Tag Archives: New York

Amtrak 157—Four Photos.

Train 157 is Amtrak’s Sunday-only Springfield, Massachusetts to Norfolk, Virginia run.

Refurbished Amfleet offer a comfortable classic ride.

Amfleet diner.
At New Haven, Amtrak 157 paused to change from a diesel to an electric locomotive. I used the opportunity to make a few photos.
The New York skyline as viewed from the Hell Gate bridge.

On my trip,I traveled only as far as New York Penn-Station and made these photos with my Lumix LX-7. Here the train is both transport and subject.

The lightweight Lumix is an ideal camera for urban imaging. Its small size, innocuous appearance and ease of use makes it a perfect travel camera.

It has an extremely sharp Leica lens, simultaneously exposes RAW and JPG file formats, offers manual aperture control among a variety of exposure adjustments.

It’s largest drawback is the lack of a long telephoto zoom.

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Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 2: Boston & Maine east of Reynolds.

At the end of December 2017, I revisited Mechanicville, New York with an aim of making some contemporary photos at the same angles as images I’d made back in November 1984.

Then and Now comparisons are common enough, but what makes these photos significant is that I’ve exposed both the historic photos as well as the modern images  using the same type of film and equipment (a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar loaded with Kodak 35mm Tri-X).

I describe my technique in the earlier post:

See: Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 1. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5ha].

These pairs of photos show the Hansen Road Bridge east of Reynolds, New York, which is just a couple of miles from XO Tower at Mechanicville. In the 1984 views, my friends and I were following an eastward Boston & Maine train.

Back then the B&M route was much busier than it is today, although the line still carries a good share of freight.

Double track from Mechanicville extended east to an interlocking (which I believe was called ‘Schneiders’) east of Reynolds and near Schaghticoke. The main tracks were grade separated on approach to the interlocking, which made this a distinctive location.

Maine Central 252 leads an eastward Boston & Maine freight at Hansen Road east of Reynolds, New York. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar. November 1984.
Comparison view on  December 29,  2017 also with a Leica IIIA, 50mm Sumitar and exposed on Tri-X. Sorry there’s no MEC GP38 in this view! (You’ll need to visit the Conway Scenic to see that). The other main track was lifted in the early 1990s after a decline in freight traffic on the B&M route.
Trailing view from Hansen Road, November 1984. The open top auto racks really date the photo.
Comparison view from Hansen Road on December 29, 2017. The trees have really grown up in the last three decades.

In the 33 year interval between photos, the Hansen Road bridge was replaced, which slightly alters the angle for photography.

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Soo Line on Tax Day!

Soo Line on Tax Day!
Soo Line on Tax Day! A Soo Line SD40-2 leads an eastward CP Rail freight near Dalton, New York on 15 April 2004. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss lens.

The old Erie Railroad is one of my favorite lines.

Mike Gardner and I got a very early start on 15 April 2004. We worked our way west to the Portage Bridge at the Letchworth Gorge in western New York State in time to intercept an eastward CP Rail freight.

We chased this capturing it in multiple locations along the old Erie line to Hornell. At this time Norfolk Southern was the owner operator, while CP Rail operated via Delaware & Hudson trackage rights.

Clear blue dome; bright red EMDs, and great scenery with a good quality chase road made the morning extra productive.

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Long Island Rail Road Interlude—July 2016.

In July, I spent a few minutes on the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens, New York.

LIRR’s busy multiple-track third-rail route from Penn-Station to Jamaica, New York is one of the few places in North America where you can experience train-frequency on par with busy European mainlines.

In the course of only a few minutes I saw a half dozen trains.

These are a sample of the photos I exposed with my Lumix LX7.

My compact Panasonic Lumix LX7 is ideal for urban railway photography. This camera compact, lightweight and unobtrusive, while it uses a Leica optical system that yields excellent images. I have mine set up to expose both RAW and JPG files simultaneously.
My compact Panasonic Lumix LX7 is ideal for urban railway photography. This camera compact, lightweight and unobtrusive, while it uses a Leica optical system that yields excellent images. I have mine set up to expose both RAW and JPG files simultaneously.
Trailing view of an outbound train.
Trailing view of an outbound train.
One of LIRR's older Metropolitan-series trains is heading toward Penn-Station.
One of LIRR’s older Metropolitan-series trains is heading toward Penn-Station.
It was nice to catch the older cars on the move.
It was nice to catch the older cars on the move.
I made this view from the concourse of the Flushing Line station (operated by the NYCTA). Woodside offers a convenient connection between LIRR and NYCTA trains.
I made this view from the concourse of the Flushing Line station (operated by the NYCTA). Woodside offers a convenient connection between LIRR and NYCTA trains.

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Photographer’s challenge: New York City Subway’s 34th Street-Hudson Yards.

Not long ago the old IRT Flushing line was extended west and a new terminal station called 34th Street-Hudson Yards was opened. This is located near the Javits Center and just a few blocks west of Penn-Station.

My digital guru Eric Rosenthal recommended this to me as a photo subject. The station is unusually deep and features very long escalators.

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NYC_Subway_Flushing_Line-Hudson_Yards_Manhattan_P1490985

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I exposed these images with my Lumix LX7. The underground views were made at ISO200. One of the advantages of the LX7 is that it has a very fast lens. In other words the lens has the ability to let in lots of light.

The advantage of this feature is that I can use a relatively slow ISO setting in the subway and still get excellent results hand held.

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New York City Subway Collage—July 2016.

Making my way from point to point underground in New York City, I always keep my Lumix at the ready.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I made black & white photos of the subway with my old Leica, so I’ve been at this  a while.

The mix of old tiles, modern signs and the continual rush of humanity makes for lots of photographic possibilities.

For ease of exposure I set the Lumix to ‘A’ mode for aperture; wind the lens open to about f1.4/f2; set the white balance to ‘auto’, and release the shutter from below eye level (as required).

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NYC_Subway_Penn_Station_P1490861

42nd Street.
42nd Street.
28th Street.
28th Street.

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NYC_subway_Bowling_Green_P1490719

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Tracking the Light Extra: Rochester, New York—Conrail Shadow.

Some photos age well.

The purpose of this image was intended as a test of Kodak's new T-Max 100 black & white film. Exposed with a Canon A-1 with 50mm lens.
The purpose of this image was intended as a test of Kodak’s new T-Max 100 black & white film. Exposed with a Canon A-1 with 50mm lens.

I made this view of Conrail GP40-2s rolling east at Rochester, New York’s  Amtrak station in November 1986—nearly 30 years ago.

At the time, Conrail was the order of the day, and the GP40-2s were common.

Although sharp and properly exposed, this view was marred by the shadow of the canopy and so at the time I disregarded it.

I’ve amended my opinion, however.

Now the whole scene has changed beyond recognition. Conrail is gone nearly 17 years and last year Amtrak demolished its old station in preparation for construction a new one.

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Sun and Clouds and a Turbo Train Near Rochester, New York.

Last week, I wrote about violating one of the cardinal rules of good railroad photography, that is aiming directly into the sun. In question were some views along the Ware River Railroad, er . . . sorry, rather the Mass-Central, as it is now known.

It may come as a shock to some readers of Tracking the Light, but this was not my first time aiming the camera toward the sun when photographing trains!

