Tag Archives: #Norfolk Southern

Making the Most of Locomotives in Bright Morning Sun

I consider this an excercise in composition. I had a few minutes last Thursday morning, so I went up to Leola, Pennsylvania to catch up with Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local.

The sun was bright and the clouds were just rolling in from the west. I made this sequence of photographs of the GP38-3 and SD40E that had paused by the old PRR depot along Horseshoe Road.

Over the last year, I’ve made a variety of railroad photos at this location. I like the concept of variation on a theme. Years ago I learned to make the most of good photographic situation, because you never know precisely the situation and composition that will best suit a photograph for publication.

Of this selection do you have any favorites? All were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II mirror-less digital camera.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 30mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/320th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 33mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 31mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/320th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 54mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 45mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/640th second. No adjustments to exposure or contrast.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 49mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/320th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Late Sun at Safe Harbor

Our new home is a relatively short drive from the former Pennsylvania Railroad bridges at Safe Harbor.

The cutoff to Parksburg was abandoned in the 1980s and has since been converted into the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail, while the old Port Road route along the east bank of the Susquehanna River is operated by Norfolk Southern.

I’ve previously described the challenges in catching trains on this route. Owning to a daylight hours curfew on through freights using Amtrak’s former PRR electrified mainlines, most freight over the old Port Road tends to pass at night.

However, in the long days of summer it is possible to catch freights on the move in daylight. So over the last week I’ve made two attempts to catch trains on this route. In both instances I waited out the daylight without a wheel turning.

On July 2nd, we visited Safe Harbor. I hiked up to the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail to scope angles and wait. The droning of the Safe Harbor dam made it difficult to hear if a train was approaching. In the hour I spent there, I exposed a variety of photos of the tracks, bridges, dam and river.

One of these days, I hope to see steel wheels rolling on these rails.

This bridge now carried the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail, which offers a commanding vantage point of the river, railroad and Safe Harbor dam.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Rural View Near Lancaster, PA.

For the last year, Kris and I have lived in an apartment at Greenfield in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. One of the great benefits of this location has been the proximity to both Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line and Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch.

A couple of weeks ago, as I went about my Sunday errands, I made this photo of the outbound NS local freight on its way east toward New Holland. I’ve photographed this run dozens of times since moving to Greenfield.

This week Kris and I bought a house. This offers many significant improvements to our standard of living including; an enclosed garage, lots of storage and office space, and a fully finished basement (already allocated for the latest interpretation of the Reading Company in HO Scale).

The new house is only 15 minutes from Greenfield, but will no longer be within earshot of the New Holland Branch. So while I may still seek out the New Holland local, it will require a bit more effort than during our Greenfield stay.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Running Errands

Sunday mornings are a great time to combine two activities; making trips to the grocery and catching photos of the local freight.

A few weeks ago, I missed Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local on its outward journey.

Not to worry, Kris and I caught up with it on the way to the supermarket in Leola.

It was a clear bright morning, and while the angle of the sun was contrasty, I feel that this photo captures the spirit of the New Holland Branch in one image.

I made a variety of modifications to the image in post processing to reduce contrast and improve detail.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

South Railroad Avenue—Part 2

New Holland, Pennsylvania has classic character. It is one of those towns where the railroad still serves local industry and remains an active part of the landscape. It is at the east end of Norfolk Southern’s former PRR railroad New Holland Branch.

On another recent visit, I made these photos along South Railroad Avenue in the evening light.

Kris spotted the TTX ‘Railbox’ Plate F boxcar on the siding located east of the grade crossing.

Photos exposed using Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Cola and a Coal Train

Cola Tower is located in Columbia, Pennsylvania along the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Port Road Branch near the junction with the Columbia Branch that ran from its namesake to Lancaster. The solid brick building has been closed for many years and retains its Conrail-era blue sign. Evidence of PRR’s electrification abounds, although electric operations were discontinued by Conrail more than 40 years ago. However, I can’t claim to be an authority on Cola or this section of the PRR, and I’ll welcome details about its operation and demise.

