On January 13, 2015, Jack May and I explored NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system to make photographs.
I made this view on Fujichrome Provia100F using my Canon EOS 3 with a 40mm pancake lens—a winning combination for contemporary Transit photos with historical format continuity. (A fancy way of saying, I exposed photos of streetcars on film back in the day, and I still do!).
A week ago, I had a some spare time in the Dublin city centre and the sun was bright, so working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto, I exposed a series of photos of LUAS trams working the Red Line on Abbey Street.
If this image seems familiar, it is because it’s been published on several occasions, first in Passenger Train Journal issue 210 in the mid-1990s.
It is among my favorite view of the San Francisco Muni light rail.
Working with my old Nikon F3T and a 200mm f4 lens, I made this photo of an in-bound L-Taraval car (worked by a 1970s-era Boeing-Vertol LRV) as it crested Ulloa Street on its way down toward West Portal in early December 1990.
The remarkable consideration is that this is a Kodachrome 25 slide. My shutter speed was about 1/60thof a second. When I lived in San Francisco, I had an un-cropped hand-printed Type R print of this scene pinned to my wall.
A significant portion of Porto’s modern light rail Metro system is built on the right of way of an historic narrow gauge network.
In March 2019, photographer Denis McCabe and I visited the old station at Senhora da Hora in suburban Porto. The station building an a water tower survive, providing visual clues of operations from former times.
Tracking the Light is on ‘auto pilot’ while Brian is traveling.
In contrast to my April 2014 visit to Porto’s Trindade station , where I remember horizontal rain blowing into the covered over portions of the platforms, my more recent visit was under clear sunny skies.
Trindade is a busy junction station where Porto Metro lines interface with each other.
At the northeastern end of the top level, Metro tracks exit the station into an open area while taking a remarkably tight curve before plunging into a tunnel below the city.
I exposed these views using my ‘new’ Lumix LX7 on a visit to Porto in late March 2019.
After arrival at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), I made my way to the Metrorail light rail station.
You have to take the LAX ‘G’ bus to get there.
Buying the fare took a bit of skill.
Once up on the platforms, which are elevated high above ground level at the Aviation-LAX station, I made a few photos of passing trains using my tired and battle work LUMIX LX7. Then I boarded a Green Line train to change for the Blue.
I was keen to explore one of the Los Angeles-area’s most recent light rail extensions: Metro Rail’s so-called Expo Line that runs west from a connection with the Blue Line (near downtown) and roughly follows the alignment of an old Pacific Electric route along Exposition Boulevard to Santa Monica.
The portion of the line from Culver City to Santa Monica was opened in May this year, and so still has that newly-built appearance.
LA Metro Rail pays tribute to the old Pacific Electric at its stations with artwork and historical interludes.
Using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm X-T1 I made these images under bright sunny skies. Yet, I wonder about the opportunities for evening and twilight images on this line?
The Expo Line’s largely east-west alignment combined with LA’s propensity for air-pollution should present some impressive lighting conditions.
Perhaps a visit with a very long lens during a smog alert could yield some colorful results?
For more on the Expo Line see this article in the LA Times:
I arrived in Jersey City on NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail a few days ago. While I was checking out some comparative ‘now and then’ locations, I made these photos of the modern cars with my Lumix LX7.
In the last couple of decades, a number of North American cities have adopted light rail as a preferred mode of public transport.Personally, I don’t make distinctions between light rail lines, streetcar lines, interurban electric lines, and/or trolley lines, since all use essentially the same technology with minor variations in the way they are adapted.
In early June, in between other Virginia-based rail-events, Pat Yough and I made a brief visit to Norfolk, Virginia to take a spin on that city’s new light rail system, which is cleverly called ‘The Tide.’
Nice Siemens trams (light rail vehicles) glide along on regular intervals. Part of the route is built on an old railroad right of way. It is my understanding that plans are in the works to extend the route east toward Virginia Beach.
NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has been on my photo list for more than a decade. It’s one of those things that is close enough to be just out of reach.
When an operation is under threat, time is made—found—to photograph it. You know, before its gone. But when something isn’t going anywhere, its often easy to ignore.
Such was my failings in photographing the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. Thanks to a detailed tour with Jack May on January 15, 2015, I’ve finally explored of this interesting operation.
This compact modern passenger railway operates on a selection of former heavy-rail railroad rights of way, including through the old New York, West Shore & Buffalo tunnel at Weekhawken.
The day was ideal; sunny and bright with clear skies. We first rode north from Hoboken to Tonnelle Avenue, then worked our way back south through Jersey City to Bayonne visiting a variety of stations along the way.
Much of the route passed through places that I recalled from adventures with my father in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Jersey waterfront was different place back then.
What had been rotting wharves, badly maintained freight trackage, and post-industrial squalor is now all up-scale housing, modern office towers, and otherwise new construction. It was familiar, yet different—like some weird vision of the future.
In addition to these digital photos made with my Canon EOS 7D, I also exposed many color slides on Provia 100F with my EOS 3 for review at later date.
Sunny Morning on Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Metro Rail.
I’d argue that the Buffalo light rail line is one of America’s least photographed railways. It’s certainly not something I’ve often seen pictured.
The system has several peculiarities. One of the strangest is its route, which runs in a subway through the northern Buffalo suburbs but on the street in the historic downtown.
I’ve made several visits to photograph and ride this unusual railway. I had an especially clear morning on May 4, 1989 when I exposed this pan on Kodachrome with my Leica M2. The car is on Main Street and passing St Paul’s Cathedral (located just a few blocks from Buffalo City Hall).
