Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

30 Years Ago at Rockville Bridge.

It was a bright and hazy August 1989 morning, when my old pal TS Hoover and I set up on the east bank of the Susquehanna River to capture this view of the famous former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge.

I made this Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) slide using my old Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.

It was just one of many Conrail photographs exposed on one of our great adventures in the 1980s!

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A Lousy Slide from a Hazy Day at Enola.

Kodachrome 64 color slide exposed in 1981 scanned and adjusted in 2019.


In August 1981, my family and I set off to Pennsylvania in our 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.

Among our holiday adventures was arriving at Enola on a sweltering hot afternoon.

The consensus was to find a place to stay. I wanted to see the famous railroad yard. The solution proved to be a motel called the ‘Summerdale Junction Inn’ (or something like that) which overlooked Conrail’s sprawling former Pennsylvania Railroad yards.

We requested a room trackside.

While the rest of the family relaxed by the pool, I attempted to make photos from the motel window using my father’s Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt.

At the time I was delighted to see so many locomotives, including a great many former PRR E44 electrics which had been recently stored owning to Conrail’s decision to discontinue its electric freight operations (long complicated story that will be addressed in my upcoming Conrail book).

This isn’t a great photo. There’s too many wires, too many bushes and the hazy light was less than ideal.

Glad I have it though. I may consider it for the book. Unless youhave a better view of all the stored electrics!

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Conrail 1980s Flashback: Street-scene Cresson, Pennsylvania.


It was August 1987 and the last day of a ten epic adventure photographing trains in western New York, Ontario, and Pennsylvania.

My pal TSH and I had exhausted our film reserves and were getting ready for the big drive home.

I made this street view looking railroad-west on Front Street in Cresson, Pennsylvania using my dad’s Rolleiflex model T. I scanned this B&W negative recently using an Epson V500 and cleaned it up in Lightroom.

You can just feel the heat in the air. A trio of Conrail GP38s has just pulled by, probably for service on one of the secondary lines that radiated from the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Cresson.

We made a quick visit to MG Tower and Horseshoe Curve on the way down the hill.

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July 30, 1987: Conrail SD45-2s downgrade at Bennington Curve.

Less often photographed than the famous Horseshoe Curve, is Bennington Curve further up the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade toward Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.

Back in July 1987, my pal TSH and I camped near the curve. I was kept awake by the roar of uphill diesels and the ear-piercing flange squeal of wheels in the curve. At sunrise I was track side to photograph the action.

One of my first images of the morning was this black & white view of a light helper set returning down grade toward Altoona to assist a westward freight.

In 1987 my choice film was Kodak T-Max 400, then a relative new emulsion. After about a year of work with T-max, I returned to using older emulsions such as Kodak Tri-X, which I felt produced better results.

At that time Conrail routinely assigned its 13 former Erie-Lackawanna SD45-2s as helpers based at Cresson near the top of the hill on the West Slope.

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Helpers at Lilly: Conrail November 1998.


Big Blue had just six full months left. Mike Gardner and I made another epic whirlwind trip to Pennsylvania to catch Conrail on the move while we could.

I made this view of a helper set working the back of a westward (down hill) freight looking down a side street in Lilly, Pennsylvania.

There’s nothing like a bright clear day in November, especially with Conrail’s brilliant blue paint.

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon N90s.


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Drama on the West Slope: Conrail SD50 at Mineral Point.


September 5, 1997—the still late summer air is shattered by the roar of Conrail SD50 6711 in run-8 working an eastward coal train on the ‘West Slope’ at Mineral Point, Pennsylvania.

This was Conrail’s former Pennsylvania Railroad’s busy mountain mainline that crested the Alleghenys at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania a favorite place to photograph in the 1980s and 1990s.

Exposed on Fujichrome with my first Nikon N90 and Nikkor 80-200 AF zoom.

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Misty Morning at Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania, April 1, 1988.


Kodachrome 25 slide exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.

It was Conrail’s 12thbirthday! And that was many years ago.

