Looking at this Conrail photo makes me feel that March 23, 1989 wasn’t that long ago.
I’d left my apartment in Scottsville, New York before dawn and headed west on Rt33 in my white Toyota Corolla.
I knew I had a westbound climbing Batavia Hill—the nominal rise of the Water Level Route that ascended the Niagara Escarpment on the way toward Buffalo.
My Leica M2 was loaded with Kodachrome 200 ‘Fast Kodachrome’ (three stops faster than K25, which was my normal film in 1989).
I parked the car west of Batavia near CP406 (where New York Central’s 1950s track re-alignment to avoid downtown Batavia rejoined the historic railroad route). With time running short, I hike east beneath the code lines and set up my Leica with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto on my Bogen 3021 tripod.
I could hear the slow moving westbound as the sun glimmered above the horizon. But then behind me fast moving eastward stack train blasted for Donahue Road. . .
The headlight of the westbound appeared and over the next few seconds I captured a running meet between the two Conrail trains. K200’s warm color balance and grain structure made for the perfect combination to distill the moment.
I’ve run this photo in various publications and it’s one of my favorite Water Level Route views.
I spent the rest of the day photographing along the former Erie Railroad, which was alive with trains. I remember it all as if it was yesterday.
Recently discussions of Irish Rail’s Sligo Timber have led me to ask, ‘When did this traffic end?’
Sometimes my memory offers a clear picture of the past, in other situations it is fuzzy and lacking desired detail. This is among the reasons I try to apply detailed labels and captions to my photographs near the time of exposure.
I recall the Sligo timber’s revival in Spring 2002, and my many opportunities to photograph timber trains on the Sligo Line and in around Dublin in the years that followed, but I’m unable to remember when the last train operated.
On guessing, I thought 2007 or 2008 was pretty close. So on reviewing my photo files, I was a bit surprised to find this photograph dated 21 May 2009.
I exposed this view on Fujichrome from my regular spot at Islandbridge Junction, which shows Irish Rail 232 in the modern green livery leading a timber out of the Phoenix Park Tunnel. The construction-progress of the apartments at left helps me confirm the date of the photo.
So, when was the final movement of timber by rail from Sligo? I must have been away.
With some pavement passing beneath us in spirited run on the ascent to Byron, Brian Schmidt and I arrived at the Highway F overpass near the summit of Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line over Byron Hill in time to record the passage of a northward double stack train meeting a southward freight.
I’ve featured both trains previously on Tracking the Light:
Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.
For this post: as the northward train glided below me, I was watching for the DPU (the locomotive working as a ‘distributed power unit’, 1990s-speak for a ‘radio controlled remotely operated helper). I timed my exposure to document its passage as the uphill train approached.
I made these views of a CSX freight operating on the former Reading Company in Philadelphia. My vantage point was from the sidewalk on the road bridge near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the Schuylkill.
The day was bright, but partially overcast, which benefitted my photography since bright sun would have resulted in a difficult and unflattering high-contrast situation.
This northward freight was moving slowly, allowing me to work with two digital cameras and expose a series of images as it went by.
Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.
The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
Last week, Mike Gardner and I positioned ourselves at Keets Road south of Greenfield, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDPL (East Deerfield Yard to Plainville, Connecticut) had departed East Deerfield and was idling on the Deerfield Loop track waiting to head south.
Finally, the train received the signal to proceed and began its southward trek. In the lead was GP40 352, one of several Pan Am diesels equipped with cab-signal equipment for operation over Amtrak south of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Once on the Connecticut River mainline the engineer opened the throttle to accelerate and his locomotives erupted with an dramatic display of noise and effluence.
Here are two of the views I exposed; a color view made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 fixed telephoto lens, and a black & white view exposed with a Leica on Kodak Tri-X.
At the end of April, Denis McCabe and I were on our way to the Basel Airport on the airport bus (image omitted). On the way, we spotted an over bridge on the double-track line that connects Basel with France.
Arriving at the airport, we concluded that we were too early to check in for our flight, so rather than waste time milling around the airport, we doubled back to the bridge, a mere 10 minutes away.
Among the photos I made in the interval at the bridge was this trailing view of an SNCF freight heading to France from Switzerland.
An FS (Italian State Railway) articulated electric locomotive leads a northward freight at Framura on Italy’s Mediterranean coast.
Using my Lumix LX7, I made this photo in the minutes before sunset in early April 2017. To make the most of the camera’s RAW file, I adjusted contrast and exposure in post processing using Lightroom and outputted this as a JPG sized for internet presentation.
Tracking the Light is posting automatically while Brian is traveling.
Often when I seek places to photograph, variety is a goal. In other words, I’m not just looking for a steady parade, but also lots of different kinds of trains.
Railways in Czech Republic offer great variety. One of my favorite lines is the route that connects Děčín (in the northern part of the country near the German frontier) with Kolin (an important junction 60 kilometers east of Prague).
