Tag Archives: signals

Limerick Junction: Photographing LED signals.

Yesterday, 13 October 2018, I exposed these views of an LED (light emitting diode) signal on Irish Rail at Limerick Junction.

Take a careful look at the yellow aspects in the respective images.

In the top photo, the yellow LEDs appear relatively dim (and much dimmer than they seemed in person). On the bottom photo these are brighter.

Exposed at 1/400th of a second.
1/60th of a second.

Many LEDs do not produce constant light output and flicker many times a second. Although you cannot see this with your naked eye and the light output appears constant, in fact the light is blinking. When you use a fast shutter speed the camera only captures a portion of the light emitted and so the signal lights seem too dim.

The key when photographing LED signals is to use a relatively low shutter speed. In this case 1/60thof second is much better than 1/400th.

Another tip when making effective LED signal photos is to make the most of subdued lighting which can make the signals seem brighter than the light around them.

 

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Old Signals: My Last Photos?

I was running a few final errands before heading to the airport.

CSX had been working on making CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts compliant with positive train control requirements, which has coincided with commissioning new signal hardware.

By the time I return, the old signals will likely have been retired and the new system up and working.

Crossing the South Main Street bridge in Palmer, I spotted a New England Central local working the diamond, and a CSX intermodal train (Q022) waiting to the west.

This gave me enough time to set up and made a few final photos of the transitional arrangement at CP83 in Palmer.

Old signals to the left, new heads on the right; CSX Q022 holds to the west of the Palmer diamond.
A moment of sun as Q022 begins to pull forward. Modern signaling equipment is in the silver box at right.
Working with an 18-135mm zoom lens gave me needed flexibility to adjust the focal length as the train pulled forward.

Changeable lighting made for patches of direction sun under a partial blanket of cloud. I tried to use these sunny spots to my best advantage since the train was moving slowly through the interlocking.

 

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Canadian National: Clear aspect on a Clear Morning.

Reading the signals is part of the challenge and joy of my railroad photography.

Three weeks back, Chris Guss and I were following a southward Canadian National freight on the Wisconsin Central line.

North of Slinger, we made photos from a wooden plank bridge near the north approach signal for Slinger, Wisconsin.

This displayed ‘green over red’, in other words a clear aspect.

Clear signal at the north approach for Slinger.

I made these views with my Fujifilm XT1. After exposing the view of the signal, I changed lenses, and used a 27mm pancake lens for the action photo of the passing train.

Canadian National 2813 leads freight M342-41-30 south near Slinger, Wisconsin.

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Signals in Transition.

Over the last few weeks, CSX has been installing new signaling in Palmer in conjunction with preparation for Positive Train Control.

Hooded traffic light configuration color-light signal heads have been installed to replace the Conrail-era triangular pattern light signals.

The Conrail-era signals were activated in July 1986 when the single-tracking of the Boston & Albany between Palmer and Springfield. The interlocking at Palmer was then designated CP83.

Lumix LX7 photo at Palmer, Massachusetts.
Looking north on the New England Central toward the Palmer diamond. New signals at left. Canon EOS7D with 100-400mm lens.
New and old signals at dusk at CP83. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
Amtrak 448 splits the signals at CP83 in Palmer. Dusk is a good time to photograph signals since the ambient light levels more closely match those of signal lamps. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
After nearly 32 years of service these old signals will soon be retired. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

CSX’s new signals haven’t been activated yet and I’ve been making photos of the transitional between old and new hardware.

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TRAINS Hot Spots on Sale in Easons

Trains Magazine’s special issue ‘Hot Spots’ with my article on interpreting railroad signals is on sale at Easons on O’Connell Street in Dublin.

I exposed the lead photo at DeKalb, Illinois on a March morning 23 years ago using a Nikkormat FTN loaded with Fujichrome.

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Advance Copy of Trains’ Hot Spots features my signals article.

The other day I got a nice surprise. My author’s Advance Copy of Trains’ Hot Spots arrived in the post box. (mail box).

I like advance sections of Trains. Something special. Something  Extra. Just like in olden times with timetable and train order rules. Gotta love that!

Check out my article on page 11, ‘Reading the Lights,’ about railroad signals.

See: Kalmbach Publishing.

Look for this cover at media outlets near you!
Tag line on the cover! That’s cool! Page 11, that’s me.
Signaling enthusiasts will get the subtle humor in this photo.

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Every Day.

Searchlight Sunset at Athol, Massachusetts.

Here are some views I made the other evening at Tyters interlocking, west of Athol, Massachusetts, where the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg goes from two to one track westbound.

Intermodal train symbol 23K from Ayer, Massachusetts was heading into the sun.

Over the last few years Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern has replaced many of its old General Railway Signal searchlight heads with modern signal hardware. Yet some of the old signals survive, for now.

Image exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm set at 66mm, (making this equivalent to a 100mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera)
Searchlight hardware has been out of favor since the 1990s and in recent years have been replaced at rapid rates. I’d composed an editorial on this subject for Pacific RailNews back in 1996.

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Wisconsin Central and Wig Wags at Fond du Lac.

The old wig wag style grade crossing signal is now virtually extinct. However, in the 1990s, a fair number of these signals could still be found in Wisconsin.

This is an excerpt from my book Railroad Signaling (first published by MBI 2003):

One of the first standard types of automated visual grade crossing warning was the automatic flagman, a signal commonly known as a ‘wig wag’. [This was] adopted as a standard crossing device by the American Railway Association in 1923. A standard wig wag is actuated by a track circuit and consists of a paddle with a red lamp that gracefully swings back and forth in a horizontal pattern when a train approaches [and] usually accompanied by a bell . . . [at one time] the wig wag was the preferred type of grade crossing protection in the Midwest and far west. [They were] largely supplanted by modern flashing signals and crossing gates.
Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens.

I was traveling with Marshall Beecher on the morning of August 3, 1996, when I exposed this view of Wisconsin Central’s southward freight ANPR-A approaching a grade crossing on the former Chicago & North Western line in Fond du Lac. This line saw less traffic than WC’s near by former Soo Line mainline over Byron Hill, but the attraction was these antique signals. Notice my use of selective depth of field.

