Tag Archives: United States

In the Shadow of Tuscarora Mountain.

Working with November Light.

Norfolk Southern eastbound near Mexico, Pennsylvania with a former Conrail General Electric DASH8-40CW in the lead.
Norfolk Southern eastbound near Mexico, Pennsylvania with a former Conrail General Electric DASH8-40CW in the lead.

The former Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division is one of the busiest freight routes in the eastern United States. On November 5, 2001, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon on Middle Division photographing Norfolk Southern freights.

The combination of pastoral Pennsylvania scenery, low November sun, and steady parade of freights made for lots of opportunity to make interesting railway images.

I’m always looking for a new angle. Here I worked with light and shade to sculpt scenes that captured the character of the place as well as the trains passing through it. I exposed these images using my Nikon F3 with Fuji Provia 100F.

Piggyback trailers roll toward the Tuscarora Mountain on their eastward journey along the Juniata River Valley.
Piggyback trailers roll toward Tuscarora Mountain on their eastward journey along the Juniata River Valley.
USGS topo map showing Mexico and Tuscarora, Pennsylvania.
USGS topo map showing Mexico and Tuscarora, Pennsylvania. I made my photos near the Olive Branch School, across the Juniata from Mexico.

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Tomorrow: Snow on Donner Pass in October!

 

Daily Post: Arnold Loop, Silver Zone Pass, Nevada.


Westward Train in a Broad Landscape. 

The afternoon of July 26, 1993 was one of those lucky times when everything falls into place.

Fellow photographer TSH and I had hired a Chevy van at the San Francisco airport and drove to the shore of the Great Salt Lake, then worked our way back following Union Pacific’s Western Pacific route across Nevada.

Near Wendover (on the Utah-Nevada line) we came across a struggling westward coal train. One of its locomotives had failed, and it was making poor progress. It had three manifest trains stacked up behind it.

Armed with this knowledge, and having the best light of the day ahead of us, we drove west to the famed Arnold Loop, where Western Pacific’s engineers had designed a sweeping curve to maintain steady elevation. (Running west from  the Nevada-Utah line the railroad ascends a continuous 35-mile 1 percent grade, and crests at 5,907 feet above sea level, 15 miles beyond Silver Zone Pass.)

Union Pacific westward freight at the Arnold Loop, July 26, 1993. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 28mm lens.
Union Pacific westward freight at the Arnold Loop, July 26, 1993. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 28mm lens.

While not a complete circle, such as that used further west at the Williams Loop near Blairsden, California, this loop arrangement is an excellent place to photograph trains.

To the east is the wide expanse of desert punctuated by Pilot Peak some ten miles distant.

We got ourselves in position; cameras loaded with Kodachrome 25 and planted on tripods, and a clear blue dome above us. To the east we could make out the four trains in the distance, seeming to crawl over the landscape like tiny worms. Soon the first of the trains was upon us. These followed every ten minutes or so for the next 45 minutes.

I’ve used my images from this day in several books and calendars. This one slide is well published.

We were spoiled by the experience. The next day on the Western Pacific wasn’t as productive. Such is the luck of desert railroading!

Tomorrow: A Feather River Vista.

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Daily Post: If you Say Something, See Something.

San Francisco, August 2009.

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A SF-Muni-N-Judah-line-AugScaled1

 

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Daily Post: Power Shot, Wisconsin Central SD45s


Byron, Wisconsin, March 23, 1996.

It had been a busy morning at Byron. This southward freight had made a meet and was just coming out of the siding, so I had ample time to make images of these SD45s.

Wisconsin Central SD45 loom large as the lead a southward freight out of the siding at Byron, Wisconsin on March 23, 1996.
Wisconsin Central SD45 loom large as the lead a southward freight out of the siding at Byron, Wisconsin on March 23, 1996.

As the train grew close, I made a couple of final images on Kodachrome with my Nikormat FT3 and 28mm Nikkor Lens. I took this low view with a wide-angle to get a dynamic photograph.

I was Editor of Pacific RailNews, and we often had a need for photographs with lots of sky to use as opening spreads. It was a style of times to run headlines, credits and sometimes text across the top of the image. I had that thought in my mind when I made this particular angle.

I was also trying to minimize the ballast and drainage ditch that I found visually unappealing, while making the most of the clear blue dome and allowing for a dramatic position for the locomotives relative to the horizon.

Variations of this image have appeared in print over the years.

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Tomorrow: ‘Oh No! I left the SD recording card in my Computer!’

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DAILY POST: Maine Central at East Deerfield Yard, September 1984.

An Unconventional View of the Ready Tracks.

I was interested to find this collection of Maine Central locomotives at Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard in September 1984. At the time, Guilford’s gray and orange livery was still a novelty.

Using my father’s 21mm Super Angulon on my Leica 3A, I composed this somewhat unconventional view of the ready tracks. This lens was a favorite of mine at the time. I still use it occasionally.

Boston & Maine's East Deerfield Yard
Maine central GP38 260 and a pair of U18Bs were the subjects of interest in my September 1984 black & white photograph. Today, the contrast of the steam-era infrastructure with the diesels makes for an unusual compelling railroad photo. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens.

The composition works despite being foreground heavy and exposed on the ‘dark side’ of the locomotives. The image nicely integrates the infrastructure around the locomotives while offering a period look.

At the time I was studying photography at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and made regular visits to photograph the Boston & Maine.

See my earlier post: Johnsonville, New York, November 4, 1984.  

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Tomorrow: A Bird, a Tram, A Canal!

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DAILY POST: BNSF SD70ACE at Enola, Pennsylvania.

 Location and Locomotive.

Tight view of BNSF Railway SD70MAC 9261 at Norfolk Southern's Enola Yard. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.
Tight view of BNSF Railway SD70MAC 9261 at Norfolk Southern’s Enola Yard. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

Fifty years ago, it would have been pretty neat to see a Burlington GP30 at Pennsylvania Railroad’s Enola Yard. Yet for the context of that photo to be fully appreciated, it would help to have the location of the locomotive implied in the image.

A few weeks ago, Pat Yough and I were driving by Norfolk Southern’s Enola Yard and spotted this SD70ACE. These days, BNSF locomotives on Norfolk Southern and CSX are not unusual occurrences. Not in Pennsylvania anyway.

After a tight image of the locomotive, I stood back and made a few views intended to convey location.

It’s not what you see, but the images made of what you see.

The sign at the left conveys location and provides a bit of information about safety conditions at Enola. Canon EOS 7D.
The sign at the left conveys location and provides a bit of information about safety conditions at Enola. Canon EOS 7D.
In this view the sign is the subject, and the locomotive just a decorative background. Canon EOS 7D.
In this view the sign is the subject, and the locomotive just a decorative background. Canon EOS 7D.

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Daily Post; New York Central in 1984

 Photographing a bit of History.

