Tag Archives: #steam locomotive

Cows and a Mastodon

It was a fine evening at Carpenters (the little cemetery situated near the Strasburg Rail Road crossing of Blackhorse Road).

Kris and our puppy Seamus waited in the car as I set up for Strasburg’s return run from Leaman Place.

Cows populated the fields on both sides of the line. My challenge was that as the laboring locomotive approached, the cows in the field to the left of the line became wary of the noise and began to migrate away from the tracks.

Working with my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm zoom, I composed this series of images as engine 475 worked its way west. Leading is engine 475, a former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0—a type sometimes described as a ‘Mastodon.’ It is among the locomotives featured in my new book ‘Steam by the Numbers’.

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Spa Valley Railway—Tunbridge Wells West

Our friend Hassard Stacpoole met us in London and escorted Kris and I for the day on a tour of the Spa Valley Railway.

This charming preserved railway operates a short branch on the old Southern Railway network that connects Tunbridge Wells West with Eridge.

We took a Southeastern Trains electric multiple unit from Charing Cross to the Network Rail station at Tunbridge Wells, then walked for about 15 minutes to Tunbridge Wells West, where the Spa Valley has a small station, gift shop and locomotive shed (shop). Several fine looking locomotives were being maintained at the shed.

Although it was overcast, the cool weather made for some effluent displays of steam locomotive exhaust. The operational steam locomotive du jour was a handsome BR standard 2 type 2-6-0.

I made this selection of photo at Tunbridge Wells West using my Nikon Z7-II (with 70-200mm lens). I was just getting warmed up! We bought day passes and went for a spin to Eridge.

More Spa Valley posts to follow!

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Winter Afternoon Excursion at Blackhorse Road.

There hasn’t been a lot of snow this winter in Strasburg, Pa.

So, when about six inches fell a couple of weeks ago, Kris and I decided to make the most of it.

These photos were made braving the cold at Blackhorse Road to capture Strasburg Rail Road’s 4pm excursion to Leaman Place.

There’s such a contrast in the seasons, it’s hard to fathom that this is same crossing where we made many photos during the summer months.

I converted one of the images to monochrome for dramatic effect. All were exposed digitally using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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475 crosses an Arctic Landscape.

Paradise Lane was being whipped by a razor’s wind. Although the ambient temperature was 20F, with the windchill it felt much colder.

Strasburg Rail Road 4-8-0 No. 475 was working its way back toward the East Strasburg Station,

Braving the wind and cold, I made these photos with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm zoom

The fine blowing snow and locomotive exhaust made for more dramatic images.

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Steam Locomotives Meet at Groffs

During the Christmas peak, Strasburg Rail Road operates half-hourly departures on its very popular run to Leaman Place.

This schedule results in steam-hauled trains meeting every half hour on the siding at Groffs near Cherry Hill Road in Strasburg, PA.

Soft winter sun on Saturday and pleasantly warm temperatures made for an ideal time to photograph the Groffs meet, so Kris and I set up just before lunchtime in anticipation of the show.

I made this photographic sequence using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

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Late Season Foliage at Black Horse Road

I found that the colorful autumn leaf season lasted weeks longer in Pennsylvania Dutch Country than it does in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and other areas of New England.

On November 11, 2023, I made these photos at Black Horse Road of Strasburg Rail Road’s 2-10-0 number 90 working midday excursions. Several beautiful trees were displaying their late season colors.

Clear autumn air and bright sun made it possible to get some more distant views of the train.

I’ve always preferred the late season foliage, when the green leaves have largely changed, some trees are bare, but a few radiant trees of red and yellow remain and the sun is low and bright.

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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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Meeting at Black Horse

By design, this day last week I caught up with Dan Cupper and railroad artist Craig Thorpe at Black Horse Road in Strasburg. We planned our meeting to coincide with the passing of the hourly excursion.

I made photos of the train and my friends.

Craig had brought with him a print of painting that he made of Reading & Northern 4-8-4 2102 at Nesquehoning that he created from still photographs that Dan had made.

After Strasburg 89 passed, we walked up the hill to Carpenters Cemetery and photographed the return run. In the meantime some Amish farmers were working a nearby field with an impressive team of draft (draught) horses.

These views were products of my Nikon Z-series mirror-less digital cameras.

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Last Ride over Mount Holly

October 23, 1983: I traveled with Bob Buck to Bellows Falls, Vermont for the last run of Steamtown in Vermont.

Canadian Pacific Pacific No. 1246 and all three Green Mountain Railroad RS-1s were assigned to an epic consist that ran over Mount Holly to Rutland and back.

On the westward climb to Mount Holly, I made this view from the window of the train using my Leica 3A.

I was impressed by the large number of chasers on Route 103 in hot pursuit of the train.

The day had started out bright, but soon turned wet and windy.

