Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Frosty Evening at Byron, Wisconsin—January 2019.

Tracking the Light is on ‘Auto Pilot’ all week.

Two months ago I was traveling with Chris Guss and Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt.

It was below zero fahrenheit when I made this sunset view of a southward Canadian National freight on on the old Wisconsin Central at Byron, Wisconsin.

I exposed this view with my FujiFilm XT1. The cold weather was taking its toll on my hands and the camera performance. In the end I was luck to get results.

As I write this I’m in a warmer climate.

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In the Shadow of the Hiawatha: CP Rail’s Former Milwaukee Road at Wyocena.


Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I were making the most of sunny frosty weather in central Wisconsin.

We arrived at Columbus to refuel.

Upon exiting the gas station, we spotted a westward CP Rail train making its way over the old Milwaukee Road mainline. Soon we were in rapid pursuit.

I navigated using my iPhone and we found our way to an open crossing near Wyocena.

“Hey, I know this place” I remarked upon arrival at Salisbury Road. “I caught Milwaukee Road 261 here back in 2004.”

As we waited for our westward freight, I imagined what it would have been like to see Milwaukee’s famous streamlined Hiawatha  race through at 100 plus mph.

Wow. That would have been exhilarating. An Otto Kuhler styled 4-6-4 in yellow, orange, gray and maroon. 

Before my time . . .

So we happily settled for a BNSF former Santa Fe SD75M leading two CP Rail units on a long drag freight.

Photo exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm pancake lens; ISO 400, Velvia Color Profile.

We were rewarded by a following westward freight a few minutes later, and then an eastbound! 

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Milwaukee Road Depot at Brookfield, Wisconsin in the Snow.


On January 19, 2019, TRAINS Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I visited the old Milwaukee Road Depot at Brookfield, Wisconsin to photograph a westward CP Rail freight.

It was cloudy and snowing lightly.

Working with my Nikon F3 and 50mm lens, I exposed these views on Ilford FP4 black & white film.

I processed the film using multi-stage development in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water, then toned the negatives for 7 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlights.

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Eclectic Array of Modern Diesels at Theresa, Wisconsin.


Class 1 North American railroading can still offer variety.

Take for example this photo I exposed of a northward Canadian National freight at Theresa, Wisconsin on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

In the lead is CN2500, a mid-1990s General Electric DASH9-44CW built with a four-piece windshield.  This is followed by more 1990s-era motive power: a CN EMD-built SD75I, a BNSF EMD-built SD75M in classic Santa Fe style warbonnet paint; then finally two more examples of state-of-the-art General Electric diesels; a BNSF ET44C4 (An emissions compliant ‘Tier 4’ with A1A trucks) and Norfolk Southern ET44AC 3616, a six-motor ‘Tier 4’ model.

This broad side view makes the most of the motive power array. I exposed this image as part of a sequence using my FujiFilm XT-1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens. Scaled JPG for internet presentation using Lightroom.



This was just one of many photos I exposed on an adventure with Chris Guss and TRAINS Magazine’s Brian Schmidt.

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Union Pacific Adams Line on January 20, 2019.


It was bitterly cold and clear when Chris Guss, Brian Schmidt and I set out to photograph the former Chicago & North Western Adams Line—the late-built ‘Adams Cut-off’ that shortened the distance between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.

We drove back roads from Waukesha to Clyman Junction, the location of a surviving steam-era coaling tower. Then we explored various potential photo locations.

Clyman Junction.

Looking east near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Train movements on the Adams Line can be infrequent, but patience paid off, and by mid-morning we caught an eastward train in nice light.

The clean SD70M was an added bonus. I made both color slides and digital photos.

The slides remain latent, so here are some of the digital images.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom.


Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog by Brian Solomon

Wisconsin Sunset—drop under light.


I made this view traveling with Brian Schmidt last weekend on our way from Columbus, Wisconsin to near Middleton.

We weren’t near the tracks, so this ‘Tracking the Light’ is focused only on the light.

And yes, it was cold.

‘Drop under light’ is when the sun illuminates the clouds from below.

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Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.


Years ago I’d work vistas along Lost Arrow Road south of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to picture and record Wisconsin Central’s thunderous SD45s.

Last weekend, TRAINS Magazine Brian Schmidt and I revisited this location to photograph a southward Canadian National freight on its ascent to Byron, Wisconsin.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

Bright sun was contrast from snowy weather earlier in the day. As the freight made its slow progress up Byron Hill we followed with an aim to make more photos, just like in olden times (but with no SD45s this day).

