Tag Archives: Kodachrome

Frontier Yard, Buffalo, December 3, 1988.

It was 30 years ago today that I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide at the east-end of Buffalo’s Frontier Yard.

In this view, there are two westward freights on the former New York Central Water Level Route.

I was fond of Conrail’s six-motor General Electric diesels, and C36-7 6620 caught my eye.

Looking east on the former New York Central on December 3, 1988. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed at f4.5 1/250th of a second.

My notes from the day have gone missing, which is unusual and annoying, because I’ve generally made a habit of keeping detailed note from each trip over the years.

However, I recall that I was traveling with Doug Eisele and Pete Swanson and that we made a tour of Buffalo area freight operations. I exposed this view using my Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.

The day began bright and clear, but by midday clouds had rolled in from Lake Erie.

 

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From Brian’s Kodachrome Files: General Motors Diesels in the USA—To be Presented in Cork a week from today!

On Monday 8 October 2018 at 8pm, I’ll be giving a traditional slide presentation to the Irish Railway Record Society in Cork on General Motors Diesel-Electric Locomotives in North America.

This will feature many of my finest Kodachrome colour slides, along with some more recent material. In addition to previously published photos, I’ll be presenting rare gems, some of which haven’t been seen in many years.

The talk will be held at the Bru Columbanus Meeting Rooms in Wilton, Cork City.

I hope to see you there!

California Northern GP15-1 at Woodland, California in 1994. Kodachrome slide exposed with a Nikon F3T and 28mm lens.
Santa Fe light helper engines near Caliente, California on March 28, 1992.
Low angle on a rare bird: High Hood SD24 at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in August 1996. Kodachrome slide with 28mm lens.
Drama on Donner Pass: Tunnel Motors exit Tunnel 41 on May 30, 1992. Kodachrome 25 slide with 200mm Nikkor lens.

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Classic Chrome—Portrait view: High-Hood 30 Years Ago Today!

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At 1133am on July 22, 1988, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide east of Norwalk, Ohio.

This was part of a big adventure; my old pal TSH and I were spending two weeks on the road photographing trains.

We were driving my 1975 Dodge Dart, and had plenty of Kodachrome. (And I had some 120 T-Max 400 for the Rolleiflex too).

An early morning start on the old B&O west of Fostoria was pure excitement. Several hours later we visited the big yard at Bellevue, Ohio on the old Nickel Plate Road. When we saw this freight departing to the east we made chase.

Neither of us has a clue as to where we were going, our maps were inadequate, but we embraced the spirit of the chase and found this overhead bridge.

The freight was working the old Wheeling & Lake Erie route and the diesels labored hard in the summer heat. My notes indicate this was Hartland Hill.

Click! I made this Kodachrome slide with my Leica M2 with my dad’s 90mm Tele Elmarit; my exposure was f4.5 1/250.

The freight was at a crawl and we chased on, catching it several more times before we made a wrong turn and lost track of it near Wellington.

I can still feel the thrill of that blind chase 30 years ago today. TSH and I are still pals and we still make trips together.

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Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Coal Train: Saving a Sunset Chrome.

On November 15, 1987, I followed a loaded PLMT coal train east from Buffalo, New York. This train had operated with Pittsburgh & Lake Erie locomotives and was being handled by Guilford’s Delaware & Hudson via trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.

Try to fit all that on the slide mount!

At the time these coal trains operated about once a week, and while it wasn’t uncommon to find P&LE locomotives, catching the trains on film was challenging.

I made this view on Kodachrome 25 with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron Lens. It’s a badly under exposed long pan (about 1/8 of a second) from a hillside off the Canisteo River Road, in the valley of that name, a few miles east of Adrian.

The original slide was made at the very end of daylight, and the slow speed ISO25 film didn’t give me the needed sensitivity to capture the scene with adequate exposure.

That’s a long way of saying; it was dark and I underexposed the film.

Here’s the scaled, but unadjusted scan. It’s about 3 to 4 stops underexposed. The slide is nearly opaque except for the sky. Exposure was about f2.0 at 1/8 second on Kodachrome 25 (ISO 25).

Thankfully, I didn’t through the slide away.

I scanned it using VueScan 9×64 (edition 9.6.09) software and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 slide scanner. It opted for manual controls; I selected 4000 dpi input, under ‘color’ I used the Kodachrome K14 color profile, and while output was set at 4000 dpi as a TIF file.

I then imported the TIF into Lightroom for color, exposure and contrast adjustment, necessary to compensate for my extreme underexposure. To hold sky detail, I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter.

Here’s my first round of adjustments. I thought the sky and overall color balance  seemed a bit otherworldly so I zeroed out the adjustments and started again. Compare this with the image below.
Although similar, this version is better balanced and looks closer to the original scene. Although underexposed, the Kodachrome film was able to capture some detail over more than 6 stops, allowing for post processing adjustment.

Although slightly grainy, the results are much improved over the original and captures my intended effect of the train rolling at speed through the Canisteo Valley at dusk.

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Classic Chrome: On this Day in 1988 I had 2020 Vision.

Ok, make that a vision of Conrail 2020.

It was just after 8am on May 27, 1988, when I exposed this portrait (vertical) view of Conrail BAL013 stopped at CP123 east of Chester, Massachusetts.

