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Posts Tagged ‘stations’

Sunsets and Long Exposure Photography on the Rails Photos

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent my evenings exploring the rails, photographing at one of my favorite times of the day – sunset. While one generally loses the illumination of the sun’s rays, you gain a multitude of colors in the sky… and to me, there is just something magical about that.

In terms of night photography – or at least, what railfans tend to think about night photography – one usually uses artificial lights to illuminate a posed, unmoving train. Though it seems to be the en vogue thing to do these days, I see little reason to do so other than “because we can.” Most seem to do it for the novelty, or because all the “cool kids” are doing it. Many that take part look to evoke the work of O. Winston Link, arguably the best night railroad photographer ever (though Jack Delano, whose photographs I featured last week, was also an accomplished night photographer – it was never really his “claim to fame,” however). Unfortunately, most fall flat in their endeavor to “be like Link.” While I can see the merits of photographing steam trains at night (the lower light allows one to capture sweeping plumes of smoke from the engine), I see little reason to do it with modern trains. After dark I find it far more fun to capture not the train itself, but the train’s movement, and its environment.

Because of the low ambient light, long exposure photography allows one to record the movement of the train, rendered as blurs of light. In order to get a proper exposure, your camera shutter is open for longer – in some cases for 15 seconds or more (thus a stable resting place, preferably a tripod, is required). Done right, any moving object in the frame shows up as a blur, or a streak. Modern electric trains, like Metro-North’s M7s and M8s, with their shiny and smooth exteriors and LED lights lend themselves to this, becoming graceful blurs. Instead of artificial light, one uses the “natural” (or as natural as the light off a cityscape could be), and the intense colors of a sunset to evoke a completely different mood. Since I don’t really have a post lined up for this week, I figured I’d share some of my recent photographs taken at sunset, or at night… and maybe convince some of you that there is fun to be had after dark, far away from the now all too common “night photo sessions.”


The sun fades, and the colors of sunset slowly begin to appear on the Upper Harlem Line in Dover Plains.


An imposing graffiti-covered support for the Hell Gate Bridge at sunset.

 
Colorful skies over Metro-North stations in the Bronx – Tremont and Melrose.


The sun sets over the Hudson River, near New Hamburg.

 
Sunset over the Northeast Corridor, near Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut.


A pink sky over Amtrak’s Hell Gate Bridge.

Sunsets and long exposures
The headlight of an M7 reflects against the waters of the Hudson River at Dobbs Ferry.


The fun part of later hour photography is the motion blur, like this shot at Melrose station…


…or this one at the Saugatuck River Bridge…


…and even this one at Harlem-125th Street.


The low-light of a subway system makes long-exposure photography easy, like these two examples on Chicago’s Blue Line.


While a tripod is best, a nice fence or support in which to rest your camera also works, as seen here on this Chicago L platform.


A Brown Line train and a ferry boat are just mere streaks of light as they pass over the Chicago River. In this instance, the camera’s shutter was open for 20 seconds.


Let the light of the city shine in the ultimate version of long exposure photography. In this case, the Chicago skyline. The tracks of the Ogilvie Transportation Center are just visible at right.

Beautiful Underground – Gems of the Berlin U-Bahn History Photos

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

For over 200 years railways have been constructed across the globe to carry freight and people. Besides the trains, the integral part of every railway is, of course, the stations themselves. Some stations are rudimentary and simple, but others are undeniable gems. We’ve spent the past few weeks touring Berlin’s U-Bahn, which has many interesting stations, mixed in with plenty more bare and utilitarian stops that are hardly noteworthy. We are, however, back again to check out more attractive locales of the Berlin U-Bahn.

