Tag Archives: Lake Shore Limited

Dusk and Telephoto: or Summer 2018 with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited Part 3.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on July 17, 2018, but owing to unknown technical faults the photos would not display properly. There should be four images displayed below with captions.

Tracking the Light is about process and not every photograph is a stunning success.

This post is part of my on going series of exercises photographing Amtrak’s Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited that is running with extra sleepers as result of the temporary suspension of the New York section owing to Penn-Station repair.

Last week, my father and I drove to West Warren, Massachusetts, this time to photograph the eastward train, Amtrak 448.

The benefit of West Warren is the relatively open view with identifiable features. As mentioned previously, summer photography on the Boston & Albany has been made difficult by prolific plant growth along the line that has obscured many locations.

In this instance, I worked with two cameras; my old Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm zoom, and my FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.

Admittedly, the Canon combination isn’t the sharpest set up, but it allows me to play around with a very long telephoto.

Exposed at ISO 1250 f5.6 1/125th of a second using a Canon 7D with 100-400 images stabilization zoom lens set at 400mm.
This view shows the headend, and the collection of Viewliner sleepers and a diner at the rear of the train, plus B&A milepost 75, but I missed the focus, and overall it suffers from low depth of field and poor sharpness owing to a variety of factors including high ISO and motion blur. Not a calendar contender!

The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.

Same train, same evening, same location; shorter, sharper and faster telephoto lens. But is this a better photo? The whole train is shown, but the image prominently features junk in the background. I’m not thrilled about this one either despite better technical quality.

Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.

Trailing view from the same overhead bridge at West Warren. Here a slightly shorter focal length lens may have better suited the scene. The biggest challenge is the overgrowth along the right of way that obscures the curve to the east and clutters the foreground limiting the view of the waterfall and river, etc. Over the last couple of years this location has really grown in.

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Amtrak, Nose Glint, Sleepers, and a Waterfall.

This summer Amtrak 448/449, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, is the onlysection of the Lake Shore Limited!

 Construction at Penn-Station New York has encouraged Amtrak to cancel the New York section of this popular train, and reassign its Viewliner sleeps to the Boston section.

A clear afternoon had me searching for locations. My first choice was the Tennyville Bridge in Palmer (Rt 32 bridge), but a large quantity of freight cars in Palmer yard discouraged me. My next choice was the field east of Palmer off Rt 67, but I vetoed this place because of excessive brush.

Brush and trees are real problem this time of year along the old Boston & Albany. Not only do the obstruct views of the tracks, but they cast impenetrable dark shadows.

So, I ended up at my standard fall back location at West Warren. Although, I’ve photographed Amtrak 449 here dozens of times, it had several advantages.

It’s a relatively short drive; it has elevation and an unobstructed view of the line from both sides of the tracks; its east-west orientation makes for nice early afternoon lighting; and the waterfall and mills make for an iconic and readily identifiable backdrop.

So, West Warren it was. Again.

I made this sequence with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.

West Warren, Massachusetts is an iconic location on the old Boston & Albany.
By the time Amtrak train 449 reached me, the sun had crossed over to the northside of the tracks. Notice the unfortunate nose-glint’ reflecting off the front of the engine. I tempered this in post processing with an adjustment to the highlight-level.
Here’s the three Viewliner sleepers at the back of the train.

Two difficulties; the nosy angle of the sun made it difficult to get an acceptable broad side angle on the train, so the three sleepers at the back are visually marginalized. Secondly, the wedge angle of the Amtrak P42 front-end kicked back the sun with harsh ‘nose glint’.

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Tracking the Light Wishes You Happy Holidays!

Here’s my holiday card. Amtrak’s westward 449 led by heritage locomotive 156 passes West Warren, Massachusetts, Sunday December 10, 2017.

Amtrak 156 has been on my list for a long time. Of all the Amtrak paint schemes over the years, this is by far my favorite.

Although I caught 156 second unit out three days earlier (see yesterday’s Tracking the Light), this locomotive had eluded my photography for years. Apparently it had been assigned to the Vermonter for a month a few years ago, but I was out of the country.

Every other time it was some place, I was some place else.

But finally everything came together; first snow of the season, Amtrak 156 in the lead, and soft afternoon sun at one of my favorite former Boston & Albany locations; the engineer gave me a friendly toot of the horn, and I’m pleased with the outcome of the photos.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm Fujinon Aspherical pancake lens. File processed using Lightroom. And yes, I also exposed some color slides! (But no black & white film).

I hope you have a great holiday season and you find your 156 in the new year.

Tracking the Light wishes you Seasons Greetings too!

 

 

 

Amtrak Lake Shore Limited and a Wink of Sun.

At the end of the day (really!), Mike Gardner and I were waiting for Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (train 449) at the grade crossing in Westfield, Massachusetts (milepost 107).

Shortly before the train came into view the sun popped out of the clouds just above the tree line and illuminated the scene with golden light.

I popped off a couple of color slides and some digital images.

For the digital I made a last minute exposure adjustment. I didn’t have that luxury with the slides, but my film camera was set within about a half stop of the ideal exposure.

We’ll have to wait and see if my slides are ok. Or not.

My quarry was the elusive 156 in the ‘pointless arrow’ heritage scheme. Pity it was trailing.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens.

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Glint on the Water Level Route.

