January 15th is the anniversary of the 1953 Washington Union Terminal crash, when Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1 4876 leading the Federal Express lost its brakes and careened into the lobby of the terminal. This spectacular train wreck, on the eve of Eisenhower’s inauguration, made headlines in every major newspaper across the country.
On June 27, 1983, I exposed this view of GG1 4876 at Linden, New Jersey working from South Amboy, New Jersey to New York Penn Station with a New York & Long Branch passenger train.
On my visit to Carneys Point, New Jersey earlier this month, I exposed a few select frames of Kodak Tri-X using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
Previously, I posted a selection of the digital color photos that featured Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11. See: Bright Day on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-59B
I processed the film yesterday (Monday, 27 November 2017) using my two-stage development recipe:
By starting with ‘presoak’ solution that features a very weak developer, I allow for increased development in the shadow areas. My primary developer for this roll was Kodak D-76 stock solution diluted 1-1 with water.
While I intentionally under processed the film to avoid excessive highlight density, following stop bath, fixing baths, and rinse, I then soaked the negatives in selenium toner (mixed 1 to 9 )for 8 minutes to boost highlights to my desired ideal.
The results are these broad-toned monochromatic images with delicate silvery highlights.
A side effect of this process is the exceptionally archival quality of selenium toned original negatives that without any expensive storage conditions should long outlive my digital photos.
Over the shoulder light is easy to work with but doesn’t always make for the most dramatic images. When possible, I like to find dramatic lighting and to see what I can make of it.
So here we have an unusual, captivating and difficult lighting situation.
Looking down the New Brunswick, New Jersey station, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I found this brief shaft of light made by the setting winter sun.
Luckily during the few minutes where sun penetrated New Jersey’s concrete canyons we had a flurry of trains to catch the glint.
I made these images with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail. I made nominal adjustments to shadow and highlight contrast to improve the overall appearance of the images.
It was a warm April afternoon in 1978 when my father and I arrived at Jersey Avenue to make photos.
For me this was a thrill. The long tangent in both directions seemed to reach to the horizon, and the trains passed at tremendous speed.
It was also one of my earliest experiences working with a long telephoto lens.
Pop had fitted his 200mm Leitz Telyt with Visoflex to my Leica 3A.
The Visoflex provided me with an equivalent to an SLR (single lens reflex) arrangement for a rangefinder camera by using a mirror with prism to see through the lens.
Where I was well used to the peculiarities of Leica’s pre-war rangefinder arrangement, using the Visoflex offered a new set of challenges, especially in regards to focusing.
Fast forward to December 2016. Pat Yough and I were exploring locations on Amtrak’s North East Corridor. I suggested Jersey Avenue because I was curious to see if that was where Pop and I had made those photos so many years ago. (Back in 1978, my photo notes were a bit thin).
Indeed it was. So we made a few photos from approximately the same spot before investigating other locations. Compare my December 2016 views with my much earlier attempts.
It was a dismal rainy evening two days before Christmas 1988. I had two Leicas. With one I was running some tests on color filtration with a new flavor of Kodak Ektachrome (remember that?) for a class I was taking in color photography.
In the other Leica, my dad’s M3, I had a sole roll of Kodak Plus-X (ISO 125, that I rated at ISO 80).
My pal TSH and I were exploring New York City area transit on one of the busiest travel days of the season, and I was making photos trying to capture the spirit of motion.
Among the images I made, was this photograph of a PATH train crossing the massive lift bridge east of Newark Penn Station.
The other day I scanned this negative and processed the image electronically in Lightroom, where I minimized the dust that had accumulated over the last three decades.
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.
Here’s one deep from the archive: I was traveling with my father and brother and we’d come to South Amboy to watch the engine change where E8s were replaced by venerable GG1 electrics on New York & Long Branch passenger trains (North Jersey Coast Line) running from Bay Head Junction to Pennsylvania Station, New York.
We got lost on the way down and ended up in a post-apocalyptic waterfront at Perth Amboy.
Finally, we were trackside at the South Amboy Station.
Here’s a slightly improved variation: It should have a bit more ‘snap’ (contrast in shadows).
Ride a line once, and it’s an adventure! Ride the line every day and it can become drudgery.
In June, I made an adventure of riding NJ Transit.
My trip was thoroughly pleasant and without incident, except for my brief conversation with an unnecessarily surly NJT conductress at Secaucus, “The SIGN is over THERE!” (Gosh! Forgive me for neither knowing the routine nor how to interpret NJT’s train color coding on platform B).
Ok ok, after all there’s a reputation to be maintained here, I understand.
But, perhaps NJ Transit could take a few tips from the Belgian national railways when it comes to employee uniforms, customer service, and timetable planning. (All top marks for the SNCB based on my experiences).
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In June, I revisited Gladstone Station. The quaint 1891-built Queen Anne style depot at the end of NJ Transit’s former Lackawanna Branch is a nicely kept station building. Unfortunately the old station structure is hemmed in by a host of modernity, all ugly and out of character with the style.
