Snow, Palm Trees, and the Local

Snow, palm trees and a train are not three things you would expect to see in the same picture – but they’re here in Snow, Palm Trees and the Local.

I don’t know how many places that it is possible to capture such an image.

There are certain days that it is possible in La Verne, California – it just takes the convergence of Mother Nature and BNSF to make it happen, as the palm trees are there every day.

The snow is on the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains north of La Verne and San Dimas in the background.

The palm trees are in a yard and on the grounds of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The train is the BNSF Pasadena Subdivision Local – it covers the Pasadena Subdivision as far west as Irwindale these days.  (From Azusa into Los Angeles Union Station, it’s now the Gold Line light rail passenger line.)

The Local is shoving a tank car of chlorine north on the MWD spur that leads to the F. E. Weymouth Treatment Plant.  This movement happens roughly once a week.

If you consider that there isn’t snow on the mountains on a regular basis and that the train can typically be seen here just once a week, you come to realize that this is a rare shot indeed.

All that said, I really wish that this consist was reversed and the 151, still sporting her red and silver warbonnet paint, was in the lead instead of against the train.

Realizing that there were only 63 GP60M locomotives built, I also think that I should quit my whining and be happy that I got the shot…

Snow, palm trees, and the BNSF Pasadena Subdivision Local in La Verne, CA.

Snow, palm trees, and the BNSF Pasadena Subdivision Local in La Verne, CA.

 

Snow, Palm Trees and the Local can be found in the BNSF ex- Santa Fe Pasadena Subdivision gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

C&O 614, Akron to Pittsburgh

On June 28, 1981, the Chessie Safety Express pulled by C&O 614 made a round trip from Akron, OH to Pittsburgh, PA via the Baltimore and Ohio main line.

I didn’t realize how harsh the lighting was for many of these images until I started to work on them. The gray sky for most of the day wasn’t helping things either.

I’m going to guess that when you’re fairly young, still learning photography by trial and error, and excited to be photographing a steam engine running at track speed, you tend to overlook things like sun angles and shadows.  Just a guess…

So, this became a black and white gallery for the most part. The black and whites mimic the profile for Kodak Panatomic X film.  And, there’s nothing wrong with images of a steam engine in black and white.  Some would argue that it’s only right and proper.

As I put the gallery together, it hit me that this isn’t just a train gallery, it’s also a history gallery, as much has changed and much is gone in 35 years.

JO Tower in Akron is gone. The tracks to the left of the train at JO are the former Erie / Erie Lackawanna mainline to Chicago. I believe they’re gone now.

At Edinburg, you can see the four-track signal bridge of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie spanning the two remaining tracks. Centralized Traffic Control made the other two redundant. The downfall of the domestic steel industry later made the P&LE itself redundant.

At Eidenau, you’ll see that the block signal is sitting in the middle of the former eastbound mainline. CTC had just been installed on the Pittsburgh and Western Subdivision.

1981_06_28_0045 pf copy 320 wm

The station at Bakerstown wasn’t long for the world at that point in time. Bakerstown Hill was a pain to the B&O – heavy trains in either direction (particularly westbound freight trains out of Glenwood Yard) required helpers. The P&W is now split between the Allegheny Valley Railroad and the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad.

C&O 614 hasn’t turned a wheel in a while.

A look back?  Memories?  Times past?  History…

You can visit the C&O 614 Akron to Pittsburgh gallery on Laughing Frog Images by clicking here.

There are a couple more C&O 614 galleries to come in time for you to order for the holidays, and they include perhaps my favorite images of her.

Getting any gift ideas yet?

PH&D in Black & White

I finally got around to uploading over 70 black and white images of the PH&D in black and white, and a couple of the GTW and Amtrak in Port Huron, to the galleries.

These images represent most of what is found in the Frog’s second book – “The Port Huron & Detroit Railroad in Black and White 1984“.

PH&D

I struggle with admitting that I found my black and white work to be more stirring and evocative than my color work.  I still can’t explain that to myself.  Perhaps it’s the nostalgia that black and white photography brings with it.  A connotation of times past?  I don’t really know, but it stirred me as I was scanning the negatives and working on the book.  And it still does.

I spent a great deal of time working on fixing 15+ years of less than ideal negative storage.  It wasn’t until sometime around 2000 that these negatives found a home in archival plastic pages that then made their way to binders for flat storage.  They’re still not perfect.  As I mention in the gallery commentary, if you want to order a certain image, and notice that there’s something I missed, please let me know and I’ll fix it and report the image.  I just reached a point where it became apparent to me that some people really want to see these images, and they can’t do that if they’re stuck on my computer.