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Canadian National Kicks Up Snow at Ackerville.


Sometimes a cloudy day gives you more options.

If the sun had been out, Hillside Road in Ackerville, Wisconsin may not have been the preferred mid-morning location to catch this northward Canadian National double-stack train.

Brian Schmidt and I caught three trains here on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

I made this view using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

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And Which Railroad is This? UP on CP: Freight at Duplainville—Part 2.


Duplainville, Wisconsin is a busy place for rail freight.

Here are two to four views (up loading difficulties makes the final number uncertain) of an eastward empty unit coal train on the old Milwaukee Road, now CP Rail, with Union Pacific GE diesels fore and aft working as distributed power. In the trailing photos you can see the diamond crossing with Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line from Fond du Lac to Chicago.

Light snow made for added drama.

A Union Pacific GE Tier 4 leads an eastward empty unit coal train from Portage, Wisconsin.

I exposed these with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

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Freight at Duplainville—Part 1.


You’ll need to pay close attention to figure out the players in this scenario.

Duplainville, Wisconsin is where the former Milwaukee Road mainline to the Twin Cities from its namesake crosses the historic Soo Line/Wisconsin Central route between Chicago and Fond du Lac.

Soo Line bought the Milwaukee in the 1980s, and in the 1990s the Soo Line branding was displaced by parent Canadian Pacific, which is now CP Rail.

In the late 1980s, Wisconsin Central Limited took over the old Soo Line route and operated this until bought up by Canadian National in 2001.

This led to confusing situation in the mid 1990s where the old Soo Line was the WCL, and the ‘New Soo Line’ was the former Milwaukee Road.

Now the principal Canadian carriers cross at grade in Wisconsin, many many miles from the Canadian frontier.

Further complicating clarity is that many freights operate with run-through locomotives.

In this case CSX 13 (a GE-built) AC4400CW leads a northward CN freight across the old Milwaukee Road. In consist are BNSF, CN and BC Rail locomotives.

Try printing all of that on a color slide mount!

On January 19, 2019, in a light snow CSX 13 leads a northward CN freight across the diamonds with CP Rail’s former Milwaukee Road at Duplainville, Wisconsin.


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Empire Builder, Bloody Nose and a Snow Squall.


Friday afternoon January 18, 2019, Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I visited Duplainville, Wisconsin to catch Amtrak’s westward Empire builder, train number 7, as it split the signals in a snow squall.

Amtrak P42 50 leads train number 7 west at Duplainville, Wisconsin.

I was delighted to see that the Milwaukee Road-vintage searchlight signals that I remember from my days in Wisconsin (now more than two decades ago) are still active.

The third locomotive in the Builder’s consist was the elusive Amtrak 156, ‘the bloody nose’—so named for its wearing of the 1970s-era Amtrak paint scheme.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto. White balance set to ‘daylight’.

Local photographers had gathered for Amtrak’s daily passing.


Amtrak 156 is one of several ‘heritage’ locomotives wearing paint schemes from years gone by..

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What to do about the Wires?

Sometimes wires can make a photo.

Other times these are a nuisance.

Here, a modern highway overpass near Marsh siding on Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line offers a pleasant vista.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

Unfortunately, high voltage wires running parallel to the road complicate composition.

So do you pick someplace else, shoot through the wires, or try to pick an angle that minimizes the visual intrusion of the wires passing through the scene?

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Parallel Lines: Wisconsin & Southern Left and Right at Ackerville.

Parallel lines. On the left is Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line from Fond du Lac to Chicago; on right is Wisconsin & Southern’s former Milwaukee Road line running from Horicon to Milwaukee.

On this day, Chris Guss and I were aiming to catch Wisconsin & Southern’s T-4 freight on its way to Janesville. This train joins CN’s route at Slinger, just a little ways north from our location in the curve at Ackerville.

My goal was to show the parallel routes, while featuring the freight accelerating through the curve, to demonstrate the power of the locomotives.

Complicating my composition were the rows of trees. When I place the train in the distance, the tops of the locomotives are below the tree-line, and the thus less dramatic. When I let the locomotives get closer, they obscure the freight cars and most of the interesting effects of the parallel curves.

90mm view at Ackerville.

Tight 90mm view. How do you like the fluffy cloud above the engines?

