Tag Archives: #Reading & Northern

Yard Office at Pittston

Back on November 17, 2023, Kris and I had paused at Reading & Northern’s Pittston Junction yard.

It had been months since the last time I exposed a color slide.

I had my Nikon F3 with me because we were on our way to Cape Cod, and I anticipated wanting to make a few slides of our trip.

So after making a variety of photos with my digital cameras, I dusted off the F3 and made two Ektachrome slides of Reading & Northern 2535, in what appeared as a classic railroad scene.

Why just two slides? Well, this was because after I exposed the second photo the battery in the camera died. That is one of the dangers of infrequent camera use.

When we final got to the Cape, I replaced the battery and finished off my roll of film.

Exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3 with 35-70mm Nikkor zoom. Slide scanned using a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner.

Sometimes it is just the tracks!

Some days everything falls into place and you get a train in nice light in a neat location. Other days you need to settle for a view of the line.

Last autumn, I photographed this unusual trackage arrangement on the Reading & Northern at Tamaqua, Pa.

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Pittston Junction—Haven of the Antique EMD

The other day day, Kris and I called into Pittston Junction.

This is my new favorite place:

Wide open for photography, deep in history, and a haven of old General Motors diesel-electric locomotives.

The GP39RNs were once GP30s, and they still look the part.

The wigwag grade crossing signals were an added bonus.

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Christmas Convergence at West Cressona

I like it when I can tie several themes together. This post is special because it ties together many loose threads in one neat knot.

Catching CNJ 0-6-0 passing through the former Reading yard at West Cressona a few weeks ago is a perfect example.

Back in 2015, on a trip to photograph 113 in Christmas train service with photographer Pat Yough, I met photographer Oren Helbok.

This seasonally-themed train was working the prototype rails that had inspired my HO-Scale Wee Reading Company.

Researching the Reading in November 2021 led Kris and me to Pennsylvania, and it was a significant factor in considering our move to the state earlier this year.

In March 2022 on visit to Pennsylvania to explore the Strasburg and Harrisburg areas, Kurt Bell introduced us to author/photographer and fellow Trains correspondent Dan Cupper.

In October, Dan Cupper and I had visited West Cressona to photograph a Reading & Northern local with a pair of EMD SW8 diesels

Earlier this month, both Dan and Oren encouraged Kris and me to photograph this season’s trips with 113.

During our photography of the 113 trips, Pat Yough had phoned to say that the elusive Reading & Northern SD38 2003 was in the yard at West Cressona. (See earlier posts on Tracking the Light, including: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/reading-northern-sd38-2004/and http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/the-solomons-gap/).

After catching 113 passing Becks, Kris and I made our way to the yard, which had been a feature of my model railroad, and caught 113 working its way through the historic trackage and passing 2003.

Back in 1986, I had photographed 2003 in an earlier incarnation as Grand Trunk Western 6253, which had arrived in my old haunt of Palmer, Massachusetts on a fiber-optic cable laying train. This stuck in my mind because it was the first time I’d ever seen a six-motor diesel on the Central Vermont.

My now-defunct Wee Reading Company HO railway. This was my interpretation of West Cressona Yard.
This angle was the inspiration for the model. I first stood here in 2014. This photo was made a couple of weeks ago.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 113 works past Reading & Northern 2003 at West Cressona, PA
Reading & Northern 2014 was at the back of the Santa excursion. In 2014, I made first visits to West Cressona and Minersville to photograph 113.
And there is the elusive 2003!
Central Vermont cable laying train at Palmer, Massachusetts in August 1986. I made my first photos of Palmer from this location in September 1977.

Merry Christmas from Tracking the Light!

CNJ 113 Santa Special at Becks

Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 113 is one of those ‘Brigadoon’ steam locomotives.

In case you haven’t seen it, ‘Brigadoon’ was a 1940s musical, later a popular film, about a mythical Scottish village that only appears once every hundred years. When I was in high-school, the local summer theatre group performed this production; I played trombone in the pitband.