My old pal TSH and I were exploring the former Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division and visited Spruce Creek where we photographed this eastward freight.

The old heavy-weight sleeping car converted for Penn-Central/Conrail maintenance of way (work equipment) makes the photograph fascinating. I’d never seen cars like this in revenue service and simply having relics like it on the move connected me to an earlier era.

Seeing this Kodachrome 25 slide makes me yearn for the days when we’d be trackside on Conrail and never know what might pass. It seemed a like endless adventure and every train brought something new and unexpected.

The weather? Not great, but I’d stand there now without complaint.

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Norfolk Southern on the West Slope at South Fork, Pennsylvania—March 10, 2001.


It was a bright late-winter’s afternoon. Mike Gardner and I were on one of our many photographic explorations of Pennsylvania.

I made this view west of South Fork of an eastward Norfolk Southern freight ascending the famous ‘West Slope,’ on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

Here I’ve used just a hint of soft glint light to accent the freight, catching the exhaust from the GE diesels as they work upgrade.

At the time I was using a Nikon F3 with MD-11 motor drive fitted with an f2.8 180mm Nikkor prime telephoto lens and loaded with Fujichrome slide film.


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Amtrak—30thStreet Station Philadelphia: Seven Lumix Views.

I had almost an hour at 30thStreet Station, Philadelphia while waiting for Amtrak 94 from Washington.

This magnificent former Pennsylvania Railroad Station offers a mix of classical and modern railroading.

Wandering with my ‘new’ Lumix LX7, I made this selection of hand-held digital photographs.

Of special interest was the old Solari board used to display arrival and departure information. This was under repair/adjustment. I’ve heard that it may be soon retired.

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SEPTA Sampler—January 2, 2019.


On Wednesday January 2, 2019, my brother and I made an adventure of exploring the SEPTA system.

We bought Independence Passes, which offer essentially unlimited travel on the SEPTA transportation system for a day, and we sampled a variety of modes and lines.

We began at Parkside Avenue by boarding the number 40 bus (GASP!), then to the Market-Frankford rapid transit. At Jefferson Station/Market East we picked up a heavy rail train to Norristown where we transferred to the  old Philadelphia & Western high-speed line to 69thStreet.

From there the Media trolley to its namesake (yes, there’s a town called Media, Pennsylvania, and it’s one of the last with a single track trolley right up the main street.) Reaching the end of the trolley line at Orange Street, we walked to the old PRR station, and boarded a train that ran through to West Trenton, New Jersey, although we alighted at Woodbourne, PA to meet our friend Pat Yough, who took us by road to a nearby pub.

Our return trip retraced our steps to Philadelphia’s suburban station, where after some trials and missteps, eventually found the appropriate bus (GASP!) and this brought us back to where we began.

The light was dreary, but I made photos anyway using with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm digital cameras.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown High-Speed Line car interior. Lumix LX7 photo.
69th Street, Upper Darby. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

SEPTA Silverliner V at Woodbourne, PA. FujiFilm XT1.

The Vault brew pub in Yardley, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.


Our return train on the old Reading Company at Yardley. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Philadelphia City Hall. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Eight Years Ago: Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.

Norfolk Southern 20Q approaches the Allegheny Divide at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2010.

On this day eight years ago, I exposed this photograph of Norfolk Southern eastward intermodal train climbing toward the tunnels at Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.

I made this view in the evening of June 30, 2010  using a Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm autofocus image stabilization lens set at 160mm focal length.

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Baldwin in the Yard

On my visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania last month, I made this late afternoon view of a Baldwin switcher in the ‘Train Yard’ outside the museum’s ‘Rolling Stock Hall’.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.

For a dozen interior views exposed in the Rolling Stock Hall, take a look at this morning’s Tracking the Light post:

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania-A Dozen New photos.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania-A Dozen New photos.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is one of my favorite American railway museums both because of its great collection of Pennsylvania Railroad, Reading Company, Conrail and Amtrak equipment, and for its stunning interior presentation that makes railroad equipment compelling to look at.

