This coming Tuesday evening, 15 October 2019, I’ll be presenting a slide show and talk featuring my travels in Spain and Portugal to the Munster Branch of the Irish Railway Record Society at the Brú Columbanus Rooms at Cardinal Way, Wilton in Cork City.
To make for a more dramatic photograph, I used my FujiFilm XT1 with the rear-display tilted skyward, which allowed me place the camera at platform level.
The display’s heads-up detail includes exposure and a leveling information that makes it easier to set the camera and expose at arm’s length.
Standing on the platform of Portuguese Railway’s passenger station at Ovar (south of Porto on the Porto-Lisbon mainline), I made this view using a fixed focal-length (not a variable focal length zoom) 90mm telephoto. This lens and angle compresses the scene, lowers the depth of field, and owing to the relative proximity to the ground and focus on the trains minimizes the foreground.
A significant portion of Porto’s modern light rail Metro system is built on the right of way of an historic narrow gauge network.
In March 2019, photographer Denis McCabe and I visited the old station at Senhora da Hora in suburban Porto. The station building an a water tower survive, providing visual clues of operations from former times.
Tracking the Light is on ‘auto pilot’ while Brian is traveling.
In contrast to my April 2014 visit to Porto’s Trindade station , where I remember horizontal rain blowing into the covered over portions of the platforms, my more recent visit was under clear sunny skies.
Trindade is a busy junction station where Porto Metro lines interface with each other.
At the northeastern end of the top level, Metro tracks exit the station into an open area while taking a remarkably tight curve before plunging into a tunnel below the city.
I exposed these views using my ‘new’ Lumix LX7 on a visit to Porto in late March 2019.
Most of the Portuguese main line network is electrified, which makes diesel hauled trains something of a novelty.
Among the regular diesel hauled trains are freights by Portuguese open access operator Takargo, such as this one led by a Vossloh-built Euro 4000 diesel-electric locomotive.
This unusual looking machine sounds familiar since it is powered by a General Motors Electro-Motive Division designed 12 cylinder 710 diesel engine. The Euro 4000 is a cousin of Ireland’s 201 class locomotive and the America F59PHI, also powered by variations of the 12-710.
I made these photos from the platforms at Porto Campanha.
The scenic Douro Valley is legend as one Portugal’s great places to ride and photograph trains.
On our brief visit to the valley last week, Denis McCabe and took positions on the south side of the river to photograph regularly scheduled passenger trains that for a short time were being hauled by vintage English Electric diesels.
What’s so special about diesel-hauled passenger trains? Not only do the English Electric engines represent a throw-back to an earlier era, but by-in-large Portuguese Railways are electrified and/or host passenger multiple units in place of diesel locomotive hauled trains.
I made these photos using my FujiFIlm XT1 with 90mm lens.
Porto boasts two large Eiffel bridges over the River Douro.
One is a disused railway bridge; the other is this one pictured— the famed Pont Luis I, which carries tram-operated Metro Line D and a pedestrian walkways on its top level and a road on the lower level.
I made this view with my Lumix LX7 from an alleyway east of the bridge.
Under a clear sky with a blazing sun over my left shoulder, I made this view of a Comboios de Portugal (Portuguese Railways) local passenger train pausing for a station stop at Valega.
This small town benefits from a regular interval stopping passenger service on the busy double-track Lisbon-Porto mainline that hosts high-speed Alfa Pendolino, InterCity long distance, and lots of freight trains on the same rails.
Last Saturday, 30 March 2019, Denis McCabe and I navigated sinuous roads over the hills from the Douro Valley to Marco de Canaveses, Portugal in order to inspect one of Portuguese Railways’ vintage English Electric-built diesels that are temporarily assigned to scheduled passenger services on the scenic sections of the Douro Valley route to the east.
Locomotive 1455 restored in a retro-blue livery was laying over between runs at the Marco de Canaveses station. We had about 10 minutes to make photos, before we departed for the return drive to the Douro Valley to catch this machine at work.
I made these views using my Lumix LX7, but also exposed a few Fujichrome Provia 100F slides.
On the agenda for last week’s photographic adventure in Portugal was a venture into the Douro Valley.
In recent weeks line-works had resulted in a throw-back operation of regularly scheduled Douro Valley passenger services using vintage English Electric diesel hauled trains in place of diesel railcars.
[Translation: a limited opportunity to make photos of vintage trains in very scenic settings.]
Denis McCabe and I departed Porto in our hired car for a location I’d preselected the night before.
Google Maps provided the most direct (if not the shortest) route to a point south east of Aregos on the south bank of the river. Neither of us had ever been here before.
For me the Douro Valley resembles a populated version of California’s Feather River Canyon.
We made it just in time: shortly after our arrival we heard a diesel working up the valley. The cameras were hastily switched ‘on’, positions taken and photos made.
Special thanks to Tracking the Light reader and fellow photographer Stephen Hirsch who supplied us with up to date details on Douro Valley operations.
Not bad for our first minutes in the Douro Valley. But there’s more to come! Stay tuned . . .
I made this view using my Lumix LX7 at Porto’s Campanha Station on Friday 29 March 2019. I’ve posted this using a wireless ‘hotspot’ connection from my MacBook to my iPhone. Apologies if the quality isn’t up to standards or if the photo doesn’t load quickly.
I’ve exposed hundreds of photos in Portugal over the last few days. It may take some time before I’ve had time to sort through every thing.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a hillside with fellow photographer Denis McCabe overlooking the supremely scenic Douro Valley awaiting the passage of an English Electric diesel-hauled passenger train, as per the recommendations of Tracking the Light reader Stephen Hirsch.
As far as transit is concerned, Lisbon is the San Francisco of Europe.