What I present here is an unusual image. Not because it is a trailing view of an Amtrak Turbotrain racing through North Chili, New York (rhymes with Dubai rather than Silly Hippie) on its way to Grand Central. (Yes, the Turbos went there back in the day). But, because I’ve opted to make a mid-morning silhouette in an unlikely way.

A thin layer of cloud had softened the morning sun. I was working with a Linhof Karden Color B 4×5 view camera fitted with a 90mm Schneider Super Angulon lens and Tri-X black and white sheet film (manufactured nearby in Rochester, New York).

Photographing moving trains with a view camera is no easy task, and on this day I had the camera firmly set up on a heavy tripod.

However, one advantage to the view camera is the ability to lift the front plane of the camera. This allowed me to keep the camera level while obtaining more sky area without causing unnecessary distortion to the train.

I’d set up the camera well in advance of the Turbotrain’s passing. Back in 1987, when I made this image there were no cell phones nor Julie to provide me with schedule updates.

Behind me was the Union Road grade crossing (long since replaced with an overpass). I had only one shot and I wanted to place the rear nose of the Turbotrain such that it didn’t intersect the trees to the right or the silhouette effect would be lost.

Another advantage of the 4×5 media is the ability to capture much greater amounts of information than possible with smaller film formats. As a result, I was able to capture superb tonality across a wide exposure range.

Unmodified scan of the original 4x5 negative. No adjustments to contrast or exposure.
Unmodified scan of the original 4×5 negative. No adjustments to contrast or exposure.

Admittedly this black & white negative had always vexed me in the darkroom. However, I scanned it the other day, and using Lightroom found that the contrast manipulation I was unable to achieve chemically, was easily accomplished with digital adjustment.

Adjusted photograph, using both localized and global contrast and exposure controls.
Adjusted photograph, using both localized and global contrast and exposure controls.

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Amtrak 63, Ivison Road, South Byron, New York, May 6, 1989.

It was 2:48pm, when I made this image of Amtrak train 63, the Maple Leaf approaching Ivison Road—named for the Ivison farm at the center of the photograph.

Exposed on Kodak Plus X using a Leica M3 with 50mm Summicron lens, f5.6 1/250th of a second.
Exposed on Kodak Plus X using a Leica M3 with 50mm Summicron lens, f5.6 1/250th of a second. Exposure calculated with the aid of a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held photo cell.

I’ve allowed the road to occupy the dominant portion of the frame; yet the train remains the subject. At the time, an Amtrak F40PH with Amfleet was just about as ordinary as it got and I wanted to put the train in its environment to make for a more interesting image.

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Classic Chrome File: CSX on the former Water Level Route with Storm Clouds.

In September 2000 a thunderstorm was brewing over Lake Ontario when I exposed this silhouette of an eastward CSX freight descending Byron Hill at South Byron, New York.

The wonders of film! Could I have made this image digitally? Would it have captured the texture in the sky? Maybe with a lot of work in post processing. Back then it didn't matter, all I had was film and I was happy for it.
The wonders of film! Could I have made this image digitally? Would it have captured the texture in the sky? Maybe with a lot of work in post processing. Back then it didn’t matter, all I had was film and I was happy for it.

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Tracking the Light looks at Pennsylvania Station, New York—five photos.

On June 25, 2015, I made these photographs at New York’s Penn Station. This is Amtrak’s busiest station, and a terminal for Long Island Railroad and NJ Transit suburban trains.

Once it was one of the world’s most elegant railway terminals, built in a style inspired by the Roman baths of Caracalla; but today Penn Station is mostly functional, with little in the way of elegance to inspire the traveler.

However, good and interesting photographs should not rely on great architecture as a crutch to draw the eye of the viewer, right?

Welcome to New York!
Welcome to New York!
Just the tracks.
Tracks, wires, iron girders and fluorescent light.
A large black & white photo may remind passengers of the age of elegance. Yes, Virginia, we are standing in the same place.
A large black & white photo may remind passengers of the age of elegance. Yes, Virginia, we are standing in the same place.
On the plus side, all trains are running to schedule. Really!
On the plus side, all Amtrak trains were running to schedule. Really!
Penn Station allows direct connections between various railway services. Onward to the Long Island Railroad!
Penn Station allows direct connections between various railway services. Onward to the Long Island Railroad!

Photos exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Western New York in the 1980s.

Should I head to the mainline (Conrail’s water level route) or explore branch lines? Do I stick with Conrail or seek out a short line? These were among the quandaries facing my photographic choices when I had some time off from college.

As a photography student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I had a full schedule of classes, labs, and projects. I was a ‘work-study’ student, which implied I had to spend about 25-30 hours a week toiling for peanuts on top of classes, assignments & etc.

My point is that I had very little free time, and rarely a full day off, and so when I made time to make railway photos, there were tough choices (like mainline versus branchline; Conrail versus those other outfits).

Now and again I’d cheat. (I don’t mean on exams). A bright sunny day? Now who will miss me in class?

Unfortunately on a glorious October day, one RIT’s photo professors and I had the same idea. We were both photographing the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville freight. We crossed paths at Avon, New York. We knew that each of us should be someplace else, and we knew where that was. He said to me, “I won’t say anything . . .”

October 26, 1987 was a clear and bright day. Conrail's WBRO-15 had 37 cars for the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville. I didn't go to class. Kodachrome 25 exposed at Avon using my Leica M2 with 50mm lens.
October 26, 1987 was a clear and bright day. Conrail’s WBRO-15 had 37 cars for the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville. I didn’t go to class. Kodachrome 25 exposed at Avon using my Leica M2 with 50mm lens.

Often I’d head to the mainline. My time was short and I wanted results, and Conrail rarely disappointed. Sometimes I’d select a known good spot, and work through my exhaustive reading list while waiting for a headlight to appear.

Other times, when the sun was out, I’d take a more aggressive approach and select my locations purely based on photographic merit and move from place to place as suited the action and the light.

On January 8, 1989, a rare Conrail C30-7 (one of only ten on the roster) leads a westward empty coal train through Rochester, New York. I exposed a sequence of photos using my Leica M2 with a 200mm Telyt fitted to a Visoflex. In retrospect that was a bizarre and awkward camera-lens combination for making moving train photos. But I used it all the time with great results. A thin layer of high cloud softened the sun.
On January 8, 1989, a rare Conrail C30-7 (one of only ten on the roster) leads a westward empty coal train through Rochester, New York. I exposed a sequence of photos using my Leica M2 with a 200mm Telyt fitted to a Visoflex. In retrospect that was a bizarre and awkward camera-lens combination for making moving train photos. But I used it all the time with great results. A thin layer of high cloud softened the sun.

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The Curse of the Code Lines.

Oh the Wonderful Wires!

In the 1980s, I often bemoaned the ‘telegraph wires’ as I called the code lines that lined most mainlines.

Conrail's fomer New York Central main line at Churchville, New York on April 10, 1987. The infamous code lines were lurking on the south side of the tracks. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.
Conrail’s fomer New York Central main line at Churchville, New York on April 10, 1987. The infamous code lines were lurking on the south side of the tracks. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.

It seemed like more often than not, railroads placed these multiple-tier code lines on the south side of their mainlines. This inevitably interfered with my photography and plenty of otherwise good photographic locations were fouled by the rows of poles and the wires between them.

