Tag Archives: Railway

Magnificent Vestige at Borris, County Carlow.

The Borris Viaduct is an impressive vestige of the closed Irish railway line from Bagenalstown to Palace East.

Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin and I explored this old bridge, which has been converted into a hiking trail with easy public access.

Photos exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

Notice the effect of selective focus and soft light.
This similar view has greater depth of field.
This old milepost is measured from Dublin and is located immediately south/east of the big bridge.

Tracking the Light examines railway photography daily.

 

 

EXTRA! Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe!

Yesterday, boxes arrived with my author’s comp copies of my latest book:

Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

The printed copies look amazing. As the the author I was very impressed by the high quality photo reproduction and the overall look of the book. This is no ordinary guide book.

Kudos to everyone at Kalmbach for making this such a wonderful looking book!

Order yours today!

The books are available now through the Kalmbach Hobby Store and at Amazon.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Daily Post: Snow Exposure Quandry

Pan Am 310 East of Shelburne Falls

I exposed this image of Pan Am Railways GP40 310 leading MOED on the afternoon of February 17, 2014. By any measure this scene posed a difficult exposure.

Canon 7D in-camera Jpg of Pan Am Railways 310 east of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. To my eye, this image appears too bright. Had it been a color slide I'd say it was about a half stop 'over exposed.' This Jpg was created using the Canon's picture style profile called 'landscape' (one of several built in Jpg picture styles).
Canon 7D in-camera Jpg of Pan Am Railways 310 east of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. To my eye, this image appears too bright. Had it been a color slide I’d say it was about a half stop ‘over exposed.’ This Jpg was created using the Canon’s picture style profile called ‘landscape’ (one of several built in Jpg picture styles).

The locomotive is a dark blue, while the scene posed a full range of tones from bright white snow to deep shadows. The train was moving, and there was little time for exposure bracketing.

Using the camera’s histogram, I’d made a test exposure before the train came into the scene, and then made a series of images focused on the composition.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D, I always expose simultaneous Jps and Camera RAW files. Most of the time the in Camera hi-res Jpg proves acceptable, and simply archive the RAW files for the future.

However, in this instance when I got home, I found that the in-camera Jpg appears to bright to my eye. I re-checked the camera’s histogram for that file and confirmed that the image was exposed correctly.

Histogram.
This is the information displayed at the back of the camera. The histogram is just about ideal. The bulk of the exposure is at the center of the graph and there is virtually no clipping of shadow or highlight areas. (See my earlier post on snow exposure for graph interpretation.)

In previous posts I’ve explained that with modern digital imaging old-school film-based assessments of ‘under’ (too dark) and ‘over’ (too light) exposure do not allow for the most accurate way of selecting exposure. (see: Snow Exposure—Part 1)

Instead of using the image at the back of the camera, or even the photo on my home computer screen, to judge exposure, I use the histogram. This graph allows me to select an exposure that maximizes the amount of information captured by the camera on-site.

In this case, although the Camera processed Jpeg seemed too bright (over exposed), the camera RAW file was perfect.  Since the problem was in the camera’s translation of the RAW to Jpeg, the solution was simple:

I converted the RAW to a Jpeg manually, which produced a result that matched the scene. This retained excellent highlight detail in the snow, produced a pleasing exposure for the side of the locomotive and hills beyond, while retaining good shadow detail in the tree at the left.

Here's the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established 'picture style'. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the 'landscape' style Jpg had interpreted the image.
Here’s the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established ‘picture style’. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words it was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, only with my perception of how the ‘landscape’ style Jpg had interpreted the image.

I did not manipulate or adjust the file except to scale the image and convert it to a Jpg for presentation. (the RAW file is far too large to up-load effectively).

For more on snow exposure see:

Photo Tips: Snow Exposure—Part 1

Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

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DAILY POST: Maine Central Alco in the Rain at North Walpole, New Hampshire

Taking in the Whole Scene.

My father taught me to make railway scenes, and not merely images of equipment. I did just that on this cold, wet, rainy day, when I photographed Maine Central Alco RS-11 crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire.