Early November is a great time to photograph along the Hudson.

I made these views from the one-time Erie Railroad terminus at Piermont, New York.

Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited catches the glint of the evening sun near Dobbs Ferry, New York. Meanwhile, a Metro-North electric multiple unit is rolling toward Grand Central.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm Fujinon lens fully extended. (Equivalent to a 200mm view on a traditional 35mm film camera)

Meet on the old New York Central Hudson Division.
Looking across the wide expanse of the Hudson River toward Dobbs Ferry.

Would a longer lens have produced more effective photos?

(I wish I’d brought my Canon 100-400mm. Maybe next time!).

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Amtrak 449 at West Warren—Modified RAW file.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed a camera RAW file of Amtrak’s 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts on May 31, 2017.

This location is old hat for me. I’ve made dozens of images of Amtrak here over the years.

Unaltered Camera RAW file. Although this was scaled for presentation, no changes were made in regards to constrast, exposure, color saturation or composition.

Here I’m presenting two versions.

The top is the completely un-modified camera RAW (no changes to color, contrast, shadow or highlight detail) that I converted in Lightroom to a JPG for internet presentation

On the bottom is a modified RAW file (saved as a Jpg for internet presentation). Here, using Lightroom I’ve applied a mask to the sky area to improve the exposure and better pulling in cloud detail, while adjusting for color and saturation.

The modified RAW file, converted to a Jpg for presentation here. The sky has been alternated using a mask, while a semi-circular mask was applied to the nose of the locomotive to minimize the effects of glare.

I applied a small circular mask on the front of the locomotive to reduce the effects of glare. In addition, I made overall changes to contrast, while boosting saturation, and lightening shadows slightly.

The end-effect is a more saturated and pronounced sky, lighter shadows, a slight warming of overall color temperature, and better controlled highlight areas.

If you don’t like these, you can try it yourself sometime. Amtrak 449 passes West Warren daily between 245 and 310 pm

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Lake Shore Limited Lost in the Dance.

Amtrak 448 approaches Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Leica IIIA and 50mm Summitar lens.

Here’s another view from my ‘lost negative file’. It captures Amtrak 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited approaching the Quaboag River bridge between Palmer and Monson, Massachusetts.

I exposed it in mid-December 1983. It was on the same roll as a group of photos from a Monson High School dance that I’d made for the yearbook and members of the band.

Since the envelope read ‘Monson High Dance,’ it was too easily ignored in later years. Also, and more to the point, it was mixed in with another hundred or so rolls that had been misplaced during one of my periods of extended travel in the late 1980s. For years all I could find was a lonely proof print of this scene.

I’m improving my filing system now, but it’s taken a few years!

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

From the Mists of Time; Amtrak in the Fog.

I made this photo sequence in January 1982.

My father and I were trackside near milepost 82 east of Palmer, Massachusetts to catch Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited.

 It wasn’t a nice day. But it was atmospheric.

A headlight pierces the fog.
A headlight pierces the fog.
Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens, negatives scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.
Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens, negatives scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.
In 1982 I tended to process my film using Kodak Microdol-X. This was a fine grain developer, but not great for overall tonality. By 1985, I'd switched to Kodak D76.
In 1982 I tended to process my film using Kodak Microdol-X. This was a fine grain developer, but not great for overall tonality. By 1985, I’d switched to Kodak D76.
I wonder why I didn't expose one more image of the tail lamps trailing into the mist?
I wonder why I didn’t expose one more image of the tail lamps trailing into the mist?

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited with Two Heritage Units—November 23 2016.

In my family we have a forty year old tradition of going to photograph the Lake Shore Limited.

 The other day my brother arrived up from Philadelphia for the holidays, and I asked, “would you like to go up to West Warren to see the Lake Shore? It has some specially painted engines today?”

So my brother, father and I went to the bridge over the line near milepost 75. We timed our arrive very well. After only a 5 minute wait, Amtrak train 449 with two specially painted General Electric Genesis diesels rolled west along the Quaboag.

Amtrak's westward Lake Shore Limited on November 24, 2016.
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited on November 24, 2016. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo.
Trailing view at West Warren. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Trailing view at West Warren. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.

Sean said, “Wow, it came by really fast!”

I couldn’t help by find his comment ironic, since I recently composed an opinion piece for Trains Magazine on the topic of the trains operating too slowly. But that’s the topic for another time . . .

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Ghost of the New England States; Budd-built Babbling Brook Blitzes Warren.

 

Yesterday’s (August 25, 2016) Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited carried an American classic: the streamlined Budd-built observation car Babbling Brook, a former New York Central car of the type that operated on the New England States (Boston-Chicago).

My dad and I made photos of Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited (train 448) by the recently restored Warren, Massachusetts railroad station.

New York Central Babbling Brook passes the old Warren, Massachusetts station on August 25, 2016. The New York Central System leased the Boston & Albany in 1900. Central’s Budd-built New England States Limited was B&A’s premier post-war passenger train and passed Warren daily. There were fewer line-side trees back then. This image was adjusted in post-processing using Light Room. I’ve tried to emulate the contrast and color palate of a late 1940s image.
New York Central Babbling Brook passes the old Warren, Massachusetts station on August 25, 2016. The New York Central System leased the Boston & Albany in 1900. Central’s Budd-built New England States was B&A’s premier post-war passenger train and passed Warren daily. There were fewer line-side trees back then. This image was adjusted in post-processing using Light Room. I’ve tried to emulate the contrast and color palate of a late 1940s image.
Telephoto view at Warren, Massachusetts.
Telephoto view at Warren, Massachusetts.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1. Pop exposed a Fujichrome color slide with his Leica M.

