On directional double track, trains proceed on signal indication in the current of traffic. On Two Main track, both tracks are signaled in both directions, which allows trains to proceed on either track in either direction on signal indication.
Last week, I made these views of the westward Amtrak Keystone train 647 on the close track at Leaman Place, PA. From what I could ascertain, it had run around another train on the far track near Parkesburg.
While this move was fully signaled, I thought it was comparatively unusual in that it was the first time I’d seen a regularly scheduled Amtrak westbound using the near track at this location. This made for photo opportunities that I might not have considered if the train was on the far track.
I made this motor drive sequence using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.
In its day, the Budd-Metroliner was America’s answer to the Japanese Shinkansen. This fast electric train (MP85) was built for Pennsylvania Railroad and some briefly carried PRR-Keystone heralds before Penn-Central assumed operations of PRR’s lines in 1968. The Metroliner service was introduced using the Metroliner cars in the early years of Penn Central.
In 1971, Amtrak assumed operation of the Metroliner and continued to use the former PRR/PC trains for fast services on the former PRR between New York and Washington D.C.
The Metroliner body style was the basis for the Budd-built Amfleet cars that were introduced in the mid-1970s, and which remain standard for many Amtrak trains today.
Amtrak later assigned locomotive hauled Amfleet consists to its Metroliner services. In their waining years as self-propelled electric trains the former Metroliner train sets worked Amtrak Keystone services to Harrisburg.
Today, some of the much modified old Metroliner cab cars survive on Amtrak’s five-car push-pull sets, many of which are assigned as standard consists to the New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg Keystone trains. Until 2014, these consists also routinely worked the Vermonter when it was still routed via Palmer, Massachusetts.
I made these views of Amtrak’s former Metroliner cab cars passing Gap, Pa., a couple of week ago.
We found a shady place to park in Harrisburg’s Fort Hunter Mansion Park over looking Norfolk Southern’s Rockville Bridge.
We were hoping to catch a coal train. Instead, an eastward autorack freight came rolling across the bridge. As this was passing, a second an eastward train crossed the bridge on an adjacent track—and was blocked from view by the autoracks.
I made this view using my Z7-II fitted with a 70-200mm lens.
Staying in the shade of the trees in the park helped to reduce flare from the sun in the western sky.
There aren’t too many place in the United States where you can pull up to a rural grade crossing on a Monday and roll by a steam locomotive .
That’s just what I did the other day on my drive through Strasburg.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7. The scene is timeless. Consider; a Mogul type hauling wooden-body passenger cars, and there no wires, no automobiles, no cell-phones . . . well all that is all behind me-literally.
In June 2009, I made my first visit to the former Philadelphia & Reading arched bridge over the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, Pa.
At that stage, I was still using film exclusively, and using my Canon EOS-3 loaded with Fujichrome, I made some photos of the bridge sans train.
Kris and I paid another visit to the bridge in March of 2022, Again, I made photos of the arches, but no luck catching anything on the move.
Toward the end of July, I made my third visit. This time fortune favored me. Not long after I parked on South Front Street, I heard a horn to the west and soon an eastward Norfolk Southern train came rolling across the arches.
I made these images using my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z6 cameras.
I had the Z6 set up with my 1980s-era Nikkor f2.8 180mm prime telephoto. While a very sharp lens, this is operated manually, which makes focusing a little tricky.
Two weeks ago, Kris and I accompanied Wayne Duffett of TEC Associates on a detailed tour of railroad equipment, artifacts and models displayed at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.
This is just a great place. I’m never bored amoung the beautifully restored and displayed engines and cars. Everytime I visit, I find something I’d never seen before. and I can never tire of seeing a magnificent GG1 electric dressed in the classic Loewy stripes. (And recall the New Year’s morning 43 years ago, when my dad, brother and I inspected this very same GG1 on the ready tracks at New Haven, Connecticut.)
We spend several hours gazing in awe at all the great relics of railroading past.
The airbrake training car was a real treat. I never knew that this restored in fully operational condition!
Somehow, I made more than 300 photos, working with my Nikon Z6 and Kris’s Fujifilm XT4.
I made a bunch of side by side comparisons between the Nikon and Fuji cameras, but I’ll display those images in a future post.
Last Thursday morning, I photographed four trains in 45 minutes. Three were scheduled.
I caught eastward and westward Amtrak Keystone trains at Gap, Pennsylvania, then made a short drive over to the Strasburg Rail Road, where I waited for the 10am scheduled excursion to Leaman Place. As this steam hauled train approached Blackhorse Road, I could hear a second horn to the west.
I surmised that Strasburg’s local freight might be following the excursion. My guess was close; Strasburg’s SW8 diesel was leading a ballast hopper toward Leaman Place where it would clear for the excursion to return.
I can’t recall any time in the recent past in America where I caught electric, steam and diesel trains over such a short span of time.
