Earlier this week, Dave Swirk, president and general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, enlisted my skills to help promote the railroad’s June 29, 2019 special steam trip over Crawford Notch to the Trains, Planes & Automobiles event near Whitefield, New Hampshire.
Dave explained how this excursion is a rare opportunity to see Conway’s only operating steam locomotive reach Crawford Notch—which is beyond its typical operating territory— but also offers the opportunity to travel all the way to Hazen’s Crossing at the western limit of Conway Scenic’s operation of the former Maine Central Mountain Division. The Airshow / Carshow is an extra bonus!
Using my FujiFilm XT1 camera with 12mm Zeiss Touit, I recorded Dave speaking about the railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 that was recently restored to operations and its role in the special June 29th trip.
I edited the video output from the camera using Apple software on my Macbook.
This event is a big deal for Conway Scenic. It has been nearly five years since 7470 regularly worked Conway Scenic’s excursions, so this trip represents an exciting opportunity and there’s no one better than Dave himself to capture the enthusiasm for this special event.
Locomotive 7470 is a heavy 0-6-0 built in 1921 by the Grand Trunk for service in Canada. It is significant as the first locomotive to provide service on the Conway Scenic and of great personal significance for Dave.
On June 29th, the special Notch Train will depart North Conway behind steam at 9am.
To book tickets for this event call: 603-356-5251.
On June 1, 2019, after several years of slumber, Conway Scenic Railroad’s 0-6-0 7470 made its first steps, moving under its own power around the railroad’s North Conway , New Hampshire yard.
The sights and sounds of this former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 have delighted visitors and residents of North Conway since the early 1970s, so having the locomotive back under steam represents a milestone event for the railroad’s 2019 operating season.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7.
Among the challenges of photographing excursion railroads is working with high-summer light. Operations favor the schedules of the majority of the visiting public, and during summer often this tends coincide with the dreaded midday sun.
Black steam locomotives make for an extra challenge as the drivers and other reciprocating gear tend to be masked by the inky shadows of the highlight.
In this circumstance high-thin clouds diffused high-sun and resulted in better contrast than on a completely clear day. Working with my RAW files in Lightroom I made further adjustments to shadow areas in order to make my images more appealing.
Working with two digital cameras, I made these images at Irish Rail’s Drogheda Station. This is a classic Great Northern Railway (Ireland) railway station with a curved platform, antique brick buildings and elegant old-school platform canopies.
But it also features more modern elements too, such as palisade fencing and a diesel railcar depot and wash.
Is it honest to exclude the modern elements and just focus on the antique? Or is it better to allow for mix of new and old? After all the photos were made digitally in 2018, not on film in the days of yore.
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Yesterday (3 September 2018), sunny skies greeted Great Northern Railway Ireland 85, a 4-4-0 three-cylinder compound locomotive operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, when it paused at Portarlington, County Laois to take water.
This classic Irish express passenger locomotive was working a chartered train from Dublin Connolly to Killarney.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
The photos here were scaled without modification from camera JPG files using the Velvia color profile.
I also made a few colour slides on real FujiFilm: Provia 100F.
Gauzy afternoon light in late autumn is a great time to photograph steam locomotives at work.
The combination of a relatively low sun angle with slightly diffused shadows, provides directional light with moderate contrast that nicely illuminates the locomotive’s boiler components and reciprocating parts while offering excellent color rendition.
Cool atmospheric conditions make for ample effluence of locomotive exhaust allowing for classic portrayal of a steam locomotive at work
This lighting situation is generally superior to harsh midday summer sun that tends to leave locomotive detail in inky shadows and atmospheric conditions that leave steam exhaust largely invisible to the naked eye.
Pat Yough and I re-examined Strasburg Railroad in mid-November and made a variety of classic views of locomotive no. 90 at work.
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Look back 14 years to a visit to Poland:
Iridescent grass, steam and semaphores, how can you go wrong?
I realize that someone might complain that the engine is working tender first. If so, they can complaint to PKP for their lack of turntables: Keep in mind this is a real revenue freight using an engine based at the roundhouse at Wolsztyn, Poland.
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I’m honored to have been included in the new Southern Steam 2016 Calendar put together by Ken Fox and Kevin Meany. My photo is August 2016. Buy the calendar and check it out (proceeds for charity).
Rather than spoil it for you, I’ve posted one of my outakes, an image I made in 2006 at Farranfore, Co. Kerry, rather than show you the image used in the calendar.
