Sunday, August 13, 2017

Railfanning: Macungie, Pennsylvania

When I travel for any reason I always do a little research to see if there are any good railfanning spots in the area.   You never know if you're near a hotspot of how much rail traffic might be in the area.

So I'm planning on our annual trip to Allentown for the DCI East Coast finals.   Having driven around Allentown for Drum Corps, I did notice lots of tracks in the area, but had no clue what traffic went where, or where some good spots are.   Plus, not everyone on the trip is a railroad fan.   (OK, none of them are).   But I didn't want them to stop me.

The park

Searching the internet I found a place in Macungie, PA - a park dedicated for railfanning!  I found an article that details the planting of the  Flower Park adjacent to the tracks,  but only this fellow railfan's article on the construction of the station-like pavilion that sits next to the flower park and the tracks.

The only remnant of the original train station is a crumbling curb which was the station platform back in the day...   However, the flower park is quite nice, and worth walking through while waiting for trains.  Even during my August visit the park was in full bloom - the park is certainly well cared for.

Railfan Park
Entrance to the flower park off of the main street.   
Tracks are behind the white fence, and the pavilion is off photo to the right.

Macungie Station
Macungie station/pavilion.   
Flower park on the left.  Tracks on the right.  Grade crossing near the van in o the left.

As a railfan, it was nice to see a place for us.   Railfanning is often pulling your car to the side of the road or some other out of the way place near tracks where you can see trains and not trespass on railroad or private property.   Here the pavilion is adjacent to parking, provides shelter from the sun and rain, and has plenty of seating!    When I was there Saturday I also ran into some locals there to train spot as well - everyone was very friendly!

But to the trains...

An Eastbound autorack train at the crossing

The action was pretty good at the location.  I was there on a Friday afternoon and Saturday late morning, and saw many trains bother times.  Flow isn't consistent - 4 trains in one hour, then nothing the next hour sometimes.    There were a lot of trains Saturday morning as (we assumed) they were clearing the yard and sending all the trains out...

7506 returns
A Westbound mixed freight.   I'll see this same locomotive again the next day.

If you don't have a scanner, it's still easy to spot when trains are approaching.  Eastbound trains go over 2 other grade crossings before reaching Macungie, so if you keep your ears open you can hear the whistle for those crossings and be ready.

Westbound trains have no grade crossings, but looking west there is an approach-list signal, so when that turns green something is most likely on it's way.   There's also a good sight line both east west, so you can just keep your eyes open.    but trains come through at a good clip, so once you can see a train, it'll be on you within 30-odd seconds.

Macungie East Macungie West
Looking East (left) and West (right) from Macungie station

If you're ever in the area, I encourage you to visit Macungie.   The railfan park is a great resource.  There's a convenience store across the street.  If you're there on the weekend there may be other events going on in the town (there was a giant flea market and antique car show the weekend I was there).  And, if you're lucky, you'll run into some other railfans there!

Some young kids (with Mom) showed up to railfan, and were rewarded with a wave by the engineer.


While snapping photos with the SLR, I propped up the iPhone for some video.    A compendium is below.

Happy railroading!

More of my photos from Macungie can be found here.

Railfan information about Macungie.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Garden Tour

This past June was the 2017 South End Garden Tour - an event to raise money for the Community Gardens in greater Boston.   I was asked to take some photos at Watson Park, and also took photos at Berkeley Community Garden, where the tour started.

While I took some good photos for the tour, I also snapped a number of flower photos along the way.  Not only did my 'snaps' come out quite good, but the Clematis are amazing in Black and White!!   I definitely want to share these.

Sweet and Sour
Watson Park prepares for guests with Lemonade/Limeade and a basket of fresh cookies

There was plenty of whimsy to be found in the gardens, as each gardener personalizes their space, giving each garden plot its own style..

Window into the garden Themes Guard your Underpants Welcome

Being June, there were an abundance of flowers in bloom in the garden.   While all were wonderful, many of the purple blooms had great color - beautiful hues of purple along side the greenest of greens.  

It had rained the night before, leaving droplets on all the flowers, and making the colors a bit brighter.  There was also a heavy fog over the city, giving me nice even light with few shadows.

All wet

Shy blooms

The clematis proved to be even more exciting in Black & White.   The many purple hues look like veins coursing through the petals.



And the great thing about Black & White - sometimes even your  mistakes end up looking great...

Onyx brick road

Thanks for visiting!

A gallery of all artistic Photos from the garden tour can be found in this Flickr album.

You can see more photos of the tour itself on these  Berkeley and Watson Park facebook albums.

