Night Beat, Jersey Style

NJT Arrow III MU # 1322 is the lead car, the train is awaiting departure time to head east to Hoboken Terminal on December 15, 1991.

NJT Arrow III MU # 1322 is the lead car, the train is awaiting departure time to head east to Hoboken Terminal on December 15, 1991.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post features photographs taken by Kenneth Gear, a longtime friend and supporter of this blog. Ken was inspired by the nocturnal shots in our post Night Beat (June 21, 2016), and has some great ones of his own. The pictures and comments that follow are all Ken’s, and we thank him as always for his generosity in sharing them with our readers. You can see some of Ken’s daytime shots in our post Remembering Newark’s PCCs (December 19, 2015).

First off I want to thank David for giving me the opportunity to share my photographs on the pages of the Trolley Dodger. I enjoy pulling out a few boxes of slides from time to time and reliving some of the experiences I had taking them.

I try to keep my photography, both day and night, as simple as possible. I carry as little as possible and avoid complicated set-ups. If there was any kind of “philosophy” applied to my night photography it was simply this, I wanted the scene I was photographing to look like it was taken at night. That is to say that I didn’t want to pop off ten flashbulbs along the side of a locomotive. I did not want the picture to look as if I photographed a locomotive in full 3/4 sunshine, cut the locomotive out of the picture, and than pasted it to black construction paper.

I always use as much available light as possible, saving any flashes for fill-in light in the dark areas. There are some places where it would be ill-advised to use any type of flash, such as around electrified railroad tracks. A few flashes, I was told, could bring police thinking it was some sort of electrical malfunction. I would instead use a good flashlight to fill in the dark spots providing there were no moving trains around or railroad employees present. I wouldn’t want my flashlight to be mistaken as a hand signal being given to a train crew.

I’ve never given up my day job to pursue photography and I don’t profess to be an expert. I only intend to explain the way I took the photos shown here. All I can say is that it worked for me.

All of these photos were shot on slide film, mostly Kodachrome 64. Perhaps not the best film for night work because of it’s slow speed, but it was what I usually had on hand. When I got trackside at night the first thing I did was to check out how much light was falling on the equipment I wanted to photograph.

If the train was sitting in a nice bright beam from the yard lights, I would use the built in light meter of my Canon Alan 7 to get a base line exposure. Knowing my light meter usually under exposed such a scene I would begin bracketing my exposures toward being lighter. I would also use the exposure the camera picked and then bracket toward being darker. I would increase/decrease exposures in one stop intervals up to four times. This would yield as many as ten slides depending upon how sure I was of the exposures.

Out of the ten, perhaps half were worth keeping, the rest were thrown away. Twenty years ago film was inexpensive enough that I would gladly sacrifice six frames to get four really nice night shots. I kept records of the exposures I used so I would know which ones made for the best photos. When I went back to that same location I could use those same exposures again. At night with the same lights shining on trains in the same location, the exposures never changed and I could significantly reduce the amount of discarded slides.

If there was no or very little light on the train I would use a base line exposure of 30 seconds at F4 (for asa 64). This long exposure would give me plenty of time to “paint” the nose or side of the locomotive with light from my flashlight. I would bracket these shots sometimes as well. when I saw the resulting slides I could, next time, adjust the exposure times accordingly.

Now with digital I can see what I got in the LED screen immediately and adjust exposures on the spot. I go home knowing I got the shots! I do, however, fondly remember the film days when the excitement would build as I opened that little yellow box of slides. Would my expectations be met… exceeded… or would bitter disappointment await!

The photos included here represent the times when I was very happy with the results. In keeping with the Trolley Dodger‘s traction theme, I only included photos of electric railroad equipment.

There was probably a better and more efferent way to do this sort of night railroad photography with film, but this was the way I did it!

-Kenneth Gear

Here is the first bunch of night photos. All of the photos were taken at Dover, New Jersey on NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex Line. The date was December 15, 1991:

An NJ Transit train of Arrow MU cars wait at the Ex-DL&W station. The station now has high level platforms so this shot cannot be repeated today.