Brian Solomon’s

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Live from Amtrak 448; Snapshots of the Boston & Albany Westend.

I’ve spent years prowling the old Boston & Albany on foot and by road.

Here’s some view made today (July 16, 2016) and over the last hour or so from the windows of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited train 448.

Exposed with my Lumix LX7 uploaded via Amtrak WiFi.

Old B&A station at Chatham, New York.
Old B&A station at Chatham, New York.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
North Adams Junction, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
North Adams Junction, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Washington Cut, Washington, Massachusetts.
Washington Cut, Washington, Massachusetts.
Looking east on Route 20 at Huntington, Massachusetts.
Looking east on Route 20 at Huntington, Massachusetts.

News Flash! Amtrak 448 departed Albany on Time Today! (July 16, 2016).

I can’t say its a first; but it is the first time in awhile that I’ve been on Amtrak 448 (Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited) when it departed Albany-Rensselaer station precisely on schedule—3:05pm.

Things have certainly improved. Hooray for Amtrak!

P1490599
I was among the first passengers to board Amtrak 448. Instead of running as a through train Chicago to Boston, the Boston section starts in Albany.

New York (left) and Boston (right) sections of the Lake Shore Limited. I made the cross platform transfer at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Lumix LX-7 photo.
New York (left) and Boston (right) sections of the Lake Shore Limited. I made the cross platform transfer at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Brian  is on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited

Sunrise from Amtrak 48 this Morning (16 July 2016)—uploaded from 448.

I made these views using my Lumix LX7 this morning east of Cleveland, Ohio on the old New York Central Water Level Route from Amtrak 48, the Lake Shore Limited.

I up-loaded them to my laptop, processed in Lightroom (to add my name and scale the file) and transmitted them to Tracking the Light a few minutes ago while riding on the train over the Boston & Albany.

Sunrise east of Cleveland, Ohio this morning (16 July 2016). Lumix LX7 ISO set at 400.
Sunrise east of Cleveland, Ohio this morning (16 July 2016). Lumix LX7 ISO set at 400.
Lumix LX7 view.
Lumix LX7 view.

Tracking the Light is Posting from the Train!

Amtrak 449 Lake Shore Limited at Washington, Massachusetts.

Photographing the Lake Shore Limited is a tradition in our family dating back almost 40 years.

It was a clear afternoon. The Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited was nearly on schedule.

The other day my father and I selected a location near the summit of the Boston & Albany at Washington, Massachusetts.

In this view, back lighting helps to emphasize the train. The angular shape of Amtrak's General Electric P42 diesel-electric catches the light nicely while the front makes a shadow that draws the eye to it as the primary subject.
In this view, back lighting helps to emphasize the train. The angular shape of Amtrak’s General Electric P42 diesel-electric catches the light nicely while the front-end is in a shadow, which draws the eye to it as the primary subject.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 I set up a view that places the train in the left-hand portion of the image, while featuring the pastoral autumnal scenery on the right.

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Amtrak’s Confusing Coincidence or Numerical Harmony?

I phoned Julie—Amtrak’s automated agent, as you do when you’d like to know if a train is running on time. Amtrak 448, the Lake Shore Limited was a little more than an hour late leaving Springfield.

Dennis LeBeau, Wolfie the dog, and I waited at the bridge in East Brookfield, Massachusetts east of CP64. I said, “448 left Springfield 40 minutes ago. It’s about 25 minutes to Palmer, so it ought to be between Warren and Brookfield by now. We should be seeing a headlight in a couple of minutes.

Brookfield is milepost 66 on the old Boston & Albany. There hasn’t been a station there in my lifetime. East Brookfield is at the east end of long tangent, which provides lots of warning for eastward trains.

Dennis looked west, “There’s your headlight, just like you said.”

I wandered back and forth on the bridge trying to find the most suitable angle. Ultimately I settled on this spot to the north of the mainline. All things being equal, I wish I’d brought my Fuji X-T1; this would have made a nice 135mm view to bring in the green trees and track-ladder in the distance.

Exposed with my Lumix LX7 at f1.7 1/800th of a second, ISO 200 at 7:16pm on May 20, 2015.
Exposed with my Lumix LX7 at f1.7 1/800th of a second, ISO 200 at 7:16pm on May 20, 2015.

Engine 48 was leading train 448 at CP 64. Got all that? Great! Too often, I have to explain the fundamental difference between an engine number and train number.

To the uninitiated this seems like a trivial difference. But to those in railroad operations it could be life or death.

Really it’s a question of hardware versus software. The locomotive is the hardware, the train is a service. Today engine 48 leads 448, but tomorrow it will lead another train with another number. On the timetable, everyday train 48 and train 448 are combined as one between Chicago and Albany. And there’s the confusing coincidence. Train 48 and locomotive 48 are different; one being a service, and the other an engine.

Nice light on engine 48, no?

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National Train Day Special Tracking the Light Posting: Amtrak 449.