New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

My friend Bob Buck of Warren had advised me to photograph old freight cars, especially those from the ‘fallen flags’ (railroads that had merged or were otherwise lost).

I kept a keen eye out for the cars of Conrail’s predecessors, which were a special interest to me.

In July 1984, I was passing Conrail’s sprawling West Springfield Yards on my way to the Boston & Albany ‘West End,’ when I saw this old New York Central ‘Early Bird’ 50ft double door car.

By that time, New York Central had been gone 16 years, and I was only 17, so the time seemed like a lifetime to me. Following Bob’s advice, I dutifully exposed a three-quarter view of the car. One frame. That is all.

In retrospect, I wish that I’d taken a few more images of the car. Today, I’d focus on the car and make some detailed views. Looking back on this car today, what I find noteworthy was that it still had its catwalks, an accessory that had been out of favor for years by the time I’d exposed this image.

New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

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Daily Post: Westward Freight in Wink of Sun

CSX Q427 Claws Upgrade at Chester, Massachusetts.

For me the old Boston & Albany West end is hallowed ground. This was the first true mountain mainline in the modern sense. The line was surveyed in the mid 1830s and by 1839 trains were working over Washington Summit.

Over the last 30 years I’ve made countless trips to photograph this line and it remains one of my favorites. Yet, I rarely come up here in the winter.

On Friday, February 7, 2014, my father and I went up to Huntington to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449. Not far behind was CSX’s Q427.

This freight runs daily between Portland, Maine and Selkirk, New York via Ayer and Worcester, Massachusetts. This day it had a pair of General Electric Evolution-Series diesels of the type that have come to characterize modern freight operations on the Boston & Albany route.

Since the train wasn’t making great speed, we pursued it on Route 20, stopping to make photos at opportune locations. At CP 123 (where the line goes from single track to two-main track) Q427 met an eastward freight holding at the signal. We continued upgrade ahead of the train.

I remembered that there’s a gap in the hills at Chester which allows for a window of sun on the line that lasts late in the day. So we zipped ahead of the train.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

At Chester, Pop set up his tripod to make a hi-resolution video of the train climbing. I positioned myself with my Canon EOS 7D with a telephoto lens to make use of the window of sun against a dark background.

As the train grew closer I also exposed more conventional views with my Lumix LX3. The heavy train took more than two minutes to pass.

Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.
Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.

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 Tomorrow: step back 30 years with a visit to West Springfield.

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DAILY POST; San Francisco Sunrise, 1992.

Muni Boeing-Vertol LRV’s catch the glint.

 In 1992, I was living on Haight Street in San Francisco, just a short walk from this location. One August morning, I got up early to make photos of Muni’s light rail cars exiting the Muni Metro on Duboce in the sunrise glint light.

San Francisco MUNI light rail.
Exposed on Fujichrome 100 with a Nikon F3T fitted with an f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens, scanned with an Epson V600 desktop scanner.

For this image, I’ve used the trees at the left to shade the front element from direct sun to minimize flare. Although it was a clear morning, the sun was tinted by pollution that I remember as being a common effect in the Bay Area, especially in the summer.

My goal was to catch a car taking the wye from the J-Church line heading west on the N-Judah line, which was a common way for Muni to position cars in the morning. While I did make that photo, I felt this image was actually a better picture.

It shows an inbound J-Church car turning toward the subway portal with an N-Judah car outbound.

Although, I commonly used Kodachrome at the time, for this image I used Fujichrome 100 (before the introduction of Provia), which I processed myself at the photo studio where I worked in South San Francisco. Among my studio duties was running E6 transparency film. We used a roller transport machine and mixed the chemistry on site.

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Tomorrow take a look at the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s viaduct at Crum Creek!

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Daily Post: Amtrak Cities Sprinter Revenue Run, February 7, 2014

 Photos of Amtrak’s Latest.

Yesterday (February 7, 2014), after several months of testing, Amtrak’s new ACS-64 Siemens built ‘Cities Sprinter’ locomotive 600 made its first revenue run on Amtrak train 171 (Boston to Washington).

My dad and I went to Milford, Connecticut on the North East Corridor to catch the new electric. Pop made some B&W photos with his Leica M3 from the east end of the platform. I worked the curve at the west end with my Canons.

I popped off a couple of slides with the EOS 3 with a 100mm telephoto, and exposed two bursts of digital images using the Canon 7D with 20mm lens.

 

Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014.  Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.
Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014. Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

Amtrak_171_ACS_64_engine_600_at_Milford_trailing_1_IMG_4213

Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.
Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. Amtrak ACS 64 number 600.

By the way the 20mm on the 7D has a field of view equal to about a 35mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.

The new electric sure looked nice! I’ll be keen to see the B&W photos and slides when they are processed.

After 171 passed, I made a few photos of a Metro-North local, then Pop and I went over to inspect the recently opened Metro-North station at West Haven, where we made a few photos of passing trains.

Did you get to see Amtrak’s latest electric?

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News Flash: Amtrak ACS-64 Debut.

Today Amtrak number 600 worked train 171 from Boston.

Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014.  Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.
Brand new Amtrak electric 600 leads train 171 (Boston to Washington) at Milford, Connecticut at 10:56am February 7, 2014. Canon 7D with 20mm lens. f4.5 1/2000th second, ISO 200.

Click to see more photos: Amtrak Cities Sprinter Revenue Run, February 7, 2014

After several months of testing, new Amtrak ACS-64 ‘Cities Sprinter’ 600 made its first revenue run on Amtrak 171 (Boston to Washington).

My dad and I went to Milford, Connecticut on the North East Corridor to catch the new electric.

Snow and sun made for a nearly perfect morning.

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Daily Post: Railcar Graffiti

Sayre, Pennsylvania, August 2010.

Sayre, Pennsylvania, August 2010.
Sayre, Pennsylvania, August 2010.
Sayre, Pennsylvania, August 2010.
Sayre, Pennsylvania, August 2010.

Watching trains today, it seems that graffiti is omnipresent. Hardly a freight passes without heavily tagged cars in consist.

Railcar graffiti isn’t a recent phenomena. Traditional chalked tags have appeared on cars for generations. I recall photographing a tag that read ‘Edward Steichen knew’ back in the mid-1980s, and I first noticed spray-painted graffiti on the New York Subways in the 1970s.

Yet, the proliferation of large colorful spray-painted murals and haphazard spray tagging has only become widespread on mainline trains in the last couple of decades.

While freight cars are the most common canvases, I’ve see locomotives and passenger cars tagged as well.

Nor is the phenomena isolated to the United States. Train graffiti is a worldwide occurrence. I’ve photographed heavily tagged trains in Poland, Belgium, and (wouldn’t you guess?) Italy! (Among other places).

Almost every photographer I’ve met has an opinion on graffiti.

Would you like to leave a comment? Tracking the light is interested in your opinion(s). See the comments section toward the bottom of the page.

