Sunday, September 29, 2013

Do diesels dream?

...from a photographer's notebook

Sleeping Diesels    ©Steve Ember

MARC uses these MP-36PH diesels to haul commuter trains Monday through
Friday between Brunswick, Maryland and Washington DC.

On weekends, they get to sleep in ;-)

Last December, on a Sunday afternoon, I found these diesels (and several more),
all lined up with their trains, snoozing outside the Brunswick station. And I had to wonder...

Do diesels dream?
And if they do,

Might they dream like me and you?

Diesel pilots and train lines                                       ©Steve Ember
 Do diesels dream,                                                   

I’ve often wondered,

When tethered to a power source?

Might they conjure times long distant

When Great Grandpa was the Iron Horse?

 Charging down the gleaming mainline                             

Belching coal smoke

Billowing steam                                                  

Making music with their whistles…

Now there’s a lovely sort of dream.

If you're wondering what in tunket a "covered wagon" is, look no further. Reason for the nickname: When heavy maintenance was required, the shop simply lifted off the carbody to get to the guts. This EMD F-7 was a common example. It could pull both freight and passenger trains (as long as it had a steam generator as this one does - in its day, passenger cars' heating, as well as air conditioning, depended on a steam line coming from the locomotive(s). "Great Grandpa"would have approved!) And to explain the reference to the "567" for the non-train-devotee, that was the diesel engine most of these "covered wagons" used as their prime mover. That's the big yellow machine above. It drives a generator to make electricity for the traction motors on the axles (green). This was one of those "growling Fs" to which I refer.  E-unit diesels (designed specifically for passenger train service) were longer and sleeker, but had the same family resemblance and "bulldog nose." E's had two 567 prime movers and sat on six axle trucks to carry the increased weight of the machinery inside the "covered wagon." Many thanks to David Gagnon for allowing me to use this great illustration!

Or the “Covered Wagons” of the 'Fifties

Growling F’s and long, sleek E’s

Challenging the mountain passes

Roaring ‘cross the boundless prairies

Super Chief and Twentieth Century

The Canadian and the Royal Blue 

Southern Crescent, City of Portland

Pennsy’s Broadway Limited, too.

The mighty 567 made music quite unique

Each E had two above its wheels

And, oh my, could they speak!

But lash up three or four together

Hook ‘em up to twenty cars

Notch ‘em up to Run-Eight setting

They were 'fifties movie stars.

Does a diesel dream of music classy

While resting on its massive chassis?

Does Mercer’s “Laura” make him sigh?

Does he see Her on a train that is passing by?

Once, you know, it was romantic, 
Not all screeching cell phone frantic.

The Canadian was a superb long-distance train run by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It had several dome cars and a full consist of coaches and sleepers, lounges, observation car, great food, attentive staff. Gliding through the Canadian Rockies westward from Banff toward Lake Louise and on toward Vancouver, Molson in hand, in the observation lounge was a rail experience I shall never forget. Howdy, Alf and Joyce! Again, thanks to David Gagnon. And doesn't that ad just say it?

Mercer, once again, I took a trip on a train,

And I thought about you.**

And with Gordon Jenkins, a gentle query, Was it dusty on the train?

P.S. I Love You.

Slumber gently, sleeping diesels                        
Rusting Wheels, Sleeping Diesels  ©Steve Ember

Rest your motors,

Dream your dreams

Monday can arrive too soon, it seems

They’ll wake you up before the dawn

Time to haul those weary commuters

One giant collective Monday morning yawn.

Not that you’ll be yawning though

For you have slept the weekend through

And dreamed the dreams, the special dreams

That only diesel locomotives do. 
If you'd like to see my Sleeping Diesels in higher definition, please follow this link.

©2013 Steve Ember

** Enjoy some classic Mercer and Van Heusen - All aboard!

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

'tis Autumn...

...from a photographer's notebook

Autumn in the Piedmont - Kodachrome by Steve Ember ©2010

My favorite season arrived this afternoon at 4:44 PM in the eastern U.S.

I made sure to have Frank Sinatra’s sublime recording, with Billy May’s deft arranging and conducting, of “Autumn in New York” handy, both at home and in my car, so that, no matter where I happened to be, I could welcome the Autumnal Equinox appropriately, as well as thank Mother Nature for being so very cooperative in ensuring a sunny and dry start to the season.

Radio stations have, by and large, moved away from Sinatra and other genuine song stylists, toward “music” that tends to generate, at least for the scribe of this wee bloggie, shall we say, less than genteel language. And I intend for this post to be nothing less than genteel – and gentle – only right for this glorious season. Heck, as long as my cars contain at least one CD slot (or even, yes, a cassette transport), I’m just fine with creating mixes to take down the road.

But I do rely on radio to inform as to breaking news, impending gridlock, and approaching weather fronts (then, of course, I revert to my music, whether to ease the gridlock teeth gnashing or to enhance the mood of a crisp sunny autumn afternoon). And, soon of course, with the approaching time change, we’ll be hearing those reminders amidst news stories to change the batteries in our smoke detectors.