Mountain Railroad on November 25, 1983. It was raining hard when I exposed this view of it crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire using my Leica 3A loaded with Kodak Tri-X. For me, the rain, the locomotive and the highway were all part of the scene. I’ve framed the locomotive in the grade crossing signals. To the right is theMountain Railroad on November 25, 1983. It was raining hard when I exposed this view of it crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire using my Leica 3A loaded with Kodak Tri-X. For me, the rain, the locomotive and the highway were all part of the scene. I’ve framed the locomotive in the grade crossing signals. To the right is Green Mountain's former Boston & Maine roundhouse
Maine Central 802, one of the railroad’s two Alco RS-11’s was on loan to Green Mountain Railroad on November 25, 1983. It was raining hard when I exposed this view of it crossing Route 12 in North Walpole, New Hampshire using my Leica 3A loaded with Kodak Tri-X. For me, the rain, the locomotive and the highway were all part of the scene. I’ve framed the locomotive in the grade crossing signals. To the left is Green Mountain’s former Boston & Maine roundhouse.

I’d traveled with Paul Goewey to Bellows Falls on the morning of November 25, 1983, specifically to photograph this locomotive. For reasons I can’t recall (if I ever knew), Green Mountain had borrowed Maine Central 802 to work its daily freight XR-1, that ran to Rutland over the former Rutland Railroad.

Despite the gloomy conditions this was something of an event, and I recall that several photographers had convened at Bellows Falls to document 802’s travels.

Green Mountain’s roundhouse is in North Walpole, just across the Connecticut River from Bellows Falls, and I made this image from the east bank as the engine switched cars.

With this image I was trying to convey that this locomotive was in an unusual place by putting it in a distinctive scene.

Once XR-1 was underway, Paul and I followed it toward Rutland. The weather deteriorated and rain turned to snow. By the time we reached Ludlow, the snow had become heavy; we were cold, wet, and tired, having been up since 4:30 am, and so ended the day’s photography.

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Tomorrow:

Discussion of a contemporary color slide featuring a Canadian National ethanol extra!

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DAILY POST: Magnum LUAS

Saved by the in-Camera Memory!

Back in the old days, if I went out and forgot to load my camera it was tough luck. No film, no photo. And, yes, there were several occasions where I suffered this humility.

Today, with my Lumix LX3, there’s a feature that gets me out of the occasional jam. The camera has a built-in memory that allows me to make several photographs when there is no memory card inserted (or if the memory card has an error/failure).

This means that in those rare situations where I have the camera, but have forgotten the card, I can still make a few photos.

Case in point. On April 11, 2012, I’d grabbed the camera and walked into the Dublin city center to run some errands. At the time, the LUAS tram network had a specially painted tram advertising Magnum ice cream bars. I’d seen this several times, but not managed to get a photo of it.

In fact, this tram had proved unusually elusive, and previous efforts to find it in sunlight failed. But on this day, as I wandered through Smithfield, the purple Magnum tram glided along side of me and came to a stop at an intersection in full sun. Perfect!

Except, when I went to make a photo, I got an error message telling me there was no card! I’d taken it out to download it and left it at home! OH NO! But the camera gave me the option of saving the file to the camera memory! Yea!

Dublin tram.

Specially adorned LUAS tram advertising Magnum ice cream bars pauses at an intersection near Smithfield in Dublin on April 12, 2012. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 and saved to the internal camera memory.

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Tomorrow: The Electroliner

Click to view related posts:

Dublin’s LUAS at Heuston Station, October 14, 2013;

LUAS McDonalds Tram at Heuston Station

White Tram Prowls Dublin’s LUAS 

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Daily Post: Claremorris, County Mayo, February 1998.

General Motors Diesel in Ireland.

Irish Rail class 181 General Motors diesel number 185 catches the afternoon sun at Claremorris, County Mayo in February 1998. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T fitted with 24mm lens, exposure calculated with a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell.
Irish Rail class 181 General Motors diesel number 185 catches the sun at Claremorris, County Mayo in February 1998. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T fitted with 24mm lens, exposure calculated with a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe photocell.

This was among my first Irish Railway photographs. I’d hired a car in Limerick and was exploring. At the time I knew very little about Irish Rail, but I was fascinated by the Ballina branch passenger train.

What caught my interest here was the juxtaposition of the General Motors diesel with the Claremorris station sign. It was the name of the town in Irish that fascinated me. I also liked the old Irish Rail logo, which seemed to represent the double junction at Claremorrris.

