Tag Archives: #PRR

Making the Most of Locomotives in Bright Morning Sun

I consider this an excercise in composition. I had a few minutes last Thursday morning, so I went up to Leola, Pennsylvania to catch up with Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local.

The sun was bright and the clouds were just rolling in from the west. I made this sequence of photographs of the GP38-3 and SD40E that had paused by the old PRR depot along Horseshoe Road.

Over the last year, I’ve made a variety of railroad photos at this location. I like the concept of variation on a theme. Years ago I learned to make the most of good photographic situation, because you never know precisely the situation and composition that will best suit a photograph for publication.

Of this selection do you have any favorites? All were exposed using my Nikon Z7-II mirror-less digital camera.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 30mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/320th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 33mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 31mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/320th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 54mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 45mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/640th second. No adjustments to exposure or contrast.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 49mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/320th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/400th second. Nominal adjustment to shadows and hightlights.

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Stormy Sunset—July 10, 2024

Last night a stormy sunset filled the western sky. Thunderstorms were raging to the North and West of Lancaster, Pa.

Kris and I drove by my standard location along Jefferson Drive. Amtrak Keystone 620 was just getting ready to depart Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

We paused so I could made a few photos using my Lumix LX7. Using the ‘Scene Mode’ feature, I selected ‘Night mode’ to make better use of the low evening light. This blends a series of images exposed during a synchronized burst.

I’ve included the camera info in the last frame which lists all the tech data imbedded in the photo.

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Moving Day!

Today the moving truck comes to get our heavy stuff—furniture and what-not— to bring to our new house.

We’ve already moved the bulk of our smaller items including more than 135,000 color slides, 15,000 B&W negatives, and hundreds of books, notebooks and related materials.

In the spirit of this transition, I thought I’d post this view I made along Jefferson Drive, near our Greenfield apartment in Lancaster, Pa.

Amtrak ACS-615 leads train 642 on its eastward journey from Harrisburg toward Philadelphia.

This was among the locations just a very short drive from the aparment. Our new house is closer to the Strasburg Rail Road and the former PRR’s Port Road Branch, and just a 15 minute drive from Amtrak’s Harrisburg line, so I still plan to post regular photos from these locations.

(even when ‘in-transition’)

Running Errands

Sunday mornings are a great time to combine two activities; making trips to the grocery and catching photos of the local freight.

A few weeks ago, I missed Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local on its outward journey.

Not to worry, Kris and I caught up with it on the way to the supermarket in Leola.

It was a clear bright morning, and while the angle of the sun was contrasty, I feel that this photo captures the spirit of the New Holland Branch in one image.

I made a variety of modifications to the image in post processing to reduce contrast and improve detail.

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South Railroad Avenue—Part 2

New Holland, Pennsylvania has classic character. It is one of those towns where the railroad still serves local industry and remains an active part of the landscape. It is at the east end of Norfolk Southern’s former PRR railroad New Holland Branch.

On another recent visit, I made these photos along South Railroad Avenue in the evening light.

Kris spotted the TTX ‘Railbox’ Plate F boxcar on the siding located east of the grade crossing.

Photos exposed using Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras.

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Cola and a Coal Train

Cola Tower is located in Columbia, Pennsylvania along the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Port Road Branch near the junction with the Columbia Branch that ran from its namesake to Lancaster. The solid brick building has been closed for many years and retains its Conrail-era blue sign. Evidence of PRR’s electrification abounds, although electric operations were discontinued by Conrail more than 40 years ago. However, I can’t claim to be an authority on Cola or this section of the PRR, and I’ll welcome details about its operation and demise.

I’ve visited Columbia on a number of occasions, but until recently, I hadn’t photographed a train at this historically important railroad junction.

Part of the challenge is that Columbia is a difficult place to portray. There is a lot of trackage, but not many vantage points. The second problem is that most of the action occurs in the evening owing to an Amtrak aytime curfew on the North East Corridor, which effectively limits movements over connecting lines.

Now that we are into the long days its is easier to find trains on the move.

My friend Dan Cupper encouraged me to investigate opportunities on this route. Last year, I caught an empty coal train in the morning at Washingtonboro, a few miles to the south.

Now that we are back into the bright evenings I aimed to try again. So, a couple of weeks ago I drove to Cola Tower with Seamus-the-Dog, reaching there about 7:30pm. After a cursory inspection to check sun angles and signals, we set up near the old tower.