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Tomorrow: Tracking the Light features a summer morning Norfolk Southern’s former PRR at Cassandra, Pennsylvania. Don’t miss it!

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DAILY POST: Campaign Train, Aug 2010.


New England Central at Montpelier Junction, Vermont.

Brian Dubie's campaign train
Dubie campaign train approaches Montpelier Junction, Vermont on the afternoon of August 28, 2010. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

A freshly scrubbed GP38 led a pair of Pennsy passenger cars in a classic old-school whistle-stop campaign tour of Vermont.

On August 28, 2010, my dad and I drove to the Georgia high bridge (near St. Albans, Vermont) to intercept a New England Central special train hired by gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie.

It was a sunny warm summer’s day, and we made numerous photos of the special as it worked its way south.

This pair of images was exposed at Montpelier Junction, where the train made a stop for the candidate to make a speech to his supporters. Traditionally, this was where Central Vermont met the Montpelier & Barre.

I used a telephoto for these views in order to emphasize the bunting and flags that marked the train’s distinctive qualities. Several of my photographs of the train appeared in Private Varnish.

B Dubie 4 govnr campaign train at Montpelier Jct IMG_4331

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DAILY POST: Amtrak Heritage P40 at West Warren, Massachusetts!


Light! Camera! Action!

Here we have an instance where everything came together nicely.

Amtrak heritage locomotive
Amtrak 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts, 2:03pm January 24, 2014. Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens exposed at ISO 200 f5.6 1/1000th of a second. Camera RAW file converted to a Jpeg in Adobe Photoshop.

On Friday January 24, 2014, I’d got word that Amtrak’s heritage locomotive number 822 was working the westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449

This was the second time in a ten-day span that I’d be alerted to a heritage locomotive on this run. As noted in my January 18, 2014 post, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the weather wasn’t cooperative on my previous attempt at catching an Amtrak heritage locomotive.

By contrast on January 24th it was clear but very cold. I opted to make the photo at West Warren, where it’s nice and open and there’s a distinctive landscape.

Normally, Amtrak 449 passes East Brookfield at 1:30pm, and Palmer about 1:50pm. West Warren is roughly halfway between them, so I aimed to be there no later than 1:35pm

As it happened, 449 was delayed on Charlton Hill and passed more than 15 minutes later than I’d anticipated. Other than resulting in my nose getting a bit cold, this delay produced little effect on the photograph.

I opted for a traditional angle because I wanted to feature the locomotive as the primary subject this scenic setting. I picked a spot on the road bridge over the Quaboag River where I could make a view that included the old mills and waterfall, as well as a side view as the train got closer.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens, I set the motor drive to its fastest setting, and exposed three bursts of images as the train rolled east on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline.

Since the camera’s buffer will quickly become saturated when making multiple photos in rapid succession, I was careful to wait until the train was nearly where I wanted it in each of the three sets.

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Amtrak_822_on_449_West_Warren_tight_view_IMG_4061
This tighter view offers a clean perspective on the equipment. I was aiming to feature both the heritage painted locomotive and the ancient baggage car. Word to the wise; get the old baggage cars while you can, they won’t be around forever.

Have you had luck catching Amtrak’s heritage locomotives?  Do you have a favorite? Let me know! There’s a venue for comments on this blog, scroll down.

 

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Amherst Railway Society’s Big Railroad Hobby Show—Part 1

West Springfield, Massachusetts, January 25, 2014.

NYC_F_unit_IMG_4092

This past weekend (January 25-26, 2014) was the annual Big Railroad Hobby Show sponsored by the Amherst Railway Society.

It fills four buildings at the Eastern States Exposition grounds at West Springfield, Massachusetts and attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

For railway enthusiasts it’s an epic event and an annual pilgrimage. The show is the living testimony of the late Bob Buck—long time show director and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies.

Through clever marketing, unceasing persistence and a life-long passion for trains of all scales, Bob built the show from a small railroad hobby event into a massive one.

This weekend’s show was another well-attended event. It was a virtual sea of trains and people. Here are a few photos of people I met at this year’s show and exhibits that I enjoyed.

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Otto Vondrak of Railfan & Railroad Magazine.
Otto Vondrak of Railfan & Railroad Magazine.
Scarlett promotes Palmer's premier railroad restaurant, the ever-popular Steaming Tender (located at the old Union Station).
Scarlett promotes Palmer’s premier railroad restaurant, the ever-popular Steaming Tender (located at the old Union Station).

 

Quabog Valley's Boston & Albany J-2 Pacific.
Quabog Valley’s Boston & Albany J-2 Pacific.

Jim_Beagle_and_company_P1600194

Berkshire Scenic.
Berkshire Scenic.
Model Station.
Model Station.
Phil and Rich.
Phil and Rich.
Rich Reed's Penn Central display.
Rich Reed’s Penn Central display.
Tucker's Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.
Tucker’s Hobbies of Warren, Massachusetts.

Did you attend? What was your favorite exhibit?

Stay tuned for more photos tomorrow!

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DAILY POST: Springfield, Massachusetts, April 2004

Old Pointless Arrow and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station, where Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany and New Haven once shared common space. Today, its a local Amtrak hub. Exposed with a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.
Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station, where Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany and New Haven once shared common space. Today, its a local Amtrak hub. Exposed with a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.

Ah Springfield! Probably best known because of the Simpson’s cartoon set in a mythical city of that name. Could be Springfield, Massachusetts, or Illinois, any of a couple dozen other cities with this common name.

On April 5, 2004, I met Tim Doherty for lunch and we made a few photos in Springfield.

A visit to Union Station found a westward CSX freight with a Conrail blue General Electric DASH8-40CW rolling through.

Later, we went down to an footbridge near the Basketball Hall of Fame to catch Guilford Rail System’s elusive EDPL (East Deerfield to Plainville, Connecticut) freight.

In 1982, Boston & Maine bought several Connecticut-based former New Haven Railroad operations from Conrail, and EDPL was one the only remnants of that transaction. At the time, the freight ran once a week. Catching it was a matter of planning and good luck.

Westward CSX freight rolls through Springfield Station on April 5, 2004.
Westward CSX freight rolls through Springfield Station on April 5, 2004.
Guilford's weekly EDPL against a backdrop of the Springfield skyline on April 5, 2004.
Guilford’s weekly EDPL against a backdrop of the Springfield skyline on April 5, 2004.
This slightly closer view of the same train suffers (or benefits, depending on your perspective) from tree-branch shadows on on the front of the locomotives. Contax G2 photo.
This slightly closer view of the same train suffers (or benefits, depending on your perspective) from tree-branch shadows on on the front of the locomotives. Contax G2 photo.
Guilford's EDPL with Springfield's top tourist attraction (or one would assume); the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Guilford’s EDPL with Springfield’s top tourist attraction (or one would assume); the Basketball Hall of Fame.

