Tag Archives: #Strasburg

(Almost) Summer Evening Sun at Cherry Hill

We caught Strasburg’s evening train returning from Leaman Place at Cherry Hill. On the long days the sun favors the northside of the tracks allowing for classic views as the locomotive accelerates away from Groffs Grove.

This run proved to be a convergence of friends. Not only was a fellow Conway Scenic employee enjoying a ride in the tail car, but at the last moment a pickup truck with New Hampshire plates pulled up to the crossing with two more familiar faces!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Steam with a Cotton Candy Sky

A recent visit to Strasburg, found engine 89 working an extra passenger train.

The setting sun had briefly illuminated the clouds of what I call a ‘cotton candy sky’.

As 89 was uncoupled to begin its run-around, I made this silhouette.

Knowing that I’d make adjustments in post-processing, I exposed the photo manually in order to capture the detail in the sky. The enormous data capture afforded by the Z-series cameras allowed for a two-stop lightening of the shadow areas and considerable adjustments to sky while affording global changes to contrast.

Below I’ve included the NEF RAW file (scaled as a Jpg, but without adjustments to exposure, contrast, color etc) and the final adjusted file.

I’ve also included two screenshots of the Adobe Lightroom work windows to demonstrate how I accomplished some of the corrections.

RAW file without adjustment to exposure, contrast, color balance etc.
Final adjusted file adapted from the RAW NEF file. Note the high level of detail recovered from the shadow areas. This is a single frame exposure and not an blend of images.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Green Grass at Cherry Hill & Old 89 under steam.

At the end of March, having completed much travel, Kris and I paid a short visit to Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road. There we caught former Canadian National 2-6-0 number 89 leading an afternoon excursion on its return from Leaman Place.

I made these views using my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens.

It was nice to see the green grass growing in the fields!

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday!

Blowing Snow

Here’s a lesson in snow photography:

Bright snow, black locomotive and arctic cold. The contrast between light and dark was a challenge, but the largest difficulty was the fine snow blowing across the open landscape, which blurred the hightlights and muted shadows in unexpected ways.

The raw cold hit me like a razor which made it difficult to think straight.

Yet, through it all, I persevered and made this sequence of Strasburg Rail Road 475 running tender first leading a mid-day train toward Leaman Place, Pennsylvania.

The lessons are: keep at it, get your focus point set where you need it, over expose by at least 1/3 of a stop, and don’t give up!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily! (Even when its cold)

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

A Visit with Kurt Bell to Strasburg, PA.

A couple weeks ago, I caught up with my friend Kurt Bell at the Strasburg Rail Road, and later we went across the street to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. These are two institutions with which Kurt has had decades-long affiliations.

Kurt is a Railroad Collections Archivist in Harrisburg with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museums Commission and the author of a book about the Strasburg Rail Road.

It was a beautiful autumn day and we wandered among the antique trains, visiting with people and taking in the majesty of the railroad environment.

I think one of the highlights of the day for Kurt was seeing his old favorite engine, Strasburg No. 31 (a former Canadian National Railways 0-6-0 switcher) ‘in kit form’ in Strasburg’s shop, where it has been undergoing restoration work.

Kurt had a story to tell me about everything we saw and everyone we met. I learned a lot about tourist railways and railway museums that day!

I made the photos with my Nikon Z7-II.

Thanks Kurt!

Kurt with the cab of Strasburg Rail Road No. 31.
At the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
This is perhaps the museums newest exhibit inside the main building.
The cab signal display inside of PRR G5 5741 is desgined to be in sync with the position light signal to the right of the locomotive.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

September Views from Marian

Early in September, Kris and I went for an evening spin to Leaman Place aboard Strasburg Rail Road’s well appointed First Class parlor car Marian.

The sun was low, the scenery was pastoral.

At Leaman Place locomotive 475 ran around the train.

The world seems different on the train than it does from lineside.

The line seems different during various times of day and in the fours seasons.

Photos exposed digitally using a Nikon Z7-II mirrorless camera.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

View from the Open Car

It’s always a pleasure to take a train ride.

Strasburg Rail Road’s excursions offer open cars which are a pleasant way to spend a summer’s afternoon in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

The other day, our friend Dan Cupper, invited Kris and I to travel on the railroad, so we rode behind former Canadian National Railways 89 to Leaman Place and back.

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

475 puts on a Good Show

We drove to Cherry Hill Road which is approximately the half-way point on the Strasburg Rail Road.

We didn’t have to wait long before a low mournful whistle announced the approach of the returning 2pm train.

Over the last month, most of Strasburg’s excursion have been led by 2-6-0 number 89, so I was pleased when I saw former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 number 475 come into view.

As the train pulled away from the Groff’s picnic area, the engineer made a spectucular show of steam and smoke as the train slowly accelerated upgrade.

I made these photos with my Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens as Kris recorded the performance with her iPhone.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Trailing views at Esbenshade Road.

Over the summer, Kris and I have been photographing Strasburg Rail Road’s late weekend train, the 1900 departure, which is a favorite of mine because it catches the low sun on its return to the East Strasburg Station.