I use the term ‘Brigadoon’ as an allusion to a tourist railroad (or locomotive) that makes infrequent or rare appearances. In the case of 113, this a locomotive that only makes a few trips a year, which makes it a special treat to see in action.

A couple weeks back, Kris and I made the effort to visit Minersville, Pa., to see the engine, then set up on the old Mine Hill & Schuylkill Railroad route to photograph it in action.

The Mine Hill route was part of my vision for the Wee Reading Company HO-scale railroad that I’d built when we lived in New Hampshire, which made it a special place to see this steam locomotive in action.

In 2014 and 2015, I’d traveled with photographer Pat Yough to catch 113 on this route, and the photos I’d made on those trips were part of the inspiration to make this line the heart of my model railroad.

In this respect, I’d come full circle.

The location we selected was at Becks, west of West Cressona Yard. This offered a relatively open place with good sunlight.

While trying to pick the best place to photograph, I started a conversation with an elderly woman with a house over-looking the line. She told me that she’d grown up to the sounds of idling locomotives at the St Clair roundhouse near Pottsville. “My great grand father had worked for the Reading. He had two train wrecks on a very steep part of the line and told me about many years later.”

I asked if it was ok to stand in her yard to make my photos, and she thought it would be fine. This gave me a better trailing view to picture the steam locomotive at the back of the Santa Special.

I made these views of the passing train using my Nikon Z7-II digital camera. While I was waiting for the train to pass, Pat Yough called to say that Reading & Northern 2003 (the elusive SD38 discussed in previous episodes of Tracking the Light) was in the yard at West Cressona! Stay tuned for more!

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The Solomons Gap

Previously, I’ve discussed my quest to located Reading & Northern SD38 2003, having stumbled upon R&N SD38s 2000 and 2004 during my wanders through coal country in recent years.

My desire to locate 2003 is to complete a circle that began in the summer of 1986, when I photoraphed this locomotive in a previous incarnation as Grand Trunk Western GTW 6253. This had arrived Palmer, Massachusetts leading a Central Vermont fiber-optic cable laying train.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/reading-northern-sd38-2004/

I find it remarable that this unusual General Motors diesel has survived all these years and now regularly operates relatively near my new home in Pennsylvania. Yet, despite various trips to photograph the Reading & Northern, the 2003 has eluded me.

My friend and fellow photographer, Pat Yough, suggested I check the yard at Pittston Junction (near Wilkes-Barre), as the 2003 might be there.

My wife, Kris, and I called into Pittston Junction on a beautiful November afternoon. There was an array of locomotives and rolling stock here. Initially, I’d spotted an SD38, and I though for a moment my quest was over.

On closer inspection, I discovered it was locomotive 2004, again. The same SD38 that I’d spotted a month earlier at Tamaqua.

There’s old 2004, another of the ex Grand Trunk former Detroit, Toledo & Western SD38s, but not the one I was hoping to photograph.

Ironically, among the other Reading & Northern equipment at Pittston Junction was a streamlined passenger car named for Solomons Gap.

My quest was to be continued . . .

This ironic symbolism of locating this serves as a double entandre for today’s post.

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North Reading Fast Freight

Reading & Northern’s North Reading Fast Freight makes an afternoon run from the North Reading Yard to Pittston, Pa.

In October, fellow author & photographer Dan Cupper and I made a project of catching this premium train on the move.

We set up at Reynolds, near South Tamaqua, Pa., where made a series of photos.

Leading the train was the recently repainted SD40-2 number 1983 (former 3062) , that commemorates 40 years of Reading & Northern/Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern operation. This wears a shade of blue remainiscent to that on the railroad’s scheme used on Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern’s CF7s back in the 1980s.

Reading & Northern SD40-2 number 1983 leads symbol freight NRFF (North Reading Fast Freight). Exposed with a Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 70-200mm zoom lens.
Exposed with a Nikon Z7-II with Nikkor 24-70mm zoom lens.

