Sometimes a station name conveys a grander image than what’s really there.
Cherry Orchard in Dublin comes to mind. Put out visions of lush blossoming trees in a bucolic pastoral setting, and replace it with industrial squalor, palisade fencing, graffiti and garbage. Yet, it’s still a good place to catch trains on the move.
Then we have today’s featured location: NI Railway’s modern station at Botanic in Belfast. For me the name invokes images of flowing beautiful gardens, tall majestic trees and rows of manicured flowers, perhaps a fountain.
Er, not exactly.
While more salubrious than Dublin’s Cherry Orchard (and undoubtedly safer too), Botanic isn’t a wonderland.
Next up for my 20 years in Ireland/class 201 numerical retrospective is old 208/8208: to be different, I’m posting views of 8208 (one of two Class 201s owned by NIR for Enterprise service) working a variety of trains but not the Enterprise!
Originally, the locomotive was number 208, and it had been painted in an attractive NIR blue livery, similar to the 111-class diesels.
On the way to Belfast from Dublin a couple of weeks ago, the rain lashed down. Instead of changing trains at Portadown, I opted to remain dry a little long and remained on the Enterprise all the way to Belfast Central.
It was still cloudy in Belfast, but the rain had stopped.
I traveled to Great Victoria Street, then changed for an all stops NI Railways train and alighted at Adelaide just as the clouds receded and bright evening light prevailed.
I exposed these views with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Fujinon 18-135mm zoom lens.
So I wasn’t a fool in the end; or was I?
If I’d changed at Portadown, I would have arrived at Adelaide sooner and I may have photographed a train with a rainbow.
My Lumix LX7 has an ‘high-dynamic range’ feature. Otherwise known by its initials ‘HDR’, high-dynamic range is a technique for digital imaging that allows greater detail in highlights and shadows by combining several images of the same subject that were exposed at different values.
The LX7 includes the HDR setting as one of the options in ‘scene mode’ (SCN on the selection dial). This rapidly exposes a sequence of images and combines them in-camera to produce a single HDR JPG. Obviously you need to hold still when you make the photo.
Also it helps to photograph a static scene or the result my get a bit weird.
In this instance, I photographed some flowers on the platform of NI Railway’s station at Whitehead, Co. Antrim (Northern Ireland).
There are other ways of accomplishing a similar result.
So I decided to compare the HDR with some manipulated versions of a camera RAW file that I exposed of the same scene. With the RAW images, I’d adjusted the file with Lightroom post processing software, selectively altering contrast, gamma, and colour saturation and colour temperature to make for a more pleasing photograph.
Specifically I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter, while making global changes to highlights and saturation.
The output of the RAW is also as a JPG, which I scaled for presentation here.
I made two versions of the RAW interpretation.
In both sets of images I’ve intentionally focused on the flowers and not the NIR train.
Lisburn is a surviving gem among old Great Northern Railway stations in Northern Ireland.
RPSI’s steam crew apologized for the weather, but there was no need. Steam locomotives make for excellent subjects when photographed at dusk in the rain.
This was my reunion with Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s engine 85, a Great Northern compound 4-4-0.
Honer Travers arranged my visit to Lisburn to witness the arrival of the scheduled Steam & Jazz special from Belfast, and introduced me to members of the crew (some of whom I’d met on previous occasions).
Working with three cameras, I made dozens of atmospheric images in the course of about 15 minutes. These photos were made digitally with my FujiFilm XT1 and Panasonic Lumic LX7. In addition, I exposed a handful of black & white photos using a Nikon loaded with Fomapan Classic.
I had the Leica IIIa fitted with a vintage Nikkor f3.5 35mm screw-mount lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
And yes, I had a digital camera with me. Two, really. And I also made some colour views. I’ll tend to cover my bases when at a special location.
Honer Travers and I traveled down from Dublin on the Enterprise, having changed at Portadown to an NIR (Northern Ireland Railways) 4000-series CAF built railcar. Arriving at Lisburn, I paused to make these two black & photos of our train.
In Dublin, I processed the film using Agfa-mix Rodinal Special (not to be confused for bog-standard Agfa-mix Rodinal) mixed with water 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes.
I like to play with developer to see what I can get with different combinations of chemistry. Agfa Rodinal Special with short development time allows for fine grain and a metallic tonality. While not as rich as Kodak HC110 (dilution B), the grain appears finer with Rodinal Special.
Among the last active installations of ‘somersault’ signals has survived on NI Railways at Castlerock, County Derry, Northern Ireland.
The somersault is an antique variety of two-aspect semaphore where the signal arm and spectacle (lens) frame are separate pieces and move in opposite directions when the aspect changes. The name stems from a description of the signal motion.
Earlier this month Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I traveled from Dublin to pay a final visit to this classic signal installation and make photographs of modern NI Railways railcars with the antique hardware.
New NI Railway’s signalling is underway on this section of the Coleraine-Derry line. It is my understanding that in early November, NIR plans to close Castlerock’s cabin (signal tower) and the signals will be removed from service as part of a larger re-signalling scheme that will also eliminate this station as a passing point.
Although, I’d visited Castlerock previously, it had been a few years since I last photographed these old signals at work.
Special thanks to Colin Holliday reminding me of the pending changes to Castlerock signaling!
Some of Ireland’s finest rail-side scenery is in the North. At Downhill, Co. Derry massive vertical cliffs rise high above the Belfast-Derry line, with the great expanse of the North Atlantic beyond.
In October, lighting can be a bit tricky, as the same cliffs that make the scene and offer elevation also block the sun much of the day.
One trick: filtered sun (that is with thin cloud) makes for a less contrasty scene. By carefully exposing for the shaft of light at the center of the image, and then impose a digital graduated neutral density filter at the top of the frame, I was able to produce a balanced over-all image.
The other afternoon, I made these photos with Denis McCabe and Stephen Hirsch which feature a Derry to Belfast NI Railways railcar. While I worked primarily with my FujiFilm X-T1, I also exposed a few 35mm colour slides using my old Canon EOS-3 with 100mm lens.
As of this posting, those slides remain latent (exposed, but unprocessed), so we’ll need to wait to see if I got my exposure correct. (My notes read f7.1 at 1/250th of a second, which is consistent with the reading from my Minolta Mark4 handheld light meter, but a bit on the dark side for the camera meter).
In November 2005, Translink NI Railways (operator of railway services in Northern Ireland) was in a transitional phase equipment-wise. New 3001 class railcars had been recently introduced, yet many of the older 80-class and Castle class railcars were still on the move.
I drove to Belfast from Dublin, and spent two days riding around on NIR trains making photographs. For the most part the days were sunny and brisk.
At that time of year, the sun in the northern latitudes tends to stay relative close to the horizon throughout the day, which can result in a stark contrasty light.
These images were exposed on Fujichrome at Coleraine, where the Port Rush branch diverges from the Belfast-Derry/Londonderry line.
Like NIR, I too was undergoing an equipment transition; I’d just recently bought a Canon EOS 3, but was still using my older Nikon F3T and N90S for many photographs.