If I move lower, the angle would be more dramatic, but the second set of tracks would be nearly lost altogether. Longer focal length lens? Similar quandary, this minimizes the second set of tracks and features the trees more prominently.

Such are the challenges of perfecting railroad photo composition. Often there’s no one ideal solution.

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Canadian National: Clear aspect on a Clear Morning.

Reading the signals is part of the challenge and joy of my railroad photography.

Three weeks back, Chris Guss and I were following a southward Canadian National freight on the Wisconsin Central line.

North of Slinger, we made photos from a wooden plank bridge near the north approach signal for Slinger, Wisconsin.

This displayed ‘green over red’, in other words a clear aspect.

Clear signal at the north approach for Slinger.

I made these views with my Fujifilm XT1. After exposing the view of the signal, I changed lenses, and used a 27mm pancake lens for the action photo of the passing train.

Canadian National 2813 leads freight M342-41-30 south near Slinger, Wisconsin.

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Wisconsin’s Byron Hill: Then and Now.

Two views almost 24 years apart.

Both feature southward trains on the former Soo Line, Wisconsin Central route ascending Byron Hill on their way south from Fond du Lac, exposed in the morning from the overhead bridge near the top of the grade.

In the interval between the images, the line was improved to two-main track and Wisconsin Central Limited became part of the Canadian National system.

The locomotives are very different too.

For this December 1994 image, I exposed a Kodachrome 25 slide using a Nikon F3t with Nikkor f4 200mm lens.

In August 2018, I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom, that approximates the perspective of the earlier photo.

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Vestige of the Chicago & North Western.

In July (2017), John Gruber and I visited the old Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin. I was surprised to find that the railroad’s old mailbox remained.

It has been more than 22 years since the old C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific. In 1995 at the end of C&NW’s independent operations I’d made photos of this same mailbox, which for me served as a symbol of the railroad.

Now it’s a faded vestige of another era. More than just the paint has changed.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens.

Lumix LX7 photo at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin.

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Eastward at Merrimac on the old North Western—lighting challenge; one file and four results.

Here’s a lighting challenge: A freight train crossing a big bridge against an overcast sky.

Expose for the train and the sky gets washed out (loss of detail). Expose for the sky and the train is too dark.

So what do you do?

I expose for the sky and then adjust the file in post processing.

Why? Because it is easy enough to lighten slightly underexposed areas, but once highlight detail is lost through over exposure it cannot be recovered.

To balance the exposure in post processing, I lightened the shadow areas globally. This took all of about 30 seconds to accomplish in Lightroom. I also made minor adjustments to overall color balance and saturation. Afterwards, I played with the file to make some outlandish versions for point of comparison.

Of the four, the second from the top is the only image I’d normally present. The bottom of the four is intended to be a little absurd.

This is an unadjusted JPG scaled from the camera RAW file. In other words, I did not interpret the data, assign color profile, or otherwise alter the appearance of the image.

Wisconsin Southern’s Reedsburg-Madison freight at the Lake Wisconsin Bridge at Merrimac. This is my adjusted file; using Lightroom, I’ve made nominal adjustments to lighten shadows and improve color balance and saturation in order to make for a more realistic and appealing photograph.

For the giggles I made more dramatic alterations to the camera RAW file in this example. Without consideration for realism, I’ve darkened the sky using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, pumped up the color saturation and wildly altered the color balance using various controls in Lightroom. This sort of extreme effect is often applied to photos appearing on the net. I’m not a huge fan of candy-cane coloring, but it certainly seems popular and it is easy enough to accomplish.

Here I’ve pushed the limits a little further. All in the name of distorting the image. Incidently, while the original RAW file remains unchanged, the effect of these extreme changes to the JPG output has the effect of compressing the image and results in loss of data that may make the JPG difficult to print the image in a book or magazine. Also the way this appears on your screen may be very different from how I see the image on mine.

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Mainline now Branchline—Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

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.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with an 18-135mm zoom lens. File manipulated in post processing to balance exposure and improve color balance. Compare the contrast and color balance between this image and the others. Notice subtle differences and see how the alter the appearance of the locomotives in their environment.

This view features a cooler color-balance (tends more toward the blue).

Adjustments to contrast of the middle tones using the ‘clarity slider’ in Lightroom resulted in greater separation between the red and silver on the locomotive stripes.

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.

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Wisconsin Central and Wig Wags at Fond du Lac.