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Brian Solomon’s ‘Reading the Lights’ featured in January 2016 TRAINS

My author’s advanced copy of January 2016 TRAINS arrived the other day. This magazine features my ten-page article on how to interpret railroad signals.

This is the first page of the opening spread for my article in January 2016 TRAINS.
This is the first page of the opening spread for my article in January 2016 TRAINS.

This issue features some of my favorite signal photographs.

Cover of January 2016 TRAINS.
Cover of January 2016 TRAINS. (photo by Scott Lothes)

To learn more about historic American signaling check out my new book: Classic Railroad Signals published by Voyageur Press.

This is a follow-up to my original book on Railroad signaling published in 2003.

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Red Signal at Sunset, Palmer, Massachusetts.

It was a rosy red sunset on Friday July 10th. Jupiter and Venus could be seen in the western sky.

Tracking the Light reader Douglas Moore told me that the signal cleared to green shortly after I headed away and CSX’s Q437 (Framingham, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York) manifest freight passed in darkness.

I exposed this image using my recently purchased Fujinon Aspherical 27mm pancake lens. This is one compact and very sharp pieces of glass.

I’m hoping the combination of a sharp lightweight lens with relatively fast aperture will serve me well in low light.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 27mm pancake lens. 400 ISO, 1/60th of a second f5.0 white balance set to daylight.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 27mm pancake lens. 400 ISO, 1/60th of a second f5.0 white balance set to daylight.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 27mm pancake lens. 6400 ISO, 1/15th of a second, f2.8. Daylight white balance.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 27mm pancake lens. 6400 ISO, 1/15th of a second, f2.8. Daylight white balance.

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A Camel in the Snow.

General Electric delivered Conrail’s ten C32-8s in 1984. These were a group of unusual pre-production DASH-8 locomotives, and earned the nickname ‘camels’ owing to their humpback appearance.

I’ve always liked these distinctive locomotives and I had ample opportunities to photograph them on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.
Exposed on Kodak black & white film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens.

In March 1988, I was skipping class at Rochester Institute of Technology and photographing along the former Erie Railroad in New York’s Canisteo Valley.

In the afternoon, light rain had changed to snow. I was set up by the semaphores at milepost 308 west of Rathbone, New York and caught Conrail’s westward doublestack train TV301 roaring through the valley with nearly two miles of train in tow.

In the lead was C32-8 6617, an old favorite from my travels on B&A. I find it hard to believe that this locomotive was less than four years old at the time.

The old Union & Switch Signal Style S semaphores were decommissioned in January 1994.

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Daily Post: Erie Signals at Rock Glen

Making Meaningful Signal Photos.

 As a photographer working from the ground (as opposed from the locomotive cab), finding situations that illustrate some of the less common aspects in the rule book can take lots patience.

Looking railroad timetable east at Rock Glen, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Canon EOS 3 with 100-400mm lens.
Looking railroad timetable east at Rock Glen, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Canon EOS 3 with 100-400mm lens.

Study this image, there’s a lot going on here: Norfolk Southern’s westward symbol freight 23K holds the mainline at Rock Glen, New York where it will meet the eastward 38T. The dispatcher has lined 38T through the siding, and as a result the home signal displays a red-over-yellow-over-green aspect—‘Medium Approach Medium’ (rule 283a).

The ‘Medium Approach Medium’ aspect effectively tells the engineer  of train 38T, that the train is lined and has a favorable signal (clear) for both this crossover as well as the next crossover, and that both are ‘medium speed’ (not exceeding 30mph) crossovers.

At the far left is the old Erie milepost that tells use we are 371 miles from Jersey City (the traditional eastern end of the line). The named location on the timetable conveniently coincides with the map and so the western end of the siding is called ‘Rock Glen’ for the western New York town of the same name. On many modern railroads, the timetable might simply refer to this control point as ‘CP371’.

At one time this was a traditional double track mainline with directional running in the current of traffic. Erie converted the route to single track with passing sidings and centralized traffic control-style signaling.

I don’t know for certain, but based on the current siding arrangement that is slewed around the home signal, I would guess that at some point after the time of original installation the siding was lengthened. Take note of the siding signal.

Among the peculiarities of Erie’s CTC style signaling was the use of home signals at sidings with the lower head located much lower than the top head. In effect this is an exaggerated arrangement that omits the center light featured on signals with three lights, such as on the signal on the right.

Erie wasn’t alone in this style of signaling, Southern Pacific also used low signals like this, although unlike the Erie, SP didn’t assign speed aspects.

In modern times, re-signaling by Conrail and Norfolk Southern has resulted in changes to traditional signaling practices. In some locations the lower light was raised to a point just below the main light. While more recent re-signaling has resulted in the outright replacement of searchlight hardware with modern color lights.

When I made this view, Rock Glen was among last places on the west end of the old Erie route that still featured this classic signaling arrangement. I was eager to make an image that featured the signals set up for a meet.

Presently I’m working on a book called ‘Classic Railroad Signaling’ (to be published by Voyageur Press) that will focus on traditional hardware including semaphores, searchlights, position lights & etc. This is a work in progress and comments are welcome!

Click below to see previous signaling posts including:

New Book, Classic Signaling;

Searchlight Signal near Pownal, Vermont;

Susquehanna SD45 and an Erie Semaphore, Canaseraga, New York;

and Curiously Seeking Erie Semaphores.

 

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Tomorrow: Deconstructionist exercise.

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DAILY POST: Black & White Scrapbook


Scans of Prints Showing Limerick Junction

Irish Rail
A Dublin bound train has the starting signal to depart Limerick Junction. In the lead is a Class 201 General Motors diesel number 215 (again!). Limerick Junction North Cabin is at the left. Exposed with a Rollei model T on black & white film.

On May 16, 2001, I was on my way from Dublin to Kilarney by train. Rather than take the most efficient route, I aimed to wander a bit on the way down.

I changed trains at Ballybrophy for the Nenagh Branch to Limerick, then traveled from Limerick to Limerick Junction where I’d time my arrival to intercept the weekday 10:34 Waterford to Limerick cement train.

At the time I was making good use of my Rolleiflex Model T to document Ireland and Irish railways in black & white.

I’d process my negatives in my Dublin apartment and make 5×7 proofing prints at the Gallery of Photography’s darkrooms at Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. Often, I schedule one day a week for printing.