I noticed a group of teenagers with phone congregating near a grade crossing, then a young enthusiast showed up wearing a Nofolk Southern T-shirt. He let me know that I was in luck, and a coal train was enroute via the Royalton Branch.

Camera’s in hand I positioned myself in the shadow of the tower. Before long, we could hear the whistle of an approaching train.

I made a series of photos of the passing train as Seamus watched with interest from the safety of the car. Afterwards, my friend and fellow photographer Pat Yough supplied details about the train which was NS’s unit train number 590, running from Shire Oaks, Pa., to Baltimore.

With this success, I’m anticipating more adventures in the area and hope to learn more about photographing this portion of the former PRR.

Tracking the Light by Brian Solomon publishes Daily Explorations into Railroad Photography!

Elizabethtown, PA.

It was a fine warm evening when Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I visited Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Elizabethtown, PA. According to Kurt Bell, railroad historian, PHMC’s Railroad Collections Archivist and an Elizabethtown resident, the station building dates to 1915, and is situated on a late 19th century line relocation on a high fill.

Kris and I had checked the station on a rainy day a few weeks earlier.

Amtrak has be undertaking a rebuilding of its Harrisburg Line, and there was evidence of this work as well as a variety of track equipment, including a multi-section Loram machine—possibly a rail vac, used for ballast work. The days of the old wooden ties on the main tracks are coming to a close.

I timed our visit to catch westward Amtrak Keystone train 667.

This was running on the near track to avoid the on-going work on the opposite track, which is typically used for westward movements.

Digital images exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm and Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.

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Deluge at Thompsontown

Thunderstorms from the west closed in on us as we drove east toward Thompsontown, Pa., on state highway 333.

It was raining so hard, I could barely see where we were driving. Seamus-the-Dog slept in the back of the car.

“What’s that yellow light?”

“I think it’s a signal . . . no wait . . .it’s a headlight!”

We pulled over near Norfolk Southern control point SIP 143.5 on the Pittsburgh Line at Thompsontown just as a westward intermodal train glided through the deluge unimpeded.

I stopped the car, ran to the back an opened the rear hatch. This provided me a modicum of shelter long enough to photograph the train.

This was some of the hardest rain I’ve ever seen. It was coming down more than 2 inches an hour and the road was beginning to flood.

I set my ISO to 1000, and exposed this sequence with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. You can see the individual rain drops in the enlarged images.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens set at 200mm. F2.8, 1/500th second, ISO 1000
Greatly enlarged section of the above photo. Notice the rain droplets.

I got completely soaked but did my best to keep the camera from getting total drenched.

It was raining too hard to drive, so we waited in the car for until the rain let up. It wasn’t long before we spied another light in the distance . . . .

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Freights rolling with backdrop of Tuscarora Ridge

The central Pennsylvanian setting near the village of Mexico offers a classic view looking east toward the Tuscarora Ridge, which can be photographed from a variety of angles.

In my earlier posts, I pictured Norfolk Southern freights from the north side of the Underpass Road grade crossing.

As the light changed and thunderstorms approached from the West, Kris and I took positions on the south side of the grade crossing. It began to rain lightly (but heavier rain was coming!)

A westward empty coal train rolled by. This was exceptionally long and featured a mid-train DPU (radio remote controlled locomotives working as ‘distributed power units’).

Not long after this train had gone, an east ward train could be heard. This was slowing for an ‘approach’ aspect. Its relatively casually speed made it easy to photograph. At the back was a single EMD diesel working as a DPU.

These photos were made with my pair of Nikon Z-series mirror-less digital cameras.

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Norfolk Southern on the Main Line

Just a few minutes after the westward freight pictured in yesterday’s TTL post passed Underpass Road in Mexico, Pa., when my Sixth Sense (common to veteran rail-photographers) tingled.

“There’s an eastbound.”

I walked across the crossing with my Z6 with 70-200mm in hand and ample time before this approaching train came around the bend. I set up from a safe distance while, Kris made photos from the south side of the tracks.

Nikon Z6 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom lens set to: 200mm, f4.0, 1/500th sec, ISO 200.

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Middle Division Revisited

One of my first acquaintances with the east end former PRR Middle Division was Easter weekend 1988. I met my old pal TSH in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, having driven south from Rochester, NY where I was studying Photographic Illustration at RIT.

