In the 1950s and 1960s, my father photographed and traveled on Reading Company’s famous ‘Iron Horse Rambles’ over its lines in the coal country of eastern Pennsylvania.
I grew up hearing stories of these trips and viewing his many black & white and color photographs that feature the railroad’s mighty class T-1 4-8-4 steam locomotives.
I’d visited several of these engines over the years; in Baltimore, Scranton, and last year at Port Clinton, PA. But until yesterday, July 1, 2023, I’d never witnessed one under steam.
When I began my Reading Company model railroad project in 2020, among the models Kris and I purchased was an HO scale interpretation of Reading Company 2102. And this engine was a regular feature on the Wee Reading Company’s coal trains, until I dismantled the railroad back in May in preparation for our move to Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, I traveled with Dan Cupper to Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station (not to be confused with Reading Company’s original Outer Station) to photograph 2102.
We spent the day photographing the engine at work. These Nikon Z7-II photos at R&N’s Outer Station are merely prelude to our chase to Jim Thorpe and back photographing Reading & Northern 2012 in action. It was an exhilarating day of photography! Stay tuned . . . .
In August 2007 while working on my book Railroads of Pennsylvania, I made this late afternoon image of a Norfolk Southern RoadRailer intermodal train on former Reading Company tracks near the old railroad’s historic namesake.
A pair of NS DASH9-40CWs lead the train.
A few years after I made this Fujichrome color slide, Norfolk Southern discontinued most of its RoadRailer operations, including those in eastern Pennsylvania. It is one of only a few photos I have of NS operations near Reading, PA.
Ten years ago today (February 28, 2012), I made this photo of CSX Q300 on the old Reading Company at West Trenton, New Jersey.
My old Lumix LX3 was a little tricky to use when making action photos of trains. If the camera was in full ‘auto’ mode and I pressed on the shutter release the camera would hesitate for a moment.
The trick was to use the manual setting and then ‘queue-up’ the camera by presssing the shutter release halfway in preparation for making a photo. In this way the camera shutter would release almost instantaneously when pressed the remainder of the way, thus allowing for a composition with full-frame view of a moving train, such as this one.
Reading Company was among the most prolific users of the Hall Disc signal, one of the earliest forms of an electrically actuated signal.
Curiously, Reading continued to install new Hall Discs years after perfection of the electric three-position semaphore.
A few of Reading’s Halls survived into the diesel era.
Reading & Northern, which operates significant sections of the old Reading Company, installed this recreated Hall Disc near its Port Clinton, Pennsylvania offices in homage to Reading’s classic signaling.
In December 2014, I made this sequence of photos using Pat Yough’s FujiFilm XT1, on a trip to photograph R&N’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was running Christmas trips to Schuylkill Haven and Minersville.
Now that I’ve endeavored to recreate the Reading Company in HO Scale, I’ve stumbled upon a quandary: How to make operating scale models of the antique Hall Disc signal?
On December 13, 2014, Pat Yough and I visited Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company main line near Auburn, Pennsylvania where the former Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch crossed on a through truss bridge.
Working with my Canon EOS-7D fitted with a 100mm lens, I exposed a sequence of Reading & Northern’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was leading a Christmas excursion toward Schuylkill Haven.
This is among the scenes that inspired me to recreate the Reading Company in HO scale.
On October 22, 1987, I made this study of former Reading Company 50-foot boxcars stored on the Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction in Caledonia, New York.
When Reading was folded into Conrail, Delaware & Hudson took title to a variety of Reading Company equipment, yet these cars were still painted for their original owner.
For more than 30 years this Kodachrome slide languished in the dark, and only recently did I retrieve it. These cars are of special interest to me now because I’m building a scale interpretation of the Reading Company in HO, and, Kris Sabbatino and I recently purchased models of Reading Company cars similar to these.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit.
Scanned using a Nikon SupersCoolScan5000 digital scanner operated using VueScan software. Scan adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.
Recently, my girlfriend Kris Sabbatino and I decided to build a model railroad.
For a prototype we selected eastern Pennsylvania anthracite country.
I began scouring my archives looking for material.
Part of my inspiration for this model railroad began many years ago when I was looking through my father’s photographs of Reading Company’s Iron Horse Rambles that he exposed over a five-year period beginning in 1959. Many of these photos were made from the excursions or on chases through eastern Pennsylvania. Most were not captioned at the time of processing, which often makes location details elusive but also part of the dreamlike mystery of building the scale railroad.
In 2007, I assembled a book titled the Railroads of Pennsylvania, and made a detailed study of the region.
In 2014 and 2015, I was researching on books on steam locomotives and made several trips with Pat Yough to photograph the Reading & Northern.
The model railroad will blend together all of this inspiration and much more.
As part of a new on-going feature on Tracking the Light, I’ll be reporting on progress with this model railroad and the source material from which we draw.