Tag Archives: photography

DAILY POST: When the Common is Uncommon.


Remembering the SPVs!

They were Budd’s follow up to its successful stainless steel rail diesel cars built in the 1950s. But where Budd’s RDCs had established standards for self propelled diesel cars, Budd’s SPV-2000 didn’t measure up.

I think ‘SPV’ was supposed to mean ‘Self Propelled Vehicle,’ but all the railroaders I knew called them ‘Seldom Powered Vehicles.’

These were adapted from the original Budd Metroliner (MP85) car style and in the same family as Amtrak’s Budd-built Amfleet.

For a few years they were routinely assigned to Amtrak’s Springfield, Massachusetts-New Haven, Connecticut shuttle trains.

Amtrak at Springfield Station.
Silhouette of a Budd SPV2000 at Springfield Station on the morning of September 30, 1984. Exposed on 35mm Kodak Tri-X with a Leica 3A with 21mm lens.
On the morning of September 30, 1984, Conrail B23-7s lead  eastward freight SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) through Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station. A set of SPVs rests in the shadows. Although not the primary subject, I was sure to include the SPV2000s in my photograph. Exposed on Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 21mm lens.
On the morning of September 30, 1984, Conrail B23-7s lead eastward freight SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) through Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station. A set of SPVs rests in the shadows. Although not the primary subject, I was sure to include the SPV2000s in my photograph. Exposed on Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 21mm lens.

I admit now that I didn’t like the SPVs. I didn’t like them because they were new, and I much preferred the traditional RDCs. Also, at the time, I found the round car style un-photogenic.

Despite my dislike of the SPV’s, I photographed them anyway. While I wish that I’d made more photos of them, I’m very glad that I bothered to put them on film at all.

As it turned out, Amtrak appears to have disliked the SPV’s even more than I did! Their tenure on the Springfield run was short. By 1986, they’d been largely replaced with locomotive hauled consists. Other than my own photographs, I’ve seen very few images of these cars working on Amtrak.

A lone SPV2000 makes a station stop at Windsor Locks, Connecticut in May 1985. From my experience, it was relatively unusual to find single SPVs working in Springfield-Hartford-New Haven shuttle service. Exposed with a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon 50mm lens. Contrast controlled locally in post processing using Photoshop.
A lone SPV2000 makes a station stop at Windsor Locks, Connecticut in May 1985. From my experience, it was relatively unusual to find single SPVs working in Springfield-Hartford-New Haven shuttle service. Exposed with a Leica 3A fitted with a Canon 50mm lens. Contrast controlled locally in post processing using Photoshop.

Here’s an irony: in retrospect I’ve come to appreciate the SPV’s. They were a rare example of a modern American-built self-propel diesel car, and to my well-traveled eye, I now find them very interesting. So, what seemed new and common, now seems rare and peculiar!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

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Also see: Old Pointless Arrow and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

and: Springfield Station, March 31, 1984

The Amherst Railway Society ‘BIG RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW‘ is on this weekend (January 25 and 26, 2014) at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

See: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/

Brian Solomon will cover the train show in Tracking the Light.

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DAILY POST: Springfield Station, March 31, 1984

From Brian’s Lost Archive.

Conrail, Springfield, Mass.
Conrail C30-7 6608 pauses at Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station on March 31, 1984. Exposed on Panatomic-X ASA 32 (Kodak Safety Film 5060) with Leica 3A fitted with a 50mm Summitar.

I made this photo when I was a senior in high school. Paul Goewey and I’d planned to meet some friends at Springfield Station, and then drive north to photograph Boston & Maine at Deerfield.

While we waited for the others to arrive, I exposed a series of images of Conrail on the former Boston & Albany mainline. At the time, Conrail regularly stored locomotives between runs on track 2A in the station (at right). On the left is a set of light engines led by Conrail 6608, one of ten C30-7s.

More interesting is the locomotive trailing 6608, a relative-rare former Erie-Lackawanna SDP45.

The trip to the B&M was very successful and I exposed two rolls of 35mm Kodak Panatomic-X ASA 32 (Kodak Safety Film 5060) with my Leica 3A, and a couple of rolls of 120 B&W with my dad’s Rolleiflex. I processed all the film in the kitchen sink, using a crude formula of Microdol-X. I sleeved the negs and made 3×5 size proof prints.

The 120 negatives have been in my files for three decades, but the 35mm negatives had vanished. I have a photo album from 1985, with many of these images, but for years was vexed by the loss of the 35mm negatives. As a rule, I don’t throw photographs away.

The other day, I found a carton with school papers and photographs. There, at the bottom was an unlabeled crumpled manila envelope. What’s this? Ah ha!

It was chock full of negatives from 1984-1985. All missing for decades, many of them unprinted.

A raw negative strip from my morning at Springfield Station on March 31, 1984. Although stored in a manila envelop for the better part of three decades, the negatives were processed properly and kept flat in a cool dry place, and so remain in very good condition.
A raw negative strip from my morning at Springfield Station on March 31, 1984. Although stored in a manila envelop for the better part of three decades, the negatives were processed properly and kept flat in a cool dry place, and so remain in very good condition.

I scanned these negative strip on my Epson V600 scanner. Using Photoshop I cleaned up a few minor defect and made necessary contrast adjustments, then exported a reduced file size for display here. A photo lost for nearly three decades can now be enjoyed in through a medium I couldn’t have foreseen when I exposed it.

Also see: Old Pointless Arrow and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Amherst Railway Society ‘BIG RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW‘ is on this weekend (January 25 and 26, 2014) at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

See: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/

Brian Solomon will cover the train show in Tracking the Light.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Conrail, Springfield, Mass.
Conrail C30-7 6608 at Springfield Union Station on March 31, 1984.
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Daily Post: Busy Morning at West Trenton


Photographing on the former Reading Company.

 The word was out that Norfolk Southern’s Pennsylvania Railroad painted heritage locomotive was to work a detoured stack train over CSX’s Trenton Subdivision to avoid a scheduled engineering project at Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Pat Yough and I planted ourselves at the West Trenton, New Jersey SEPTA station in anticipation. A number of other enthusiasts had similar plans, so there was plenty of company.

Railroad station
Former Reading Company station at West Trenton, New Jersey on the morning of January 19, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.
Railway station detail.
Detailed view of West Trenton station. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
West Trenton station's build date is carved in stone. Lumix LX3 photo.
West Trenton station’s build date is carved in stone. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA
A SEPTA train for Philadelphia’s Airport pulls into the West Trenton station. CSXT’s unit oil train K040 with BNSF locomotives waits in the distance. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CSXT oil train.
After the SEPTA local departed, CSXT KO40 led by BNSF 9688 and 5523 rolls southward through West Trenton. This section of the old Reading demonstrates how freight and passenger traffic can coexist on the same line. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CSXT symbol freight Q439   works south behind mixed consist of GE and EMD locomotives. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
CSXT symbol freight Q439 works south behind mixed consist of GE and EMD locomotives. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Switchers have become relatively rare items on modern railroads so I made this grab shot of CSXT 1137 as it rolled by. Lumix LX3 photo.
Switchers have become relatively rare items on modern railroads so I made this grab shot of CSXT 1137 as it rolled by. Lumix LX3 photo.
A SEPTA Silverliner V waits to enter West Trenton Station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A SEPTA Silverliner V waits to enter West Trenton Station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

 

The much anticipated Norfolk Southern detour I5T, (running as CSXT B100-19) works northward through West Trenton. At the back of the train are a pair of NS diesels to aid with reverse moves necessary for the detour arrangements. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
The much anticipated Norfolk Southern detour I5T, (running as CSXT B100-19) works northward through West Trenton. At the back of the train are a pair of NS diesels to aid with reverse moves necessary for the detour arrangements. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

The former Reading station building at West Trenton is now privately owned (and serves a non-railroad function), while the platforms remain active for SEPTA’s regularly scheduled passenger trains to Philadelphia.