From the attractive Oberbaumbrücke to the unexpected above ground stations, Berlin’s U-Bahn is a captivating transit system. I’m not a big fan of subway stations, likely because I love light, of which there is never quite enough underground. However, some of the U3 Line’s underground stations are hard to ignore. A handful of some of the U-Bahn’s earliest stations are attractive gems. Many were located in the city of Wilmersdorf – then a suburb of Berlin. Conceptually, the stations’ aesthetic was to represent the affluence of the city – represented through elaborate stonework. The resulting stations featured Doric columns, granite floors, wrought iron gates, mosaic tiling, and sandstone-carved sculptures. By 1920 Wilmersdorf was folded into Greater Berlin, but these stations retain both the character and history of its predecessor.

Heidelberger Platz, circa 1915
A circa-1915 postcard of Heidelberger Platz station. Image from the Berlin U-Bahn Archive.

Though there are about five stations on the U3 Line that fit that description, we’re going to visit three of them – Hohenzollernplatz, Fehrbelliner Platz, and Heidelberger Platz. All three were designed by architect Wilhelm Leitgebel, with construction beginning in 1909 and opening in 1913.

 
  
   
  
   
 

Our first stop is to Hohenzollernplatz. The station is decorated with ceramic tiling, mosaic inlays in the ceiling, and an eagle motif – representative of the House of Hohenzollern. On the walls of the station are photographs of Hohenzollern Castle, ancestral home of the Hohenzollern family, from which came several kaisers of the German empire.

 
  
  

Fehrbelliner Platz is the next station along the way, and you can board both U3 and U7 trains here. The U7 portion was constructed in the late 1960s, and opened in January 1971. It is much more modern, and lacks the charm of the original U3 station. Much of the U3 platform, however, looks similar to the way it did at opening in 1913. The station features both historical photos and ceramic tiling. Octagonal central supports are covered in ceramic plates, and the walls have an inlay showing a historical train car. Wrought iron gates and grilles, some of which remind me of Grand Central, were designed by Michael Römmisch.

 
  
   
 
  
 
   
  
 
  
 

The last station on this Underground tour is Heidelberger Platz, which was constructed deep underground to avoid another rail line. The station is comprised of several groin vaults supported by squat columns on an island platform. Sculpted on each of these columns is a different animal, all creations of sculptor Martin Meyer-Pyritz. Additional sculptural elements, like the traditional winged wheel symbol of transportation, can be found within. Mosaic tiles found at the platform entranceways complete the attractive aesthetic, and depict flowers and the coat of arms of Wilmersdorf.

A total of 170 stations across nine lines make up Berlin’s U-Bahn system, and it is obvious that not all of them are going to be amazing bits of architecture. However, stations like those on the U3 Line make the system a delight to explore, to photograph, and perhaps even to visit from thousands of miles away (and through a computer monitor).

Above-Ground on the “Underground” – Berlin’s U3 Train Photos

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Last week’s post featured photos from the Oberbaum Bridge as an introduction to Berlin’s above-ground “Underground” stations. This time we’re taking a look at some more of these above-ground stations, with a focus on the U3 Line. If I had to pick my favorite U-Bahn line, the U3 would probably be it. Not only does it include some of the system’s oldest stations, it has a great mix of beautifully designed underground stations and tree-lined above-ground stations.

Trains are plentiful in the German city of Berlin, with the both the S-Bahn, and the U-Bahn, along with all the other longer distance trains that pass through. There is a general misconception that the S-Bahn is all above-ground, and the U-Bahn all underground (after all, the U does stand for untergrund), but despite that moniker, the U-Bahn has plenty of stations that catch the rays of the sun.

Map of the U3 Line
Map of the U3 Line, showing the above and below ground stations.

The U3 Line starts at Nollendorfplatz station, which has trains running not only above ground, but above street level on a viaduct (the station serves four lines, so some do in fact operate underground). The above-ground portion of the station is known for its glass dome, a replica of the original that was destroyed in the war. Continuing on, the next noteworthy station is Wittenbergplatz, which operates underground, but has an attractive station house above. The station itself opened in 1902, making it one of the oldest U-Bahn stations, but the above-ground entrance was completed several years later in 1913.

