It was a little more than six months ago that I made this view of a heritage streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana while walking to the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to board Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
I exposed this digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with my zoom lens set at 110mm.
Lately, I’ve shied away from using the zoom and instead prefer to work with my prime lenses. However, the zoom is well suited for street photography owing to its variable focal length.
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.
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. 🙂
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).
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!”).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.