Tag Archives: streetcar

A Century-old American Streetcar Design that still works Italian Streets.

The Peter Witt streetcar is an example of an American design adopted by European cities.

I featured the Peter Witt in my book Field Guide to Trains and Locomotives and Rolling Stock published by Voyageur Press in 2016. This is also available from Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt of my text:

The Peter Witt was a widely built steel-body center-door streetcar noted for its early use of the ‘pay as you enter’ system, where passengers paid fair to the motorman and eliminated need for a conductor. Exiting passengers used the center door to minimize delays during stops. The car-type was named for its designer, the Cleveland Street Railway commissioner, who originated the car arrangement about 1915 . . . The Peter Witt was adopted in Italy in the late 1920s.

I exposed these images of a venerable Peter Witt working the streets of Milan earlier this month (April 2017) using my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 telephoto view at dawn in Milan, Italy. April 2017

See yesterday’s post  Milan Peter Witt at Dusk for a view of the Peter Witt’s distinctive door arrangement.

Tracking the Light is posting automatically while Brian is traveling.

This old PCC—memories of another time.

In October 2014, I photographed this old MBTA (Boston) PCC car at the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor, Connecticut.

Just a rusty old ruin; but the car and its Kenmore destination board, brought me back to the early 1970s when my family lived a few blocks from MBTA’s Riverside Line at Newton Centre.

This route had been the  Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, and was converted to a trolley line in 1960.

As young child, I was permitted freedom to wander around the neighborhood. My fascination with railways naturally brought me to the trolley line.

One afternoon, I’d been watching the PCC’s coming and going in front of the old B&A station. I’d often traveled on the cars with my parents, and I understood how the system worked.

Taking a chance, I quietly boarded one of the cars through the back door. I rode to Kenmore Square, where I boarded another car and returned to Newton Centre. I might have been five at the time. More than 40 years passed before I told anyone of this adventure. 🙂

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Kenosha, Wisconsin PCCs—July 2016.

Earlier this week John Gruber and I visited Kenosha, Wisconsin to ride and photograph the vintage PCC streetcars that serve the town.

The cars are beautifully maintained; the line is short but interesting. Cars operated about every 15 minutes during the day. The fare is just $1.00—a true bargain.

On the downside, it is a bit difficult to figure out how and where to board the cars. A little bit of targeted advertising would go a long way.

During our short visit the weather was fantastic.

For more information on Kenosha’s cars see: http://www.kenoshastreetcarsociety.org

To order the book on American streetcars that John and I authored see:  American Streetcars.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

PCC_Kenosha_DSCF9700

PCC_w_bus_Kenosha_DSCF9669

PCC_Kenosha_detail_DSCF9638PCC_Kenosha_detail_DSCF9645

PCC_Kenosha_DSCF9686

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Connecticut’s Shore Line Trolley Museum—June 19, 2016.

 

Back in the day, summer always meant that my father would bring my brother and me to one of the New England Trolley museums. Back then we’d ride back and forth and Pop would read the Sunday newspaper.

I’d make photos with my Leica.

This year for Father’s Day, I brought Pop to Connecticut’s Shore Line Trolley Museum located near East Haven, Connecticut. We used to know this as the Branford Trolley Museum (it is operated by the Branford Electric Railway Association).

FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo. Pop remembers Johnstown Traction Company 357 from its days in Pennsylvania.
Lumix LX7 photo. Pop remembers Johnstown Traction Company 357 from its days in Pennsylvania.

Pat Yough, visiting from Pennsylvania, joined us and we all made photos. Turns out that fathers are admitted free of charge on Father’s Day. So that was a bonus.

Pop used his vintage Rolleiflex, which prompted a comment from the motorman,

“You’re still using film?”

Pop responded, “Sure, and you’re still running a trolley. Today is my ‘retro day’”.

They even had an old IRT Subway car on the move. (Pop said, “these aren’t ‘old’, I remember when they were new!”).

Lumix LX7.
Lumix LX7.
NYC subway car interior. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 21mm Super Angulon. HP5 processed in HC110.
NYC subway car interior. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 21mm Super Angulon. HP5 processed in HC110.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Connecticut Company 775.
Connecticut Company 775. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 21mm Super Angulon. HP5 processed in HC110.
Exposed with a Leica 3A with 21mm Super Angulon. HP5 processed in HC110.
Exposed with a Leica 3A with 21mm Super Angulon. HP5 processed in HC110.
An unlike combination; streetcars from Atlanta, Georgia and Montreal, Quebec. Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm XT1.
An unlikely combination; streetcars from Atlanta, Georgia and Montreal, Quebec. Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm XT1.

