Tag Archives: #strasburg rail road

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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No. 90—color or monochrome?

It was a dark rainy afternoon.

Kris and I wandered over to the Strasburg Rail Road to watch steam in action.

Engine No. 90, a 2-10-0, leading a Santa’s Paradise Express excursion had met another excursion at Groffs and was accelerating upgrade toward the East Strasburg station.

My handy Lumix LX7 was my camera of choice.

I expose this photo as color RAW image.

In post processing, I converted the photo to monochrome using the saturation slider control, then made a variety of adjustments to contrast and exposure to manipulate appearance.

Below are the original file, a basic black & white conversion, and my final adjusted photograph.

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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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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.

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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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Steam, Smoke and Soft Sun

Last week, I made this view of Strasburg 475 at Cherry Hill road in Strasburg, PA.

High thermal clouds softened the midday summer sun.

There was a time in my Kodachrome days that I would have cursed the puffy clouds if they so much filtered the midday sun. However, I’ve found that in several ways slightly filtered sun, especially during the highlight of midday, leads to better photos.

With my digital cameras and post processing, I make the most of shadowed light, while the softened sun offers better contrast on the locomotive.

I made this view using my Nikon Z7-II, and I adjusted my NEF RAW files with Adobe Lightroom.

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Glint Light across the Soyfields

September Sunset at Esbenshade Road in Strasburg. Filtered late summer sun made for classic golden glint light.

Years ago, I made a project of captureing trains in the glint light on Kodachrome. This film had a wonderful ability to render glint that made for many stunning slides.

The other night I used my Nikon Z7-II to capture the fading summer sun.

To make the most of the scene, I set the camera to ‘M’ (manual) and dialed in my shutter speed and aperture by using the in-camera histogram to get the most effective pixel distribution from dark to-light . This resulted in about a stop darker than the in-camera meter was suggesting in ‘A’ mode (automatic).

After exposure, I balanced the image with post processing controls using Adobe Lightroom. In this way I was able to maintain detail in the sky and on the side of the train, while keeping the shadows from becoming opaque.

Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set to 52mm; ISO 100, f18 at 1/200th of second. File adjusted in Post Processing.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set to 70mm; ISO 100, f9 at 1/250th of second. Camera set manually. RAW File adjusted in Post Processing.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set to 70mm; ISO 100, f7.1 at 1/250th of second. Camera set manually. RAW File adjusted in Post Processing.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set to 24mm; ISO 100, 4.0 at 1/500th of second. Camera set manually. RAW File adjusted in Post Processing.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens set to 70mm; ISO 100, f4.0 at 1/320th of second. Camera set manually. RAW File adjusted in Post Processing.

Tracking the Light Catches the Golden Glint!

Steam working in Low sun at Carpenters.

I like 2-6-0s. Old Canadian National No. 89 is a fine looking machine.

It has been getting a work out this summer and I’ve seen it on numerous runs between East Strasburg and Leaman Place over the Strasburg Rail Road.

A couple of weeks back a clear evening made for ideal conditions to catch the 7pm train on its return run from Leaman Place.

I exposed this telephoto view as the train worked upgrade near Carpenters.

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Electric, Steam and Diesel in 45 minutes!

Last Thursday morning, I photographed four trains in 45 minutes. Three were scheduled.

I caught eastward and westward Amtrak Keystone trains at Gap, Pennsylvania, then made a short drive over to the Strasburg Rail Road, where I waited for the 10am scheduled excursion to Leaman Place. As this steam hauled train approached Blackhorse Road, I could hear a second horn to the west.

I surmised that Strasburg’s local freight might be following the excursion. My guess was close; Strasburg’s SW8 diesel was leading a ballast hopper toward Leaman Place where it would clear for the excursion to return.

I can’t recall any time in the recent past in America where I caught electric, steam and diesel trains over such a short span of time.

Photos exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Amtrak Keystone train 646 eastbound near Gap, PA. Lumix LX7 photo.
Trailing view of Amtrak Keystone train 646 eastbound near Gap, PA with ACS-64 665 at the rear of the consist. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Amtrak train 641 working cab car first rolls through Gap, PA. ACS-64 667 electric is working at the back of the train.
Trailing view of Keystone 641 with ACS-64 667 electric as it passes Gap, PA. Lumix LX7 photo.
Strasburg Rail Road 2-6-0 number 89 crosses Blackhorse Road with the 10am excursion. Lumix LX7 photo.
Strasburg 89 up close and personal!
Strasburg Rail Road’s former New York Central SW8 leads a ballast car eastbound at Blackhorse Road.
Trailing view of Strasburg Rail Roadl SW8 8618 eastbound at Blackhorse Road.Lumix LX photo

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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.

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Thunderstorm at Blackhorse Road

Friday evening we went out ahead of an approaching thunderstorm to watch Strasburg Rail Road’s 7pm train on its outward run to Leaman Place.

As we waited the sky grew dark and flashes of lightning lit the horizon.

The dark clouds caught up with us just as the train approached, which made for some bizarre lighting conditions.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z7-II. The exposures were tricky because of the dark sky, low light and rain.

In this telephoto view looking west, you can whisps of smoke from Strasburg No. 89 as it approaches Esbenshade road in the distance. Soon that dark cloud was over us, making for eerie lighting conditions. The specks in the sky are birds flying for cover.
An elderly Amish couple were out for an evening stroll ahead of the thunderstorm. Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm lens.
It was just starting to rain as No. 89 approached. We could hear thunder in the distance. Nikon Z7-11 with 70-200mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo. Thunderclouds loomed omenously over the fields at Blackhorse Road.
The chocolate sky had reached us making for some pretty dim lighting conditions. Nikon Z7-11 with 70-200mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo. And yes, I was getting rained upon for this photo. To get an idea how dark it was, look at the glowing firebox.

