Tag Archives: narrow gauge

Narrow Gauge to Light Rail: Senhora da Hora.


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.

Blink of Sun at Derraghmore; Cosmic Moment on Bord na Mona.


The forecast had been for rain. And rain it did, as it often does in the Irish Midlands.

Paul and Jay Monaghan and I had been exploring Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge network centered on the Lough Rea generating station, but had taken a break to photograph Irish Rail.

We spied clearing in the afternoon sky, so resumed pursuit of the narrow gauge. Soon we found a pair of empty trains returning to the bog for loading.

At the level crossing in Derraghmore, County Longford the clouds parted and we made sunny images of the diminutive trains as these crossed the road.

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Lanesborough in Colour—more Bord na Mona narrow gauge.


Last Friday’s (15 February 2019) adventure on Ireland’s Bord na Mona at Lanesborough Co., Longford proved well-timed and we caught many narrow gauge trains on the move.

Below are some more of the digitally exposed colour photos made with my FujiFilm and Lumix LX7 cameras.

Any favorites?

Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

Also check out:

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

Lumix LX7 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 18-135mm lens.

FujiFilm XT1 photo with 90mm lens.

Lumix LX7 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Narrow Gauge Gem at the 2019 Amherst Railway Society BIG Railroad Hobby Show.


In a world of small trains, S.D. Warren & Company’s Baldwin-built 0-4-0T is a giant.

This wonderfully restored narrow gauge steam locomotive was under steam in front of the Better Living Center at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts last weekend.

I made these digital photographs in the afternoon.

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February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight.

Since 2012, Denis McCabe and I have made detailed exploration of Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge railways networks.

See: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1 [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-8J]https://wp.me/p2BVuC-oR

Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013 [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-oR]

Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-28X]

These photos are from our most recent foray. We caught this pair of empty trains working their way east from Clonbulloge to a loading area near Rathangan.

Bord na Mona typically operates trains in pairs to ease the loading process.

Moon-like landscape on the bog east of Clonbulloge.

Fair weather clouds were gradually giving way to sunshine.

Images were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens.

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Photographing the MOB—Part 1.

I’m not talking about surreptitiously documenting nefarious underworld dealings of Sicilian criminals, but rather the trains and operations of Switzerland’s Montreux-Oberland-Bernois railway line.

This narrow gauge line famously operates via the Golden Pass route offering hourly long distance trains as well as local services to communities along its lines.

In April, it was among the routes that Denis McCabe and I explored.

We were fortunate to have clear blue skies, which when combined with stunning Alpine scenery makes for great photographic possibilities.

I’d researched a variety of potential locations, and opted to photograph around Gstaad and Gruben, where open Alpine meadows, tall bridges, and distant mountain peaks made for great settings.

Traveling to Gstaad, we hoped off a train that had 14-minute pause in its schedule, and on the recommendation of photographer Barry Carse, immediately set out to find the high viaduct beyond the station.

We found it easily enough, and went charging up a steep slope to position ourselves above the bridge, only to find there was a well-established trail already there! This made getting back to the station much easier.

Here’s a small sample of my digital efforts at Gstaad. My primary focus was exposing color slide film with my Nikon; and those images are en route to the lab now.

MOB’s Belle Époque eases across the multiple span bridge near Gstaad. (Ye Auld Tyme painted carriages at the back).

Working toward Gstaad and Montreux is MOB’s Golden Pass Panoramic. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

MOB’s Golden Pass Panoramic carries glass lined observation cars to allow passengers better views of the Alps.

MOB’s Gstaad station offers only a prosaic view compared with those from the Alpine meadows a five minute walk away.

Tracking the Light aims to publishing new material each and every day.

Bright Green Narrow Gauge Trains of the Alps

Among the railways I photographed in Switzerland last month were the Transports Publics du Chablais narrow gauge lines radiating from Aigle.

These colourful lines twist their way high into the mountains which offer countless scenic backdrops.

Denis McCabe and I arrived at Les Planches by TPC train and scoped several promising photo angles.

This view shows a train from Le Sépey crossing the Les Planches bridge that is shared with the local road.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Tracking the Light posts everyday!