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Reading & Northern SD50M working at Tamaqua.

I was always impressed by the length of Electro-Motive Division’s SD50 diesels. I first saw these on Conrail in 1983-1984.

Although more powerful than the common SD40-2, the SD50 was a troubled locomotive design and wasn’t as well regarded as the earlier EMD road diesels.

Despite this, many of the old SD50s are still at work in secondary services. In recent weeks, I’ve been featuring Norfolk Southern’s SD40Es, many of which were rebuilt from old Conrail SD50s.

Reading & Northern has a small fleet of SD50s, including several former Missouri Pacific units built in 1984. Back in October, Dan Cupper and I caught up with Reading & Northern SD50E 5049 (originally Missouri Pacific SD50 5049) working the old Reading Company yard at Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.

R&N 5049 was putting together a train of empty coal cars to head out to a loading point on a vestige of the old Lehigh & New England, known as the Arlington Branch. I’ll feature photos from that adventure in a later episode of Tracking the Light.

Photographing with my Nikon Z7-II and Z6 cameras, I varied my exposure in a effort to best capture the locomotive it its environment, then working with the NEF RAW files, I made nominal adjustements to exposure, contrast and color using Adobe Lightroom for the photos displayed here.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens. I like the way the paint on the locomotive mimicked the foliage.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.

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2102 with October Foliage at Zehners

October is my favorite month for making railroad photos. Low sun and rich autumnal foliage can make for stunning settings. Yet, finding brilliant colored trees lineside isn’t always so easy.

Driving along on the highways in Anthracite country of eastern Pennsylvania in October you’ll see plenty of beautifully colored trees, but often, when you find your way to the tracks the leaves there are still green, or brown, or gone.

A few weeks back, Kris and I were following Reading & Northern’s 2102 as it led an Iron Horse Ramble toward Jim Thorpe.

Back in 2015, Pat Yough and I made a similar trip to photograph the railroad’s colorfully painted Pacific type, engine 425 on a foliage trip. Among my favorite photos from that day were those made at Zehners, near South Tamaqua, and so that’s where Kris and I stopped to catch 2102.

Kris and I arrived well ahead of the train. Folks had begun to gather. I was impressed by the trees. Bright sun illuminated the mid-morning sky and we made some satisfying images of the train as it passed.

Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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Standing on the Inspiration for my old Model Railroad

On my birthday I went to visit the railroad that had inspired my HO-scale Wee Reading Company.

In May, Kris and I had traded the joy of the Wee Reading Company—a microcosm that I created of Pennsylvania anthracite country railroading—in order to move to and live in Pennsylvania.

Fellow photographer Dan Cupper joined me on a day-long exploration of Reading & Northern operations. We began the day at Port Clinton, and followed the PNPV (Port Clinton to Pottsville) freight to West Cressona on the old Mine Hill Railroad—one of the component lines of the Reading system.

I made photos at the old yard, along the street and houses that I’d conceptually recreated as the center-piece of my HO-scale fantasy—itself now a memory.

This seemed completely surreal, but resulted in some interesting photos.

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Big Steam on Reading & Northern—An Autumnal March.

October 21st, Kris and I paid another visit to the Reading & Northern to photograph 4-8-4 No. 2102 in action.

This is such an awesome locomotive in every regard.

We arrived trackside at Hamburg, Pennsylvania just after 9am. This is on the old Philadelphia & Reading’s original mainline.

After less than half an hour we heard the whistle and anticipated the passage of the great machine leading an Iron Horse Ramble on its march toward Jim Thorpe.

What is really cool is that 60 years ago, my father was doing the same thing! I grew up looking at Pop’s Reading Company slides. There’s a lot of history around locomotive 2102 and that’s part of the draw of the engine for me and a lot of other people.

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2102-Majesty of the Machine in Motion

Reading & Northern’s class T-1 2102 is an awe inspiring locomotive.