But the first day of autumn prompts me to check other batteries – the ones in my cameras. And since my buying spree last summer to snatch up some more film cameras to join my “analog fleet” and share the pack with my digital equipment, that means checking lots of batteries, and making sure I’ve got ample  back-up stock of everything from little silver button cells to big hulking 2CR5s and lots of AAs for my motor drives. I mean, when perfect autumn colors and gorgeous cumulus or cirrus-laced skies beckon, I want to be certain any camera I grab up is ready for action.

So, why is “Autumn in New York”* my quintessential autumn song? 

Sure, lots of great songs have been written about autumn, whether celebrating its beauty or romance…even songs gently evoking the “autumn” of one’s years.

“But now the days are short,
I’m in the autumn of the year,
And I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs…”

Sinatra again, this time more autumnal himself, with (dare I use the word again – damn right I will, ‘cause it fits) the sublime arranging of Gordon Jenkins behind him in “It Was a Very Good Year.”

And who can forget the wistful, resigned lyrics of “September Song” as sung by Walter Huston in “Knickerbocker Holiday?”

But “Autumn in New York” is somehow universal, at least as it evokes romantically the season in any big, vibrant city…New York, Chicago, London

“Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel,
They’re making me feel
I’m home…”

Thank you, dear Vernon Duke.

Not that all of my autumn shooting favors only vibrant cities, for I’m equally as apt to escape with the cameras into such color-vibrant venues as the nearby Virginia Piedmont…or the Swiss Alps…or the Canadian Rockies.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be posting some favorite autumn images, both here and on my pages on Foto-Community, some new, some vintage. The one up top is actually a Kodachrome, speaking of feeling sentimental. It was part of my "Last Hurrah with the Kodachrome" in late 2010, when I was determined to give my last freezer-stashed rolls of K-25 their very best opportunities to shine, while that iconic film could still be processed. Around that mission was built a lovely trip to the Swiss Alps, as well as a first visit to Hamburg (occasioned by a concert of Bert Kaempfert tunes at the Kehrwieder Theater around the time of the much-loved composer's birthday anniversary). Mother Nature smiled down on me and the cameras each day, with superb autumn weather; and, on my return, the two remaining rolls were treated to some superb autumn colors on two splendid Sundays in the Virginia Piedmont. 

Should any of the autumn motifs I'll be posting strike your fancy, I’d be delighted to hear from you. As I’ve written before, shooting is often a solitary endeavor; and, enjoyable as I find it, there is definitely a subsequent joy in being able to share those results and travel experiences, whether in exhibits or on these pages. 

Ah, yes, much to look forward to in the weeks ahead, as colors march toward their peak, and thoughts of festive holidays sneak into one’s thoughts. The cameras and I plan to stay busy!

Oh, about feeling “autumnal”…

While travel and photography keep me feeling (relatively) young, I’ll mention three olfactory memories from my distant youth that I do miss…

The fragrance of burning leaves…I know, not a good thing for the atmosphere, but back then, we didn’t know better. It just kinda went along with other delectable autumn aromas…such as Fiske’s (gotta say it again) sublime pumpkin pie. Guess you just had to be from Baltimore (and of a certain age) to clue in on that one. My Dad's briar pipes (yeah, we didn't know better about that either). Oh, yes, and the crisp ozone-y aroma that my Lionel O-Gauge Santa Fe F-3 diesels emitted as they roared across the mainline of my model railroad.

Ahh, ‘tis Autumn. Do feed the squirrels.

P.S: Hint for holiday gifting: I might mention that, if any of my autumn photos should strike a chord, musical or otherwise,  most images can be had as gallery prints or as custom printed photo note cards. For more information, please contact me at the e-mail address shown in the right column. And if you'd like to see the card version of the image up top, please click here.

©2013 Steve Ember

*Musical Autumn - as good as it gets!

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Had a bad day? Know someone who has?

...from a photographer's notebook

Detail from "He's Had a Bad Day"         ©Steve Ember

Has it been one of those days? You feel like the system's derailing your best efforts?

I know, I tend to anthropomorphize certain favorite machines, but…

Clearly, this CSX GP-40-2 has had a bad day…slow orders…sidelined for every @%&# priority freight…all he wants to do is get home after a long day.

My guess is 6468 has spent some time on those CSX divisions up in New Jersey or New York and maybe picked up some “attitude.”

So he puts on his best DeNiro or Bruce Willis snarl, and bellows out “Hey, derail THIS!”

Not to make light of the derailer…these devices are intended to divert runaway trains (or angry locomotives...). Oh, there I go again; but editing this image, from an Ektachrome I shot last winter, well, if you know me, it just cried out for “special treatment.”

By the way, if you’d like to cheer up someone who’s had a bad day, as I played around with this, I decided to whomp up a new Photo Note Card. It's called “He’s Had a Bad Day.” As all of my new designs are custom printed to order, you may order it blank inside, or you may customize it with your own message. For ordering information, please contact me via the e-mail address in the right column. And if you'd like to see my angry locomotive in higher definition, follow this link.

Image + Design ©2012/2013 Steve Ember

And now, everybody sing along!

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