I’d never have imagined then, that this would just one of the thousands of Irish railway photographs I’d expose over the next 16 years!

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Daily Post: Snow Along The Canal, Birds in Flight, A Tram

A Moment in Time, November 28, 2010.

This was my Christmas card for 2010.
This was my Christmas card for 2010.

It doesn’t snow in Dublin very often, and when it snows it rarely stays on the ground for long. It had started snowing heavily overnight on November 28, 2010 and when I awoke, there was a fresh blanket of snow all over everything.

I made the most of morning. Among the locations I selected was along the LUAS tram line that follows the Grand Canal.

A man was feeding the birds and these were circling. Using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens, I made a series of photos of an inbound LUAS Citadis tram heading toward the city center from Tallagh.

The birds in flight make an already unusual situation even more interesting. They add depth and life to a cold and frosty scene. The tram itself is almost incidental. Yet we can follow its progress along the canal, its tracks gradually descending in the distance.

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Tomorrow: A visit to County Mayo!

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DAILY POST: BNSF SD70ACE at Enola, Pennsylvania.

 Location and Locomotive.

Tight view of BNSF Railway SD70MAC 9261 at Norfolk Southern's Enola Yard. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.
Tight view of BNSF Railway SD70MAC 9261 at Norfolk Southern’s Enola Yard. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

Fifty years ago, it would have been pretty neat to see a Burlington GP30 at Pennsylvania Railroad’s Enola Yard. Yet for the context of that photo to be fully appreciated, it would help to have the location of the locomotive implied in the image.

A few weeks ago, Pat Yough and I were driving by Norfolk Southern’s Enola Yard and spotted this SD70ACE. These days, BNSF locomotives on Norfolk Southern and CSX are not unusual occurrences. Not in Pennsylvania anyway.

After a tight image of the locomotive, I stood back and made a few views intended to convey location.

It’s not what you see, but the images made of what you see.

The sign at the left conveys location and provides a bit of information about safety conditions at Enola. Canon EOS 7D.
The sign at the left conveys location and provides a bit of information about safety conditions at Enola. Canon EOS 7D.
In this view the sign is the subject, and the locomotive just a decorative background. Canon EOS 7D.
In this view the sign is the subject, and the locomotive just a decorative background. Canon EOS 7D.

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DAILY POST: Spirit of Summer, Lake City, Pennsylvania

Hazy Damp Morning, July 1987.

Here’s a view from my summer wanderings with TSH in July 1987. We’d camped along the Water Level Route at Lake City, Pennsylvania and spent the day watching and photographing trains.

The morning weather began heavy and damp, but as the day continued a thunderstorm rolled off Lake Erie and cleared the air.

Conrail
Conrail SD50 6793 leads a westward train on the former New York Central at Lake City, Pennsylvania at 8:05am on July 25, 1987. I exposed this with a Rollei Model T, using T-Max 400 black & white film. F5.6 1/125th of a second. Processed in Kodak D76 1:1. I calculated exposure with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell. The camera’s Carl Zeiss Tessar allows for an exceptionally sharp image. I’ve reduced the scan to just a fraction of its original size for internet display.

Conrail was busy and presented an unceasing parade of trains. For this view, showing a pair of SD50s, I used my father’s Rollei Model T. I went low to emphasize the weedy grass, while using the old station to frame the train and provide historical context.

The combination of the grass, the thick white sky, and hazy light says ‘Summer’ to me.

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DAILY Post: Former Pennsy Viaduct at Crum Creek.


Unsung Pennsylvania Bridge

 On a recent ride out to Elwyn on a SEPTA suburban train, my brother Sean and I noted several large viaducts on this former Pennsylvania Railroad route.

The Elwyn route is one of several SEPTA lines that has been under threat of closure. The bridges on the route have been reported to be suffering from deferred maintenance which has made them candidates for replacement.

SEPTA's Crum Creek viaduct. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
SEPTA’s Crum Creek viaduct. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

This bridge piqued our curiosity. So on Monday, January 20, 2014 we decided to investigate the Crum Creek Viaduct which is easily accessed via The Scott Arboretum trails (near Swarthmore College).

An  impressive viaduct, it spans the heavily wooded Crum Creek valley, looming above the tree tops like an ancient relic of another age. It reminded me of Milwaukee Road’s trestles on St Paul Pass in the Bitteroot Mountains of the Idaho panhandle.