I exposed these photos on Fujichrome Velvia 100F (RVP100F) color slide film using my Contax G2 rangefinder with a 28mm Biogon lens. The film was processed locally in Springfield at ComColor, which back then offered a 2-hour turn-around time for E6 films (processed and mounted).

In 2008, ComColor ceased processing E6 film. At the time, I was told my rolls were ‘the last run.’

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The Amherst Railway Society ‘BIG RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW‘ is on this weekend (January 25 and 26, 2014) at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

See: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/

Brian Solomon will cover the train show in Tracking the Light.

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DAILY POST: Springfield Station, March 31, 1984

From Brian’s Lost Archive.

Conrail, Springfield, Mass.
Conrail C30-7 6608 pauses at Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station on March 31, 1984. Exposed on Panatomic-X ASA 32 (Kodak Safety Film 5060) with Leica 3A fitted with a 50mm Summitar.

I made this photo when I was a senior in high school. Paul Goewey and I’d planned to meet some friends at Springfield Station, and then drive north to photograph Boston & Maine at Deerfield.

While we waited for the others to arrive, I exposed a series of images of Conrail on the former Boston & Albany mainline. At the time, Conrail regularly stored locomotives between runs on track 2A in the station (at right). On the left is a set of light engines led by Conrail 6608, one of ten C30-7s.

More interesting is the locomotive trailing 6608, a relative-rare former Erie-Lackawanna SDP45.

The trip to the B&M was very successful and I exposed two rolls of 35mm Kodak Panatomic-X ASA 32 (Kodak Safety Film 5060) with my Leica 3A, and a couple of rolls of 120 B&W with my dad’s Rolleiflex. I processed all the film in the kitchen sink, using a crude formula of Microdol-X. I sleeved the negs and made 3×5 size proof prints.

The 120 negatives have been in my files for three decades, but the 35mm negatives had vanished. I have a photo album from 1985, with many of these images, but for years was vexed by the loss of the 35mm negatives. As a rule, I don’t throw photographs away.

The other day, I found a carton with school papers and photographs. There, at the bottom was an unlabeled crumpled manila envelope. What’s this? Ah ha!

It was chock full of negatives from 1984-1985. All missing for decades, many of them unprinted.

A raw negative strip from my morning at Springfield Station on March 31, 1984. Although stored in a manila envelop for the better part of three decades, the negatives were processed properly and kept flat in a cool dry place, and so remain in very good condition.
A raw negative strip from my morning at Springfield Station on March 31, 1984. Although stored in a manila envelop for the better part of three decades, the negatives were processed properly and kept flat in a cool dry place, and so remain in very good condition.

I scanned these negative strip on my Epson V600 scanner. Using Photoshop I cleaned up a few minor defect and made necessary contrast adjustments, then exported a reduced file size for display here. A photo lost for nearly three decades can now be enjoyed in through a medium I couldn’t have foreseen when I exposed it.

Also see: Old Pointless Arrow and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Amherst Railway Society ‘BIG RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW‘ is on this weekend (January 25 and 26, 2014) at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

See: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/

Brian Solomon will cover the train show in Tracking the Light.

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Conrail, Springfield, Mass.
Conrail C30-7 6608 at Springfield Union Station on March 31, 1984.
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TRACKING THE LIGHT NEWS FLASH: Photos of Philadelphia Schuylkill River Bridge Derailment.


Monday Afternoon; January 20, 2014.

View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill RIver Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

The news media reported that early this morning (January 20, 2014), an oil train destined for Philadelphia derailed while crossing the Schuylkill River.

The derailment occurred near I-76 and within sight of Center City.

This afternoon, my brother and I were on our way through Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to make photos from the car as we passed the derailment site.

Traffic was very slow on I-76, and I ample time to make snapshots with my Canon EOS 7D. On our way back, the clean up efforts continued, so I made a few more images.

It pays to have a camera at the ready to capture events such as this one.

View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill RIver Bridge derailment. Canon EOS  7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a crane attends to a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill RIver Bridge derailment. Canon EOS
View from I-76; a  derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
View from I-76; a derailed sand hopper at the site of the January 20, 2014 Schuylkill River Bridge derailment. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

 

Derailment_on_Schuylkill_River_Bridge_IMG_0990

Dusk on January 20, 2014, clean up crews attend to derailed cars on the Schulykill River Bridge. ISO 6400, Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Dusk on January 20, 2014, clean up crews attend to derailed cars on the Schulykill River Bridge. ISO 6400, Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

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DAILY POST: Exploring SEPTA

January 2014 Philadelphia Photo Exercise

SEPTA_Map_IMG_3911

For me, SEPTA is one of the most photogenic American big city transit systems. Sure, other cities have their charms, but Philadelphia has a lot going for it; variety, accessibility, interval services on most routes, real time displays at stations, visual cues to its heritage, interesting and varied equipment and etc.

On January 16, 2014, my brother Sean and I, spent an afternoon and evening wandering on SEPTA’s rail systems making photographs. I had a minor agenda to ride a few pieces of the network I’d not yet traveled on.

I worked with two cameras; Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D, but traveled relatively light (no film body or big telephotos)

Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA has a App that shows schedules, train times & etc. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA has a App that shows schedules, train times & etc. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Airport station
Philadelphia is one of the few North American cities with direct heavy rail airport connections. Trains run every half hour with stations at each terminal. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA.
Afternoon sun catches an outbound Silverliner V at University City. A CSX freight rolls overhead on the Highline. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

All of the lines we traveled were well patronized (some at standing room only) and yet everything seem to run to time. SEPTA’s staff were friendly and helpful. (Especially when we were running for trains).

SEPTA
SEPTA SIlverliner V interior. Built by ROTEM. Lumix LX3 photo.
End of the line at Elwyn.
End of the line at Elwyn.
Silverliner V at Elwyn. The line used to continue to West Chester.
Silverliner V at Elwyn. The line used to continue to West Chester. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA railroad station
Old Pennsylvania Railroad station at Clifton-Aldan.
End of the Sharon Hill trolley line. Lumix LX3 photo.
End of the Sharon Hill trolley line. Lumix LX3 photo.
69th Street terminal at Upper Darby. Outbound trolleys for Media and Sharon Hill. Lumix LX3 photo.
69th Street terminal at Upper Darby. Outbound Kawasaki trolleys for Media and Sharon Hill. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street. Lumix LX3 photo. Contrast adjusted in post processing to improve the overall appearance of the image.
Norristown transportation center. The old Reading Company on the lower level. A Norfolk Southern freight rolled through as we boarded the train for Center City. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown transportation center. The old Reading Company on the lower level. A Norfolk Southern freight rolled through as we boarded the train for Center City. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Daypass; a bargain that cost just $12. We got good value with ours. SEPTA's conductor sold us the passes on the train. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Daypass; a bargain that cost just $12. We got good value with ours. SEPTA’s conductor sold us the passes on the train. Lumix LX3 photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA
Market East. Lumix LX3 photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Overbrook station on the Main Line. Canon EOS 7D photo, with 40mm pancake lens.
Overbrook station on the Main Line. Canon EOS 7D photo, with 40mm pancake lens.

