Tag Archives: PCC streetcar

Through the Streets of Brussels.

My experience with the Brussels tram network spans nearly twenty years. This fascinating railway network involves a complex route structure with lots of track and several different types of trams.

Street photography has its fair share of challenges. Automobiles and pedestrians mingle with trams in ways that make it difficult to set up shots.

Further complicating matters is the sedate shades of silver and bronze now favoured by STIB (the transit operator), which I find difficult to photograph satisfactorily.

However, in addition to the regular tram livery are a large number of specially painted advertising trams and a handful of old PCCs in the earlier yellow livery, which certainly add a bit of colour to the fleet.

These photos were all exposed during one afternoon in late March 2015.












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San Francisco PCC in Kansas City Colors—Daily Post

 Embarcadero May 2008

I was on the San Francisco Embarcadero in May 2008. A very thing fog was tempering the morning sun. Using my Canon EOS 3 with 24mm lens, I exposed this view of Muni PCC dressed for Kansas City Public Service working the ‘F-line.’ The similarity in the colors of the car and buildings in the background works well in the soft morning sun, while the wide angle views places the streetcar in its environment. I like the way the wires and tracks frame the car. San Francisco operates a fleet of historic streetcars, many of them PCC dressed in the liveries used by cities that had operated PCCs. Would another color car have worked as well in this scene?
San Francisco operates a fleet of historic streetcars, many of them PCC dressed in the liveries used by cities that had operated PCCs. Would another color car have worked as well in this scene?

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MBTA Sunday October 27, 2013—Part 1

Boston, Revisited.

MBTA train.
A Franklin Line train works outbound through a super-elevated curve on the former New Haven Railroad at Hyde Park, Boston on October 27, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

In the 1970s and 1980s, I spent many of my formative years in railway photography exploring greater Boston. My family lived in Newton Center from 1969 to 1973, while after that my father worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I have early memories of riding Green Line PCC cars, watching Penn-Central commuter trains from Star Market (positioned over the Mass-Pike with a view of the parallel Boston & Albany line) as well as later experiences exploring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s transit and suburban railway lines.

As my photography improved and matured and my interest in railways developed, I explored and photographed operations ever farther from those of my earliest days.

In recent years, trips to Boston have largely been focused on Logan Airport, and I’ve made only occasional photographs in the city. Most of my recent MBTA photographs have been exposed either at South Station or at the periphery of the commuter rail network.

Without exaggeration, I can say that today I’m more familiar with Dublin, London, Philadelphia Chicago and San Francisco than I am with Boston.

MBTA allows and encourages photography as this sign on the Mattapan-Ashmont Line reveals. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA allows and encourages photography as this sign on the Mattapan-Ashmont Line reveals. Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.

Thanks to Tim Doherty, on Sunday October 27, 2013, I was reacquainted with aspects of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in and around Boston, some of which I hadn’t seriously photographed in nearly 20 years. A bright day, fall foliage, and Tim’s detailed knowledge of Boston aided our marathon photographic journey. These are among my results:

A vintage PCC car works toward Ashmont on the Red Line’s Mattapan-Ashmont High Speed line. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Mattapan-Ashmont Line’s PCC’s have been painted in classic ‘traction orange’ similar to the scheme worn by Boston streetcars in the 1940s and 1950s. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Trailing view of a PCC streetcar at Milton, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
MBTA is news in Boston. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA is news in Boston. Lumix LX3 photo.
An inbound MBTA train on the Boston & Albany pauses at Auburndale for a station stop. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Bound for South Station, an MBTA train accelerates eastward along the Mass-Pike at Auburndale, Massachusetts. Mass-Pike used part of the B&A right of way when it was extended to Boston in the 1960s. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
An outbound MBTA train pauses at West Newton along the Mass-Pike. Lumix LX3 photo.

More Boston photos in tomorrow’s Tracking the Light post!

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution MBTA and other commuter rail networks.

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Trams of Gent—Part 1


Narrow Gauge Railway Among Stunning Architecture.

Gent (sometimes spelled on maps as ‘Ghent’) is a moderately sized Belgian city with remarkable beautiful architecture. You’ve probably heard lots about nearby Brugge. I visited that city in 1999. Last week, on recommendation of friends, I traveled to Gent, which I found vastly more interesting and photogenic.

Gent’s narrow gauge tram system navigates the some of the most unusual trackage I’ve ever seen, while the city’s buildings and canals make for stunning settings for which to make photographs.