The calendar for 2016 features photographs of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s steam operations in the Munster region. The Price is advertised as €10.00 plus €3.00 for shipping. Please contact Ken Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kevin Meany (email@example.com) to order the calendar.
Proceeds from the calendar benefit the charity Pieta House (www.pieta.ie).
At 10:54 am this morning (Sunday August 23, 2015) Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Marble City (Dublin Connolly to Kilkenny) led by engine number 4 made an impressive display working up the Gullet from Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
Shortly before the arrival of the special, an Irish Rail ICR eased up to the bridge of signals. While this wasn’t what I anticipated, it makes for an interesting contrast in equipment.
Déjà vu? I think so.
Kudo’s to the RPSI and Irish Rail for running the train. I hope everyone on board has an enjoyable trip!
With a few of the distant exposures, I found the camera struggled to pick an accurate focus point. However, by using the ‘continuous high’ setting I was able to make up for the problem by making a lot of photos in short bursts as the camera focused in-and-out. Steam can often fool autofocus (especially on dull days) and its important to be ready this degree of uncertainty when making photographs.
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.
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.
The Bluebell Railway is Britain’s first standard gauge preserved steam railway. It dates from the early 1960s, and for more than 50 years has offered excursions over a scenic portion of former Southern Railway, ex London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. Today the railway runs from East Grinsted to Sheffield Park (south-southwest of London), and includes a relatively long tunnel.
Bluebell, like many of Britian’s steam railways, is a fully functioning preserved line, complete with stations, signal boxes (towers), authentic period signal hardware (including semaphores), engine sheds and lots of staff (presumably mostly volunteers), all of which contributes to the appearance of an historic British railway. In other words, it’s like a time machine!
On Saturday April 20, 2013 David Hegarty and I traveled from London by train via East Croydon to East Grinsted. It was a beautiful clear bright day. Bluebell had just recently reopened its line for connections to British rail network at East Grinsted.
While not especially photogenic, I found the new East Grinsted transfer a big improvement for reaching the Bluebell. On previous visits, I’d hired a car and drove directly to Horsted Keynes—a mid-point station on the Bluebell. All things being equal, its nice to arrive by rail.
It was interesting to travel behind steam (British Railways 2-10-0 class 9F) over newly laid track. We spent a full day wandering up and down the line by train. At one point we went for a long hike following signposted footpaths to a known good spot (what friends like to call a KGS). I’d found the spot, north of Horstead Keynes, about 10 years ago.
Biggest challenge to making photos on the Bluebell is their operating practice of locomotives facing north, which can present some difficult lighting angles considering most of the line is on a north-south alignment.
I’ve featured Chicago & North Western 1385 in a number of books, including my American Steam Locomotive (published in 1998 by MBI), and Locomotive (published in 2001 by MBI) and most recently in Alco Locomotives (2009 by Voyageur Press).
The locomotive is preserved at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin, and was operated regularly when I lived in Wisconsin in the mid-1990s. My friend John Gruber had helped save the locomotive in the early 1960s, and it was his son Dick Gruber who introduced me to the engine when we worked for Pentrex Publishing.
Here’s an excerpt of my text from Locomotive on C&NW’s R-1 Class 4-6-0s:
If any one locomotive could be selected to represent Chicago & North Western’s steam power fleet, it would have to be the Class R-1 Ten Wheeler. In its day, the R-1 was the most common, and perhaps the most versatile locomotive on the railroad. A total of 325 R-1 were built, the most numerous type of any C&NW steam locomotive, and they were among the longest lived classes on the railroad as well.
During the last 15 years of the 19th century, C&NW amassed quite a variety of 4-6-0s. Most were products of the Schenectady Locomotive Works, in Schenectady, New York, but some were built by Baldwin.
Two years ago today, I was visiting Britain’s preserved North Yorkshire Moors Railway. This is an amazing operation. The railway is worked with a colorful mix of preserved steam and diesel locomotives. Trains work on a regular schedule, traversing the sublime Yorkshire Moors. In addition to beautifully restored stations and signal boxes (tower), the railway is well accessed by hiking trails. This location was recommended to me by a member of the railway’s station staff at Goathland—and is only 10-15 minute walk from the station platforms.
This was a pleasant place to spend a crisp Spring morning. I could hear locomotive 92214 barking up the grade for several minutes before it came around the bend into view. Later in the week I had business attending the annual London Book Fair, which while interesting and necessary, couldn’t compare to my brief experience on the North Yorkshire Moors!