In early 1989, when Conrail was cutting down the old code lines east of Buffalo. I thought, Hurray! Good riddance!

However, I quickly realized how wrong I’d been. In fact I’d been photographing the wires for years.

On the afternoon of February 25, 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide using my college roommates's Canon A1 with 50mm lens; f4.5 1/250th of a second. The poles and wires were my primary subject, the westward Conrail  intermodal train was included for incidental interest.
On the afternoon of February 25, 1987, at Churchville, New York I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide using my college roommates’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens; f4.5 1/250th of a second. The poles and wires were my primary subject, the westward Conrail intermodal train was included for incidental interest.

Yes, the code lines made for a visual challenge. And, undoubtedly these sometimes got in the way. But they were part of the railroad. Traditionally, they were key to its operations and often serving as a crucial part of the signaling system. They had been there since the steam era. After all, the railroad was more than just locomotives rolling along at speed.

It occurred to me how I’d often improved my photographs by working with the wires. The visual elements and patterns added by the army of time-worn polls connected by rows of cables made for more compelling images.

Conrail C30-7A 6593 leads symbol freight PXSE -9 eastbound at mp397 South Byron, New York. Exposed on K25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. 'Full sun setting'-240 foot candles according to my Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Camera set at: f4.5 1/250th of a second.
Conrail C30-7A 6593 leads symbol freight PXSE -9 eastbound at mp397 South Byron, New York. Exposed on K25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. ‘Full sun setting’-240 foot candles according to my Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Camera set at: f4.5 1/250th of a second. Here’s I’ve worked with the code line, using it to frame up the passing freight.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York finds PXSE rolling east and SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. For me the code lines and morning glint light made this a favorite sequence. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod. f6.3 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York finds PXSE rolling east and SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. For me the code lines and morning glint light made this a favorite sequence. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod. f6.3 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York with SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens at f8 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York with SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens at f8 1/250th of a second.

After the code lines were gone, the brush started to grow. And that’s now a much worse photo-hazard than the wires ever were.

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November Snow, New York’s Southern Tier.

November 19, 1986.

It had hardly snowed at all in Rochester when I departed before dawn in my 1973 Plymouth Scamp. I found the traveling treacherous on Interstate 390 , but I was determined to made photos in the snow along the former Erie Railroad mainline.

I arrived at Gang Mills as the storm was clearing to the east. The sun was just starting to poke out from behind the clouds and there was a fresh layer of snow over everything.

I had three cameras with me that day, including my roommate’s Canon A1 that was loaded with a fresh roll of Kodachrome 64 (a gift from Kodak). Using my Leica, I exposed a few photos of eastward Conrail APL Stack Train TV-302 that was changing crews. Then plotted my course east.

Conrail's TV302  was changing crews at Gang Mills_NY at 8:50 am on November 19, 1986. I had only a few minutes to figure out what to do and I'd never followed the old Erie east of Gang Mills before. Exposed with my room mate's Canon A1 with 50mm lens. Kodachrome 25.
Conrail’s TV302 was changing crews at Gang Mills at 8:50 am on November 19, 1986. I had only a few minutes to figure out what to do and I’d never followed the old Erie Railroad east of Gang Mills before. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film with my Leica 3A with 65mm Elmar f6.3 1/200th of a second.

While I knew the line west toward Hornell through the Canisteo Valley, this was my first trip eastward along the former Erie toward Binghamton. I neither had good maps nor a scanner, but I had an eastbound train, fresh snow, sunlight and Kodachrome. (And the desire to make photos!).

Over the next few years, I’d become very familiar with the old Erie mainline in this area, but rarely would I have conditions like this again.

I found the old Chemung station. Not long after I got out of my car, I could hear the stack train roaring along; GP40-2s with nearly two miles of train. That old Canon A1 had a motor drive and I used it! Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Canon A1 and 50mm lens.
I found the old Chemung station. Not long after I got out of my car, I could hear the stack train roaring along; TV-302 with GP40-2s and nearly two miles of train. That old Canon A1 had a motor drive and I used it! Kodachrome 64 exposed at f9 1/250th of a second with my roommate’s  Canon A1 and 50mm lens. 9:50am on November 19, 1986. My Sekonic light meter with incident attachment indicated 320 foot candles (and that is about a stop brighter than normal daylight conditions owing to the snow)
Another frame in the motor drive sequence.
Another frame in the motor drive sequence.
In the spirit of the moment I made this trailing view. At the time I feared I was 'wasting film'; today I'm glad I did! Canon A1 with 50mm lens exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film.
9:50am on November 19, 1986: In the spirit of the moment I made this trailing view at Chemung, New York. At the time I feared I was ‘wasting film’; today I’m glad I did! Canon A1 with 50mm lens exposed on Kodachrome 64 slide film. f9 at 1/250th of a second.
An hour after I let TV-302 go, I found a westward Delaware & Hudson freight crawling along at restricted speed. I learned later that snow had knocked some of the code lines down and the signals were displaying 'stop and proceed'. This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 25 slide flim.
An hour after I let TV-302 go, I found this westward Delaware & Hudson freight crawling along at restricted speed and about to stop. I learned later that snow had knocked some of the code lines down and the signals were displaying ‘stop and proceed’. This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 64 slide film, f4.5 1/250th sec.
This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 25 slide flim.
This image was made east of Owego, New York at 10:53 am on November 19, 1986. Kodachrome 64 slide flim. If you look very carefully, you’ll see this signal is displaying a red light, which in automatic block signal territory indicates ‘Rule 291, Stop and Proceed.’
The westward D&H freight was soon on the roll again. There was a time when Boston & Maine GP40-2s seemed very common. Looking back, I didn't make as many photos of them as I now wished I had, and I'm glad to have this 28 year old slide.
The westward D&H freight was soon on the roll again. There was a time when Boston & Maine GP40-2s seemed very common. Looking back, I didn’t make as many photos of them as I now wished I had, and I’m glad to have this 28 year old slide.
In the afternoon, I returned to Gang Mills Yard (west of Corning, New York). By then the snow had begun to melt. An eastward Delaware & Hudson BUAB was rolling through at 3:50pm. I made some black & white photos of this train with my Rolleiflex, but I was experimenting with my processing at the time for a class project, and I've never been satisfied with the negative. Perhaps I'll scan them and see what I can salvage digitally. Kodachrome 25 color slide.
In the afternoon, I returned to Gang Mills Yard (west of Corning, New York) where I caught a parade of freights. By then the snow had begun to melt. An eastward Delaware & Hudson BUAB was rolling through at 3:50pm. I made some black & white photos of this train with my Rolleiflex, but at that time-period I was experimenting with my processing for a class project, and I’ve never been satisfied with the resulting  negative. Perhaps I’ll scan it and see what I can salvage digitally. This is a Kodachrome 64 color slide.

View from the Cab in the Rain

Adirondack Scenic Railroad—July 2004.

When I was growing up there were always stacks of old TRAINS Magazines piled around the house. I’d page through issues from the 1950s and 1960s and soak in the black & white photo stories and short essays by editor David P. Morgan.

In July 2004, I was working on a book on Electro-Motive Division F-unit diesels for Specialty Press and organized a cab ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Utica to Thendara, New York.