Over the course of a half dozen years, I exposed several thousand black & white images, and made hundreds of prints. Sometimes I’d give prints to friends on the railroad. On more than one occasion I’d later visit a station or signal cabin and find my work displayed on the wall.

However, most of the prints remain stored in boxes. While this may help in their preservation, it doesn’t allow people to enjoy the images.

Here I’ve displayed just a few photos, where instead of scanning the negatives, I’ve scanned prints and this shows both my cropping of the image and the borders. I developed a distinctive border style for my square images that I felt worked well with the format.

In the dozen years that have passed since I exposed these photos, Limerick Junction and the trains that serve it have changed dramatically. The semaphores, cement trains and Class 121 diesels are all gone.

Irish Rail 133 works the Limerick Junction-Limerick push-pull set as the train departs the Junction on May 16, 2001. After this train departed, the signalman in the cabin gave the cement train the signal to cross the Cork line (at right), then reverse into Limerick Junction.
Irish Rail 133 works the Limerick Junction-Limerick push-pull set as the train departs the Junction on May 16, 2001. After this train departed, the signalman in the cabin gave the waiting cement train the signals to cross the Cork line (at right), then reverse into Limerick Junction.
Here a pair of Class 121s leads the 10:34 Waterford-Limerick empty cement across the 'square crossing' at Limerick Junction. In America, we'd probably call this the 'Diamond at Limerick Junction'. Although this image was exposed as a square, I cropped the negative in printing to better focus on the railway infrastructure. The top third or so of the original negative just show clouds.
Here a pair of Class 121s leads the 10:34 Waterford-Limerick empty cement across the ‘square crossing’ at Limerick Junction. In America, we’d probably call this the ‘Diamond at Limerick Junction’. Although this image was exposed as a square, I cropped the negative in printing to better focus on the railway infrastructure. The top third or so of the original negative just show clouds.
The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.
The Cement train crew gets off the engines after stabling the train in the sidings. After exposing these photos I boarded a train for Mallow and Tralee.

 

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NEW YEAR’S POST: Happy 2014!


CSX Searchlights at Depew.

CSX stack train with signals
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm image stabilized zoom lens, set at 250mm.

I exposed this image on the evening of August 20, 2010 of a westward CSX stack train at CP431 in Depew, New York. What makes this photo interesting to me is the former New York Central signal bridge and searchlight signals.

Since I made this photograph, CSX has replaced many of the searchlights on the Water Level Route with modern color light hardware. While I’m sorry to see the old signals go, I’m not surprised.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote an editorial in Pacific RailNews (when I was editor of that magazine) warning enthusiasts that searchlights were on their way out, and explained why. At the time, searchlights were very common.

The photo is timely. This year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware:

Semaphores, Searchlights, Positional Lights and Towers, of all varieties.

This will be a great book. I’ve been researching and photographing the subject for many years!

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Happy New Year from Tracking the Light!

Hale-Bopp Comet over the West Switch at Solitude.

Comet with train
Here’s one of my favorite signal photos! In March 1997, I was traveling with Mel Patrick. His superior knowledge of the movement of celestial bodies inspired a spirited drive across Utah’s desert highways in the early hours. We arrived at this location just as the signals lit for a train. I had just enough time to set up my Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens on my Bogen 3021 tripod. I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film. This photograph is a one of a kind.

Happy New Years to you! May it be a great year for your photography.

This comet photo is timely as this year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware

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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: 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: Sugar Beet at Thomastown, November 2003


NIR 112 Leading Empties Under a Stormy Sky.

 Irish Rail’s 2003-2004 didn’t go as planned. Just as the season was gearing up, the Cahir Viaduct on the Limerick Junction-Waterford line collapsed under laden cement train, closing the line and forcing the detour of sugar beet trains via the much longer Waterford-Cherryville Junction route.

This complication for Irish Rail was a boon for photographers as it resulted in sugar beet trains running in places where they didn’t normally go.

This was especially timely, because the portion of line from Athy to Waterford West was still under control of traditional signal cabins with mechanical semaphores and the electric train staff system. But not for much longer! An all-color light mini-CTC control system was being installed and was finally commissioned in Spring 2004.

I began the morning of November 29, 2003 in Dublin, where it was cold, dark and very wet. It was one of those days where horizontal rain is the norm and it never gets bright enough for the street lights to shut off.

Despite the bad weather, a fellow photographer and I headed toward Cherryville Junction by road with visions of intercepting sugar beet trains on their diversionary route. Somewhere between Kildare and Cherryville, the ever-elusive NIR 112 (on long term loan to Irish Rail) roared uproad with an empty beet train returning from Mallow to Wellingtonbridge.

We reversed direction, and went to Kildare, where I exposed a ‘record shot’ of the train. My exposure was noted at f2.8 1/8th of second. (What some of us would call ‘f-dark at a week’ meaning; ‘hopeless exposure for a moving train.’)

Undaunted we pursued this unusual train toward Waterford, taking advantage of crossings with other trains on the single track line. Near Thomastown, we passed through a front.

This was like a line drawn across the sky! To the north it remained foul and dark, to the south clear, cold and bright! We made our way to an overhead accommodation bridge on the Dublin side of Thomastown station where I exposed this view of the train approaching the home signal.

Northern Ireland Railways 112 is a General Motors diesel built to the specification of Irish Rail’s 071 class. In 2003, it was on loan to Irish Rail and worked a great variety of trains. On the morning of November 29th, I made this view of it approaching Thomastown with an empty sugar beet train. The home signal was placed unusually high and setback from the line for sighting reasons.
Northern Ireland Railways 112 is a General Motors diesel built to the specification of Irish Rail’s 071 class. In 2003, it was on loan to Irish Rail and worked a great variety of trains. On the morning of November 29th, I made this view of it approaching Thomastown with an empty sugar beet train. The home signal was placed unusually high and setback from the line for sighting reasons.

I count this among my truly unusual Irish railway photographs.

Also see Tracking the Light’s:  Irish Rail at Taylorstown Viaduct, December 8, 2001 and  Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005.

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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: 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: Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2

 The BIG CHASE: Pan American Southern’s EDRJ, November 2013.

Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.