As I write this, I’m looking at the image above and there’s a part of me saying “get rid of that pole and the wires above the engine!”  I don’t know why that thought came to me now.  And there’s a part of me saying “but that’s not how it was – so just leave it alone!”  And that’s the part of me that’s winning.   All of that said, if there’s anyone that does want the pole removed to make this “THE” PH&D in black and white image for you – let me know and I will take it out (and add a disclaimer to the caption for the sake of being honest!).

All of that said, as I look at the picture more, it occurs to me that there is so much in this image that speaks.

The trackage itself tells a story – these are the roundhouse leads.  The wood-sided buildings.  Old naked ties where there once was a track.  The PH&D main fading off into the distance.  The Detroit Edison power plant in Marysville off in the distance (it’s gone now).  And then, there’s the main subject.  ALCo S-2 # 60 and her caboose.  There’s the last light of the day softly and evenly highlighting the details on the 60.  The pole hanging by the cab speaks of an earlier time, but the “No Foot-Board” reminders and rotary beacon on the cab pull us into the 1980’s.

I didn’t get all of what this picture said 31 years ago.  I’m not sure I get all of what it says now.  If I keep going, I might test the saying that a picture does in fact say a thousand words.  But that might bore you.

So, I’ll stop now and invite you to check out the Port Huron and Detroit in black and white as seen in 1984 on Laughing Frog Images.

Half of all profits on products from the PH&D galleries go to the Port Huron and Detroit Railroad Historical Society to support all that they do. 

For each PH&D book sold through Laughing Frog Images or our CreateSpace Store, $5.oo is donated to the PH&DRRHS.

Cloud first, train second

So, there I am in Portola, CA last August.

It’s getting late in the day, and I’m standing on the South Gulling Street Bridge.

The passerby are friendly, and not at all curious about someone on the bridge with a camera.  After all, this IS Portola, CA on the former Western Pacific (now Union Pacific) Railroad, and I’m there during 2014’s Railroad Days.  It’s not the first time they’ve seen this…

I’ve got sunshine, great light and this absolutely killer cumulonimbus cloud with an anvil in the distance against a great blue sky.

There’s a westbound grain train at the east switch (see the white dot about 1/4 in from the right and about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom) waiting to enter the yard.

WP_20140808_18_46_22_Raw__highres 1-1 for LFI copy 420 wm

I’m waiting.  The train is waiting for clearance.  I’m waiting.  The train is waiting.  We’re both waiting.  And waiting.

And as we’re both waiting, the cloud starts to dissipate.  I wait.  The train waits.  The cloud dissipates.

The cycle continues…

The cloud is now essentially formless.

And the train begins to move west….

C’est la vie…

You can find this image, and those of the train entering the Portola Yard in the Union Pacific – former Western Pacific gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

The 2015 Portola Railroad Days event is from August 21-23, 2015.

While in Portola, don’t miss the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

Don’t forget to check out the Western Pacific Railroad Museum Gallery on Laughing Frog Images!

Camera and details: Nokia Lumia Icon 929, ISO 100, f2.4, 1/2000 sec, converted to jpg from a dng original.

 

Fine Art Posters added

Continuing the Frog’s quest to provide unique images for your perusal and purchase, we’ve just completed the first two fine art posters for Laughing Frog Images.

I’m drawing from the influences of other fine art posters that I’ve seen over the years – a monochromatic background, simple sans-serif title and description, and provocative black and white images.

Santa Fe 3751 Deconstructed 360w

UP 4014 DS Pomona 360w

The first two fine art posters are photographic deconstructions of two popular steam locomotives – Santa Fe 3751 and Union Pacific 4014.

The 3751 was deconstructed at the 2014 San Bernardino (CA) Railroad Days.  (There’s a full gallery dedicated to the photographic deconstruction of the 3751 on Laughing Frog Images – just click here to be taken there.)

The partially disassembled 4014 was further deconstructed at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds prior to her departure for Cheyenne, WY and eventual return to service.  The “DS” in the title means “Departed Station” in railroad-speak – she hasn’t departed Pomona yet, but she did depart her display home of 51 years to the staging point where these images were made, so I’m not stretching things too much…

For both fine art posters, the original images were shot in color with a vivid bias to mimic slide film and converted to black and white using onOne Perfect Photo Suite software.  I’m not going to lie to you – I don’t remember the settings used for the 3751 images (guess I should keep better notes).  The images of the 4014 were converted to a profile that emulates Panatomic X, an ASA 32 black and white film formerly manufactured by Kodak.  This film was also known as “Pan-X”, and was a fantastic black and white film known for a great tonal range and minimal grain structure.

There will be more fine art posters to follow as the scanning progresses.  Off the top of my head, the subject matter is probably going to be steam engines and “vintage” trains as long as I stay with black and white images.  However, the fine art possibilities are probably endless as I scratch my head and ponder the image galleries and those to be scanned.

You can find the posters in the Posters – Trains Gallery on Laughing Frog Images, and make one or both of them your own in any one of several ways.

