Archive for January, 2021

Film Processing Another Victim of the Pandemic

January 31, 2021

One year ago, life resembled all of the characteristics of a “normal” society.

One could still sit, or stand, along a railroad track with camera in hand to photograph a passing train.

For those of us who still insist upon using the legacy technology of a film-based camera system, all was good.

Travel to a location, scope out the scenery, wait for a train, expose film, return home, then visit the local camera store to process film. Wait one to three weeks to receive processed film, inspect film, and then file film.

That was how it was in January 2020. The film I used that month was processed and received in February with the usual immaculate results.

The world suddenly changed in March 2020 with school closings, business closings, toilet paper shortages, and anti-social distancing.

But through it all, the railroads were still running freight trains. The days of spring were upon us, and what better way to maintain sanity than by being along a railroad track with camera in hand.

Photography provided for limited travel and relaxation. However, between March and June, film processing became non-existent.

With the local camera store being in lockdown mode, I was forced to accumulate four exposed rolls of FujiChrome 120 ASA100 film.

The local camera store finally reopened and the four rolls were dropped off for E-6 processing on June 16.  

For several years, the local camera store has outsourced all slide film requiring E-6 processing to a major photo lab in Parsons, Kansas

The four processed uncut film strips along with four photo CDs were retrieved on July 2.

I returned home to inspect the results. My heart almost stopped beating.

The four strips were severely over-exposed. Was it caused from the fact that the film processed was 10 years past its expiration date?

Was there a malfunction in my 26-year old Bronica GS-1 medium format camera? “Nay,” I say.

Upon further inspection of the film strips, I concluded that the black frame masking between images did not have sufficient density.

The film had exhibited evidence of being under developed. The photo CDs were also burned with all images being reversed.

The film was from the same lot that I had previously shot in January, which had been flawless. 

Never before had I encountered such a problem with commercially processed film.

So, it was back to the local camera store to inquire about what might have happened.

After a few phone calls, it was confirmed, that with COVID-19 lockdowns in place, the Kansas lab was scrambling to find and maintain those people with the knowledge to process 120 roll film. I felt vindicated.

All of my film since them has been processed to pre-pandemic quality.

Unfortunately, I was left with what I considered four rolls of garbage.

Would I be able to recover any detail upon scanning the images?

Thanks to digital technology, I could. The image above shows the raw scan with no enhancements.

The next image is the same image with increases in the yellow and red channels, and reductions in midtone brightness and overall contrast. The results are quite acceptable.

The image made during the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts trip to Bellevue, Ohio June 13, 2020.

The joys of still shooting film.

Article and Photographs by David Kachinko

Steam Saturday: Remembering William Benson

January 30, 2021

Here is a photograph that makes me thankful for having taken around a half century ago.

In memory of Bill Benson, here is ex-Reading T-1 No. 2102 in Akron heading to Hudson to be turned on the wye there and return to Akron.

It is the break-in trip in the summer of 1968. The late Mike Ondecker and I were on a grassy hill just south of Akron Union Depot when this was taken.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Steam Saturday: Night Photo Shoot on the WMSR

January 30, 2021

Two night photo sessions were featured during a Carl Franz photo special on the Western Maryland Scenic Railway in October 1999.

For the first of those, Western Maryland No. 734 was posed at the Cumberland station.

The following night after the photo special had finished its day’s run, the 734 and it train steamed up the line to Brush tunnel for several night setups.

In one image the train is posed at the east portal. Then the 734 remained at the same position but the photo line was moved to inside the tunnel.

The final setup was the steamer exiting the west portal.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Amtrak Says Congress Can Mandate Daily Service

January 30, 2021

Amtrak has signaled that if Congress wants long-distance trains to operate daily rather than tri-weekly it can make that happen by mandating it and providing funding.

Since last October all of Amtrak’s long-distance routes have operated on tri-weekly or quad-weekly schedules.

At the time those reduced schedules were implemented Amtrak cited steep ridership declines that followed in the wake of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has since said that daily operation of those trains will be restored once they meet certain public health, ridership and future demand criteria.

However, in a statement Amtrak said Congress could override those standards.

“If Congress provides the direction and the needed funding, we would restore long-distance services to daily,” Amtrak said.

Earlier in the week, Amtrak had asked Congress for $1.5 million in emergency pandemic aid, saying that money is needed to recall workers furloughed last year and avoid future furloughs during the balance of the federal fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30.

Amtrak’s subsequent statement was an elaboration of how the passenger carrier would use the money it has requested.

Aside from reducing the frequency of operation of long-distance trains, Amtrak has suspended operations of some state-funded corridor trains as the states funding those trains have reduced how much they are spending on Amtrak service.

In its statement, Amtrak said employees who worked aboard those suspended trains would still be recalled if Amtrak gets the money it requested.