On that trip, I exposed Kodachrome of Conrail trains at Duncannon, Thompsontown, Mifflin and Lewistown. We missed the sweeping curve at Mexico.

It wasn’t until explorations in this area a decade later with photographer Mike Gardner that I first made photos from Underpass Road in Mexico, Pa. (If there was an underpass here, there is no visible evidence of it today).

Last weekend, Kris, Seamus-the-Dog and I revisited this prime photo location on Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line where the grand sweep of the track in a bucolic setting with the Tuscarora Ridge in the background makes for a favorite place to watch trains.

We didn’t have to wait long before the distant sound of rolling thunder announced the approach of a westward freight.

It was the first of several train that we caught here.

Kris noted that I looked extra happy here.

There’s more to come!

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Pennsylvanians in High Sun

I was hoping to time it right to get the eastward and westward Amtrak Pennsylvanians (trains 42 and 43) passing one another at Bird-in-Hand.

In truth this is a more aesthetic exercise during the winter months when the light is low and the air is crisp. But not all photo opportunities present themselves in the perfect light.

As it turned out the two trains passed by within 90 seconds of one another, so there was no ‘running meet’ for me on this day.

All photos exposed with my Nikon Z7-II. NEF-RAW files adjusted in post-processing using Adobe Lightroom.

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Norfolk Southern at Leola—Variations on a Theme

A cloudless bright morning; the perfect time to picture Norfolk Southern’s New Holland branch local by the old station in Leola, Pennsylvania.

I made three similar photographs using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens. In all three I had the lens set to 200mm at f5.6. The difference between them is in the framing with minor changes to the composition.

Which of these stands out from the other two?

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Working the Curve

The reverse curves on the old Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania offer endless photo opportunities.

Amtrak Keystone train 649 is a regular subject for me in the afternoon.

A couple of weeks back, I suspected that train 649 would be worked by ACS-64 no. 642, which specially painted for American Veterans.

I surmised this correctly, however, the locomotive was working the back of the train rather than in the lead (as I would have preferred for photography).

That said, Amtrak doesn’t operate its trains for my amusement, so I made due with the configuration as I found it.

Images exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm zoom.

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Sunrise at Greenfield

A few days ago I posted an evening glint photograph made with a 35mm lens of an eastward Amtrak Keystone passing Jefferson Drive, near Greenfield in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

(see: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/35mm-sunset-glint/_)

These images were made at sunrise few days later from almost the same vantage point, but using a telephoto zoom (Nikkor Z-series 70-200mm) of eastward Keystone service train 642 (led by Amtrak ACS-64 608).

I thought it would make for an interesting comparison to show how differently a location appears at different times of day and with different focal length lenses.

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A Vision of 1930s Modern Railroading

Two weeks ago, I visited the preserved Power Directors Office (PDO) located within the Harrisburg, Pa., station.

This historic former Pennsylvania Railroad facility is a vestige of its grand late-1930s electrification to Harrisburg, that consisted of Mainlines and connecting routes

This office was used to control and balance the distribution of high-voltage alternating current electricity to the various lines. Today it presents a fascinating map of the western extent of PRR’s electrification.

To my eyes, it has the look and aroma of an enormous Lionel electric train set from the World War II era. The style of the control panels and wiring reminds of my dad’s train sets from the post war period.

Dan Cupper arranged the tour, and NRHS’s Jim Nowotarski provided an excellent and exceptionally detailed explaination of how the desk performed and the background behind its restoration. I’ll need to sit through this talk several more times before I can begin to absorb the detail of this amazing installation.

The desk was closed by Amtrak in 2013, and its remaining functions transfered to its Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control office in Wilmington, Delaware.

The once important role of the PDO reveals the long-term failures of short-sighted decisions made during the Conrail-era, when freight traffic was routed away from former PRR routes east of Harrisburg, and freight-only lines stripped of their electrification, and in some cases abandoned altogether.

What may have made operational sense 45 years ago, represents a poor use of resources and infrastructure in the long term. Consider that in most of the industrialized world, railroad electrification has been gradually expanded, and not abandoned.

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z7-II.

See: //www.harrisburgnrhs.org/pdo

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Amtrak & Pink Tree Blossoms—Fail!