The sun was perfect and I used this opportunity to make several photos of the train as it held for westward Conrail intermodal freight TV9, which passed CP123 at 8:13am

This is a Kodachrome 25 slide (using the professional PKM emulsion) exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

I scanned the original Kodachrome slide with a Nikon Coolscan5000 scanner using VueScan. Later I scaled the file using Lightroom. I did not alter color balance, contrast, sharpness or other inherent characteristics. The original image has an overall cyan (blue-green) bias that was characteristic of Kodachrome from that period.

I calculated my exposure using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter, and set the camera at f6.3 (half way between the marks for f5.6 and f8) at 1/125thof a second. This was equivalent to my standard exposure for ‘full sun’.

I learned when I moved west that ‘full sun’ is brighter in the Western states than in New England. A bright day in the Nevada desert is a full stop difference than in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

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Southern Pacific on Donner Pass.

Today, May 10, 2018 represents the 149thanniversary of the completion of America’s first Transcontinental railroad.

To commemorate the day, I’m posting a Kodachrome view that I made of a Southern Pacific freight on Donner Pass in 1993.

SP’s former Central Pacific route over Donner was a key portion of the original Transcontinental Line.

In the 1990s, I made hundreds of Kodachrome views of the Donner Pass crossing.

An SP westward freight ascends the east slope of Donner Pass near Shed 47 above Donner Lake west of Truckee, California. Kodachrome 25 slide.

 

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Santa Fe in the Tehachapis: On This Day 25 Years Ago.

This was one of dozens of Kodachrome slides I exposed in California’s Tehachapi mountains on April 3, 1993—25 Years ago today.

Fellow photographer Brian Jennison and I were on an epic excursion making images of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe trains.

For this view I’m standing on a hillside near Tunnel 2 looking toward Bealville of a westward Santa Fe intermodal train. It was a beautiful Spring morning and the purple lupin flowers were in bloom.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens (with adjustable front element).

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Amtrak Pepsi Can on Kodachrome—High Resolution Scan (and how I made it).

I have thousands of properly exposed Kodachrome slides from the 1980s and 1990s. This view of Amtrak 502 was exposed at Oakland, California 16th Street Station in August 1992.

Gradually I’ve been scanning these into my archive. I’ve experimented with several different scanners and software, using various settings and techniques.

So far, I found that I get sharpest and most colorful scans by using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 driven with VueScan 9×64 (version 9.5.91) software.

For more on VueScan see: www.hamrick.com

VueScan offers me a high degree of control, but I’ve found requires a bit of practice and experimentation to obtain the best scans.

I typically scan Kodachrome 25 slides at 4000 dpi (dots per inch) and  then output as a Tif file to obtain the greatest amount of data. For this slide I opted to make a multiple pass scan to retain a higher degree of shadow detail. (VueScan offers the multiple pass option under its ‘Input’ pull down menu).

To make the most of the scan for internet presentation, I imported the Tif file into Lightroom and lightened the shadows and balanced the highlights, before outputting as a scaled Jpg. (The original scan remains unchanged during this process).

Kodachrome slides recorded tremendous amounts of information and the original Coolscan Tif is far too large to present here.

Incidentally, a version of this photo appears on page 148 of my book Modern Diesel Power (published by Voyageur Press in 2011). The scan in the book was made by my publisher and isn’t the scan presented here.

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From my Kodachrome Archives: Genesee & Wyoming 51 at P&L Junction.

In March 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide of Genesee & Wyoming GP38 number 51 leading an empty salt train arriving at P&L Junction (P&L infers Pittsburgh & Lehigh) near Caledonia, New York.

At that time Genesee & Wyoming was a New York state short line that had just recently expanded with the creation of the Rochester & Southern to operate the former Baltimore & Ohio (nee Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg) 4th Subdivision between Rochester and East Salamanca, New York via Ashford Junction. (R&S had trackage rights on CSX from Ashford Jct. to East Salamanca).

This train was arriving from interchange with the Delaware & Hudson at Silver Springs. (D&H had trackage rights over the former Erie Railroad line to Buffalo.) It would reverse direction at P&L Junction and head southward on G&W’s own line (seen in the immediate foreground) to Retsof, where G&W served a massive salt mine.

Back then G&W 51 had no special significance, but it does for me today.

Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) exposed using a Canon A1 with 50mm lens and processed by Kodak in Rochester, New York.

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Grand Hibernian Under Kodachrome Skies—Four Original Photos at Islandbridge, Dublin.

A couple of weeks back, I made these views of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian luxury cruise train at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.

What’s a Kodachrome sky? The old Kodak Kodachrome had the ability to capture a sunny day with vivid contrast; so when you had over-the-shoulder light with fluffy clouds dotting a blue sky we called it a ‘Kodachrome Sky’.

It think it’s safe to say that no one has ever photographed the Grand Hibernian on Kodachrome slide film! And if they have, they will never see their results in vivid colour. (Kodachrome is no longer commercially processed).

I wonder how Belmond’s navy-blue train would have appeared on Kodachrome? The film’s spectral sensitivity tended to render blues with less saturated colour than appeared to the human eye. Yet this was also one of the reasons why a ‘Kodachrome sky’ appeared so vivid on the classic slide film.
Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. Locomotive 088 moves into place to shunt the Grand Hibernian and haul it across to Dublin’s Connolly Station.
Led by Irish Rail 088, Belmond’s Grand Hibernian is seen on its way toward Connolly Station.
Irish Rail 216 in Belmond navy view paint trails the Grand Hibernian on its way over to Dublin Connolly Station.