The old wig wag style grade crossing signal is now virtually extinct. However, in the 1990s, a fair number of these signals could still be found in Wisconsin.

This is an excerpt from my book Railroad Signaling (first published by MBI 2003):

One of the first standard types of automated visual grade crossing warning was the automatic flagman, a signal commonly known as a ‘wig wag’. [This was] adopted as a standard crossing device by the American Railway Association in 1923. A standard wig wag is actuated by a track circuit and consists of a paddle with a red lamp that gracefully swings back and forth in a horizontal pattern when a train approaches [and] usually accompanied by a bell . . . [at one time] the wig wag was the preferred type of grade crossing protection in the Midwest and far west. [They were] largely supplanted by modern flashing signals and crossing gates.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens.

I was traveling with Marshall Beecher on the morning of August 3, 1996, when I exposed this view of Wisconsin Central’s southward freight ANPR-A approaching a grade crossing on the former Chicago & North Western line in Fond du Lac. This line saw less traffic than WC’s near by former Soo Line mainline over Byron Hill, but the attraction was these antique signals. Notice my use of selective depth of field.

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East Troy Electric Railroad.

A low angle can make for a more dramatic image.

Maybe this is why that at an early age some of us were so impressed by trains to begin with?

I made this view at East Troy, Wisconsin on September 3, 1994 using my Nikon F3T with an AF f2.8 28mm Nikkor lens. Kodachrome 25 was my preferred emulsion at that time.

This view is full-fram and un-cropped. I made a few color correction and contrast adjustments in Lightroom to improve presentation here.

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Kenosha, Wisconsin on film—July 2016. Click on Tracking the Light for details.

PCC car at Kenosha, Wisconsin. Detailed view exposed on Ilford FP4 using a Leica 3A with 35mm Nikkor lens.
PCC car at Kenosha, Wisconsin in July 2016. Detailed view exposed on Ilford FP4 using a Leica 3A with 35mm Nikkor lens. Kenosha, Wisconsin operates a short streetcar circuit between the Metra station and Lake Michigan. This car was originally from Toronto, Ontario.

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The Big Chase: Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg—Second Try.

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.

Knutson Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.
Knutson Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.

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?

A view of scrap cars from an over-pass west of Lodi, Wisconsin. After all, a freight train is about the freight, right?
A view of scrap cars from an over-pass west of Lodi, Wisconsin. After all, a freight train is about the freight, right?

Pastoral Wisconsin scene near Okee.
Pastoral Wisconsin scene near Okee.

Crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimac. John brought the car across on the ferry, while Scott and I waited on the south side of the river for the train.
Crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimac. John brought the car across on the ferry, while Scott and I waited on the south side of the river for the train.

Devils Lake, Wisconsin. There's a variety of angles on this place, most of them better in the afternoon or evening. We were there at lunch-time and had to make the best of it. I've adjusted the contrast in Lightroom.
Devils Lake, Wisconsin. There’s a variety of angles on this place, most of them better in the afternoon or evening. We were there at lunch-time and had to make the best of it. I’ve adjusted the contrast using Lightroom. I’ve tried to maintain the sense of lighting while balancing it to produce a more pleasing overall image. It is of course possible to overdo contrast control, which may result in an unnatural appearing image.

Baraboo station. Compare this photograph with my black & white views posted a few days ago.
Baraboo station. Compare this photograph with my black & white views posted a few days ago.

Our freight works at Rock Springs where it dropped grain cars for loading.
Our freight works at Rock Springs where it dropped grain cars for loading.

Scott picked this spot. On the previous trip I'd tried a long telephoto view of the same bridge. I like this wide angle broadside better.
Scott picked this spot. On the previous trip I’d tried a long telephoto view of the same bridge. I like this wide angle broadside better.

We were a bit tardy arriving at the crossing. This is a quick grade crossing grab shot. Not much time to set up. As with a few of the other images, I've adjusted the contrast using Lightroom.
We were a bit tardy arriving at the crossing. This is a quick grade crossing grab shot. Not much time to set up. As with a few of the other images, I’ve adjusted the contrast using Lightroom.

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Long Hood at the Old Station; Baraboo, Wisconsin in Black & White—July 2016.

