Editor’s Notebook

I first came across the work of A. Aubrey Bodine about ten years ago, but it is only in the last year that I discovered his railroad photography. Trains: Photography of A. Aubrey Bodine was published by Schiffer Books in 2018. This is one of several books authored by Bodine’s daughter, Jennifer Bodine, and features 120 black and white railroad photographs taken by A. Aubrey Bodine, mostly in the 1950s.

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Northbound Union Pacific – Wolf Lake, Illinois – April 4, 2016

Orthodoxy states that a train picture should be taken during the bright light of mid-morning or mid-afternoon, the photographer shooting with the sun behind and the subject brilliantly lit. The photo should be taken at a shutter speed sufficient to stop a moving train dead in its tracks, literally, and the subject should be in sharp focus. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ve taken my share of such images.

However, I believe in throwing the orthodox out the window as well. Sunrise is a great time to throw the traditional train picture on its ear. The rising sun combined with partial cloud cover can make for a beautiful image, particularly in a rural region.

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I Liked It!

I have been involved with railroads, one way or another, my entire life. My very earliest memories at three years old are of being on board the Southern Pacific/Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific’s Golden State with my Mom. As a pre-teen, I would regularly ride my bike to the depot in Goleta, California, to take in what the Southern Pacific’s Coast Line had to offer an observer. Once a teen, and into my college years, I decided mere observation wasn’t quite enough, and I started hopping freight trains. It was at about this time that I picked up a camera and began recording these adventures.

In 1976 I snagged a job with the American Freedom Train and traveled the country for a year as the AFT’s Assistant Curator. Now my interest in railroads made a transition—I was getting paid!

I liked it.

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Around the World in 16 Days

The Trans-Siberian Express

This trip, strangely enough, did not start with something I got in the mail. I was at a meeting of a group to which I belong, and met someone who also was quite well traveled. We started chatting about things we had done and places we had been, and happened to mention the Trans-Siberian Express. This is a fascinating train trip that starts in Moscow and ends in Vladivostok on the east coast of Asia.

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Two Trains, 
Two Photographers

West Leesport, Pennsylvania

In December 1990, the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad (RBMN) bought 150 miles of tracks in east-central Pennsylvania from Conrail in the process of expanding from a 13-mile shortline (the Blue Mountain & Reading, on the remaining portion of the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley branch) to a 300-mile regional. The “Anthracite Cluster” included mostly ex-Reading Company routes—both main lines and branches—as well as bits and pieces of ex-Lehigh Valley and ex-Central of New Jersey trackage.

To celebrate the expansion, and the railroad’s heritage, the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern operated a weekend of freight and passenger trains in early June of 1991, using Reading Technical & Historical Society diesels and their own ex-Reading T-1 #2102—herself built in 1945 in the Reading Company’s shops in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania. For a few unseasonably hot days, the tracks between Reading and Cressona once again felt the weight of a giant 4-8-4 pulling coal cars, almost like the old days. (Unlike the old days, the engine wore Blue Mountain & Reading lettering on her tender, and all of the coal cars had Conrail markings, but I don’t think too many of the assembled fans minded much.)

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Editor’s Notebook

Norfolk Southern trestle near Rileyville, Virginia – Photo by Edd Fuller

Last month, we looked at some of the reasons you might want to consider printing your work. (See here.) Living with your prints, and seeing them every day will sharpen your judgement and improve your work. A printed photograph is likely to be a more permanent means to preserve your memories. (For an interesting take on this, see “The Lesson from Costco’s Photo Lab”) And printing can be a valuable way to curate a meaningful body of work.

If you decide to print, you will find that the process is not easy, and it is not cheap. There are two options: buy a printer and print at home, or send your work out to a photo lab.

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