Spring is a beautiful time of year in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Beautiful blossoming trees can be seen all along the roads and highways.

Finding trees near the tracks is more of a challenge, but not far from our apartment are some of the most rail-proximate photographable specimens .

Sometimes what seems so easy, proves difficult.

Last Monday, I planned to catch a westward Amtrak Keystone passing a beautifully blossoming tree along Jefferson Drive.

I set up a few minutes ahead of the train. However just as the westward train raced into view (cabcar first, ACS-64 electric at the rear), a pickup truck entered the scene. Not only did this truck present a distracting element in my composition, but as the truck passed it threw off the autofocus on my Nikon Z7-II. It changed the center of focus from the train to an indiscriminate point.

This all happened in the blink of an eye. By the time, I recognized there was a problem, it was too late to fix it.

The resulting images were something less than satisfactory. So I knew, I’ll have to try this again . . . .

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Double Stacks rolling west off the old Reading

The Harrisburg area is a maze of trackage, which is alive with freight and passenger movements. Among the of the busiest lines is Norfolk Southern’s former Reading Company route (operated as its Harrisburg Line), which joins the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line route (operated as NS’s Pittsburgh Line) near Amtrak’s former PRR passenger station in Harrisburg, PA.

This route carries the lion’s share of east-west freight moving through Harrisburg, specifically traffic moving to the New York City and Philadelphia metro areas.

Prior to routing and infrastructure changes in the Conrail-era, the majority of freight coming east on the PRR route, continued east of Harrisburg on former PRR routes. Traditionally, the junction between PRR and Reading lines at this location was a relatively minor connection between the historic railroad systems.

It was a warm Tuesday in early April, when I made these photographs of a westward NS double stack container train from the Mulberry Street Bridge railroad-east of Amtrak’s former PRR Station. This freight is making the transition from the old Reading to the old PRR route.

Images exposed using a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens, files adjusted in Lightroom.

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NS Reflections in a Pond

Last week, following days of rain, we had a crisp, clear, bright morning in Lancaster, PA. The grass was iridescent and the trees blossoming.

I timed my morning errands to bring me to the Greenfield Road crossing just about the time that Norfolk Southern’s New Holland local heads east on the old New Holland Branch.

Knowing the freight was on the move, I drove to Jefferson Drive, where the little pond by the tracks had been tidied-up over the winter, and which made for a nice place to picture the train as it came around a tight bend beneath Hwy 30.

The sun was perfect and my wait was very short. I made thise sequence of photos using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm zoom and was home before the train had reached Leola!

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Keystone with Blossoming Trees

Sunday afternoon, Kris & I went for a wee drive. This was neatly planned to coincide with the passing of a westward Amtrak Keystone at Jefferson Drive in Lancaster.

For a week, I’d been eyeing the Spring blossoms on decorative tress along Jefferson drive, but was discouraged by the ‘Irish’ weather we seem to have brought back with us.

Since Sunday was bright and clear, I recognized the time was ripe to make the most of the light and the trees.

Photos were exposed of Amtrak Keystone 665 on its approach to Lancaster, PA.

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

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Two for One at Christiana

Fortune was with us on Saturday.

After lunch, we drove the back way over to Christiana, Pa., where I hoped to catch Amtrak 670 in the afternoon sun.

The tracks are oriented on a south-north alignment at Christiana, which makes it a good place to photograph eastward train on a sunny day, if you mind the shadows.

Where Keystone 670 was pretty much ‘on the advertised,’ Amtrak 42, the eastward Pennsylvanian had fallen down a bit, and was just a few minutes behind.

So for the effort of one eastward train, we caught two! One electric and one diesel.

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Fine Morning at Jefferson Drive

This is the sequel to ‘Look Ma No Pans’—published on Tracking the Light the other day. (http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/look-ma-no-pans/)

It was a fine morning, making it one of rare few bright sunny days as of late.

I’d scoped the local railroad scene, and was in position at Jefferson Drive at Greenfield in Lancaster, Pa., to make a few photos of Norfolk Southern’s daily New Holland Branch freight.

I had an ulterior motive. My old Nikon F3 was loaded with Provia100F, and I’d been waiting for a fine day to finish off the roll that had been in the camera since Thanksgiving.