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SEPTA Chrome Glint—Sunset in Philadelphia.

Staying with the theme of low-sun glint and color slide film. The other day I scanned this photo I exposed back in October 2006.

My brother Sean and I had been exploring SEPTA’s Route 15. At the end of the day (literally) I made this view looking west on Girard of an eastbound PCC.

SEPTA PCC on the Route 15 line, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.
SEPTA PCC on the Route 15 line, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.

Tracking the Light works with Film and Digital, and Color and Black & White. 

Helsinki Pub Tram—four photos.

Here’s a great concept that blends the conviviality of a pub with the rolling urban vistas provided by a streetcar.

Helsinki has a virtual maze of narrow-gauge tram tracks and the pub tram makes hourly circular tours. The car itself is one of the last non-articulated trams in regular service in the city and is painted a distinctive red.

Exposed in July 2015 with a Lumix LX7.
Exposed in July 2015 with a Lumix LX7.

On an earlier visit to Helsinki in 2002, I photographed the car, but was unable to ride because it had been booked for a charter. In July 2015, Markku Pulkkinen and I took a spin on this unusual railway vehicle. I think it is the only city tram that I’ve ever seen with a loo.

The pub tram is great way to see Helsinki. Every city should have one!

Exposed in July 2015 with a Lumix LX7.
Exposed in July 2015 with a Lumix LX7.

Pub_tram_interior_Markku_at_bar_P1300034MOD1Pub_tram_P1300031MOD1

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Boston’s Coolidge Corner—Sunday Afternoon in mid-May.

MBTA’s Beacon Street line to Cleveland Circle is a classic median running trolley route. Coolidge Corner is situated on a gradient and a gentle curve with a traditional traction shelter and lots of trees that help make it a cool place to photograph.

On our whirlwind tour of Boston transit a few weeks ago, Pat Yough and I spent a little while making photos here. The streetcars pass often, so in a relatively short period of time we were able to make a variety of angles.

An outbound MBTA Green Line train on the Beacon Street line near Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.
An outbound MBTA Green Line train on the Beacon Street line near Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.
Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.
Coolidge Corner. Lumix LX7 photo.

This is one of the Green Line routes and some of the cars are in the 1970s-era green and white livery, while others are in a more modern teal and silver. I find the older livery photographs better.

Personally, I preferred the days when the PCC’s ruled this route, but those days are long gone. It’s still an interesting place to experiment with different camera-lens combinations.

Using my Lumix LX7 I made this very low-angle view of an outbound streetcar. The Lumix offers great depth of field, which allows for photos like this.
Using my Lumix LX7 I made this very low-angle view of an outbound streetcar. The Lumix LX7 offers great depth of field, which allows for photos like this. I like the blade of grass at the far lower right.
Vertical view of an outbound car exposed with my Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Vertical view of an outbound car exposed with my Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
The classic transit shelter provides added interest and a bit of historical context. This isn't a modern light rail line, but rather a traditional trolley route operating modern cars. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
The classic transit shelter provides added interest and a bit of historical context. This isn’t a modern light rail line, but rather a traditional trolley route operating modern cars. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.

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San Francisco Muni in Color.

Endless Opportunities for Photography.

Muni PCC and Boeing LRV at 30th and Church Sts SF CA Jul 16 1995 Brian Solomon 662237
On July 1, 1995, a vintage PCC dressed in Boston’s MTA orange passes one of the Boeing-Vertol LRVs on Church Street. I’m probably in the minority, but I always liked the Boeing cars. This photo is a little ironic, because only Boston and San Francisco bought the Boeings.

Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of images of San Francisco Muni’s streetcars. There’s a great of variety of equipment from the famous cable-cars to historic and colorfully painted PCCs and other vintage equipment, plus modern European designed trams. The setting is stunning and the weather can be cosmic with wafts of Pacific fog coming over Twin Peaks.

Here’s a sample of a few favorite Muni images.

Cable cars ascend Nob Hill at sunset.
Cable cars ascend Nob Hill at sunset.
Interior of an F-line PCC exposed in May 2008.
Interior of an F-line PCC exposed in May 2008.
Cosmic light: an F-line PCC at the foot of Market Street with dense fog flowing over Twin Peaks. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Cosmic light: an F-line PCC at the foot of Market Street with dense fog flowing over Twin Peaks. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS 3 with 200mm lens, September 2009.
Muni tracks at 17th and Church Streets.
Muni tracks at 17th and Church Streets.
Wild fires make for great sunrises! Cable car tracks at sunrise with the Trans America Pyramid. No filters, no photoshop. Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm lens on Fujichrome slide film.
Wild fires make for great sunrises! Cable car tracks at sunrise with the Trans America Pyramid. No filters, no photoshop. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400mm lens on Fujichrome slide film.
California Street Cable Car at Market Street late on weekday evening. May 2008.
California Street Cable Car at Market Street late on weekday evening. May 2008.
Breda LRVs on Duboce Street, September 2, 2009.
Breda LRVs on Duboce Street, September 2, 2009.
Muni N-line service on the Embarcedero, October 2003.
Muni N-line service on the Embarcedero, October 2003.