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Brooks Avenue, Rochester, New York on a snowy Sunday Morning.

 

A classic Kodachrome color slide scanned then scaled for internet presentation.

It was a bright and clear Sunday morning in January 1988 when I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron at Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard near the Rochester Airport.

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Burlington Northern, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It was bitterly cold when I exposed this view of the Burlington Northern in Minneapolis, Minnesota in January 1994.

Kodachrome was an ideal film for working with contrasty low winter sun.

Working with Kodachrome 25 and a borrowed Nikon F2, I carefully positioned myself to take advantage of the exhaust cloud from the distant power plant that nicely diffused the evening sun.

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East Troy Electric Railroad.

A low angle can make for a more dramatic image.

Maybe this is why that at an early age some of us were so impressed by trains to begin with?

I made this view at East Troy, Wisconsin on September 3, 1994 using my Nikon F3T with an AF f2.8 28mm Nikkor lens. Kodachrome 25 was my preferred emulsion at that time.

This view is full-fram and un-cropped. I made a few color correction and contrast adjustments in Lightroom to improve presentation here.

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Boston & Maine, Brattleboro, on this day 31 Years Ago.

My Leica was loaded with Kodachrome 64 on December 28, 1985. I was traveling with Brandon Delaney. First we photographed Boston & Maine local freight ED-4, seen here just north of the Brattleboro yard.

31 years ago today; December 28, 1985.

Later in the day we caught road freight CPED coming down from it’s interchange with Canadian Pacific. This was a big freight led by 5 or 6 GPs and we followed it all the way to East Deerfield yard.

K64 was an excellent film, but tended to have a magenta bias, as evident in this wintery view. Also, I found that the sky tended to reproduce a bit lighter than other films. By mid-1986, I’d largely switched to K25 for my color work.

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Southern Pacific Reflections, Redding, California.

In May 1992, I was on my way back to San Francisco from a visit to Southern Pacific’s Siskiyou Line. I stopped at SP’s Redding Station and made this afternoon image of a locomotive reflecting in the window.

Someday, someone might want to know what the Pacific Bell shelter was for, and wonder about the curious device positioned within!

Notice that I carefully included the station name in the view.

I exposed this on Kodachrome 25, which was a good film for daylight scenes but tended to do a poor job of rendering shadows. Yet, because the shadow areas under the station canopy are a bit dark this effect helps emphasize daylight on the locomotive reflected in the glass.

Pay close attention to the effect of color balance on this scene. Subtle changes in color can alter the way we see an image and affect the emphasis. In this view my careful use of lighting and focus keeps the eye trained on the main subject, while allowing other elements to remain prominent. What is more interesting? SP’s GP38-2 or the push-button telephone?

How would I make this photo digitally? First of all, I’d preset the white balance to ‘daylight’ rather than use the automatic setting. This would give the shadow areas a slight bluish tint, while maintaining more natural colors in the reflection.

Secondly, I’d set the exposure manually, and pay careful attention to the density of window reflection, while allowing the rest of the scene to go a bit dark (about ½ half stop).

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Conrail Classic Chrome—SD80MACs at the Twin Ledges.

This photo appeared in Pacific RailNews/RailNews not long after I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 in October 1996. [Click on Tracking the Light for the full vertical image.]

The Twin Ledges is a classic photo location a mile or so west of the old Boston & Albany Middlefield Station in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

Conrail’s SD80MACs were an unusual modern locomotive because they were powered by a 20-cylinder variation of EMD’s 710 diesel,  rated at 5,000 hp. They arrived only a few years before Conrail was bought and divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Although their operation on the old B&A was short-lived, they were oft photographed (by me anyway).

Classic Kodachrome: a vertical telephoto view of Conrail SD80MACs leading symbol freight ML482 at the Twin Ledges in October 1996.

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Southern Pacific Coal Train Descends Donner Pass—July 1992.

On July 19, 1992, Southern Pacific's SNTA-C descends the west slope of Donner Pass near Midas, California.
On July 19, 1992, Southern Pacific’s SNTA-C descends the west slope of Donner Pass near Midas, California.

I exposed this trailing view of Southern Pacific’s SNTA-C (Skyline Mine, Utah to Trona, California—coal) on its descent of Donner Pass using my Nikon F3T with a Nikkor 200mm lens.

Kodachrome 25 was my film of choice. It performed very well under bright California skies.

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A Value of Film-A Digital Photographic Lesson.

Back in the day, when I set out to make photographs, I had a finite number of images that I could make on any given adventure based on the amount of film in the camera bag.

It might be one roll, or ten, but the number of exposures was a distinct number. Not only that, but certainly in my younger days, there was a definite cost to each and every photo exposed.