It was an especially damp day. At times, torrential rain reduced visibility to an ephemeral blurred view like some pictorialist tapestry. The speedometer registered 10mph, the wheel slip light was flashing as the windshield wipers banged back and forth.  Each passing mile was a new view for me, as I anticipated every bend in the tracks. Yet expert eyes and steady hand on the throttle keep us moving safely over the road.

 I exposed this forward view from former Alaska F7A 1508 using my Nikon F3T loaded with black & white film. Although this photo didn’t appear in the book, it reminds me of those old TRAINS magazine stories that recited the drama of every railroading with black & white photos and illuminating prose.

I exposed this forward view from former Alaska F7A 1508 near Remsen, New York using my Nikon F3T loaded with black & white film. Although this photo didn’t appear in the book, it reminds me of those old TRAINS magazine stories that recited the drama of every railroading with black & white photos and illuminating prose.

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Conrail at Gang Mills, New York

May 9, 1987.

I’d been out along the former Erie Railroad since before dawn that day. The tracks had been alive with freight. By early afternoon, I was down at Gang Mills Yard, near Corning, which served as a local hub for freight.

Exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25, with my college roommate’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens. The film was processed by Kodak in Rochester, New York with in 48 hours of exposure.
Exposed on Professional Kodachrome 25, with my college roommate’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens. The film was processed by Kodak in Rochester, New York with in 48 hours of exposure.

Back then General Electric B23-7s were a common locomotive. I’d grown up with these diesels working locals and road freights on the Boston & Albany route. I always like their classic GE style and their great sound. My B&A engineer friends despised them because of their ‘slow loading,’ ‘low cab doors,’ and other perceived inadequacies.

I made this photo at the engine terminal. I liked all the Conrail signage behind the locomotive. There’s nothing especially unusual about this scene, it was as ordinary as it got for the time, but today this really says, “Conrail” as I remember it.

Conrail ended independent operations at the end of May 1999, fifteen years ago. Between 1976 and 1999, I exposed thousands of views of Conrail. In 2004, Tim Doherty & I authored an illustrated book on Conrail for MBI.

 

Learn more about the evolution of the railroad network, see my book: North American Railroad Family Trees published by Voyageur Press.

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Tomorrow: Conrail on smoggy morning! (Yous got a problem wit dat?)

 

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Looking Back on the End of an Era—Daily Post.

Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York, January 8, 1986. 

B&O GP30 works at Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York on 3:15pm January 8, 1986. Exposed with a Leica 3A rangefinder on Kodachrome 64.
B&O GP30 works at Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York on 3:15pm January 8, 1986. Exposed with a Leica 3A rangefinder on Kodachrome 64.

It was a cold afternoon with more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground. Soft wintery sun made for directional pastel lighting, ideal for railway photography.

I found this Baltimore & Ohio local freight working sidings adjacent to Conrail’s former New York Central mainline. At the time, what interested me was the GP30 still wearing B&O blue with the classic capitol dome on the nose, and the caboose. By that date both types of equipment were getting scarce.

Technically, CSX had been the umbrella over Chessie System (the marketing name for the affiliated B&O, Chesapeake & Ohio, Western Maryland railroads) for several years. But this didn’t seem important to me. I was blissfully unaware of CSX, or that it planned to soon sell B&O’s former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh lines to Genesee & Wyoming.

In fact, by summer, B&O operations would be conveyed to G&W’s newly created Rochester & Southern, and two years later remaining BR&P lines to G&W’s Buffalo & Pittsburgh.

Even more dramatic, in 1987 CSX would meld B&O into its new CSX Transportation; a system-wide rebranding that would soon affect all of CSX’s railroads. Ironically, one of the first locomotives I photographed in CSXT paint was a former B&O GP30!

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees that traces corporate changes to railroading during the 20th century. Available now from Voyageur Press!

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Tomorrow: Continuing adventures on the Ballina Branch!

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Daily Post: Erie Signals at Rock Glen

Making Meaningful Signal Photos.

 As a photographer working from the ground (as opposed from the locomotive cab), finding situations that illustrate some of the less common aspects in the rule book can take lots patience.

Looking railroad timetable east at Rock Glen, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Canon EOS 3 with 100-400mm lens.
Looking railroad timetable east at Rock Glen, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Canon EOS 3 with 100-400mm lens.

Study this image, there’s a lot going on here: Norfolk Southern’s westward symbol freight 23K holds the mainline at Rock Glen, New York where it will meet the eastward 38T. The dispatcher has lined 38T through the siding, and as a result the home signal displays a red-over-yellow-over-green aspect—‘Medium Approach Medium’ (rule 283a).

The ‘Medium Approach Medium’ aspect effectively tells the engineer  of train 38T, that the train is lined and has a favorable signal (clear) for both this crossover as well as the next crossover, and that both are ‘medium speed’ (not exceeding 30mph) crossovers.

At the far left is the old Erie milepost that tells use we are 371 miles from Jersey City (the traditional eastern end of the line). The named location on the timetable conveniently coincides with the map and so the western end of the siding is called ‘Rock Glen’ for the western New York town of the same name. On many modern railroads, the timetable might simply refer to this control point as ‘CP371’.

At one time this was a traditional double track mainline with directional running in the current of traffic. Erie converted the route to single track with passing sidings and centralized traffic control-style signaling.

I don’t know for certain, but based on the current siding arrangement that is slewed around the home signal, I would guess that at some point after the time of original installation the siding was lengthened. Take note of the siding signal.

Among the peculiarities of Erie’s CTC style signaling was the use of home signals at sidings with the lower head located much lower than the top head. In effect this is an exaggerated arrangement that omits the center light featured on signals with three lights, such as on the signal on the right.

Erie wasn’t alone in this style of signaling, Southern Pacific also used low signals like this, although unlike the Erie, SP didn’t assign speed aspects.

In modern times, re-signaling by Conrail and Norfolk Southern has resulted in changes to traditional signaling practices. In some locations the lower light was raised to a point just below the main light. While more recent re-signaling has resulted in the outright replacement of searchlight hardware with modern color lights.

When I made this view, Rock Glen was among last places on the west end of the old Erie route that still featured this classic signaling arrangement. I was eager to make an image that featured the signals set up for a meet.

Presently I’m working on a book called ‘Classic Railroad Signaling’ (to be published by Voyageur Press) that will focus on traditional hardware including semaphores, searchlights, position lights & etc. This is a work in progress and comments are welcome!

Click below to see previous signaling posts including:

New Book, Classic Signaling;

Searchlight Signal near Pownal, Vermont;

Susquehanna SD45 and an Erie Semaphore, Canaseraga, New York;

and Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores.

 

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Tomorrow: Deconstructionist exercise.

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Daily Post; New York Central in 1984

 Photographing a bit of History.

New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

My friend Bob Buck of Warren had advised me to photograph old freight cars, especially those from the ‘fallen flags’ (railroads that had merged or were otherwise lost).

I kept a keen eye out for the cars of Conrail’s predecessors, which were a special interest to me.

In July 1984, I was passing Conrail’s sprawling West Springfield Yards on my way to the Boston & Albany ‘West End,’ when I saw this old New York Central ‘Early Bird’ 50ft double door car.

By that time, New York Central had been gone 16 years, and I was only 17, so the time seemed like a lifetime to me. Following Bob’s advice, I dutifully exposed a three-quarter view of the car. One frame. That is all.