In yesterday’s post, I waxed nostalgic about the old Boston & Maine, illustrating it with images made around East Deerfield on November 21, 2013.

The big chase! Pan Am's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we'd say, "To the River!" Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What all this in one day?)
The big chase! Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we’d say, “To the River!”

One of the highlights of the day was midday westbound freight, train symbol EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) that departed the yard on the Hoosac Tunnel route.

One of my favorite railway activities in the 1980s was a good westward chase on the old B&M. Nothing made this better than a good consist of locomotives. Last Wednesday was like stepping back 30 years. (Sort of).

As we’d say, ‘To the River’ (meaning ‘to the Hudson’).

Although we only got as far as the Vermont-New York state line before the light faded, the spirit of the chase (and chases from year’s gone by) was with us.

See: Boston & Maine Revisited

Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

Pan_Am_618_EDRJ_Shelburne_Falls_trailing_on_xing_IMG_3824 1

Old Boston & Maine 3-bay hoppers.
Old Boston & Maine 3-bay hoppers.
Roaring through the valley at Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Roaring through the valley at Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Pan Am Railways
Easing up to the grade crossing at ‘Florida Station’ near Soapstone, on approach to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.
North Adams, Massachusetts.
North Adams, Massachusetts.
Norfolk Southern 206 eastbound.
Norfolk Southern 206 eastbound.

 

Hoosic River Bridge.
Hoosic River Bridge.

B&M_hoppers_EDRJ_North_Adams_Hoosic_River_bridge_IMG_3890

The light was fading at North Pownal, Vermont.
The light was fading at North Pownal, Vermont.
Pan of Pan Am at Petersburg, NY.
Pan of Pan Am at Petersburg, NY.

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Daily Post: Boston & Maine Revisited

Pan American Railways, November 2013

Thinking up new ideas everyday takes a lot of effort, so today, I’ll rely on clichés and old ideas with a new twist to fill the gap.

Pan Am Railways
Pan Am’s EDPL (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut) rolls south on the Conn River Line near Hatfield on November 21, 2013.

Back in the day, in the 1980s, I’d wander up to the Boston & Maine at East Deerfield where I’d photograph trains on well-worn rights-of-way led by first and second generation EMDs. I was thrilled to find freight trains on the move!

The poor ‘ol B&M had seen better days. New England had been in industrial decline since World War I. It was my understanding that the old phrase ‘it’s gone south,’—meaning ‘it’s gone to the dogs’—originated when New England’s textile industries began closing and heading to the Carolinas and Georgia. (Never mind Southeast Asia, China and what not).

Guilford Transportation came about and melded Maine Central with B&M and briefly with D&H. For a few years the railroad was really busy. Traffic was on the upswing, new intermodal trains were introduced, and run-through locomotives from D&H, Maine Central, as well as Norfolk & Western/Norfolk Southern became common.

Then a souring passed over the scene. ‘All that glitters is not gold’, as they say (paraphrasing an English poet), and the well-trodden paths to the Hoosac Tunnel and along the Connecticut quieted for a time.

Things changed again with the dissolution of Conrail. Now Guilford is Pan American Railways and Pan Am Southern. Metallic blue paint has begun to replace charcoal and orange. And traffic is on the rise.

Yet to me, while there’s been some changes, the old B&M is a throwback to another time.

Yes, there’s a few new signals, some new welded rail here and there, and some nice fresh ties. Many of the old searchlight signals and signal bridges are gone and here and there the tracks have been trimmed back. But the B&M has the appearance of retro railroad. It’s like classic rock with spin.

Last week, on November 21, 2013, my old friend Paul Goewey and I went up to East Deerfield. It was like old times. First and second generation EMD diesels were moving freight in every direction while decaying vestiges of New England industry could still be found at every turn.

Just sayin’ it seems to me that at the end of the day, it is what it is, and MORE!

Pan Am Railways
Paul Goewey snaps Pan Am’s MOED (Mohawk Yard to East Deerfield) crossing an early 20th century span in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Lumix LX3 photo.
Greenfield, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Greenfield, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
These old diesels are the same age as me! (more or less). MOED crawls through Greenfield. The old signal bridges are fading fast.
These old diesels are the same age as me! (more or less). MOED crawls through Greenfield. The old signal bridges are fading fast.
I find the sound of 645 diesels, old bridges and vine-covered bricks in low autumnal light stirs nostalgia within me.
I find the sound of 645 diesels, old bridges and vine-covered bricks in low autumnal light stirs nostalgia within me.
Back in the day I was delighted to find old B&M EMD diesels wearing pre-McGinnis maroon and yellow paint. That was 30 years ago!
Back in the day I was delighted to find old B&M EMD diesels wearing pre-McGinnis maroon and yellow paint. That was 30 years ago!
Railway bridge.
The East Deerfield hump set on the Connecticut River Bridge, November 21, 2013.
Maine Central 507 leads a short eastward freight across the Connecticut River.
Maine Central 507 leads a short eastward freight across the Connecticut River.
Pan Am's ED2 departs East Deerfield for points north on the Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am’s ED2 departs East Deerfield for points north on the Connecticut River Line.
North of Greenfield, ED2 grinds along on its northward plod. New rail and ties are being installed on this line and soon trains will be zipping along. Just like the old days when 'the Boot' (for Bootlegger) connected Washington D.C. and Montreal. (Amtrak's Montrealer). Like, man, its all coming back!
North of Greenfield, ED2 grinds along on its northward plod. New rail and ties are being installed on this line and soon trains will be zipping along. Just like the old days when ‘the Boot’ (for Bootlegger) connected Washington D.C. and Montreal. (Amtrak’s Montrealer). Like, man, its all coming back!
The big chase! Pan Am's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we'd say, "To the River!" Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What all this in one day?)
The big chase! Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction, New York) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. As we’d say, “To the River!” Stay tuned tomorrow for photos of the BIG EDRJ chase west. (What!? All this in one day?)

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DAILY POST: How Do I Find Trains?

A Beginner’s Course in Paying Attention.

I’m often asked, “How do I find trains to photograph?”

CSX's former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren on Sunday October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren on Sunday October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

The short (and not especially enlightening answer) is that I pay close attention to the railway. (Whichever railway I’m photographing). Here are some basic tips:

1) Always pay attention.