 

 

Sunny Day on the Bog.

Bord na Mona (Irish peat board) operates an extensive network of narrow gauge industrial railways in the Irish midlands.

It has been nearly two years since I last explored this fascinating diminutive railway in action.

It helps to have the sun to photograph Bord na Mona, as the bog can be outright dreary on a dull wet day.

The sun seemed to have emerged from the lingering blanket of dampness that lately has prevailed across Ireland, so Denis McCabe and I made a foray to Shannonbridge, County Offaly location of the busiest Bord na Mona railway operation.

A laden Bord na Mona train clatters across the bog on the way to Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly. Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.

This side view offers an interesting perspective on the locomotive and laden peat wagons. Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Bord na Mona trains come clattering along, often running in pairs or groups, but patience is often needed to find trains on the move.

Check out Tracking the Light’s archives for previous posts on the Bord na Mona.

Further Adventures with Irish Narrow Gauge.

 

Bord na Mona’s Ash Train

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Charter Section Glacier Express

The boards at Andermatt indicated that an unscheduled train was due to arrive.

Our curiosity was piqued.

This turned out to be a charter using a Glacier Express train set.

I’ve augmented the views of the train descending to Andermatt with a few images of another Glacier Express set parked in Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn’s sidings at Andermatt.

In mid-April, my friends and I visited Andermatt and were fortunate to catch this charter of Glacier Express equipment descending the rack railway grade toward Andermatt.
In mid-April, my friends and I visited Andermatt and were fortunate to catch this charter of Glacier Express equipment descending the rack railway grade toward Andermatt.

Express is a relative term. The train isn't very fast; but the views  available from its windows are stunning.
Express is a relative term. The train isn’t very fast; but the views available from its windows are stunning.

Looking toward Andermatt, Switzerland in April 2016.
Looking toward Andermatt, Switzerland in April 2016.

I made this view of Glacier Express equipment resting static on sidings in Andermatt. Can equipment stored out of service be called a 'train?'
I made this view of Glacier Express equipment resting static on sidings in Andermatt. Can equipment stored out of service be called a ‘train?’

Tracking the Light is Daily.

Narrow Gauge Rack; Contrast in the Alps.

 

Below are two versions of an image I made of a Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn narrow-gauge train engaging the Abt rack system on its steep ascent from Göschenen to Andermatt.

These were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera on my visit to the Alps with Stephen Hirsch, Gerry Conmy and Denis McCabe in mid April 2016.

The first is the unadjusted (except for scaling) Jpg produced in camera. Notice that the sky is washed out and lacking in detail.

Camera produced Jpg exposed at Göschenen, Switzerland where the MGB meets the standard gauge line over the Gotthard Pass.
Camera produced Jpg exposed at Göschenen, Switzerland where the MGB meets the standard gauge line over the Gotthard Pass.

The second image is a Jpg that I produced from the camera RAW file by making nominal contrast and saturation adjustments in Lightroom.

Improved image; this was made from the RAW file by adjusting contrast and saturation .
Improved image; this was made from the RAW file by adjusting contrast and saturation .

The aim of the second image was to hold the sky and highlight detail that was lost by the camera Jpg. This demonstrates the ability of the RAW file to retain greater detail than the Jpg.

 

Instead of using an external graduated neutral density filter, as I had with some previous images displayed on Tracking the Light, I used the equivalent graduated neutral density filter in the Lightroom program.

 

Why not use the external filter in this situation? Two reasons:

  • The external filter is cumbersome and takes time to set up.
  • I wanted to improve the appearance of the sky without darkening the mountains. Using the electronic filter gives me the ability to selectively control highlights and shadows in the graduated area selected by the filter, while the external graduated filter would have covered the top of the image and darkened the mountains as well as the sky.

Both are valuable tools for improving a photograph.

Tracking the Light Posts everyday.

 

Tracking the Light Presents—Cumbres Pass by Moonlight.

It may surprise some readers, but the full moon provides the same light color balance as the sun, just at a significantly lower intensity.

This is one of the many differences between the way a human eye interprets a scene and a photographic image.

Where to the eye moonlight—even the full moon, appears dark, a camera can capture a moonlit scene so that it has the same color and illumination ratios as daylight. The difference isn’t with the scene, it is with our perception of it.