In retrospect, I wish that I’d taken a few more images of the car. Today, I’d focus on the car and make some detailed views. Looking back on this car today, what I find noteworthy was that it still had its catwalks, an accessory that had been out of favor for years by the time I’d exposed this image.

New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

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DAILY POST: Packing Friction Bearings.

A Bit of History on Film.

Does anyone even remember friction bearings? By the 1990s, these were all but a forgotten technology, replaced with the omnipresent roller bearings. Southern Pacific’s season sugar beet racks were once of the few exceptions and continued to work until about 1992 with the old technology.

However, prior to that in January 1988, I had a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) that involved making photos of railroad workers. I’d arranged through the Rochester & Southern to spend time around Brooks Avenue Yard.

I spent a lot of time there, relative to what was required of me for the class.

Railroad workers
Packing friction bearings on freight cars at Brooks Avenue Yard, Rochester, New York, January 1988.

At one point the general manager, or someone in the know, directed me to a rip track where workers were packing friction bearings. This was really an arcane aspect of railroading.

I exposed a series of black & white negatives in the 645 format using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T. It was a dull cold day. I think I was using Verichrome Pan (rated at 80 ISO) to get a period effect. I used a wide aperture, probably f3.5, which gave me shallow depth of field.

Verichrome was a difficult material to work with in low light and my negatives were very thin.

To make the most of these photos I used an unusual printing technique: I intentionally printed the photo darker than normal, then used a potassium-ferrocyanide solution to bleach the highlights. I did this both across the print in a tray, and using a cotton swab on select areas such as the around the journal boxes.

The result is more or less as you see it here. This print has been in a box since 1988 and has hardly ever seen the light of day. (Incidentally, in case the name doesn’t suggest it to you, potassium-ferrocyanide is decidedly unhealthy, so use it cautiously, if you must.)

I don’t think my professor was especially impressed with my results. What did he know about bearings anyway?

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NEW YEAR’S POST: Happy 2014!


CSX Searchlights at Depew.

CSX stack train with signals
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm image stabilized zoom lens, set at 250mm.

I exposed this image on the evening of August 20, 2010 of a westward CSX stack train at CP431 in Depew, New York. What makes this photo interesting to me is the former New York Central signal bridge and searchlight signals.

Since I made this photograph, CSX has replaced many of the searchlights on the Water Level Route with modern color light hardware. While I’m sorry to see the old signals go, I’m not surprised.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote an editorial in Pacific RailNews (when I was editor of that magazine) warning enthusiasts that searchlights were on their way out, and explained why. At the time, searchlights were very common.

The photo is timely. This year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware:

Semaphores, Searchlights, Positional Lights and Towers, of all varieties.

This will be a great book. I’ve been researching and photographing the subject for many years!

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DAILY POST: Panned View, Buffalo, New York.

Sunny Morning on Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Metro Rail.

Buffalo Light Rail
A Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Tokyu Car-built light rail car glides through downtown Buffalo on May 4, 1989. The brown strip along the side of the car compares nicely with the tint of the stone on St Paul’s beyond. Since this image was exposed, NFTA has dressed the cars in a more modern livery.

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.

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DAILY POST: Susquehanna SD45 and an Erie Semaphore, Canaseraga, New York.


How Change Affects Composition.

On April 7, 1989, I exposed this Kodachrome slide at f4.0 1/125th of a second using my Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens. Today, if I visited the same location, I’d make a completely different image because all the elements that encouraged this composition are gone. This slide is a little bit of history.
On April 7, 1989, I exposed this Kodachrome slide at f4.0 1/125th of a second using my Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens. Today, if I visited the same location, I’d make a completely different image because all the elements that encouraged this composition are gone. This slide is a little bit of history.

Three elements of this image interested me when I exposed it on April 7, 1989.

The Union & Switch & Signal Style S upper quadrant former Erie Railroad semaphore; New York, Susquehanna & Western’s former Burlington Northern SD45; and the unusual grade separated mainline, where the eastward track is on a higher level than the westward line.

I could write in detail about anyone of these three things. And someday I will. But not now.

Instead, I’ll examine the composition in a effort to offer a lesson on observing change.

The reason I made this photo in the way I did was specifically to juxtapose the signal with the locomotive. The grade separation not only offered added interest, but facilitated the over all composition because it allowed the locomotive to be relatively higher in the frame while enabling me to include the entire signal (complete with base of mast mechanism and subsidiary boxes/equipment) without producing an unbalanced image.

Today, none of the main elements in the photo are in place. If you were to visit Canaseraga, New York (located about 10 miles railroad-west of Hornell on the former Erie Buffalo mainline) you would find that the semaphore is gone; as is the old eastward main track. If by chance there’s an SD45 in the photo (unlikely, but not inconceivable) it would be on the close track.

In other words, the essential components of the image have changed to such a degree that there is little reason to consider making a photo at this location. And that’s the point!

When photographers (myself included) make railway images, they consciously and unconsciously include (and exclude) line side infrastructure which helps define and structure the photographs.

Changes to railway infrastructure alter the way we see the railroad, and thus the very way we compose and plan photographs. By anticipating change, we can make more interesting images and preserve the way things look for future viewers.

When trackside make careful consideration for those elements you may include or deliberately exclude. Might you be missing a potentially great image by trying to avoid some wires or litter along the line? Is an old fence potentially a graphic element that not only will help located the photo in the future but also key to a dramatic composition?

It is these types of thoughts than can make the difference when trying to compose great (or at least, relevant) railway photos.

See: Erie Mainline Revisited and Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores.

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DAILY POST: Lehigh Valley 211 at Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York

Free Film, a Borrowed Camera and a Bit of Luck!

In November 1986, Kodak supplied me with a free roll of TMax 100 black & white film as part of a ‘care package’ of new products for students in the Photographic Illustration programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology .

Alco RS-3M at Rochester, New York
The combination of Kodak’s recently released T-Max 100 ‘T’ grain black & white film and a Canon 50mm lens allowed for a very sharp image with exceptionally fine grain and broad tonality. I scanned this 35mm negative with my Epson V500 scanner.
Incidentally, at the left of the image is General Railway Signal’s Rochester plant.

The T-Max black & white films were brand new at the time. They were significant because they used a new ‘T’ grain that featured flat silver halide grains that were supposed to reduce the visual granularity in the film (and lower the film’s silver content).

On this bright sunny morning, I went trackside in Rochester to expose my free film. I had Kodachrome 25 in my Leica M2, so I borrowed my roommate’s Canon A1 for the film test.

I photographed a variety of Conrail trains on the former New York Central Water Level Route. I made this image of Rochester & Southern’s Belt Line local crossing the former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh bridge over Water Level Route at Lincoln Park, west of downtown Rochester. (In 1986, Genesee & Wyoming’s Rochester & Southern assumed operation of the former BR&P 4th Sub-division from CSX’s Baltimore & Ohio.)

Leading R&S’s local was Alco RS-3m 211 leased from the recently formed Genesee Valley Transportation.

The locomotive has a long and colorful history. It featured both a large steam generator and dynamic brakes (thus the high short-hood) and was one of only five RS-3s were built this way:  four served Western Maryland, while this one went to the Pennsylvania Railroad but later was traded to the Lehigh Valley, becoming its 211. After 1976, Conrail replaced 211’s original Alco-244 diesel with a recycled 12-cylinder EMD 567 engine.