This is a double-track tower-supported plate girder viaduct, of the type of construction common to many late-19th and early 20th century railway bridges. It dates to the mid-1890s.

SEPTA's Crum Creek viaduct. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
SEPTA’s Crum Creek viaduct. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

Photographically, the Crum Creek viaduct presents a challenge. The surrounding trees tend to obscure the bridge. While the most graphic images of the bridge are made near is base, yet working close to the bridge makes it difficult to adequately capture a train crossing the bridge. As we moved further away both train and structure tend to blend with the forest.

Since this bridge is in jeopardy of either replacement or abandonment, I thought it a worthy project to photograph it as functioning infrastructure. I tried panning an outbound train in an effort to show a train on the bridge.

An inbound SEPTA multiple unit rumbles across the Crum Creek Viaduct on January 20, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
An inbound SEPTA multiple unit rumbles across the Crum Creek Viaduct on January 20, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Pan of an outbound SEPTA train crossing the Crum Creek Viaduct on January 20, 2014.
Pan of an outbound SEPTA train crossing the Crum Creek Viaduct on January 20, 2014.

Crum_Creek_Bridge_SEPTA_Pan_3_IMG_1009

What will become of this bridge? Will it be restored, abandoned or replaced?

Below are some recent links that make references to the viaduct.

See: http://www.ascgroup.net/projects/crum-creek-viaduct-swarthmore-borough-nether-providence-township-delaware-county-pa.html

http://cait.rutgers.edu/system/files/u10/Knueppel_–SEPTA_SGR_Presentation.pdf

www.scottarboretum.org

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

Interested in railroad bridges? See my book: North American Railroad Bridges

Tomorrow Tracking the Light goes back to 1987! Don’t miss it!

 

 

 

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DAILY POST: Vermonter at Dusk


Ethereal View at Millers Falls, January 2014.

Tim Doherty asked me a few weeks back, “Have you ever tried a shot from the north side of the Millers Falls high bridge?” I’d looked a this several times, but was discouraged by the row of trees between the road and the railroad bridge.

Amtrak
Amtrak‘s northward Vermonter crosses the Millers River on January 12, 2014.

So, on January 12, 2014, at the end of the day (light), Tim and I went to this location with the aim of making images of Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossing the aged Central Vermont span.

 

As there was only a hint of light left, I upped the ISO sensitivity of my Canon EOS 7D and I switched the color balance to ‘tungsten’ (indoor incandescent lighting which has the same effect as using tungsten balance slide film (such as Fujichrome 64T), and so enhances the blue light of the evening.

 

A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) confirmed the train was on-time out of Amherst. Running time was only about 20 minutes (a bit less than I thought) but we were in place, cameras on tripods, several minutes before we heard the Vermonter blasting for crossings in Millers Falls.

The result is interpretive. The train’s blur combined with view through the trees and the deep blue color bias makes for a ghostly image of the train crossing the bridge.

Click to see related posts: Dusk on the Grand CanalAmtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

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Amherst Railway Society’s Big Railroad Hobby Show part 2

More Photos from January 25, 2014.

Amherst Railway Society‘s Big Railroad Hobby Show show is pure sensory overload. Everywhere you look there’s something or someone that seizes your interest. An old friend, an F-unit, a trolley buzzing underwire, video of a steam locomotive, the sounds of trains.

NS_high_hood_GP38s_at_xing_IMG_4129Rio_Grande_244T_IMG_4088

Paul Carver
Paul Carver.
Pioneer Valley Railroad's Dave Swirk.
Pioneer Valley Railroad‘s Dave Swirk.
Dan Howard with the Seashore Trolley Museum.
Dan Howard with the Seashore Trolley Museum.
Wait, what? A vintage fishbowl bus? At the TRAIN show?!
Wait, what? A vintage fishbowl bus? At the TRAIN show?!
Caboose and a vision of Pennsylvania's Martin Creek Viaduct in the distance.
Caboose and a vision of Pennsylvania’s Martin Creek Viaduct in the distance.
Lens-master George C. Corey.
Lens-master George C. Corey.

Highway_layout_IMG_4109

NMRA promoter.
NMRA promoter.
Railroad Museum of New England's Bill Sample.
Railroad Museum of New England‘s Bill Sample.