An NJ Transit train of Arrow MU cars wait at the Ex-DL&W station. The station now has high level platforms so this shot cannot be repeated today.

The view from the platform shows signal lights and the Catenary wires.

The view from the platform shows signal lights and the Catenary wires.

A train of Arrow MUs about to depart into the night.

A train of Arrow MUs about to depart into the night.

Next bunch. All photos were taken at Gladstone, NJ on September 7, 1996:

NJT MU # 1309 at the Gladstone station

NJT MU # 1309 at the Gladstone station

NJT MU # 1306 in the Gladstone lay-up yard.

NJT MU # 1306 in the Gladstone lay-up yard.

NJT MU 1309 again, from other side.

NJT MU 1309 again, from other side.

NJT MU # 1309 in a wide shot of the station area.

NJT MU # 1309 in a wide shot of the station area.

More Gladstone photos, taken August 31, 1997:

A wide shot of the station area showing both the passenger station and, on the right, the freight house.

A wide shot of the station area showing both the passenger station and, on the right, the freight house.

NJT MU 1310 at the Gladstone station.

NJT MU 1310 at the Gladstone station.

A NJT ALP-44 electric locomotive.

A NJT ALP-44 electric locomotive.

NJT yard line-up showing Comet coaches, Arrow MUs and a ALP-44 locomotive.

NJT yard line-up showing Comet coaches, Arrow MUs and a ALP-44 locomotive.

Still more Gladstone photos:

NJT ALP-44 # 4418 & Arrow III MU # 1313 spend the night in the yard 5/15/98

NJT ALP-44 # 4418 & Arrow III MU # 1313 spend the night in the yard 5/15/98

A NJT train of Arrow MUs about to depart the Gladstone station 5/15/98

A NJT train of Arrow MUs about to depart the Gladstone station 5/15/98

NJT Arrow MU 1331 5/15/98

NJT Arrow MU 1331 5/15/98

A NJT ALP-44 & a ARROW MU in the yard 12/11/98

A NJT ALP-44 & a ARROW MU in the yard 12/11/98

NJT ALP-44 # 4404 12/11/98

NJT ALP-44 # 4404 12/11/98

ALP-44 # 4405 12/11/98

ALP-44 # 4405 12/11/98

The headlight of an approaching train illuminates the sides of a Arrow MU set in the Gladstone yard 12/11/98

The headlight of an approaching train illuminates the sides of a Arrow MU set in the Gladstone yard 12/11/98

More Gladstone photos ( I went there a lot!):

NJT ALP-44 # 4426 3/24/00

NJT ALP-44 # 4426 3/24/00

A NJT ALP-44 electric under "blue flag" protection 3/24/00

A NJT ALP-44 electric under “blue flag” protection 3/24/00

NJT MU # 1520 in the Gladstone yard 3/24/00

NJT MU # 1520 in the Gladstone yard 3/24/00

Brand new NJT ALP-46 # 4605 under the yard lights at Gladstone. This was the first time I saw one of these locomotives. I was very happy to find it in the yard that night and I think the photo came out quite well. Usually when a locomotive has had a lot of reflective tape applied to it's side, it is very difficult to photograph at night. This was not the case here, I actually shined a flashlight along the 4605 to light up the tape. 10/12/02

Brand new NJT ALP-46 # 4605 under the yard lights at Gladstone. This was the first time I saw one of these locomotives. I was very happy to find it in the yard that night and I think the photo came out quite well. Usually when a locomotive has had a lot of reflective tape applied to it’s side, it is very difficult to photograph at night. This was not the case here, I actually shined a flashlight along the 4605 to light up the tape. 10/12/02

Another shot of brand new ALP-46 4605. 10/12/02

Another shot of brand new ALP-46 4605. 10/12/02

NJT ALP-46 # 4605 in broadside. 10/12/02

NJT ALP-46 # 4605 in broadside. 10/12/02

A NJT Gladstone branch train is about to depart and make a night time run to Summit, NJ. 10/12/04

A NJT Gladstone branch train is about to depart and make a night time run to Summit, NJ. 10/12/04

Last bunch of Gladstone photos. These are some of my favorites because I had a full moon along with some fast moving clouds playing across the sky. This made for some very interesting effects above the trains! The photos were all taken on the same night; March 6, 2004:

NJT ALP-44 in the yard and under the moon.