 

Click to see related posts: SEPTA Silverliners at Market EastSEPTA’s Number 15 StreetcarSEPTA Wanderings in Early January 2013; and SEPTA One Year Ago: June 29, 2012

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DAILY POST: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited


“It never gets old”

Amtrak 449, in sun and rain; one day and the next. Last week, I was over in East Brookfield visiting the LeBeaus to do some videography for a music video. Dennis LeBeau lives a block from the Boston & Albany (CSXT’s Boston Line).

I said to Dennis, “I’m just going to nip down to the bridge to catch 449. It should be getting close.”

“Passes here every day at one-thirty. I’ll join you in a minute.”

I phoned Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent: 1-800-USA-RAIL) to find out if 449 as on time out of Worcester. As it turns out, it departed Worcester Union Station 4 minutes late.

Worcester is at CP45, East Brookfield is CP64. It takes 449 about 25-30 minutes to run the 19 miles.

Since it was nice bright afternoon, I opted for a broadside view that shows a few of the houses in town. At 1:39, Dennis shouted to me from the road bridge, “He’s around the bend.” I was poised to made my photograph with my Lumix LX3.

This can be tricky since there’s really only a split second to get the train in the right place. If the camera isn’t cued up, all I’ll get is a photo of the baggage car. But I was ready, and put the train precisely where I wanted it.

Amtrak's westward Lake Shore Limited at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 at f4.0 1/1600th of a second. I selected a fast shutter speed to insure I stopped the train. When working broadside, the relative motion of the train to the film plane requires a fast shutter speed than when aiming at tighter three-quarter view.

The train glided through town. I turned to make a few going away views with my Canon, and said to Dennis, “You know that never gets old. I’ve been photographing that train since the 1970s.”

Dennis said to me, “I’ve been watching it since it was the New England States Limited, with New York Central E8s!”

A day later, I was in Palmer (CP83). The word was out that Amtrak 145 (one of the Genesis P42s in heritage paint) was working 449. The weather was foul, but since I was in town anyway, I figured I’d give the train a roll by.

It was stabbed at CP83 by a southward New England Central freight going into the yard, which allowed ample time for photos. Such a contrast in days. Pity the heritage P42 hadn’t worked west a day sooner.

Amtrak has painted P42 145 in its 1970s-era scheme. It sits at CP83 in the driving rain waiting for a southward New England Central freight to clear the diamond on January 14, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.
Amtrak has painted P42 145 in its 1970s-era scheme. It leads train 449 which is sitting at CP83 waiting for a southward New England Central freight to clear the diamond on January 14, 2014. Driving rain was the order of the day. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

See: Kid with a Camera 1978Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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DAILY POST; Retro Railroading at Greenfield


Pan Am Railway’s EDMO roars west on the Boston & Maine.

It’s almost like stepping back to the 1970s; three EMDs powered by turbocharged 16-645 diesels working under searchlight signals with a carload train.

Pan Am Railways
On January 12, 2014, Pan Am Railway’s EDMO (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard) works the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route at Greenfield, Massachusetts. The line on the left is the Connecticut River route running south toward Springfield. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

This is a nice contrast to the parade of  double-stack containers and unit trains that characterize most American mainlines. While the details of the motive power have been altered since they were built, the spirit of the operation reminds me of watching trains more than 35 years ago.

If you think about it, as point of comparison, if in 1979 you were to see 35 year-old motive power and a traditional freight train that probably would have been either steam engines, or EMD FTs leading 40-ft cars.

Sure, you could argue that Pan Am’s paint scheme is a relatively recent development, and the locomotives have been modified since the 1970s (the lead former Santa Fe SD45-2 had its 20-645E3 swapped with a 16-cylinder engine among other changes), but that belies the point.

EDMO. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
EDMO. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Tight view of Pan Am 616.  Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.
Tight view of Pan Am 616. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.0 100mm lens.

For similar posts, click to see: Pan Am Southern at Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 2013Pan Am Railways Ayer Massachusetts, January 17, 2013;  Boston & Maine Revisited, PART 2Boston & Maine MERU, February 10, 1985

My book Classic Locomotives published by Voyageur Press is available from Amazon.

Also see my big hard cover classic: Modern Locomotives

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DAILY POST: Lucky Afternoon

I went to the Post Office and Scored a Train.

The other day, I had a few packages to send out. I’d delayed going to the post office until after the school buses were out, using the logic that if I waited, I wouldn’t get stuck behind one on the way back.

On the way into the PO, I heard a distant whistle. And while at the desk, a train rumbled by.

New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line runs on a slightly elevated gradient behind the Monson, Massachusetts PO. This is on the climb up State Line hill, and heavy trains make a good racket coming though town. This freight, however, wasn’t very heavy and the engines weren’t working too hard.

I made an expeditious exit after mailing my packages, and started south on Route 32. No sooner than I was south of town, I found myself looking at the back of a school bus!

And this bus then stopped, as required, at the South Monson grade crossing.

I could hear the southward climbing. It had already gone through. Fortunately, once over the tracks, the bus driver kindly pulled in to let traffic around. I sailed southward, and arrived at State Line crossing. Once out of the car, I could hear the train working.

New England Central's daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.
New England Central’s daily freight at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Notice the granite marker to the left of the locomotives. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200.

Although the light was fading, there was enough to work with. While, I’d left most of my cameras at home, I had my Lumix LX3 in my coat pocket. I set up a shot immediately south of the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, and included the granite marker at the left of the image.

After the train passed, I followed it to Stafford Springs, where I made a few more photos. As it turns out, these NECR images are my first railway photos for 2014.

New England Central's GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on January 9, 2014.
NECR
New England Central’s GP38s lead a southward freight through downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the afternoon of January 9, 2014. Lumix LX3 photo.

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DAILY POST: Daylight Beauty at Hooker Creek.

On Assignment with Southern Pacific.

Mount Shasta looms more than 90 miles to north, as Southern Pacific’s most famous locomotives races railroad west through along Hooker Creek (near Cottonwood, California).

SP 4449
Southern Pacific’s Lima-built semi-streamlined 4-8-4 number 4449 works railroad west south of Cottonwood, California on the evening of September 2, 1991. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 300mm Nikkor telephoto.

I exposed this image on September 2, 1991. Southern Pacific had organized the historic streamlined engine to make a public appearances in the Sacramento River Canyon as a goodwill gesture following a serious derailment at the Cantera Loop which spilled toxins into the river above Dunsmuir. The railroad had hired me for two days to make photographs of the PR event.