When we arrived, morning clouds were giving way to sun. A pair of westward CSX trains was holding just west of the electrified zone and the radio was alive with activity.

In a little more than an hour we caught three SEPTA trains and four freights. This kept me and my three cameras pretty busy. My goal was not just to photograph the trains, but to capture these trains in this classic railroad environment.

Norfolk Southern 8102 was in clean tuscan-red paint at it trailed at the back of nearly two-miles of double stacked containers. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens.
Norfolk Southern 8102 was in clean tuscan-red paint at it trailed at the back of nearly two-miles of double stacked containers. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens.
Trailing with of NS I5T (CSXT B100-19) passing the West Trenton tower.
Trailing with of NS I5T (CSXT B100-19) passing the West Trenton tower. Canon EOS 7D.
CSXT empty oil train K041 works northward behind the detoured stack train. BNSF locomotives make a bit of color in this otherwise drab New Jersey scene. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
CSXT empty oil train K041 works northward behind the detoured stack train. BNSF locomotives make a bit of color in this otherwise drab New Jersey scene. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

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See related posts:  Exploring SEPTATake a Ride on the ReadingPhiladelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

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SPECIAL POST: SEPTA in the Snow

Afternoon and evening, January 21, 2014.

SEPTA in snow
SEPTA local arrives at Overbrook on the way to Thorndale. Canon EOS 7D photo.

This morning dawned with a blood-red sunrise. Something about a red sky in the morning?

What I’d call ‘winter’ has been given all sorts of new fancy names. Probably the most absurd is the ‘polar vortex.’ Next up is the term handed to today’s precipitation: ‘bombogensis.’

Call it what you like. By about 2:30 pm today 6 inches of snow was improving photography all over Philadelphia, and by 5 pm there was 8-10 inches was making for interesting images.

My brother Sean and I spent the afternoon in Philadelphia making photos of SEPTA and snow accumulation while running errands. Falling and drifting snow made for some dramatic photography opportunities.

SEPTA in the snow
Inbound SEPTA multiple unit approaches Overbrook Station. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Late-running Amtrak Keystone service crosses over at Overbrook. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Late-running Amtrak Keystone service crosses over at Overbrook. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA number 10 trolley takes the corner at Lansdowne Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA number 10 trolley takes the corner at Lansdowne Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA trolley
SEPTA number 10 glides along in the snow on the afternoon of January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
PCC trolley
A vintage PCC in Route 15 service ambles along snow-covered Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Trailing view of a SEPTA PCC on Girard Avenue, on January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Trailing view of a SEPTA PCC on Girard Avenue, on January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Snow exposure I always tricky. My basic rule of thumb is to use the camera meter to set a gauging point, then open up (over expose) by 2/3s to a full stop above the camera meter. Using the histogram on the back of the camera, I then fine tune my exposure depending on the setting.

I detailed how to interpret the histogram for snow exposures in an earlier post. Click to see: Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

Cleaning the sidewalks on Viola Street at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Cleaning the sidewalks on Viola Street at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal shows a 'stop' aspect. January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal shows a ‘stop’ aspect. January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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SEPTA train.
An inbound SEPTA MU arrives at Overbrook on the evening of January 21, 2014. Despite the snow, this service was on schedule. Canon EOS 7D photo.
PRR main line.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line looking east at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

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See related posts:  Exploring SEPTATake a Ride on the ReadingPhiladelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

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TRACKING THE LIGHT NEWS FLASH: Photos of Philadelphia Schuylkill River Bridge Derailment.


Monday Afternoon; January 20, 2014.

View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill RIver Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

The news media reported that early this morning (January 20, 2014), an oil train destined for Philadelphia derailed while crossing the Schuylkill River.

The derailment occurred near I-76 and within sight of Center City.

This afternoon, my brother and I were on our way through Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to make photos from the car as we passed the derailment site.

Traffic was very slow on I-76, and I ample time to make snapshots with my Canon EOS 7D. On our way back, the clean up efforts continued, so I made a few more images.

It pays to have a camera at the ready to capture events such as this one.

View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill RIver Bridge derailment. Canon EOS  7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill RIver Bridge derailment. Canon EOS
View from I-76; a  derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

 

Derailment_on_Schuylkill_River_Bridge_IMG_0990

Dusk on January 20, 2014, clean up crews attend to derailed cars on the Schulykill River Bridge. ISO 6400, Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Dusk on January 20, 2014, clean up crews attend to derailed cars on the Schulykill River Bridge. ISO 6400, Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

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DAILY POST: Exploring SEPTA

January 2014 Philadelphia Photo Exercise

SEPTA_Map_IMG_3911

For me, SEPTA is one of the most photogenic American big city transit systems. Sure, other cities have their charms, but Philadelphia has a lot going for it; variety, accessibility, interval services on most routes, real time displays at stations, visual cues to its heritage, interesting and varied equipment and etc.

On January 16, 2014, my brother Sean and I, spent an afternoon and evening wandering on SEPTA’s rail systems making photographs. I had a minor agenda to ride a few pieces of the network I’d not yet traveled on.

I worked with two cameras; Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D, but traveled relatively light (no film body or big telephotos)

Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA has a App that shows schedules, train times & etc. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA has a App that shows schedules, train times & etc. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Airport station
Philadelphia is one of the few North American cities with direct heavy rail airport connections. Trains run every half hour with stations at each terminal. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA.
Afternoon sun catches an outbound Silverliner V at University City. A CSX freight rolls overhead on the Highline. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

All of the lines we traveled were well patronized (some at standing room only) and yet everything seem to run to time. SEPTA’s staff were friendly and helpful. (Especially when we were running for trains).

