Tag Archives: #Pennsylvania Railroad

Season’s Call for the Blossoming Trees

By the time you read this, the pink blossoming trees along Jefferson Drive in Lancaster will have leafed out in their Spring greenery.

Toward the the end of the blossoming season, Kris & I took a morning drive with our new puppy, Seamus. We paused briefly along Jefferson east of the westward signal.

Soft lighting made for a good time to catch an eastward Amtrak Keystone as it raced toward Philadelphia along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

I exposed a sequence of images to frame the train in the blossoms of one of the trees along the road. This was my fourth attempt in this sequence of pink tree photos.

I’ve included both a full frame and tightly cropped version of my favorite from the rapid-fire sequence of digital photos.

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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4876 Up close

On this day (January 15th) in 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 4876 electric was leading The Federal (Boston to Washington D.C.) when the train suffered an airbrake failure as it approached Washington Union Terminal at speed.

The train crashed spectacularly with the locomotive ending up in the concourse of the station, which then collapsed under the excessive weight of the engine. This event made front page news all across the nation.

The locomotive, or parts thereof, were reassembled (or remanufactured) by the railroad. The engine kept its famous number.

In 1982, old 4876 was owned by the New Jersey Department of Transportaion and routinely assigned to work New York & Long Branch trains (also known as the North Jersey Coast Line) between Penn Station in Manhattan and South Amboy, New Jersey.

Scan of a black & white print.

In 1982, My father and I caught up with the battle-weary famous electric at Rahway Junction, NJ., where I made this black & white photo using my vintage Leica 3A, a camera that was even older than the vintage electric locomotive.

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RDC at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Saturday, October 28, 2023, Kris and I drove to Bellefonte, Pa., to see the first runs of the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society’s recent restored Budd-RDC.

Bellefonte was hosting its Talleyrand Fall Fest and the traffic around the town was a bit intense. Also tickets for the train ride were completely sold out, so rather than travel on the car we settled on rolling by the RDC at a grade crossing near the station.

The trackage is operated by North Shore Railroad’s Nittany & Bald Eagle and historically was part of the PRR system.

The group’s RDC is car 9167, originally New Haven Railroad number 40, which makes it a sister car to Conway Scenic’s number 23 Millie (originally New Haven number 23), which I’ve often featured on Tracking the Light.

For more about the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society and their restored RDC see this recent article on the Trains News Wire by Dan Cupper: https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/after-18-years-rail-group-resumes-rdc-runs-in-bellefonte-pa/

For the society’s site and ticket information see: https://bellefontetrain.org

I made this sequence of photos using my Nikon Z-series mirrorless camera.

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Amtrak 915 in Delaware

In the fading of sun of December 22, 1992, I made this Kodachrome slide of Amtrak AEM-7 915 slowing for its Newark, Delaware station stop on its way toward Philadelphia and New York’s Penn-Station. In the distance is a Conrail local freight.

Nikon F3T with Nikon f4.0 200mm lens.

Working with glint light was always a challenge. And I’d made a series of exposures of the train. This is probably my darkest; f8 1/125 with K25.

Greatly enlarged section of the same scanned slide.

On Wednesday, I stopped by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania to continue research for my next book, and paused to make these contemporary photos of old 915 using my Lumix LX7.

I also featured 915 then and now photos on Tracking the Light back in April. See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/amtrak-915-1981-and-2023/

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Old Pennsylvania Railroad Station at Leola

Just a short distance up line from our new home is this old Pennsylvania Railroad station on the New Holland Branch at Leola.

I made these photos the other evening using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

It’s been decades since the last passenger train operated over the line and I wonder what this station was like in its heyday.

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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.

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Meet near Cove, PA.

A slow moving westward Norfolk Southern freight had crossed the former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge in the evening light. After Kris and I made our images of the train on great span, we motored west on Highway 15 to catch it again.

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

A few miles west of Marysville, near Cove, PA, we spotted a stopped eastward train, and set up up to catch the two trains passing in the evening light.