When I was in college I could afford just 74-76 frames of Kodachrome per week and still eat. (Sometimes I cheated and starved). On the morning of January 14, 1989, I put this New York, Susquehanna & Western SD45 on film carefully placing the the old upper quadrant semaphore in the frame. I had my two rolls of Kodachrome, and probably some black & white, but a lot of ground to cover.
When I was in college I could afford just 74-76 frames of Kodachrome per week and still eat. (Sometimes I cheated and just starved). On the morning of January 14, 1989, I put this New York, Susquehanna & Western SD45 on film—carefully placing the the old upper quadrant semaphore in the frame. I had my two rolls of Kodachrome, and probably some black & white, but a lot of ground to cover that day. I knew that the old Union Switch & Signal Style S signals were on borrowed time, and I might not have another chance to make this  photograph.

This was a limitation, but like many handicaps it encouraged discipline. Every time I released the shutter I wanted to make the photo count. At times I’d experiment with exposure, lighting, and angles, but I avoided gratuitously wasting film.

Running out of film before the end of a trip could be a disaster.

Yet, I found that my photography was at its best at the very beginning of a trip (when I still had plenty of exposures left) and toward the end (when I was making the absolute most of each photo, and really concentrating the mechanics of making photos having benefitted from days of being in the field).

In the 1950s, my dad would set off on a two week trip with just 6-10 rolls of Kodachrome. He’d carefully budget each day’s photography. Just imagine visiting Chicago in 1958 with its vast array of classic railroads but only allowing yourself to make 15 photos during the whole day.

By comparison today, digital photography doesn’t impose such limitations. You can buy storage cards that will hold hundreds (if not thousands of images). Even if you run out, you can go back and erase select images to free up space.

True, digital-photography allows great freedom to experiment, there’s no cost associated with each and every frame, nor the level of concern that you might run out. In retrospect, it was that strict limitation of film that often helped me craft better photos.

Think about it.

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MBTA at Dusk, South Station, Boston 1978.

On an evening in 1978 my father and I visited South Station, Boston.

It was very different then; much quieter, low level platforms, no electrification, mechanical semaphores controlled movements on the approach to platforms.

I’d fitted my dad’s 21mm Super Angulon to my Leica 3A. I exposed several Kodachrome slides by resting the camera on something solid and making a 1 second exposure (or so).

I didn’t understand the concept of reciprocity failure, and so even though I’d taken the light reading of the hand-held Weston Master V literally, most of the slides were underexposed (too dark).

This one was the best of the lot, and in my early years was among my favorite railway photos.

In the interval since I made this image, I’ve perfected my night photography technique.

mbta_1004_south_station_1978_kr_21mm_briansolomon589779
MBTA F40PH 1004 was nearly new at the time of this 1978 photograph. I’ve lightened the shadows a little bit for improved presentation here. This slide projects well despite its age, and my formative understanding of the peculiarities of exposing Kodachrome in low light.

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Southern Pacific Siskiyou Line Sunset

Southern Pacific through freight RVME-M arrives at Medford, Oregon on the evening of May 11, 1990. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3 with f2.0 135mm lens.
Southern Pacific through freight RVME-M arrives at Medford, Oregon on the evening of May 11, 1990. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3 with f2.0 135mm lens. Slide scanned with a Nikon LS-5000 at 4,000 dpi and processed with Lightroom to remove dust.

I exposed this view of Southern Pacific’s RVME-M (Roseville to Medford, Manifest) arriving at Medford, Oregon.

This was one of many Kodachrome slides exposed on an exceptionally productive trip to SP’s Siskiyou Line with Brian Jennison in May 1990.

For more Siskiyou photos, click HERE to see my earlier post.

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Conrail Classic: Beacon Park Yard, November 1987.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.

This Kodachrome slide represents a memory of how things were:

Back when Conrail operated the old Boston & Albany.

Back when Boston’s Beacon Park was an active yard.

I passed this location on the Logan Express bus from Framingham the other day. It is much changed

The tracks at CP4 were being re-aligned.

A few years back CSX had come to an arrangement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and agreed to close the yard.

Now at Beacon Park the remaining yard tracks are weed grown and vacant.

Intermodal trains now only run as far east as Worcester where a new, expanded yard was constructed during 2011-2012 to take the place of Beacon Park.

What little carload freight CSX has in Boston is handled by a local freight.

I’d be willing to bet that today more freight moves through the interchange at Palmer than is generated in Boston.

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Sunset on the Sunset Route-Classic Kodachrome

The other day I was scouring the files for a photo Amtrak’s Sunset Limited as an illustration for an article I was writing.

Instead, I found this slide; one of hundreds of images I made along SP’s Sunset Route in southern California during the early-mid 1990s.

A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.
A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.

I’d been following this eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Pass and I exposed this view near Cabazon on the east slope. The setting sun was enhanced by the effects of Los Angeles-area smog that acted as a red filter (an effect of heavy particulates).

I was working with my Nikon F3T and Kodachrome 25 slide film. Always a favorite combination for image making on Southern Pacific Lines.

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Metro-North, South Norwalk, Connecticut—September 7, 1989.

Looking back at seven slides.

Sometimes a review of ‘out-takes’ will reveal a few gems. This is a lesson in how the passage of time can make the commonplace more interesting.

On the morning of September 7, 1989, I spent several hours around South Norwalk, Connecticut, making photos with my Leica M2 on Kodachrome 25 slide film. My primary subject was the old New Haven Railroad and the passage of Metro-North and Amtrak trains.

Since that time, the Metropolitan series cars that once dominated Metro-North’s suburban service have been all but replaced. But back then many of these cars still had a relatively new sheen to them.