Today, May 9, 2015 has been deemed ‘National Train Day’.

My participation with this event was to mark the passage of Amtrak 449, the westward Lake Shore Limited.

So, with this in mind, a little while ago I positioned myself along Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts at a time-honored location along the Boston & Albany route. (Time-honored = I’ve made photos here many times before).

Here was my test photograph exposed at 2:37pm. An hour and five minute later Amtrak 449 finally past my location.
Here was my test photograph exposed at 2:37pm. An hour and five minutes later Amtrak 449 finally past my location.

 

What I’d hoped would only take a few minutes, soon extended into an hour. So it goes when waiting for trains, even scheduled moves.

This was my first view of one of Amtrak’s new baggage cars.

Amtrak train 449 seen east of Palmer, Massachusetts at 3:42pm on Saturday May 9, 2015. Exposed with my Fujifilm X-T1 Digital camera.
Amtrak train 449 seen east of Palmer, Massachusetts at 3:42pm on Saturday May 9, 2015. Exposed with my Fujifilm X-T1 Digital camera.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited—Sunday October 12, 2014.

Classic Location: West Warren, Massachusetts.

Waterfall_West_Warren_vert_IMG_9194

Sometimes familiar locations work best. In the past, I’ve made many photographs along the Boston & Albany at West Warren, the combination of easy of access, scenic environment, identifiable scene, and excellent afternoon lighting continue to make it one of my favorite places to photograph Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, train 449.

The afternoon of October 12th was clear and bright with hints of autumn color tinged in the trees. My father and I opted to intercept 449—one of the few trains running at that time of the day on a Sunday—and so we put ourselves in position on the road bridge near the old mill race. After a short wait the train came into view.

Richard J. Solomon at West Warren, Massachusetts on October 12, 2014. Richard has a mix of modern digital cameras and a traditional Rolleiflex loaded with color negative film.
Richard J. Solomon at West Warren, Massachusetts on October 12, 2014. Richard has a mix of modern digital cameras and a traditional Rolleiflex loaded with color negative film.

I worked with my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX7, my father exposed a photo using his vintage Rolleiflex Model T on a Gitzo tripod, and used his Lumix LX7, plus Minolta Mark IV light meter and various other bits and pieces.

Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited rolls west along the Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts on the afternoon of October 12, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited rolls west along the Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts on the afternoon of October 12, 2014. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited rolls west along the Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts on the afternoon of October 12, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited rolls west along the Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts on the afternoon of October 12, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Trailing view of Amtrak 449 passing milepost 75 at West Warren, Massachusetts, the site of the old station.
Trailing view of Amtrak 449 passing milepost 75 at West Warren, Massachusetts, the site of the old station. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

This maintained our long tradition of going out to photograph the Lake Shore Limited that dates back to the 1970s.

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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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Daily Post: Westward Freight in Wink of Sun

CSX Q427 Claws Upgrade at Chester, Massachusetts.

For me the old Boston & Albany West end is hallowed ground. This was the first true mountain mainline in the modern sense. The line was surveyed in the mid 1830s and by 1839 trains were working over Washington Summit.

Over the last 30 years I’ve made countless trips to photograph this line and it remains one of my favorites. Yet, I rarely come up here in the winter.

On Friday, February 7, 2014, my father and I went up to Huntington to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449. Not far behind was CSX’s Q427.

This freight runs daily between Portland, Maine and Selkirk, New York via Ayer and Worcester, Massachusetts. This day it had a pair of General Electric Evolution-Series diesels of the type that have come to characterize modern freight operations on the Boston & Albany route.

Since the train wasn’t making great speed, we pursued it on Route 20, stopping to make photos at opportune locations. At CP 123 (where the line goes from single track to two-main track) Q427 met an eastward freight holding at the signal. We continued upgrade ahead of the train.

I remembered that there’s a gap in the hills at Chester which allows for a window of sun on the line that lasts late in the day. So we zipped ahead of the train.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

At Chester, Pop set up his tripod to make a hi-resolution video of the train climbing. I positioned myself with my Canon EOS 7D with a telephoto lens to make use of the window of sun against a dark background.

As the train grew closer I also exposed more conventional views with my Lumix LX3. The heavy train took more than two minutes to pass.

Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.
Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.

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 Tomorrow: step back 30 years with a visit to West Springfield.

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DAILY POST: Amtrak Heritage P40 at West Warren, Massachusetts!


Light! Camera! Action!

Here we have an instance where everything came together nicely.

Amtrak heritage locomotive
Amtrak 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts, 2:03pm January 24, 2014. Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens exposed at ISO 200 f5.6 1/1000th of a second. Camera RAW file converted to a Jpeg in Adobe Photoshop.

On Friday January 24, 2014, I’d got word that Amtrak’s heritage locomotive number 822 was working the westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449

This was the second time in a ten-day span that I’d be alerted to a heritage locomotive on this run. As noted in my January 18, 2014 post, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the weather wasn’t cooperative on my previous attempt at catching an Amtrak heritage locomotive.

By contrast on January 24th it was clear but very cold. I opted to make the photo at West Warren, where it’s nice and open and there’s a distinctive landscape.