CSX_GP15-1_IMG_4120

Quabog Valley Modelers.
Quaboag Valley Railroaders of East Brookfield.
Boston & Albany Hudson on the Quaboag Valley Railroader's layout.
Boston & Albany Hudson on the Quaboag Valley Railroader‘s layout.

American_Flyer_IMG_4101 4-4-0_w_soldiers_IMG_4123

 

I exposed several hundred photos in a few hours, but after a while my mind began to numb. Railways of all kinds in all directions.

I guess it was a good show!

Click here for part 1.

 

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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.

 

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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: 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: 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: Holiday in Hollidaysburg

Remembering  a Warm Summer Afternoon.

“Let’s get an ice cream,”  my pal T.S.H. said as we drove by Conrail’s sprawling former Pennsylvania Railroad yards at Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

Conrail, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania 6:30 pm on July 27, 1987. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 fitted with 50mm f2.0 Summicron.
Conrail, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania 6:30 pm on July 27, 1987. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Leica M2 fitted with 50mm f2.0 Summicron.

There was a roadside ice cream stand on one side of the highway and the tracks on the other. I made this image showing Conrail SD40 6288, while enjoying the ice cream on the hood of the old Dodge Dart we were using as transport.

This engine had been painted with a  slogan promoting the United Way. Second out was a former Erie Lackawanna SD45-2. This was a local that had come down from Altoona with bad-order cars for the car shops.

It was July 27, 1987 and we were on the tail end of a week-long exploration of Pennsylvania. The days had been hot and hazy, but evenings offered some rosy light, (when there wasn’t a thunderstorm). We had started the day on the old Baltimore & Ohio, working our way from Confluence to Sand Patch, then drove north to Hollidaysburg.

The ice cream is just a memory, but I still have the old chromes.

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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: 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 Post: Lionel Train Circles the Tree.

Thomasina-the-Cat and an NW2.

Happy Christmas from Tracking the Light!

In this classic scene, my old Lionel NW2 works a local freight as Thomasina-the-Cat oversees operations.

Thomasina-the-Cat watches a Lionel NW2. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 using a mix of natural and incandescent light; f2.2 at 1/8th of second, ISO 200, auto white balance, manual focus.
Thomasina-the-Cat watches a Lionel NW2. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 using a mix of natural and incandescent light; f2.2 at 1/8th of second, ISO 200, auto white balance, manual focus.

Thomasina doesn’t know much about Christmas but she loves to watch the train.

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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: Snow, Sub-Zero Temperatures, and Red Engines.

A Civilized Way to Spend a Winter Holiday.

Villach is in southern Austria near the Slovenia-border. Here the Tauern and Semmering routes converge; there’s several yards, a handsome old passenger station, some stunning scenery. To the south, lines again divide, with one route heading southwest toward Italy, and another south into Slovenia.

There’s no shortage of trains.

An OBB Taurus electric leads a northward freight at Villach, January 2006.
An OBB Taurus electric leads a northward freight at Villach, January 2006.
A southward Taurus lettered for GySev glides alongside the northward freight on the other track.
A southward Taurus lettered for GySev glides alongside the northward freight on the other track.
A southward freight near Villach against an Alpine backdrop. My fingers were numb when I made this image.
A southward freight near Villach against an Alpine backdrop. My fingers were numb when I made this image.
An OBB diesel chortles under wire.
An OBB diesel chortles under wire.

This is a good thing, because while standing out on a freezing January 2006 morning, I was beginning to question the wisdom of making railway photographs.

After several hours in the cold,  I noticed the Austrian equivalent of a convenience store near tracks and this seemed inviting. Inside it was immaculately clean, warm, nicely decorated, and (most importantly) it was serving piping hot cups of chocolate and freshly baked pastries. Hooray!

There was plenty of time to witness and photograph the Austrian Federal Railways after a thaw.

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DAILY POST: Vermont Twilight

Ghost of the Balls in Bellow Falls.

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.

Twilight, apparently, may strictly defined by the specific position of the sun below the horizon.

‘Civil Twilight’ as defined by the National Weather Service, is ‘the time at which the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon.’ Key to this period is that ‘there is enough light for objects to be clear distinguishable.”