Film is expensive and I didn’t want to squander it. But with a clear sky and a train nearby, I felt this was a good opportunity to make a few nice color slides.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, while waiting for Norfolk Southern’s freight to come around the bend, much to my surprise on the nearby Harrisburg Line, a late-running Amtrak Keystone zipped by with a diesel in the lead.

The crew of the New Holland local takes it very slow approaching Jefferson Drive, which provides ample opportunity to work with multiple cameras. I made these photos digitally with my Nikon Z7-II, while also exposing slides with my antique F3.

As this being written the slide film is enroute to the lab! But, It will be at least another ten days before I can see my processed results from the F3. Fingers crossed that I got my exposures right!

Norfolk Southern SD40Es 6335 and 6312 lead the eastward New Holland Branch local at Jefferson Drive. Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.
I like the juxtaposition of antique General Motors products. Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

Since there was nice light and a train on the move, I zipped down the road for another set of photos . . .

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Christiana Station at Night

On our evening drive, we called into the former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Christiana, Pa.

With my Nikon Z7-II firmly mounted on my old Bogen tripod, and working with available light I made these photos using time exposures. Details below:

Nikkor 24-70mm lens at 70mm, 1 second exposure at f4.0, ISO 200.
Nikkor 24-70mm lens at 28mm, 3 second exposure at f4.0, ISO 200.
Nikkor 24-70mm lens at 29mm, 6 second exposure at f4.0, ISO 200.

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Square Mount—January 1, 1980

I made comparatively few color photos prior to 1980 and I have precious few ‘square mount’ Kodachrome slides.

On January 1, 1980, I traveled with my family from The Bronx, New York back to our home in Monson, Massachusetts. On the way, we stopped at New Haven, Connecticut to take a look at Amtrak GG1 4935 that had been repainted into the Raymond Loewy designed PRR scheme.

Using my old Leica 3A rangefinder I made this Kodachrome color slide of a Chevy pickup truck parked next to the antique electric locomotive.

I don’t know what became of the pickup but today the old GG1 is preserved and displayed at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa. I’ve featured this locomotive in several recent Tracking the Light posts.

This Kodachrome slide was exposed 44 years ago!

Happy 2024 from Tracking the Light!

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian Crosses the Conestoga

Not far from our Lancaster apartment, Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line to Harrisburg crosses the Conestoga River on an impressive multiple-span stone arch bridge.

Fellow author and photographer, Dan Cupper had shown me how to reach this bridge before Kris and I relocated. Since our move last Spring I’ve paid several visits to the western bank of the river, but I hadn’t caught Amtrak’s diesel-hauled Pennsylvanian here until the afternoon of Halloween Day.

The combination of late-season foliage, polarized sun and relatively clear autumn air, made this an ideal time to picture the train on the bridge. I checked various angles along the riverbank before deciding upon this place to make my images.

Amtrak train 42, the eastward Pennsylvania crosses the Conestoga on October 31, 2023.

Photos exposed using a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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Autumn Sunset at Greenfield

In the summer, the sun sets to the north of the old Pennsylvania Main Line at Greenfield. And during the long days, Kris and I made a number of photos of Amtrak trains on their way to and from Harrisburg under wire.

Now into autumn, the sun is in the southern sky, which lends for a new dimension on this Greenfield location,

I made this photo of westward Keystone train 667 zipping along the old Pennsy with a nicely illuminated autumn evening sky.

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NS Local at Horseshoe Road

Leaving the supermarket, I heard an engine sounding for Greenfield Road.

It was about the time I normally hear Norfolk Southern’s New Holland Branch local heads toward its Pennsylvania namesake.

I drove via Hartman Station Road and spotted the train with an NS SD40E running long-hood first.

Turning onto Horseshoe Road, I continued in the direction of the local freight’s eastward path.

I arrived at the Horseshoe Road grade crossing with enough time to set up a shot looking across freshly mowed grass.

That’s old Conrail SD50 number 6729 (built in 1983), reincarnated as Norfolk Southern SD40E 6312!

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Hint of Autumn at Willow Road

Sunday morning, I went out on spec to see if I could catch Norfolk Southern’s New Holland local working its way out the branch. After a half hour wait and a drive to inspect a few locations, I found nothing moving, so I returned home.

About half an hour after I got back, I was just about to take Boomer-the-dog for his morning walk, when I heard a train sounding for the Greenfield Road crossing.

