Tag Archives: Rochester New York

DAILY POST: Packing Friction Bearings.

A Bit of History on Film.

Does anyone even remember friction bearings? By the 1990s, these were all but a forgotten technology, replaced with the omnipresent roller bearings. Southern Pacific’s season sugar beet racks were once of the few exceptions and continued to work until about 1992 with the old technology.

However, prior to that in January 1988, I had a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) that involved making photos of railroad workers. I’d arranged through the Rochester & Southern to spend time around Brooks Avenue Yard.

I spent a lot of time there, relative to what was required of me for the class.

Railroad workers
Packing friction bearings on freight cars at Brooks Avenue Yard, Rochester, New York, January 1988.

At one point the general manager, or someone in the know, directed me to a rip track where workers were packing friction bearings. This was really an arcane aspect of railroading.

I exposed a series of black & white negatives in the 645 format using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T. It was a dull cold day. I think I was using Verichrome Pan (rated at 80 ISO) to get a period effect. I used a wide aperture, probably f3.5, which gave me shallow depth of field.

Verichrome was a difficult material to work with in low light and my negatives were very thin.

To make the most of these photos I used an unusual printing technique: I intentionally printed the photo darker than normal, then used a potassium-ferrocyanide solution to bleach the highlights. I did this both across the print in a tray, and using a cotton swab on select areas such as the around the journal boxes.

The result is more or less as you see it here. This print has been in a box since 1988 and has hardly ever seen the light of day. (Incidentally, in case the name doesn’t suggest it to you, potassium-ferrocyanide is decidedly unhealthy, so use it cautiously, if you must.)

I don’t think my professor was especially impressed with my results. What did he know about bearings anyway?

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DAILY POST: Lehigh Valley 211 at Lincoln Park, Rochester, New York

Free Film, a Borrowed Camera and a Bit of Luck!

In November 1986, Kodak supplied me with a free roll of TMax 100 black & white film as part of a ‘care package’ of new products for students in the Photographic Illustration programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology .

Alco RS-3M at Rochester, New York
The combination of Kodak’s recently released T-Max 100 ‘T’ grain black & white film and a Canon 50mm lens allowed for a very sharp image with exceptionally fine grain and broad tonality. I scanned this 35mm negative with my Epson V500 scanner.
Incidentally, at the left of the image is General Railway Signal’s Rochester plant.

The T-Max black & white films were brand new at the time. They were significant because they used a new ‘T’ grain that featured flat silver halide grains that were supposed to reduce the visual granularity in the film (and lower the film’s silver content).

On this bright sunny morning, I went trackside in Rochester to expose my free film. I had Kodachrome 25 in my Leica M2, so I borrowed my roommate’s Canon A1 for the film test.

I photographed a variety of Conrail trains on the former New York Central Water Level Route. I made this image of Rochester & Southern’s Belt Line local crossing the former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh bridge over Water Level Route at Lincoln Park, west of downtown Rochester. (In 1986, Genesee & Wyoming’s Rochester & Southern assumed operation of the former BR&P 4th Sub-division from CSX’s Baltimore & Ohio.)

Leading R&S’s local was Alco RS-3m 211 leased from the recently formed Genesee Valley Transportation.

The locomotive has a long and colorful history. It featured both a large steam generator and dynamic brakes (thus the high short-hood) and was one of only five RS-3s were built this way:  four served Western Maryland, while this one went to the Pennsylvania Railroad but later was traded to the Lehigh Valley, becoming its 211. After 1976, Conrail replaced 211’s original Alco-244 diesel with a recycled 12-cylinder EMD 567 engine.

Since I made this image, the locomotive has been preserved and restored at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in Rush, New York.

This cropped detail gives a hint of the fine grain afforded by T-Max 100 film.
This cropped detail gives a hint of the exceptionally fine grain afforded by T-Max 100 film.

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