Complicating matters are the ways cameras collect light. Back when I used Kodachrome 25, very long time exposures rarely turned out as I hope they would. The film’s ISO rating in very low light was irrelevant.

The primary reason for this condition was a combination of the film’s long reciprocity curve and its very poor sensitivity in extremely low light. Essentially in moonlight, the film lost its effective sensitivity.

Basically this meant that Kodachrome was optimized for daylight situations and its ratio of sensitivity was not proportional in very low light (and effectively lost its ability to record images). So, when I left the shutter open for hours in moonlight, the film was incapable of recording an accurate image.

Even when I’d calculated the theoretical correct exposure. All I’d get back from the lab was a fairly dark slide with a few overexposed specular highlights (bright spots). Not very inspiring.

In the mid-1990s, Mel Patrick encouraged me to experiment with Fuji Provia 100F in moonlight. This was a modern film. Not only was it vastly more sensitive in low light, but it provided a much better color rendition in night situations. While the film still suffered from the reciprocity effect, I found it possible to calculate and compensate for this failing.

Yet, even with this improved film, moonlight exposures still required very long exposures, sometimes up to an hour or more.

Mel had made some outstanding railway landscapes by moonlight, and I tried to emulate his successes.

Cumbres_Pass_Co_by_Moonlight_Sept1998©Brian_Solomon_899501
Cumbres Pass by the light of the moon. A long time exposure made using the full-moon as the primary light source. Does this look like daylight? The star trails in the sky are the tip-off.

A difficulty was finding situations where there was virtually no man made light, since mercury, sodium, and incandescent lights not only tend to be much brighter than moonlight, but cause objectionable color casts and harsh contrast (a topic for another day).

While there are relatively few places in the eastern United States that are completely free from man-made light (even in the wee hours), in the West, clear open skies (and a dearth of population and objectionable light) abound.

I made this image at the summit of Cumbres Pass, Colorado in September 1998. My car and my tent can be seen in the distance. I don’t recall offhand, but my exposure was about 40 minutes at f2.8 using a Nikon F3T with Nikkor 24mm lens. My camera was firmly mounted on a Bogen tripod.

Tight crop of the same Fujichrome colorslide. I don't think this image is critically sharp, but keep in mind the shutter was open for more than half and hour, and even a gentle breeze will create a slight vibration.
Tight crop of the same Fujichrome colorslide. I don’t think this image is critically sharp, but keep in mind the shutter was open for more than half an hour, and even a gentle breeze will create a slight vibration.

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Tomorrow: Big engines in Oregon!

 

East Broad Top Narrow Gauge—Variations on a Theme.

Today’s Tracking the Light displays two images exposed about a year apart from the same overhead bridge near Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.

In both instances I’m photographing the first train of the morning working upgrade away from Orbisonia station using a telephoto lens.

East Broad Top 2-8-2 number 15 working on rusty rail near Rockhill Furnace in October 1996, exposed with a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm lens.
East Broad Top 2-8-2 number 15 working on rusty rail near Rockhill Furnace in October 1996, exposed with a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm lens.

On September 20, 1997, East Broad Top 2-8-2 number 14 tackles the same grade as pictured above. Exposed using a Nikon N90S with Nikkor f.2.8 80-200mm zoom lens.
On September 20, 1997, East Broad Top 2-8-2 number 14 tackles the same grade as pictured above. Exposed using a Nikon N90S with Nikkor f.2.8 80-200mm zoom lens.

Although the location and time of year, and overall scene are similar, I’ve produced two different images, owing to slight differences in my angle and the lighting, as well as the position of the locomotive and its exhaust smoke. In addition I was using different camara-lens combinations.

Subtle changes can result in significantly different photos.

I have my favorite. Which do you like better?

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More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013.

 

Shannonbridge and More!

Last week, Mark Healy and I made a foray into Irish bog lands searching for narrow gauge peat trains operated by Bord na Móna  (Peat Board). We’d been watching the weather closely and tried to time our visit for a bright clear day.

We got it wrong. Despite a rosy sunrise in Dublin and generally good forecast, we faced fog, cloudy and just general overcast in County Offaly.