I’ve visited Columbia on a number of occasions, but until recently, I hadn’t photographed a train at this historically important railroad junction.

Part of the challenge is that Columbia is a difficult place to portray. There is a lot of trackage, but not many vantage points. The second problem is that most of the action occurs in the evening owing to an Amtrak aytime curfew on the North East Corridor, which effectively limits movements over connecting lines.

Now that we are into the long days its is easier to find trains on the move.

My friend Dan Cupper encouraged me to investigate opportunities on this route. Last year, I caught an empty coal train in the morning at Washingtonboro, a few miles to the south.

Now that we are back into the bright evenings I aimed to try again. So, a couple of weeks ago I drove to Cola Tower with Seamus-the-Dog, reaching there about 7:30pm. After a cursory inspection to check sun angles and signals, we set up near the old tower.

I noticed a group of teenagers with phone congregating near a grade crossing, then a young enthusiast showed up wearing a Nofolk Southern T-shirt. He let me know that I was in luck, and a coal train was enroute via the Royalton Branch.

Camera’s in hand I positioned myself in the shadow of the tower. Before long, we could hear the whistle of an approaching train.

I made a series of photos of the passing train as Seamus watched with interest from the safety of the car. Afterwards, my friend and fellow photographer Pat Yough supplied details about the train which was NS’s unit train number 590, running from Shire Oaks, Pa., to Baltimore.

With this success, I’m anticipating more adventures in the area and hope to learn more about photographing this portion of the former PRR.

Tracking the Light by Brian Solomon publishes Daily Explorations into Railroad Photography!

Coal Train in the Rain

Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I had spent a productive afternoon along the old PRR Middle Division. It was bright and sunny when we arrived, but thunderstorms had blown in from the west. What started as a sprinkle had rapidly turned into a raging Monsoon.

Looming out the deluge at Thomsontown, Pa., was this eastward Norfolk Southern loaded unit coal train.

I set the camera shutter to a 1/8000th of second to freeze the rain drops.

The rain had falling so heavily that we were beginning to worry about the highway flooding.

Although we took a slightly circuitous route we ended up following the train east to the famed Rockville Bridge. Stay tuned for more!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Deluge at Thompsontown

Thunderstorms from the west closed in on us as we drove east toward Thompsontown, Pa., on state highway 333.

It was raining so hard, I could barely see where we were driving. Seamus-the-Dog slept in the back of the car.

“What’s that yellow light?”

“I think it’s a signal . . . no wait . . .it’s a headlight!”

We pulled over near Norfolk Southern control point SIP 143.5 on the Pittsburgh Line at Thompsontown just as a westward intermodal train glided through the deluge unimpeded.

I stopped the car, ran to the back an opened the rear hatch. This provided me a modicum of shelter long enough to photograph the train.

This was some of the hardest rain I’ve ever seen. It was coming down more than 2 inches an hour and the road was beginning to flood.

I set my ISO to 1000, and exposed this sequence with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. You can see the individual rain drops in the enlarged images.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens set at 200mm. F2.8, 1/500th second, ISO 1000
Greatly enlarged section of the above photo. Notice the rain droplets.

I got completely soaked but did my best to keep the camera from getting total drenched.

It was raining too hard to drive, so we waited in the car for until the rain let up. It wasn’t long before we spied another light in the distance . . . .

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Freights rolling with backdrop of Tuscarora Ridge

The central Pennsylvanian setting near the village of Mexico offers a classic view looking east toward the Tuscarora Ridge, which can be photographed from a variety of angles.

In my earlier posts, I pictured Norfolk Southern freights from the north side of the Underpass Road grade crossing.

As the light changed and thunderstorms approached from the West, Kris and I took positions on the south side of the grade crossing. It began to rain lightly (but heavier rain was coming!)

