Tag Archives: #Pennsylvania

35mm Sunset Glint

Working with my Z6 with AF Nikkor 35mm f2.0/D attached via a Nikon FTZ adaptor, I made this imag sequence of Amtrak Keystone 618 racing eastward at Jefferson Drive in Lancaster, PA.

I timed my arrival just a minute ahead of the train.

My objective was to see how the traditional 35mm lens would handle the glinting sunset on my Z-series digital camera. I adjusted my exposure manually (aiming for overall underexposure to better capture the effects of the bright sun), then made changes to the camera’s NEF RAW files in post processing to make for overall appealing photographs.

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.

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Conrail Evolution Surprise!

I was surprised to hear a whistle to the west, when we were exploring the Shikellamy State Park along the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, Pa.

Then when the train came into view on the far side of the river, I had vivid sense of Conrail-blue deja vu.

The last time, I’d visited this bridge, photographer Mike Gardner and I had caught the eastward Norfolk Southern freight symbol 13W led by a former Conrail GE C40-8 still in the classic Conrail paint, and then a little while later, we photographed the westward NS 41T with Canadian National locomotives. But that was back in November 2001!

From my slide archives: Norfolk Southern 13W led by a former Conrail DASH8-40C. November 2, 2001.

Fast forward: Conrail’s days as an independant Class I carrier are now a quarter century behind us, so what was this modern GE in blue paint Kris and I saw last week?

As the unit coal train (NS 632) rolled across the multiple-span truss bridge, I realized what I was looking at:

Norfolk Southern’s specially painted Conrail heritage locomotive! This is a General Electric ES44AC, engine number 8098, an Evolution-series 4,400 hp low-emissions diesel-electric.

Conrail never owned anything quite so advanced.

I made my photos and then Kris and I decided to follow the train back down NS’s Buffalo Line. This was a rare find! It was our lucky day! Lucky!

I had a couple of prime locations in mind, if we could only stay ahead of the train!

Revisiting Norfolk Southern’s Buffalo Line

The former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Central route north of Harrisburg toward Northumberland, Pa., (and beyond) is operated by Norfolk Southern as its Buffalo Line.

In the late-1990s, toward the end of the Conrail-era, photographer Mike Gardner and I began exploring this route, and continued our photography along the line ifor several years after Norfolk Southern assumed operations. However, it had been more than twenty years since I had taken a serious look of the railroad north of the Harrisburg area.

A few days ago, we had a rare sunny day, so Kris and I made an adventure of following the east bank of the Susquehanna River compass north toward Sunbury.

We stopped at few locations. At Sunbury, I was curious get re-acquaited with the railroad and its connections. On the north side of town, we visited the Shikellamy State Park, where Mike and I had caught NS freight 41T back in November 2001. At that time NS was still operating the line as a through freight route all the way to Buffalo, NY.

Here’s another contemporary view of the Susquehanna River bridges at the Shikellamy State Park located on an island between Sunbury and Northumberland, Pa.

As I was photographing the bridges from the park, I heard a whistle to the west . . .

Stay tuned for more!

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Winter Afternoon Excursion at Blackhorse Road.

There hasn’t been a lot of snow this winter in Strasburg, Pa.

So, when about six inches fell a couple of weeks ago, Kris and I decided to make the most of it.

These photos were made braving the cold at Blackhorse Road to capture Strasburg Rail Road’s 4pm excursion to Leaman Place.

There’s such a contrast in the seasons, it’s hard to fathom that this is same crossing where we made many photos during the summer months.

I converted one of the images to monochrome for dramatic effect. All were exposed digitally using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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Icy Afternoon at Safeharbor

The magnificent bridges at Safeharbor make for great subjects.

I’ve yet to see a train at this location. And much to my regret, in all likelihood, I will never see a train on the taller of the two bridges—since this now carries a rail trail instead of a railroad.

Kris and I have paid visits to Safeharbor in various seasons. Winter yields stark lighting ideal for making silhouettes of the great spans.

I made these views using my Nikon Z7-II with 28-70mm Nikkor zoom, and Kris’s Fuji XT4 with my 50-140mm Fujinon telephoto.