Since I made this image, the locomotive has been preserved and restored at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in Rush, New York.

This cropped detail gives a hint of the fine grain afforded by T-Max 100 film.
This cropped detail gives a hint of the exceptionally fine grain afforded by T-Max 100 film.

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Daily Post: Boston & Maine MERU, February 10, 1985


Eagle Bridge and Petersburg, New York.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve displayed contemporary images I made on Pan American Railways lines. Today, I’ve dug deep into my archives and pulled some negatives I exposed in the same territory back in 1985.

February 10, 1985 was a busy day on Guilford’s Boston & Maine lines. I was traveling with John Peters and Norman Yellin and we made it all the way to Mechanicville, New York, having started in the Millers River Valley, east of East Deerfield.

Guilford Rail System.
Boston & Maine’s eastward MERU hits the crossing at Eaglebridge, New York on the evening of February 10, 1985. I was fighting the light, but despite this handicap I managed to make a decent exposure with my dad’s M4.
Boston & Maine's eastward MERU passes the old station at Eaglebridge, New York on the evening of February 10, 1985. This has long been a favorite photo; for me it really captures the character of the B&M Westend as it looked in the 1980s. The motion blur on the first car adds to the effect.
Boston & Maine’s eastward MERU passes the old station at Eaglebridge, New York on the evening of February 10, 1985. This has long been a favorite photo; for me it really captures the character of the B&M west end as it looked in the 1980s. The motion blur on the first car adds to the effect.

Toward the end of the day, we chased B&M’s MERU (Mechanicville to Rumford, Maine), photographing it at several locations, including Eaglebridge and Petersburg, New York.

Since last week I ended a chase of a Pan Am freight at the crossing near Petersburg (east of Petersburg Junction where the old Rutland ‘Corkscrew Line’ crossed the B&M), I though these images would make an interesting comparison.

Boston & Maine's eastward MERU hits the crossing near Petersburg, New York. The angle of the track has always made this an awkward place to photograph moving trains. Many years ago, B&M had a split grade through here, with the other main track located on the far side of the valley.
Boston & Maine’s eastward MERU hits the crossing near Petersburg, New York. The angle of the track has always made this an awkward place to photograph moving trains. Many years ago, B&M had a split grade through here, with the other main track located on the far side of the valley.
Pan Am Railways.
Here’s Pan Am’s westward EDRJ at the very same crossing near Petersburg (albeit a bit farther back from the tracks). I exposed this last week on November 21, 2013 using my Canon EOS 7D.

Where last week, Paul Goewey and I were following a westward freight, 28 years ago we were traveling eastbound. In both situations the light was fading.

I exposed the vintage images on Kodak B&W film using my father’s Leica M4 with a 35mm Summicron lens. Unfortunately, my notes from the day don’t include what exposures I used, nor how I processed the film. Ironically, I had the M4 with me last week too, but the shutter was giving me difficulty so I had to rely on my digital cameras!

See: Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2

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Misty Morning on the Boston & Albany near Edwards Park, New York October 14, 2011.

 

Fall Colors near State Line Tunnel.

CSX L022 rolls west near Edwards Park, New York. Exposed at ISO 640 with a Canon EOS 7 with 28-135mm lens set at 53mm f5.6 at 1/200th second. To accentuate the autumn foliage, I manually set the white balance for a warmer setting rather than use the auto white balance that I find to be too cool for autumn trees.
CSX L022 rolls west near Edwards Park, New York. Exposed at ISO 640 with a Canon EOS 7 with 28-135mm lens set at 53mm f5.6 at 1/200th second. To accentuate the autumn foliage, I manually set the white balance for a warmer setting rather than use the auto white balance that I find to be too cool for autumn trees.

On the morning of October 14, 2011, I crossed the Berkshires on the Mass-Pike as I drove west to meet with accomplished railway photographer John Pickett.

I had a few hours before our meeting, so despite low cloud and mist, I exited the highway at the Massachusetts-New York state line and drove toward Boston & Albany’s State Line Tunnel. While on Tunnel Hill Road in Canaan, New York, I noticed this colorful scene from the road side.

As I got out of the car, I heard the unmistakable sound of a train roaring west. I had just enough time to get out my Canon EOS 7 and make a test image before the train passed.

Another case of just being at the right place at the right time, and being ready to act.

 

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Zoar, Massachusetts, October 7, 2003.

On This Day, Ten Years Ago.

CP Rail SD40-2s
Canadian Pacific SD40-2s roar west on Guilford Rail System’s former Boston & Maine Fitchburg main line at Zoar, Massachusetts on October 7, 2003.

It was a brilliant clear afternoon ten years ago, when Tim Doherty, Pat Yough and I followed Guilford Rail System’s EDMO (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard, Schenectady, New York) freight westward into the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Rich blue skies, rusty foliage and a great sunlight make October a great time to photograph in New England.

I exposed this image on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 28mm Biogon lens. At the time Canadian Pacific Railway EMD SD40-2s were commonly assigned to this run, which made it a popular photographic choice.

 

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Locomotive Geometry: Susquehanna Alco RS-1

 

Binghamton, New York, December 1986.

It was a cold and snowy day when I drove from Rochester to Binghamton, New York in December 1986. I photographed several trains along the former Erie Southern Tier route.

In the afternoon, I made this study of a New York, Susquehanna & Western Alco RS-1 at the railroad’s Binghamton yard.

Alco RS-1 diesel
Exposed on 120 size Kodachrome 64 roll film with a Rollei Model T featuring an f3.5 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.

I was using my dad’s Rollei Model T loaded with 120 Kodachrome 64. I had the camera fitted with a ‘Super Slide’ insert that gave me 16 rectangular frames per roll, roughly in the 645 format. Pop had bought the camera in Germany back in 1960.

I think its neat that my father had photographed Susquehanna’s RS-1s in passenger service more than 25 years earlier with the same camera. Since I was only 20 then, it seemed to me that the locomotives (and the Rollei) had been around since the dawn of time!

This batch of Kodak 120 Kodachrome had a tendency to color shift red, so after scanning I made some corrections in post processing. Other than that the image is extremely sharp. Scanned at 4800 dpi as TIF file this is nearly 250 MB. That’s an enormous amount of information.

I’ve always liked locomotive details. Some of my earliest efforts focused on engine shapes.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY POP!

 

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Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction, November 4, 1987

The Original G&W.

On the morning of November 4, 1987, I made a speculative foray to P&L (Pittsburgh & Lehigh) Junction near Caledonia, New York. At the time I was living in nearby Scottsville, and I’d occasionally check P&L to see if anything was moving.

Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction
Genesee & Wyoming SW1500 47 crosses the Peanut Line at P&L Junction. Thin autumnal high clouds softened the morning sun. The photo was exposed with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

P&L Junction had once been a very busy place. Here the original Genesee & Wyoming had connected with Lehigh Valley, Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, a branch of the Erie, and New York Central’s so-called ‘Peanut Line.’By 1987, the only railroads left were G&W and its Rochester & Southern affiliate.

I was fortunate to find a southward train and I made this image of a southward G&W salt train heading across the diamond with a vestige of the old Peanut Line (that G&W used to reach a couple of miles into Caledonia). A classic ‘tilt board’ crossing signal protected the diamond.