Without heistation, I grabbed my Nikons and headed back out again to see if I could get ahead of the train.

I drove poste haste to Willow Road and headed east to the grade crossing. I arrived about 3 minutes ahead of the freight and had enough time to set up.

The last time I made photos here, I used my 24-70mm lens, so this time I made some longer views using a 70-200mm lens. I was able to get a little more elevation this time, which allowed for a better composition.

I also made some wideangle photos of the train approaching the crossing, but I’m saving these for a later post.

Oh, and when I got home, I brought the cross-legged Boomer for his walk!

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom lens.
I like this version. The bird in flight over the train is an added bonus. The train crew waved as they roared up the grade.

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Stopping 649 with 1/2500th second

Crisp evening light.

Amtrak Keystone 649 was two minutes down from the advertised and cruising to make up time to reach its Lancaster, PA station stop on schedule.

I made this view at Leaman Place using a Nikon Z7II with 24-70mm lens, my shutter was set to 1/2500th of a second.

My drive was set to ‘turbo flutter’. As the train approached, I made this burst of images.

ACS-64 610 leads Amtrak Keystone 649 at Leaman Place, PA.

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New Holland Vignettes

On Sunday Norfolk Southern runs local H29 over the old Pennsylvania New Holland Branch to it’s namesake.

Last Sunday, Kris and I wandered out along the line, looked at few crossings, and upon reaching New Holland, PA found a pair of GP38-2s with a few freight cars. The crew was just performing a brake test,

We drove a west and parked in the lot at the New Holland post office and waited.

This location offered a relatively unobstructed view the tracks.

After a few minutes the westward local came along and I made a series of photos with my Nikon Z6.

An Amish buggy passes the old Leola, PA station.
NS H29 Local freight in New Holland, PA. Nikon Z6 with f2.8 Nikkor 180mm telephoto.
NS H29 Local freight in New Holland, PA. Nikon Z6 with f2.8 Nikkor 180mm telephoto. A wink of sun makes the photo.
NS H29 at Diller Avenue in New Holland. Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

Sunday on the Branch with Tracking the Light!

Score on the New Holland Secondary

Last Sunday morning, Kris and I were heading to breakfast. Rather than jump on the four-lane, I decided to stick to the two-lane roads. As we drove toward the Greenfield Road grade crossing in Lancaster, PA, the crossing flashers lit.

I was surprise to see Norfolk Southern’s New Holland local approaching. We didn’t know this ran on Sunday morning.

After pulling in the clear, I grabbed my Nikon Z6 and fired off a photo of the approaching freight. Unfortunately, in my haste I’d set the auto focus-point incorrectly and my result wasn’t worth the price of the exposed pixels. (It was garbage).

From this mistake, I decided to delay breakfast and we turned around, and zipped up to the Willow Road crossing, just a couple of miles down the line. Here I had ample time to set up and frame some photos. I’d sorted out the auto focus. Kris filmed a video with her iPhone.

I was pleased with these images. We’ll need to head out on a Sunday morning again soon!

Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

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Norfolk Southern’s Royalton Branch

This is a follow up to Thursday’s post. After photographing coal empties on the Port Road at Washington Boro, PA, I followed the train by traveling compass northwest on highway 441.

Norfolk Southern’s Royalton Branch is a former Pennsylvania Railroad line, once electrified, that allows an alternated routing through the Harrisburg area for freights using the Port Road.

Beyond Marietta railroad routes divide, with one line crossing the Susquehanna River via the Shocks Mills bridge to reach Enola Yard. The Royalton Branch runs toward Harrisburg on the east bank of the river.

I’m just learning this territory, so as of now, I’m not completely fluent as the modern names for the junctions and timetable directions of the tracks. However, I know that trains have a choice of routings, so last week I took a chance that the coal empties would run via the Royalton Branch. Previously, I’d scoped out a location near Middletown not far from the famous Three Mile Island.

Fortune favored me, and I arrived with ample time to set up and change lenses. Instead of my 70-200mm Z-series zoom, I was traveling with my 1980s-era Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED fixed focal length manual focus telephoto, which attaches to my Z-series mirrorless cameras using an adaptor.

This is a traditional piece of glass and offers a classic quality, especially when used wide open (f2.8). However, its tricky to set the focus while trying to expose manually.

I made a series of photos with my Nikon Z6 and 180mm and a frame with my Lumix LX7.