I’ve always used the term in a more general sense to indicate the time of day when there’s a glow in the sky (before sunrise or after sunset). I suppose, the more appropriate title for these evening photographs would ‘Dusk at Bellows Falls.’

Anyway, it was the end of day’s photography in October 2004, when Tim Doherty and I visited Bellows Falls to witness the arrival of Guilford Rail System’s WJED (White River Junction-East Deerfield) freight.

This train worked interchange from Vermont Rail System’s Green Mountain Railroad and I made a series of atmospheric images at the passenger station. In the lead was a former Norfolk Southern high-hood GP35, a rare-bird indeed.

Bellows Falls is one of my favorite places to make railway images. I’ve been visiting as long as I can remember. My family had been taking day trips to Bellows Falls, and some of my earliest memories are of the tracks here. But, I’ve rarely made photos here at this time of day.

Twilight? Dusk? Evening? How about: dark enough to warrant a tripod, but light enough to retain color in the sky?

Guilford’s WJED eases past the Bellows Falls passenger station. Exposed using a Nikon N90S with Fujichrome.
Guilford’s WJED eases past the Bellows Falls passenger station. Exposed using a Nikon N90S with Fujichrome.
WJED shoves back on the interchange to collect cars from the Green Mountain Railroad.  The Rutland had been gone more 40 years when I made these photos; more than 50 now. Which went first? The Rutland or the balls at Bellows Falls?
WJED shoves back on the interchange to collect cars from the Green Mountain Railroad. The Rutland had been gone more 40 years when I made these photos; more than 50 now. Which went first? The Rutland or the balls at Bellows Falls?

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DAILY POST: Winston Hill, Montana, 1994.


Semaphores and Double Stacks.

I love technological contrasts and parallel compositions. This simple photograph works with both motifs.

Semaphore
What makes this photo work for me, isn’t just the technological contrasts and functional symmetry, but also the textured sky. This was difficult to exposure for properly, but serves an important visual element. If it was overexposed, it would represent a defect that would distract from the signals, while if it had been a blue dome, it would have dramatically altered the visual contrast of the image.

 

A westward Burlington Northern double-stack container train rolls downgrade on Montana Rail Link’s former Northern Pacific mainline over Winston Hill, east of Helena.

I used a relatively short shutter speed to allow a little bit of motion blur, while waiting for an appropriate gab between the stack wells to show both eastward- and westward-facing semaphores.

These upper quadrant blades were powered by General Railway Signal Type 2A base of mast mechanisms, a standard type of signal hardware installed by Northern Pacific in the steam era.

By the early 1990s, double stack container traffic was new and growing, while semaphore signals were relics from an earlier era and rapidly being replaced.

What will be the 2014 equivalent of this photograph? A state-of-the-art LNG-fueled locomotive passing a classic searchlight?

Interested in railway signaling? See my book Railroad Signaling available from Voyageur Press/Quayside Publishing

Also See: Erie Mainline RevisitedCuriously Seeking Erie Semaphores and Susquehanna SD45 and an Erie Semaphore, Canaseraga, New York.

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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: Panned View, Buffalo, New York.

Sunny Morning on Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Metro Rail.

Buffalo Light Rail
A Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Tokyu Car-built light rail car glides through downtown Buffalo on May 4, 1989. The brown strip along the side of the car compares nicely with the tint of the stone on St Paul’s beyond. Since this image was exposed, NFTA has dressed the cars in a more modern livery.

I’d argue that the Buffalo light rail line is one of America’s least photographed railways. It’s certainly not something I’ve often seen pictured.

The system has several peculiarities. One of the strangest is its route, which runs in a subway through the northern Buffalo suburbs but on the street in the historic downtown.

I’ve made several visits to photograph and ride this unusual railway. I had an especially  clear morning on May 4, 1989 when I exposed this pan on Kodachrome with my Leica M2. The car is on Main Street and passing St Paul’s Cathedral (located just a few blocks from Buffalo City Hall).

When seeking out railways to document, I’m always on the lookout for those operations that appear to elude other photographers. Admittedly, while the Buffalo light rail isn’t the most exciting railway in western New York, it can be photogenic and is thus worthy of pictures.

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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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DAILY POST: Irish Rail Weed Spraying Train, Fiddown


The Old Weed Sprayer was Good Sport.