 

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 this view the harsh overhead light characteristic of 'high sun' was briefly soften by a passing fair weather cloud. Some photographers might cringe at the thought of a cloud, but here if offered opportunity for a variation on the scene. I adjusted the contrast of the image in post processing.
Photo 1. In this view the harsh overhead light characteristic of ‘high sun’ was briefly soften by a passing fair weather cloud. Some photographers might cringe at the thought of a cloud, but here if offered opportunity for a variation on the scene. I adjusted the contrast of the image in post processing.

Bright sun again; so with this photograph I used my rangefinder to focus on the trackside weeds instead of Wisconsin & Southern 4008.
Photo 2. Bright sun again; so with this photograph I used my rangefinder to focus on the trackside weeds instead of Wisconsin & Southern 4008.

John Gruber looks on while Wisconsin & Southern 4008 switches at Baraboo. Exposed on Ilford Pan F using a Leica 3A rangefinder camera fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
Photo 3. John Gruber looks on while Wisconsin & Southern 4008 switches at Baraboo. Exposed on Ilford Pan F using a Leica 3A rangefinder camera fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.

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.

Which do you like the best?

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Wisconsin & Southern; as the Motorist sees it.

During the last week (July 2016), John Gruber and I were rewarded by our efforts at photographing Wisconsin & Southern freights on the move. John’s been documenting this route for decades.

On this day we’d picked up the Reedsburg Job near Merrimac and followed it west.

First of two images.
First of two images.

At this location near Baraboo, I asked John to stop the car near the top of a hill, rather than drive closer to the tracks.

So, is this how motorists perceive the Wisconsin & Southern?

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens fully extended to its most telephoto setting (135mm). The camera’s built-in level is very helpful in situations such as this where set up time is at premium.
Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens fully extended to its most telephoto setting (135mm). The camera’s built-in level is very helpful in situations such as this where set up time is at premium.

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Sunset on the Chicago & North Western

I made these views with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera of the former Chicago & North Western Chicago-Madison-Twin Cities mainline at Evansville, Wisconsin.

CNW_line_at_Evansville_DSCF9736

Looking west toward Madison, Wisconsin. Agricultural dust and other pollutants contribute to a rosy sunset. I've exposed manually for the sky. With Kodachrome film I could have retained better detail in the sky.
Looking west toward Madison, Wisconsin. Agricultural dust and other pollutants contribute to a rosy sunset. I’ve exposed manually for the sky. With Kodachrome film I could have retained better detail in the sky. f22 1/250th second.

John Gruber was giving me a tour of the line. He explained that in its heyday this route had been a double track mainline with a top speed of 75 mph.

Today it is a truncated vestige of that earlier era. The tracks are now operated by Union Pacific to serve local freight customers. No fast Pacifics with varnish in tow any more.

To ensure new material daily, Tracking the Light is coasting on autopilot while Brian is traveling.

 

 

Abandoned Illinois Central Tunnel-Belleville, Wisconsin.

It was 20 years ago that my brother and I explored the setting of the abandoned former Illinois Central tunnel at Belleville, Wisconsin.

WSOR former IC tunnel at Bellville Wis April 1996 abandoned Brian Solomon 661877
I made this image on Fujichrome Provia100 using my Nikon F3T mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod near the north portal. Outside it was a dull afternoon, which helped provide more even lighting inside the old bore. 

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Wisconsin & Southern Wig Wag Retrospective

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.

Using a Canon EOS3 with 20mm lens, I used a relatively slow shutter speed to help convey the classic motion of the wig wag signal. Fuji chrome slide film.
Using a Canon EOS3 with 20mm lens, I used a relatively slow shutter speed to help convey the classic motion of the wig wag signal. Fujichrome slide film.

Fujichrome slide film.
Fujichrome slide film.

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Warbonnet in Wisconsin; or an FP45 on the Move—Kodachrome Classic.

In the dim early hours of September 9, 1995, I spotted Wisconsin Central’s recently acquired former Santa Fe FP45 leading a southward train through Duplainville, Wisconsin.

Normally I walked to work. I lived just a few blocks from the Pentrex Publishing offices on Grand Avenue. That morning, twenty years ago today, I’d been prowling around in my Mazda looking for angle to photograph the Wisconsin Central.

WC’s FP45 6652 was a one of a kind, and a prize to be scored! When I saw that engine roll across the diamonds at Duplainville,  knew I’d be a little late to my desk.

WC freights tended to roll along, and chasing was difficult.