More striking have been changes to the South Norwalk station. The scene is very different. Among the changes has been construction of a large multistory parking garage, which now occupies the space to the north of the station.

Grand Central bound Metro-North train approaches South Norwalk on September 7, 1989.
Grand Central bound Metro-North train approaches South Norwalk on September 7, 1989.
South Norwalk station as it appeared on the morning of September 7, 1989.
South Norwalk station as it appeared on the morning of September 7, 1989. Today, the scene is complete changed.
Notice the sheen of the stainless steel on this Metropolitan-serie electric car.
Notice the sheen of the stainless steel on this Metropolitan-series electric car.
A view from the street looking north toward the old New Haven electrified line.
A view from the street looking north toward the old New Haven electrified line.
Looking toward New Haven Connecticut.
Looking toward New Haven Connecticut.

Yet, I also made a few photos of the town and passing road vehicles, which help give a flavor for South Norwalk in the late 1980s now more than a quarter century gone.

The street had its fair share of interest too.
The street had its fair share of interest too.
Wheels said the bus.
Wheels said the bus.

The best of the photos from this morning are held in a different file, and these are merely what I deemed at the time as ‘extras.’

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Four Classic Kodachromes: Ghost Railroad and the Water Level Route—May 13, 1989.

About a week ago I was asked by regular Tracking the Light reader Ciarán Cooney if I had exposed  photos on May 13, 1989.

This request was prompted by my posting images from May 6th of that year. (See: Amtrak 63, Ivison Road, South Byron, New York, May 6, 1989.).

I consulted my notes from that year, and found that I’d photographed extensively on that day! (Hooray for my old notebook!)

At the time I was about a week away from completing my course work at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where I earned a BFA in Photographic Illustration, and I was making good use of the fine Spring weather in Western New York State.

That day I began my photography on the Water Level Route at East Rochester, and worked my way eastward toward Lyons, New York.

Conrail SD50 leads symbol freight PXSE (Pacific Express to Selkirk, New York) eastward on the number 1 track at CP342 near Newark, New York.
Conrail SD50 leads symbol freight PXSE (Pacific Express to Selkirk, New York) eastward on the number 1 track at CP342 near Newark, New York.

I was particularly fascinated by the abandoned truss bridge over the old New York Central west of Newark, New York. This had carried the Newark & Marion, which had served as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. [See: AbandonedRails.com for more about this line. ]

Using my Leica M2 with a 35mm Summicron, I opted for a vertical format. Conrail's CP342 near Newark, New York on 13May1989.
Using my Leica M2 with a 35mm Summicron, I opted for a vertical format. Conrail’s CP342 near Newark, New York on 13 May1989.
Another eastward freight with an SD50 in the lead. I wouldn't complain today about seeing three freights with Conrail blue SD50s! Back then they were pretty common, but still nice to see.
Another eastward freight with an SD50 in the lead. I wouldn’t complain today about seeing three freights with Conrail blue SD50s! Back then they were pretty common, but still nice to see.

On an earlier trip, I’d photographed this bridge on a dull day using a 4×5 camera.

On May 13th, I worked with my Leica M2 exposing Kodachrome 25 color slides, and featured Conrail trains passing below the bridge.At that time SD50s were standard locomotives on many of the railroad’s carload trains.

Later, I explored other vantage points along the busy Conrail east-west mainline.

Amtrak F40PH 362 leads train 68 along the former New York Central mainline east of Newark, New York. (Incidentally, Newark, New York should not be confused with the larger and better known Newark, New Jersey, that is on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor).
Amtrak F40PH 362 leads train 68 along the former New York Central mainline east of Newark, New York. (Incidentally, Newark, New York should not be confused with the larger and better known Newark, New Jersey, that is on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor).

Thanks to Ciarán for encouraging this foray into my slide archive!

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Classic Chrome: Southern Pacific 4449 Silhouette

It’s rare that I’ll display one of my all-time favorite photos (if you are not viewing this on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link to get the full image).

This has been published several times. It’s a simple image, but it wasn’t easy to make.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25. This is one of my personal favorite images of all time.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25. This is one of my personal favorite images of all time.

I exposed it in September 1991. As I’ve previously told, Southern Pacific’s Bob Hoppe had hired me for the weekend to document an event involving engine 4449.

Following a serious derailment at the Cantera Loop, where the railroad spilled toxins into the Sacramento River above Dunsmuir, California, SP organized the historic streamlined engine and train to make public appearances in the Sacramento River Canyon as a goodwill gesture.

Brian Jennison and I made the most of the three days of Daylight steam specials. Over the years, I made great use of these photos.

My choice image is this one. It clearly shows SP’s famous engine, yet captures it in motion and in silhouette.

I had two frames left on my roll of Kodachrome 25 (actually I thought had had only one left, but I also managed a photo of the tail car).

I opted for a ‘wrong side’ view of the engine, in order to make this silhouette with the oaks that characterize the rolling valley along Hooker Creek north (railroad timetable east) of Tehama, California.

To insure I kept a hint of rail in view, I needed to gain a vantage point slightly above rail level. Rather than pan the locomotive, I set my F3T on a tripod and used my Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens nearly wide open.