The U3 line operates underground until it reaches Podbielskiallee station – the final six stations on the line are all above ground. Dahlem-Dorf station, originally constructed in 1913, is modeled after an old German thatch-roofed farmhouse – not at all what you’d expect for a subway station. The station has caught fire not once, but twice, and was most recently restored in 2013. Beyond that is the equally attractive Thielplatz, with a charming brick station house, featuring a decorative clock.

  
 
  

A historical look at the U3 line. Many of the stations along the line were impacted by war. Photographs from the Berlin U-Bahn Archive and the German Federal Archive.

Toward the end of the line is the amusingly-named Onkel Toms Hütte station. The name is a literal German translation of book title “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. As the story goes, a local owner of a beer garden named Tom constructed huts for patrons to enjoy. Apparently these little “Tom’s cabins” reminded people of the book, and entered the local lore. Though the beer garden is long gone, the name lives on through this U-Bahn station.

Anyway, here is a selection of photographs of the U3′s above-ground stations. Come back next week to check out the next part – a journey to some of the more attractive underground stops.

 
  
 
  
   
  
  
  
 
  

Riding Berlin’s U1 Line: The Oberbaumbrücke Train History Photos

Friday, June 13th, 2014

I’ve always said that my primary interest in railroads is not necessarily the machine that is a train, but instead the way railroad systems change over time, and how they influence the people and locations around them – or even how places influence the rails. For those with similar interests, the city of Berlin is a great case study. As I’m sure everyone is familiar, Germany and the city of Berlin were partitioned after World War II into areas occupied by the French, British, Americans, and Soviets. The Soviet portion became the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, and the three other sectors the Federal Republic of Germany, better known as West Germany. In Berlin, a transit system that once spanned the entire city became truncated by this political divide. With the construction of the Berlin wall, starting in 1961, the city became truly divided.

Bernauer Straße
Ghost station: The U-Bahn station Bernauer Straße was closed after the construction of the Berlin Wall. Here you can see the entrance to the station, blocked by the wall. The station was reopened after the reunification of Germany. Photo taken August 27, 1962 by Allhails.

The citywide network of trains in Berlin struggled to conform to the divisions forced upon it by politics. In some instances, stations were completely closed, and lines were truncated as to not operate in the opposite sector. In other situations, lines were able to operate across the border, albeit with restrictions. The U8 line, for example, started in West Germany, but traversed a portion of East German territory before returning to the west. Although the train was permitted to pass through East Germany, they were not permitted to stop at the stations there. Shrouded in darkness and heavily guarded, these shuttered stations became colloquially known as “ghost stations.” In a unique situation, Friedrichstraße railway station, located in East German territory, was open to citizens from both sides of the border, though the station was divided into isolated sections for each.

U-Bahn U1 Map
Map showing the history of the U1 line, and the Berlin Wall.

It seems appropriate that our first photographic foray into Germany focuses on the first line of the U-Bahn, the U1. The U in U-Bahn stands for Untergrund, but there are many instances where the lines are anything but. One place that seems to epitomize the “not underground” Underground is the Oberbaumbrücke, or Oberbaum Bridge. First opened in 1896, the bridge carried pedestrians, cars, and eventually trains over the River Spree. The first train ran from Stralauer Tor, a station established on the viaduct, to Potsdamer Platz. Eventually the line was extended to Knie (now known as Ernst-Reuter-Platz) in the west, and Warschauer Brücke (now Warschauer Straße) in the east.

1895 bridge construction photo
1985 construction photo of the Oberbaum Bridge. Photo by German photographer Hermann Oskar Rückwardt.

Postcard of the bridge, circa 1910
Postcard showing the Oberbaum Bridge and the original Stralauer Tor station, circa 1910.

Warschauer brücke station, 1932
Looking out toward the bridge from Warschauer Brücke station, 1932. Photo via the Bundesarchiv.