A westward empty coal train rolled by. This was exceptionally long and featured a mid-train DPU (radio remote controlled locomotives working as ‘distributed power units’).

Not long after this train had gone, an east ward train could be heard. This was slowing for an ‘approach’ aspect. Its relatively casually speed made it easy to photograph. At the back was a single EMD diesel working as a DPU.

These photos were made with my pair of Nikon Z-series mirror-less digital cameras.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Norfolk Southern on the Main Line

Just a few minutes after the westward freight pictured in yesterday’s TTL post passed Underpass Road in Mexico, Pa., when my Sixth Sense (common to veteran rail-photographers) tingled.

“There’s an eastbound.”

I walked across the crossing with my Z6 with 70-200mm in hand and ample time before this approaching train came around the bend. I set up from a safe distance while, Kris made photos from the south side of the tracks.

Nikon Z6 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom lens set to: 200mm, f4.0, 1/500th sec, ISO 200.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Railroad Avenue

In the June 2024 Trains Magazine, photographer Eric Williams has an intriguing photo essay on ‘Railroad Streets.’

Following this theme, last week, I made these photos on South Railroad Avenue in New Holland, Pennsylvania.

Road traffic is light in the early evening, which made for a good time for New Holland vignettes. Unfortunately, catching a train here has proved elusive for me. I’ve seen Norfolk Southern’s local working this end of the branch a few times, but thus far I’ve not had the opportunity to picture it on the crossing.

Nikkor Z-series 70-200mm zoom set to 200mm
Nikkor Z-series 70-200mm zoom set to 175mm

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

135mm Views of SD40E 6342

I was looking for angles with my Nikkor f2.0 prime 135mm telephoto.

I was aiming to find subjects that suited this lens, rather than the other way around.

Kris and I crossed the tracks at Jefferson Drive near our apartment and spotted a headlight: Norfolk Southern 6342 (originally Conrail 6753) was leading the local freight returning from New Holland, PA.

We paused long enough for me to expose these views of the classic EMD on the move!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Norfolk Southern at Leola—Variations on a Theme

A cloudless bright morning; the perfect time to picture Norfolk Southern’s New Holland branch local by the old station in Leola, Pennsylvania.

I made three similar photographs using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens. In all three I had the lens set to 200mm at f5.6. The difference between them is in the framing with minor changes to the composition.

Which of these stands out from the other two?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Surprise on Norfolk Southern’s Steelton Local

I spied a pair of Norfolk Southern’s SD40E working west with the Steelton Local near the old Harris Tower. In the distance were the train sheds of Amtrak’s Harrisburg Station. I saw relics everywhere! And yet, the pending surprise was something new.

In this short freight’s consist were several nearly new Norfolk Southern gondolas. These days, seeing new Class-1 carload freight cars is a real rarity. I wonder . . . when was the last time I photographed a new gon?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Clear Morning and Cows near Hartman Station Road.

I’m always searching for an angle.

On many occasions over the last year as I drove toward Leola, Pennsylvania, on the Horseshoe Road, I’ve looked across this field toward the New Holland Branch.

In some instances, I was pacing Norfolk Southern’s morning local on its way east on the branch.

A few weeks ago, I had a near perfect morning; clear and bright with cows in the field. On this day, I was ahead of the local freight by a minute or two. So, I pulled over with enough time to walk across the road to my preselected location and expose these telephoto views looking toward Hartman Station Road using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Double Stacks rolling west off the old Reading

The Harrisburg area is a maze of trackage, which is alive with freight and passenger movements. Among the of the busiest lines is Norfolk Southern’s former Reading Company route (operated as its Harrisburg Line), which joins the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line route (operated as NS’s Pittsburgh Line) near Amtrak’s former PRR passenger station in Harrisburg, PA.

This route carries the lion’s share of east-west freight moving through Harrisburg, specifically traffic moving to the New York City and Philadelphia metro areas.