I exposed these photos on a visit in mid-November 2017 with Pat Yough having spent the afternoon photographing the nearby Strasburg Railroad at work.

FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. Here’s a trick for making more effective museum photos in a dimly lit environment such as the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s main hall: over expose by about 1/2 a stop (let more light in). This avoids blocking up the shadow areas.

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Among the fascinating aspects of the museum’s static collection are the numerous vintage freight cars that span a century of service. Too often the common freight car—the backbone of American railroad freight transport—is overshadowed in preservation by more glamorous equipment.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

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Chessie System Against the Sun; Lightroom instead of Darkroom!

On a trip to the Pittsburgh area, I made these black & white photos on Tri-X in February 1987 at New Castle, Pennsylvania.

While, I like the effects of back lighting on this westward Chessie System train, I was thwarted in my efforts at producing satisfactory prints.

Complicating my printing problems were edge effects that had resulted in un-even processing that affected the sky highlights more dramatically than shadow areas.

This is a scan of the original black & white negative. The photo suffers from flare, uneven processing and less than ideal contrast. Also the sky is a bit over processed and thus appears too dark on the negative (and too light in the prints).

After about a half dozen attempts using Kodak double-weight paper I’d given up.

The other day this roll of 120 Tri-X finally worked its way to the top of the scanning pile, and after scanning at high-resolution, I thought maybe I’d try to work with the back-lit photos using Lightroom to see if I could improve upon my printing efforts from 1987.

This is the un-modified scan from the negative. I’ve not made any corrections to contrast, exposure, or provided localized improvement. Nor have I spotted the image.

Here’s the photo after my first round of corrections.

Instead of dodging and burning on the aisle, working digitally I’ve applied digital graduated filters to control highlights and shadows, contrast, and the overall exposure.

After some more adjusting this is my final image. Not perfect, but a big improvement over the muddy mottled original photo.

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Pennsylvania Station at Twilight.

Pat Yough said, ‘You’ve never been here before?’

‘No, somehow I missed this.’

‘How’s that possible?’

I’d been to Gap, Pennsylvania many times to photograph Amtrak trains. But I never ventured railroad-east along the Main Line to Christiana, instead driving Highway 30 toward Coatesville.

I should have  known better.

Often the most interesting locations are away from the main road.

There’s your tip for the day!

Former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Christiana.

Former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Christiana.

The old Main Line. Now Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor.

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Amtrak’s Keystone at Gap, Pennsylvania.

A mid-afternoon Amtrak Keystone train from Harrisburg, works the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania.

Today’s ACS64 ‘Cities Sprinter’ electrics are to Amtrak what the 1930s-1940s era GG1s were to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

ACS64 660 leads Keystone service number 670 eastward at Gap. (Engine number versus train number).

Note my framing of the locomotive between the two catenary poles, leaving room for the farm in the distance and the tree at the far right.

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Steam Tableau.

Last week (November 2017) I made these picturesque tableaus of the Strasburg Railroad in its classic Pennsylvanian Dutch settings.

All were made with my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

Over the years I’ve made more than a dozen visits to the Strasburg Railroad, but this most recent trip was the first time I’d exposed digital photos here. I guess it’s been a while since my last visit.

Esbenshade Road.

Cherry Hill Road.

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Diesels Under Wire on the Main Line.

Not just any old ‘mainline,’ but the famous Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Main Line— so called because it was built as the ‘Main Line of Public Works’ in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

I made this view of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian taking the curve at Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Where most of the trains on this line draw power from the high-voltage AC catenary, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian changes from an electric to a diesel locomotive at 30th Street to avoid the need to change at Harrisburg.

This is Amtrak’s only service on the former PRR west of Harrisburg. The lone long distance train on what was once a premier passenger route, and unusual on the electrified portion of the line.

I exposed this sequence at Berwyn using my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm zoom lens.