This secondary route bypasses the Czech capital and serves as a reasonably busy freight corridor. I’d photographed this line at various locations in 2009 using color slide film
On 14 October 2016, Denis McCabe and I re-visited the line and spent an hour and half at the rural station in Stará Boleslav, located in the Labe River Vallay across from Brandys nab Labem.
The building was a tired but classic structure with lots of character. In addition to mainline action we were entertained by a man unloading some coal wagons for local delivery.
We arrived by local passenger train and departed with the next scheduled eastward local.
Below is a selection of images I exposed digitally with my FujiFilm X-T1 and processed with Lightroom to improve contrast, color balance and color saturation.
My last view. (Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and Google Plus viewers may need to click on Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light to see the big picture).
This former Boston & Albany freight yard was the site of some my earliest photographic efforts.
Several years ago, in a deal with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, CSX agreed to close its Boston yard to open the property for redevelopment. As a result, its intermodal yard at Worcester was expanded to accommodate the lost capacity.
The result is that Boston now has virtually no through rail-freight service. The trickle of remaining CSX rail-freight traffic is handled by a local from Framingham, Massachusetts. Container (and piggyback) traffic is accommodated by road.
Many years ago, Boston was a major freight hub, and Beacon Park was a very busy place—those days have long since passed.
For the last few years, the tracks at Beacon Park have sat disused and rusted.
Presently, track gangs are salvaging what remains of the old yard.
Someone, somewhere will declare ‘progress’.
Ironically, I exposed this view from a bus on the Mass-Turnpike Extension, the highway that more than 50 years ago assumed operation on considerable chunks of former Boston & Albany right of way.
A week ago, I traveled with John Gruber and Scott Lothes for a day’s photography on the Wisconsin & Southern,
A couple of days previously, John and I had made some photographs exploring the line to Reedsburg (see previous posts). So armed with that experience plus good information on operations, we set out with Scott for another run.
Among the three of us we have a bit of photographic experience and a lot of railway knowledge, so we were in good position to make the most of the day. I always like learning from fellow photographers as everyone has their own way of seeing.
I have to admit that the old Chicago & North Western line between Madison and Reedsburg isn’t my strongest field of interest. When I lived in Wisconsin this line (then still operated by C&NW) was largely nocturnal. However in more recent times, John and I have made daylight photos.
Until a few months ago the route still featured some vintage wig-wag grade crossing signals, and these had been the focus of my earlier efforts on the line. Since these are gone, we were able to take a more diverse approach.
The Reedsburg line is now but a branch on the sprawling Wisconsin & Southern freight gathering network, but historically the line was a key Chicago & North Western mainline between Chicago, Madison and the Twin Cities. For me this legacy makes the line more interesting.
We picked up the train at Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Yard, and over the next few hours intercepted it more than a dozen times.
Sunny weather plus a single clean SD40-2 running short-hood first put us in a good position to make satisfactory images. On the previous run John and I needed to make do with the engine running long-hood first, which is a more challenging subject to photograph.
Here are a few digital photos from our second chase. Any favorites?
Posted live from Dublin Bus. I’m on the 747 bus on the way to the airport. The Wednesday-only second IWT liner (Ballina to Dublin Port) just crossed the road. I had a perfect vantage point from my seat on the top deck.
I using my Lumix LX7, I exposed these views.
What fantastic luck!
Tracking the Light Posts Daily (but rarely from a bus)
Pairs of red electrics leading more or less uniform consists of coal cars make for great subjects as they wind their way along the supremely scenic Rhein Valley.
Most locomotive-hauled trains traversing Germany’s Rhein Valley work with just a single locomotive, and an ever-greater number of passenger trains use electric multiple units.
By comparison to continual parade of these more common trains, dual-red electrics on coal trains/and empties are relatively rare, and only make an appearance every few hours (often just after you move to change locations).
Here I display two empty trains train, both exposed on 10 September 2015. The first is a morning view on the Left Bank with a pair of DB class 185 electrics, the second is in the evening on the Right Bank across from Oberwesel.
Die Bahn/Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) operates an intensive nation-wide railway network. The traffic on many lines is impressive.
Conveying volume in photographs is perhaps best done with image sequences.
On the morning of September 12, 2015, Stephen Hirsch, Denis McCabe, Gerry Conmy and I arrived at the Bonn-Beuel station (located on the Right Bank line between Koln and Koblenz) to make a few photographs.
Our choice of locations was fortuitous. As it turned out, planned line works at the Bonn Hauptbahnhof on the Left Bank line had resulted in diversions, and this normally busy line was pushed to its potential capacity.
In addition to the normal half-hourly passenger service and parade of freights, the line was also handling InterCity and EuroCity long distance express trains, plus a mix of freights that might ordinarily use the Left Bank route.
In addition to the two main tracks, Bonn-Beuel has passing loops (passing sidings), which were well used this day. In several instances, a train was held on the main track, while higher priority traffic was routed via the loops around it.
This selection of images is intended to demonstrate how DB handled a mix of traffic on a double track mainline; keep in mind that stopping passenger trains and freights coexisted on the same route.