On October 1, 2023, Kris and I were poised to photograph this machine as it worked former the Central Railroad of New Jersey line near Nequehoning, PA.

Rich autumn sunlight and a hint of autumn foliage made for excellent conditions.

The locomotive crew made a show of steam and smoke as the engine passed us.

Nikon Z-6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom set to 200mm; f5.6 1/250 sec ISO 200.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 45mm; f4.5 1/640 sec ISO 200
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom set to 24mm; f4.5 1/640 sec ISO 200

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Reading & Northern T-1 2102 on the move—October 1, 2023.

Sunday, Kris and I joined our friends Pat Yough and Tom Kline and followed Reading & Northern’s famous 4-8-4 2102 on its run from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe.

The light was perfect—clear and sunny; the locomotive highly polished. Pat lead us to some great line-side locations. Our first was at Hamburg, PA, near where the old Reading Company mainline passes beneath Highway 61.

I made this sequence using my Nikon Z-series cameras.

Nikon Z7II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.

More photos to follow over the coming days!

Reading & Northern 2014 panned.

My father made pans of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Baldwin shark’s on the New York & Long Branch in the 1960s using a Leica and Kodachrome.

I made these photos of Reading & Northern 2014 on the move at Jim Thorpe, PA using my Nikon Z7-II and 24-70mm lens.

The trick is using a reasonably slow shutter speed, fixing a point in the frame and panning with the subject in a complete and uninterrupted motion. In other words don’t stop panning when you release the shutter.

Panning on a dull day is a great way to give a photo a bit of zing!

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 54mm, f16 1/40th second ISO 200.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 54mm, f16 1/40th second ISO 200.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set at 54mm, f16 1/40th second ISO 200.

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2102 Fans, People and Portraits—20 photo special.

Last weekend’s Reading & Northern Iron Horse Ramble was more than just a trip. It was an event and a confluence of railway people, railway fans, railway photographers, train riders, and even members of the general public.

I sent my dad an SMS text with a of photo of 2102. He wrote back, ‘take photos of the fans.’

He has photos of Reading Company’s rambles with the railroad’s class T-1s surrounded by fans and photographers.

Below is a selection of my people photos from Saturday July 1, 2023.

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Reading Details

Or call it: ‘2102 Up Close’.

I like to put the railroad in the context of its environment, but I also like to make macro views of the equipment.

Last weekend I had several opportunities to get up close to Reading & Northern’s T-1 class 4-8-4 #2102 to make a selection of detailed views of the machinery.

Reading & Northern 2102 ‘rods down’ at the beginning of the day.
Headend crew viewed from the fireman’s side of the cab at Reading Outer Station, Reading Pennsylvania.
Detailed view showing the valve gear and crosshead.
Smokebox view of 2102 at Jim Thorpe, PA.

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Reading 2102 Revisited

In the 1960s my father, Richard Jay Solomon, made numerous photos of Reading Company’s famous Iron Horse Rambles. This included countless photos of Reading T-1 2102.

As I’ve previously recalled on Tracking the Light and in the pages of Trains Magazine, these photos were, in part, my inspiration for the HO-scale Reading Company that I’ve been building in my Finacé’s basement.

Early in the planning for the railroad Kris and I bought an HO model of 2102, and in February last year (2021), I ran one of my father’s famous photos of this engine, a picture that I featued in my book Locomotive, 20 years earlier (see below).

A week ago Friday (March 18, 2022), Kris & I visited Reading & Northern’s Port Clinton, PA offices and obtained permission to visit the 2102 and make photos. This was a privilege and a real thrill. It was the first time I’d seen this engine up close.

Later this year R&N plans to have this magnificent machine operating in excursion service on their railroad.

My father’s image of 2102 on an Iron Horse Ramble in the 1960s.
My HO scale recreation of 2102 seen at speed on our interpretation of the Reading Company.
My recent digital photography of Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company 2102 at Port Clinton, PA.

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In the 1960s my father, Richard Jay Solomon, made numerous photos of Reading Company’s famous Iron Horse Rambles. This included countless photos of Reading T-1 2102.