Brian Jennison provided transport, and the two of us spent a long weekend making numerous images of SP 4449 with the matching Daylight train. I borrowed Brian’s 300mm Nikkor telephoto for this dramatic image. SP ran one of my photos in their company magazine, Southern Pacific Bulletin.

While SP’s public runs ran from Redding to Dunsmuir and beyond to Black Butte, after the train returned to Dunsmuir, it would run light to the wye at Tehama for turning. It was on this portion of the journey(s) that I made some of the most dramatic photos because they occurred in the evening when the lighting was most pleasing.

I’d chosen this angle to feature Mt. Shasta. Unfortunately, owing to the time of year, the famous volcanic cone wasn’t covered with snow in its higher regions.

This photo has appeared in books, and I’ve used many of the images from the trip in publications. SP 4449 remains one of my favorite locomotives.

See: Classic Locomotives my recent book by Voyageur Press for more great steam locomotive photos.

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DAILY POST: Kid with a Camera 1978

 

Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited with E8As near Palmer.

For my eleventh birthday my father gave me a 1930s-era Leica 3A and a role of film (with more to follow).

Every so often Pop would gather my brother Sean and I into the car and head over the Boston & Albany (then Conrail) to wait for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Back then, the train was still running with heritage equipment and typically hauled by fairly tired E8As.

If we were really lucky we might catch freight too.

Lake Shore Limited
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited roars along on the Boston & Albany near milepost 81, two miles east of the Palmer, Massachusetts’s diamond with Central Vermont. I exposed this image in summer 1978. In a few weeks I’d start 7th grade. Weeks would pass from the time I released the shutter until I would make prints from the 35mm black & white negative.

On this day in summer 1978, we drove to Palmer. I think we’d started up the Quaboag River Valley, but realized we might not have time to reach Warren before the westward Lake Shore came roaring down the valley. So we reversed and picked a spot near milepost 81, not far from the Route 20-67 split (east of town).

We didn’t wait long. I could hear pairs of twin 12-567s working before the headlight a appeared at the bend near the old barn. And then there it was!

“I see it!”

I made several exposures with the Leica. Unfortunately, in my panic to capture the train passing I shook the camera, so the head-on view is a bit blurred.

I processed the negatives from this adventure in the kitchen sink and made prints that I placed in a homemade photo album. The negatives were well processed and have survived in good order. I scanned them a few weeks ago. My notes from the day appear to have gone missing though.

As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.
As 449 blitzed by, I made this trailing view looking toward the Route 20 overpass. My old Leica was a chore to use: Loading the camera was tricky; exposures had to be calculated manually with a hand-held photo cell; and focusing require lining up two ghostlike images while staring through a quarter inch auxiliary viewfinder. Processing the film was another unforgiving multi-step process.

Click to see:

Kid with a Camera: Gun Hill Road, the Bronx, New York Summer 1980

Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986.

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BEFORE THE CRASH: Muni 162 Catches the Sun In 2009

San Francisco Muni Car 162 on the Embarcadero.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

On January 4, 2014, historic Muni 162 was involved in a serious collision with a truck on the streets of San Francisco.

San Francisco streetcar before it was involved in a crash.
San Francisco’s historic Muni car 162 grinds along the Embarcadero in the summer of 2009. Sadly, this car was involved in a serious collision near the location of this image on Saturday January 14, 2014. Exposed on Fujichrome slide film using a Canon EOS 3 with 24mm lens.

This 100-year old car was built by the Jewitt Car Company in 1914, and is one of several authentic San Francisco streetcars working San Francisco Muni’s popular ‘F’ Line.

The car was originally retired from daily Muni service in 1958. It was completely restored by Market Street Railway volunteers between 2004 and 2008.

I made this image of 162 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero on summer evening in 2009, not far from the scene of Saturday’s unfortunate collision.

I featured Muni’s F-line in my book, Railroads of California published by Voyageur Press.

To read learn about Muni 162 see: http://www.streetcar.org/streetcars/162/

For details of the accident see: http://www.streetcar.org/blog/2014/01/no-way-to-start-its-centennial-year.html

For general media accounts see:

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story? section=news/local/san_francisco&id=9381895

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Muni-Trolley-Smashes-Into-Big-Rig-at-Embarcadero-Intersection-Four-Injured-238736091.html

Hopefully, the car will soon be repaired and restored to operating condition.

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DAILY POST: Packing Friction Bearings.

A Bit of History on Film.

Does anyone even remember friction bearings? By the 1990s, these were all but a forgotten technology, replaced with the omnipresent roller bearings. Southern Pacific’s season sugar beet racks were once of the few exceptions and continued to work until about 1992 with the old technology.

However, prior to that in January 1988, I had a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) that involved making photos of railroad workers. I’d arranged through the Rochester & Southern to spend time around Brooks Avenue Yard.

I spent a lot of time there, relative to what was required of me for the class.

Railroad workers
Packing friction bearings on freight cars at Brooks Avenue Yard, Rochester, New York, January 1988.

At one point the general manager, or someone in the know, directed me to a rip track where workers were packing friction bearings. This was really an arcane aspect of railroading.

I exposed a series of black & white negatives in the 645 format using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T. It was a dull cold day. I think I was using Verichrome Pan (rated at 80 ISO) to get a period effect. I used a wide aperture, probably f3.5, which gave me shallow depth of field.

Verichrome was a difficult material to work with in low light and my negatives were very thin.

To make the most of these photos I used an unusual printing technique: I intentionally printed the photo darker than normal, then used a potassium-ferrocyanide solution to bleach the highlights. I did this both across the print in a tray, and using a cotton swab on select areas such as the around the journal boxes.

The result is more or less as you see it here. This print has been in a box since 1988 and has hardly ever seen the light of day. (Incidentally, in case the name doesn’t suggest it to you, potassium-ferrocyanide is decidedly unhealthy, so use it cautiously, if you must.)

I don’t think my professor was especially impressed with my results. What did he know about bearings anyway?

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NEW YEAR’S POST: Happy 2014!


CSX Searchlights at Depew.

CSX stack train with signals
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm image stabilized zoom lens, set at 250mm.

I exposed this image on the evening of August 20, 2010 of a westward CSX stack train at CP431 in Depew, New York. What makes this photo interesting to me is the former New York Central signal bridge and searchlight signals.

Since I made this photograph, CSX has replaced many of the searchlights on the Water Level Route with modern color light hardware. While I’m sorry to see the old signals go, I’m not surprised.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote an editorial in Pacific RailNews (when I was editor of that magazine) warning enthusiasts that searchlights were on their way out, and explained why. At the time, searchlights were very common.

The photo is timely. This year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware:

Semaphores, Searchlights, Positional Lights and Towers, of all varieties.

This will be a great book. I’ve been researching and photographing the subject for many years!

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Happy New Year from Tracking the Light!

Hale-Bopp Comet over the West Switch at Solitude.