After more than a half dozen visits to this rarely photographed industrial railway, I thought I was beginning to have an understanding of their operations.

I got that wrong too! While, we’d photographed a dozen trains by the end of the day, actual operations were quite different than what I expected.

Bord na Mona
Trailing view of Bord na Móna’s Shannonbridge empty ash train returning to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
Laden peat train near Shannonbridge, September 2013. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

Laden trains approach Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.
Laden trains approach Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

Initially we worked the lines radiating out from Shannonbridge. Our first train was the ever-elusive ash train. That was a bonus for us. After about five hours, having photographed several loaded and empty trains, we decided to head east toward Edenderry, which is the focus of another of Bord na Móna’s networks.

On the way we stumbled upon an obscure Bord na Móna operation. Driving east on highway R357 east of Cloghan, Mark noticed a level crossing. “Hey! There’s a pair of trains.” I mistook these for trains heading to Shannonbridge

My error was corrected when we chatted to one of the drivers. Turns out these were empty trains heading out loading to bring peat to the Derrinlough briquette factory. Just dumb luck to catch this operation.

Level crossing gate.
Closing the level crossing gates on Ireland’s R357 east of Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

Rare photo of briquette train.
A Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna train near Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona.
A Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna train crosses highway R357 near Cloghan, County Offaly. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Trailing view of Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna trains near Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

 

We finished the day inspecting operations near Mt Lucas and Edenderry. Pity about the lack of sun.

I’ve dealt with Bord na Móna several times in previous posts.

Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013; and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train.

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Bord na Mona, Lanesborough, August 10, 2013

A Pleasant Summer’s Day Exploring an Irish Narrow Gauge Railway.

Bord na Mona trains.
Laden Bord na Mona trains approach Lanesborough, County Longford on the morning of August 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Last winter, I made several visits with my friends to Bord na Mona’s network focused on the Lough Ree Power Station at Lanesborough, County Longford. (See: Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013), On Saturday, August 10, 2013, I returned for another day of photography on this fascinating system.

Having explored various Bord na Mona railways (see: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013), I find that the lines around Lanesborough are the most interesting and photogenic. Here variety of scenery and operations are exceptionally conducive to my photography.

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!

Bord na Mona trains.
A tractor cuts road-side hedges near Lanesborough. Taller grass made this location more difficult than in February. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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.

 

Bord na Mona trains.
Empties work the double track east of Lanesborough on August 10, 2013. The Lough Ree Power Station looms in the distance. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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!

Bord na Mona trains.
An empty Bord na Mona ash train passes Mountdillon on its way back to the Lough Ree power station at Lanesborough. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona trains.
Running meet on the double track between Mountdillon and Lanesborough. An empty rake of peat wagons meets an empty ash train. The intense clattering of narrow gauge trains gives the network a feeling of a large model railway.

Bord na Mona
An empty rake near Derreghan Cross Roads with the expanse of harvested boglands on the right.

 

Bord na Mona
Empty trains take a passing siding at Derraghan More on the way out to be reloaded. Canon EOS 7D.

Bord_na_Mona_
An empty rake waits for a pair of laden trains near Derraghan More. Canon 7D photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bord na Mona’s Ash Train

An Elusive Catch.

For me anyway! On Saturday, August 3, 2013, I scored a few photographs of Bord na Mona’s ash train on the move near Shannonbridge, County Offaly. (Yes, and by the way, that’s ash train, and not ASH TRAY. Just to clarify.)

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Bord na Mona’s laden ash train works east from the West Offaly power station at Shannonbridge. The ash train carries waste ash (left over from the burning of peat) for disposal back into the bog. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Now, someone at Bord na Mona might read this and say, “Elusive ash train? Why that’s scheduled to run every day at 2 pm.” Or, perhaps, it is scheduled to run every third Saturday after the first full moon on months that don’t end in ‘R’. (But, none-the-less, scheduled).

Irregardless, so far as I was concerned, photographing the ash train on the move was a real coup! In the last year, I’ve made a half dozen ventures to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge lines, this was the first time I’d seen an ash train on the move. Certainly, I’ve seen them before, just not rolling along out on the road.