Prior to routing and infrastructure changes in the Conrail-era, the majority of freight coming east on the PRR route, continued east of Harrisburg on former PRR routes. Traditionally, the junction between PRR and Reading lines at this location was a relatively minor connection between the historic railroad systems.

It was a warm Tuesday in early April, when I made these photographs of a westward NS double stack container train from the Mulberry Street Bridge railroad-east of Amtrak’s former PRR Station. This freight is making the transition from the old Reading to the old PRR route.

Images exposed using a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens, files adjusted in Lightroom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

NS Reflections in a Pond

Last week, following days of rain, we had a crisp, clear, bright morning in Lancaster, PA. The grass was iridescent and the trees blossoming.

I timed my morning errands to bring me to the Greenfield Road crossing just about the time that Norfolk Southern’s New Holland local heads east on the old New Holland Branch.

Knowing the freight was on the move, I drove to Jefferson Drive, where the little pond by the tracks had been tidied-up over the winter, and which made for a nice place to picture the train as it came around a tight bend beneath Hwy 30.

The sun was perfect and my wait was very short. I made thise sequence of photos using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm zoom and was home before the train had reached Leola!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

A brief look at the old Lebanon Valley Branch.

The portion of the former Reading Company’s Lebanon Valley Branch/Crossline running between Reading and Harrisburg, PA is now operated by Norfolk Southern as the western end of its Harrisburg Line.

Since the Conrail-era, this route has hosted the lion’s share of through freights moving east of Harrisburg toward the New York City and Philadelphia metro areas.

This heavily built line is signaled for two-main tracks [bi-directional signaling allows moves on signal indication in both directions on either track].

Although conceptually interesting, I’ve found this to be a difficult route to photograph effectively.

Last Saturday, Kris and I were exploring the area and visited the town of Richland, Pa., which is bisected by NS’s Harrisburg Line. Shortly after we parked east of the main crossing, I heard a roar to the west.

“There’s a freight coming.”

Kris made a video with her phone, and I exposed a sequence of photos using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens and Lumix LX3.

This was an impressive mixed carload freight. Following the lead locomotives were 136 cars and a single-engine DPU (distributed power unit) at the back.

The view at Richland was hardly the magnificent vista offered by the famous Horseshoe Curve, but it was a neat place to roll a train by.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Conrail Heritage Unit on the Move!

We were at the right place at the right time.

As Norfolk Southern’s unit coal train 632 rolled through Sunbury, Pa., on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Northern Central route, Kris and I chased along on the parallel Rt 147.

On the way north we’d spotted several open locations right off the road. By the time we reached the south side of Sunbury, we were already a couple of minutes ahead of the train, so we pulled off the road near mile post 260.

While I was surprised to catch a coal train on the move, and delighted to have stumbled into NS’s one-of-a-kind Conrail heritage unit No. 8098, I didn’t realise how infrequently Clearfield-originated coal trains are these days.

At milepost 260, I aimed to make some representative photos of the locomotive in nice light. At our next location about 17 miles further down the line, I hoped to make the most of the sweeping curve that Kris and I spotted on our drive northward earlier in the day.

We timed the exercise well and had time to make nice sequences at both locations. Special thanks to Dan Cupper for operational details on the coal train!

Sunny Morning at Creek Hill Road

A ten minute drive will take me to the Creek Hill Road crossing of Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch.

I’d been eyeing this location for a few months. Finally on a bright morning, I timed it right to catch the New Holland local freight with a pair of SD40E (former SD50) diesels in classic three-quarter sunlight.

I exposed a couple of Provia 100F color slides, which I am waiting to be returned from the lab. Then I used my Nikon Z7-II to make a series of images of the passing train.

These are part of my ongoing Conrail SD50 retrospective. These locomotives were built between 1983 and 1986, the first of which were delivered during my senior year at Monson Jr-Sr High School. I think it’s really neat that these familiar aged beasts regularly pass near my new home.