SEPTA
SEPTA SIlverliner V interior. Built by ROTEM. Lumix LX3 photo.
End of the line at Elwyn.
End of the line at Elwyn.
Silverliner V at Elwyn. The line used to continue to West Chester.
Silverliner V at Elwyn. The line used to continue to West Chester. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA railroad station
Old Pennsylvania Railroad station at Clifton-Aldan.
End of the Sharon Hill trolley line. Lumix LX3 photo.
End of the Sharon Hill trolley line. Lumix LX3 photo.
69th Street terminal at Upper Darby. Outbound trolleys for Media and Sharon Hill. Lumix LX3 photo.
69th Street terminal at Upper Darby. Outbound Kawasaki trolleys for Media and Sharon Hill. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street. Lumix LX3 photo. Contrast adjusted in post processing to improve the overall appearance of the image.
Norristown transportation center. The old Reading Company on the lower level. A Norfolk Southern freight rolled through as we boarded the train for Center City. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown transportation center. The old Reading Company on the lower level. A Norfolk Southern freight rolled through as we boarded the train for Center City. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Daypass; a bargain that cost just $12. We got good value with ours. SEPTA's conductor sold us the passes on the train. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Daypass; a bargain that cost just $12. We got good value with ours. SEPTA’s conductor sold us the passes on the train. Lumix LX3 photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA
Market East. Lumix LX3 photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Overbrook station on the Main Line. Canon EOS 7D photo, with 40mm pancake lens.
Overbrook station on the Main Line. Canon EOS 7D photo, with 40mm pancake lens.

 

Click to see related posts: SEPTA Silverliners at Market EastSEPTA’s Number 15 StreetcarSEPTA Wanderings in Early January 2013; and SEPTA One Year Ago: June 29, 2012

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DAILY POST: Amtrak to Philadelphia


Snapshot of a Northeast Corridor Trip, January 2014.

I used my trip on Amtrak 475/175 as an opportunity to make a few photographs. While I had some bigger cameras in my bag, I exposed all of these images with my Lumix LX3.

I boarded shuttle train 475 at Berlin, Connecticut just as the sun was setting. By the time I arrived in New Haven, only a faint blue glow remained of daylight.

Amtrak 475 (Springfield, Massachusetts—New Haven, Connecticut shuttle) works as a two-car push-pull with a former Metroliner (MP85) cab car leading. The train glides to a stop in front of the old Berlin, Connecticut railway station. Once a double track line, today this is a single track route. Lumix LX3 photo.
Amtrak 475 (Springfield, Massachusetts—New Haven, Connecticut shuttle) works as a two-car push-pull with a former Metroliner (MP85) cab car leading. The train glides to a stop in front of the old Berlin, Connecticut railway station. Once a double track line, today this is a single track route. Lumix LX3 photo.
Even the branch train has WiFi.
Even the branch train has WiFi.
A Boston-bound Acela Express pauses at New Haven. I had about 15 minutes to make photos before my connection, trian 175, from Boston arrived.
A Boston-bound Acela Express pauses at New Haven. I had about 15 minutes to make photos before my connection, trian 175, from Boston arrived.
The Acela Express accelerates out of New Haven. I panned the rear of the train with the Lumix image stabilization set 'on'; f2.8 at 1/5th of a second, ISO 200.
The Acela Express accelerates out of New Haven. I panned the rear of the train with the Lumix image stabilization set ‘on’; f2.8 at 1/5th of a second, ISO 200.
A Shore Line East suburban train roars away on the platform. These New Haven painted diesels have auxiliary engines to provide head-end power.
A Shore Line East suburban train roars away on the platform. These New Haven painted diesels have auxiliary engines to provide head-end power.
A set of new Metro-North M8s arrived from Grand Central Terminal. It's nice to see a shiny new train every so often!
A set of new Metro-North M8s arrived from Grand Central Terminal. It’s nice to see a shiny new train every so often!
An HHP electric slides westward with train 175 in tow. How much longer will these powerful machines work the Northeast Corridor?
An HHP electric slides westward with train 175 in tow. How much longer will these powerful machines work the Northeast Corridor?

I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I used the station signs and other available flat surfaces on the platform to steady the camera. To avoid camera shake, after composing my image, I set the self timer to 2 seconds and press the shutter button.

Also, I overexposed each image by 1/3 to 2/3s of a stop to compensate for the prevailing darkness.

The trip was uneventful. Amtrak is my preferred means for navigating between cities in the Northeastern USA.

On board train 175 at New York Penn Station.
On board train 175 at New York Penn Station.
Crossing the Delaware at Trenton, New Jersey.
Crossing the Delaware at Trenton, New Jersey.
Philadelphia 30th Street. We were about 5 minute behind the advertised, but that's within tolerance, right? This classic Pennsylvania Railroad station is one of the gems of the Northeast Corridor.
Philadelphia 30th Street. Amtrak 175  arrived about 5 minute behind the advertised, but that’s within tolerance, right? This classic Pennsylvania Railroad station is one of the gems of the Northeast Corridor.
30th Street Station as viewed from the 29th Street side.
30th Street Station as viewed from the 29th Street side.
A classical entrance to Philadelphia; you just don't get the same feeling from an airport.
A classical entrance to Philadelphia; you just don’t get the same feeling from an airport.
Philadelphia.
Looking east on JFK Blvd toward Center City. SEPTA’s former PRR line to Suburban Station is on the left.

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DAILY POST: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited


“It never gets old”

Amtrak 449, in sun and rain; one day and the next. Last week, I was over in East Brookfield visiting the LeBeaus to do some videography for a music video. Dennis LeBeau lives a block from the Boston & Albany (CSXT’s Boston Line).

I said to Dennis, “I’m just going to nip down to the bridge to catch 449. It should be getting close.”

“Passes here every day at one-thirty. I’ll join you in a minute.”

I phoned Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent: 1-800-USA-RAIL) to find out if 449 as on time out of Worcester. As it turns out, it departed Worcester Union Station 4 minutes late.

Worcester is at CP45, East Brookfield is CP64. It takes 449 about 25-30 minutes to run the 19 miles.

Since it was nice bright afternoon, I opted for a broadside view that shows a few of the houses in town. At 1:39, Dennis shouted to me from the road bridge, “He’s around the bend.” I was poised to made my photograph with my Lumix LX3.

This can be tricky since there’s really only a split second to get the train in the right place. If the camera isn’t cued up, all I’ll get is a photo of the baggage car. But I was ready, and put the train precisely where I wanted it.

Amtrak's westward Lake Shore Limited at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 at f4.0 1/1600th of a second. I selected a fast shutter speed to insure I stopped the train. When working broadside, the relative motion of the train to the film plane requires a fast shutter speed than when aiming at tighter three-quarter view.

The train glided through town. I turned to make a few going away views with my Canon, and said to Dennis, “You know that never gets old. I’ve been photographing that train since the 1970s.”

Dennis said to me, “I’ve been watching it since it was the New England States Limited, with New York Central E8s!”

A day later, I was in Palmer (CP83). The word was out that Amtrak 145 (one of the Genesis P42s in heritage paint) was working 449. The weather was foul, but since I was in town anyway, I figured I’d give the train a roll by.

It was stabbed at CP83 by a southward New England Central freight going into the yard, which allowed ample time for photos. Such a contrast in days. Pity the heritage P42 hadn’t worked west a day sooner.

Amtrak has painted P42 145 in its 1970s-era scheme. It sits at CP83 in the driving rain waiting for a southward New England Central freight to clear the diamond on January 14, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Amtrak has painted P42 145 in its 1970s-era scheme. It leads train 449 which is sitting at CP83 waiting for a southward New England Central freight to clear the diamond on January 14, 2014. Driving rain was the order of the day. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

See: Kid with a Camera 1978Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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DAILY POST; Retro Railroading at Greenfield


Pan Am Railway’s EDMO roars west on the Boston & Maine.