Kodachrome 64 exposed on October 23, 1983.

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Steam Pan at Paradise Lane

Strasburg Rail Road’s Mogul No. 89 was sprinting toward the East Strasburg station near the grade crossing with Paradise Lane.

I wanted to capture the spirit of the moment and the motion of the engine. The backdrop of Red Caboose Motel and flags flapping in the wind was a bonus.

I like the burst of steam from the whistle.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm set at 70mm, f10 1/40th of second, ISO 100.

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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!

Late sun at East Strasburg, PA.

Sometimes accidentally trying something different yields a better result.

The other evening, Kris and I went out to watch Strasburg Rail Road’s 6pm train on its return run.

It was a beautiful and clear, and I’d hoped to make a photo from either Carpenters or Paradise Lane. However we were delayed, and the best that I could do was to reach East Strasburg Station.

The railroad had a Thomas-the-Tank event going on earlier in the day. While, normally, I avoid these events, which are geared toward a much younger enthusiast and tend a attract big crowds, in this case the event worked to my advantage.

To make room for the Thomas train, the railroad had cleared out a row of equipment that had been stored on the siding adjacent to the run-around track opening up a classic view of the station. Normally this stored equipment blocked the view (and the evening sun light) from the north side of the tracks of an in-coming train.

So our tardy arrive produced some fortuitous photos.

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Steam on a Monday!

There aren’t too many place in the United States where you can pull up to a rural grade crossing on a Monday and roll by a steam locomotive .

That’s just what I did the other day on my drive through Strasburg.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX7. The scene is timeless. Consider; a Mogul type hauling wooden-body passenger cars, and there no wires, no automobiles, no cell-phones . . . well all that is all behind me-literally.

Lumix LX7 photo exposed in RAW, color adjusted in post processing. Compare with the de-saturated mono-chrome version below.
In post processing I altered the contrast and used the ‘saturation’ slider to convert the image to monochrome (black &white).
Clean burning engine, rods down. Now, if we only switch off the headlight, it could be 1925.

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Color or Black & White at Carpenters?

Sunday morning Kris and I went out to watch Strasburg Rail Road.

I set up for the returning 11 am train at Carpenters cemetery.

As the train approached, I made photos with both my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.

In post processing, I converted the Z7-II file to make a black & white photo.

Which do you like better?

Lumix LX7
Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm.

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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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Zooming in on 2102 or ‘Steam Compressed’

I routinely work with two or more cameras.

The other day, photographer Mike Gardner (and TTL reader) sent me a photo he made of me on a trip back in October 2004. “I think you had two Nikon F3s and a Contax G2 around your neck.” That sounds about right.

So, when photographing Reading & Northern’s 2102 with Dan Cupper on July 1st, I worked with my two Nikon Z-mirrorless cameras in tandem.

As previously described on TTL, I have my Z6 set up with a Nikkor Z-series 70-200mm zoom, and I made the following photos using this combination.

These are all relative long-telephoto views, and offer a contrast to the more traditional approach presented on my earlier TTL posts of R&N 4-8-4 2102 in action.

Molino, Pennsylvania.
River Road, Near Atlas Park in West Penn, PA.
Nesquehoning, PA.
Nesquehoning, PA.
Nesquehoning Junction, PA.
Nequehoning Junction, PA.
East Mahanoy Junction, PA.

Among the challenges of the July 1st chase with 2102 was haze and smoke stemming from Canadian wildfires—conditions that had affected eastern Pennsyvlania for days. This produces some unusual color temperature and made for some unusal lighting conditions.

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East Mahanoy Junction, PA.

Steam, Smoke & Sky at Esbenshade

Yesterday evening, Kris and I photographed Strasburg Rail Road’s 6pm excursion approaching Esbenshade Road.

Dramatic lighting made for an excellent conditions to picture a steam locomotive in action.

I exposed manually to capture detail in the sky. In post processing, I made a variety of adjustments to the RAW file to make the most the the scene.

Below are examples of the NEF RAW file before and after adjustment in Adobe Lightroom.

Scaled JPG created from the unadjusted NEF RAW file.
This is the same file as above, but adjusted using Lightroom.

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No. 90 at Strasburg.

Monday Kris and I spent several hours photographing Strasburg Rail Road 2-10-0 No. 90 under blue skies with brilliant sun.

I made this selection of photos using my Nikon Z6 and Z7-II mirrorless digital cameras.

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

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We Arrived at Strasburg Just in Time!

January 15, 2023: Kris and I spent the day driving to Strasburg, Pennsylvania. We arrived just in time to make photos of 2-10-0 No. 90 arriving with the last scheduled train of the day.

With the setting sun just above the horizon, we had some beautiful winter light to photograph this historic machine in action. Cold weather can offer the best conditions to photograph steam locomotive because of the superior light and dramatic effects of condenstation.