Normally, Amtrak 449 passes East Brookfield at 1:30pm, and Palmer about 1:50pm. West Warren is roughly halfway between them, so I aimed to be there no later than 1:35pm

As it happened, 449 was delayed on Charlton Hill and passed more than 15 minutes later than I’d anticipated. Other than resulting in my nose getting a bit cold, this delay produced little effect on the photograph.

I opted for a traditional angle because I wanted to feature the locomotive as the primary subject this scenic setting. I picked a spot on the road bridge over the Quaboag River where I could make a view that included the old mills and waterfall, as well as a side view as the train got closer.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens, I set the motor drive to its fastest setting, and exposed three bursts of images as the train rolled east on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline.

Since the camera’s buffer will quickly become saturated when making multiple photos in rapid succession, I was careful to wait until the train was nearly where I wanted it in each of the three sets.

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Amtrak_822_on_449_West_Warren_tight_view_IMG_4061
This tighter view offers a clean perspective on the equipment. I was aiming to feature both the heritage painted locomotive and the ancient baggage car. Word to the wise; get the old baggage cars while you can, they won’t be around forever.

Have you had luck catching Amtrak’s heritage locomotives?  Do you have a favorite? Let me know! There’s a venue for comments on this blog, scroll down.

 

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DAILY POST: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited


“It never gets old”

Amtrak 449, in sun and rain; one day and the next. Last week, I was over in East Brookfield visiting the LeBeaus to do some videography for a music video. Dennis LeBeau lives a block from the Boston & Albany (CSXT’s Boston Line).

I said to Dennis, “I’m just going to nip down to the bridge to catch 449. It should be getting close.”

“Passes here every day at one-thirty. I’ll join you in a minute.”

I phoned Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent: 1-800-USA-RAIL) to find out if 449 as on time out of Worcester. As it turns out, it departed Worcester Union Station 4 minutes late.

Worcester is at CP45, East Brookfield is CP64. It takes 449 about 25-30 minutes to run the 19 miles.

Since it was nice bright afternoon, I opted for a broadside view that shows a few of the houses in town. At 1:39, Dennis shouted to me from the road bridge, “He’s around the bend.” I was poised to made my photograph with my Lumix LX3.

This can be tricky since there’s really only a split second to get the train in the right place. If the camera isn’t cued up, all I’ll get is a photo of the baggage car. But I was ready, and put the train precisely where I wanted it.

Amtrak's westward Lake Shore Limited at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 at f4.0 1/1600th of a second. I selected a fast shutter speed to insure I stopped the train. When working broadside, the relative motion of the train to the film plane requires a fast shutter speed than when aiming at tighter three-quarter view.

The train glided through town. I turned to make a few going away views with my Canon, and said to Dennis, “You know that never gets old. I’ve been photographing that train since the 1970s.”

Dennis said to me, “I’ve been watching it since it was the New England States Limited, with New York Central E8s!”

A day later, I was in Palmer (CP83). The word was out that Amtrak 145 (one of the Genesis P42s in heritage paint) was working 449. The weather was foul, but since I was in town anyway, I figured I’d give the train a roll by.

It was stabbed at CP83 by a southward New England Central freight going into the yard, which allowed ample time for photos. Such a contrast in days. Pity the heritage P42 hadn’t worked west a day sooner.

Amtrak has painted P42 145 in its 1970s-era scheme. It sits at CP83 in the driving rain waiting for a southward New England Central freight to clear the diamond on January 14, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Amtrak has painted P42 145 in its 1970s-era scheme. It leads train 449 which is sitting at CP83 waiting for a southward New England Central freight to clear the diamond on January 14, 2014. Driving rain was the order of the day. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

See: Kid with a Camera 1978Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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DAILY POST: Kid with a Camera 1978

 

Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited with E8As near Palmer.

For my eleventh birthday my father gave me a 1930s-era Leica 3A and a role of film (with more to follow).

Every so often Pop would gather my brother Sean and I into the car and head over the Boston & Albany (then Conrail) to wait for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Back then, the train was still running with heritage equipment and typically hauled by fairly tired E8As.

If we were really lucky we might catch freight too.

Lake Shore Limited
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited roars along on the Boston & Albany near milepost 81, two miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts’s diamond with Central Vermont. I exposed this image in summer 1978. In a few weeks I’d start 7th grade. Weeks would pass from the time I released the shutter until I would make prints from the 35mm black & white negative.

On this day in summer 1978, we drove to Palmer. I think we’d started up the Quaboag River Valley, but realized we might not have time to reach Warren before the westward Lake Shore came roaring down the valley. So we reversed and picked a spot near milepost 81, not far from the Route 20-67 split (east of town).

We didn’t wait long. I could hear pairs of twin 12-567s working before the headlight a appeared at the bend near the old barn. And then there it was!

“I see it!”

I made several exposures with the Leica. Unfortunately, in my panic to capture the train passing I shook the camera, so the head-on view is a bit blurred.

I processed the negatives from this adventure in the kitchen sink and made prints that I placed in a homemade photo album. The negatives were well processed and have survived in good order. I scanned them a few weeks ago. My notes from the day appear to have gone missing though.

As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.
As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.

Click to see:

Kid with a Camera: Gun Hill Road, the Bronx, New York Summer 1980

Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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Palmer, Massachusetts, Friday Night, June 28, 2013

 

One Busy Evening.