2) Carefully study the details of the operation you wish to photograph: Learn when crews are called, how far they normally work, and what is expected of them en route. How long does it take to make a brake test? How long to make a station stop? How long to make a set-out or pick-up? Where are passing sidings and what are the distances between them. Learn about train weights, locomotive performance, and rates of acceleration and braking. Learn grade profiles and how these can affect train speeds. Find out about slow orders (both temporary and those in the timetable). Keep in mind, a scanner can only help you when you understand the information it provides.

3) Use these details to find out how they may affect when trains run.

4) Learn to distinguish good information from poor information.

5) Never assume anything without good solid information.

6) Don’t assume that everyday is the same (but always learn from the passage of trains, make careful notes as to the times trains pass and how long it takes for them to get between stations, and why.).

7) When interpreting schedules, find out how a specific schedule is to be used by the railway in question.

8) Know what questions to ask, and find the right people to ask.

9) Don’t assume that because someone works for a railroad that they are up to date on operations. Railroaders are like photographers, if three of them answer a question, you’ll get four answers.

10) Don’t expect railroaders to: ‘tell you when the train is coming.’ (see number 9).

11) Remember: on a railway plans will change, trains may be delayed, and no day is ever exactly the same (except in Switzerland).

12) Never assume there isn’t a train coming; you’ll be surprised.

13) When a train passes take the time to learn about it. Was it a regularly scheduled move? Was it an unscheduled extra? Was it running to schedule or was it hours late? Is it scheduled to run daily, three times a week or once a year? IF it runs daily, is it scheduled for the same time every day? If it doesn’t run at the same time, find out why.

14) When nearby a railway always use your ears. LISTEN! One of the best tip-offs that a train is approaching are the sounds it makes. Listen for whistles, engines working upgrade, as well as the sounds of braking, and cars clattering. Listen for switch points being moved or other tips that something may be about to happen.

15) Learn a railroad’s signaling and how its signals are expected to normally work. No two signaling systems are exactly the same. Learn when ‘red’ means a train is coming and ‘green’ means one is not (and vice versa!) Also, when ‘yellow’ means you just missed the train you were hoping to see.

16) Remember, a train is coming (but so is Christmas).

17) Put all of the pieces to puzzle into play.

18) Be patient.

19) Be persistent.

20) Take notes.

21) Accept that everyday is a learning experience.

CSX eastward intermodal freight (probably Q012) passes West Warren, Massachusetts on Sunday morning October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. A scanner, detailed knowledge of CSX operations, and patience all helped in executing this image.
CSX eastward intermodal freight (probably Q012) passes West Warren, Massachusetts on Sunday morning October 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. A scanner, detailed knowledge of CSX operations, and patience all helped in executing this image.

More on finding Passenger and Freight trains in future posts.

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Monon Semaphores, Romney, Indiana, June 24, 2004

Old General Railway Signal Semaphores In Corn Country.

CSX’s former Monon was among the last bastions of semaphores in automatic block territory in the United States. I made this image on the morning of June 24, 2004. While the line only saw a few trains in daylight, there were enough moves to keep the signals busy.

GRS Type 2A signals.
Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 180mm lens. The blade on the left displays ‘clear’, while that on the right shows ‘approach’. A northward train was on its way.

I wrote about this signal installation in my 2003 book, Railroad Signaling, published by MBI. This has since been reprinted as a softcover book. See: Quayside Press.

 

 

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MBTA at Walpole, Massachusetts, March 2, 1988

New EMD F40PH-2C with Classic Semaphore.

In the late 1980s only a few active semaphores remained in New England. One of the best places to see them was at the crossing of former New Haven Railroad lines in Walpole, Massachusetts.

Walpole, Massachusetts.
MBTA F40PH-2C crosses the diamond at Walpole. In 1988 this was still protected by New Haven-era semaphores. Exposed on Koadchrome 25 film using a Leica M@ and 35mm Summicron lens.

I made this photo of a new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority F40PH-2 leading an outward train on the Franklin Line on the afternoon of March 2, 1988. The attraction for me was the contrast between the new locomotive and the ancient signal.

A variation of this image appeared in TRAINS Magazine some years ago. I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 using my Leica M2 with a f2.0 35mm Summicron.The combination of clear New England light, Leica optics, and K25 film enhanced the scene.

 

 

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Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction, November 4, 1987

The Original G&W.

On the morning of November 4, 1987, I made a speculative foray to P&L (Pittsburgh & Lehigh) Junction near Caledonia, New York. At the time I was living in nearby Scottsville, and I’d occasionally check P&L to see if anything was moving.

Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction
Genesee & Wyoming SW1500 47 crosses the Peanut Line at P&L Junction. Thin autumnal high clouds softened the morning sun. The photo was exposed with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

P&L Junction had once been a very busy place. Here the original Genesee & Wyoming had connected with Lehigh Valley, Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, a branch of the Erie, and New York Central’s so-called ‘Peanut Line.’By 1987, the only railroads left were G&W and its Rochester & Southern affiliate.

I was fortunate to find a southward train and I made this image of a southward G&W salt train heading across the diamond with a vestige of the old Peanut Line (that G&W used to reach a couple of miles into Caledonia). A classic ‘tilt board’ crossing signal protected the diamond.

Today, it seems that G&W railroads are everywhere. I even saw a G&W company freight in Belgium a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined that this New York state short line would reach so far!

 

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South Shore Sunset, October 1994

Interurban Electric Near South Bend, Indiana. 

I was driving from Erie, Pennsylvania back to Waukesha, Wisconsin after a week of photography on the former Baltimore & Ohio in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

West of South Bend, the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend runs parallel to the former New York Central ‘Water Level Route’ (then operated by Conrail).

I’d found a lightly used grade crossing, where I photographed a few Conrail freights. I didn’t have a South Shore schedule, but hoped I might see something roll over the old interurban electric line.

Ten years earlier, I’d taken a memorable trip over the line from Chicago to South Bend. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, my father had made many images of the South Shore, and I was always fond of the line, despite having missed its operation of antique multiple units and Little Joe electrics that had made the line popular with photographers.