As always, “likes” and “shares” are most appreciated!

 

PH&D in Color Published!

The Frog is finally pleased and able to announce that The Port Huron & Detroit Railroad and Connections in Color 1982-1984 is officially in print and available via Laughing Frog Images and the Laughing Frog Images CreateSpace estore!

This book has been in the making for over 30 years – at least in my mind!  Way back on the last day of the PH&D in December of 1984, the notion that I would be able to scan my PH&D slides at 5000dpi, use software to help compensate for shooting in bad lighting and for my primitive abilities with Kodachrome 64, and self-publish a book was beyond imagination.

PH&D in Color cover proof image 480

This project started out with the intention of being a fine-art book, with a hard cover and printed on high-gloss paper.  As the project grew, so did the price.  While my intentions were noble, it became apparent that I might not purchase my own book because it was so expensive!  So, the project went on hiatus while I searched for a new publishing option.

The passing of the PH&D didn’t get much notice.  Keep in mind that this was back in the days without the internet, without message boards, without email, and cell phones.  So, in a way, this story has never been told.  Telling the story in a way that is accessible to anyone is important to me. And the research continued.

I finally found a publisher that offered a way to tell the story in color and at a price that most everyone could afford. Granted, I had to give up the hard cover and high-gloss paper – it’s a soft cover book on trade paper (and the photo reproduction challenges that go with it), but the story could finally be told.  Naturally, the project that I’d started was in a format that was not compatible with CreateSpace, so I had to start all over again.

And here we are on April 18.

After more digital proofs than I care to think about, and several physical proofs, it’s finally “real”.  I have learned a new appreciation for editors and proof readers, as every time I reviewed a proof, I found something else.  I have now either found everything, or looked at the book so much that I’m blind to any remaining errors.  Somehow, I know when I receive my print copy, something is going to jump out at me…

For the people of the PH&D that I got to know from 1982 to 1984, those still with us, and those who have passed, I am pleased to share with you The Port Huron & Detroit Railroad and Connections in Color from 1982 to 1984.

New Videos posted to LFI YouTube

As I was moving and archiving files this morning, I came across a series of short videos I shot on my iPhone while waiting for a train.  I was actually at the station a little early that day!  I had actually forgotten that I took these.  I was always a little leery about “cell phone video”, but I’ve since learned (evolved?).

It’s kind of funny to say that you took these videos on your phone – at least to those of us of a certain age who remember the first mobile phones were the size of a shoe box!

And to others, it’s as normal as a sunrise.

And, who would have thought you could share things with the world in a matter of mouse clicks and minutes?

These are all short video clips of normal things if you travel by train on the Northeast Corridor.  For those who don’t, this is a glimpse into the life of some commuters’ daily routine between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD.

The Amtrak locomotives you see – the AEM-7’s – are nearing the end of their service lives, and within a year or two, catching them on video won’t be possible.  That’s what led me to post these.  They’re not the greatest quality videos – I get that.  But now, they’re memories.  And soon, they’ll be history.

These were all hand-held.  Yes, I know, I’m not using a tripod – but you can’t easily carry a tripod on a multi-city business trip.

You can check the videos out on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel.

 

 

The B&A Turkey Train

 

Holiday traditions aren’t all what they used to be, especially in the corporate world.

Parties during the holidays are now all “Holiday Parties”, regardless of their timing and which holiday they’re really celebrating. That is, if your company still has a party.

Acknowledging the employees with “something” isn’t what it used to be.

Change is what this image speaks to.

It’s December 11, 1994. I’m at the north end of Brownville, Maine along the main line of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad waiting for a train. My Canon T-70 and Sigma 28-70mm lens are around my neck. There’s K64 in the camera. And, it’s a tad cold… But I’m not waiting for just any train… I’m waiting for the Turkey Train!

It was kind of what it sounds like – a train carrying turkeys.  Not live ones mind you, but fresh turkeys.  For the employees.  As part of the railroad’s tradition that was as much a part of the holidays for B&A (that’s how the road was known to many – and not to be confused with the Boston and Albany Railroad either!) employees as was cutting down a Christmas tree.  A train.  Carrying turkeys.  The Turkey Train.

So, I’ve got a borrowed Digital 8 camcorder set up on a tripod.  My camera is around my neck.  I’m getting cold.  And, it seems like the only thing moving is the clouds.  They’re moving slowly – but they’re moving.  I really wanted to sit in the car and wait – but I had never shot a train here, so I didn’t know how far out I’d hear it – or if I’d even hear it, before it got to me.  So, I waited.  In the cold.  And got colder.  And waited (you get the point).

Finally… the blat of an air horn  punctures the silence as the train approaches the bridge.  The Turkey Train is here!  Press “start” on the camcorder, pop the lens cap off and shoot.