To make the most of the curve and autumn color, I positioned myself on the outside of the curve at Berwyn. The chug of Amtrak’s P42 diesel alerted me to the approach of this westward train.

 

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Follow That BUDD!

Not to be confused with: “Follow THAT! Bud.”

Earlier this month, in the high-summer light, while traveling from Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station on its former Reading Company Budd Cars (Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars otherwise known as RDCs), I wondered about photo locations along Reading & Northern’s lines.

Back in the day (lets call it the early 1960s) my father, Richard Jay Solomon, photographed Reading Rambles along these same Reading Company routes (and also occasional put the company’s regularly scheduled passenger trains on film).

For years, I’d looked at these slides without fully grasping where they were taken.

One trip over the old Reading answered many questions. Around each bend, I recognized locations, thinking ‘Ah Ha! So that’s where Pop made THAT photo’ and so on. (I’m still waiting for Pop to finish labeling his slides; he’s got about as far as 1960 thus far. HINT: Don’t wait 57 years to label your photos).

In the Lehigh Gorge, Pat Yough and I chatted with our friend Scott Snell—an accomplished member of the railway photo fraternity. Scott offered us the opportunity to ride with him as he chased the Budd cars back toward Reading.

Having traveled up by rail, we jumped at the opportunity to make photos of our train in late afternoon summer sun. So we traveled with Scott by road from Jim Thorpe to Reading, by way of Tamaqua, Port Clinton and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Here are some of my results thanks to Scott and Pat’s knowledge of the line.

Not on the old Reading Company, but in fact on the former Central Railroad of Jersey line at Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania.

New Ringgold, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company line between Port Clinton and Tamaqua. This was a definite, “Ah Ha” location. (And I don’t mean the Norwegian pop band.)

Pop bagged a Reading double-header crossing this field. That photo has appeared in books.

Not far from the former Reading Company station at Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

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Views From the Cab—where vantage point matters.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to make some views from a diesel locomotive cab.

I’m no stranger to cab-rides, but this recent trip allows me to illustrate a few ways of illustrating this great vantage point.

I’ve made no effort to hide where these photos were made from; so by including the locomotive nose or framing the tracks in the locomotive’s front windows I’ve made my vantage point obvious. I was on the engine as it rolled along.

All three views were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

Exposed a 1/60th of a second which allowed a slight blurring of the scenery and tracks to help convey motion with rendering the whole seen as a sea of blur.

Exposed a 1/60th of a second which allowed a slight bluring of the scenery and tracks. Framing is a great way to infer a vantage point while making for a more interesting image by adding depth.

So, do you prefer one window, or two?

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Norfolk Southern at Mexico, Pennsylvania.

No, we are not ‘south of the border.’

This is a location along Norfolk Southern’s old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division west of Harrisburg between Thompsontown and Mifflin.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat Yough and I were re-exploring this busy route and these images were among my views from that effort.

Here are three photos from a sequence that I made of Norfolk Southern symbol freight 21A as it approached the grade crossing at Mexico.

Image 1: Norfolk Southern 21A roars west at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

Image 2: A slightly closer view of Norfolk Southern 21A  at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

Image 3: Closest of three views of Norfolk Southern 21A  at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

Which of these do you like best?

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RDC’s at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania—lessons in high light.

Shiny stainless steel trains in high summer light. Another photography challenge.

Earlier this month during my explorations of eastern Pennsylvania with Pat Yough, we traveled on the Reading & Northern from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe, aboard a restored pair of RDCs.

The train arrived at Jim Thorpe in the highlight, in other words when the sun is nearly overhead.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I made a variety of images, then imported the RAW files into Lightroom for post processing.

As previously described in Tracking the Light, among the tools available with post processing software are various exposure and contrast controls that make it possible to adjust the RAW file to produce a more pleasing final image.

By lowering highlights, and raising the shadows, while adjusting color temperature, I can maximize the information captured by the camera sensor to produce a more pleasing image that more closely resembles what I saw at the time of exposure.

Below are a few of my processed images.