The locomotive approached at speed; I had only one shot at this, and timing was everything. I wasn’t quite ready when I could hear the distinctive exhaust of the locomotive rolling up the valley. Some last second fumbling with my meter, convinced me to lower my shutter speed. Thus the hint of motion blur.

Five minutes later, it would have been too dark to capture this scene on Kodachrome 25, which was the only imaging medium I had that day.

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Classic Chrome: NJ DOT E8s at South Amboy, New Jersey, December 1981.

Here’s one deep from the archive: I was traveling with my father and brother and we’d come to South Amboy to watch the engine change where E8s were replaced by venerable GG1 electrics on New York & Long Branch passenger trains (North Jersey Coast Line) running from Bay Head Junction to Pennsylvania Station, New York.

We got lost on the way down and ended up in a post-apocalyptic waterfront at Perth Amboy.

Finally, we were trackside at the South Amboy Station.

I exposed this Kodachrome 64 image using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar 
I exposed this Kodachrome 64 image using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar. I’ve made some necessary adjustments using Adobe Lightroom to compensate for nominal under exposure and the contrast limitations of the original image.

Here’s a slightly improved variation: It should have a bit more ‘snap’ (contrast in shadows).

NJDOT_E8A_at_South_Amboy_NJ_Dec1981MOD2©Brian_Solomon_899761

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Twenty Years Ago Today: Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction

From my classic Kodachrome file: it was on the evening of April 19, 1995 that I made this photo of a pair of Chicago & North Western GP9s assembling their train at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin for the run up to Clyman Junction.

I used a low angle, but using my Nikkor 35mm perspective control (pc) lens, I adjusted the front element to hold the vertical lines in parallel, thus avoiding the unnatural looking parallax effect.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Nikon FT3 with 35mm pc lens.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Nikon FT3 with 35mm pc lens.

C&NW was just weeks away from being absorbed by Union Pacific. It was the end of an era. Hard to believe it was really 20 years ago!

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Classic Kodachrome: Burlington Northern SD70MACs near Edgemont, South Dakota

This is one of my favorite Burlington Northern images. Tom Danneman, TSH and I were photographing Powder River coal operations in May 1995.

We caught this empty train working west of Edgemont with nearly new SD70MACs. Burlington Northern had only a few months left before consummation of merger with Santa Fe.

Three Burlington Northern SD70MACs lead coal empties west of Edgemont, South Dakota on May 26, 1995. Three SD70MACs were standard Powder River coal train power. This photo was run large as an opening spread in my book Modern Locomotives: High-Power Diesels, 1966-2000, a title published by Motorbooks in 2002.
Three Burlington Northern SD70MACs lead coal empties west of Edgemont, South Dakota on May 26, 1995. Three SD70MACs were standard Powder River coal train power. This photo was run large as an opening spread in my book Modern Locomotives: High-Power Diesels, 1966-2000, a title published by Motorbooks in 2002.

Shortly before the train arrived into view some thin clouds softened the sun. While this effect tends to spoil a photo, especially those made on Kodachrome, in this rare case, I think it actually made for a better image.

I feel that the slightly subdued contrast works well with the foreground grasses, the framed tree, and the dark paint on the locomotives.

I exposed this on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T with 35mm perspective control lens mounted on my Bogen 3021 tripod.

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SEPTA Number 10 Time Machine.

34 years; 36th Street, Philadelphia.

Way back in August 1980, my father, brother Sean and I visited Philadelphia and stayed in a hotel near the 36th Street portal for SEPTA’s number 10 surface-subway streetcar. Today this is the Sheraton Hotel, I can’t remember what it was back then.

So, on a hot summer’s afternoon, I was on the corner of 36th and Market Street and exposed a Kodachrome slide of an outbound PCC working the number 10 route. PCC’s were my favorite types of streetcars, and I was glad to have caught one on film.

I sent the Kodachrome to Fairlawn, New Jersey. The slides came back in a yellow cardboard box. I labeled this one ‘SEPTA PCC’ and filed it away. Later, trailing views of PCC’s didn’t make my “A-list,” and so for many years I left the photograph un-attended and un-projected.

Back in August 1980, a 13 year old tourist snapped this view of a SEPTA PCC working the number 10 streetcar line. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar Lens.
Back in August 1980, a 13 year old tourist snapped this view of a SEPTA PCC working the number 10 streetcar line. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar Lens.

Moving forward: In 1997, Sean moved to Philadelphia. And, during the last 34 years the area along the Route 10 streetcar line has evolved. In early November 2014, while searching for something else, I came across the old slide, which I scanned with my Epson V600 scanner. What was once mundane, now seemed historic.

In mid-December, Sean and I revisited 36th Street. While, I’ve taken the trolley in recent years, this was the first time since 1980 that I made photographs at this location.

I still have the old Leica, but Kodachrome has gone the way of the Dodo.

Perhaps next summer, we’ll go back to the exact spot and make a proper ‘now and then’ image in the right light.

On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar turns the corner onto 36th Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar turns the corner onto 36th Street. This view is about one block south of the location where I made my August 1980 color slide (above) Lumix LX7 photo.
On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar navigates 36th Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
On the evening of December 15, 2014, a SEPTA streetcar navigates 36th Street. Lumix LX7 photo.
An in bound SEPTA streetcar catches the sun as it turns onto 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An in-bound SEPTA streetcar catches the sun as it turns onto 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An in-bound SEPTA on 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An in-bound SEPTA on 36th Street. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

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Amtrak GG1, Pelham Bay Park.