I’d like to think that, decades ago, some photographer braved the elements to make a wintery silhouette of Pennsylvania Railroad E44 or P5a electrics leading an Enola bound freight over the top bridge from this vantage point.
In the winter, Norfolk Southern freights using the lower of the two bridges are largely nocturnal owing to the limitations imposed by a freight curfew on movements over Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (which connects with this route at Perryville, Maryland).
Nikon Z7-II with 28-70mm Nikkor zoom
Nikon Z7-II with 28-70mm Nikkor zoom
Nikon Z7-II with 28-70mm Nikkor zoom
Nikon Z7-II with 28-70mm Nikkor zoom.
Fuji XT4 with 50-140mm Fujinon telephoto
Fuji XT4 with 50-140mm Fujinon telephoto

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Sometimes it is just the tracks!

Some days everything falls into place and you get a train in nice light in a neat location. Other days you need to settle for a view of the line.

Last autumn, I photographed this unusual trackage arrangement on the Reading & Northern at Tamaqua, Pa.

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Amtrak 643 at Gap

After days of gray cloudy skies the sun emerged. Kris and I paused at Gap, Pa., to roll by Amtrak’s westward Keystone, train 643. This was operating cab-car first with an ACS-64 electric at the back of the consist.

Working with my Nikon Z7-II and 24-70mm zoom set to 70mm, I exposed a series of images. I cropped these in post processing to emphasize the horizontal perspective.

70mm view, f4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 200.
70mm view, f4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 200.
70mm view, f4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 200.

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Nocturnal Views at Lititz, Pa.

During our visit to Lititz, Pa., I made these photos along the old Reading Company tracks that bisect the town.

The caboose on display was once operated by Central Railroad of New Jersey and has been convincingly dressed to resemble similar cars that had been operated by the Reading.

Nearby is the replica passenger station, a structure that during daylight hours serves as a welcome center.

Although the end of track is about a block away, Norfolk Southern still serves this route. We caught a glimpse of a railroad HyRail truck and a rail-defect detection vehicle on the night of our most recent trip. However, we were unable to make a photo of these vehicles at work.

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Serendipity at Stewartstown

Yesterday, Kris and I were wandering around southern Pennsylvania on an afternoon drive. We crossed the Susquehanna and followed back roads across farm field and through villages.

I saw a highway sign that read, “Stewartstown 7 [miles]”, and so we drove there.

Meandering into the village, I told Kris about how there used to be a tourist railway at Stewartstown. I was wondered if the tracks were still in place . . . and then . . . Lo and Behold, there was a 44-ton diesel with its headlight lit and passengers boarding an Reading Company coach at the old station.

I dare say I was flummoxed!

We went out along the line, and I set up in a forest. After a short while, I heard the bark of an airhorn, and the 44-ton diesel leading the short excursion came around the bend. It was like a dream from another time!

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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.

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Reading Railroad Heritage Museum

Perhaps the greatest concentration Reading Company artifacts is at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Thanks to our friend Dan Cupper who arranged a special visit to this citadel of railroad preservation, Dan, Rich Roberts, Kris and I were treated to personal tour.

We were met by the museum’s Rich Brodecki and introduced to a variety of the museum’s volunteers, including archivist Richard Bates. We spent nearly two hours surrounded by vestiges of the late, great Reading.

Highlights of our tour included the museum’s model railroads, especially the HO-scale interpretation of the Reading, which reminded me of what I’d hoped my own Wee Reading Company could have become. This features a coal mine and several villages.

Outside, we viewed a variety of former Reading locomotives and cars. We were given a tour of Reading business car No. 15, which is a remarkable relic of the railroad’s past, and I had the opportunity to see the cabs of a Reading Alco C-630 and General Motors NW-2.

I made these photos using my Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras. I’m looking forward to another visit in the future.

See: www.readingrailroad.org

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Alco on Brown Street, Middletown, PA.

Street trackage offers great opportunities for placing the railroad in a cool setting.

Kris and I had just finished our lunch with Wayne Duffett, who was in Middletown to inspect bridges for the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad.

