A week ago, Friday 8 March 2019, toward the end of our exploration of Bord na Mona’s Lough Rea narrow gauge network near Lanesborough Co. Longford, the sky grew textured and glowed with evening magnificence.
I made this view of an empty Bord na Mona train crossing the bog on its way to reload.
The trick making this photo work was to expose for the sky while letting the train go relatively dark. I was working with Ilford HP5 black & white film, and during processing, I used two developers followed by selenium toning of the negatives to extract the maximum shadow detail.
My intent was a moody and stark view of the train against the textured sky.
Last Friday, Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I paid a visit to Bord na Mona’s (Peat Board) three-foot gauge industrial railway feeding the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesboroughin County Longford.
My first visit to Lanesborough portion of the extensive Irish Bord na Mona network was back in 2013. This is my favorite Bord na Mona operation for a variety for a reasons. It’s the most accessible by road, by far the most scenic (as bog railways go), and has great variety.
By virtue of its operations, Bord na Mona peat trains tend to operate in pairs. This suits both loading and switching, since trains often need to reverse into or out of temporary loading spurs.
So, when one train appears, its ‘buddy’ is usually close at hand. Sometimes these operate very closely, often only a few yards apart, other times they might separated by five or ten minutes.
Mid-morning, laden trains return toward Lanesborough while empty train prepare to head out to loading areas in the surrounding bogs. The result is that a parade of trains tend to converge on double track sections near the Lough Rea Power Station.
Once the loads are in and the empties have gone out, the line is again quiet, although maintenance trains will occasionally appear during these lulls. After lunch the whole sequence repeats.
For the photographer the bursts of intense action is both opportunity and a challenge. Everything seems to happen at once, making for chances to catch two or more trains in a photo. However, if you are out of position, you could miss everything.
Headlights are often not illuminated in daytime and sometimes it is the sound of a train that gives you advanced notice.
The bogs are quiet enough. Listen for the sounds of Wagon Master locomotive roaring along with a syncopated clatter of wagons. The trains don’t travel very fast, but you need to be ready for when they arrive.
See yesterday’s post for more on Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough netwrok:
Close Ups, Details and Alternate Views: A Look Beyond the Obvious.
While photographing Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge last week, I was looking for different angles. I’ve made nearly a dozen trips to the Bord na Mona in the last year and I wanted to capture the essence of the operation up close.
This is a gloss free industrial railway. It’s like a big beat-up tin plate train set that has seen lots of use, and doesn’t adhere to prototype railroading in any normal conventions.
Tracks are laid down here and there. Curvature is very tight, in many places there’s no ballast. Junctions appear with little notice. And the trains bounce along at a grinding amble.
See previous posts for more views on the Bord na Mona:
A Busy, Bright and Clear Day Visiting Irish Narrow Gauge.
Last week, Mark Healy and I made another venture to photograph Bord na Mona’s (Peat Board) three-foot gauge industrial railway. This time we chose the network focused on feeding the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesborough in County Longford.
Although we departed Dublin under cloudy skies, by the time we reached the Midlands, the clouds parted and we enjoyed most clear sunny weather for the remainder of the day.
From past experience, I’ve found that clear days are by far the best time to photograph Bord na Mona’s trains at work. The heavily harvested moon-like landscape of the peat bogs doesn’t translate as well on dull days. Also, the brown and cream livery on the locomotives and aluminum peat wagons look best with sun on them.
Finding a clear day in the Irish Midlands isn’t so easy. The weather is famously dull and changeable. On more than one occasion I’ve found that a forecast for fine weather proved overly optimistic.
For this excursion, I brought four cameras. Yes, four. In addition to the two digital cameras (Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D), I had my Canon EOS-3 and a Rollei Model T 120-size camera both loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F.
There’s certain types of images that I still like to put on film. Also, while I expose a lot of digital images (and make multiple back-ups of each and every file) I’m very reluctant to trust digital imaging for long term applications.
So, in the event of a digital apocalypse, I’d like to have a few Bord na Mona photos on color transparency film for posterity.
My film has yet to be processed, so here are a few of my recent digital results.
Tune in tomorrow for more highlights from this most recent Bord na Mona adventure!
Summer offers more pleasant temperatures and longer days, but also brings more foliage, taller grass and other challenges that I didn’t experience in February!
I think its safe to say that I didn’t get bored with Bord na Mona. From the first moment trackside, the railway seemed to be buzzing with trains. The section of double track running east from Lanesborough toward Mountdillon was especially busy.
I even had another opportunity to catch one of the ash trains on the move. (See: Bord na Mona’s Ash Train). Perhaps my bold proclamation of its elusivity has tipped the scales in my favor—a sort of reverse jinx, as it were.
Or maybe, its my persistence. It’s nice to get a lucky catch, but likewise, the more time spent trackside, the better the odds of seeing the unusual, as well as the elusive, the rare, and the obscure. Having a better sense for when trains run helps too!