Nothing lasts forever, and I wonder how much longer I’ll have the opportunity to catch the old Conrail locomotives on the move!

Fine Morning at Jefferson Drive

This is the sequel to ‘Look Ma No Pans’—published on Tracking the Light the other day. (http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/look-ma-no-pans/)

It was a fine morning, making it one of rare few bright sunny days as of late.

I’d scoped the local railroad scene, and was in position at Jefferson Drive at Greenfield in Lancaster, Pa., to make a few photos of Norfolk Southern’s daily New Holland Branch freight.

I had an ulterior motive. My old Nikon F3 was loaded with Provia100F, and I’d been waiting for a fine day to finish off the roll that had been in the camera since Thanksgiving.

Film is expensive and I didn’t want to squander it. But with a clear sky and a train nearby, I felt this was a good opportunity to make a few nice color slides.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, while waiting for Norfolk Southern’s freight to come around the bend, much to my surprise on the nearby Harrisburg Line, a late-running Amtrak Keystone zipped by with a diesel in the lead.

The crew of the New Holland local takes it very slow approaching Jefferson Drive, which provides ample opportunity to work with multiple cameras. I made these photos digitally with my Nikon Z7-II, while also exposing slides with my antique F3.

As this being written the slide film is enroute to the lab! But, It will be at least another ten days before I can see my processed results from the F3. Fingers crossed that I got my exposures right!

Norfolk Southern SD40Es 6335 and 6312 lead the eastward New Holland Branch local at Jefferson Drive. Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.
I like the juxtaposition of antique General Motors products. Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

Since there was nice light and a train on the move, I zipped down the road for another set of photos . . .

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Foggy Morning at Willow Road.

A thick fog blanketed the landscape in Lancaster on St Stephens Day, or Boxing Day, or if you like, ‘the day after Christmas.’

Fog transmits sound with great clarity.

I’d stopped at the local Post Office, when I heard Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local whistling for a nearby crossing. I postponed my errand, and drove to the Willow Road grade crossing.

On a sunny morning, the westside of the crossing would be fiercely backlit, but the heavy fog allowed for a view with the distant farm with softer contrast. Compare these images from the view I posted a few days ago (http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/grab-shot-on-the-new-holland-secondary/ ).

The point of the comparison is to show how to use different lighting conditions to the greatest advantage, and make the best photo depending on prevaling conditions.

I made the December 26th photos from the side of the road using my Nikon Z7-II. I cropped the files to improve the composition, while making adjustments to highlight and shadow detail and color temperature.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Grab Shot on the New Holland Secondary

I was running errands. On my way back to the apartment, I found that Greenfield Road under Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line was closed—likely as result of flooding from the recent rains—so I detoured around via Willow Road. On my way, I heard Norfolk Southern’s New Holland local sounding for a crossing.

I approached Willow Road (in greater Lancaster) with haste. With my Lumix LX7 in hand, I pulled over in time to see theNS local freight approaching. I didn’t have much time to set the camera. So, I zoomed in, framed up my photo and exposed a series of digital images.

The first two were the best.

When I got home I discovered that the camera was set to record in JPG rather than RAW. That’s not the end of the world, but not having a RAW file greatly limits the ability to make adjustments.

In this case, it doesn’t matter much, December morning sun produces excellent lighting conditions with very good contrast and color.

I’ve scaled the best of the sequence for presentation here, but the photo is otherwise unaltered, and appears basically as it looked right out of the camera.

I was home about 5 minutes after I made this photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

New Holland Local at New Holland

It was a bright day in mid-October. Not wanting to squander the sunshine, I set out toward New Holland, PA hoping to catch the daily Norfolk Southern local freight that works the branch.

I set up at the New Holland, Post Office at Diller Avenue, and after a short wait the local ambled along on its westward run toward Lancaster.