The route of the line has stayed fairly consistent over the years, though Potsdamer Platz, Zoologischer Garten, and Ernst-Reuter-Platz are now part of the U2 line. Stralauer Tor station, which was on the bridge viaduct, was damaged during World War II and never rebuilt. After the partition of Germany, the Oberbaum Bridge connected the American sector with the Soviet sector, and the bridge became a border checkpoint, allowing West German pedestrians to cross. Beyond the border was Warschauer Brücke, the only station on the line located in East Berlin. For the duration that the Berlin Wall stood, the station was closed, truncating the line at the border. It was reopened in 1995 under the name of Warschauer Straße.

Progression of the Berlin Wall
Progression of the Berlin Wall, alongside the Oberbaum Bridge – Photo at left taken December, 1964 by Allhails. Photo at right from 1984 by WhitePrince.

The Oberbaum Bridge, 1993
The Oberbaum Bridge in rough shape in 1993. Photo by Roehrensee.

The Oberbaum Bridge itself is quite a beautiful bit of architecture, and is a fairly photogenic landmark. The name literally translates to “Upper tree bridge” in English, a reference to a previous wooden bridge that stood nearby. Despite being heavily damaged at multiple points through history, it was never completely demolished. During World War II the Nazis bombed the center of the bridge to prevent the Soviet army from crossing. Though the East Germans made minimal repairs to the the bridge after the war (at least enough for pedestrians to cross), it was not truly restored to its original grandeur until after the German reunification. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the steel center portion of the bridge, while the rest was restored much as it looked originally. The bridge was reopened for cars and pedestrians in 1994, and subway traffic in 1995.

Anyway, here is a collection of some photos of the U-Bahn and the Oberbaum Bridge. Over the next few weeks we’ll be visiting some more interesting spots in Berlin, including a few more “not underground” Underground stations.

The Oberbaum Bridge, Berlin
  
 
  
   
 
  
 

Shore Line East and Old Saybrook Train Photos

Friday, March 7th, 2014

In keeping with last week’s theme of exploring Connecticut, today we take a quick visit to the southern coast of the state to check out Shore Line East. As part of the important Northeast Corridor, many of the stations along the line have a long history with the old New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. Though some of the railroad historical buildings are still around (like the freight house, now restaurant in Old Saybrook), most of the Shore Line East stations are of relatively new construction (the exceptions being New Haven, which we’ve visited before, and New London, which deserves its own post at some point in the future).

Shore Line East is operated by Amtrak, so you’ll often catch CDOT locomotives in the old New Haven Railroad scheme, Amtrak locomotives, or a horrible mixture of both (hey boss, I put our sticker on the front, and painted over the Amtrak logo!). The service itself is fairly young – Shore Line East trains began running in May of 1990 – and the line was only supposed to be temporary while construction was being done on Interstate 95. Due to its popularity, however, Shore Line East became permanent.

   
  
 
 
Some views of the smaller stations on Shore Line East – Branford, Madison, Guilford, and Clinton.

Of the newer Shore Line East stations, Old Saybrook is probably the nicest, and a pretty good place for capturing trains. Besides the Shore Line East trains, about eighteen Amtrak trains stop here daily (which is actually more than Hartford, which we visited last week). Three tracks run through Old Saybrook, and the station consists of a side platform, an island platform, and an overpass connecting the two. Because it was started as a temporary operation, little money was spent on Shore Line East stations. However, once the service became permanent, proper stations were constructed, the first being Old Saybrook in 2002. Branford, Guilford, and Clinton were opened in 2005, and Madison in 2008.

Most Shore Line East trains terminate at Old Saybrook, though a few do go on to New London. The bane of Connecticut’s railroads are definitely the many movable bridges found along the shore line. Some are over a hundred years old, and cause slowdowns and nightmares for Metro-North. In Shore Line East’s case, the challenge to operating more service to New London is that trains must cross several movable bridges, bridges that the Connecticut Marine Trades Association fights to keep open for boats, as opposed to closed for trains. While some have big plans for the service (like connecting it to Rhode Island), it is these local issues that will have to be addressed first (not raiding the state’s Special Transportation Fund is another…).