Today, it seems that G&W railroads are everywhere. I even saw a G&W company freight in Belgium a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined that this New York state short line would reach so far!

 

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Susquehanna’s General Electric DASH8-40B 4002 at West Middlebury, New York, March 1989

Experiment with Medium Format Kodachrome.

New General Electric DASH8-40B on New York Susquehanna & Western
In 1989, New York, Susquehanna & Western served as the court appointed operator of Delaware & Hudson. By virtue of the 1976 Conrail merger, D&H had been granted trackage rights on the former Erie Railroad route from Binghamton to Buffalo, New York. On this March morning, a new NYS&W General Electric led an eastward double stack train on the old Erie near West Middlebury, New York, 384 miles from Jersey City.Exposed on 120 Kodachrome transparency film with a Hasselblad 500C with 80mm Zeiss Planar lens

In March 1989, I was halfway through my final term at the Rochester Institute of Technology. My course load was light enough to allow me several days off a week to pursue my own work.

On this day, my flat mate Bob lent me his Hasselblad, which I loaded with 120 Kodachrome 64. Wow, was this ever a winning combination! It offered brilliant color with exceptional sharpness on a large transparency.

While I took advantage of Bob’s Hasselblad and 120 Kodachrome on several occasions, the relatively high cost of this format precluded my frequent use of it. At the time I was living on about $30 a week and a single roll of 120 Kodachrome processed was beyond my budget. (Also, Bob occasionally needed his camera).

Once I completed my degree, the high cost of Hasselblad cameras put them well out of reach for years. Other considerations were related to practicality. I found the Hasselblad awkward to use for my style of photography, and I had very limited applications for 120 transparencies.

Realistically, the 35mm slide format was not only better suited for most of my color needs, but also far more affordable.

Yet images like this one continue to nag me. From time to time, I have continued to experiment with 120-color transparency film, often with very good results. I’ve never been satisfied with my reluctance to make the plunge. Tough choice.

A week after I exposed this photo, I made an 11x14in Cibachrome print of it. (Thanks to my dad who fronted me the cash for 50 sheets of Ciba paper). Incidentally, the scan of the original image fills nearly 280 MB on my hard drive. If I’d scanned it at the maximum capabilities of my Epson, it would probably reach a GB. That’s a lot of information in one photograph. The image could fill a wall.

 

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State Line Tunnel, Canaan, New York July 9, 2013

 

Brand New General Electric Locomotives at a Classic Location.

CSX at State Line Tunnel
CSX eastward Q012 at State Line Tunnel on the morning of July 9, 2013. Despite its name, the tunnel is actually several miles west of the New York-Massachusetts border. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

On the morning of July 9, 2013, I visited State Line Tunnel on CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline. This is a favorite place to catch trains in action on the line.

The air was heavy with moisture and as a result sound carried exceptionally well. I arrived at my location at 6:48 am. At 6:54, I could hear an eastward train blowing for a crossing near Chatham, New York, approximately 10 miles to the west (as per the timetable). At 6:56, the train reported a ‘clear’ signal aspect over the scanner.

Since the only signal in the area is located at CP 171 (the control point east end of the siding at East Chatham) I knew the train was about to cross the New York State Thruway. I then could trace the progress of the train as it sounded for various crossings in Canaan. By 7:04 am, I could cleared hear the engines working upgrade.

A 7:08, CSX’s intermodal train Q012 came into view. In the lead were three factory-clean General Electric ‘Evolution-Series’ diesel-electrics in the 3100-series (model ES44AC). As modelers might say, ‘right out of the box.’ Nice!

CSX at State Line Tunnel
A motor drive has its advantages. I made a sequence of images as the Q012 roared eastward. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
New CSX GE-built ES44ACs.
This is my favorite of the three images. I like the foliage in the foreground which adds depth.

The train roared into the tunnel below me as I exposed a sequence of images with my Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens. I’d brought a tripod, but opted not to use it, as hand held gave me greater flexibility.

 

About 40 minutes later, I heard a westward train sounding for Stateline crossing. I relocated, and made images of CSX light engines exiting the west portal of the tunnel.

Until late-1988, this line had directional double track. Since then, just a single main track passes through the tunnel. The railroad uses the 1912-era bore, leaving the older 1840s-era bore void of track.

State Line Tunnel
Headlights gleam inside State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel is a relatively short bore. The twin tunnels were built decades apart, and at one time both bores had twin tracks in them.
New CSX ES44AC at State Line Tunnel.
The tighter view gives a better view of the new engine but obscures the older tunnel portal. Why make one photo when three will do?
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Metro North Anniversaries—Part 2

 

Grand Central Terminal and the Hudson Line.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central’s colossal architecture exudes magnificence. Lumix LX3 photo.

New York City’s Grand Central Terminal is unquestionably America’s best known railway station. This year it celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The station is also probably the most photographed in the USA. At any given time tourists and visitors are actively making images of its awe inspiring interior.

On the evening of June 29, 2013, I joined the masses in their image making crusade.

I also took a spin up the Hudson Line to Tarrytown, where I made some twilight views of Metro-North.

Grand Central’s most memorable feature is its grand concourse, a vast interior space intended to accommodate tens of thousands pedestrians daily.
Grand Central’s most memorable feature is its grand concourse, a vast interior space intended to accommodate tens of thousands pedestrians daily.

Working with both my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS7D, I made a variety of digital images. These may soon augment my older images of Grand Central and Metro-North.

Tarrytown, New York.
Metro-North at Tarrytown, New York on June 29, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Metro-North train.
Metro-North M7 multiple unit glides into Tarrytown, New York. Canon EOS7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Grand Central Terminal.
Passengers flood from a Hudson Line train on Grand Central’s upper level. Lumix LX3 photo.
MTA Metro-North Railroad.
MTA Metro-North Railroad.
Grand Central New York City
Grand Central’s exterior is faced with a blend Bedford limestone and Stony Creek granite. Atop this façade is an enormous neo-classical sculpture of Mercury, Minerva and Hercules that incorporates a huge clock—Time keeping, is of course, integral with railway travel. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
Grand Central's concourse.
Grand Central ceiling features a unique depiction of the Mediterranean Zodiac as interpreted by French painter Paul Helleu. Lumix LX3 photo.
The ghost of an early twentieth century bicycle enthusiast crosses Grand Central's  concourse. Lumix LX3.
The ghost of an early twentieth century bicycle crosses Grand Central’s concourse. Lumix LX3.
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CSX Moves Fuel.

Tank Trains Rolling at Guilderland, New York.

 

 

 

On Saturday, May 18, 2013, CSX had four eastward unit oil trains working the Water Level route between Buffalo and Selkirk, New York. Mike Gardner and I were in place to catch two of these monsters. Mile-plus long strings of black heavily-laden tank cars hauled by colorful variety of locomotives.

These were only part of the show and mixed in with CSX’s seemingly endless parade of intermodal trains and mixed freight. While waiting for first of the oil train to reach us, we experience the highlight of the day. To the east I heard the classic roar of EMD 16-645 engines.

What could be making such a racket? This is a railroad dominated by the muffled sound of modern GE four-stroke diesels and the occasion EMD 710. By contrast this sound sent me back 20 years . . .