NS coal empties at Royalton, PA. Exposed with a Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED fixed telephoto.
NS coal empties at Royalton, PA. Exposed with a Nikon Z6 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm ED fixed telephoto.
Lumix LX7 photo at milepost 11 in Royalton, PA.

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NS Coal Empties on the Port Road Branch

Over the course of recent weeks, Kris and I have explored locations on the Norfolk Southern’s Port Road Branch. This is a portion of former Pennsylvania Railroad that follows the Susquehanna River between the Harrisburg area and a connection with the Northeast Corridor at Perryville, Maryland.

PRR electrified the route in the 1930s, and it handled electrically powered freights until the Conrail era. The old electric catenary supports are evidence of this by-gone era. It has been more than 40 years since electric operations ended on this portion of the former Conrail system.

Daylight freight moves on the Port Road seem to be relatively rare, owing to an Amtrak daytime curfew on the Northeast Corridor route.

Last week, I left Lancaster very early and made my way to Columbia, PA where I picked up the Norfolk Southern Port Road line. In the morning glow, I found that home signal was lit ‘clear’ for a train movement toward Harrisburg. Expecting a train, I proceeded against it on the parallel highway to Washington Boro, PA, where I scoped a suitable location near a local park.

I waited for a few minutes, and soon heard the approaching freight.

I set up with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens and exposed this sequence of an NS empty coal train rolling up river.

Since the train wasn’t moving more than about 25 mph, I followed it along the adjacent highway. Stay tuned for more!

Former Pennsylvania Railroad electrified line at Columbia, PA. A high dew point made it difficult to keep the front element of my lens from misting over.
In many places the road, the railroad and the Susquehanna River run adjacent to one another. The classic catenary supports visually identify the line as the former Pennsylvania Railroad.
After just a short wait, this Norfolk Southern empty coal train came into view at Washington Boro, PA.
Soft morning light on the coal train made for a classic view.
This wideangle photo is at the same location in Washington Boro.
Trailing view at Washington Boro, PA.
View of the hoppers from Washington Boro Park rolling along from the opposite side of Highway 441.

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Wayne’s Main Line Visit

Owing to its lineage along the route of Pennsylvania’s original Main Line of Public Works, the former Pennsylvania Railroad trunk is known as ‘The Main Line’. This historic route runs just a few blocks from our new home.

Last week our friend Wayne Duffett-TEC Associate’s Bridge Inspector and Conway Scenic Railroad steam locomotive engineer (and Tracking the Light reader) visited Kris and I in Lancaster, PA.

After dinner at the Outback Steakhouse, we brought Wayne on a short tour of the railroad, hitting several highlights of the old Main Line.

Using the ASM.transitdocs.com Amtrak realtime phone app, we were able to time the passage of an eastward Amtrak Keystone to just a few minutes, and watched the train zip by at nearly 90mph.

Photos exposed with a Lumix LX7.

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

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Gauzy Light—Amtrak 618 at Gap

We arrived at Gap, PA about ten minutes ahead of Amtrak Keystone service 618 on its way east from Harrisburg.

I made my first photos in this curve at Gap on a visit 16 years ago—June 2007.

Thick smoky-haze filled the air and filtered the evening sun.

I made this telephoto series of images as Amtrak 618 (led by ACS-64 606) glided through the curve at Gap.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom set to 200mm; f4.0 1/1600, ISO 400;
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom set to 200mm; f4.0 1/2500, ISO 400
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom set to 74mm; f4.0 1/1600, ISO 400;
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom set to 200 mm; f4.0 1/500, ISO 400;

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NS Local Freight at Dusk

Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line from Philadelphia to Harrisburg runs a short distance from our new home. While this is primarily the route of the Keystone and Pennsylvanian trains, it also hosts Norfolk Southern locals that use the line to reach secondary lines and serve local industry.

Since we moved in, I’ve heard a few NS trains but not had the opportunity to investigate their movements in daylight. However, last night we saw this local near Greenfield Road in Lancaster, PA.

As a trainman was setting up the telemetry device on the locomotive that would become the rear of his train, I made a few photos with my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 photo. Exposed handheld at f1.8 for 1.5th of a second at ISO80. Locomotives were positioned at each end of the short local freight. GP38-2 5607 was being set up as the rear of the freight.

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