To make the most of the passing train, I made my initial images from a low angle for dramatic effect.

Exposed using a Z7-II with 24-70mm zoom lens.
Exposed using a Z7-II with 24-70mm zoom lens.
Exposed using a Z7-II with 24-70mm zoom lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Stack Train at Tyrone

It had been about 20 years since my last visit to the Main Line at Tyrone, Pennsylvania, where Norfolk Southern’s former Pennsylvania Railroad tracks make a sharp curve through the narrow valley along the Little Juniata River the south end of town.

Last month, Kris and I pulled up to theTyrone Amtrak station, and when I stepped out of the car I could hear the distant sounds of General Electric diesels chugging east.

We didn’t have long to wait and soon a headlight appeared.

Working with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom, I made this series of photos. Telephoto compression in the tight curve at the station makes it look like I was much closer to the tracks that I really was.

Auto focus made it much easier to keep the locomotives looking sharp.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Wee Lumix Score at Greenfield Road

I was on my way back from the grocery. I’d spotted Norfolk Southern’s outbound New Holland Branch local paused on the running track near the junction with Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line east of the Conestoga River bridge in Harrisburg.

On the hope of finally scoring a photo of a train at the Greenfield Road grade crossing near our apartment, I drove there without delay.

Since we moved to Lancaster last Spring, I’ve been over this grade crossing dozens of times. Only once had I a seen the train here. Kris had made a video, but I hadn’t time to get the photo I want. Most mornings, I hear the New Holland branch train whistling for the crossing, and on several occasions I’ve waited on spec. On this day, all the pieces fell into place.

While the big gun (Nikon Z6) was equipped with an impressive telephoto zoom, what I needed was a wide angle. Luckily, I had my ‘Wee Lumix’ (Lumix LX7) in my pocket at the ready.

This convenient small camera has a great sensor and an extremely sharp lens. The challenge using it in bright sun is seeing the image in the rear screen. Despite this handicap, I made the most of the situation and exposed two images as the local freight crossed Greenfield Road on its way to New Holland.

I have my LX7 set up to simultaneously save exposed photos as RAW and JPG files. In this situation, the JPG’s were profiled using the camera’s color preset mode: ‘Standard’. (Other choices include: ‘Vivid,’ ‘Natural’ and ‘Portrait’). Below I’ve displayed both the in-camera Jpg and a scaled version of the RAW file for comparison. There’s no right and wrong, which is why I always save the files in both formats.

Scaled RAW file, no profile or adjustments.
In-camera JPG with ‘Standard’ color profile. FIle scaled without adjustment to color, exposure or contrast.
Scaled RAW file, adjusted for level, but not color, contrast or exposure.
In-camera JPG with ‘Standard’ color profile. FIle scaled without adjustment to color, exposure or contrast.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Norfolk Southern SD40E 6340 on the New Holland Branch.

I was on my way to intercept Amtrak’s westward Pennsylvanian. As I cautiously approached the Jefferson Road grade crossing in Lancaster, I looked left and spotted the headlight of Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local freight in the distance.

That’s some good luck! I had enough time to park the car and pick my spot.

In the lead was Norfolk Southern SD40E 6340—another former Conrail SD50. In its original incarnation, this had been Conrail 6722.

It’s great to live in a neighborhood where you can see trains at random times, and find them by happen-stance.

Now to find that photo of 6722 in blue!

These photos were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Clear Morning at Jefferson Drive

Clear autumn mornings are one of my favorite times to make photographs.

The other day, everything came together: the weather was perfect, and Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local was right on time. This featured classic EMD diesels back to back, and I had just enough time to get into position at Jefferson Drive to catch the train in lush setting.

