Tag Archives: #strasburg rail road

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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