Comet with train
Here’s one of my favorite signal photos! In March 1997, I was traveling with Mel Patrick. His superior knowledge of the movement of celestial bodies inspired a spirited drive across Utah’s desert highways in the early hours. We arrived at this location just as the signals lit for a train. I had just enough time to set up my Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens on my Bogen 3021 tripod. I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film. This photograph is a one of a kind.

Happy New Years to you! May it be a great year for your photography.

This comet photo is timely as this year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware

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END OF YEAR POST

Tracking the Light in 2013.

Searchlight signals
Blue sky and red signals; the old Boston & Maine-era searchlight protects the Bellows Falls diamond. In the steam era an old ball signal protected this crossing, then with Rutland Railroad.

Here, a potpourri of images illuminated the net; covering everything from unit oil trains to obscure eastern European transit. So, looking back, 2013 has been a productive and busy time for Tracking the Light.

My original intention with Tracking the Light was to disseminate detailed information about railway photographic technique. Over time this concept has evolved and I’ve used this as a venue for many of my tens of thousands of images.

Among the themes of the images I post; signaling, EMD 20-cylinder diesels, Irish Railways, photos made in tricky (difficult) lighting, elusive trains, weedy tracks and steam locomotives are my favorites.

Since March, I’ve posted new material daily. I’ve tried to vary the posts while largely sticking to the essential theme of railway images. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and will tell your friends about this site! There’s more to come in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Brian Solomon

General Motors Electro-Motive Division SD45 diesels
Southern Pacific 7547 leads a manifest freight timetable east at Brock, California, on SP’s East Valley line on April 28, 1991. This 35mm Kodachome image was scanned with an Epson V600. Minor adjustments were necessary using Photoshop to lighten exposure, correct contrast and color balance. The photo is seen full-frame.
Wisconsin Central
Wisconsin Central as viewed from across a cornfield at Byron, Wisconsin on December 3, 1994. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm wide angle lens on Kodachrome 25 color slide film. Scanned with a Epson V600 scanner. No post processing except as necessary to scale image for internet use and insert byline tag.
Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.
New England Central freights
New England Central freights 604 and 606 at Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX photo.
2-10-0 locomotive
Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 24mm lens with R2 red filter on Fuji Neopan 400, processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.
Bluebell Railway.
My known good spot: here a Bluebell train works the bank north of Horsted Keynes. Lumix LX3 photo.

See: Burlington Northern at Sunset, Whitefish, Montana July 5, 1994Tram in Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2008Donner Pass Part 1Bluebell Railway Revisited, July 2013-Part 2Boston & Albany Milepost 67, Brookfield, Massachusetts; Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005 . . .and more!

 

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Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Croydon Tram
This tram was difficult to miss in its iridescent special livery.
Tube station.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are among London’s largest tourist attractions. This poster describes Victorian interest in art and places photography in period context. Lumix LX3 photo.
New General Electric DASH8-40B on New York Susquehanna & Western
In 1989, New York, Susquehanna & Western served as the court appointed operator of Delaware & Hudson. By virtue of the 1976 Conrail merger, D&H had been granted trackage rights on the former Erie Railroad route from Binghamton to Buffalo, New York. On this March morning, a new NYS&W General Electric led an eastward double stack train on the old Erie near West Middlebury, New York, 384 miles from Jersey City.Exposed on 120 Kodachrome transparency film with a Hasselblad 500C with 80mm Zeiss Planar lens

 

Locomotive drive wheel
A study in motion: drive wheel, cylinder, valves and valve gear of locomotive 92212 at Kingscote. Canon EAS 7D photo.
PRR Suburban Station.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad Suburban Station as seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
rail freight

I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens, set at ISO 400 f 4.5 at 1/1000th. In post-processing I made minor adjustments to contrast and saturation to match how I perceived the light at the moment of exposure.

 

Irish Rail Gray 077 Leads Ballast Train
A landscape view of Irish Rail’s HOBS at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin on August 2, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Oil train catches the glint.
Away we go into the sunset hot in pursuit of an oil train. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at f6.3 1/1000 second at ISO 200.
CSX_oil_train_K040
First of four eastward unit oil trains; CSX K040 with a mix of CSX, KCS, and BNSF locomotives.

 

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DAILY POST: SEPTA Silverliners at Market East

Three Years Ago Today: December 30, 2010

I was visiting Philadelphia for the holiday season. I’d just got my Lumix back from Panasonic following a warranty-repair and I was happy to make some photos with it.

A wander around Center City on December 30, 2010 with my family made for ample opportunities to exercise the shutter. Sometimes the ordinary scenes make for interesting photos, and over time these tend to age well; witness below.

Panasonic’s Lumix LX series cameras are idea for making urban images. Compact size, ease of use, plus a very sharp lens and the ability to shoot RAW files, gives benefits of both snapshot and professional quality cameras. I’ve enlarged my LUMIX LX3 images to 16x20 inches with excellent results and routinely included LX3 photos in books and articles.
Panasonic’s Lumix LX series cameras are idea for making urban images. Compact size, ease of use, plus a very sharp lens and the ability to shoot RAW files, gives benefits of both snapshot and professional quality cameras. I’ve enlarged my LUMIX LX3 images to 16×20 inches with excellent results and routinely included LX3 photos in books and articles.

This view was exposed on the platforms of SEPTA’s Market East station (the 1980s replacement for Philadelphia & Reading’s Victorian train-temple, Reading Terminal—today a convention center, sans tracks).

Here I found a pair of 1960s vintage Silverliners working the R3 service. These elegant classics were nearing the end of their working careers. After nearly five decades, the last of these machines were withdrawn in June 2012.

 

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DAILY POST: Looking Back at Looking Ahead

 Predicting Change to Plan Photographic Strategy.

In late 1992, I recognized that Southern Pacific and its lightly used Modoc line were not long for the world. I knew then that I'd better act and get out there to make photographs before the Modoc went the way of Milwaukee Road's fabled Pacific Extension. I'm sorry to report, that I was correct. The tracks here at Crest, pictured in January 1993 were abandoned by Union Pacific after it took over SP.
In late 1992, I recognized that Southern Pacific and its lightly used Modoc line were not long for the world. I knew then that I’d better act and get out there to make photographs before the Modoc went the way of Milwaukee Road’s fabled Pacific Extension. I’m sorry to report, that I was correct. The tracks here at Crest, pictured in January 1993 were abandoned by Union Pacific after it took over SP.

When I was a kid, change puzzled me. I’d look back over my father’s photographs and collection of timetables and books and wonder what had happened to the trains and railroads he’d seen and experienced.

But as a young child, I’d assumed that all change was in the past. Certainly things had been different. New York Central had become Penn-Central, and Penn-Central had become Conrail. But I naively assumed that everything else would remain constant!

Then I began to notice change myself: My favorite GG1 electrics were replaced by modern AEM7s and E60s. Those old Penn-Central black diesels were become ever more scarce. Boston’s PCC cars had become fewer and fewer.