When seeking out railways to document, I’m always on the lookout for those operations that appear to elude other photographers. Admittedly, while the Buffalo light rail isn’t the most exciting railway in western New York, it can be photogenic and is thus worthy of pictures.
In April 2005, Dublin’s LUAS light rail system was still relatively new. Services on the Red Line service between Dublin Connolly Station and Tallagh had only commenced the previous September.
The Trams still had that ‘right out of the box’ quality. They were new and shiny and free from dents and day-to-day wear and tear. The yellow safety stripes were still in the future.
The Irish Railway Record Society was working on a special LUAS edition of their Journal and fellow IRRS members Stephen Hirsch, the late-Norman McAdams and myself spent a morning intensively photographing LUAS operations and its trams to help fill this publication.
The morning was bright but had a hazy diffused quality of light, typical of Irish April weather. I exposed this image with my Nikon N90S fitted with a Tokina 400mm lens.
However when I inspected the processed slide, it left me with something of quandary: While I was satisfied with the composition and the subtle backlit qualities, I’d felt that I’d misjudged the lighting and overexposed the image by about a stop. Worse, I didn’t manage to keep the camera level, so, by my normal standards of judgment, I felt the slide projected poorly.
Despite these flaws, I found the slide, scanned exceptionally well. In post processing I was easily able to correct for level, and the exposure looks fine on the computer screen without need for manipulation.
This just goes to show what doesn’t look good on film, may, in fact, produce a better than average final image in other media.
Although less photographed than historic cable cars and vintage streetcars, San Francisco Muni’s light rail routes offer plenty of interesting opportunities to make urban railway images.
San Francisco enjoys spectacular weather and lighting conditions. My favorite times to photograph are a sunrise and sunset. While the modern Breda-built cars lack the flair of historic PCC’s (see San Francisco Muni F-Line, May 2008), they still make for interesting subjects for the creative eye.
The other evening I was at birthday party in Dublin’s old Harcourt Street Station where I noticed the passing of a purple advertising tram. Wednesday, April 3, 2013 dawned clear and bright, so during the course of my day, I took a spin down the LUAS Green Line, and intercepted this latest ad tram. I exposed digital photos with my Lumix LX3, while making a few slides with my old Nikon F3.
The program begins at 1900 (7pm) upstairs at the Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, LONDON NW1, (advertised as a 5 minute walk from London’s Euston station). A nominal donation of £3.50 is asked of non-IRRS members (members £2.50)
The majority of trams on Dublin’s LUAS network are dressed in light silvery lavender with yellow safety strips around the body of the cars roughly at headlight level. The yellow stripe was added after the 2004 LUAS start up. Every so often, a single tram is decorated in an advertising livery. Last autumn (2012) there was an attractive blue tram advertising a cable television service. The other day, I noticed an all white tram advertising a phone service. This is like the one red jellybean in a bag of black ones. It’s something to watch out for and relieves the monotony of an otherwise uniform fleet. For photography it opens up opportunity to catch something a little different. After all, what can white do that silver cannot?
Braving frigid temperatures to take advantage of incredible low-light; on this day, three years ago (February 8, 2010), Pat Yough, Chris Guss & I were in Toronto photographing in suitably arctic conditions. Cold but clear—there’s a fantastic, surreal quality of light in sub-zero temperatures which can lead to great images if you chose to endure the conditions. Not, only were we up early, but the night before we spent an hour or more making night shots from the Bathurst Street Bridge. It didn’t get any warmer by daybreak, which we photographed from the lake front west of the city center. On that morning, after setting up the tripod, my numb hands only managed to record in my note book, “0646 [6:46 am]—ugg. Twilight—cold.”
While we made an intense tour of Toronto area railroading, among the most memorable images were those exposed toward the end of daylight near Queensway & King Streets along the Canadian National quad-track line west of Union Station. This is one of the busiest lines in Canada, and hosts a flurry of trains at rush hour. For me the highlight was a pair of in-bound GO Transit trains with new MP40PHs running side-by-side as the sun hugged the horizon over lake Ontario. A few minutes later, I scored a VIA train gliding under a signal bridge in last glint of sunlight. At the time, I was still working primarily with film, and I kept both Canon EOS-3s busy. One was fitted with my 100-400 IS zoom, the other with a 24mm AF lens. The only digital camera I had was my Lumix LX-3, which I learned tends to chew through battery power in sub-zero conditions. By the end of the day, I’d drained three full batteries. The McDonalds on King Street made for a nice place to thaw hands on cups of hot chocolate while watching TTC’s trams glide by at dusk. On the way back we swung by Niagara Falls, my first visit to the famous waterfall, despite having photographed trains crossing the gorge on several occasions over the years.
There are very few places where I my memory predates the railway. However, Dublin‘s LUAStram system (opened in 2004) offers one example. I made my first photos of Harcourt Street in March 1998. It was a rainy evening, and I was experimenting with some tungsten balanced Fujichrome to enhance the blue twilight glow.
Moving a dozen years forward, on November 3, 2010 I was interested in replicating the effect of my earlier efforts (without any attempt at precisely recreating the scene; my 1998 photo was made from the south-end of the street looking north, while the 2010 image was from the north-end, looking south). The image of the tram was made with my Canon 7D with the 28-135mm lens. Here, the tungsten color balance was accomplished in-camera using the ‘light bulb’ white balance setting. (See: Steam at Dusk, December 15, 2012) . This image was made during the final glow of daylight, and rather than neutralize the bluish light by using the auto white balance setting, I opted to enhance the effect while offering adequate compensation for the warm-balance street lamps. I was particularly drawn to reflections in the street and the repeating window frame patterns in the Georgian buildings above the tram. The pedestrian silhouettes seem apropos for the time of year; here past meets present.