One of my all-time favorite Irish Rail subjects was the annual weedspraying campaign. Every spring, a Bo-Bo would be allocated to haul the ancient looking contraption that functioned as the weed spraying train. Over the period of several weeks this would gradually make its way across the network.

Weed Spraying train
Irish Rail 175 leads the Weedspraying train near Fiddown in May 2003. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 Rangefinder with 45mm lens. Slide scanned with Epson V600; the contrast was manipulated globally and locally in post production to improve overall appearance of the image. The chevrons on the front of the locomotive were icons of the weed-spraying campaign.

Highlights of the campaign typically included travel over a variety of lines closed to traffic and this made for high adventure! [scene censored to protect the innocent]. I also made countless images of the train on regularly used lines.

Yet, finding the train could be a challenge, as it often didn’t hold to its program. Equipment difficulties were among the cause for delay.

On this bright morning in the second week of May, several of us had intercepted locomotive 175 with the spray train at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary and followed the train toward Waterford. I made this image from the Fiddown bypass just east of the old station at Fiddown. The distant signal for Fiddown gates can be seen in the distance.

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DAILY POST: Susquehanna SD45 and an Erie Semaphore, Canaseraga, New York.


How Change Affects Composition.

On April 7, 1989, I exposed this Kodachrome slide at f4.0 1/125th of a second using my Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens. Today, if I visited the same location, I’d make a completely different image because all the elements that encouraged this composition are gone. This slide is a little bit of history.
On April 7, 1989, I exposed this Kodachrome slide at f4.0 1/125th of a second using my Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens. Today, if I visited the same location, I’d make a completely different image because all the elements that encouraged this composition are gone. This slide is a little bit of history.

Three elements of this image interested me when I exposed it on April 7, 1989.

The Union & Switch & Signal Style S upper quadrant former Erie Railroad semaphore; New York, Susquehanna & Western’s former Burlington Northern SD45; and the unusual grade separated mainline, where the eastward track is on a higher level than the westward line.

I could write in detail about anyone of these three things. And someday I will. But not now.

Instead, I’ll examine the composition in a effort to offer a lesson on observing change.

The reason I made this photo in the way I did was specifically to juxtapose the signal with the locomotive. The grade separation not only offered added interest, but facilitated the over all composition because it allowed the locomotive to be relatively higher in the frame while enabling me to include the entire signal (complete with base of mast mechanism and subsidiary boxes/equipment) without producing an unbalanced image.

Today, none of the main elements in the photo are in place. If you were to visit Canaseraga, New York (located about 10 miles railroad-west of Hornell on the former Erie Buffalo mainline) you would find that the semaphore is gone; as is the old eastward main track. If by chance there’s an SD45 in the photo (unlikely, but not inconceivable) it would be on the close track.

In other words, the essential components of the image have changed to such a degree that there is little reason to consider making a photo at this location. And that’s the point!

When photographers (myself included) make railway images, they consciously and unconsciously include (and exclude) line side infrastructure which helps define and structure the photographs.

Changes to railway infrastructure alter the way we see the railroad, and thus the very way we compose and plan photographs. By anticipating change, we can make more interesting images and preserve the way things look for future viewers.

When trackside make careful consideration for those elements you may include or deliberately exclude. Might you be missing a potentially great image by trying to avoid some wires or litter along the line? Is an old fence potentially a graphic element that not only will help located the photo in the future but also key to a dramatic composition?

It is these types of thoughts than can make the difference when trying to compose great (or at least, relevant) railway photos.

See: Erie Mainline Revisited and Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores.

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DAILY Post: Irish Rail at Taylorstown Viaduct, December 8, 2001


A Classic Photograph from A Dozen Years Ago Today.

It was just 12 years ago—December 8, 2001—that I stood in the damp grassy field overlooking Taylorstown Viaduct, Co. Wexford, to make this image of freshly painted General Motors 141s leading an empty sugar beet train toward Wellingtonbridge.

Irish Rail General Motors diesels
Irish Rail 148 and 173 lead an empty sugar beet train at Taylorstown on December 8, 2001. I made this image with my Nikon F3 with 105mm Nikkor lens on Fujichrome. Exposure calculated manually with a handheld light meter.

Sugar beet season typically ran from late September until just after Christmas and was a great time to make Irish Rail freight photographs. Operations were focused on loading trains at Wellingtonbridge and tended to result in a series of daylight movements over the scenic South Wexford line.