NJT ALP-44 in the yard and under the moon.

NJT Arrow MU # 1512 at the Gladstone station.

NJT Arrow MU # 1512 at the Gladstone station.

NJT MU # 1512 under a cloud cloaked full moon.

NJT MU # 1512 under a cloud cloaked full moon.

NJ Transit Arrow MU cars 1331 & 1308 spend the night in the yard.

NJ Transit Arrow MU cars 1331 & 1308 spend the night in the yard.

NJT MUs 1331 & 1308 in the moonlight.

NJT MUs 1331 & 1308 in the moonlight.

ALP-44 # 4404 with a coach wrapped with an advertisement for Continental Airlines.

ALP-44 # 4404 with a coach wrapped with an advertisement for Continental Airlines.

All the trial and error (mostly error) that goes into night film photography becomes worth every lousy slide tossed in the trash when you get just one that turns out like this! NJ Transit Arrow MU cars # 1331 and 1308 pose under a spectacular sky at Gladstone.

All the trial and error (mostly error) that goes into night film photography becomes worth every lousy slide tossed in the trash when you get just one that turns out like this! NJ Transit Arrow MU cars # 1331 and 1308 pose under a spectacular sky at Gladstone.

NJ Transit Hoboken Terminal 3/30/02

NJ Transit Hoboken Terminal 3/30/02

NJ Transit Hoboken Terminal with the World Trade Center Tribute In Light beaming up from the site of the twin towers. The site, when this photo was taken, was still just a big hole in the ground- no Freedom tower yet. 3/30 02

NJ Transit Hoboken Terminal with the World Trade Center Tribute In Light beaming up from the site of the twin towers. The site, when this photo was taken, was still just a big hole in the ground- no Freedom tower yet. 3/30 02

NJ Transit Hoboken Terminal main entrance 3/30/02

NJ Transit Hoboken Terminal main entrance 3/30/02

A NJ Transit ALP-44 along side the terminal's Bush train shed.3/30/02

A NJ Transit ALP-44 along side the terminal’s Bush train shed.3/30/02

NJT ALP-44 locomotives in the yard at Long Branch NJ 11/7/92

NJT ALP-44 locomotives in the yard at Long Branch NJ 11/7/92

A train of NJT Arrow MU cars at the TRENTON NJ station 2/9/02

A train of NJT Arrow MU cars at the TRENTON NJ station 2/9/02

On February 9, 2002 I was out riding and photographing trains on Amtrak's North East Corridor. After riding all day and as as night approached, I arrived at Trenton NJ on a SEPTA train. My intent was to catch a connecting NJ Transit train to continue east and head for home. As luck would have it, a Conrail train snagged and pulled down the catenary wires somewhere close by and just like that, the trains stopped running. I was stranded for a while so I took advantage of the situation and started taking night photos. I had no tripod so I had to make do with what was available, like taking off my shoe and putting the camera in it! This photo shows Amtrak E-60 # 602 with Train # 40 the THREE RIVERS stopped at Trenton. It is illuminated by the headlight of a NJT train.

On February 9, 2002 I was out riding and photographing trains on Amtrak’s North East Corridor. After riding all day and as as night approached, I arrived at Trenton NJ on a SEPTA train. My intent was to catch a connecting NJ Transit train to continue east and head for home. As luck would have it, a Conrail train snagged and pulled down the catenary wires somewhere close by and just like that, the trains stopped running. I was stranded for a while so I took advantage of the situation and started taking night photos. I had no tripod so I had to make do with what was available, like taking off my shoe and putting the camera in it! This photo shows Amtrak E-60 # 602 with Train # 40 the THREE RIVERS stopped at Trenton. It is illuminated by the headlight of a NJT train.