BAR Turkey Train, BV, 12-11-94 crop wm itdbd9_004 360w

A GP-38 passes by with a boxcar full of turkeys and the road’s business cars.  Wheels click on the rail joints, and get quieter as the train continues south.  It’s all over in a minute or so.  The quiet returns.  It’s broken again when at the train whistles for crossings south of Brownville.

The moment is over.

As far as I know, this was the last Turkey Train.  The decline of paper and allied industries had been affecting the B&A for years.  Potato traffic had almost entirely been taken over by trucks (some attribute this to the poor connecting service provided by the Penn Central Railroad in the late 1960s and early 1970s).  Maine’s economy was in transition – and it wasn’t kind to the railroads.  The B&A was purchased in early 1995 and became part of the Canadian American Railroad (CDAC).  The CDAC was not long lived – it later became the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad under new ownership who tried to make a go of things as the traffic continued to wane.  The MMA had a tragic incident in Megantic, PQ in 2013, and it too is gone.

But I have this image. And the memories of that day.

I’ve got some video of the Turkey Train to post on the Frog’s YouTube channel of this train as soon as I master some degree of proficiency with video editing.  It’s not the greatest, but then again – what most people could afford in the way of video equipment in 1994 was vastly different from the quality that you can get these days in your smartphone.

There will be a B&A gallery up on Laughing Frog Images as scanning progresses.

Thanks for taking a trip back to 1994 and better days for the B&A and its’ employees.

UP on the ex- Western Pacific

The former Western Pacific Railroad traverses through the Feather River Canyon between Portola and Oroville, CA.  This is breathtaking and relatively unknown scenery.

The WP was taken over by the Union Pacific over thirty years ago, so I never got to see the line as WP.  As close as I can get it to the real thing is the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola (check out that gallery here), which is well worth visiting if you’re in the area.

The WP that I have come to know is under the Armour Yellow of the Union Pacific, and it’s still a remarkable line to photograph.

I had started to put some of my images from the former WP into the UP, and came to the realization that they might well get lost in there.  They need to stand on their own!  So, there’s something new on Laughing Frog Images – the UP on the ex- Western Pacific Gallery.

I tend to get less than ideal weather in the Feather River Canyon, and the photos reflect that.  However, life isn’t always blue skies and sunshine – and I’ve never been one to put the camera away if I’ve made the journey and the time to photograph something.  Sometimes, I’ve felt that the sun takes the same time off that I do, but digital photography has made that much easier to deal with than it was in the days of ISO 64 Kodachrome!

The BNSF has trackage rights over the WP, and that will be a separate gallery as well.  I contemplated that idea for a while, and for similar reasons, decided to make that its’ own gallery.

At some point in time, there are two more galleries coming that are related to the WP.  These will be of the eastbound and westbound trips of the 2014 Feather River Express as viewed from the train.  (Yeah, I know, I promised those a while ago, but they’re still works in progress!).

Enjoy!

BNSF Pasadena Sub Gallery Added

The BNSF Pasadena Sub Gallery has been added to Laughing Frog Images.

The current Pasadena Sub is actually owned by Metrolink – the Los Angeles regional commuter rail system.  The western half of the Pasadena Sub is now part of the Metro Gold Line, a light rail commuter line.  Freight service from San Bernardino to the MillerCoors brewery in Irwindale is provided by BNSF.

Back in The Day, the Pasadena Sub was a prime passenger route for the Santa Fe – all of the name trains that stopped at Pasadena passed over the subdivision.

The Pasadena Sub local freight was handled by two to four GP-30/GP-35 units before they were largely retired. I though it was cool to be photographing some of this action with my 1.2 megapixel digital camera way back when that was the cat’s meow.  And now… I want to smack myself upside the head, because the usable print size of those images is about 4″x6″ on a good day…  I included a few images from the early days of digital to look at, if nothing else.  I do have some slides to find and scan, but for the most part, my quality stuff of the Pasadena Sub doesn’t include the Blondes (Santa Fe’s blue and yellow version of the Warbonnet applied to locomotives in the latter part of the 20th century).

Of late, the power has been ex-Santa Fe GP-60Ms that were children of the reborn Super Fleet and delivered in the classic Warbonnet paint scheme in the early 1990’s.  They were built for speed to handle priority intermodal traffic from Chicago to Los Angeles and Richmond.  And now, most of them are serving out their time on local and regional freights on the former Santa Fe lines.

Pasadena Sub

I decided to break out the Pasadena Sub and give it its’ own gallery owing to the many shots of the GP-60M’s in their Warbonnet paint.  If you get a Santa Fe leader, and work the angles right, it could be 1995, and not 2015…

Despite the fact that I live in close proximity to the Pasadena Sub, I don’t get to photograph it much, as it’s a weekday-only operation for the most part, and I have this thing called work…

Enjoy what I’m able to share with you of the BNSF Pasadena Sub!