By the late-1980s, I’d witnessed enough changes to recognize that documenting the railroad required careful attention to detail, and it was important to anticipate change before it begins.

Too often, railroad photographers wait until change is already underway before they act to make photographs. Sadly, sometimes they wait too long and miss the best opportunities to photograph.

With this in mind, in the 1990s, annually I drafted lists from which to work. It’s one thing to ponder photographing time-worthy subjects; its better to have a clear and prioritized strategy!

In 1993, I was remarkably organized: I’ve included a portion of that year’s ‘photo projects’ list. If you read through this carefully, you’ll see there’s considerable foresight in my approach. I was doing my best to predict the future and act upon that knowledge.

Below are pages from that list:

I drafted this list in late December 1992. I was doing my best to predict change and plan my strategy to photograph railways before they were affected by change. Within a few years of this list, most of my predictions proved true, even if my efforts at putting dates on them  missed by a year or two. Those errors favored my photography and the early start gave me a time advantage. There's more than one lesson here.
I originally drafted this list in late December 1992 (up-dated to Jan 3, 1993). I was doing my best to predict change and plan my strategy to photograph railways before they were affected by change. Within a few years of this list, most of my predictions proved true, even if my efforts at putting dates on them missed by a year or two. Those errors favored my photography and they gave me a time advantage. There’s more than one lesson here.
Page 1 of my 1993 list. This is a scan of my actual list. It has survived along with my notes from 1993. Luckily I that the time and motivational energies (if not the adequate financial resources), to act on most of the subjects listed.
Page 2 of my 1993 list. These are a scans of my actual list. The pages survived the years along with my notes from 1993. Luckily, I had the time and motivational energies (if not the adequate financial resources), to act on most of the subjects listed.

I’m really glad I made these lists! We can look back today, 21 years after I wrote this list, and see that many of the subjects I hoped to document have indeed vanished or changed. The pen-marked ‘ticks’ indicated that I’d made an attempt at the item.

How did I draft this list? Did I have a crystal ball? How did I know in 1993 that SP was soon to vanish? Why did I give SP’s Modoc line high priority? What caused me to anticipate changes to Canadian Pacific east of Sherbrooke? Pay special attention to my notes and comments for the clues. In some cased my anticipated dates were premature, but my vision was pretty accurate (I’m sorry to report.)

What is on your list for 2014?

Change is on-going. Think! What can you photograph now that will soon change unrecognizably? Remember, it is the common everyday subjects that are too often ignored until it’s too late to make photographs. Don’t wait until the last minute. Keep an ear to the ground and an eye on the rail. Anticipate, plan and then act.

Any suggestions? I’m all eyes and ears.

Canadian National electrics at Val Royal, Montreal on Jan 11, 1993. Time was running out for these ancient machines. Tom Carver and I made special trip to photograph them despite exceptionally frosty conditions. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film using a Nikon F3T.
Canadian National electrics at Val Royal, Montreal on Jan 11, 1993. Time was running out for these ancient machines. Tom Carver and I made special trip to photograph them despite exceptionally frosty conditions. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film using a Nikon F3T.
Almost a month to the day after I photographed the electrics in Montreal, I was knee deep in snow on the far side of the continent to catch the first run of SP's rotary plows on Donner Pass in eight years. They worked for three days in February 1993. I'd anticipated their operation in my 1993 list, drafted two months earlier. Exposed with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome 100 slide film.
A month  after I photographed the electrics in Montreal, I was knee-deep in snow on the far side of the continent to catch the first run of SP’s rotary plows on Donner Pass in eight years. They worked for three days in February 1993. I’d anticipated their operation in my 1993 list, drafted two months earlier. Exposed with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome 100 slide film.

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DAILY POST: Winners and Losers.

Contrasting Views of Indiana Railway Lines, June 2004.

In a world of railway mergers and consolidation, we can divide railway routes into groups; survivors and losers. Some lines have prevailed while others have been abandoned and ripped up.

Of course, we can further divide surviving lines. There are lines that continue to function as busy corridors, while others may only exist in fragmented form, or as downgraded local routes. Often fragments have been sown together and so now old railway line serve routes that may be very different than as originally intended.

Putting these concepts on film presents a puzzle and a challenge.

Rails at sunset
I made this view looking west on Norfolk Southern’s former Wabash mainline at Marshfield, Indiana. This highly polished steel highway continues to serve as a vital interstate corridor.
Abandoned track
High summer sun scorched the ruins of the old New York Central Egyptian Line at the Indiana-Illinois Stateline. This is one of many Midwestern railways abandoned as a result of railroad merger and line consolidation and shifting traffic patterns.

In June 2004, I was exploring western Indiana with Pete Ruesch and with his help I exposed these two photographs. The ‘winner’ is a sunset view of Norfolk Southern’s former Wabash mainline at Marshfield, which serves as a heavily-traveled long-distance freight corridor. The ‘loser’ was a recently abandoned vestige of New York Central’s Egyptian Line at the Indiana-Illinois state line.

Both were exposed with Nikon cameras on Fuji color slide film.

My recent book North American Railroad Family Trees (Voyageur Press) discusses past and possible future changes to the North American railway network.

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DAILY POST: Sculpting with Light and Shadow.

Southern Pacific Truckee River Canyon Silhouette.

During the first half of 1994 I spent a lot of time photographing Southern Pacific on Donner Pass. I was especially interested in making images of hard to reach or rarely photographed locations.

June 21st is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and provides unique lighting opportunities. On this long day, I’d hoped to make some unusual images in the deeper reaches of the Truckee River Canyon.

At the time I had good access to train information, and I knew SP had a westward DVOAF (Denver-Oakland Forwarder) heading up ‘The Hill’ (as SP’s Donner Pass crossing is known, ironically).

Rather than catch this at one of many easy to reach locations off Interstate 80, I decided to hike west of Floriston, California toward old Iceland—where SP’s grade separated mainline came back together. My intention was to photograph the Harriman-era truss bridge with the train in evening sunlight.

Southern Pacific Donner Pass
Southern Pacific’s DVOAF Denver-Oakland Forwarder) works west in the Truckee River Canyon near Iceland at 6:00pm on June 21, 1994. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Nikon F3T with f4 200mm lens. Image was scanned full-frame (with edges showing) using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. One of the benefits of Kodachrome was the ability to expose images like one this with deep inky black shadows. In comparison, other media tend to suffer from bland shadow definition.

As was often the case with SP, my desired westward freight ‘fell down’ (it was delayed) and didn’t reach my location in time. I stayed in place despite this set back. I was rewarded with a dramatic sequence of images, culminating with this silhouette.

The front of the locomotive has plunged into deep shadow, yet a shaft of sunlight has illuminated the engineer. It stands out among my hundreds of Donner Pass images, and is one of my favorite. I just can’t believe its been nearly 20 years since I exposed it!

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