South Shore electric
Caption: Outbound South Shore train at sunset near South Bend, Indiana in October 1994. Signals on Conrail’s parallel former New York Central mainline are visible to the left of the train. Exposed on Fujichrome 100 with a Nikkormat FT3 with 28mm Nikkor lens

As daylight faded, I notice that the old Union Switch & Signal color signals facing me suddenly changed from displaying yellow to red. This indicated to me that something was about to happen. And, sure enough, a few minutes later I could hear a train clattering along.

I found a low angle to feature the richly colored sky and I made a single exposure on Fujichrome 100 using my Nikkormat FT3  with 28mm Nikkor lens. This remains one of my favorite railway photos: for me it captures the essence of South Shore’s interurban electric operation. I’ve used it in various places over the years.

 

 

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CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, June 26, 2013

 

Ballast Train at Work

On the evening of June 26, 2013, I arrived at East Brookfield to find Dennis LeBeau observing CSX’s undercutting operations immediately east of CP64.

CSX ballast train.
CSX ballast train in the East Brookfield yard. Exposed with Canon 7D and 28-135mm lens. RAW file modified in post processing to adjust for contrast and exposure with mild sharpening.

Over the last few years, CSX has been improving its former Boston & Albany route between Selkirk Yards (near Albany, New York) and its Worcester, Massachusetts terminal.

Conrail improved clearances on the line in the mid-1980s and began running international containers on double-stack trains in 1989 (I first photographed an eastward Conrail double-stack in Spring 1989). However, CSX’s desire to run larger domestic containers on double stack trains has required further clearance improvement.

Once complete, the Boston & Albany route will be clearance compatible with most of CSX’s former Conrail mainline, which should allow for more traffic to be sent to Worcester. The clearance improvements are coincident with the recent closure of Beacon Park Yard at Alston, Massachusetts in favor of expanded facilities in Worcester.

On Wednesday evening, CSX had every track in East Brookfield occupied, as it cleared equipment from the mainline to allow east and westbound freight to pass (Amtrak had cancelled train 448 (Boston section of Lake Shore Limited). Once traffic had passed, work crews resumed their re-ballasting of the recently undercut mainline.

Three trains at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
On the evening of June 26, 2013, East Brookfield was a hot bed of railway activity. Dennis downplayed the scene, ‘I’ve seen it like this before . . .with Conrail in the 1980s!’. Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX intermodal train.
A General Electric Evolution-series diesel leads an eastward intermodal freight through the work-zone east of CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Decades ago Boston & Albany had three main tracks between East Brookfield and Charlton. A tower near the location of today’s signals controlled the plant. Today, the line is dispatched remotely from Selkirk, New York. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX Intermodal train East Brookfield_
Wide view: A General Electric Evolution-series diesel leads an eastward intermodal freight through the work-zone east of CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. The old B&A station once stood to the right of the mainline. This burned to the ground in 2010. Lumix LX3 photo.

I was one of a half-dozen civilians observing the activity. Late in the day, the sun emerged from a cloudbank to provide some soft lighting and I kept three cameras busy, documenting the changes.

East Brookfield, Mass.
Observing the on-going work at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Recording changes on CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Recording changes on CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

 

CSX's westward Q427 eases over freshly ballasted track at a walking pace as it approaches CP 64 at East Brookfield. The signals showed 'red over flashing green' —Limited Clear. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX’s westward Q427 eases over freshly ballasted track at a walking pace as it approaches CP 64 at East Brookfield. The signals showed ‘red over flashing green’ —Limited Clear. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
East Brookfield, Mass.
Dennis LeBeau rolls by Q427. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

CSX ballast train at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
CSX ballast train at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Ballast train at work.
Discharging ballast on the former Boston & Albany at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Ballast train at work.
Discharging ballast on the former Boston & Albany at East Brookfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
SD40-2 detail.
CSX SD40-2 8854 works at ballast train at East Brookfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
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Chicago Medley, June 2013

 

Infrastructural Views Fresh From the Digital Cameras.

 

The other day, I landed at Midway where I was met by Chris Guss. We immediately set to work making images of America’s most railroad intensive city. It’s been nearly two years since I was last here; and nearly 30 years since my first visit. Time passes and much has changed, yet there are many vestiges of old railroads.

There’s always a wheel turning in Chicago, but these pictures are more about the railroad infrastructure than the trains themselves. There’s a book in this somewhere.

CTA train
Chicago Transit Authority Midway train catches the glint of the evening sun near Corwith. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Old tracks Chicago.
DIsused former Grand Trunk Western near Corwith, Illinois. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens.
Level crossing at Brighton Park
Former Gulf Mobile & Ohio line at Brighton Park, Chicago, Illinois. . Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.
Old switch levers.
Vestiges of the old lever frame at Brighton Park. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Weeds along the tracks.
Weeds grow trackside at Brighton Park. . Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.
Metra train with position light signals.
Metra Train rolls toward Union Station on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle route at Racine Avenue. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Chicago Metra
Metra Train glides through Racine Avenue, Chicago. Lumix LX-3 handheld.
Train on grade crossing.
Norfolk Southern GP38 working a local freight at Racine Avenue. Lumix LX3 panned at f2.8 1 second.
Chicago at night
Norfolk Southern local at Racine Avenue, Chicago. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens, exposed for 1.6 seconds at f2.8 ISO200; camera on mini Gitzo tripod.

These are just a sample from my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX-3 cameras. More to come!

 

 

 

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Snapshot of Croatian Railways (Hrvatske Zeljeznice)

A View From the Train to Belgrade, 2003.

On August 17, 2003, I traveled by train from Zagreb, Croatia to Belgrade, Serbia. This was a six-hour journey. While the train departed on time, it took a diversionary route around Zagreb to avoid track work on the mainline. On the way out of town, I noted a variety of stored General Motors diesels and a pair of 2-10-0s in a goods yard. Before long the train was 27 minutes behind schedule.

Croatian Railways
Exposed southeast of Zagreb, Croatia with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia 100 slide film.

I made a number of photos, including this one, looking out the back of the train. Generally, Croatian Railways (Hrvatske Zeljeznice) maintained their track to excellent standards. Some HZ mainlines, such as this one, are electrified at 25 kV at 50 Hz, others with high voltage DC overhead, while many other lines are worked with diesels.