I made this sequence of photos as the train squealed through the curve on its way toward New Holland, Pennsylvania.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 46mm; f5.0 1/1000th sec, ISO 200.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; f5.0 1/800th sec, ISO 200.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 30mm; f5.0 1/800th sec, ISO 200.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 32mm; f5.0 1/800th sec, ISO 200.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Leola and the Local

Over the last few months, I’ve paid several visits to the old station at Leola, Pennsylvania on the old PRR New Holland Branch. In 1914, there were two scheduled passenger trains in each direction on the branch that stopped at Leola.

Westward trains from Downingtown stopped at 950am and 358pm, while eastward trains from Lancaster stopped at 530 and 1110am. The line no longer goes east of New Holland, the passenger trains are long gone, and these days train movements are fewer and less predictable.

So while I’ve made few photos of freight on the branch, until last week, I hadn’t managed to catch a train at the old station .

I was delighted to find that Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local had stopped just short of the Maple Ave grade crossing by the station, and I parked and made these photos using my Nikon Z7-II.

Although this location is nice and open, high-voltage electric lines run parallel to the railroad which make for a compositional challenge.

Is it better to try to exclude or minimize the lines, or accept them as part of the environment and include them in the photographs?

Of the three photos, I like this low-angle view the best.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

NS Local at Horseshoe Road

Leaving the supermarket, I heard an engine sounding for Greenfield Road.

It was about the time I normally hear Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local heads toward its Pennsylvania namesake.

I drove via Hartman Station Road and spotted the train with an NS SD40E running long-hood first.

Turning onto Horseshoe Road, I continued in the direction of the local freight’s eastward path.

I arrived at the Horseshoe Road grade crossing with enough time to set up a shot looking across freshly mowed grass.

That’s old Conrail SD50 number 6729 (built in 1983), reincarnated as Norfolk Southern SD40E 6312!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

New Holland Vignettes

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.

An Amish buggy passes the old Leola, PA station.
NS H29 Local freight in New Holland, PA. Nikon Z6 with f2.8 Nikkor 180mm telephoto.
NS H29 Local freight in New Holland, PA. Nikon Z6 with f2.8 Nikkor 180mm telephoto. A wink of sun makes the photo.
NS H29 at Diller Avenue in New Holland. Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

Sunday on the Branch with Tracking the Light!

Hartman Station Road on the New Holland Secondary.

While runing a few errands, I found Norfolk Southern’s H29 local working its outbound run on the New Holland Secondary.

Leading the train was Norfolk Southern SD40E 6307 (originally an SD50) , which was making quite a show of climbing the short grade away from Greenfield in Lancaster, PA.

I zipped up to Hartman Station Road for a few quick photos using my Lumix LX7.

Step back a century and imagine this was one of PRR’s H10s 2-8-0 Consolidations. Now that would have been cool.

NS H29 working east at Hartman Station Road, Lancaster, PA. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Score on the New Holland Secondary

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!

Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Norfolk Southern’s Royalton Branch

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.

NS coal empties at Royalton, PA. Exposed with a Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED fixed telephoto.
NS coal empties at Royalton, PA. Exposed with a Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED fixed telephoto.
Lumix LX7 photo at milepost 11 in Royalton, PA.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

NS Coal Empties on the Port Road Branch

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!

Former Pennsylvania Railroad electrified line at Columbia, PA. A high dew point made it difficult to keep the front element of my lens from misting over.
In many places the road, the railroad and the Susquehanna River run adjacent to one another. The classic catenary supports visually identify the line as the former Pennsylvania Railroad.
After just a short wait, this Norfolk Southern empty coal train came into view at Washington Boro, PA.
Soft morning light on the coal train made for a classic view.
This wideangle photo is at the same location in Washington Boro.
Trailing view at Washington Boro, PA.
View of the hoppers from Washington Boro Park rolling along from the opposite side of Highway 441.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Norfolk Southern’s First Responder Training Event

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.

Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED telephoto lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED telephoto lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED telephoto lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED telephoto lens.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom lens. Interior view of a tank car set up with a passage designed to demonstrate the construction of the car.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom 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;

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily!