On Sunday Norfolk Southern runs local H29 over the old Pennsylvania New Holland Branch to it’s namesake.
Last Sunday, Kris and I wandered out along the line, looked at few crossings, and upon reaching New Holland, PA found a pair of GP38-2s with a few freight cars. The crew was just performing a brake test,
We drove a west and parked in the lot at the New Holland post office and waited.
This location offered a relatively unobstructed view the tracks.
After a few minutes the westward local came along and I made a series of photos with my Nikon Z6.
Last Sunday morning, Kris and I were heading to breakfast. Rather than jump on the four-lane, I decided to stick to the two-lane roads. As we drove toward the Greenfield Road grade crossing in Lancaster, PA, the crossing flashers lit.
I was surprise to see Norfolk Southern’s New Holland local approaching. We didn’t know this ran on Sunday morning.
After pulling in the clear, I grabbed my Nikon Z6 and fired off a photo of the approaching freight. Unfortunately, in my haste I’d set the auto focus-point incorrectly and my result wasn’t worth the price of the exposed pixels. (It was garbage).
From this mistake, I decided to delay breakfast and we turned around, and zipped up to the Willow Road crossing, just a couple of miles down the line. Here I had ample time to set up and frame some photos. I’d sorted out the auto focus. Kris filmed a video with her iPhone.
I was pleased with these images. We’ll need to head out on a Sunday morning again soon!
This is a follow up to Thursday’s post. After photographing coal empties on the Port Road at Washington Boro, PA, I followed the train by traveling compass northwest on highway 441.
Norfolk Southern’s Royalton Branch is a former Pennsylvania Railroad line, once electrified, that allows an alternated routing through the Harrisburg area for freights using the Port Road.
Beyond Marietta railroad routes divide, with one line crossing the Susquehanna River via the Shocks Mills bridge to reach Enola Yard. The Royalton Branch runs toward Harrisburg on the east bank of the river.
I’m just learning this territory, so as of now, I’m not completely fluent as the modern names for the junctions and timetable directions of the tracks. However, I know that trains have a choice of routings, so last week I took a chance that the coal empties would run via the Royalton Branch. Previously, I’d scoped out a location near Middletown not far from the famous Three Mile Island.
Fortune favored me, and I arrived with ample time to set up and change lenses. Instead of my 70-200mm Z-series zoom, I was traveling with my 1980s-era Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED fixed focal length manual focus telephoto, which attaches to my Z-series mirrorless cameras using an adaptor.
This is a traditional piece of glass and offers a classic quality, especially when used wide open (f2.8). However, its tricky to set the focus while trying to expose manually.
I made a series of photos with my Nikon Z6 and 180mm and a frame with my Lumix LX7.
Over the course of recent weeks, Kris and I have explored locations on the Norfolk Southern’s Port Road Branch. This is a portion of former Pennsylvania Railroad that follows the Susquehanna River between the Harrisburg area and a connection with the Northeast Corridor at Perryville, Maryland.
PRR electrified the route in the 1930s, and it handled electrically powered freights until the Conrail era. The old electric catenary supports are evidence of this by-gone era. It has been more than 40 years since electric operations ended on this portion of the former Conrail system.
Daylight freight moves on the Port Road seem to be relatively rare, owing to an Amtrak daytime curfew on the Northeast Corridor route.
Last week, I left Lancaster very early and made my way to Columbia, PA where I picked up the Norfolk Southern Port Road line. In the morning glow, I found that home signal was lit ‘clear’ for a train movement toward Harrisburg. Expecting a train, I proceeded against it on the parallel highway to Washington Boro, PA, where I scoped a suitable location near a local park.
I waited for a few minutes, and soon heard the approaching freight.
I set up with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens and exposed this sequence of an NS empty coal train rolling up river.
Since the train wasn’t moving more than about 25 mph, I followed it along the adjacent highway. Stay tuned for more!
Last week Norfolk Southern hosted an event at its Harrisburg, Pennsylvania yard geared toward training first responders on the details of railroad cars and locomotives, and focused on how to handle a variety of different tank cars carrying hazardous materials.
Representing Trains Magazine, I accompanied Dan Cupper and Rich Roberts on invitation from the railroad.