Approaching the Serbia frontier, the train was reduced to a crawl. This area was still showing the ravages of war.  Passing Vinkovci, I noted a large yard full of derelict freight wagons, but also saw that line-renewal was under way.

Serbia had just eliminated visa restrictions for American and EU passport holders, so I had no difficulties with the border inspection. The heat, on the other hand, was memorable!

Belgrade was fascinating, but I’ll save that adventure for some future post. Two years later (to the day), I was back in Croatia again, and on that trip explored the line to Rijeka.

 

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Palmer, Massachusetts, ‘CP83’ on Friday evening, May 31, 2013.

 

The “C” Light is Lit.

CP83 Palmer MA
This entire five image sequence was exposed with a Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

Going back to at least the 1980s, a group of us would convene in Palmer on Friday evenings. It used to be that after closing Tucker’s Hobbies on Fridays, Bob Buck would come down for dinner along with customers and friends from the store. Afterwards, we’d head over to ‘the station’ to watch the railroad.

I recall seeing Central Vermont’s old Alco RS-11s on sultry summer evenings, belching clouds of exhaust and sparks, while we waiting for the parade of westward Conrail trailvans (intermodal piggy-back trains); TV-5, TV-13, and etc. Back in the day, I’d make night shots with my Leica 3A. That seems like a long time ago.

This past Friday, a group of us convened at the usual spot; Doug and Janet Moore, Bill Keay, Rich Reed and myself. After a few trains, Doug and Janet were the ‘heroes’ as Bob would have called them; they headed home and a little while later the signals at CP83 lit up. To my astonishment, the ‘C’ light was flashing (the small lunar-white light between the main signal heads). I rushed for my cameras . . .

 Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

The signals at CP83 are approach-lit. So, when the signals light, it means that something (usually a train) has shunted the circuit.  Among other things, CSX’s CP83 governs the switch at the west end of a controlled siding that begins at CP79 (about four miles to the east). When the signals light with a high green, it means a westward train has been cleared to continue past CP83.

Conrail installed the present signaling system back in 1986 when it converted the Boston & Albany route from directional double track under Automatic Block Signal rule 251 ( ‘signal indication will be the authority for trains to operate with the current of traffic’) to a largely single main track system with controlled sidings and governed by Centralized Traffic Control-style signals with cab signaling.

As a result there are now only wayside signals at dispatcher control points such as CP83. CSX assumed operations from Conrail 14 years ago.

It’s rare, but occasionally a locomotive suffers a cab-signal failure, or a locomotive that isn’t cab signal equipped leads a train. There is a provision with the signal system using the ‘C’ light, to allow a dispatcher to authorize a train to proceed without operative cab signal.

Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

CSX rule CR-1280A names the ‘C’ light aspect as ‘Clear to Next Interlocking’. This gives the train permission to proceed the full distance to the next block ‘approaching next home signal prepared to stop’.

Why am I going into such specific operational details? Because, I’m fascinated by signals, but also in the 27 years since Conrail installed this signal system I’ve only witnessed a ‘C’ light lit, three times. And, I’d never before seen the C-light lit at CP83. I’ve been to CP83 more times that I can count, so for me, that is a really unusual event. (I saw a shooting star that night too, but those are common by comparison!)

Fortunately, I had cameras handy, and, perhaps more to the point, I had my dad’s Gitzo tripod, which made this sequence of images possible. (Other wise I would have trying to balance the camera with stacks of coins on the roof of my Golf, but, we’ll save that for another event . . .)

I just wish that Bob Buck could have been there with us to watch the train pass. He would have enjoyed that.

Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

All images exposed with a Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

To learn more about railroad signals, check out my book Railroad Signaling  available from Voyageur Press.

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Amtrak’s Southwest Chief east of Las Vegas, New Mexico, September 1998

 

 

General Electric Genesis Diesels and Style T Semaphores.

Railways can offer tremendous technological contrasts. Among my photographic themes is juxtaposition of the oldest technology along side the most modern. When I made this image, there was roughly 60 years between development of the signals and the locomotives.

Amtrak with Semaphore
Exposed with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor f2.8 24mm lens on Fujichrome slide film. I didn’t record my exposure, but the image was made at dusk, and I probably had the camera set to about 1/2 second at f2.8

I made this image during an exploration with Mel Patrick of the former Santa Fe mainline across northern New Mexico and eastern Colorado. At that time BNSF still maintained many of the old Union Switch & Signal Style T-2’s dating from the steam-era.

The Union Switch & Signal Style T-2 was featured in my book Railroad Signaling published by Voyageur Press. Here’s an except from my text: “US&S’s T-2 is a three-position upper quadrant type with a top of mast mechanism. Typical semaphore height measured 22 feet 6 inches from the ground to mechanism.”

Traffic on this line was relatively light, with only Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and a couple of BNSF freights daily. Then, as today, most of BNSF trans-con freight was routed via the Belen Cutoff (through Abo Canyon) to the south.

 

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Tracking the Light in Review

 

Light, Camera, Philosophy . . .Action! (Hopefully).

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.
Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted with Installment 1 on July 19, 2012.

About 10 months ago (July 2012), I started Tracking the Light. In the short time span since then I’ve had about 19,000 hits. While small numbers compared with Gangnam Style’s viral You-Tube dance video (with more than 1.7 billion hits), it’s a gratifying start. (BTW, there are some train scenes in Gangnam Style,  so it isn’t a completely random reference).

 

Reading Terminal clock
Reading Terminal clock on Market Street, Philadelphia. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens. Originally posted on January 4, 2013.

In my introductory post, I offered a bit of my background with a taste of my philosophy on the subject of railway photography; ‘There is no ‘correct way’ to make photographs, although there are techniques that, once mastered, tend to yield pleasing results. I hope to expand upon those themes in these Internet essays by telling the stories behind the pictures, as well as sharing the pictures themselves.’

Irish Rail trains
Irish Rail Intercity Rail Cars converge on Islandbridge Junction, May 2013. Lumix LX3 photo. I routinely post images of Irish railways. Check regularly for updates. Also, I have a special page on Dublin that is more than railway images. For more Irish Rail click here!
Irish Rail empty timber train.
An empty timber from Waterford near Donamon, County Roscommon, Ireland. Canon 7D with 100mm f2.0 lens.