I don’t remember making my first night photo in Palmer. But I do recall spending Friday evenings there in the 1980s with Bob Buck and company, watching and photographing Conrail and Central Vermont. See: Drowning the Light

Palmer Mass
New England 611 crawls southward across the Palmer diamond on June 28, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
New England 611 glides  into Palmer
New England 611 glides into Palmer on June 28, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

The Friday evening tradition was maintained on June 28, 2013, when a group of us convened, as we have for many years, near the old station. A few weeks earlier, I posted some photos made on exceptionally wet Friday night. By contrast, June 28th was warm, dry and very pleasant. And busy too!

The variances of railway freight operations make it difficult to pin point precisely when trains will pass or arrive Palmer. Complicating matters on the week of June 28, was on-going undercutting on CSX’s B&A route (see: Ballast Train East Brookfield), and the after effects of a serious derailment on the Water Level route near Fonda, New York a few days earlier.

However, these events appear to have benefited us on the evening of the 28th. I arrived at CP83 (the dispatcher controlled signals and switch at west end of the controlled siding, 83 miles from Boston) just as CSX’s westward Q437 was rolling through.

New England Central freights
New England Central freights 604 and 606 at Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX photo.
New England Central freight.
New England Central 2680 on train 604 at Palmer. Lumix LX3 photo

New England Central had no less than three trains working in Palmer, jobs 604, 606, and 611, and these entertained us for the next couple of hours. In addition, we caught more action on CSX, including a very late train 448, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX3 and my father’s Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. Some of the exposures required the shutter to remain open for 25 seconds or longer.

CP 83 Palmer
Amtrak’s 448 Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited eastbound at CP 83 in Palmer. Lumix photo.
CP 83 Palmer.
Limited clear off the control siding at CP83.

 

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, West Brookfield, Massachusetts

Playing with a Pentax.

A few weeks back, I traveled to West Brookfield to meet with my friend Dennis LeBeau—East Brookfield’s musical godfather and preeminent historian. Dennis had organized for me an informal tour of the former Boston & Albany station—now a local history museum.

Our timing was neatly suited to catch the passing Amtrak’s 449, the westward Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.  A phone call to Amtrak’s Julie (the computerized information voice) advised us that the train was a few minutes late out of Worcester.

I was playing with a Pentax ZX-M 35mm camera fitted with an f1.4 50mm Pentax lens and loaded with Velvia 50 color slide film. While not my regular combination of equipment and media, I like to vary my approach and experiment with different types of cameras.

West Brookfield was once a place of great importance for Boston & Albany predecessor, Western Rail Road of Massachusetts. This was the mid-way point between Worcester and Springfield. Back in the 1830s and 1840s, all trains stopped here for water, while passenger trains also allowed time for a meal stop. It was a meeting point for local stage routes and so serving as an early transportation hub.

As late as the 1940s, water tanks were maintained east of the station and freights would often take water here after the long climb east from Palmer.

The original Western Rail Road station was replaced in the late 19th century with a stone building designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge (the architectural successors to the late H. H. Richardson who’s vision shaped station design on the B&A in the 1880s). The original station was relocated to the west side of the Long Hill Road crossing, and still stands today.

The brick building in the photograph on the far side of the tracks is the original Western Rail Road freight house, dating to the mid-19th century.

Today, the only functional track in West Brookfield is CSX’s mainline. There’s no switches, water tanks, or open railway stations. The surviving buildings are relics of an earlier age. No passenger train has called on West Brookfield since the early 1950s.

Just about 2pm, Amtrak 449 came into sight. I exposed two frames of Velvia. This is the closer of the two exposures. I scanned this with my Epson V600 scanner and adjusted the curve of the film to lighten mid tones and control contrast, and adjusted color balance. (Velvia 50 tends to shift red). Both corrected and raw scans are presented below.

Amtrak 449 at West Brookfield, Pentax ZX-M with f1.4 50mm lens; Velvia 50 corrected scan.

 

West Brookfield, Mass.
Amtrak 449 at West Brookfield, Pentax ZX-M with f1.4 50mm lens; Velvia 50 corrected scan.

 

Amtrak 449 at West Brookfield, Pentax ZX-M with f1.4 50mm lens; Velvia 50 raw ‘uncorrected’ scan.
Amtrak 449 at West Brookfield, Pentax ZX-M with f1.4 50mm lens; Velvia 50 raw ‘uncorrected’ scan.

 

 

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On the Road with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited

 

Brian’s Trip on 448

Last week I rode from Chicago Union Station over the former New York Central Water Level route to Albany and then via the Boston & Albany to Worcester, Massachusetts.

Amtrak Timetable.
A contemporary work of fiction: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited public timetable. Exposed with my Lumix LX3

A familiar run, I first made this trip in August of 1983 and I’ve done it many times since. However, both my first trip and most recent have a commonality: I began these trips with some photography on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy ‘Triple Track’ near Aurora, rode a ‘scoot’ into Chicago and changed for the Lake Shore at Union Station.

While I enjoy train travel, I’m not especially keen on really long runs. My usual limit is about 8 hours. I make exceptions for the Lake Shore. For me this is one of the most interesting American runs.

Amfleet carriage.
Amfleet II rolling east. Exposed with a Lumix LX-3

The queuing process at Chicago Union leaves much to be desired. It reminded me of a recent experience with jury duty. Yet once ensconced in my seat in an Amfleet II coach I was happy enough.