Kid with a Camera.

My brother would shout, ‘Look! A GG1!’

My grandparents lived in Coop City in The Bronx for a dozen years. Their 19th floor apartment had an open terrace that looked across the Hutchinson River toward Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad line that ran from New Rochelle over the Hell Gate Bridge toward Penn-Station.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we’d make regular visits. I was delighted by passing of Amtrak trains, and by the time I was ten, I’d figured out how to interpret the timetable to predict when trains would pass.

Amtrak was still operating a fair few former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics, and these were my favorite. From about mid-1978, I’d keep my Leica 3A poised at the ready and if a GG1 were to appear, I’d make a color slide, or two.

While I made a great many photographs, my photographic efforts were, at best, rudimentary. Complicating matters was my general panic when a GG1 finally appeared.

As the train rolled into view, I’d try to gauge the lighting using an old Weston Master III photo cell and rapidly adjust the aperture on my Summitar lens, but my understanding of exposure was purely conceptual. In other words, I went through the motions, but really didn’t know what I was doing.

Also, I was photographing the scene with a 50mm lens, and the tracks were at least a quarter mile distant. Later, I learned to use my father’s telephoto lenses for some more effective views, but by then new AEM-7s had replaced the GG1s.

Recently, I rediscovered a box of long lost Kodachrome slides, including a bunch of my surviving photos from my grand parent’s terrace. This one is one of the few passable efforts, and will a little cropping, and some post processing in Photoshop, it isn’t too bad.

An Amtrak-painted former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric works toward Penn-Station in April 1980. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. The photo has been cropped and contrast and color were adjusted in postprocessing.
An Amtrak-painted former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric works toward Penn-Station in April 1980. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. The photo has been cropped and contrast and color were adjusted in postprocessing.

Learning technique is every photographer’s challenge. My learning curve was slow, in part because it was often months between the time of exposure and when I got slides back from Kodak. By the time I reviewed my results, I hadn’t remembered what I’d done, and didn’t know what to do to improve future efforts.

By comparison, kids starting today with digital cameras can see their results immediately and have the opportunity to learn quickly. Perhaps, from one of these same terraces, some kid today has captured  one of the final runs of Amtrak’s HHP8s (recently retired from active work) or the rapidly disappearing AEM-7s!

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A Long Lost Box of Kodachrome, Scanned!

Buffalo, Autumn 1988.

The other day, I was searching for some images for a book project, and I discovered a long lost yellow box of Kodachrome slides.

In the 1980s, normally, I was pretty good about labeling my slides. This box simply read, “Buffalo unlabled”.

I thought, “uh oh, what’s this . . . ”

Like, pirate’s treasure!

I’d managed to stamp my name on each slide. And, back in the day, I removed a couple of choice images to make Cibachrome prints. But other than that this roll was untouched. These haven’t been projected, or printed.

Conrail light engines at CP FW, Buffalo. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex.
Conrail light engines at CP FW, Buffalo. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex.
Conrail light engines at CP FW, Buffalo. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex.
Conrail unit coal train at CP FW, Buffalo. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex.
Conrail light engines at CP FW, Buffalo. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex.
Conrail light engines and a unit coal train CP FW, Buffalo. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens using a Visoflex.

Unfortunately, my notes from the day also appear to be absent, so some details on railroad operations and exposure data have been lost to time.

The slide mounts are stamped November 1988, but these may have been exposed on October 28th, as I spent the morning making industrial images around Niagara Falls for a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

I’d walked the old Skyway south of downtown Buffalo to make photos of the steel works. At the time I was impressed by the dramatic lighting on Lake Erie.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M@ looking west over Lake Erie from the Skyway.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 looking west over Lake Erie from the Skyway.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M@ looking west over Lake Erie.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 looking west over Lake Erie.

Steel_works_Buffalo_NY_Nov_1988©Brian_Solomon_899296

Conrail westward Trailvan (possibly TV79) west of CP 5 on the Waterlevel Route near Lackawanna, New York. Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on K25.
Conrail westward Trailvan (possibly TV79) west of CP 5 on the Waterlevel Route near Lackawanna, New York. Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on K25.
Conrail eastward Trailvan stopped outside of Buffalo waiting for a clear signal. Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens.
Conrail eastward Trailvan stopped outside of Buffalo waiting for a clear signal. Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens.
South Buffalo 36, exposed with Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron, K25 film.
South Buffalo 36, exposed with Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron, K25 film.
An old Whitcomb that had seen better days. I wonder what became of this locomotive?
An old Whitcomb that had seen better days. I wonder what became of this locomotive?

26 years after being misplaced, I’m happy to have these slides back in circulation again!

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Classic Conrail: Altoona, Pennsylvania

Light! Leica! Action!

July 28, 1987, TSH and I were poised on the footbridge at Works waiting for westbound freights to get their helpers and begin their climb over the Allegheny Divide via Horseshoe Curve.