I think that this past weekend might have been the last opportunity to work with the sun on this train for a while.

I made these trailing views at Esbenshade Road near Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Gorgeous Evening Light

The evening began with dissipating fluffy clouds. As the sun sunk in the western sky, I anticipated a colorful late summer sunset.

We drove to Strasburg, where I made this sequence of photos of Strasburg Rail Road’s J tower, and various equipment on dispay at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and in the Strasburg Rail Road’s yard using my Z7-II with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Visiting the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania with Wayne.

Two weeks ago, Kris and I accompanied Wayne Duffett of TEC Associates on a detailed tour of railroad equipment, artifacts and models displayed at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.

This is just a great place. I’m never bored amoung the beautifully restored and displayed engines and cars. Everytime I visit, I find something I’d never seen before. and I can never tire of seeing a magnificent GG1 electric dressed in the classic Loewy stripes. (And recall the New Year’s morning 43 years ago, when my dad, brother and I inspected this very same GG1 on the ready tracks at New Haven, Connecticut.)

We spend several hours gazing in awe at all the great relics of railroading past.

The airbrake training car was a real treat. I never knew that this restored in fully operational condition!

Somehow, I made more than 300 photos, working with my Nikon Z6 and Kris’s Fujifilm XT4.

I made a bunch of side by side comparisons between the Nikon and Fuji cameras, but I’ll display those images in a future post.

Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 photo by Kris Sabbatino.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Fujifilm XT4 with Fujinon 16-55mm zoom lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

An A1 Visit to the Strasburg Rail Road! 21 photos.

Last week, when TEC Associates’ Wayne Duffett visited, we took a trip on the Strasburg Rail Road.

Former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 475 was working.

We traveled in style, riding in parlor car Marian, and each enjoyed a Tröegs beer on the way to Leaman Place.

We passed some Amish farmers at Blackhorse Road.

Wayne commented on the height of the corn and the wonderful pastoral scenery.

As we arrived at Leaman Place, we met Strasburg Rail Road’s SW8 that was departing with a very short freight.

That’s not something you can experience on very many railroads: meeting a revenue freight on a steam hauled tourist excursion.

After we arrived back at the railroad’s East Strasburg Station, I made photos of Wayne with the locomotive, before headed out the line by road to photograph the next run.

Photos exposed digitally using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.

A parting view of parlor car Marian at Blackhorse Road.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Glinty Light at J-Tower

Friday evening Kris and watched Strasburg Rail Road’s 4-8-0 #475 run around its train at J-tower at the railroad’s ‘East Strasburg’ Station opposite the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Late sun made for golden glint as the engine changed direction. So, in addition to some classic three-quarter style photos, I made a few photos that highlight 475’s running gear.

I’ve been writing about steam locomotives for an upcoming book project, and I was keen on observing the engine’s Baker valve gear in motion.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

The March of a Twelve-Wheeler

Over the last month of so, Kris and I have paid weekly visits to Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road to observe and photograph their trains.

During this time, former Canadian National Mogul-type 89 has been the star attraction. However, on Friday, we observed the 5 and 7pm trains that ran with former Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 number 475.

I really like the way this locomotive looks and sounds. It had a long tapered boiler and smoke box that gives it a classic appearance, while its whistle makes a low mournful cry that stirs a vision of the past.

We waited at Esbenshade road for the return of the 7pm train, listening to the engine work upgrade and sound for the crossings.

I made this sequence of photos with my Nikon Z digital cameras as the train approached.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Steam in the Evening-Ten NEW photos!

Last weekend, Kris, Boomer-the-dog and I, timed our arrival at Blackhorse Road in Strasburg to catch the 1900 (7pm) evening train that only runs relatively infrequently.

I like the evening run because it is relatively quiet and the light tends to be better. Midday sun in July is a bit harsh and rarely results in optimal photographic conditions. Although it was partially cloudy, the softer light allowed good photos in both directions without harse contrast.

I made these views with my Nikon Z digital cameras of the evening train coming and going on its way to and from Leaman Place where it runs around to change directions. There’s no wye on the Strasburg Rail Road so the engines face westward.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Weighty Sunrise Strasburg

Last week in the early hours the air was thick with moisture, yet the sky was clear above. As the sun rose, mist clung to the ground as billowing clouds formed before our eyes.

The lighting conditions were cosmic, compelling and rapidly changing.

As we drove through the fields around Strasburg, Pennsylvania, I made these images using my 70-200mm zoom lens.

I like the back lit effects of the rosy sun behind fog.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Strasburg Storm Light and a Rainbow!

Monday evening, July 3, 2023, I’d just collected my new glasses. We were driving east on highway 741 as a brilliant rainbow graced the eastern sky. We arrived at the Strasburg Rail Road just as the colors started to fade. All around us were dramatic clouds in a stormy sky. The contrast was fierce.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX7, exposing in RW2 (RAW). I made minor adjustments in Lightroom to better balance the ground and sky.

This is an enlarged crop of the above image.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Strasburg’s Surreal Smoky Sunset

Yesterday evening the air and sky were thick with particulates. The landscape took on a surreal unworldly appearance.