San Francisco is among the many cities featured in my new book Streetcars of America, co-authored with John Gruber. The book is now available through Amazon and other retailers. John and I wrote this compact 64-page soft-cover volume in 2013. It is priced at under $10.

This is among the modern images feature in the book. It pictures two eras of Italian cars on the streets of San Francisco. The majority of the images in Streetcars of America are vintage photos from the 1940s to the 1970s.
This is among the modern images featured in the book. It pictures two eras of Italian cars on the streets of San Francisco. The majority of the images in Streetcars of America are vintage photos from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Tracking the Light posts new material every day!

Streetcars of America is available through Amazon.

Daily Post: Old Type 5 on both Film and Digital

On October 20, 2013, I stopped by the Connecticut Trolley Museum near East Windsor and made a variety of photos. The day was perfect; warm and sunny with a cloudless clear sky. A bit of autumn color clung to the trees.

This was an opportunity to experiment with my cameras and I’ve displayed here three images of former a Boston Type 5 streetcar that was working the line.

I exposed the top image on Fuji Velvia 50 color slide film with my father’s Leica M4 fitted with a 35mm Summicron. The bottom images were simultaneous files made with my Lumix LX3 (which features a Leica Vario-Summicron lens).

Connecticut Trolley Museum
MTA type 5 streetcar photographed at East Windsor, Connecticut on October 20, 2013 using a Leica M4 with 35mm Summicron and Fuji Velvia 50 slide film.
Lumix photograph; Camera RAW converted to a scaled JPG in two step post processing for internet display.
Lumix photograph; Camera RAW converted to a scaled JPG in two step post processing for internet display.
In-camera Lumix JPG exposed using the 'Standard' color profile. File scaled for internet display.
In-camera Lumix JPG exposed using the ‘Standard’ color profile. File scaled for internet display.

The Lumix allows me to make both a camera RAW file and a JPG at the same time. The Lumix software has a variety of color profiles for the JPG files that alter the appearance of the image. Typically, I use the “Standard” profile such as displayed here.

Although I’ve scaled all of the files and processed them for internet display, I’ve not made major changes to contrast, exposure or content. The color slide required a nominal color balance adjustment to remove the inherent bias associated with this film.

I scanned the slide using my Epson V600 scanner.

My father has some nice views of Boston’s Type 5s in revenue service exposed on Kodachrome in the 1950s.

All things being equal, I wonder which photographs will survive the longest? The 50+ year old Kodachromes? My Velvia slides exposed in October? Or the digital files exposed the same day? All the digital files (including scans) are preserved on at least three hard drives. While the slides are stored in a dark, cool dry place.

Any bets?

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Tomorrow: refining snow exposure.

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DAILY POST: Magnum LUAS

Saved by the in-Camera Memory!

Back in the old days, if I went out and forgot to load my camera it was tough luck. No film, no photo. And, yes, there were several occasions where I suffered this humility.

Today, with my Lumix LX3, there’s a feature that gets me out of the occasional jam. The camera has a built-in memory that allows me to make several photographs when there is no memory card inserted (or if the memory card has an error/failure).

This means that in those rare situations where I have the camera, but have forgotten the card, I can still make a few photos.

Case in point. On April 11, 2012, I’d grabbed the camera and walked into the Dublin city center to run some errands. At the time, the LUAS tram network had a specially painted tram advertising Magnum ice cream bars. I’d seen this several times, but not managed to get a photo of it.

In fact, this tram had proved unusually elusive, and previous efforts to find it in sunlight failed. But on this day, as I wandered through Smithfield, the purple Magnum tram glided along side of me and came to a stop at an intersection in full sun. Perfect!

Except, when I went to make a photo, I got an error message telling me there was no card! I’d taken it out to download it and left it at home! OH NO! But the camera gave me the option of saving the file to the camera memory! Yea!

Dublin tram.

Specially adorned LUAS tram advertising Magnum ice cream bars pauses at an intersection near Smithfield in Dublin on April 12, 2012. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 and saved to the internal camera memory.

