In July 2016, John Gruber and I photographed Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg job on its run from Madison to Reedsburg.
Although, I made many digital photographs that day, I also exposed a few photos on Ilford Pan F using a vintage Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
Notice how the tonality and texture of the image draws your eye in a variety of directions. The effects of tire tracks in the gravel and the pole shadows are enhanced through use of a monochromatic image making medium.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily and sometimes twice.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.
This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.
Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.
On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.
To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.
A week ago, I traveled with John Gruber and Scott Lothes for a day’s photography on the Wisconsin & Southern,
A couple of days previously, John and I had made some photographs exploring the line to Reedsburg (see previous posts). So armed with that experience plus good information on operations, we set out with Scott for another run.
Among the three of us we have a bit of photographic experience and a lot of railway knowledge, so we were in good position to make the most of the day. I always like learning from fellow photographers as everyone has their own way of seeing.
I have to admit that the old Chicago & North Western line between Madison and Reedsburg isn’t my strongest field of interest. When I lived in Wisconsin this line (then still operated by C&NW) was largely nocturnal. However in more recent times, John and I have made daylight photos.
Until a few months ago the route still featured some vintage wig-wag grade crossing signals, and these had been the focus of my earlier efforts on the line. Since these are gone, we were able to take a more diverse approach.
The Reedsburg line is now but a branch on the sprawling Wisconsin & Southern freight gathering network, but historically the line was a key Chicago & North Western mainline between Chicago, Madison and the Twin Cities. For me this legacy makes the line more interesting.
We picked up the train at Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Yard, and over the next few hours intercepted it more than a dozen times.
Sunny weather plus a single clean SD40-2 running short-hood first put us in a good position to make satisfactory images. On the previous run John and I needed to make do with the engine running long-hood first, which is a more challenging subject to photograph.
Here are a few digital photos from our second chase. Any favorites?
I exposed these three photos last week on Wisconsin & Southern at Baraboo, Wisconsin using my old Leica 3A loaded with Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50).
In its heyday, Baraboo was a division point on Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Madison-Twin Cities main line.
Its glory days are now more than a century past; decline began in the early twentieth century, when this route was augmented by C&NW’s low-grade Adams Line (via Milwaukee), which became a preferred route for through freight and fast passenger expresses.
It was severed as a through line in the 1980s.
As mentioned in an earlier post, on this July 2016 day John Gruber and I were following Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison to Reedsburg freight.
Some photographers might object to the railroad’s choice of motive power: an SD40-2 operating long-hood first. I recall the wisdom of my late-friend Bob Buck who reminded me once many years ago, ‘The railroad isn’t operated for your benefit.’
(In other-words; if a long-hood forward SD40-2 is on offer, that’s what there is and so make the best of it.)
Compare these images:
In one, I’ve adjusted the contrast to compensate for a cloud that momentarily softened the noonday sunlight. In the second, I’ve worked with depth of field and focused on trackside weeds instead of the locomotive. In the last, I’ve included fellow photographer John Gruber to add in a human element.
At one time the wig wag signal was the standard grade crossing protection. Now the type is all but extinct.
I learned a few weeks ago that Wisconsin & Southern had finally removed the last of these classic American signals on its former Chicago & North Western line to Reedsburg, which had survived at Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Over the years, I’d photographed wig wags at various locations in Wisconsin.
I made these photographs at Baraboo with John Gruber in February 2008.
Brian is Traveling, so Tracking the light is on Autopilot!
Finding static locomotives in nice light offers an opportunity to make studies of the equipment. Wisconsin & Southern operated a fleet of clean, well-maintained second-hand General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) diesels. These were representative of the classic models built at La Grange, Illinois, during the mid-20th century and dressed in a handsome red and silver livery. For me they were prime examples of GM’s finest American diesels, yet at the time I was photographing them, these locomotives were past their prime and harked back to an earlier era. General Motors locomotives, even their more utilitarian models, were characterized by well-balanced aesthetic designs, while their classic postwar streamlined locomotives are icons of American railroading. These images are a small selection focused on the locomotives.