I made these images using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

Strasburg Rail Road No.90 at East Strasburg station, Pennsylvania.

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7470 with Nikon Zoom

On Sunday, July 31, 2022, I used my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom to focus on the details of Conway Scenic Railroad’s 7470 and its crew,

Locomotive engineer Wayne Duffett was at the throttle of the 101-year old Canadian-built 0-6-0.

I worked with the Nikon NEF RAW files in Lightroom to get the maximum amount of detail in shadows and highlights while maintaining good contrast overall.

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7470 Under Steam

For Father’s Day, Sunday June 19, 2022, Conway Scenic Railroad brought steam locomotive 7470 out of the roundhouse under steam for display and training.

Presently, Conway Scenic is training a new generation of firemen to help work on the locomotive.

More than 600 people came down last sunday to see the locomotive. This engine should be on display again today, Saturday June 25, 2022.

I made these photos with my Nikon Z6 digital camera for display on the company’s Facebook and Instagram pages and for distribution to the media.

The railroad hopes to operate this 101-year old 0-6-0 type locomotive this summer in exursion service.

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Steam Silhouette

Strasburg Rail Road’s former Canadian National Railway 2-6-0 made for a stunning silhouette against a late winter sky.

Gauging the exposure for these contrasty scenes requires a bit of interpretation.

Since the locomotive is black, I allow it to fall into the shadows, and instead concentrate on retaining detail in the highlight areas of the sky.

This is most effectively accomplished by making test images and studying the histogram that shows pixel distribution across the exposure range. With this tool I aim to avoid excessive over exposure in the highlight areas.

Then in post processing, I work with Lightroom to re-balanace the image by lightening shadow areas and controlling highlight detail.

Below are three examples providing variation on a theme.

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Old 89 at Black Horse Road

Late season snow blanketed the ground and was still falling, when Kris & I caught former Canadian National Railways 2-6-0 number 89 leading the return run from Paradise.

Paradise, Pennsylvania, that is. We were set up near near Black Horse Road in Strasburg.

I made this photo on Saturday (March 12, 2022); but by Monday the grass was green and the birds were chirping.

Exposed digitally using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera with f2.8 70-200mm Z-series Zoom lens, set at f10, 1/1250th of a second, ISO 200. RAW image adjusted for contrast and exposure using Adobe Lightroom.

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Snow and Shadows at Esbenshade

Fresh snow and fierce wind made for challenging conditions on the Strasburg Rail Road at Esbenshade Road.

The subtle texture and stark environment of the windswept cornfields with the a steam locomotive makes for a timeless scene.

I exposed these views on Saturday March 12, 2022 using my Nikon Z6 with Z-series 70-200mm lens.

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Steam and Snow—Wisconsin Style

This timeless scene was made possible by the Trains Magazine steam photo charter on November 14, 2021.

I was among the dozens of photographers taking advantage of the time machine.

This was among the dozens of images I made that day using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. It was snowing lightly, which added atmosphere and depth.

Soo Line 2-8-2 Mikdao 1003 with vintage photo freight at Red Cedar Road.

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Six Years Ago—611 passes Markham, Virginia.

June 6, 2015: I was traveling with Pat Yough to photograph Norfolk & Western streamlined 4-8-4 #611.

I made these photos of the locomotive and its excursions train passing Markham, Virgina.

FujiFilm XT1 photo adjusted in Adobe Lightroom for color and contrast.
FujiFilm XT1 photo adjusted in Adobe Lightroom for color and contrast.

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Winter Steam! Round 2 the RAW files.

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I’ve included a second selection of photos exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 of last Saturday’s Winter Steam event at Conway Scenic Railroad. (See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2021/01/04/winter-steam-round-1/)

Yesterday, I presented images scaled directly from the Camera produced JPG files.

To make the most of the images presented in today’s post, I imported my Fuji RAW files into Iridient X-Transformer for conversion into the DNG format, and then imported the DNG conversions into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.

As previously described on Tracking the Light Iridient X-Transformer does a superior job of interpreting the data captured in RAW by the Fuji X-series camera than simply importing the RAWs directly into Lightroom.

Using the Lightroom sliders I made nominal adjustments to contrast, color temperature, and exposure in order improve the interpretation of the photographs.

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Steam Over the Saco.

The book High Green and the Bark Peelers describes this then-new bridge (built c1949) which had replaced a traditional wooden covered bridge.

The other day, I walked along the banks of the Saco River in Conway, NH to make this view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s 7470 on its northward run in freshly fallen snow.

The original image was exposed as NEF (Raw file) with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera. I imported the file into Adobe Lightroom to make nominal adjustments to color, exposure and contrast. This allowed me to make the most of the directional winter lighting.

Although a largely monochromatic scenic, this is actually a full color photograph. Perhaps I should return one of these days with a film camera?

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