On February 9, 2002 I was out riding and photographing trains on Amtrak's North East Corridor. After riding all day and as as night approached, I arrived at Trenton NJ on a SEPTA train. My intent was to catch a connecting NJ Transit train to continue east and head for home. As luck would have it, a Conrail train snagged and pulled down the catenary wires somewhere close by and just like that, the trains stopped running. I was stranded for a while so I took advantage of the situation and started taking night photos. I had no tripod so I had to make do with what was available, like taking off my shoe and putting the camera in it! This photo shows Amtrak E-60 # 602 with Train # 40 the THREE RIVERS stopped at Trenton. It is illuminated by the headlight of a NJT train.

On February 9, 2002 I was out riding and photographing trains on Amtrak’s North East Corridor. After riding all day and as as night approached, I arrived at Trenton NJ on a SEPTA train. My intent was to catch a connecting NJ Transit train to continue east and head for home. As luck would have it, a Conrail train snagged and pulled down the catenary wires somewhere close by and just like that, the trains stopped running. I was stranded for a while so I took advantage of the situation and started taking night photos. I had no tripod so I had to make do with what was available, like taking off my shoe and putting the camera in it! This photo shows Amtrak E-60 # 602 with Train # 40 the THREE RIVERS stopped at Trenton. It is illuminated by the headlight of a NJT train.

Amtrak HHP-8 # 650 with Regional Train # 178 sits and waits for catenary repairs at Trenton.

Amtrak HHP-8 # 650 with Regional Train # 178 sits and waits for catenary repairs at Trenton.

This photo shows Amtrak E-60 # 602 with Train # 40 the THREE RIVERS stopped at Trenton. It is illuminated by the headlight of a NJT train.

This photo shows Amtrak E-60 # 602 with Train # 40 the THREE RIVERS stopped at Trenton. It is illuminated by the headlight of a NJT train.

This was shot from the end of the passenger platforms looking west. A train with an ALP-44 is sitting in the yard 3/30/02

This was shot from the end of the passenger platforms looking west. A train with an ALP-44 is sitting in the yard 3/30/02

SEPTA Silverliner # 424 at Trenton, NJ

SEPTA Silverliner # 424 at Trenton, NJ

A train of SEPTA Ex-READING Silverliner MUs waits in the yard at West Trenton NJ. 4/6/01

A train of SEPTA Ex-READING Silverliner MUs waits in the yard at West Trenton NJ. 4/6/01

SEPTA Silverliner MU # 9006 has just led a train into West Trenton and is awaiting it's departure time to return east 4/6/01

SEPTA Silverliner MU # 9006 has just led a train into West Trenton and is awaiting it’s departure time to return east 4/6/01

SEPTA Silverliner MUs under the yard lights at West Trenton, NJ 4/6/01

SEPTA Silverliner MUs under the yard lights at West Trenton, NJ 4/6/01

SEPTA Siverliner IV # 332 sits in the yard at West Trenton over the weekend awaiting Monday Morning. 4/6/01

SEPTA Siverliner IV # 332 sits in the yard at West Trenton over the weekend awaiting Monday Morning. 4/6/01

A train of SEPTA Silverliner IV MU cars is sitting in front of "TRENT" tower and will soon pull east to the passenger station to pick up riders for Philadelphia. 4/6/01

A train of SEPTA Silverliner IV MU cars is sitting in front of “TRENT” tower and will soon pull east to the passenger station to pick up riders for Philadelphia. 4/6/01

This is the same SEPTA train of Silverliners that is seen in the previous photo. I walked around "TRENT" tower and took this photo looking east. The Ex-Reading Company passenger station is just visible past the tower to the right center of the photo. 4/6/01

This is the same SEPTA train of Silverliners that is seen in the previous photo. I walked around “TRENT” tower and took this photo looking east. The Ex-Reading Company passenger station is just visible past the tower to the right center of the photo. 4/6/01

On November 2, 2002 the Wilmington (Delaware) chapter of the NRHS hosted a PCC night photo trip through the streets of Philadelphia. Members of the NRHS chapter used the open flash photography method to light the car, yielding good results. (” open flash” means that the entire scene was illuminated solely with flashes, avoiding as much light from other sources as possible. Also the flashes were not connected to each other or any of the cameras. They were popped with hand held flash guns or battery operated strobes).