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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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Meet at Cherry Hill—Eight Photos

Monday while waiting at Cherry Hill, as we anticipated Strasburg Rail Road No. 89 on its return run from Leaman Place, we heard a horn to west . . .

Also it was beginning to rain.

Sure enough, Strasbrug’s SW8 8618 had been whistling for Esbenshade Road and was running light engine to the new freight yard at Leaman Place.

The two trains met at Groffs, with the diesel taking the siding and No. 89 with the passenger excursion holding the main track.

Soft light, spring foliage, and light rain made for interesting conditions for this sequence of digital images.

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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.

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Streamlined Steam in a Pastoral Setting

Last week, Strasburg Rail Road was offering ‘In-Cab Experiences’ with former Norfolk & Western steamlined J-Class locomotive 611. These were scheduled to operate in a relatively secluded section on the Leaman Place-end of the railroad.

I made this digital view looking across the fields of the locomotive under steam using a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom. My aim was to capture the majesty of the locomotive in pastoral setting.

By using selective focus and aiming through the lush Spring foliage, I hoped to create a sense of depth.

After exposure, I made a few nominal adjustments to the Nikon NEF RAW file using Adobe Light room. Notably, I used the ‘Select Sky mask setting’ to selectively lower the highlight density in the sky-area in order to avoid a loss of color and provide better balance the overall scene.

Exposed at 1/500th of a sec, f5.6, ISO 100, 70-200mm zoom set to 200mm.

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Mastodon at Blackhorse

My favorite Strasburg Railroad steam locomotive is former Norfolk & Western 475.

I like its classic appearance and long boiler, but I’m also drawn to the relatively unusual wheel arrangement; 4-8-0.

Historically, this type was sometimes described as a ‘Mastodon’, perhaps because of its proportions. Another name for the 4-8-0 is ‘Twelve Wheeler,’ and this, while descriptive, doesn’t invoke romantic or alusive connotations.

Sunday, Kris and I caught old 475 coming and going at Blackhorse Road. I made these photos with my Nikon Z-series digital cameras. I thought back to November 1996, when I made photos of this same engine here on Kodachrome film. A differnt media for a different time.

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Norfolk & Western 611 on the Move!

The first time I witnessed Norfolk & Western 611 on the move was on a trip with John Gruber nearly 29 years ago. We’d traveled from Wisconsin to northern Indiana to catch the BIG streamlined 4-8-4 working west on the old Nickel Plate Road near Valparaiso.

In May 2015, Pat Yough, Vic & Becky Stone and I photographed 611 working out of Manassas, Virginia on the old Southern Railway.

Yesterday, Sunday May 21, 2023, Kris and I watched 611 work Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road. It was a beautiful Spring day, and we made some lovely images of the engine crossing the fields in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

I made these views with my Nikon Z-series digital cameras.

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Strasburg 8616 on the roll.

Earlier this month, Kris and I drove by Strasburg Rail Road’s engine house where I noticed that the railroad’s SW8 8616 was nowhere to be seen.

“Let’s take a run up to Leaman Place,”—where the railroad meets Amtrak’s former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line to interchange with Norfolk Southern. (Featured recently on Tracking the Light)

When we arrived there, I started to check the Asm Transitdocs app on my phone to see if any Amtrak trains were close. Then we heard an EMD rumble. My hunch was right!

It was 8616 on its was back toward Strasburg.

I made a few photos with my Nikon Z6 and then drove to Cherry Hill to roll it by again.

Leaman Place, Pennsylvania.
Leaman Place, Pennsylvania.
Cherry Hill Road, Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
Cherry Hill Road, Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
Cherry Hill Road, Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

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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.)

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Decapod at Blackhorse Road

Winter sun and clear skies on Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road open a host of photographic opportunities!

For Monday’s return run of engine No. 90 from Leaman Place, Kris and I selected a vantage point at Carpenters at Blackhorse Road—where the line takes a gentle curve by an old Graveyard.

I made a few color slides using my Nikon F3 and 180m lens and then a series of digital photos with my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm lens.

The sildes remain to be processed, but I’ve posted a selection of the digital images here.

Engine 90 is a Baldwin 2-10-0, a type known as a decapod for its arrangement of ten driving wheels. I am working on a new book with Kalmbach Media tentatively titled Steam Locomotives by th Numbers that will tell the story of steam locomotive development and application using wheel arrangement as the system of organization.

Engine 90 has ten driving wheels.

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Norfolk & Western J at Strasburg, PA

It was frosty on Monday morning when Kris & I visited the Strasburg Rail Road. Among the equipment we photographed was the famous Norfolk & Western J-Class 4-8-4 number 611.

In recent years this magnificent late-era steam locomotive has made guest appearances on the Strasburg Rail Road.

The enormous streamliner seems a bit out of place on the rural branchline, but it was great to see and photograph this machine again.

The big locomotive was cold. We were not so fortunate to catch it in action, although over the years, I have photographed 611 on various occasions under steam.

All photos were made with a Nikon Z7-II with Nikkor Z-series 24-70mm zoom 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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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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Wine & Cheese bucking Snow at Dusk

Strasburg Rail Road’s evening Wine & Cheese train made for a stunning sunset subject as it climbed the hill toward Esbenshade Road last Saturday evening (March 12, 2022).

Drifting snow had filled the cuttings, which bitterly cold temperatures made for ice crystals in the evening sky that made for colorful lighting effects as the sun reached the horizon.

I braved a steady frosty wind to made these photos with my Nikon Z6 fitted with 70-200mm zoom. These images were edited from the camera NEF (RAW) files using Adobe Lightroom.

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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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