What began as an infrequent opportunity to share work via the Internet has evolved into a nearly daily exercise. In the interval, I’ve learned a bit what makes for an interesting post, while working with a variety of themes to keep the topic interesting.

TTC Streetcar Toronto.
TTC Streetcar at corner of King and Queen Streets, Sunnyside, Toronto, February 8, 2010.
Lumix LX-3 set at ISO 80. Originally Posted February 8, 2013

Regular viewers may have observed common threads and topics. While I’ve made a concerted effort to vary the subject matter considered ‘railway photography,’ I regularly return to my favorite subjects and often I’ll post sequences with a common theme.

Occasionally I get questions. Someone innocently asked was I worried about running out of material! Unlikely, if not completely improbable; Not only do I have an archive of more than 270,000 images plus tens of thousands of my father’s photos, but I try to make new photos everyday. My conservative rate of posting is rapidly outpaced by my prolific camera efforts.

New England Central GP38 3850 leads train 608 at Stafford Springs on January 25, 2013. A series of difficult crossings in Stafford Springs is the primary reason for a 10 mph slow order through town. Especially difficult is this crossing, where the view of the tracks is blocked by a brick-building. Protection is offered by a combination of grade crossing flashers and traffic lights. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens; ISO 400 1/500th second at f8.0. In camera JPG modified with slight cropping to correct level and scaling for web. A RAW image was exposed simultaneously with the Jpg.
New England Central GP38 3850 leads train 608 at Stafford Springs on January 25, 2013. A series of difficult crossings in Stafford Springs is the primary reason for a 10 mph slow order through town. Especially difficult is this crossing, where the view of the tracks is blocked by a brick-building. Protection is offered by a combination of grade crossing flashers and traffic lights. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens; ISO 400 1/500th second at f8.0. In camera JPG modified with slight cropping to correct level and scaling for web. A RAW image was exposed simultaneously with the Jpg. Originally posted on January 26, 2013.

Someone else wondered if all my photos were ‘good’. I can’t answer that properly. I don’t judge photography as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Certainly, some of my images have earned degrees of success, while others have failed to live up to my expectations (It helps to take the lens cap ‘off’). Tracking the Light is less about my success rate and more about my process of making images.

Bord na Mona
A couple pair of laden Bord na Mona trains struggle upgrade, laying sand down as they ascend a short steep grade on the run back toward Mountdillon. This is the same stretch of track pictured in Irish Bog Railways–Part 2. Originally posted on March 4, 2013

I’m always trying new techniques, exploring new angles, while playing with different (if not new) equipment.

The most common questions regarding my photography are; ‘What kind of camera do you use?’ and ‘Have you switched to digital?’ I can supply neither the expected nor straight-forward responses. But, in short, I work with a variety of equipment and recording media. I aim to capture what I see and preserve it for the future. I try to have a nice time and I hope to entertain my friends.

 

Learn my secrets, click here. This image was made in Spring 2012 on Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with a Leica 3a and 21mm lens and processed for scanning.
Learn my secrets, click here. This image was made in Spring 2012 on Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with a Leica 3a and 21mm lens and specially processed for scanning.
Eastward Delaware & Hudson symbol freight 'Jet1' passes semaphores at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) east of Adrian, New York on May 14, 1988.
Semaphores are one of my themes. See my post from September 23, 2012. Eastward Delaware & Hudson symbol freight ‘Jet1’ passes semaphores at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) east of Adrian, New York on May 14, 1988.

Stay tuned for the details!

Thank you for your support!

By the way: If you know of anyone that might enjoy Tracking the Light, please share with them this site: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Railroads at night in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Originally posted on December 1, 2013. CSX Q427 rolls through Palmer, Massachusetts, at 11:01 pm on November 30, 2012.
Notice the photographer’s shadow superimposed on the blur of the train. Single exposure with Panasonic Lumix LX-3 with Leitz Summicron lens, zoom set to 5.1mm, ISO 200, exposed in ‘A’ mode with +2/3 over-ride, f2.2 at 7 seconds.
Entirely exposed with existing light; no flash.

 

CSX General Electric Evolution-series diesels work west at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 17, 2013. Exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D.
CSX General Electric Evolution-series diesels work west at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 17, 2013. Exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D.

 

CSX Q264 at West Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 at West Warren, Massachusetts.

 

Martinez, California, as viewed from Carquinez Scenic Drive. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400 mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Martinez, California, as viewed from Carquinez Scenic Drive. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400 mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

 

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Bluebell Railway April 20, 2013—Part II

Attention to Details.

Bluebell Railway
Luggage on the platform at Horsted Keynes on April 20, 1948, no sorry, make that 2013.

 

Bluebell Railway
Old advertisement at Sheffield Park.
Bluebell Railway
Nameplate on locomotive Stowe inside the engineshed at Sheffiled Park. Lumix LX3 photo.

One of the great features of Britain’s preserved Bluebell Railway is its exceptional attention to detail. Everywhere you look there is something to make the past, alive. Old advertisements, piles of luggage, semaphore signals, cast iron warning signs, and buckets of coal.

You hear the clunk of a rod moving a signal blade from red to green, followed by the shrill guard’s whistle and the slam of a wooden door. Then a mild hiss as the automatic brake is released and the sharper hiss from the locomotive as it eases off the platform. Yet, the Bluebell experience isn’t all about its locomotive, or its trains. The Bluebell is a railway experience.

Semaphores.
Outer home semaphore on the Bluebell Railway near Horsted Keynes. I’m especially impressed by Bluebell’s  great attention to period railway signalling (two ll’s). Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.
Bluebell Railway.
A class 9F 2-10-0 emits wisps of steam on the platform at Sheffield Park. Lumix LX3 photo.
Old railway posters
Southern Railway advertisements hint of the glamour of railway travel from another era. Lumix LX3 photo.

The time warp ends when you arrive back at East Grinsted, where you insert your ticket with its magnetic stripe into automatic barriers, then board a modern electric multiple unit with sealed windows, plastic décor and space-age loos that look like they belong on the set of Star Trek.

Crews chat on the platform at Sheffield Park. Lumix LX3 photo.
Crews chat on the platform at Sheffield Park. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

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