While Wayne was making his arrangements, we watched as former Western Maryland Alco S-6 151 was fired up. This was going to make a run down Brown Street to collect a car from the Norfolk Southern interchange.

We set up about midway down the street. The Alco was preceded by a trainman with a flag as I exposed this group of digital photos using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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Reading & Northern SD38 2004

On October 21st, Kris and I paused at Reading & Northern’s Tamaqua (Pa.) Yard, where I photographed the railroad’s No. 2004.

Initially, I was interested in making photos of the locomotives resting here in an autumnal scene. When I recognized 2004 as one of the railroad’s ‘rare’ SD38s, I decided to make the most of this find.

Previously on Tracking the Light I featured Reading & Northern SD38 number 2000—a former Penn Central locomotive. (See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/rare-bird-on-the-reading-northern/).

Any locomotive more than a half-century old is undoubtedly worthy of attention. However, where the four-motor GP38 was among the most common EMD diesel-electrics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a great many still at work on American rails, its six-motor cousin was never common. Among the 53 SD38s built, Detroit, Toledo & Ironton bought five. Similar in appearance to the SD38, was the six-motor SD40 numbered more than 850 built. Even more common was the seemly ubiquitous SD40-2, which numbered in the thousands.

When Grand Trunk Western acquired DT&I in 1983, these rare birds joined the GTW roster. In 1986, I was surprised to find a freshly painted GTW SD38 working a cable laying train on the Central Vermont Railway in Palmer, Massachusetts. It was the first time, I’d ever seen a six-motor diesel on CV’s Palmer Subdivision. In researching the history of the 2004—pictured here—I found that R&N’s 2003 (GTW 6253) was the locomotive I’d photographed all those years ago.

Hopefully, during our wanderings in coal country over the coming weeks and months, I’ll come across R&N 2003, which will bring me full circle with this rolling antique and help complete my SD38 photo story.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

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Big Steam on Reading & Northern—An Autumnal March.

October 21st, Kris and I paid another visit to the Reading & Northern to photograph 4-8-4 No. 2102 in action.

This is such an awesome locomotive in every regard.

We arrived trackside at Hamburg, Pennsylvania just after 9am. This is on the old Philadelphia & Reading’s original mainline.

After less than half an hour we heard the whistle and anticipated the passage of the great machine leading an Iron Horse Ramble on its march toward Jim Thorpe.

What is really cool is that 60 years ago, my father was doing the same thing! I grew up looking at Pop’s Reading Company slides. There’s a lot of history around locomotive 2102 and that’s part of the draw of the engine for me and a lot of other people.

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Meeting at Black Horse

By design, this day last week I caught up with Dan Cupper and railroad artist Craig Thorpe at Black Horse Road in Strasburg. We planned our meeting to coincide with the passing of the hourly excursion.

I made photos of the train and my friends.

Craig had brought with him a print of painting that he made of Reading & Northern 4-8-4 2102 at Nesquehoning that he created from still photographs that Dan had made.

After Strasburg 89 passed, we walked up the hill to Carpenters Cemetery and photographed the return run. In the meantime some Amish farmers were working a nearby field with an impressive team of draft (draught) horses.

These views were products of my Nikon Z-series mirror-less digital cameras.

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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.

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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.

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September Views from Marian

Early in September, Kris and I went for an evening spin to Leaman Place aboard Strasburg Rail Road’s well appointed First Class parlor car Marian.

The sun was low, the scenery was pastoral.

At Leaman Place locomotive 475 ran around the train.

The world seems different on the train than it does from lineside.

The line seems different during various times of day and in the fours seasons.

Photos exposed digitally using a Nikon Z7-II mirrorless camera.

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Iron Horse on the roll!

Reading & Northern’s recreated Iron Horse Rambles are real throwback to the early 1960s.

Sunday, as we stayed well ahead of former Reading Company 4-8-4 No. 2102 as it worked toward Tamaqua and Jim Thorpe, Pat Yough led us to inspect several locations on the old Reading Co.’s Little Schuylkill Branch. These are places that I recognized from my father’s photos of Reading’s Iron Horse Rambles of 60+ years ago.