All involved in this tour are non-profits - if you are interested in visiting, joining or donating any of the organizations shown here, please visit their respective web pages:

Berkeley Community Gardens, South End, Boston

Friends of Watson Park, South End, Boston

tour organize, the Trustees, Boston region.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

617 in East Boston, revisited

617 Images and Boston Attitude held another Boston Photo Meet (#bosphotomeet) in East Boston - this time on the other side of Maverick at Piers Park in the Jeffries Point neighborhood.

Was great to meet everyone - some faces from last meet, and some new folks.   Even people who were not with us - we just assumed anyone with a tripod was with our event.  :)

Rick was taking some model shots

Folks staking their spots for the sunset.

Ambient light, ISO 8K.   Love my Nikon 750.   :)

We even had a few brides at the pier for their wedding photographs

We had an amazing sunset, and some great shots were taken by all.

Bridging the sunset
Sun setting over the North End/Charlestown.   Zakim bridge on the left.

Final rays
Sunset from the pier, with a non-photographer enjoying the view.

But there are only so many Boston sunset photos you can take.    I spent some additional time taking other photos of the area.

Local art

Fish tale
Something fishy on top of a local marina

A container ship docked in South Boston

Work n Play
Containers being unloaded at Conley terminal

Various sailing craft out on the harbour

Out of timeRed sails make this schooner look more like a junk out of place

And some really big ships, as vehicle carrier Liberty made it's way through the harbour to Subaru pier in Charlestown on the Mystic.  Not sure the sailboat could claim the right of way when you have a ship that can't stop on a dime.

Right of Way
A vehicle carrier arrives in Boston, big enough to block half the skyline

Even an abandoned railroad tunnel,  one of the two portals from the old Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn railroad.  (South portal - I couldn't get to the open north portal on this trip...)

BRB&L old South portal

Many photos also lended themselves to Black & White conversion.   I enjoy using B&W to show the viewer more about a photograph, emphasizing mood and structure and not relying on color alone to carry the image.

B&W can make buildings stand out

Custom Black & White
Custom house and surrounding buildings

or turn a cityscape into a mood shot.   The sunset/twilight sky lighted the buildings up just enough you can tell them apart, but it was dark enough to for the office lights to show up.

Absent sunset
Boston Skyline

Dockside warehouse shut down for the night with a few single lights providing security - and some interesting neon artwork....

After Hours
All's quiet after dark

Finally, what was once a lively promenade during the day becomes eerily quiet after the sun went down (and a chilly breeze came up).   

Harbourwalk revisited
An empty promenade

It was a great night, and I look forward to the next 617 event.    And a plug to D'parma, where we stopped for a bite after the shoot for some amazing Italian food.   for a great dinner afterwards.   Perhaps that's why 617 heads to Eastie so often.  :-)

You can keep an eye on 617 Image's Facebook page for the next event if you'd like to join us.

All images from this (and the previous 617 shoot) can be found in my Flickr album.   

Fly away

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Casket for Christmas

This Christmas I was able to continue the tradition of giving my young cousin a jewelry box as a Christmas gift.   As usual, the requirement was for it to be something unique that you wouldn't find anywhere else.   That usually brings me to flea markets...

It turns out August was a good month.  A new dealer showed up at the open market and had something interesting that I just had to have.   A beautiful metal box on legs with a rose on it.  Of course it needed some TLC, but I'd never seen anything similar before.   Sold!  Renaissance

Box in it's original condition

This one would definitely need some elbow grease.

Some internet searching identified this as a casket style jewelry box.  The inside of these boxes - rather than being lined along the edges - is puffy like a pillow (or a casket) on the inside.    I was able to use one web site to date this piece to the 1920's.   The inside is a pastel rather than a dark or red color - and the silver exterior was all tarnished off (They didn't learn to electroplate better until the 40's - so if you find a shiny one, it's a newer copy...)

Jewelry Box 2016 - 2
Box before cleaning - with the good camera and a nice background

Even though this needed some work, the detail was amazing.  

But hard work was ahead of me.   I have to again  thank Ann of the NBSS Jewelry program for helping me out for the second year in a row.   For the second year in a row I brought a jewelry box to the NBSS open house to get some advice on how to restore the piece.   While last years box was cleaned with Brasso and NevrDull, this year I was introduced to Rouge Cloth for polishing.

Jewelry Box 2016 - 3
Even before cleaning, the detail was still a highlight of the piece

And polish I did.   As you can tell this piece had lots of nooks and crannies, so a small section each night.    The detail took a lot of time.  I did sneak a little NevrDull and tooth pick into some corners I just couldn't get into with the cloth.   But not getting every little spot turned out to be nice - there's enough black here and there to bring out the design.  