However, this southward freight had to make a meet at Vernon, south of Waukesha. The resulting delay was both long enough for me to make a swift drive on country roads to Burlington, Wisconsin, and for the sun to rise high enough to expose Kodachrome.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm. Bright clear September sun was on my side, and my exposure was f4.5 1/250.

I set up in the park on the east side of the tracks. The Canadian Geese in the pond were an unanticipated bonus.

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Chicago & North Western at Adams, Wisconsin

Classic Kodachrome, September 23, 1995.

My intent of this image was to show a simple juxtaposition between C&NW GP9 4153 and the steam-era coaling tower in the distance.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm Nikkon telephoto lens.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with f4.0 200mm Nikkon telephoto lens.

By this late date, steam was four decades gone, and C&NW was already part of the Union Pacific system, having been absorbed just a few months earlier. Yet, despite UP being the operating company; in Adams, Wisconsin things still appeared to be business as usual on old C&NW.

To put the GP9 and coaling tower in relative perspective, I used my Nikon F3T fitted with a 200mm lens, and found a suitable angle at a distance from both subjects. My aim was to minimize extraneous elements and focus on the railroad interest.

Since the locomotive was static, I used the opportunity to make photos from a variety of other angles. Some of these photos appeared in my book on EMD F-units published by Specialty Press about 2005.

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Tomorrow a GP9 among massive trees . . . 

 

Wisconsin Central Limited, Byron, Wisconsin.

Sunset, June 2004.

Canadian National had acquired WCL a few years earlier, and while many through freights were operating with CN locomotives a few trains out of Fond du Lac were still assigned WCL SD45s.

I’d made a project out of recording the sounds of these 20 cylinder dinosaurs, while using choice moments to make photos.

This freight had struggled up from Valley siding, where its lead unit had warranted attention from the mechanical department before ascending the five-mile grade to Byron.

The freight was paused short of the grade crossing at Byron, and I exposed this view in the last throes of daylight using my Nikon F3 with Fujichrome slide film mounted on a Bogen tripod.

 I’ve exposed this view as a silhouette. Using my Minolta Mark IV handheld light meter in reflective mode, I sampled the mid section of the sky to calculate my camera settings then made a bracket of several exposures. While its easier to gauge exposure with a digital camera because you can see a result on-site, many digital cameras are limited when capturing a high contrast scene such as this one without making multiple exposures.

I’ve exposed this view as a silhouette. Using my Minolta Mark IV handheld light meter in reflective mode, I sampled the mid section of the sky to calculate my camera settings then made a bracket of several exposures. While it’s easier to gauge exposure with a digital camera because you can see a result on-site, many digital cameras are limited when capturing a high contrast scene such as this one without making multiple exposures.

As regular viewers of Tracking the Light might recognize, I’ve made a variety of photos at Byron, Wisconsin over the years. Key to this composition is my positioning of the codeline, which conveniently switches from one side of the tracks to the other just shy of the grade crossing.

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DAILY POST: Wisconsin & Southern at Avalon.

August 20, 2011.

 Avalon is at the heart of Arthurian myth. And, as it happens, it’s also on Wisconsin & Southern’s former Milwaukee Road Line between Janesville and Chicago!

No knights in armor here, nor Merlin, nor Lady of the Lake; just a matched set of SD40-2s in clean paint leading a long freight and tall late season grasses blowing gently in the wind.

A few hours earlier I’d met up John Gruber at the Janesville Roundhouse and we spent a pleasant afternoon photographing this freight. We had a fair wait at Avalon before the train came into view.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. ISO 200.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. ISO 200.

This photo is among my favorite from the day. I used a long lens to compress the locomotives while setting the grass in the foreground out of focus. I also made a closer view on Fujichrome film.

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Steam Sunrise—DAILY POST

Osceola, Wisconsin, August 1996.

The advantages of being up early include being treated to cosmic light. On this August 1996 morning, I was photographing Northern Pacific 4-6-0 number 328 as it was being prepared for a day’s excursions with the Minnesota Transportation Museum.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated manually.
Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. Exposure calculated manually.

The engine’s rods, bathed in boiler steam reflected the muted glow of the rising sun. A magenta hue had graced the Wisconsin sky. The effect lasted only a few minutes, and before long the sun was shinning brightly.

I worked quickly, making many detailed views of the locomotive equipment and its crew. At the time I was researching for my book The American Steam Locomotive (published by MBI), while working as editor for Pacific RailNews

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Tomorrow: Railcar Sunset!

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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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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!

 

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

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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