Shortly after arrival from Reading, Reading & Northern’s RDCs have paused in front of the historic former Central Railroad of New Jersey station at Jim Thorpe. I’ve attempted to make a more pleasing image by lightening shadows and controlling highlights while slightly warming the color temperature to compensate for the proliferation of blue light.

This is a similar image but taken from an in-camera Jpg with pre-selected Fuji Velvia digital color profile.

Back lit in the gorge near Jim Thorpe. Here a silver train has a contrast advantage over a darkly painted engine.

Later in the afternoon the lighting wasn’t as harsh, yet this image still required improvements in post processing to compensate for excessive contrast.

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Take A Ride on SEPTA—July 2017.

This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)

SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.

Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.

Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.

I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.

Lumix LX7 photo at SEPTA’s Philadelphia Airport station. The train goes directly to the terminals, no mussing about with people movers or bus connections. Hooray for SEPTA!

Exposed at West Trenton with my Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Suburban Station Center City Philadelphia. Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Chestnut Hill West, Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo at Chestnut Hill East.

Buses work the 23 route, which at one time was America’s longest City Street Car line.

Lumix LX7 photo

Market-Frankford Subway. Lumix LX7 photo

Broad Street Subway at City Hall. Lumix LX7 photo

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Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

The former Reading Company station at Pottstown, Pennsylvania features some impressive code line poles in front of the building.

In these views of Norfolk Southern symbol freight 38G, I like the way the horizontal lines on the NS logo on the front of the locomotive mimics the lateral braces on the poles.

To minimize foreground distractions, I exposed the photos near ground level by using the adjustable rear display on my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Fast 90—First Photos.

What better way to get a fresh view than to play with a new lens?

I’ve been working with my FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera for nearly two years and it has proven to be an excellent tool.

The other day I visited Allen’s Camera in Levittown, Pennsylvania where I bought a Fujinon f2.0 90mm lens. I call this my ‘fast 90’ because of its relatively large aperture size for its length.

In the early 1990s, I routinely worked with a Nikon f1.8 105mm lens, and made thousands of Kodachrome slides with it.

Among the advantages of a ‘fast lens’ is the ability to work with shorter shutter speeds.

Where my 18-135mm zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f5.6, the ‘Fast 90’ is a full three stops faster. The difference is f5.6 at 1/125 versus f2.0 at 1/1000 working at ISO 200 on an overcast morning

Exposed at 1/1000 of a second.

Another advantage of a fast telephoto lens is the ability to use selective focus.

I’ve found selective focus exceptionally useful as a means for subtly guiding the eye through a complex composition.

I made this selection of images on the morning I bought the lens. Stayed tuned for more results later!

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West Chester Railroad’s Santa Train.

Would you read this if I titled it; ‘The photographic benefits of filtered sunlight‘?

The other day, Pat Yough and I made a joint venture of exploring Pennsylvania’s West Chester Railroad. This is a tourist line that runs on the vestige of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Wawa Branch (also called the West Chester Branch), formerly an electrified suburban line connecting West Chester with Philadelphia via Media.

SEPTA discontinued scheduled passenger service 30 years ago, although some its old platforms and signs survive as a reminder.

West Chester Railroad was operating its annual Santa Trains using a push-pull set comprised of a former Conrail GP38, a PRR baggage car and some converted former Reading Company multiple units.

Although the classic ‘clear blue dome’ is a favorite of many photographers, bright polarized light is often limiting on a line hemmed in by foliage.

Cheyney Station. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Cheyney Station. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Our late season photography benefitted from high clouds that diffused the afternoon sun. This made for seasonal pastel light that made photographs of the tree-lined railway more pleasing.

Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Locksley, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Locksley, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Locksley, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Locksley, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

West Chester, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
West Chester, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

West Chester, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
West Chester, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Tracking the Light is a daily photo blog.

 

Norfolk Southern Helpers at Cassandra-July 2010.