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.
The village of Wanamaker, Pennsylvania reminds me of rural German villages in north Central Germany.
I exposed these photos with my Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras on our visit to the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern a couple of weeks ago.
The pastoral former Reading Company Lehigh & Schuylkill branch makes for a lovely setting. Although it isn’t very long, the WK&S is a lovely tourist line with rural charm and a laid back operation reminiscent of branchline railroading of another generation.
Their little World War II era GE seemed a bit out of scale compared with the former Lackawanna coach it was hauling, but the train made for an interesting subject.
I wonder what it will be like in Wanamaker in another 60 years? WK&S celebrates it’s 60th anniverary of operation in September!
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!
Owing to its lineage along the route of Pennsylvania’s original Main Line of Public Works, the former Pennsylvania Railroad trunk is known as ‘The Main Line’. This historic route runs just a few blocks from our new home.
Last week our friend Wayne Duffett-TEC Associate’s Bridge Inspector and Conway Scenic Railroad steam locomotive engineer (and Tracking the Light reader) visited Kris and I in Lancaster, PA.
After dinner at the Outback Steakhouse, we brought Wayne on a short tour of the railroad, hitting several highlights of the old Main Line.
Using the ASM.transitdocs.com Amtrak realtime phone app, we were able to time the passage of an eastward Amtrak Keystone to just a few minutes, and watched the train zip by at nearly 90mph.
Over the last month of so, Kris and I have paid weekly visits to Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road to observe and photograph their trains.
During this time, former Canadian National Mogul-type 89 has been the star attraction. However, on Friday, we observed the 5 and 7pm trains that ran with former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 number 475.
I really like the way this locomotive looks and sounds. It had a long tapered boiler and smoke box that gives it a classic appearance, while its whistle makes a low mournful cry that stirs a vision of the past.
We waited at Esbenshade road for the return of the 7pm train, listening to the engine work upgrade and sound for the crossings.
I made this sequence of photos with my Nikon Z digital cameras as the train approached.
On February 27, 2021, I posted ‘Reading Company 2102 Location Unknown’, that featured a photograph my father made back in May 1963. Previously, I’d run this photo across the gutter as an opening spread in my book Locomotive (published by MBI in 2001).
At the time I was preparing the book, I quizzed my Dad about the location of the photo, and he was unable to recall the details, except that it was a Reading Iron Horse Ramble ‘somewhere in Pennsylvania’.
In the two and half two years since I first posted “Reading Company 2102 Location Unknown” on Tracking the Light, I’ve received considerable response regarding the location of the photo.
In the meantime, I built an HO-model railroad based on the Reading (my ‘Wee Reading Company which included a model of 2102), got married to my fiancée Kris, and then during May and June this year we moved New Hampshire to Pennsylvania . ( And I had to sacrifice the Wee Reading Company in the process).
Several readers acted as detectives and narrowed the location of my father’s photo and provided me great detail . As it turns out location is less than an hour from our new home in Lancaster.
The other day, Kris and I drove to the crossing in the photo and I made a sequence of ‘Now’ photos to pair with my father’s original slide.
I didn’t have a copy of the photo with me and had to work from memory. (I’d hoped to use the image as posted on Tracking the Light, but the signal in the Brandywine Valley was poor and I could pull up TTL on my phone).
Interestingly, the first photo I made matches up nearly perfectly with my Dads. I sent him a phone photo with my iPhone once we signal, and he wrote back, ‘Yep! That’s the place’.
Special thanks to everyone that helped find location Pop’s ‘Unknown Location’, including Robert Mastrippolito, George Legler (who also supplied the vintage 1/4 mile map), John Hartman, Scott Snell and Chris Bost. Thanks guys!
Back in May 1963, Pop stood at the crossing south of Coatesville near Embreeville in Newlin Township, PA., where Youngs/Harveys Bridge Road, crossed the Reading Company tracks. The view is looking south toward Harveys Bridge, which was located between milepost 26 3/4 and milepost 27 on the former Reading Company’s Wilmington and Northern line, a line now part of the East Penn shortline system.
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!
I’ve been sifting through hundreds of photos that I made of the July 1, 2023 Reading & Northern Iron Horse Ramble to Jim Thorpe, PA.
The railroad put on an amazing show of steam and I was very impressed by the performance of the locomotive and its crew.
Below are a couple sequences made on the outward leg of the trip. These were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.
My goal was to capture Reading & Northern’s 4-8-4 steam locomotive at work. In these images, I’ve tried to picture the engine in the classic ‘rods down’ position that was favored by many traditional locomotive photographers.
Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line from Philadelphia to Harrisburg runs a short distance from our new home. While this is primarily the route of the Keystone and Pennsylvanian trains, it also hosts Norfolk Southern locals that use the line to reach secondary lines and serve local industry.