Tram, Gent
Modern tram glides along the streets of Gent, Belgium. Canon EOS 7D photo.
PCC cars in Gent.
Gent’s older trams are 1970s era PCC (Presidents Conference Committee) cars based on American designs. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Gent, Belgium.
Curiously sinuous trackage makes for some interesting images. Canon EOS 7D photo.
A maze of tracks makes for curious operations.
A maze of tracks makes for curious operations.
Gent, Belgium.
A De Lijn tram crosses a canal in historic Gent. Canon EOS 7D photo.



The question may be asked: does the city provide a backdrop for trams, or rather, do the trams augment photos of the city?

The best to come . . .


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SEPTA’s Number 15 Streetcar


PCC’s on Girard Avenue, July 3, 2013.

In 2005, SEPTA re-introduced regular streetcar service to its number 15 route along Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue using historic President Conference Committee (PCC) trolley cars. These are painted in the old Philadelphia Transportation Company’s livery, which ads class to the service.

SEPTA 15 streetcar.
SEPTA’s number 15 Streetcar makes the corner at 26th and Poplar Streets in Philadelphia. Lumix LX3 photo.

My brother Sean lives just a few blocks from Girard Avenue, and on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, we made a project of photographing the cars in service. While on previous trips we’ve gone for a spin, this time we drove, allowing me to make the maximum number of photos in just a limited time. We’ll take another spin on another day soon!

While SEPTA’s Route 15 seems to run on 10-15 minute intervals, not every service has a PCC. At least one of the runs was provided by a bus. I made an image of this as well because I’ve learned from my study of railways, that it is best to photograph everything and sort out the wheat from the chaff at a later date. (In other words don’t judge your subject).

SEPTA Bus on 15 Route.
While anticipating a PCC I was surprise to see that SEPTA was providing some the 15 services with buses. Yet, this is part of the story, so I made an image of the bus too. A streetcar was not far behind. Lumix LX3 photo.
PCC car in Philadelphia.
This is the PCC that followed the bus. Patience paid off. Lumix LX3 photo.
PCC cars in Philadelphia.
SEPTA PCC cars on Girard Avenue cross Broad Street on July 3, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

This trip, I made digital images with my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D. On previous trips I’ve photographed the Route 15 in black & white using a Leica M4, and made color slides using my Nikons and Canon EOS 3.

PCC car in Philadelphia.
Instead of the destination, this PCC promotes the Philadelphia Phillies. Lumix LX3 photo.
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San Francisco Muni F-Line, May 2008


PCC Streetcar painted for Pacific Electric passes the Ferry Building.

PCC car San Francisco
Exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Canon EOS 3 fitted with a 24mm lens.

San Francisco Muni’s F-Line route operates with a variety of vintage streetcars, including streamlined PCC cars painted in various historic liveries to represent systems that originally operated these cars.

Popular with tourists and residents alike, the vintage cars are fun to ride and photograph. Unlike most modern transit, the F-Line offers continual variety, with different cars operating from day to day.

In May 2008, I made this photograph of PCC 1061 dressed for Pacific Electric in front of the restored Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Embarcedero. Originally built for Philadelphia, this was among the cars acquired for operation in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Some restoration work for out-of-service heritage cars has been done by the Market Street Railway (volunteer support group for Muni’s historic rail lines ); these are turned over to Muni when restoration nears the point where cars are ready for revenue service.


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Brussels at Night; March 2013


When I was visiting Brussels last weekend, I made a series of nocturnal images of the city and its transport. Below are a few of my favorites.

Brussels Central Station
Brussels Central Station is largely below street level. Access to the platforms is via this modern ground level building. I exposed this image on the evening of March 22, 2013 using my Lumix LX3 set at ISO 80 in ‘A’ (aperture) mode with a +2/3 exposure over-ride (to compensate for the night sky and highlights from streetlights). The final exposure was f2.8 at 1 1/3 seconds.
Tram at night.
Sometimes it’s best to take an opportunistic approach to urban photography. I made this grab-shot with my Canon EOS 7D (fitted 28-135mm lens set at 5000 ISO) from the front seat of a Citroen Picasso paused at a set of traffic lights. Panning the tram using slow shutter speed minimizes the visual defects caused by shooting through a car window. The combination of twilight, streetlights, and motion make for a surrealistic image.
A Brussels PCC tram glides along at dusk on March 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 28-135mm, set at ISO 5000 f3.5 1/30 second.
A Brussels PCC tram glides along at dusk on March 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 28-135mm, set at ISO 5000 f3.5 1/30 second.
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