While I have shot my share of flashbulbs over the years, my preferred method is to use flashes very sparingly. I like to use bulbs only for fill-in flash to send some light in to the dark spots that the ambient light doesn’t reach. I’ll include a few of the flashed photos but I prefer the shots I took using the available light with perhaps just one or two flashes popped. The photos taken at the Elmwood car house are more to my liking. They were shot either with only the yard lights or with just a flash or two to light the front of the equipment.

-Kenneth Gear

This slide was made using only the available light at the Mount Moriah Loop.

This slide was made using only the available light at the Mount Moriah Loop.

This photo is more to my liking. Just one flash to light the PCC's nose. The photo was taken at 39th Street & Filbert Street, west Philadelphia.

This photo is more to my liking. Just one flash to light the PCC’s nose. The photo was taken at 39th Street & Filbert Street, west Philadelphia.

SEPTA historic PCC # 2732. Enough light was flashed on the car to nicely show-off the classic green & cream paint scheme of the Philadelphia Transit Company. West Philadelphia, PA

SEPTA historic PCC # 2732. Enough light was flashed on the car to nicely show-off the classic green & cream paint scheme of the Philadelphia Transit Company. West Philadelphia, PA

PCC # 2732 is again assaulted by "flashers" as she poses for photos in West Philadelphia.

PCC # 2732 is again assaulted by “flashers” as she poses for photos in West Philadelphia.

A line-up of SEPTA Kawasaki LRVs or "K Cars" are under the yard lights waiting for the next call of duty.

A line-up of SEPTA Kawasaki LRVs or “K Cars” are under the yard lights waiting for the next call of duty.

The fan trip being over, PCC # 2732 returned to the Elmwood Car house in Southwest Philadelphia and was posed with some work equipment. PCC 2732 is shown here next to PCC work car # 2187

The fan trip being over, PCC # 2732 returned to the Elmwood Car house in Southwest Philadelphia and was posed with some work equipment. PCC 2732 is shown here next to PCC work car # 2187

Two SEPTA PCCs street car and work car versions.

Two SEPTA PCCs street car and work car versions.

Close-up of work car # 2187

Close-up of work car # 2187

SEPTA work car # 2187, PCC # 2732 & motor flat # W61

SEPTA work car # 2187, PCC # 2732 & motor flat # W61


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4 thoughts on “Night Beat, Jersey Style

  1. A night photography treat. I particularly like shots where catenary and rails reflect light to a dazzling degree. Who said overhead wire is unsightly? I do hope the Lackawanna Hoboken terminal is a national landmark. It’s an architectural confection to be forever treasured.

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  2. Mr. Foelschow, I’m glad you enjoyed the night photos. I too think the catenary wires add interest to the photos. What would otherwise be an empty expanse of dark blue or black sky becomes a point of attention when these intricate webs of wire are highlighted against it. I have at times shined my flashlight up into the wires to ensure that they are a prominent element of the photo.
    Also, the Hoboken terminal building is listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. In my wide shot of the terminal, where the red and white radio antenna is, happily a reproduction of the original 1907 clock tower has been built there. It looks great! Much damage was done to the terminal due to the flooding caused by super storm Sandy a few years back, but NJ Transit has been very good at making repairs, albeit very slowly.

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      • Those Arrow and Silverliner MU cars sure stood the test of time! They out lasted the ALP-44, E-60, & HHP-8 locomotives that I photographed.

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