Helpers on a unit coal train at Cassandra July1_2010_IMG_1761
On July 1, 2010, helpers work at the back of a loaded coal train. By including some leaves and branches of near by trees I’ve added depth to the photograph.

Norfolk Southern helpers are in ‘run-8’ working at the back of a loaded coal train at Cassandra, Pennsylvania on the famed ‘West Slope’—the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade over the Alleghenies.

Morning glint illuminates the tops of the locomotives and accentuates the exhaust smoke for added drama. The train was working upgrade at a crawl.

Exposed digitally using my Canon 7D.

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Norfolk Southern helpers at Latrobe, Pennsylvania on August 11, 2011.

Norfolk Southern helpers at Latrobe, Pennsylvania on August 11, 2011.
Norfolk Southern helpers work east on the  back of a heavy carload freight at Latrobe, Pennsylvania on August 11, 2011.

I made this view with my Canon 7D just over five years ago. I’d arrived on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian and was met by Pat Yough and Mark Leppert.

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Conrail Coal Train in 1988.

It was a hazy sunny August morning when I exposed this trailing view of a Conrail coal train east of Bennington Curve on the famous former Pennsylvania Railroad grade between Altoona and Gallitzin.

Exposed on Kodak Verichrome Pan black & white negative film using a Rollei Model T (with Zeiss f3.5 75mm Tessar lens) with 645 (superslide) insert. Processed in Kodak D-76 diluted 1:1 with water. Negative scanned with an Epson V750, contrast adjusted electronically.
Exposed on Kodak Verichrome Pan black & white negative film using a Rollei Model T (with Zeiss f3.5 75mm Tessar lens) with 645 (superslide) insert. Processed in Kodak D-76 diluted 1:1 with water. Negative scanned with an Epson V750, contrast adjusted electronically.

Tracking the Light is on Autopilot while Brian is traveling.

Reading & Northern: Cressona, Pennsylvania—Retro Railroad Fantasy?

Is it a retro railroad fantasy to make images that resemble those of the late-Reading Era in 2015?

Reading & Northern GP39RN 2532 leads one of the company's Santa Trains at Becks near Cressona, Pennsylvania. This locomotive was originally classified as EMD GP30 and is painted to resemble Reading Company freight locomotives as they appeared in the 1970s. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Reading & Northern GP39RN 2532 leads one of the company’s Santa Trains at Becks near Cressona, Pennsylvania. This locomotive was originally classified as EMD GP30 and is painted to resemble Reading Company freight locomotives as they appeared in the 1970s. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Traveling with Pat Yough, I made this selection of photographs at the former Reading Company yards at Cressona, Pennsylvania in December 2015.

Back in the 19th Century, Philadelphia & Reading consolidated various railroads primarily for the movement of anthracite. In its heyday, this railroad was one of the busiest and most profitable in the United States.

Coal demand and transport has changed dramatically in the last 130 years.

Reading Company’s operations entered a long decline in the 20th century and were finally folded into Conrail in 1976. Reading & Northern emerged as a Conrail spinoff in the 1980s.

Reading & Northern's old Reading Company yards at Cressona, Pennsylvania. Exposed in 'monochrome mode' with my LX-7. I'v adjusted the tonality with an in-camera red-filter setting.
Reading & Northern’s old Reading Company yards at Cressona, Pennsylvania. Exposed in ‘monochrome mode’ with my LX-7. I’ve adjusted the tonality with an in-camera red-filter setting.

Today, using a host of vintage railroad equipment R&N provides freight service and seasonal excursions in the spirit of the old Reading Company. Anthracite remains among the commodities moved by the railroad.

R&N paints its vintage locomotives and some freight cars to resemble those of the late-era Reading Company.