These recalls will be made even if individual states opt not to increase their funding of Amtrak corridor services and thus the trains they once worked aboard remain suspended.

Those recalled workers “could go wherever their seniority allows them; it might not be on an extra board, but they would be recalled and employed,” Amtrak said in the statement.

NS Helped 86 Businesses Last Year to Develop New or Expanded Industrial Facilities

January 30, 2021

Norfolk Southern helped shippers locate a new or expanded facility in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania last year, the railroad said in an annual industrial development report.

NS said altogether it provided help to 86 businesses in 18 states which invested $1.8 billion to open 70 new plants and expand 16 rail-served facilities.

In a news release, NS said these projects were expected to create more than 2,960 customer jobs and generate over 54,300 carloads of new volume annually for NS.

Among the project were a a paper-packaging products plant in Palmyra, Pennsylvania; a roofing shingle manufacturing facility in Avery, Ohio; and a grain-related expansion in Portage, Indiana.

NS provided assistance to automotive-related projects in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In the news release NS said it has supported the location of 872 new or expanded facilities representing $58 billion in private investment.

SEPTA to Resume Rail Service on Chestnut Hill Line

January 30, 2021

Rail operations on the Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail line will resume on a limited basis on March 7, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said.

Service on the line was suspended last March during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when SEPTA scaled back rail operations overall.

Under the new schedule, rail service on the Chestnut Hill line will consist of “several trains” operating between 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Details about when those trains will run have yet to be released.

Aside from the pandemic, which has depressed public transit use, SEPTA also cited Amtrak construction that would have made operating the Chestnut Hill service unreliable.

Transborder Freight Dropped 3.7% in November

January 30, 2021

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics said this week that the value of transborder freight moved by rail among the United States, Canada and Mexico decreased 3.7 percent to $13.9 billion worth of goods last November.

The comparison was with October 2020. On a year-over-year comparison, freight moved by rail in November 2020 was 0.8 percent less than in November 2012.

The value of freight moved by all modes of transportation among the three nations in November totaled $95.9 billion, down 6.1 percent compared with October and 3.2 percent compared with November 2019.

Rail was the second-most used mode in November as measured by value, making up 14.5 percent of all transborder freight.

In November, $7.2 billion worth of freight was moved by rail between the United States and Canada, down 5 percent compared with October but up 0.9 percent compared with the same month in 2019.

Between the U.S. and Mexico $6.7 billion worth of freight moved by rail, which was down 2.3 percent compared with October and down 2.5 percent compared with November 2019.

Finding a ‘Friend’ in a Box of Slides

January 29, 2021

Sometimes you find a “friend.” in a box of slides. I went to a Canadian National box of slides and found this slide of CN 6777 taken by an unknown photographer on July 4, 1971. No. 677 is a westbound Rapido train west of Belleville, Ontario. Why is this an old friend? No. 677 has been on the nearby Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad since the 1990s.

Photograph Provided by Robert Farkas

Transit Agencies Seeking $39.3B in Aid

January 29, 2021

Public transit agencies in the United States face a projected $39.3 billion shortfall through 2023 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic a study has concluded.

The study by EBP US was done on behalf of the American Public Transportation Association.

It said the shortfall is occurring due to the loss of ridership, fare revenue, and income from state and local taxes.

To some degree the effects of the pandemic have been mitigated by two allotments by Congress of emergency pandemic relief funding last year.

APTA now wants Congress and President Joseph Biden to provide $39.3 billion more in pandemic aid.

Without that aid APTA said many transit agencies will be forced to cut service and lay off or furlough workers.

APTA officials noted that four in 10 transit agencies are looking at service cuts to close budget gaps.

The trade group said public transit is needed to enable some essential workers to get to their jobs.

“The pandemic represents an existential threat to public transit jobs, businesses and service,” said APTA President Paul Skoutelas.

“Our request for $39.3 billion is necessary to avoid catastrophic decisions that will hurt our riders, our communities and the nation.”

South Shore Projects Timeline Shown

January 29, 2021

Construction contracts for the double-tracking project of the South Shore commuter rail line in Indiana are expected to be awarded this spring with work starting in mid-to-late summer.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District, which oversees the South Shore, recently awarded a $17 million construction management contract to WSP USA to oversee the project.

The $491 million project involves building a second mainline track between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana.

Also included in the project is construction of four new bridges and three high-level station platforms.

NICTD head Michael Noland said that construction should get underway this fall for the West Lake Corridor project, which will create a 7.8-mile extension of the South Shore from Hammond to Dyer, Indiana.

The NICTD Board recently approved a $1 million contract with A&K Railroad Materials for the acquisition of rail.

The West Lake Corridor project is projected to cost $944.9 million with service starting in late summer or early fall 2023.