We departed Union Station 3 minutes after the advertised and gradually lost more time over the course of the run. I don’t mind this especially, after all the train’s long standing nick-name is, “The Late for Sure Limited.’

Gliding east in the darkness, I squinted to pick out familiar landmarks, as this trip is the thread that really ties my recent posts together.

At 9:37 pm we eased over the 21st Street Bridge; a few minutes later we clattered across the diamonds with the old Rock Island at Englewood, and at 9:58 we raced through Hammond-Whiting, Indiana. I noted where Chris Guss and I had stood a week earlier to photograph both an EJ&E freight and NS’s Interstate Heritage Unit.

Northern Indiana was alive with trains. We passed a CSX stack train at Curtis on the adjacent former Baltimore & Ohio. East of Michigan City we overtook a South Shore freight led by a pair of GP38s roaring along under wire like an apparition from another era. I heard the Doppler blast as the South Shore hit a crossing alongside of us. It was just a momentary glimpse in the night and not far from a spot where Mike Danneman made photos on an icy February afternoon some 18 years ago.

A seeming endless parade of Norfolk Southern freights greeted us on the Water Level Route. Every few minutes a low base roar would precede locomotives blasting by on an adjacent main track. Although Conrail has been gone 14 years, I still find it odd that Central’s old Water Level Route is now run by two separate railroads.

I dozed off, waking briefly at Toledo to watch an oil train roll east, and empty hoppers used to move fracking sand clatter west. Somewhere between Toledo and Berea, Ohio we lost about an hour.

Sunrise from the train.
A jet soars westward, as Amtrak 448 approaches Berea, Ohio. Lumix LX-3 photo.

Near Berea we met the rising sun and passed the old tower—sacred ground visited by my late friend Bob Buck and countless other fans over the years. This is the divide, from here east we were rode on CSX tracks.

Cleveland, Ohio sunrise.
Cleveland’s skyline features the Van Sweringen brothers’ famed Terminal Tower (center, near the apex of the lift bridge). Lumix LX-3 photo.

We paused for Cleveland, then Erie, and for many miles we ran parallel to the former Nickel Plate Road, which now carries Norfolk Southern freight east of Cleveland.  I was pleased to see many photographers line-side; my train’s journey was well documented!

At Buffalo, I had a pleasant surprise: instead of taking the normal route via CP Draw and CP FW, we were routed over the Compromise Branch that takes a more northerly (and slightly longer route) through Buffalo, rejoining the other line at CP 437 (the control point near the ghastly decaying remnants of Buffalo Central Terminal). Amtrak’s 48/448 serves the suburban Buffalo-Depew station instead of the old terminal.

Behind me a woman traveler was on the phone describing her trip on Amtrak from Oregon: “We live in such an amazing country! Crossing the plains I saw endless herds of wild Bison and red Indians on horseback! There were wagon trains crawling dusty trails against purple mountains and rainbows! And amber fields of grain! Is that wheat, do you think? And Chicago was like the emerald city, its towers scraping the sky. Such a skyline! And all through the Midwest big factories making the produce of America! It’s just wonderful!”

Indeed. Was she on number 8? Or perhaps one of those ‘Great Trains of the Continental Route’ as advertised in my August 1881 Travelers’ Official Guide?

At Rochester, my old friend Otto Vondrak came down for a brief visit. He and I share various Rochester-area experiences. Then eastward into ever more familiar territory.

Otto Vondrak
Otto Vondrak gives me a wave at Rochester, New York—home of Kodak. Lumix LX-3 photo.

At Schenectady, a Canadian Pacific freight overtook us on the Delaware & Hudson before we resumed our sprint to Albany-Rensselaer, where we then sat for an eternity waiting for station space. Here 48 and 448 are divided, with the latter continuing down the Hudson to New York City.

Amtrak seat.
My seat on the Lake Shore. Comfortable and relaxing. Certainly superior to flying, provided time isn’t an issue. With today’s technology, I can review photos I made of Metra’s train shortly before boarding the Lake Shore. I don’t have to wait days or weeks to see my results. Well, except for the Provia I exposed with my EOS3. (I like to keep the bases covered, as it were).

East of Rensselaer, I paid extra special attention to our progress. There are few railroads I know as well as the B&A.  At 4:38pm we met CSX’s Q283 (empty autoracks) at Chatham. We paused at CP171 (East Chatham) to let pass our westward counterpart, train 449. At Pittsfield, CSX’s Q423 (Worcester to Selkirk) was waiting for us.

Brian Solomon
Brian gives Q423 a roll by.
Self portrait with Lumix LX-3.
CSX GP40-2s at North Adams Junction in Pittsfield. It was here that Bob Buck photographed a Mohawk in the snow back in 1947. Lumix LX-3 photo.
CSX GP40-2s at North Adams Junction in Pittsfield. It was here that Bob Buck photographed a Mohawk in the snow back in 1947. Lumix LX-3 photo.

The highlight of the trip was the sinuous descent of Washington Hill’s west slope. There was test of the Westinghouse brakes near the deep rock cut east of Washington Station, and I continued my trip through time and space. Familiar places and landmarks blitzed by the glass; Lower Valley Road, Becket, Twin Ledges, old Middlefield Station, Whistler’s stone bridges along the valley of the Westfield’s west branch, the old helper station at Chester, and east through Huntington, Russell, and Woronoco.