We were met by Connor Spielmaker and Mike Pucci from NS Corporate Communications, who gave attending journalists a safety briefing.
“Everything at NS starts with safety.”
Key to the event was NS’s special assembled Operation Awareness & Response safety train than makes annual tours of the NS network.
We spent several hours observing the first responders and their trainers, with opportunities to ask questions and make photographs. While I gathered material that may be used in future articles.
I made these images using my Nikon Z6. Some of the telephoto views were exposed using my 1980s-vintage Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED manual focus fixed telephoto lens.
Special thanks to everyone at Norfolk Southern for making this event possible and to Dan Cupper for extending the invitation. His story on the Trains Newswire can be viewed through this link;
On our visit to Rockville Bridge last weekend, a few minutes after we caught a westward autorack train, we heard an eastward train approaching.
By this time, I’d swapped lenses and had my Z7-II set up with the 70-200mm zoom that I normally use with my Z6.
From our position near the boat launch on the west bank of the Susquehanna, I made this sequence of the second freight crossing Pennsyvlania Railroad’s iconic bridge—the third bridge at the this location.
Having lived in northern New Hampshire for several years, where freight trains are as rare as hens teeth, it was thrilling to see freights with almost no waiting time.
The ONE boxes on this double stack train reminded me of a day in Dublin about five years ago when I’d walked up to Cabra to catch the outbound IWT Liner that was carrying several of these hot-pink containers. That seems like a world away and a long time ago.
The famous Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge across the Susquehanna River is about an hour from our new home.
Saturday afternoon was clear and bright, so Kris and I made the short foray over to Harrisburg and north along the west bank of the river.
Thanks to our smart phones, navigating the turns off Interstate 81 and over to the bridge is now a relatively easy task. Back in the days of paper maps this had been a real challenge, because you have to make something like a double reverse figure eight up and over to get to the bridge.
Anyway, we arrived at the boat launch near the western piers of the great bridge, and within 30 seconds we heard a westbound Norfolk Southern freight coming. ‘Wow what perfect timing!’ I delighted at our good luck. A westbound in perfect light, and no waiting!
I reached for my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. Unfortunately, I discovered that the switch was already in the ‘on’ position, and found that I’d forgotten to turn the camera off after the previous evening’s photography. The batteries were flat. No electricity, no photos.
‘Oh no . . .but wait!’
As the train got closer, I reached for my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
Kris and I paid another visit to the former Pennsylvania Railroad bridges along the Susquehanna River at Safe Harbor, PA.
We have stopped here a couple of times before, but on this visit I wanted to take a look at the upper level bridge which now hosts the Enola Low Grade Trail.
A connecting trail has been built here to reach the high level trestle.
My challenge will be returning here at an appropriate time to catch a Norfolk Southern freight. Owing to a curfew on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor with which the NS line connects, most of its freight moves through here during the hours of darkness.
The bridges are very impressive and offer a great view of the Susquehanna and the Safe Harbor Dam. See the link below the photos for information the Low Grade Trail
Photos exposed using my Nikon Z7-II.
To learn more about the trail, click on the link below.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts New Material Daily!
With Norfolk Southern SD70ACe 1021 leading a heavy freight [train symbol 11Z] in our review mirror, we drove south on Highway 11 toward Nicholson, Pennsylvania—location of the famous Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct.
As regular readers of Tracking the Light are aware, in recent months Kris and I have made several visits to this momental vestige of the late, great, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.
From our earlier visits I had my spot picked out on a side road a little ways from the village. I wanted to arrive with ample time to get into position set up in to time to catch the train crossing the bridge.
Dappled sunlight filled the valley as we heard the freight approaching.
I made a sequence of digital images using my Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm lens. Five locomotives were in the lead with a lone DPU (locomotive set up as a radio controlled remote ‘distributed power unit’) toward the rear of the freight. [NS 11Z runs from East Binghamton, NY to Roanoke, Virginia via Enola, PA.]
Afterwards we drove back under the viaduct and paused at the visitor’s parking area where there is literature and photos of the bridge on display. Our dog Boomer got to stretch his legs and mark his spot. He was delighted, it was his first visit to the big bridge!