Imagine if it were 1953, and these were trains led by Pennsylvania’s impressive M1 4-8-2 Mountains types.

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

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Good Luck! Bad Luck. . . Rockville Bridge

The famous Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge across the Susquehanna River is about an hour from our new home.

Saturday afternoon was clear and bright, so Kris and I made the short foray over to Harrisburg and north along the west bank of the river.

Thanks to our smart phones, navigating the turns off Interstate 81 and over to the bridge is now a relatively easy task. Back in the days of paper maps this had been a real challenge, because you have to make something like a double reverse figure eight up and over to get to the bridge.

Anyway, we arrived at the boat launch near the western piers of the great bridge, and within 30 seconds we heard a westbound Norfolk Southern freight coming. ‘Wow what perfect timing!’ I delighted at our good luck. A westbound in perfect light, and no waiting!

I reached for my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. Unfortunately, I discovered that the switch was already in the ‘on’ position, and found that I’d forgotten to turn the camera off after the previous evening’s photography. The batteries were flat. No electricity, no photos.

‘Oh no . . .but wait!’

As the train got closer, I reached for my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

It always helps to have a back up camera!

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Strawberry Ridge Coal Train at Tyrone

Twenty two years ago, photographer Mike Gardner and I made a project of photographing Norfolk Southern coal trains that served the Strawberry Ridge power plant in central Pennsylvania.

On this day, we followed a loaded train from Gallitzin toward Northumberland. It was misty and heavily overcast.

At Tyrone, the train diverged from the Main Line onto the former Pennsylvania Railroad Bald Eagle Branch, a line maintained in part by short line Nitany and Bald Eagle.

Mike and I set up on Washington Street in Tyrone, where the Bald Eagle branch came right up the middle of the street.

I made this photograph on Ilford HP using a Nikon N90S with Tokina 400mm lens. My goal was to accentuate the unusual trackage with a big train.

This would be a neat place to feature on a model railroad.

Bald Eagle Branch at Tyrone, PA, March 2001. Ilford HP5 with Nikon N90S and 400mm lens.

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Black & White SD80MAC at South Fork, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 21 years ago, back in March 2001, photographer Mike Gardner and I photographed this former Conrail SD80MAC leading an empty coal train by the old PRR SO tower at South Fork, Pennsylvania.

I made this medium format black & white photo using a classic Speed Graphic with roll-film back borrowed from regular Tracking the Light reader Doug Moore.

Last week I scanned this 6×9 120 negative using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner and adjusted the RAW file with Adobe Lightroom.


I have numerous photos of the SD80MACs on Conrail when they were painted in blue and white and working in pairs on the Boston Line. However, I have relatively few images of these BIG 20-cylinder diesels in black & white Norfolk Southern paint.

The SD80MAC was not a common type. Only Conrail received them new frome EMD. Today, they are near extinct. The last I heard, there were just four left.

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West Slope Glint

I made these glint images looking west from the Railfan’s Overlook at Cassandra, Pennsylvania toward the November evening sunset.

The trick to successful glint images is correctly exposing for the highlights in order to retain sufficient detail.

Another trick is to select a ‘daylight’ white balance, rather than using an automatic white balance setting.

Westward Norfolk Southern intermodal train passes Cassandra, Pennsylvania on the West Slope of the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade over the Allegheny Divide.
Helpers at the back of a westbound double stack train.

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On this Day in 1953.

On January 15, 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 4876 leading The Federal from Boston, suffered an airbrake failure on approach to Washington Union Station and crashed spectacularly landing in the main concourse of the building. The floor collapsed under the weight of the heavy electric locomotive. Photographs of the disaster were printed on the front pages of newspapers around the country.

The locomotive was rebuilt and remained in service until 1983.

On June 27, 1983, my father, my brother Sean and I found the old electric resting at the motor storage in South Amboy, New Jersey.

At the time, the locomotive and South Amboy were a subjects of my model railroad interest.

I made this view on Kodachrome 64 with my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. The film had a red tint to it, that I’ve preserved in scanning. This can be easily color corrected.

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