Rare Bird on the Reading & Northern

A week ago (March 18, 2022), Kris and I called into the Reading & Northern at Port Clinton, Pennsylvania.

We obtained permission to be on the property and make photos.

Although, I had visions of seeing something older, grander, and of greater personal interest, I was impressed by the vintage EMD diesels sitting outside the company offices.

Reading & Northern 2000 was a classic SD38, a 2,000 hp six-motor EMD, built for the Penn Central in 1970, and later served Conrail.

Where the GP38 was a common type (as were the GP40 and SD40 models), the SD38 was unusual—a real rare bird with just 63 built.

I’ve only photographed a scant few SD38s in all my years wandering North American rails, including those operated by Conrail, the US Steel roads: Bessemer & Lake Erie, Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range, and Elgin, Joliet & Eastern; and at least one Grand Trunk Western unit, that back in 1986 showed up on Central Vermont in Palmer, Massachusetts leading a cable laying train.

So here we find this rare diesel, ripe for a few photos: I made this photo with my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series lens. But, I also exposed a frame or two of HP5 using an antique Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.

Soon we were on the verge of finding something rarer, cooler, and the reason for our visit . . . stay tuned!

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Reading & Northern SW1500

I walked the trail along the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe on frosty morning last week. This trail runs parallel to Reading & Northern’s former Central Railroad of New Jersey yard.

The yard was once a sprawling sea of track largely used to marshall coal cars moving to and from area mines.

Today, the remains of the yard is primarily a base of operations for R&N’s Lehigh Scenic Gorge Railway.

At the northend of the yard, I spied this R&N SW1500, which made for an interesting subject against the autumn leaves on the hillside. I made these images with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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Reading & Northern Surprise at Tamaqua.

I was enjoying a prime rib sandwich at the Tamaqua Station Restaurant, taking in the well-preserved Victorian atmosphere with Kris, and marveling at the details, when I hear the unmistable sounds of an approaching train.

Lumix LX7 in hand, I headed for the door and arrived at the platform in time to make a sequence of photos of a Reading & Northern ‘hospital’ move of passenger equipment heading north on the old Reading Company.

I wasn’t expecting this unusual train, but delighted with the fortuity to catch it, and with nice autumn light and brilliant autumn foliage in the distance.

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Hall Disc Signal at Port Clinton.

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? 

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Reading & Northern 425 near Auburn, PA.

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.

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Port Clinton and 425.

Reading & Northern’s 4-6-2 Pacific #425 was the draw.

In December 2014, this handsome steam locomotives was operating a series of holiday trips on the old Reading Company lines out of Port Clinton, Pennsylvania.

Pat Yough offered to drive and so I traveled down by train to meet him and make photographs.

At the time, I was keen on investigating the FujiFIlm X-series mirrorless cameras as my next avenue for digital photography, so Pat lent me his Fuji XT1 to try out.

In addition, on that day I was also working with my Lumix LX7 and Canon 7D cameras.

We arrived at Port Clinton in the morning in time to catch 425 making some switching moves in preparation for its run up to Schuylkill Haven.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by the Fujifilm camera that day and a month later I invested in one.

The territory served by the old Reading Company also impressed me, and I’ve chosen this area as the setting for the model railroad that my girlfriend Kris Sabbatino and I are building.

Recently, Kris, impressed by my results with the Fuji X-series has invested in a Fuji XT4.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1.
Exposed using a Lumix LX7. Notice the old Pennsylvania Railroad right of way above the locomotives.

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Steam at Cressona, Pennsylvania.

In December 2015, Pat Yough and I photographed restored Central Railroad of New Jersey 0-6-0 113 working excursions on the former Reading Company at Cressona, Pennsylvania.

Photographing with my FujiFilm XT1 mirrorless digital camera, I made this telephoto view of a westward excursion threading its way through Reading & Northern’s yard.

I like the composition featuring the complicated track work.

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