran parallel to each other and there was a continuous parade of freight and passenger trains.
On August 14th, I traveled out on commuter train from Windsor Station and spent several hours soaking up the action.
Among the trains I photographed was this eastbound VIA RDC set on the CN heading for Central Station.
I’d positioned myself where the codelines crossed from the north-side to the south-side of CN’s line. This was my clever compositional trick that makes for a more interesting photograph by focusing the eye toward a secondary horizon.
Here’s a classic from my Kodachrome file: Southern Pacific SD40T-2 8378 West ascending Beaumont Hill on the Sunset Route at Cabazon, California on January 30, 1994.
I had Kodachrome 25 loaded in my Nikon F3T, which was fitted with an f5.6 Tokina 400mm lens.
My focus point was not on the front of the locomotive, but rather on the searchlight signal to the right of the train. Since the signal was the emphasis of the photo, you may wonder why I didn’t move a little closer to make it appear larger. The reason is simple: I wanted to include the ‘Cabazon’ sign on the signal relay cabinet, which identifies the location and was key to the interlocking.
Just in case you are curious, the second locomotive in the train consist is a Conrail SD40-2.
Boston & Maine was making its image transition to Guilford. While Guildford’s B&M acquisition had occurred a few years earlier, many B&M locomotives still retained their B&M blue paint. This period of transition on the railroad coincided with transitions in the way I made photos.
Here a pair of GP7s was leading the southward EDSP at Keets Road in Deerfield, a short distance south of Deerfield Junction. Notice the small stenciled Guilford ‘G’ on the short-hood of the locomotive.
I’d recently discovered the superior qualities of Kodachrome 25. While very slow, this yielded great color, exceptionally fine grain, and about 2 ½ stops of exposure latitude.
For this slide, I had my Leica IIIA mounted to a Visoflex fitted with my father’s 200mm Leitz Telyt. This seemingly Rube-Goldberg inspired arrangement was klutzy compared with a conventional single lens reflex, it allowed me to use telephoto lenses and gave me an ability to selectively pinpoint my focus. The nature of the Visoflex screen did not encourage focusing on a central point.
As previously described on Tracking the Light, I often use focus to direct the viewers eye in relation to my compositions, while allowing portions of the image to be less than pin sharp, which can produce a pleasing effect too often lost with modern hyper-sharp digital photography. The combination of a long lens with slow film produced endless opportunity for focus experimentation.
On the evening of August 22, 1986, I exposed this pair of Kodachrome 25 slides on the Maine Central’s Rockland Branch at Wiscasset, Maine.
At the time traffic on the branch was almost nil.
I used a 21mm Leica Super Angulon lens which offered a distinct perspective of this rustic scene. My interest was drawn to the two rotting schooners in the westward view, while in the eastward view I was aiming to show the vestiges of the piers for the long defunct Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington 2-foot gauge.
On February 5, 1996, I exposed a series of Kodachrome 25 color slides of New England Central 9529 switching at Palmer, Massachusetts.
The railroad later renumbered its engines from the 9500-series to the 3800-series, but in 2020 a few of its now geriatric GP38s still work the line in the 1995-era Conrail-applied New England Central start-up paint.
25 years in the same blue and yellow scheme. While not a world record, it is still pretty impressive.