I wrote about the DL&W bridge in my book Railway Masterpieces (Krause 2003) The viaduct was designed by DL&W’s bridge engineer Abraham B. Cohen and completed in 1915. The late historian-photographer William S. Young researched and wrote extensively about this bridge and Lackawanna’s early 20th century line relocations. He had interviewed Cohen’s descendants. I met with Young on a couple of occasions while researching bridge projects.
Last Sunday, we exited Interstate 81 at New Milford, PA to get gas. This was the last leg in our big move, and our third drive from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania in the last month,
My plan was to follow old Route 11 toward Clark’s Summit. This avoids the traffic on I-81 and largely follows the old alignment of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western. In fact in many places Route 11 is built on the old right-of-way.
We had Boomer-the-Dog with us and this was his first trip to Pennsylvania.
As I was fueling the car, I heard the unmistakable roar of modern EMD diesels. It was a southward freight on the Lackawanna!
I concluded pumping gas before the tank was filled, and we headed south after the train.
Several miles south of New Milford, Route 11 runs adjacent to the Lackawanna, now operated by Norfolk Southern. We pulled over to roll the train by at milepost 637.
Here, Kris made a video with her phone, Boomer got to witness his first BIG freight train, and I exposed this sequence of digital photos.
Soon we were off after an even bigger prize . . . (stay tuned).
On Sunday (February 5, 2023), Kris and I briefly visited the old Reading Company station at Palmyra, Pennsylvania.
We crossed the tracks on Railroad Avenue and spied the headlight of an eastward freight. By the time I got the car safely stopped, the grade crossing gates were down.
Although, I made a series of hastily composed digital images of the passing Norfolk Southern freight, none were to my satisfaction.
So I returned to the same crossing on Monday (February 6, 2023) with a vision of recreating what I saw the previous day.
Norfolk Southern provided an eastward intermodal train at almost exactly the same time as the day before. This time I was prepared. I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens and adjusted the NEF (RAW) files in Adobe Lightroom for presentation here.
Google Maps makes it much easier to navigate to the west shore of the Susquehanna River at Marysville, Pennsylvania to reach the famed Rockville Bridge.
I recall pouring over maps in the 1980s, trying to locate the correct sequence of turns to get to River Road. The challenge of this location is that the path is indirect and the main highways running parallel to the river and railroad do not facilitate straight forward exits.
On my most recent visit, I followed Google Maps instructions to my map ‘pin’ situated at the westend of Rockville Bridge. I approached the bridge just as a Norfolk Southern freight was easing across the 48 stone arches.
I returned to the vantage point on the north side of the bridge that Kris and I had visited nearly a year ago. This allowed me to make a long telephoto view of the train and capture the dramatic sky to the east.
I’ve been photographing trains around Greenfield, Massachusetts for more than 40 years.
Sometimes there have been long waits. Sometimes I got lucky.
Saturday, Kris and I were driving south on I-91. I asked, “would you like to stop by East Deerfield Yard”
She said “ok!”, so we jumped off the Interstate at Route 2, and took the roundabout (traffic circle) and headed east. At that moment I saw containers rolling east on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg line.
“That’s 22K, the NS intermodal train”.
We zipped over to East Deerfield Yard—located railroad timetable east of Greenfield—where I had just enough time to make these photos using my new Nikon Z7-II.
Nothing fancy, but these are lucky shots. I was delighted!
I always like it when luck prevails!
With these ‘in the bag’, we drove to the Connecticut River bridge for more photos. Why waste a lucky day?
In August 2007 while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania, I made this late afternoon image of a Norfolk Southern RoadRailer intermodal train on former Reading Company tracks near the old railroad’s historic namesake.
A pair of NS DASH9-40CWs lead the train.
A few years after I made this Fujichrome color slide, Norfolk Southern discontinued most of its RoadRailer operations, including those in eastern Pennsylvania. It is one of only a few photos I have of NS operations near Reading, PA.
I wrote about Pennsylvania Railroad’s Rockville Bridge in my book Railway Masterpieces published in 2002.