CP Rail SD40-2 leads an empty ethanol train.
SD40-2s lead CSX symbol freight K4091 (a westward empty ethanol train) on the old West Shore. The line on the right is the traditional eastward track built to fly over the westward main near French’s Hollow. Three SD40-2s on the Water Level Route, not bad! Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens.

Working west in run-8 were three SD40-2s (one Canadian Pacific and two painted for Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern/Iowa, Chicago & Eastern) with empty ethanol train in tow. The crew was enthusiastic and passed us with a friendly blast of the horn and bells ringing. It was just about the coolest train I’ve seen on CSX in several years!

Empty ethanol train.
Trailing view of CSX K4091, the receding sounds of 16-645E3 engines brightening my day. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens.

After it passed we caught the first two unit oil trains, one right after the other, followed more ordinary traffic. This oil business is a new phenomenon and seems to be growing. I expect I’ll see more liquid energy on the move.

CSX_oil_train_K040
First of four eastward unit oil trains; CSX K040 with a mix of CSX, KCS, and BNSF locomotives.
CSX GE number 860 leading K048, the second of four oil trains on May 18, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
CSX GE number 860 leading K048, the second of four oil trains on May 18, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
Oil train
Rolling pipeline; trailing view of CSX K048—the second of four oil trains on May 18, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
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CSX Freights on the former Boston & Albany in New York State.

Clear Blue Dome on May 17, 2013.

When possible I combine trips to take care of both business and errands, while leaving appropriate intervals for photography. Ideally, I’ll organizing my time so I can conduct business during the heat of the day, while leaving the mornings and evening free to make photos when light is the best.

Last Friday May 17, 2013 was a perfect execution of this philosophy. I’d arranged to meet my friend and fellow railway photographer, John Pickett at 10:30 am to review some material for up coming book projects. John lives near Albany, so I departed Massachusetts in the early hours and aimed to work the far-west end of CSX’s former B&A route west of the Massachusetts-New York State line.

My first location was State Line itself. This is conveniently accessed by a grade crossing within sight of the railroad’s state-line marker. I’d made a nice photograph of a Conrail eastbound here 25 years ago, and I wanted to repeat the effort with a CSX freight.

Mass Line
The former Boston & Albany mainline at the historic location on the Massachusetts-New York State Line on the morning of May 17, 2013.

Patience rewarded me with an eastward CSX intermodal freight, probably train Q022 (Columbus, Ohio to Worcester, Massachusetts), lead by former Conrail SD60M 8774. Since the line is a single main at this location, I moved west to Chatham, New York to wait for the westward Q019 (carries freight from Worcester to Chicago), and intermodal train that typically passes in the mid-morning. Along the way, I reviewed known locations, checking for places to photograph in the afternoon.

SD60M
I was happy to catch this Conrail-era EMD SD60M leading at State Line. Canon 7D fitted with 28-135mm lens.
CSX freight
Trailing view of the eastward freight passing the old State Line marker. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Chatham, NY.
CSX Q019 passes the former Boston & Albany passenger station at Chatham, New York on May 17, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

Old B&A railroad station
Old Boston & Albany station at Chatham, New York. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

After 5pm, having finished my business with John (which incidentally included some photography along the Hudson River that will be featured in a later post), I returned to Chatham, picking a favorite location mid-way along the dispatchers controlled siding that extends east of town to the old ‘Bottleneck Bridge’ where the line crosses the New York State Thruway Extension. Here, I waited for the westward Q423 (Worcester to CSX’s yard at Selkirk, New York), which passed shortly after 6 pm.

CSX SD70ACe
An SD70ACe leads CSX’s Q423 at milepost QB173.7 east of Chatham, New York on May 17, 2013. Canon EOS 7D w 28-135mm lens set at 105mm. Exposed manually: ISO 200 f7.1 at 1/500th sec.

I consider myself very fortunate that in this situation my past experiences combined with an appreciation for CSX’s contemporary operations actually produced results. Not every effort yields ideal results; so despite planning and knowledge, I may have been skunked if trains didn’t show up when I anticipated them.

 

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New GE’s Roll East on the former Erie at Canaseraga, New York

Conrail’s former Erie Route, April 1989.

NYS&W GE's.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 (PKM) with a Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron.

While on the topic of the former Erie Railroad, I thought I would post this unpublished view of brand new New York, Susquehanna & Western Dash8-40Bs working a Delaware & Hudson freight on Conrail’s former Erie route between Hornell and Buffalo, New York.

The new units were ordered by NYS&W during its brief court-ordered operation of D&H between 1988 and 1990.

I started following this train earlier in the day. It was a typical western New York morning, with fits of sun bursting through a deck of thick gray clouds.

That’s the reason for this unusual composition: for a moment the sun emerged to flush the front of the bright yellow GE’s. I made a spot decision to photograph the train more distant than I’d originally intended.

At that time, Conrail was only maintaining the old number 2 track (eastward mainline) for 10 mph. Most traffic was routed on the number 1 main (traditionally the westward track) that was in much better condition. However, by Spring of 1989, Conrail’s Erie route was bursting with traffic. To avoid congestion, Conrail’s dispatcher opted to keep this D&H train bumping along at 10mph, while westward traffic stayed on the faster track.

East of Canaseraga, the Erie line was in characteristic grade separated arrangement that probably dated from Underwood-era improvements in the early 20th century. If I write my book on the Erie, I’ll be finally able to confirm this fact.

In the early 1990s, Conrail reconfigured this portion of the Erie. It replaced the traditional directional double-track with a single-track main and centralized traffic control-style system. The change resulted in abandonment of the number 1 main at this location, and spelled the end for the steam-era Union Switch & Signal Style-S upper quadrant semaphores.

Just for the record, I made several closer views of this train.

For more on the former Erie Railroad, see my earlier posts including: Vestiges of the Erie Railroad near Kenton, OhioErie Code Lines—Horseheads, New York, October 5, 2009, and Erie October Morning.

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January 15th and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 4876

January 15th, a day of significance: while best known as Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, it is less well known for the anniversary of the 1953 Washington Union Terminal crash, when Pennsylvania Railroad’s Federal Express lost its brakes and GG1 Electric 4876 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.

That was 60 years ago today! However, thirty years ago, GG1 4876—then operated by NJ Transit, was still in daily service. It routinely worked between Penn Station and South Amboy on New York & Long Branch trains.  I intercepted this infamous electric on various occasions in its final years of service. I’d hoped to make a photo on the anniversary of its infamy. And I went so far as to write NJ Transit to find out which trains it would be working, to which they kindly replied in detail. However a snowstorm on eve of 4876’s 30th anniversary precluded my travel, so my intended images from that day never happened. What I’ve posted here are few of my black & white images scanned from 1980s-era prints. They were exposed with my battle-worn Leica IIIA from my High School days. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using a weak mix of Kodak Microdol-X.

Pennsylvania Railroad GG1
GG1 4876 at Sunnyside Yard, Queens, New York in April 1979. Leica IIIA w 90mm f2.8 Elmar fitted with Leica Visoflex.

 

New Jersey DOT GG1 4876 at Rahway Junction in 1982. Leica IIIA w 50mm f2.0 Summitar.
New Jersey DOT GG1 4876 at Rahway Junction in 1982. Leica IIIA w 50mm f2.0 Summitar.
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