I’ve included the time that each photograph was exposed, and organized them in chronological order.
I decided to relocate to the island platform, as this offered a better angle for the sun.
To avoid getting blocked again, I walked further south along the platform.
The Right Bank of the Rhein is a busy freight corridor. Trains run in waves, and often follow each other several minutes apart on their north-south journey across Germany.
Kaub station sits wedged into a hillside with a castle above, and a sweeping curve to the south. In the afternoon, the sun swings around, which makes it a great place to photograph trains on the move.
Bombardier’s TRAXX locomotives family includes several classes of electrics. While the DB red class 185s may seen repetitive, open access operations make for a bit of variety. It seems that there’s always another freight working its way up or down the Rhein Valley. And this provides an opportunity to refine photographic angles and technique.
I made this selection using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
The fine art of the pacing shot was perfected many years ago. In the steam era, Jim Shaughnessy and others paced big steam across the prairies and grasslands in a quest for dramatic images.
I was traveling along the west bank of the Rhein a couple of days ago with Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and Gerry Conmy.
The railway here is exceptionally busy. The sun was bright and we were searching for photographic locations.
‘Green signal. Southbound.’
A minute later, ‘there’s a train overtaking us!’
I unrolled the window, switched my Lumix on, set it to ISO 80 at f8 and used the ‘A’ (aperture priority) mode, and exposed this series of images in rapid succession.
By using the settings described above, I allowed the camera meter to adjust the exposure to compensate for changing lighting conditions, while insuring the slowest possible shutter speed to maximize the effect of background blur.
Complicating the exposure was the reflective silver paint.
Other than scaling for internet presentation, I have not altered these images in post processing.
Germany’s Rhein valley is one of my favorite places to make railway photographs. The combination of great scenery, a fantastic variety of locations, the historic architecture, and a continuous parade of freight and passenger trains on both sides of the river make it hard to beat.
And, at the end of the day (in the most literal use of the cliché), the beer is great!
NS keeps trains flowing one after another, and doesn’t seem to have any qualms about running freight tightly between passenger trains. I found that about every half hour a freight would be slotted in.
This was one of the last exposures I made before sundown. A former Netherlandse Spoorwagen electric leads a southward Deutsche Bahn freight. While I’d seen several of these classic electrics on the move, this was the only one I caught in nice light hauling freight.
Views from the East Side of the Rhein—September 2013.
For me the Right Bank (east side) of the Rhein has always been more challenging and more intriguing. This side has more freight, but the vistas are more difficult to access. Certainly getting the viewpoints that I envision take a little more work.
On this trip, with the help of maps and some advice from local photographers, I found several satisfactory spots to work from.
Where the Left Bank (west side) remains dominated by passenger traffic (with the occasional freight slotted in), the Right Bank is primarily a freight route, with the requisite hourly (half-hourly at peak times) stopping passenger train.
Since my last visit to the Right Bank in 2010, the passenger service has been upgraded with modern Stadler three and four piece Flirt-model railcars. The tide of freight ebbs and flows, but its not difficult to get four or five freights at one location in a relatively short span of time.
It seems that no sooner than one train has clattered out of sight when the next is on its way. If action on the east side ebbs too much, there are plenty of boats and barges on the Rhein as well as trains on the left side. Regardless of what happens, I find it easy to expose lots of images.
The Left Bank at Boppard and Vicinity—September 2013.
Germany’s Rhein offers one of the World’s great railway experiences. Here busy double track railways occupy both sides of the river, largely in sight of one another. This narrow picturesque valley is dotted with old villages, castles, churches and blanketed with vineyards which adds to its charm and make for more interesting photographs.
For the all the challenges of wandering down lightly travel rural branch lines, or seeking out unusual, peculiar and elusive railway operations, sometimes it’s nice to get ‘a fix’ and go to a place where you will see a great volume and variety of trains in a comfortable setting.
The Rhein in early September hit the spot. The weather was perfect; a mix of sun and mist made for great lighting conditions, while temperatures were comfortable. No rain, no heavy wind. And best of all every few minutes a train comes rolling up or down the river.
Historically, the line on the west side of the river, the ‘Left Bank,’ was almost exclusively a passenger line and featured a continuous parade of Regional, IC, EC, and ICE trains, while the ‘Right Bank’ carried freight and an hourly local service.
Today, there are fewer IC/EC/ICE trains on the Rhein as many through services run on the high-speed line between Köln and Frankfurt. While IC/EC/ICE trains still operate about once an hour in each direction (plus local stopping services) now there are more paths for freights on the Left Bank which makes the line more interesting and more varied.
Boppard is located south of Koblenz on a elbow bend and allows for a variety of angles as the sun swings around. I’ve found from previous trips that Boppard is best in the morning. These photos are a selection from three days of photography based around Boppard.
I worked with three cameras; a Lumix LX3, Canon EOS 7D and Canon EOS 3 with Provia 100F film. Only the digital results are displayed here.