 

A lone SW1200 was drilling freight cars in the yard. I’ve always like EMD switchers. So while waiting for the mainline action, I exposed this trailing view of the locomotive using my Leica M2 fitted with my father’s Leitz f2.8 90mm Elmarit and loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film

A classic view of a Conrail SW1200 switcher at work. Exposed on July 28, 1987 using a Leica M2 with 90mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film.
A classic view of a Conrail SW1200 switcher at work. Exposed on July 28, 1987 using a Leica M2 with 90mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

 

Looking back, 1987 was a threshold year for my photography. After several years of fumbling with inadequate camera-meter-film combinations, I’d finally found a couple camera-film combinations that consistently yielded technically satisfactory results.

 

In June of that year, I’d bought my own M2. By then, I’d decided that Kodachrome 25 was the ‘right’ film for most daylight circumstances. Leica’s sharp fast lenses with Kodachrome’s extremely fine grain and exceptional dynamic range allowed me to make some very satisfactory images in a variety of circumstances.

 

Key to my winning formula was developing a working understanding of how Kodachrome 25 would react in different lighting situations. In 1986 I’d bought a Sekonic Studio Deluxe and had begun taking detailed notes on my exposures. This will be the topic of a future post.

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Tomorrow: The Old Standard

 

Chicago & North Western at Adams, Wisconsin

Classic Kodachrome, September 23, 1995.

My intent of this image was to show a simple juxtaposition between C&NW GP9 4153 and the steam-era coaling tower in the distance.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm Nikkon telephoto lens.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm Nikkon telephoto lens.

By this late date, steam was four decades gone, and C&NW was already part of the Union Pacific system, having been absorbed just a few months earlier. Yet, despite UP being the operating company; in Adams, Wisconsin things still appeared to be business as usual on old C&NW.

To put the GP9 and coaling tower in relative perspective, I used my Nikon F3T fitted with a 200mm lens, and found a suitable angle at a distance from both subjects. My aim was to minimize extraneous elements and focus on the railroad interest.

Since the locomotive was static, I used the opportunity to make photos from a variety of other angles. Some of these photos appeared in my book on EMD F-units published by Specialty Press about 2005.

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Tomorrow a GP9 among massive trees . . . 

 

Amtrak E60 at Havre de Grace.

Classic Kodachrome.

On the evening of November 23, 1992, I was poised to photograph the action on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at Grace interlocking at Havre de Grace, Maryland.

I was interested in this angle specifically to use the glint light shortly before sunset. Kodachrome film had an exceptional ability to capture detail in the extreme contrast of sunset situations.

Although it had been a clear day, there was plenty of particulates in the air from tens of thousands of automobiles driving I-95 and adjacent roads. Almost invisible to the eye, this pollution acts as a reddish orange filter and changing the quality of sunlight toward the long end of the spectrum. Kodachrome with its red-bias amplified this effect while its great dynamic range maintained excellent detail in highlight areas.

Sunset on the Northeast Corridor on November 23, 1992.
Sunset on the Northeast Corridor on November 23, 1992. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.

Working with my Nikon F3T and f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens, I had only a few minutes before the sun disappeared behind the trees at the right.

Moments before the light changed, a late-running Florida train bound to Penn Station, New York glided into the scene with a 1970s-era E60CH electric in the lead. Perfect!

I made a couple exposures as the train passed.

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Tomorrow: Smoggy Glint in the Land of the Rising Sun!

 

Pleasant Valley Sunset

Union Pacific’s Encina Hill in eastern Oregon on June 12, 1993.

Looking west on the Union Pacific. I exposed this view on Kodachrome 25with a Nikon F3T fitted with a f1.8 105mm lens. Kodachrome had excellent dynamic range that allowed it to capture detail and color from the brightest highlights to the deepest shadows. Look carefully. Follow the tracks around the bend to the right; a train has passed, but the exhaust from its helpers can still be seen illuminated by the setting sun.
Looking west on the Union Pacific. I exposed this view on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a f1.8 105mm lens. Kodachrome had excellent dynamic range that allowed it to capture detail and color from the brightest highlights to the deepest shadows. Look carefully. Follow the tracks around the bend to the right; a train has passed, but the exhaust from its helpers can still be seen illuminated by the setting sun.

Pleasant Valley siding on Union Pacific’s mainline in eastern Oregon is aptly named. I made this image on Kodachrome 25 while traveling with Brian Jennison.

We’d driven up from Nevada to intercept Union Pacific’s Challenger, locomotive 3985, that was running trips toward Portland. The weather was excellent and this was a good excuse to photograph this remote but scenic section of heavily traveled steeply graded mainline.

I remember the scent of sage and the wide open skies and the relative quiet; qualities I associate with the great American west.

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Tomorrow: BNSF on the Western Pacific!

 

Amtrak FL9 on the Water Level Route

September 1989.

Exposed with a Leica M2 on Kodachrome 25.
Exposed with a Leica M2 on Kodachrome 25.

A hot and hazy late summer evening, and Amtrak 48 the Lake Shore Limited was running late.

In the lead was FL9 489. I exposed this cross-lit Kodachrome slide to show the train with the Hudson in the background.

This, after all, is the former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’. It was here that the famed 20th Century Limited rolled up the miles between Chicago and Grand Central Terminal behind J3A Hudsons, S1 Niagaras, and Electro-Motive E-units in lightning stripe paint.

All before my time.

I was just happy to catch an Amtrak FL9 roaring along in the late light.

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