It’s almost like stepping back to the 1970s; three EMDs powered by turbocharged 16-645 diesels working under searchlight signals with a carload train.

Pan Am Railways
On January 12, 2014, Pan Am Railway’s EDMO (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard) works the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route at Greenfield, Massachusetts. The line on the left is the Connecticut River route running south toward Springfield. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

This is a nice contrast to the parade of  double-stack containers and unit trains that characterize most American mainlines. While the details of the motive power have been altered since they were built, the spirit of the operation reminds me of watching trains more than 35 years ago.

If you think about it, as point of comparison, if in 1979 you were to see 35 year-old motive power and a traditional freight train that probably would have been either steam engines, or EMD FTs leading 40-ft cars.

Sure, you could argue that Pan Am’s paint scheme is a relatively recent development, and the locomotives have been modified since the 1970s (the lead former Santa Fe SD45-2 had its 20-645E3 swapped with a 16-cylinder engine among other changes), but that belies the point.

EDMO. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
EDMO. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Tight view of Pan Am 616.  Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Tight view of Pan Am 616. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

For similar posts, click to see: Pan Am Southern at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 2013Pan Am Railways Ayer Massachusetts, January 17, 2013;  Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2Boston & Maine MERU, February 10, 1985

My book Classic Locomotives published by Voyageur Press is available from Amazon.

Also see my big hard cover classic: Modern Locomotives

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DAILY POST: Lucky Afternoon

I went to the Post Office and Scored a Train.

The other day, I had a few packages to send out. I’d delayed going to the post office until after the school buses were out, using the logic that if I waited, I wouldn’t get stuck behind one on the way back.

On the way into the PO, I heard a distant whistle. And while at the desk, a train rumbled by.

New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line runs on a slightly elevated gradient behind the Monson, Massachusetts PO. This is on the climb up State Line hill, and heavy trains make a good racket coming though town. This freight, however, wasn’t very heavy and the engines weren’t working too hard.

I made an expeditious exit after mailing my packages, and started south on Route 32. No sooner than I was south of town, I found myself looking at the back of a school bus!

And this bus then stopped, as required, at the South Monson grade crossing.

I could hear the southward climbing. It had already gone through. Fortunately, once over the tracks, the bus driver kindly pulled in to let traffic around. I sailed southward, and arrived at State Line crossing. Once out of the car, I could hear the train working.

New England Central's daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.
New England Central’s daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.

Although the light was fading, there was enough to work with. While, I’d left most of my cameras at home, I had my Lumix LX3 in my coat pocket. I set up a shot immediately south of the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, and included the granite marker at the left of the image.

After the train passed, I followed it to Stafford Springs, where I made a few more photos. As it turns out, these NECR images are my first railway photos for 2014.

New England Central's GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
NECR
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the afternoon of January 9, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.

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DAILY POST: Timber and General Motors, June 10, 2006

Westport, County Mayo, Ireland.

This pair of images will never be repeated. Here we have Irish Rail’s afternoon passenger to Dublin consisting of  Mark 3 set led class 201 number 222 (known colloquially as the ‘Bishop Tutu’).  That same afternoon, at about 3:40pm an empty timber with a mixed pair of 121/141s arrived from Waterford.

Irish Rail at Westport

The afternoon Westport-Dublin passenger is ready to depart Westport on June 10, 2006. Nikon F3 with Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens.
Irish Rail empty timber train.
Irish Rail 146 and 134 arrive at Westport with an Empty Timber from Waterford on June 10, 2006. Nikon F3 with Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens.

What was unusual that day was an electrical power cut had required the use of portable generators at the station, making for an unusual discordant cacophony at the normally peaceful location.

Despite the racket, I went about making photographs. Here, I carefully composed both views from the footbridge by the signal cabin using the same angle to show the contrasting trains in the classic scene. It was the end of an era. Soon all would change.

Since that time, Irish Rail has retired the small General Motors diesels. The 121s made their final runs in 2008, the 141s finished a couple of years later. The Mark III passenger carriages were withdrawn from traffic; today passenger trains to Westport run with Irish Rail’s Rotem-built 22000-series railcars.

I exposed both photos on Fujichrome with my Nikon F3 fitted with a 1960s vintage Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens.

I returned to Dublin on the evening passenger train, also with Mark 3s and a 201 class General Motors diesel.

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DAILY POST: Daylight Beauty at Hooker Creek.

On Assignment with Southern Pacific.

Mount Shasta looms more than 90 miles to north, as Southern Pacific’s most famous locomotives races railroad west through along Hooker Creek (near Cottonwood, California).

SP 4449
Southern Pacific’s Lima-built semi-streamlined 4-8-4 number 4449 works railroad west south of Cottonwood, California on the evening of September 2, 1991. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 300mm Nikkor telephoto.

I exposed this image on September 2, 1991. Southern Pacific had organized the historic streamlined engine to make a public appearances in the Sacramento River Canyon as a goodwill gesture following a serious derailment at the Cantera Loop which spilled toxins into the river above Dunsmuir. The railroad had hired me for two days to make photographs of the PR event.

Brian Jennison provided transport, and the two of us spent a long weekend making numerous images of SP 4449 with the matching Daylight train. I borrowed Brian’s 300mm Nikkor telephoto for this dramatic image. SP ran one of my photos in their company magazine, Southern Pacific Bulletin.

While SP’s public runs ran from Redding to Dunsmuir and beyond to Black Butte, after the train returned to Dunsmuir, it would run light to the wye at Tehama for turning. It was on this portion of the journey(s) that I made some of the most dramatic photos because they occurred in the evening when the lighting was most pleasing.

I’d chosen this angle to feature Mt. Shasta. Unfortunately, owing to the time of year, the famous volcanic cone wasn’t covered with snow in its higher regions.

This photo has appeared in books, and I’ve used many of the images from the trip in publications. SP 4449 remains one of my favorite locomotives.

See: Classic Locomotives my recent book by Voyageur Press for more great steam locomotive photos.

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DAILY POST: Kid with a Camera 1978

 

Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited with E8As near Palmer.

For my eleventh birthday my father gave me a 1930s-era Leica 3A and a role of film (with more to follow).

Every so often Pop would gather my brother Sean and I into the car and head over the Boston & Albany (then Conrail) to wait for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Back then, the train was still running with heritage equipment and typically hauled by fairly tired E8As.

If we were really lucky we might catch freight too.

Lake Shore Limited
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited roars along on the Boston & Albany near milepost 81, two miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts’s diamond with Central Vermont. I exposed this image in summer 1978. In a few weeks I’d start 7th grade. Weeks would pass from the time I released the shutter until I would make prints from the 35mm black & white negative.

On this day in summer 1978, we drove to Palmer. I think we’d started up the Quaboag River Valley, but realized we might not have time to reach Warren before the westward Lake Shore came roaring down the valley. So we reversed and picked a spot near milepost 81, not far from the Route 20-67 split (east of town).

We didn’t wait long. I could hear pairs of twin 12-567s working before the headlight a appeared at the bend near the old barn. And then there it was!

“I see it!”

I made several exposures with the Leica. Unfortunately, in my panic to capture the train passing I shook the camera, so the head-on view is a bit blurred.