'Twin Ledges'
Drifting downgrade at the famed ‘Twin Ledges’ (between Becket and Middlefield, Massachusetts). Lumix LX-3 photo.
Middlefield: where I've made many photos from that grassy knoll. Lumix LX-3.
Middlefield: where I’ve made many photos from that grassy knoll. Lumix LX-3.
Chester, Massachusetts
‘Chesta!’ (Chester, Massachusetts). Lumix LX-3. (Old Norvel C. Parker grew up here).

At West Springfield we passed the old Boston & Albany yard. Watching the parade of trains in evening at the west end of the yard were ghosts of departed members of the West Springfield Train Watchers; among them founding member Norvel C. Parker, Stuart Woolley—retired B&A fireman, Joseph Snopek—photographer and author, and of course, Bob Buck—B&A’s greatest fan and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies.  I waved and they waved back. (Hey, at least I wasn’t seeing herds of wild bison!)

Springfield, Massachusetts
‘Ah! Lovely Springfield, Massachusetts.’ Lumix, LX-3.

After a stop at Springfield Station, I was on my final leg of this journey. We rattled over the Palmer diamonds—where I’ve exposed countless photos over the years, and raced up the Quaboag River Valley, through West Warren, Warren, West Brookfield, Brookfield, and East Brookfield—where my friend Dennis LeBeau and his loyal dog, Wolfie, were line-side to salute my passage.

Palmer diamond as seen from 448.
Palmer, Massachusetts, looking railroad-south on New England Central. It is here, I’ve exposed countless hundreds of images since the 1970s. Home territory and all that. And it goes by in the blink of an eye on 448!
Lumix LX-3 photo.
West Warren.
West Warren, Massachusetts along the Quaboag River. Another favorite spot for railway photography. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Worcester Union Station
Worcester Union Station at sunset. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Worcester, Massachusetts
Boston & Albany carved in stone—Worcester, Massachusetts.

At Worcester, my father, Richard J. Solomon was poised to collect me. And so concluded my latest Lake Shore epic. And, yes, 448 was indeed late: 1 hour 15 minutes passed the advertised. Tsk!

Worcester, Massachusetts.
Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Day 1982; Warren, Massachusetts

Amtrak Christmas Day
On this Christmas Day 1982, after a ritual of opening presents, my father, Richard Jay Solomon, brought my brother and me trackside to watch trains. Before Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited passed Warren, a set of Conrail GP40-2s rolled west on what was then a double track railway. As it was a holiday, Tucker’s Hobbies (Warren’s primary attraction) was closed for business. Leica IIIA with f2.0 Summitar and Kodachrome 64 film; scan full-frame;  adjusted in Photoshop to balance color and modify exposure.

Merry Christmas from Brian Solomon!

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Amtrak P42 Number 1 Panned at Speed

P42 number 1 at speed.
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited crosses a stone arch bridge over the Quaboag River near West Warren, Massachusetts in October 2000.

This image was part of a sequence aimed to fulfill a commission by Mark Hemphill when he was Editor of TRAINS Magazine. While one of the other images in the sequence eventually appeared in the magazine, a tightly cropped version of this photo appeared on page 160 of my book Modern Locomotives—High-Horsepower Diesels 1966-2000, published by MBI in 2002. My MBI caption reads: “Amtrak road No. 1 is a P42 GENESIS™ built by General Electric at Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1996. In October, 2000, it led Amtrak No. 449, the westbound Boston section of the Lakeshore Limited, at West Warren, Massachusetts. The locomotive wears Amtrak’s short-lived Northeast Direct livery that was discontinued with the introduction of the Acela livery in 2000.” It was exposed with Nikon N90S fitted with 80-200mm f2.8 zoom lens. I selected a relatively slow shutter speed, probably 1/60th second, and panned the front of the locomotive as it rolled by. Track speed is 60mph for passenger trains, so there was plenty of movement to allow for background blurring.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

On this warm May evening in 1986, I exposed a trailing view of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited as it hits the Central Vermont diamond at Palmer. The train radiates the glint of the setting sun. Between eastward and westward main-tracks, Conrail has installed the dispatcher controlled switch that in July 1986 became ‘CP83’ and resulted in the removal of the old westward main track on the Boston & Albany route between Palmer and Springfield (CP92). [The numbers of the control points signify the approximate distance from Boston’s South Station.] At the left is the canopy on Palmer’s Union Station which Conrail removed in November of 1986. Today the old station has been restored inside and serves as the popular Steaming Tender railroad-themed restaurant.

Amtrak at Palmer, Massachusetts.
At 7:13pm on May 28, 1986, Amtak 449, Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited clatters across the Palmer diamond on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline. At Albany-Rensselaer this will join with the New York section for the journey over the Water Level Route to Chicago. Exposed on 120 B&W film with a Rolleiflex Model T twin-lens reflex fitted with 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. This camera was not fitted with a prismatic view finder. Thus the finder image was a mirror of reality which made composition of moving trains challenging. Nor did this camera have a meter, so exposure was calculated using a hand-held meter and the photographer’s experience. In truth, bright sun shining off the stainless-steel passenger cars resulted in an overexposed negative that was adjusted with Photoshop after scanning.