Jewelry Box 2016 - 6
The finished product, polished, sealed,  and ready for delivery
The 'unclean-able' black that remains adds character and helps emphasize the design

Jewelry Box 2016 - 9
The top detail looks quite different after a good cleaning.

The interior needed some work as well.   Someone tried to repair the interior lining with regular white glue.    ugh.   Who would do that.   Luckily, it was regular white glue.   A little dab of water and began to soften.  So another few nights to soften some flue, then gently tweezer it out without damaging the lining....

I didn't polish the bottom much - I wanted to keep that in something of an original state to see where I started.   There was some ID on the bottom - the initial JB and the number 1187.   Probably leads back to the manufacturer, but I've found nothing on line to help me...

Jewelry Box 2016 - 5
The bottom of the piece.  Identification marks?

As you can see, the finished product came out amazing.   Sealed with some Renaissance wax, I hope it stays in good condition for years to come.

Jewelry Box 2016 - 7
Interior of the box, with the 'casket' like puffy padding.

Jewelry Box 2016 - 11
Safely in the hands of the new owner.  I think she likes.   :)

You can see a few more Jewelry Box photos in my Flickr Album.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stratford Point Light

I grew up in Lordship;   a small neighborhood at the tip of Stratford, CT.   Where the Houstaonic river meets Long Island Sound, a small lighthouse sits helping ships navigate.   The lighthouse is on private property, so I've never been able to explore it - until now.

Recently I was in CT for a wedding.  That weekend the lighthouse was having an open house - so I convinced Mom to take a side trip to check it out Stratford Point Light in detail..

Google Satellite image of the lighthouse site

The lighthouse itself is small.  Just over the height of a 2 story building, it pales in comparison to other lighthouses out  there.   But the Connecticut coast is rough terrain, and lighthouses dot the coastline.   This lighthouse is one of several markers at the mouth of the Housatonic.

Stratford light, as seen form the street/driveway

Placard on the property

It's interesting to visit as an adult the place that was such a mystery as a child.  The light was visible from anywhere in the neighborhood, especially if there was haze in the atmosphere.  Two quick flashes of light if you could see the lighthouse.   From my bedroom window, two arcs of light would race across the sky on foggy nights.   

Stratford Light 1
Stratford Point Light  

And the foghorn.  Just hearing one today brings back memories of the beach in pea soup fog;  the smell of salt water;  the gentle lap of waves on the sand.

The view while waiting in line to go up
The light could use a little TLC...

Mom decided to sit this one out and explored the grounds while I ventured inside.  The grounds had several vendor tables selling souvenirs and giving out various civic and coastguard information brochures.    

Placard on the entrance to the lighthouse

CG personnel giving us a history of the light

 Plenty of Coast Guard staff were on hand to ensure our safety and to give us some history.  In the image above, those are the lights that were in place when I was a kid growing up.  A more modern light source is in place now.    Stratford Light flashes twice, with 20 seconds between flash sets.

The Way Up
The staircase up to the next platform, rendered in Black & White

More education at the second level.  

the second level had a map of all the lighthouses on the CT coast.   There are a lot of them, although most are automated now...  A nice map of the area can be found on this PDF.

Stair from the 2nd level up to the light

Another visitor and I check out the light itself

While you see circular patterns on the light, it is no longer a fresnel lens.  

Stratford Light View
The view South from the light

The view East

Looking East, we can see the mouth of the Housatonic River, with the town of Milford in the background.  Below we can see some of the tents set up for the day. Adjacent to the lighthouse is Dupont property, once home of the Remington Gun Club.  The circular driveway can be seen, but the shooting areas are long gone.  The site, while still owned by Dupont, is cared for by the Connecticut Audubon society and operators as a protected migratory area.   More information on that area can be found here.  

The view West

Looking west we see several beaches.  the first cove is private.   The second cover is a mostly public beach (Russian Beach), with a few private beaches (the houses in the distance).  At the far point is "The seawall" - a small cluster of restaurants and a small hotel, as well as the seawall where you can park and watch the surf.  A perfect spot for ice cream on summer evenings.  Definite childhood memories of parking there during storms and watching the waves crash over us.   (History of the seawall)

Mom, checking out the lighthouse

All in all a fun morning out.  It was no Boston Light, but I enjoyed visiting a childhood icon.  A thanks to the Coast Guard volunteers, without whom the open house would not have happened.

Photos of the lighthouse throughout the decades.

Additional Stratford Light history.

Look for my next blog post, which will have more artistic impressions of Stratford Point

Also check out my Flickr photo stream