“The third bridge at Rockville was started in 1900, and opened to traffic in 1902. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Rail Facts and Figures, as ‘the world’s largest stone arch railway bridge over a river’. It consists of 48 stone arch spans.”
Last month Kris and I paid a visit to the Rockville Bridge. As we approached this magnificent viaduct a westward Norfolk Southern freight was crawling across, yet we had arrived too late to catch the head end of the train on the bridge.
We decided to wait a little while to see if another freight would come along.
Finally after about 45 minutes, I could hear a GE diesel chugging away on the far side of the Susquehanna. As the train started across the bridge, the evening sun emerged from the clouds, producing some very fine light to photograph the train.
I exposed these photos with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens firmly mounted on my mid-1990s vintage Bogen tripod.
Last month during our brief visit to Lewistown, PA, we caught two trains, one right after the other. Just a few minutes after the westward Pennsylvanian made its station stop, this Norfolk Southern intermodal freight worked west through the interlocking.
In the lead was 4092, one of Norfolk Southern’s AC44C6M rebuilds. These were converted from traditional DC traction Dash9-40CW locomotives into poly-phase AC traction diesels.
Photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens and Lumix LX7.
In mid-November , this was the view looking west from our room at Gallitzin’s Tunnel Inn located adjacent to Norfolk Southern’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line near the tunnels under the Allegheny Divide.
I made this photo with my Nikon Z6 with f4.0 24-70mm zoom lens.
Kris & I spent two days and two nights at this excellent railroad themed bed & breakfast while exploring the old Main Line & environs.
I was impressed that some of my titles were on the shelf!
On our way east on Route 22 last November, Kris and I overtook a Norfolk Southern local freight with a GP40-2 slug set that was switching on a vestige of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Hollidaysburg, PA.
I made these digital photos working with my Nikon Z6 and 24-70 and 70-200mm zoom lenses.
In this November 2021 view at the World Famous Horse Shoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania, I pictured in classic fashion, a westward hopper train (empty coal train) climbing the Main Line toward Gallitzin.
Eighty-one years ago, we might have seen an equivalent scene with a pair of PRR L1s Mikados. Where Norfolk Southern has hundreds of GE Dash 9s, PRR had more than 500 2-8-2s.
I wonder what will be leading freights on the Curve in 2102?
The old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division is a favorite stretch of railroad.
I first visited this location on the heavily traveled east-west trunk route back in 1988 with my old pal TSH.
In November 2001, Mike Gardner and I were on a week-long photograph blitz of Pennsylvania and paused a Mifflin for a few hours to make photos of the action.
I exposed this Fujichrome color slide using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a 28mm Zeiss Biogon lens. The Zeiss lens was extremely sharp from corner to corner while offering exceptional color rendition.
After photographing Pan Am Southern’s eastward ED8 passing searchlight signals at Lake Pleasant (See Monday’s Post), the chase was on!
Kris Sabbatino and I rolled eastward after the 106 car freight as it ascended the grade up the valley of the Millers River.
At Millers Falls, Massachusetts, we paused at the overhead bridge near the center of town that spans both former Boston & Maine and Central Vermont lines (now operated by Pan Am Southern and New England Central respectively) for a dramatic photo looking into the the afternoon sun.
Working with my Nikon Z6, I made a sequence of coming and going photos as the train roared by.
Later, I adjusted exposure, contrast and color using Adobe Lightroom to make for more pleasing images.
We continued after the train making more photos along the way!
Working with ripe professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM), I made a series of photos of Norfolk Southern trains traversing the former Nickel Plate Road street trackage on 19th Street in Erie, Pennsylvania.
This was part of a great adventure with my pal TSH in the summer of 1988 that brought us to many fascinating places on the railroad.
Kodachrome was wonderful film, and PKM was among my favorite emulsions, but when used a little on the ripe side (too fresh) it shifted cyan (blue/green).
I scanned this slide the other day using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner then imported the high-res TIF scan into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.
Working with the sliders in the program, I made a host of small corrections to color, contrast, and exposure that improve the overall appearance of the photo while minimizing the effects of the cyan color cast.
I’ve included a scaled version of the unaltered scan; my adjusted scan, and one of the Lightroom work windows that shows some of the adjustments that I made during post processing.