Between 1999 and 2006, with the help of my Irish friends, I made dozens of trips to photograph, record and experience the sugar beet season. The weather wasn’t always fine; often it was dark and rainy but there were sunny moments like in the scene pictured here.

Unfortunately, sugar beet operations ended in early 2006, and a few years later Irish Rail closed the line between Waterford and Rosslare Strand to regular traffic. The bridge and tracks remain, but movements on the line are now very rare. The locomotives and wagons were scrapped a few years ago.

Also see: Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005

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DAILY POST: Quaboag River Sunset, June 1986

Conrail’s GE C30-7As catch the Glint.

Conrail at Palmer.
At 7:00 pm on June 17, 1986, I used my dad’s Rollei T to capture this image of Conrail eastward freight SEBO-B crossing the Quaboag River bridge west of Palmer, Massachusetts.

In early summer 1986, Conrail was weeks away from converting the Boston & Albany route from a traditional directional double track mainline to a single-track line under the control of CTC-style signals with cab-signal. The first section to be cut-over to the new control system was between Palmer to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Among the results of this change was the abandonment and eventual lifting of the old westward main train west of Palmer.

I was well aware of this pending change and had been documenting Conrail’s work in the area over the preceding months.

On the evening of June 17, 1986, I focused on the westward main track at the Quaboag River bridge just west of the Palmer diamond as Conrail’s eastward SEBO-B dropped down the short grade toward the Palmer yard.

While the train adds interest to the scene; my main focus was the track in the foreground that would soon be gone. I made a variety of images in this area on the weeks up to Conrail’s cut-over day.

Photographing directly into the clear summer sun produced a painterly abstraction. I’ve allowed some flare to hit the camera’s lens which obscures shadow detail and makes for a dream-like quality.

Years after I exposed this frame, I moved to California where I met photographers that had perfected this photographic technique. Interestingly, railroad photographers had been using backlighting to good advantage for a long time. In  searching through archives I’ve come across fine examples of Fred Jukes’ and Otto Perry’s works with similar backlighting effects.

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DAILY POST: Stone Arch Bridge, Bernardston, Massachusetts.


Boston & Maine GP9 on the Connecticut River Line, December 1985.

Digging through my older photographs, occasionally I come across something really interesting.

Boston & Maine GP9 1736 leads freight CVED southward across the stone arch bridge at Bernardston, Massachusetts on December 28, 1985. I exposed this using a Rollei Model T with a 'Superslide' insert that gave me a 645-size rectangle rather than a 2 1/4 inch square image.
Boston & Maine GP9 1736 leads local freight ED-4 southward across the stone arch bridge at Bernardston, Massachusetts  at 12:03pm on December 28, 1985. I exposed this using a Rollei Model T with a ‘Superslide’ insert that gave me a 645-size rectangle rather than a 2 1/4 inch square image.

I’d exposed this black & white photograph using my father’s Rollei Model T at Bernardston, Massachusetts, where the railroad crossed an old mill dam on a classic stone arch bridge.

Brandon Delaney and I had gone up to Brattleboro, Vermont, where we found a pair of Boston & Maine GP9s working local freight ED-4. I made a number of images of engine 1736 working in the snow. Then we followed the train south into Massachusetts.

Brandon had previously explored this location at Bernardston and so we set up and waited.

For me this is a lesson in balance and composition: By placing the locomotive over the first pier of the bridge rather than allowing it to move further onto the bridge, I’ve created both visual tension and compositional balance.

The GP9 plays off the old mill at the bottom of the bridge to the left, while de-emphasizing the locomotive allows the eye to focus more on the bridge but never so long as to ignore the engine altogether. The bridge, after all, is the main subject, while the locomotive and mill are secondary to the scene.

I’ve been back here several times over the years and the scene has changed. The old mill and mill dam are history. I don’t know if they were washed away in a flood or were deliberately demolished. At the time they offered links to New England’s faded small-scale industrial past.

Today, because the dam is gone the bridge appears taller since the full length of the piers can be followed right in to the river-bed. Trees have encroached on both sides of the bridge, and even in winter, it can be difficult to get more than one locomotive on the structure. Yet, it can still be a great place to pose a train.

This detail is a very tight crop from my original negative.
This detail is a very tight crop from my original negative.

See: Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2

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