I processed the negatives from this adventure in the kitchen sink and made prints that I placed in a homemade photo album. The negatives were well processed and have survived in good order. I scanned them a few weeks ago. My notes from the day appear to have gone missing though.

As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.
As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.

Click to see:

Kid with a Camera: Gun Hill Road, the Bronx, New York Summer 1980

Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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DAILY POST: Railroad Abstract.

And I don’t Mean Summery Statistics.

Tracks in snow.
Fitchburgh, Massachusetts; exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens, f10 1/500th of second, ISO 200, auto white balance.

Heavy snow covered Pan Am’s Fitchburg Yard. I made this simple photograph of a disused yard lead under the blanket of settled snow.

Tree shadows add for contrast and texture to a monochromatic scene.

I intentionally included the old switch stands near the top of the frame as a point of reference and for context.

Perhaps the image would be too abstract without them? I don’t know?

Maybe this would be better titled “Railroad Minimalism”?

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DAILY POST: Packing Friction Bearings.

A Bit of History on Film.

Does anyone even remember friction bearings? By the 1990s, these were all but a forgotten technology, replaced with the omnipresent roller bearings. Southern Pacific’s season sugar beet racks were once of the few exceptions and continued to work until about 1992 with the old technology.

However, prior to that in January 1988, I had a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) that involved making photos of railroad workers. I’d arranged through the Rochester & Southern to spend time around Brooks Avenue Yard.

I spent a lot of time there, relative to what was required of me for the class.

Railroad workers
Packing friction bearings on freight cars at Brooks Avenue Yard, Rochester, New York, January 1988.

At one point the general manager, or someone in the know, directed me to a rip track where workers were packing friction bearings. This was really an arcane aspect of railroading.

I exposed a series of black & white negatives in the 645 format using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T. It was a dull cold day. I think I was using Verichrome Pan (rated at 80 ISO) to get a period effect. I used a wide aperture, probably f3.5, which gave me shallow depth of field.

Verichrome was a difficult material to work with in low light and my negatives were very thin.

To make the most of these photos I used an unusual printing technique: I intentionally printed the photo darker than normal, then used a potassium-ferrocyanide solution to bleach the highlights. I did this both across the print in a tray, and using a cotton swab on select areas such as the around the journal boxes.

The result is more or less as you see it here. This print has been in a box since 1988 and has hardly ever seen the light of day. (Incidentally, in case the name doesn’t suggest it to you, potassium-ferrocyanide is decidedly unhealthy, so use it cautiously, if you must.)

I don’t think my professor was especially impressed with my results. What did he know about bearings anyway?

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NEW YEAR’S POST: Happy 2014!


CSX Searchlights at Depew.

CSX stack train with signals
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm image stabilized zoom lens, set at 250mm.

I exposed this image on the evening of August 20, 2010 of a westward CSX stack train at CP431 in Depew, New York. What makes this photo interesting to me is the former New York Central signal bridge and searchlight signals.

Since I made this photograph, CSX has replaced many of the searchlights on the Water Level Route with modern color light hardware. While I’m sorry to see the old signals go, I’m not surprised.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote an editorial in Pacific RailNews (when I was editor of that magazine) warning enthusiasts that searchlights were on their way out, and explained why. At the time, searchlights were very common.

The photo is timely. This year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware:

Semaphores, Searchlights, Positional Lights and Towers, of all varieties.

This will be a great book. I’ve been researching and photographing the subject for many years!

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END OF YEAR POST

Tracking the Light in 2013.

Searchlight signals
Blue sky and red signals; the old Boston & Maine-era searchlight protects the Bellows Falls diamond. In the steam era an old ball signal protected this crossing, then with Rutland Railroad.

Here, a potpourri of images illuminated the net; covering everything from unit oil trains to obscure eastern European transit. So, looking back, 2013 has been a productive and busy time for Tracking the Light.

My original intention with Tracking the Light was to disseminate detailed information about railway photographic technique. Over time this concept has evolved and I’ve used this as a venue for many of my tens of thousands of images.

Among the themes of the images I post; signaling, EMD 20-cylinder diesels, Irish Railways, photos made in tricky (difficult) lighting, elusive trains, weedy tracks and steam locomotives are my favorites.

Since March, I’ve posted new material daily. I’ve tried to vary the posts while largely sticking to the essential theme of railway images. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and will tell your friends about this site! There’s more to come in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Brian Solomon

General Motors Electro-Motive Division SD45 diesels
Southern Pacific 7547 leads a manifest freight timetable east at Brock, California, on SP’s East Valley line on April 28, 1991. This 35mm Kodachome image was scanned with an Epson V600. Minor adjustments were necessary using Photoshop to lighten exposure, correct contrast and color balance. The photo is seen full-frame.
Wisconsin Central
Wisconsin Central as viewed from across a cornfield at Byron, Wisconsin on December 3, 1994. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm wide angle lens on Kodachrome 25 color slide film. Scanned with a Epson V600 scanner. No post processing except as necessary to scale image for internet use and insert byline tag.
Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.
New England Central freights
New England Central freights 604 and 606 at Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX photo.
2-10-0 locomotive
Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 24mm lens with R2 red filter on Fuji Neopan 400, processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.
Bluebell Railway.
My known good spot: here a Bluebell train works the bank north of Horsted Keynes. Lumix LX3 photo.

See: Burlington Northern at Sunset, Whitefish, Montana July 5, 1994Tram in Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2008Donner Pass Part 1Bluebell Railway Revisited, July 2013-Part 2Boston & Albany Milepost 67, Brookfield, Massachusetts; Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005 . . .and more!

 

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Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Croydon Tram
This tram was difficult to miss in its iridescent special livery.
Tube station.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are among London’s largest tourist attractions. This poster describes Victorian interest in art and places photography in period context. Lumix LX3 photo.
New General Electric DASH8-40B on New York Susquehanna & Western
In 1989, New York, Susquehanna & Western served as the court appointed operator of Delaware & Hudson. By virtue of the 1976 Conrail merger, D&H had been granted trackage rights on the former Erie Railroad route from Binghamton to Buffalo, New York. On this March morning, a new NYS&W General Electric led an eastward double stack train on the old Erie near West Middlebury, New York, 384 miles from Jersey City.Exposed on 120 Kodachrome transparency film with a Hasselblad 500C with 80mm Zeiss Planar lens

 

Locomotive drive wheel
A study in motion: drive wheel, cylinder, valves and valve gear of locomotive 92212 at Kingscote. Canon EAS 7D photo.
PRR Suburban Station.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad Suburban Station as seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
rail freight

I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens, set at ISO 400 f 4.5 at 1/1000th. In post-processing I made minor adjustments to contrast and saturation to match how I perceived the light at the moment of exposure.

 

Irish Rail Gray 077 Leads Ballast Train
A landscape view of Irish Rail’s HOBS at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin on August 2, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Oil train catches the glint.
Away we go into the sunset hot in pursuit of an oil train. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at f6.3 1/1000 second at ISO 200.
CSX_oil_train_K040
First of four eastward unit oil trains; CSX K040 with a mix of CSX, KCS, and BNSF locomotives.