As Kris and I drove around Strasburg, Pennsylvania, I made a few photos with my Nikon Z6 and 70-200mm lens.

The lighting was about as strange as anything I’ve worked with naturally.

The sun looked like a floating glob in a lava lamp. The sky was a pasty gray-lavender while wafting clouds of thick green-gray haze filled the air near the ground.

The sun didn’t so much set as it melted into the haze.

I exposed these images of Strasburg Rail Road’s preserved J-Tower and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s former Reading Crusader tail-end observation car, and the nearby farm.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Steam and Shadow at Esbenshade Part 2

Esbenshade! What a great name for a crossing suited to silhouette?

The other day I presented an example of a telephoto view of Strasburg Rail Road Number 89 leading the Saturday 6pm excursion at Esbenshade Road in Strasburg, PA.

Today, I’m offering two examples of wideangle views at the same crossing. These were exposed as NEF RAW files with my Nikon Z7-II, which has incredible dynamic range.

In this situation to make a silhouette, I set the camera in ‘M’-mode (manual) and used the in-camera meter to expose for the sky. I have my display showing an exposure histogram, the helps me best balance the detail captured in the extreme highlights and shadows. Although this detail isn’t evident in the thumbnail camera display, it has been captured in the NEF RAW file.

After downloading the camera, I import the NEF files into Adobe Lightroom, and use the ‘Light’ slider controls (including ‘highlights,’ and ‘shadows’) to adjust the images to better reveal details across the range of exposure. Again, by keeping an eye on an exposure histogram, I can avoid pushing the limits of adjustment and minimize data loss.

To allow for individual control of the sky, I made some adjustments using the ‘select sky’ mask.

Below are two examples of unadjusted NEF RAW files and the corresponding adjusted images.

This is how the unadjusted NEF RAW file appears (file converted to a scaled JPG for internet presentation) Note the lack of detail in the shadow areas.
This is the adjusted version of the same photo.
Unadjusted NEF RAW file.
This is adjusted version of the same file.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Breakfast Stop with a Mogul or ‘Steam at Cherry Hill’

Yesterday morning, Kris and I got take-away breakfast from the Spreckled Hen in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. We drove over to Cherry Hill Road to roll by the 11am train to Leaman Place and enjoy our food.

I was delighted that former Canadian National Railways 2-6-0 number 89 was leading the seven-car excursion. (The 2-6-0 wheel arrangement is known as the Mogul Type.)

Rain was closing in from the west as I made these images using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens. Kris made a video with her iPhone 13 that she posted to Facebook.

As we waited for 89’s return trip we had a pleasant surprise . . . Stay tuned for the details and more photos!

Exposed using a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera fitted with a Z-series 70-200mm zoom set at 175mm, f4.5 at 1/500, ISO 200. NEF RAW file adjusted for contrast, exposure and color saturation using Adobe Lightroom.
Exposed using a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera fitted with a Z-series 70-200mm zoom set at 175mm, f4.5 at 1/500, ISO 200. NEF RAW file adjusted for contrast, exposure and color saturation using Adobe Lightroom.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

J-Class 4-8-4 Upclose!

Working with my Nikon Z7-II, I made these close-up views of Norfolk & Western J-Class number 611 at Strasburg.

This is a very popular locomotive!

I opted for some low-angle views in part for dramatic effect, but also to stay below the army of cell-photo photographers captivated by the J-class under steam.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Eighty Nine: Black & White or Color

Last week on the Strasburg I made this wideangle view with my Nikon Z7-II of former Canadian National 2-6-0 No. 89 rods down at Esbenshade Road.

Soft sun, slightly backlit; stubbled corn stalks in an unplowed field, with the locomotive whistling for the crossing.

A timeless scene.

So, which do you prefer? The color digital capture; or my alterations to the that I file converted to black & white (with some clever contrast adjustments for period effect.)

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Strasburg Rail Road Freight

Strasburg Rail Road is best known for its steam excursions, but the railroad is a common carrier and operates a thriving local freight business.

On our visit to the Strasburg, PA area last month, I was lucky to catch one of their freights on the move. This was led by the railroad’s former New York Central SW8 diesel 8618.

This classic General Motors Electro-Motive Division swticher was built for New York Central System c1953 and carried the number 9618. It is painted in a neo-New York Central scheme, and was Conrail 8618 for many years.

In the 1980s, I made many photos of Conrail switchers, and I wonder if somewhere among my slides and negatives I may have a photo of this locomotive in its former existence.

Strasburg Rail Road SW8 8618
Strasburg Rail Road local freight viewed from Carpenters.
SW8 8618 with two boxcars at Leaman Place along Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor—the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Strasburg Rail Road Ballast Train

Upon leaving the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Kris and I heard a distant locomotive horn.

Although, there were no trains scheduled, I surmised there was an extra on the line, so we drove to the first grade crossing west of the yard and waited.

After just a few minutes, Strasburg Rail Road’s former New York Central SW8 ambled westbound towing a lone three-bay hopper carrying ballast.

That was a lucky catch!

We then drove to the parking lot opposite the shop where I made a few more photos.

Tracking the Light aims to Post Daily!

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!