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Tomorrow: The Electroliner

Click to view related posts:

Dublin’s LUAS at Heuston Station, October 14, 2013;

LUAS McDonalds Tram at Heuston Station

White Tram Prowls Dublin’s LUAS 

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SPECIAL POST: SEPTA in the Snow

Afternoon and evening, January 21, 2014.

SEPTA in snow
SEPTA local arrives at Overbrook on the way to Thorndale. Canon EOS 7D photo.

This morning dawned with a blood-red sunrise. Something about a red sky in the morning?

What I’d call ‘winter’ has been given all sorts of new fancy names. Probably the most absurd is the ‘polar vortex.’ Next up is the term handed to today’s precipitation: ‘bombogensis.’

Call it what you like. By about 2:30 pm today 6 inches of snow was improving photography all over Philadelphia, and by 5 pm there was 8-10 inches was making for interesting images.

My brother Sean and I spent the afternoon in Philadelphia making photos of SEPTA and snow accumulation while running errands. Falling and drifting snow made for some dramatic photography opportunities.

SEPTA in the snow
Inbound SEPTA multiple unit approaches Overbrook Station. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Late-running Amtrak Keystone service crosses over at Overbrook. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Late-running Amtrak Keystone service crosses over at Overbrook. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA number 10 trolley takes the corner at Lansdowne Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA number 10 trolley takes the corner at Lansdowne Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA trolley
SEPTA number 10 glides along in the snow on the afternoon of January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
PCC trolley
A vintage PCC in Route 15 service ambles along snow-covered Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Trailing view of a SEPTA PCC on Girard Avenue, on January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Trailing view of a SEPTA PCC on Girard Avenue, on January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Snow exposure I always tricky. My basic rule of thumb is to use the camera meter to set a gauging point, then open up (over expose) by 2/3s to a full stop above the camera meter. Using the histogram on the back of the camera, I then fine tune my exposure depending on the setting.

I detailed how to interpret the histogram for snow exposures in an earlier post. Click to see: Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

Cleaning the sidewalks on Viola Street at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Cleaning the sidewalks on Viola Street at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal shows a 'stop' aspect. January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal shows a ‘stop’ aspect. January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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SEPTA train.
An inbound SEPTA MU arrives at Overbrook on the evening of January 21, 2014. Despite the snow, this service was on schedule. Canon EOS 7D photo.
PRR main line.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line looking east at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

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See related posts:  Exploring SEPTATake a Ride on the ReadingPhiladelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

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SEPTA’s Media Trolley, June 30, 2013

 

Contemporary views of a Traditional Streetcar Route.

On the afternoon of Sunday June 30, 2013, Pat Yough and I visited Media, Pennsylvania to photograph SEPTA’s Route 101 Streetcar.

Streetcar at Media, PA.
SEPTA’s Route 101 car on East State Street in Media, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens (set at 135mm).

A century ago, single-track streetcar lines graced many American towns. The era of the electric trolley car faded decades ago. Today, Media is virtually in class by itself. Historic re-creations aside, where else in the USA does a single-track streetcar route serve “Main Street”?

The 101 Route is one of two SEPTA (former Red Arrow) streetcar lines radiating from its 69th Street Terminus in Upper Darby in suburban Philadelphia. The other trolley line is the 102 route to Sharon Hill. 69th Street is also served by the Route 100 high-speed interurban line to Norristown (the old Philadelphia & Western line) and the Market-Frankford elevated.

Trolley at Media, PA.
SEPTA’s 101 trolley stops at street corners to collect and drop off passengers. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Trolley.
A Kawasaki streetcar near the end of the line in Media, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
The trolley is a Media, Icon. Canon EOS 7D photo.
The trolley is a Media, Icon. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Media, Pennsylvania.
East State Street, Media, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
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San Francisco Muni F-Line, May 2008

 

PCC Streetcar painted for Pacific Electric passes the Ferry Building.

PCC car San Francisco
Exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Canon EOS 3 fitted with a 24mm lens.

San Francisco Muni’s F-Line route operates with a variety of vintage streetcars, including streamlined PCC cars painted in various historic liveries to represent systems that originally operated these cars.

Popular with tourists and residents alike, the vintage cars are fun to ride and photograph. Unlike most modern transit, the F-Line offers continual variety, with different cars operating from day to day.

In May 2008, I made this photograph of PCC 1061 dressed for Pacific Electric in front of the restored Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Embarcedero. Originally built for Philadelphia, this was among the cars acquired for operation in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Some restoration work for out-of-service heritage cars has been done by the Market Street Railway (volunteer support group for Muni’s historic rail lines ); these are turned over to Muni when restoration nears the point where cars are ready for revenue service.

 

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