I arrived and departed on the train pictured by the station. Photos exposed with a Fuji X-T1.
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Years ago I noticed there seemed to be a natural law regarding the ratio of traffic to scenery in regards to railroad locations.
Lines blessed with stunning scenery generally suffered from a dearth of traffic, while the busiest places tend to be scenically bereft.
There are, of course, a few notable exceptions. California’s Tehachapi crossing comes to mind, as does New York’s Lower Hudson Valley. Both places are blessed exceptional scenery and frequent railway operations, and this makes them popular places to photograph.
Switzerland must not be considered in this equation as the whole country completely violates the natural law of railway photography.
Yet, many of the world’s most scenic lines—railways legendary for their stunning panoramas—have been abandoned, or lie dormant.
Then at the other end of the scale we have Secaucus Junction. Let’s just say it’s one of the busiest places in the Northeastern United States.
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When ever I think of Hoboken, New Jersey, I conjure up a vision of that classic Warner Bros., Bugs Bunny cartoon titled: ‘8 Ball Bunny.’
Bugs, upon discovering that the performing Penguin he’s just guided from Brooklyn to the South Pole was born across the Hudson from Manhattan, cries out. . . “HOBOKEN!? Oooo I’m dyin’ . . .”
That classic line, plus a bucket of steamed clams at the now-defunct Clam Broth House, and images of the old copper-clad Lackawanna Terminal represent Hoboken for me. It gets a bit confusing when I visit Antwerp, but that’s a story for another post.
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.
My new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals will feature New Jersey’s Hoboken Terminal. This will be published by Voyageur Press in a few months time. Below is an excerpt of my text along with a few photos I exposed with Jack May on January 15, 2015.
William H. Truesdale assumed control of the anthracite hauling Delaware, Lackawanna & Western in 1899. During the early twentieth century he transformed DL&W into a modern railroad with state of the art infrastructure. His skillful management and massive capital improvements were designed to lower the railroad’s costs and make it more competitive. During this Lackawanna renaissance Kenneth M. Murchison was hired to design the railroad’s finest passenger facilities. Murchison, was a respected New York architect who earned several important commissions for railroad stations in the early twentieth century. Murchison had studied in Paris and made prominent use of the Beaux-Arts style in his railway architecture. Among his significant early projects was Delaware, Lackawanna & Western’s new Hoboken Terminal on the west shore of the Hudson River across from New York City.
Five photos of an Architectural Gem on the old Lackawanna.
On January 15, 2015, Jack May and I visited this grand old railroad station on our exploration of NJ Transit lines in the area.
The station building was designed by DL&W’s Frank J. Niles and completed in 1903.
Although the days when long distance trains paused here on their way to and from Buffalo have long since past, the triple track former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline was alive with suburban traffic.
On going maintenance on track 1 improved our photographs of inbound trains, but confused passengers as to which platform to stand on.
I’ve just completed text for a book on railroad stations to be published by Voyageur Press. This among the many stations that I may choose to illustrate.
It was a hot, humid and hazy morning. The sunlight was tinted by gauzy smog which softened the scene.
Bob Karambelas and I were exploring the junction at Hunter Tower in Newark, New Jersey, where the former Lehigh Valley crossed the old Pennsylvania Railroad electrified mainline.
A westward freight with a pair of SD40-2s was departing Oak Island yard and I exposed this view looking a down a grungy side street with a 200mm lens.
I’ve always been fascinated with urban images like this, where the railroad is prominent but not necessarily dominant, and passes through post industrial decay. Look at the grime on surface of the street and the great beat up old cars!
Here we have an immense abandoned bridge, rising above the trees like some Tolkienesq ruin from an ancient empire, the vestige of some lost civilization.
I was researching for my book North American Railroad Bridges in March 2007, when Pat Yough and I ferreted out the former Lackawanna Railroad Bridge in western New Jersey at Paulins Kill.
This was no ordinary railroad bridge. Lackawanna’s Slateford Cutoff (Port Morris, New Jersey, 28.5 miles to Slateford Junction, Pennsylvania) was built beginning in 1908 to shorten its mainline and lower operating costs by reducing gradient and curvature. The line was showcase for reinforced concrete construction.
Here’s an excerpt of my text on the Paulins Kill bridge:
The seven-span Paulins Kill Viaduct was 1,100 feet long and 117 feet tall at its highest point, and required an estimated 43,212 cubic yards of concrete and 735 tons of steel.
It was part of a super railroad and one of the best engineered lines of the early 20th century. Here the vision of Lackawanna president William H. Truesdale prevailed to invest private capital to the improve efficiency and capacity of his railroad.
Yet, by the 1970s this railroad was no longer valued. Its route was deemed redundant, its traditional traffic had vanished, and so Conrail which reluctantly inherited the line from Erie-Lackawanna, abandoned it.
While this was a gross waste of infrastructure and, to my mind, demonstrated a lack of vision on the part of planners and governments, it does make for fascinating photographs.
Someday, hopefully, the Slateford Cutoff may again see trains.