This is a similar view to the black & white image above, and aimed to include R&N's GP39RN. This could be a view of an R&N freight, or perhaps almost passable as a view of the Reading Company from the 1970s. Yet, its really a Santa Train excursion. CNJ 113 is at the back of the train. Lumix LX7 photo.
This is a similar view to the black & white image above, and aimed to include R&N’s GP39RN. This could be a view of an R&N freight, or perhaps almost passable (if we cropped the ‘derail’ sign, and ignore the graffiti-covered 1980s era freight cars)  as a view of the Reading Company from the 1970s. Yet, it’s really a modern R&N Santa Train excursion. Restored CNJ 0-6-0 113 is puffing away at the back of the train. Lumix LX7 photo.

Trailing view of R&N's no-GP30 disguises the true nature of the day's excursion. This could easily pass as a R&N freight. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Trailing view of R&N’s neo-GP30 disguises the true nature of the day’s excursion. This could easily pass as a R&N freight. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

The line between documentation and photo recreation is blurred.

Through select cropping, I can either reveal the nature of the passenger excursions, or at first glance make R&N’s excursions operation appear like a Reading Company freight from the mid-1970s, or even its own weekday freights.

When does documentation become a re-creation? In the case of R&N does such a distinction even matter?

R&N offers a window on the old order, which is a relief for a railroad photographer aiming to step back from the contemporary scene dominated by massive class I carriers with modern six-motor safety-cab diesels moving unit trains of coal, ethanol and intermodal containers, and modern passenger trains.

LX7 panned photo.
LX7 panned photo—relatively slow shutter speed and careful continuous panning motion allowed the main subject to remain sharp while the background slips into a sea of blur.

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Cresco Station viewed with a Zeiss Lens

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to test a 32mm Zeiss Touit lens on my Fuji X-T1. This is a fast and sharp lens.

These images were made at dusk at the restored former Lackawanna Railroad station at Cresco, Pennsylvania on the climb to Pocono Summit.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
D-L PT97 works west at Cresco, PA. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

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Tracking the Light’s Classic Chrome Archive: Alcos on Keating Summit

In February 2010, I was traveling with Chris Guss and Pat Yough when I exposed this Fujichrome slide of Western New York & Pennsylvania’s Driftwood Turn (known as ‘the DFT’) on its northward ascent of the former Pennsylvania Railroad grade over Keating Summit.

Alco diesels in Run-8! Exposed on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS-3 with 28mm lens. February 6, 2010.
Alco diesels in Run-8! Exposed on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS-3 with 28mm lens. February 6, 2010.

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Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania—March 1988.

I exposed this photograph of stored freight cars in the derelict remains of the former New York Central yards at Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. Exposure calculated manually using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. Exposure calculated manually using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell.

The rolling gentle profile of the distant hills and the contrast between soft afternoon sun and inky shadows intrigued me. I find the hills oddly compelling, as in over the hills and far way.

This yard had been a busy place once but by the Conrail era was just the vestige of another era. There’s rusty tracks below the grass and bushes.

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Tomorrow—View from a Canoe!

 

Antes Fort, Pennsylvania.

In March 2001, Mike Gardner and I were poised to photograph a Norfolk Southern coal train destined for Strawberry Ridge, Pennsylvania.

As dramatic clouds crossed the sky, I exposed this black & white photograph with my Rolleiflex Model T. A few minutes later I made colour slides of the coal train using my Nikon N90S.

Antes-Fort-PA-March-2001-Br

I like the way the curve of the tracks offers a near continuation of the curve formed by the tops of the trees on the left.

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Amtrak’s Acela Express catches the glint at Eddystone.

The late Baldwin Locomotive Works was famous for its factory in this Philadelphia suburb.

What may seem hard to believe is that it’s been nearly six decades since Baldwin’s last new locomotive.

On January 11, 2015, Pat Yough and I set up here for a sunset photograph of Amtrak’s Acela Express.

SEPTA Eddystone station sign. January 11, 2015.
SEPTA Eddystone station sign. January 11, 2015.

Amtrak's Acela Express catches the glint at Eddystone, Pennsylvania.
Amtrak’s Acela Express catches the glint at Eddystone, Pennsylvania.

The local fire department had been tending to an incident nearby.
The local fire department had been tending to an incident nearby.

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