Ok, you can nitpick about the methods of propulsion, cables versus juice, but with steep hills, outstanding urban panoramas and quirky twisting trackage in narrow streets and fully functional antique cars, Lisbon’s tram system has lots in common with San Francisco’s famous cable cars.
These cities have lots of parallels too, certainly in layout and appearance, and weather.
I made these photos in the Portuguese capital on a brilliant day in April.
There’s seemingly endless opportunity for photographs. But do you work with the shadows or in the shadows?
For the tourist, Lisbon’s trams are both transport and an attraction.
Back in 1996 a European friend said to me, ‘you ought to visit Lisbon, they’ve got some wonderful old trams there.’ Some 18 years later, I finally ticked off that box in my notebook. Better late, than not at all.
Lisbon is famous for its narrow gauge trams that crawl up narrow and steeply graded streets. This track work is amazing. It’s amazing that it was ever built, and even more so that some of the lines are still worked in 2014!
The old trams are of course a tourist attraction, but like San Francisco’s cable cars, these function as part of the transit system.
Visitors queue to board, much to the delight of local pickpockets. I was forewarned about light-fingered activities, so I took precautionary measures. And, also made a sport of spotting the picks. Not to point fingers, I saw nothing lifted, but I saw some suspicious characters in the queue (who didn’t seem to have any interest in riding a tram).
The quirky old cars are enhanced by the colorful tapestry that makes up Lisbon’s old city. Sunny skies were delivered as ordered.
Route number 15 is populated by modern LRV style cars, but passes through some interesting areas and runs parallel to an old heavy-rail commuter rail route.
Portugal shares the broad Iberian standard gauge with Spain: rails are five feet six inches apart. Despite this commonality, today there are relatively few international services between the two countries.
One of the few cross-border trains is the nightly combined Lusitania/Sud Expresso connecting Lisbon with Spanish cities. The Lusitania runs Lisbon-Madrid, while the Sud Expresso is a vestige of the old Wagon Lits luxury express that once connected Lisbon with Paris, but now only goes as far as Irun on the Spanish-French frontier.
The train operates with RENFE (Spanish Railways) TALGO train hotel equipment, which makes it anomalous compared with the majority of Portuguese passenger trains.
On April 3, 2014, I planned to photograph the eastward Lusitania/Sud Expresso (train 335/310) during its station stop at Entrocamento, Portugal.
This is a big station, adjacent to freight yards, shops, and Portugal’s National Railway Museum.
The train departed Lisbon Santa Apolónia at 9:18 pm, and arrived at Entroncamento a little more than an hour later. I had less than five minutes to make photographs.
Then I quickly swapped the Lumix for my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens loaded with Provia 100F, and made a three exposure bracket. With film, I find it difficult to gauge night exposures, so I aided my efforts with my handheld Minolta Mark IV light meter.
Provia 100F has a filtration layer that minimizes undesirable color spikes caused by fluorescent and sodium lighting.
In the middle of this time-exposure exercise, I also made several handheld images using my Canon EOS 7D set for a high ISO. I figured that covered most of the angles.
I was distracted during my efforts by the arrival of a Takargo Vossloh E4000 diesel (powered by an EMD 16-710 engine) hauling a container train.
As soon as the train hotel pulled away, I repositioned to photograph the diesel-hauled container train.
My first experience with the Italian Pendolino design was in Switzerland more than 14 years ago when I was researching for my book Bullet Trains—a survey of high-speed trains and railways (published by MBI in 2001).
Here’s an excerpt from my text:
The Pendolino’s tilt system provides a luxurious, smooth ride, on sinuous track. The effect of the tilting is subtle and scarcely noticeable as the train glides a long at speed. The Pendolino has proven a successful export item, and have been ordered by Finnish, Czech, and British railways. The appeal of the Pendolino, and other successful tilting designs, such as the Spanish TALGO and Swedish X2000 is the ability to increase running speeds without a massive investment in new infrastructure.
Since that time, several additional European countries have added Pendolino trains to their fleets. I’ve photographed them in a half dozen countries, most recently in early April this year, in Portugal where they are assigned to premier services between Porto, Lisbon and Faro.
Comboios de Portugal (Portugal’s national railway, known by initials ‘CP’) has ten train-sets which work as Alfa Pendular services.
A challenge when photographing Pendolino trains is catching them mid-tilt. I’ve found one way to capture this is working from the outside of a curve using a long telephoto lens. This is most effective when the front of the train has tilted but the rear remains level with the track structure.
It helps to level the camera with an obvious line-side vertical object such as electrification masts, signals or buildings.
Another technique is to catch the train on the inside of a curve with a wider lens, but still leveling the camera with line-side vertical elements.
A visit to Portugal’s national railway, Comboios de Portugal (known by initials ‘CP’) proved rewarding and photographically productive.
After arriving at Lisbon airport, I visited the rural station at Riachos T Novas in Golega. This place is a gem. Classic manned station building with freight sidings and all the trappings of another era, but very few of the intrusions of modern construction (in other words, no wire fences, overbuilt footbridges, etc.)
The station is on the busy double-track electrified mainline between Lisbon and Entroncamento. This carries a variety of freight and passenger trains, including through trains to Porto, and Spanish border crossings. Trains passed every 10-15 minutes.
At one point the sky opened and rain fell hard for few minutes. When it passed, a double rainbow graced the sky for a few minutes. My images of a suburban train with the cosmic weather were exposed on Fujichrome and remain latent pending processing.
Interestingly, when I first arrived, a local camera club had descended en masse and was snapping away at everything. Unfortunately for the club, they departed before the rain and thus missed the glorious evening light! This was pity for them. By contrast, I worked through the best light and made the most of it.
Stay tuned for my further exploration of Portuguese railways.