Since we moved in, I’ve heard a few NS trains but not had the opportunity to investigate their movements in daylight. However, last night we saw this local near Greenfield Road in Lancaster, PA.
As a trainman was setting up the telemetry device on the locomotive that would become the rear of his train, I made a few photos with my Lumix LX7.
Esbenshade! What a great name for a crossing suited to silhouette?
The other day I presented an example of a telephoto view of Strasburg Rail Road Number 89 leading the Saturday 6pm excursion at Esbenshade Road in Strasburg, PA.
Today, I’m offering two examples of wideangle views at the same crossing. These were exposed as NEF RAW files with my Nikon Z7-II, which has incredible dynamic range.
In this situation to make a silhouette, I set the camera in ‘M’-mode (manual) and used the in-camera meter to expose for the sky. I have my display showing an exposure histogram, the helps me best balance the detail captured in the extreme highlights and shadows. Although this detail isn’t evident in the thumbnail camera display, it has been captured in the NEF RAW file.
After downloading the camera, I import the NEF files into Adobe Lightroom, and use the ‘Light’ slider controls (including ‘highlights,’ and ‘shadows’) to adjust the images to better reveal details across the range of exposure. Again, by keeping an eye on an exposure histogram, I can avoid pushing the limits of adjustment and minimize data loss.
To allow for individual control of the sky, I made some adjustments using the ‘select sky’ mask.
Below are two examples of unadjusted NEF RAW files and the corresponding adjusted images.
Strasburg Rail Road is best known for its steam excursions, but the railroad is a common carrier and operates a thriving local freight business.
On our visit to the Strasburg, PA area last month, I was lucky to catch one of their freights on the move. This was led by the railroad’s former New York Central SW8 diesel 8618.
This classic General Motors Electro-Motive Division swticher was built for New York Central System c1953 and carried the number 9618. It is painted in a neo-New York Central scheme, and was Conrail 8618 for many years.
In the 1980s, I made many photos of Conrail switchers, and I wonder if somewhere among my slides and negatives I may have a photo of this locomotive in its former existence.
I was lucky last Wednesday as Amtrak P42 number 145 wearing ‘Phase III’ heritage paint was leading train #42, the eastward Pennsylvanian.
Although the so-called Amtrak Phase III was introduced in the mid-1970s, for me it represents the predominant scheme that adorned Amtrak locomotives during the 1980s. I made countless color slides of F40PH diesels, and AEM-7 and E60 electrics in this scheme.
Amtrak repainted a several of its P42 Genesis diesels in 2011 to mark the railroad’s 40th Anniversary. In addition, several of Amtrak’s dual-mode 700-series Genesis units have also been painted in this scheme.
I was delighted to catch Amtrak 145 working the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania, and made a series of digital images using my Nikon Z-series digital cameras.
It was a retro 1970s moment at Christiana, Pennsylvania, when I made these coming and going views of Amtrak Keystone train 648.
The Conrail caboose to the right of the train is former Erie Lackawanna that was painted in an usual variation of COnrail blue at Erie’s Meadville, Pennsyvlania shops in 1976.
The cab car is one of the former PRR/Penn Central self-propelled Metroliner cars developed by Budd in the 1960s and characterized Amtrak’s high-speed services in the 1970s and early 1980s. Later these cars were modified and routinely operated to Harrisburg on this route.
Photos were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II and adjusted for contrast, exposure and color temperature using Adobe Lightroom.
January 15, 2023: Kris and I spent the day driving to Strasburg, Pennsylvania. We arrived just in time to make photos of 2-10-0 No. 90 arriving with the last scheduled train of the day.
With the setting sun just above the horizon, we had some beautiful winter light to photograph this historic machine in action. Cold weather can offer the best conditions to photograph steam locomotive because of the superior light and dramatic effects of condenstation.
I made these images using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.
In March, Kris and I stopped by the Middletown & Hummelstown railroad yard in its namesake town.
My last visit here was in 2009.
I made a few photos of M&H’s rare diesel locomotives, which includes an Alco S-6 switcher, an Alco T-6 switcher (that was one of last diesels built by Alco before it exited the domestic locomotive market) and a GE 65-ton center cab.
While I exposed a handful of black & white photos on film, I also made these digital images with my Nikon Z6.
A week ago (March 17, 2022), Kris and I visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg, where we saw a variety of finely preserved locomotives and rolling stock.
Among the most interesting and unusual pieces on display was Reading Company 800, a perfect example of an overhead electric multiple unit car that once operated on suburban lines in the Philadelphia area.
Of the thousands of locomotives and railcars preserved across the United States, there are relatively few electric multiple units in their as-built condition, which is what makes this display so unusual.
I got a kick out of seeing this car again because it is a Reading Company car and thus relates to our model railroad enterprise in Kris’s basement (although we don’t delve into electrified territory on the wee pike.)