 

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DAILY POST: SEPTA Silverliners at Market East

Three Years Ago Today: December 30, 2010

I was visiting Philadelphia for the holiday season. I’d just got my Lumix back from Panasonic following a warranty-repair and I was happy to make some photos with it.

A wander around Center City on December 30, 2010 with my family made for ample opportunities to exercise the shutter. Sometimes the ordinary scenes make for interesting photos, and over time these tend to age well; witness below.

Panasonic’s Lumix LX series cameras are idea for making urban images. Compact size, ease of use, plus a very sharp lens and the ability to shoot RAW files, gives benefits of both snapshot and professional quality cameras. I’ve enlarged my LUMIX LX3 images to 16x20 inches with excellent results and routinely included LX3 photos in books and articles.
Panasonic’s Lumix LX series cameras are idea for making urban images. Compact size, ease of use, plus a very sharp lens and the ability to shoot RAW files, gives benefits of both snapshot and professional quality cameras. I’ve enlarged my LUMIX LX3 images to 16×20 inches with excellent results and routinely included LX3 photos in books and articles.

This view was exposed on the platforms of SEPTA’s Market East station (the 1980s replacement for Philadelphia & Reading’s Victorian train-temple, Reading Terminal—today a convention center, sans tracks).

Here I found a pair of 1960s vintage Silverliners working the R3 service. These elegant classics were nearing the end of their working careers. After nearly five decades, the last of these machines were withdrawn in June 2012.

 

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DAILY POST: Looking Back at Looking Ahead

 Predicting Change to Plan Photographic Strategy.

In late 1992, I recognized that Southern Pacific and its lightly used Modoc line were not long for the world. I knew then that I'd better act and get out there to make photographs before the Modoc went the way of Milwaukee Road's fabled Pacific Extension. I'm sorry to report, that I was correct. The tracks here at Crest, pictured in January 1993 were abandoned by Union Pacific after it took over SP.
In late 1992, I recognized that Southern Pacific and its lightly used Modoc line were not long for the world. I knew then that I’d better act and get out there to make photographs before the Modoc went the way of Milwaukee Road’s fabled Pacific Extension. I’m sorry to report, that I was correct. The tracks here at Crest, pictured in January 1993 were abandoned by Union Pacific after it took over SP.

When I was a kid, change puzzled me. I’d look back over my father’s photographs and collection of timetables and books and wonder what had happened to the trains and railroads he’d seen and experienced.

But as a young child, I’d assumed that all change was in the past. Certainly things had been different. New York Central had become Penn-Central, and Penn-Central had become Conrail. But I naively assumed that everything else would remain constant!

Then I began to notice change myself: My favorite GG1 electrics were replaced by modern AEM7s and E60s. Those old Penn-Central black diesels were become ever more scarce. Boston’s PCC cars had become fewer and fewer.

By the late-1980s, I’d witnessed enough changes to recognize that documenting the railroad required careful attention to detail, and it was important to anticipate change before it begins.

Too often, railroad photographers wait until change is already underway before they act to make photographs. Sadly, sometimes they wait too long and miss the best opportunities to photograph.

With this in mind, in the 1990s, annually I drafted lists from which to work. It’s one thing to ponder photographing time-worthy subjects; its better to have a clear and prioritized strategy!

In 1993, I was remarkably organized: I’ve included a portion of that year’s ‘photo projects’ list. If you read through this carefully, you’ll see there’s considerable foresight in my approach. I was doing my best to predict the future and act upon that knowledge.

Below are pages from that list:

I drafted this list in late December 1992. I was doing my best to predict change and plan my strategy to photograph railways before they were affected by change. Within a few years of this list, most of my predictions proved true, even if my efforts at putting dates on them  missed by a year or two. Those errors favored my photography and the early start gave me a time advantage. There's more than one lesson here.
I originally drafted this list in late December 1992 (up-dated to Jan 3, 1993). I was doing my best to predict change and plan my strategy to photograph railways before they were affected by change. Within a few years of this list, most of my predictions proved true, even if my efforts at putting dates on them missed by a year or two. Those errors favored my photography and they gave me a time advantage. There’s more than one lesson here.
Page 1 of my 1993 list. This is a scan of my actual list. It has survived along with my notes from 1993. Luckily I that the time and motivational energies (if not the adequate financial resources), to act on most of the subjects listed.
Page 2 of my 1993 list. These are a scans of my actual list. The pages survived the years along with my notes from 1993. Luckily, I had the time and motivational energies (if not the adequate financial resources), to act on most of the subjects listed.

I’m really glad I made these lists! We can look back today, 21 years after I wrote this list, and see that many of the subjects I hoped to document have indeed vanished or changed. The pen-marked ‘ticks’ indicated that I’d made an attempt at the item.

How did I draft this list? Did I have a crystal ball? How did I know in 1993 that SP was soon to vanish? Why did I give SP’s Modoc line high priority? What caused me to anticipate changes to Canadian Pacific east of Sherbrooke? Pay special attention to my notes and comments for the clues. In some cased my anticipated dates were premature, but my vision was pretty accurate (I’m sorry to report.)

What is on your list for 2014?

Change is on-going. Think! What can you photograph now that will soon change unrecognizably? Remember, it is the common everyday subjects that are too often ignored until it’s too late to make photographs. Don’t wait until the last minute. Keep an ear to the ground and an eye on the rail. Anticipate, plan and then act.

Any suggestions? I’m all eyes and ears.

Canadian National electrics at Val Royal, Montreal on Jan 11, 1993. Time was running out for these ancient machines. Tom Carver and I made special trip to photograph them despite exceptionally frosty conditions. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film using a Nikon F3T.
Canadian National electrics at Val Royal, Montreal on Jan 11, 1993. Time was running out for these ancient machines. Tom Carver and I made special trip to photograph them despite exceptionally frosty conditions. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film using a Nikon F3T.
Almost a month to the day after I photographed the electrics in Montreal, I was knee deep in snow on the far side of the continent to catch the first run of SP's rotary plows on Donner Pass in eight years. They worked for three days in February 1993. I'd anticipated their operation in my 1993 list, drafted two months earlier. Exposed with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome 100 slide film.
A month  after I photographed the electrics in Montreal, I was knee-deep in snow on the far side of the continent to catch the first run of SP’s rotary plows on Donner Pass in eight years. They worked for three days in February 1993. I’d anticipated their operation in my 1993 list, drafted two months earlier. Exposed with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome 100 slide film.

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DAILY POST: Winners and Losers.

Contrasting Views of Indiana Railway Lines, June 2004.

In a world of railway mergers and consolidation, we can divide railway routes into groups; survivors and losers. Some lines have prevailed while others have been abandoned and ripped up.

Of course, we can further divide surviving lines. There are lines that continue to function as busy corridors, while others may only exist in fragmented form, or as downgraded local routes. Often fragments have been sown together and so now old railway line serve routes that may be very different than as originally intended.

Putting these concepts on film presents a puzzle and a challenge.