As a follow up to yesterday’s view of a 2-10-0 on disused track, here’s a view of a regular revenue train from that same visit to Poland in April 2002. On a scheduled run from Poznan to Wolsztyn, PKP Ol69-111 passes German-style semaphores on approach to a rural station. At this time, several of the daily passenger Poznan-Wolzstyn trains routinely operated with steam, with Ol69 class 2-6-2s being the most common type on them. This was a secondary main line, and although weedy, the track was in reasonably good shape. Chasing the trains on the road was a challenge.
I made this image with my Rollei Model T on 120 black & white film, hand processed using my preferred recipe. The combination of traditional subject matter and the classic camera with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lends to a timeless view. Only, the rake of East German-built double-deck passenger carriages might seem incongruous to un-trained eyes. In fact, these cars were standard in the late era and consistent with Polish passenger practice. In this picture they are dressed in a olive drab livery, however some were later painted in a dandelion yellow, which truly seems out of character behind steam.
Check Tracking the Light tomorrow for more on this theme!
Southern Pacific Daylight in California’s Central Valley
It was a clear bright evening, and rather than continue our pursuit of 4449 we opted to remain at the east switch at Brock for a few freight trains that were pending. (As a matter of record, SP’s rigid directional interpretation of its timetable meant that while Brock siding was geographically north-northwest of Sacramento, as far as the railroad was concerned it was timetable-east of the California capital. Thus ‘eastward’ trains were actually traveling in a northwesterly direction.)
Twenty Cylinder Diesel Sound Show
About an hour after the restored streamliner passed, SP’s Redding Turn returning to Roseville Yard took the siding at Brock. Then at 6:55 pm, a manifest train roared eastward led by pair of SP SD45Es. While the SD45s weren’t the main event, and in fact remained in my ‘seconds file’ for two decades, I’m really pretty pleased with the results today. My old Leica M2 with the 50mm f2.0 Summicron, loaded with Kodachrome 25, did the honors. For me the SD45’s most impressive attribute lies beyond the realm of photography. These locomotive were powered by the 20 cylinder 645-E3 diesel, which produced a resonating low-base throb that for my ears was one of the most memorable sounds of the diesel era.
In February 1998, Colin Nash brought me for a productive visit to Britain’s preserved Great Central Railway. It was typical winter’s day in Leicestershire; the dawn brought crisp cold sun, yet the ground was damp. In other words, excellent conditions for photographing steam locomotives at work. To attract visitors, many railway museums and preserved railways focus operations on summer months, with trains tending to run during the middle part of the day. While this obviously suits casual visitors, it isn’t the optimum time for photography. Harsh high light, and warm dry days offer precious little to enhance the drama of a steam locomotive. I’d much prefer rich low sun of winter with high-dew point and frosty temperatures, that result voluminous effluence from steam locomotives and dramatic contrasts that portray the machinery in dramatic light.
Thankfully, Britain is blessed with a variety of top notch preserved railways, many of which operate during the colder months. During the past 15 years, I’ve made numerous trips to the United Kingdom in search of steam, as well as to make images of revenue mainline railways. This exposure was made with my Nikon F3T and an f2.8 135mm lens on Fuji Astia 100.
Low sun, frosty damp weather combined with constantly changing conditions make for a challenging but potentially rewarding setting for railway photographs. Add in a classic steam locomotive and you have all the potential for stunning dramatic images. That was my experience on Irish Rail yesterday (Tuesday 6 November) . I’ve already posted a few images from Monday and Tuesday (5-6 November, see: Gallery Post 5 and Gallery Post 6), I’ve now had time to plow through many of the digital images I exposed yesterday. As previously mentioned, in addition to digital images made with my Lumix LX3 and Canon 7D, I also exposed some Fuji Provia 100F. Deciding to use film or digital is a spot decision; while I use past experience with these materials to gauge when film or digital may be best, when the action is under way, I’m often juggling cameras and exposing as quickly as I can. When working with steam locomotives, wafts of steam and smoke and changing light mean that each moment can product dramatic changes in composition. Not only is the exposure impossible to predict, but the whole scene can change quickly and fantastically. Reaction time is crucial.
Railway Preservation Society Ireland’s locomotive 461 and Irish Rail’s IWT intermodal liners were my primary subjects, but I focused on all elements of the railway, photographing the regularly scheduled trains, stations, and infrastructure, as well as what ever else caught my eye.
These are just a sampling of my results. I’ll be very curious to see my slides, but it will be weeks before these are processed.
Brian Solomon will be giving an illustrated talk titled “Ireland from an American Perspective 1998-2003” at the Irish Railway Record Society’s Heuston Station premises in Dublin at 7:30pm on Thursday November 8, 2012. Admission free.