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.
This spectacular train wreck, on the eve of Eisenhower’s inauguration, made headlines in every major newspaper across the country.
Thirty four years ago, GG1 4876—then operated by NJ Transit remained in daily service and routinely worked New York & Long Branch trains between Penn Station and South Amboy, New Jersey .
My father and I intercepted this infamous electric on various occasions in its final years of service.
Here are few 4876 views from my lost negative file; They were exposed in June 1983 with my battle-worn Leica IIIA from my High School days. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using Kodak Microdol-X.
Air pollution, fluffy clouds and very low sun can create some wonderful soft lighting.
Evening glint is a fleeting ephemeral condition.
The Northeast Corridor in central New Jersey is an ideal place to make use of soft glint.
Long tangent sections of track, a favorable north-east to southwest alignment and ample quantities of air-pollution plus very frequent service, allow for excellent opportunities as the light shifts and fades.
I made these photographs at Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick.
Getting the exposure right is crucial for successful glint photos.
I usually use manual settings. I’ve found that when exposing for glint light it is important pay careful attention to the highlight and shadow areas.
I avoid clipping the highlights (as result of over exposure), but also make sure that I don’t stop down (reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor ) too much, which will make the shadows completely opaque.
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.
Two weeks ago, using my old Leica 3A with 35mm Nikkor lens I exposed this photograph of a northward North Jersey Coast train at NJ Transit’s Aberdeen-Matawan station .
I positioned the camera as to crop sun with the canopy over the platform.
The film is 35mm Ilford HP5 that I processed in Kodak D76 (1-1 stock solution with water) for 10 minutes at 68F, but preceded primary development with a prolonged pre-soak with a drop of HC110 developer to improve shadow detail tonality.
This is another of my ‘Then and Now’ attempts from last week’s exploration of Jersey City.
As previously mentioned: my fascination with Pennsylvania Railroad’s Jersey City waterfront terminal at Exchange Place, inspired a family trip to look for vestiges in February 1983. This is my window back in time.
Both my dad and I made a few photos. At the time I was trying to get a sense for how things looked decades earlier. (Pop, had made views of PRR MP54s by day and by night at the old terminal, which by 1983 was long gone.)
Fast forward another 32-33 years, and I find that Jersey City has been completely transformed. Most traces of Conrail’s waterfront track have been replaced by modern development, while NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail now winds through the city.
Working from my 1983 view at Exchange Place, on my recent visit I spent an hour walking around in concentric circles trying to figure out where I’d made the old photo. How hard could this be?
Complicating matters, I’d only been there once, my father was driving, and my memories from this one visit are a bit hazy.
Yes, I remember the day, and I recall making the photos, but how the various locations related to one another remained a bit sketchy. This was especially difficult because today the setting has been so completely changed that many of the landmarks in my old image are gone.
I’d all but given up. I went for a spin on the Light Rail, and my way back north towards Hoboken, I recognized the setting for my 1983 image.
Now then, how could I have known that my 1983 Exchange Place view was indeed at today’s NJ Transit Exchange Place light rail station!
Construction on the bank building made for a difficult comparison view, as does the Light Rail’s supporting infrastructure: awnings, ticket machines, catenary poles, etc, which precluded standing in the exact same spot.
Actually, the bank building on the left is just about the only common anchor between my two images. Almost all the other buildings in the 1983, including the Colgate-Palmolive building in the distance, have been replaced by newer structures.
And, while there are tracks in both views, these are on different alignments and serve entire different purposes.
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).
Tracking the Light posts new and original content daily!
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.
Fifty Five years have passed since the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western merged with Erie Railroad to form Erie-Lackawanna. EL was a flawed short-lived creation that disappeared into Conrail in 1976.
Today, the old DL&W electrified main line at Summit, New Jersey is operated by NJ Transit.
DL&W was before my time. But in the early 1980s, I recall visiting Summit with my father on the ride out to Gladstone on former Lackawanna multiple units. Even then, those cars seemed to me to belong to an earlier epoch.
In June, I revisited Summit and made these photographs.
Owing to the alignment of the track and depth of the cutting, high noon allows for light on the tracks. While there might nicer sun at other times of the day, it would be of little use here because of the shadows in the cut.
Today those old MUs are just a memory here. No chance either of seeing a DL&W three-cylinder Mountain type on a coal train, or a Hudson leading the Lackawanna Limited on its way to Buffalo. Just shadows, modern electrics and the old station.
My father photographed PRR MP54 electrics at Exchange Place in the early 1960s, and I recall watching a Conrail NW2 work freight trackage here in the early 1980s.
Today, the area is covered in towering office blocks.
It is similar to modern waterfront development at Dublin’s North Wall but on a larger scale. In Dublin, as in Jersey City, light rail crosses the site of heavy rail trackage against the back-drop of geometric office-block architecture.
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.
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.