Rails at sunset
I made this view looking west on Norfolk Southern’s former Wabash mainline at Marshfield, Indiana. This highly polished steel highway continues to serve as a vital interstate corridor.
Abandoned track
High summer sun scorched the ruins of the old New York Central Egyptian Line at the Indiana-Illinois Stateline. This is one of many Midwestern railways abandoned as a result of railroad merger and line consolidation and shifting traffic patterns.

In June 2004, I was exploring western Indiana with Pete Ruesch and with his help I exposed these two photographs. The ‘winner’ is a sunset view of Norfolk Southern’s former Wabash mainline at Marshfield, which serves as a heavily-traveled long-distance freight corridor. The ‘loser’ was a recently abandoned vestige of New York Central’s Egyptian Line at the Indiana-Illinois state line.

Both were exposed with Nikon cameras on Fuji color slide film.

My recent book North American Railroad Family Trees (Voyageur Press) discusses past and possible future changes to the North American railway network.

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DAILY POST: Sculpting with Light and Shadow.

Southern Pacific Truckee River Canyon Silhouette.

During the first half of 1994 I spent a lot of time photographing Southern Pacific on Donner Pass. I was especially interested in making images of hard to reach or rarely photographed locations.

June 21st is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and provides unique lighting opportunities. On this long day, I’d hoped to make some unusual images in the deeper reaches of the Truckee River Canyon.

At the time I had good access to train information, and I knew SP had a westward DVOAF (Denver-Oakland Forwarder) heading up ‘The Hill’ (as SP’s Donner Pass crossing is known, ironically).

Rather than catch this at one of many easy to reach locations off Interstate 80, I decided to hike west of Floriston, California toward old Iceland—where SP’s grade separated mainline came back together. My intention was to photograph the Harriman-era truss bridge with the train in evening sunlight.

Southern Pacific Donner Pass
Southern Pacific’s DVOAF Denver-Oakland Forwarder) works west in the Truckee River Canyon near Iceland at 6:00pm on June 21, 1994. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Nikon F3T with f4 200mm lens. Image was scanned full-frame (with edges showing) using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. One of the benefits of Kodachrome was the ability to expose images like one this with deep inky black shadows. In comparison, other media tend to suffer from bland shadow definition.

As was often the case with SP, my desired westward freight ‘fell down’ (it was delayed) and didn’t reach my location in time. I stayed in place despite this set back. I was rewarded with a dramatic sequence of images, culminating with this silhouette.

The front of the locomotive has plunged into deep shadow, yet a shaft of sunlight has illuminated the engineer. It stands out among my hundreds of Donner Pass images, and is one of my favorite. I just can’t believe its been nearly 20 years since I exposed it!

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DAILY POST: Making Tracks

 What’s Around the Bend or Over the Horizon?

Cumbres & Toltec former Denver & Rio Grande Western three-foot gauge line, Colorado.
Cumbres & Toltec former Denver & Rio Grande Western three-foot gauge line, Colorado.

Railway tracks are the defining infrastructure of this transport system. They are key to the whole technology as well part of the title of this Internet Blog.

Often, tracks are view as secondary to the trains that use them. Photographs tend to focus on the locomotives and cars, rather then the tracks themselves.

With this post, I’ve focused on the tracks. I’ve selected a few photographs from my archives in which the tracks are the subject: tracks leading to the horizon across a desolate desert landscape; tracks curling around a bend in the snow; tracks in the weeds and tracks catching the sunlight.

Tracks capture our imaginations, and the images of tracks can be timeless. Yet not all tracks are the same. The condition of the line and nature of the landscape is telling. I’ve made hundreds of images like these over the years; sometimes from trains, other times from the ground, or overhead bridges. The formula is simple, but the results vary greatly.

Often the thought of what lies beyond is the most intriguing. What lies around the curve or just over the horizon? It are images like these that inspire wanderlust for railway journeys. In days of yore, how many young men left home in pursuit of that the elusive view around the next bend in the tracks.

 

Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia's former Canadian National Railways trackage.
Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia’s former Canadian National Railways trackage.
Dandelions on the line; PKP tracks near Grodzisk, Poland.
Dandelions on the line; PKP tracks near Grodzisk, Poland.
Canadian National crossovers at Bayview Junction, Ontario.
Canadian National crossovers at Bayview Junction, Ontario.
Maine Central tracks at Lincoln, Maine.
Maine Central tracks at Lincoln, Maine.
Derilict former Santa Fe track at Streator, Illinois on BNSF Railway.
Derilict former Santa Fe sidings  at Streator, Illinois on BNSF Railway.

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SPECIAL CHRISTMAS MORNING POST: Heuston Station Dublin.


Christmas Morning, Nine Years Ago.

 Dublin is a quiet place on Christmas morning. Almost everything is shut. The roads are relatively empty. The buses aren’t running. There are scant few people on the normally busy streets. And the railways are asleep.

Irish trains don’t run Christmas Day. And Dublin’s terminals are locked up tight. It’s a strange sight to see Heuston Station by daylight with nothing moving around it. This normally busy place is unnaturally quiet.

Dublin's Heuston Station
Heuston Station on Christmas morning 2004, exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a 16mm Zeiss Hologon flat field lens. Exposure and focus were done manually.

Yet, what better time to make architectural views of the 1840s-built terminal?

There are no buses or LUAS trams to interfere with the station’s classic design. Cars are relatively few. You can stand in the middle the street to compose photos with little chance of being run over.

Dublin's Heuston Station.
One of the peculiarities of the 16mm Zeiss Hologon is its flat field. When kept at a level with the subject this prevents vertical line convergence, however when not level, verticals suffer from extreme convergence; yet the lens doesn’t suffer from barrel-distortion, a characteristic of many wide-angle lens designs. It can be used to make distinctive architectural views.

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DAILY POST: Revisiting Derby Curve.

Photographing on the old Boston & Maine in the Snow.

Old Boston & Maine.
Pan Am Railways’ local freight ‘FI-1’ works west at Derby on its return to Fitchburg Yard. This is the approximate location of the photo in Ball’s book, but a bit higher. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

A few weeks ago I called into Tucker’s Hobbies to visit with Rich Reed who was working the counter. I picked up a copy of Don Ball Jrs’ classic book Americas Railroads, The Second Generation.

I remember finding a copy of Ball’s book at the Wilbraham Library when I was in Junior High School and being very impressed by the photographs and their arrangement.

In October 1981, my parents drove me to Brattleboro, Vermont on a windy, rainy evening to watch a slide show that Ball was presenting. After the show, I spoke to him briefly. I met him once again, two years later on Steamtown’s Vermont final run from Bellows Falls to Rutland. Ball was running the operation at the time.

Anyway, as I was thumbing though the pages, I came across an image at the bottom of page 29 of a pair of Boston & Maine GP9s in the 1970s-Blue Bird livery with a long freight. The location looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. The caption read ‘Lunenburg, Massachusetts.’

This puzzled me. I’m usually very good with picking out specific locations. I have a memory for that sort thing  . . . most of the time.

“Hey Rich, where’s this?”

“Lunenburg, that’s Derby Curve just west of the new interlocking. We were there a few months ago to roll by the NS intermodal train.”

Indeed we were, I remember!