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Trailing view of Bord na Mona’s ash train near Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona, ash train.
The laden ash train roars along at a walking pace near Blackwater. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast modified in post processing.

Yet, I’d call it elusive! It’s all a matter of perspective. More on elusive (or at least unusual trains) in future posts.

Incidentally, unlike elusive trains, Tracking the Light regularly posts new material almost every day! So, to use an obsolete cliché, stay tuned!

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Bord na Mona ash train near Blackwater, August 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

 

Irish Bog Railways—Part 5, August, 2013

Photographing Irish Bog Railways.

In a follow up to yesterday’s post, here’s a few more images from my early August adventure with Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge. I was working with three cameras: my Lumix LX3, my Canon EOS 7D digital SLR (single lens reflex) and my Canon EOS 3 35mm SLR.

Since it will be a while before the slides are processed, all the images here are from the digital cameras.

Irish Bog Railway
Under showery skies, a Bord na Mona train heads out across the bog for reloading. Canon EOS 7D.

Irish Bog Railways
Loading of a Bord na Mona train. Canon EOS 7D.

 

Bord na Mona
Road bridge over the Bord na Mona double track line near Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona track laying machine and an empty train. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
An empty Bord na Mona train returns to the bog for reloading. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Peat hoppers and the harvested peat bog near Shannonbridge. Lumix LX3 photo.

Maintenance train with sunny skies and weedy tracks. Lumix LX3 photo.
Maintenance train with sunny skies and weedy tracks. Lumix LX3 photo.

Bord na Mona
Empty train growl along the bog. Despite their small size, Bord na Mona trains can be heard a long way before the arrive. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
Laden Bord na Mona train under a textured sky. Soon it will rain. Canon EOS 7D photo.

I’ve found my visits to photograph the Bord na Mona railways exceptionally rewarding and productive and I look forward to more photography trips in coming months.

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Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013

 

Bord na Mona’s Blackwater Network Revisited.

It was fifteen years ago that I made my first acquaintance with Ireland’s bog railway, a narrow gauge network operated by Bord na Mona (peat board). At that time, a tourist train run as the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly made regularly scheduled trips from the Blackwater depot near Shannonbridge in County Offaly.

As I recall, it was an oppressively damp day. Having arrived under swollen skies, I checked in at the booking office, skeptical if the line was even in operation, only to learn that not only was it running, but that the first couple of trains were sold out!

Using the time between tourist trains, I made some black & white photos of the peat trains, then returned to ride the line.

On another occasion two years later, I returned with my father, and family friend Tom Hargadon, and made another spin out on the bog. Since that time, the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly excursion has been discontinued.

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
My August 2013 visit to the Blackwater network found the bog under rapidly changing skies. Lumix LX-3 photo. Contrast modified in post processing.

 

A Busy Irish Narrow Gauge Industrial Railway.

In early August 2013, I reacquainted myself with Bord na Mona’s Blackwater network, having explored other of Bord na Mona’s railway operations in recent months. See earlier posts:

Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1

Irish Bog Railways Part 2 

Irish Bog Railways Part 3 

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
Empty Bord na Mona narrow gauge train heading out to be loaded. August 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Blackwater is from my experience, by far the busiest of Bord na Mona’s operations, as the West Offaly power station at Shannon Bridge has the most voracious appetite of the peat burning plants served by Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways. Quite simply there were trains crawling everywhere I went.

The day featured a rapidly changing sky. This made for some wonderful lighting and visual effects, but also resulted in me getting unexpectedly soaked when the sky suddenly opened up. One minute it was sunny, the next there was near horizontal rain! On my next visit I’ll bring plastic bags and a jumper!

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
In addition to laden and empty peat trains, Bord na Mona operates various type of maintenance  trains. Many of these are hauled by older and more eclectic looking locomotives. August 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.

Bord na Mona
A sudden downpour drenches the boglands near Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Bord na Mona
A laden Bord na Mona train crosses the Shannon near the West Offaly power plant. Discharge from the plant warms the river making it ideal for lilly pads to grow. Lumix LX3.

 

See tomorrow’s post for more Irish Bog Railway photos!

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