We settled on the popular location at Reynolds (near Atlas), not far from South Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.

Many photographers were set up for a classic 3/4 angle. Having followed that formula on previous trips, this time Kris and I opted for a broadside view where the BIG 4-8-4 would be lit by the morning sun.

I made this sequences with my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens and Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens

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New Oxford Station

Driving west on Highway 30, Kris and I passed the old Western Maryland station at New Oxford, Pennsylvania.

On the way back, we stopped for a few minutes to walk Boomer-the-dog and make a few photos of the historic station and environs.

Someday, I’d like to return to catch a CSX freight rolling by the old station.

Photos exposed using a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.

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Two Main Track

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.

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Glory to the old Metroliner Cabs

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.

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Glinty Reflections in the Susquehanna.

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.

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Steam on a Monday!

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.

Lumix LX7 photo exposed in RAW, color adjusted in post processing. Compare with the de-saturated mono-chrome version below.
In post processing I altered the contrast and used the ‘saturation’ slider to convert the image to monochrome (black &white).
Clean burning engine, rods down. Now, if we only switch off the headlight, it could be 1925.

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Color or Black & White at Carpenters?

Sunday morning Kris and I went out to watch Strasburg Rail Road.

I set up for the returning 11 am train at Carpenters cemetery.

As the train approached, I made photos with both my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.

In post processing, I converted the Z7-II file to make a black & white photo.

Which do you like better?

Lumix LX7
Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm.

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Philadelphia & Reading Bridge—Harrisburg

Third time’s the charm.

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.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm.

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.

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Visiting the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania with Wayne.

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.

Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 photo by Kris Sabbatino.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.

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Electric, Steam and Diesel in 45 minutes!

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.

Photos exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Amtrak Keystone train 646 eastbound near Gap, PA. Lumix LX7 photo.
Trailing view of Amtrak Keystone train 646 eastbound near Gap, PA with ACS-64 665 at the rear of the consist. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Amtrak train 641 working cab car first rolls through Gap, PA. ACS-64 667 electric is working at the back of the train.
Trailing view of Keystone 641 with ACS-64 667 electric as it passes Gap, PA. Lumix LX7 photo.
Strasburg Rail Road 2-6-0 number 89 crosses Blackhorse Road with the 10am excursion. Lumix LX7 photo.
Strasburg 89 up close and personal!
Strasburg Rail Road’s former New York Central SW8 leads a ballast car eastbound at Blackhorse Road.
Trailing view of Strasburg Rail Roadl SW8 8618 eastbound at Blackhorse Road.Lumix LX photo

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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.

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Views with my Nikons at Wanamaker, PA.

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!

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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.

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An A1 Visit to the Strasburg Rail Road! 21 photos.

Last week, when TEC Associates’ Wayne Duffett visited, we took a trip on the Strasburg Rail Road.

Former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 475 was working.

We traveled in style, riding in parlor car Marian, and each enjoyed a Tröegs beer on the way to Leaman Place.

We passed some Amish farmers at Blackhorse Road.

Wayne commented on the height of the corn and the wonderful pastoral scenery.

As we arrived at Leaman Place, we met Strasburg Rail Road’s SW8 that was departing with a very short freight.

That’s not something you can experience on very many railroads: meeting a revenue freight on a steam hauled tourist excursion.

After we arrived back at the railroad’s East Strasburg Station, I made photos of Wayne with the locomotive, before headed out the line by road to photograph the next run.

Photos exposed digitally using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

A parting view of parlor car Marian at Blackhorse Road.

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Wayne’s Main Line Visit

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.

Photos exposed with a Lumix LX7.

Former Pennsylvania Railroad stone bridge over the Conestoga River in Lancaster, PA. Lumix LX7 photo.
Wayne posing with some goob in at PRR hat. Photo by Kris Solomon.
Amtrak Keystone races eastward on the old Main Line.

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The March of a Twelve-Wheeler

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.

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Location Unknown—Reading Mystery Solved! (And re-photographed)

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.

Photo exposed in July 2023 with a Nikon Z7-11, 24-70mm set to 70mm.

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