So then, on Thursday, December 19, 2013, Rich, Paul Goewey and I were back in that part of the world, and we went to the very spot where Don Ball made his photograph. That wasn’t really why we were there, but we were.

The reason for our visit was that the lighting angle suited a westbound train. More to the point, Pan Am Railways’ POED (Portland to East Deerfield) freight had stalled about a mile to the west. A light engine had come out from Ayer and had tied onto the head-end to assist the train up to Gardner.

A Boston-bound MBTA train shoves eastward with the locomotive at the back. This is one of the old 'screamers' featured on Tracking the Light on December 21, 2013.
A Boston-bound MBTA train shoves eastward with the locomotive at the back. This is one of the old ‘screamers’ featured on Tracking the Light on December 21, 2013.

Instead of standing precisely in Ball’s shoes, I scrambled up the side of the hill to get a slightly higher angle. We photographed the parade trains, including the struggling POED. Looking back at Ball’s photo, it is interesting to see how much the location had changed over the years. And the railroad too!

EDPO at Derby
Pan Am Railways was having a difficult time. POED with 102 cars and weighing 4,882 tons, had stalled climbing the hill west of Shirley when its lead locomotive suffered some electrical difficulties. To get the train moving, this Norfolk Southern GE DASH8-40C was sent from Ayer to assist. The train is on the move heading west at Derby Curve just after 1:34 in the afternoon. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Trailing view of Pan Am Railway's POED. The failed locomotive is a former Southern Pacific SD45. I wonder, had I seen this locomotive on Donner Pass or climbing the Siskiyou Line? Anyone have a roster handy? Today its Pan Am 611, what was it back then?
Trailing view of Pan Am Railway’s POED. The failed locomotive is a former Southern Pacific SD45. I wonder, had I seen this locomotive on Donner Pass or climbing the Siskiyou Line? Anyone have a roster handy? Today its Pan Am 611, what was it back then?

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DAILY POST: Focused on the Details

 Irish Rail Close-up and Real.

Footbridge at Clonmel, County Tipperary on November 19, 2004. Exposed with a Nikon F3 on Fujichrome slide film.
Footbridge at Clonmel, County Tipperary on November 19, 2004. Exposed with a Nikon F3 on Fujichrome slide film.

It would be something else if it were unreal, no?

I’ve always liked to make macro views of railways. Examining the texture, colors, and shape of the equipment, track and structures allows for better appreciation of the subject.

One of the best times to make close ups and detail photographs is under dramatic lighting; low sun or stormy light, where richer qualities make for more pleasing tones. Even the most mundane and ordinary subjects seem more interesting with great light.

Yet, detailed views can also make use of dull days when by focusing on texture and using extreme focus can compensate for flat lighting.

Irish Rail made for an especially good subject for detailed images, in part because there was so much antique equipment to photograph. Well-worn infrastructure is inherently fascinating. Here out in the open metal has been doing a job for decades and often it shows the scars from years of hard work, like an old weaver’s time weathered hands.

I’ve made hundreds of Irish Rail close-ups over the years. Here a just a few. Look around railways near you and see what you find! Sometimes the most interesting photographs can be made while waiting for trains.

Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Signal cabin interior at Rathmore. I like lever 23 the most.
Signal cabin interior at Rathmore. I like lever 23 the most. Exposed with a Contax G2 fitted with a 16mm Hologon, focused manually.
Crows congregate on the Carrick on Suir footbridge on December 11, 2004. I made this image with my Nikon F3 with a 180mm Nikkor telephoto while waiting for an empty sugar beet train. Do you think the crows care about blue NIR diesels?
Crows congregate on the Carrick on Suir footbridge on December 11, 2004. I made this image with my Nikon F3 with a 180mm Nikkor telephoto while waiting for an empty sugar beet train. Do you think the crows care about blue NIR diesels?
On Spring evening, Enfield cabin catches a fading wink of sunlight.
On Spring evening, Enfield cabin catches a fading wink of sunlight.
Irish Rail.
Irish Rail 175 basks in the November sunlight at Mallow, County Cork. Canon EOS 3 with 24-70mm zoom lens.

Also see: Irish Rail at Ballybrophy, June 2006Irish Rail Freight April 25-26, 2013 and Looking Back on Irish Railways 1998-2003

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Daily Post: Trams in Prague, May 2000

Classic Tatras in a Picturesque Urban Setting.

I spent several days exploring Prague in Spring 2000. Unlike many cities in Western Europe, Prague escaped widespread damage during World War II and much of the historic city center has retained its classic architecture.

Prague
Semi-streamlined Tatra T3 trams were standard when I visited in May 2000. Most were painted in the traditional red and cream livery.

Prague also has an extensive public transport network, including an underground metro, suburban and long distance heavy rail services, and one of Europe’s largest tram systems.

The combination of great architecture in a scenic setting along the Vlatva River and well-maintained Tatra trams allowed for many photographic opportunities. The trams also afforded me convenient transport.

I quickly discovered that although beer in the city center was cheap by western standards, it could be obtained for about a third the price and in greater varieties in the suburbs. I also found the Czech’s very personable and so spent several great days wandering around in good company.

I exposed these images with my Nikon F3T on Fujichrome Sensia. I calculated exposure manually using my Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held photo cell.

A pair of T3s grind across the Vlatva River on a bright May 2000 day.
A pair of T3s grind across the Vlatva River on a bright May 2000 day. The leading car was only about 10 years old at the time of the photograph.
The T6 Tatras have a boxier car body than the T3s, but added a bit of variety to the photographs.
The T6 Tatras have a boxier car-body than the T3s, but added a bit of variety to the photographs.
Prague has a tram museum and while I was wandering around I saw several historic cars on the city streets.
Prague has a tram museum and while I was wandering around I saw several historic cars on the city streets.
The red and cream Tatras reminded me of my father's adventures photographing PCC cars in Pittsburgh in the early 1960s.
The red and cream Tatras reminded me of my father’s adventures photographing PCC cars in Pittsburgh in the early 1960s.
Tram frequency was excellent and I never waiting long for a car to appear.
Tram frequency was excellent and I never waited long for a car to appear.

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DAILY POST: Irish Rail, Clonmel, County Tipperary, July 2003.

Atmospheric Image of a Rural Branch Line.

 

In the damp evening gloom on July 18, 2003, Irish Rail’s signalman at Clonmel awaits the arrival of the Waterford-Limerick passenger train. He holds the metal staff that will authorize the train to proceed over the line to Tipperary.

Irish Rail Clonmel
Although the train is small in the frame, the composition focuses the viewer’s attention to the approaching locomotive. So! What is primary subject? The signalman, the station, or the train? Incidentally, I cropped the bottom of the photo to eliminate unnecessary foreground that featured the platform. Normally I object to cropping of images, yet as the photographer I reserve this right.

Often the most telling railway images don’t emphasize a train. In this photo, the Irish Rail General Motors diesel and Cravens passenger carriages are incidental. Here: the evening light, poised signalman eying the approaching train and quiet rural station tell the story.

I exposed this photo on Fujichrome Sensia 100 using my Contax G2 rangefinder with 28mm Biogon lens on a Bogan tripod. It was part of a series of images I made that evening at Clonmel of the signalman, the station and passing trains.

 

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