Photographing the Same Train on Two Continents

Over the years I’ve managed some neat feats in terms of fleets and/or vehicles that I’ve photographed.  At one time, I had a photo of every vehicle in the active TCAT fleet in Ithaca, NY.  I have photos of most (but not all) of the 46 Jerusalem Light Rail Alstom Citadis 302s.  However, back in January, I accomplished a feat that I don’t think I ever expected to do: photographing the same train car on two different continents.  And just to be clear, this wasn’t accomplished in Istanbul.

In 1998, the Madrid Metro accepted delivery of its 6000 Series cars from CAF for operation on that system’s Line 9.  The 6000 Series were the first Madrid subway cars to feature exterior destination signs and an articulated joint between each pair of cars, and were designed with the needs of Line 9 in mind.  I rode and photographed these cars in Madrid each time that I was in that city, first in 2005 and then again in 2008.

In 2013, most of the 6000 Series cars were sold to the Buenos Aires Underground for about 32.6 million Euro, a purchase that has since been derided as the worst rolling stock acquisition in the hundred-plus year history of the Buenos Aires system.  Buenos Aires purchased these cars to operate on their Line B, despite some significant differences between the specifications of Buenos Aires Line B and the wide profile Madrid Metro lines.  Most notably, the Madrid Metro powers its trains using overhead catenary, as does Buenos Aires for five of its six subway lines, but Line B is the lone Buenos Aires Subte line that uses third rail power.  In other words, Buenos Aires officials ordered a fleet of subway cars with the intention of using them on the one line in their network where there was no way to power the cars without significant modifications being made to both the tunnels and the 6000 Series cars themselves.  The 6000 Series cars were also narrower the other cars that had historically operated on Line B, requiring “skirts” to be added to the cars in order to close the gap between the train and the station platforms.  The 6000 Series trains ultimately entered service in Buenos Aires starting in 2014.

I traveled to Buenos Aires in January 2018 and explored the city’s subway network, so naturally, I re-encountered the 6000 Series cars in their new home.  I don’t have logs of which cars I rode in Madrid and which cars I rode in Buenos Aires, but after my trip, I compared the unit numbers in the photos I took in Madrid with those I took in Buenos Aires.  Through that process, I discovered that I photographed car 6006 at the Avenida de America station in Madrid on June 11, 2008, and photographed the same car at Carlos Pellegrini, station in Buenos Aires on January 10, 2018.

Here are the aforementioned photos:

Jerusalem Meets Paris

Alstom Citadis 302 001 on Derech Yafo (Jaffa Road) at Shlomtzion HaMalka, June 2, 2016

The Jerusalem Light Festival has been taking place each summer since 2011.  Each night for just over a week, exhilarating light displays are set up throughout the Old City.  This year, the festival extended up Jaffa Road, the historic main thoroughfare through the newer, western part of the city that now also serves as the right of way for the Jerusalem Light Rail route through the city center.  One of the installations on Jaffa Road was a miniature Eiffel Tower.  Since the light rail operates using French built Alstom Citadis 302 vehicles, it seemed only natural to try getting a photo of the Eiffel Tower replica and a light rail train in the same shot.  This is where my title for the photo, and this post, came from.

Jaffa Road has become a great pedestrian space since road was closed to vehicular traffic and the light rail was constructed on the thoroughfare, so it was difficult to get a shot without pedestrians blocking either the train, the Eiffel Tower model, or both.  Furthermore, the fact it was night meant that I needed to be using settings that ran the risk of a blurry photo if I wasn’t steady while I operated the camera and as the train went by.  (This photo was taken with an ISO speed of 800, a shutter speed of 1/50 second, and an f-stop of 3.5.)  Despite the fact it was about midnight when I was there, trains were running fairly frequently, and I had several opportunities to try getting the photo I desired.  This is the best of my attempts, and I think it is quite a good one.

Incidentally, this isn’t my only photo of the light rail with a connection to this year’s light festival.  Several trains had a band of lights installed along their rooflines and I got a few photos of those trains, too.  One of those photos can be seen below.

Alstom Citadis 302 037 on HaTsanhanim between Damascus Gate and Kikar Tzahal, June 2, 2016

For more photos of the Jerusalem Light Rail, please click here.  Oren’s Transit Page also has photos from some of the other cities around the world that operate the Alstom Citadis 302, including Paris, Madrid, and Rotterdam.


Silverliner Sunset

Silverliner II 9007 at North Broad, April 19, 2012

In 2012, SEPTA finally had enough of its Silverliner V cars to be able to withdraw the last of the Silverliner II and Silverliner III cars from its Regional Rail fleet.  I happened to be in Philadelphia in April and had some time in the afternoon to meet up with a local railfan who I know to chase the remaining cars at that time.  After riding a set from Center City out to Fox Chase, we came back to Temple University to photograph the start of the evening rush hour.  However, knowing where the Silverliner II and Silverliner III trainsets were and glancing through the timetables, I suggested we move up to the North Broad station to get something different.  In the Philly railfan community, North Broad is usually thought of as a morning photo spot, due to its layout relative to where the sun would be positioned.  However, being from out of town, I suggested we give it a shot.  It worked out pretty well.  Not only was the afternoon light conducive to getting decent photos, we had four Silverliner II/Silverliner III sets pass through the station in the span of about 3 minutes, probably representing the entire active fleet at that time.  This is my favorite photo of the set, if you look closely you’ll see not one but two of the four trainsets in this single photo.  Want to see more?  Check out the SEPTA Regional Rail Rolling Stock page and look for photos from April 19, 2012.


Blurred Lines No More

Siemens Combino 2077 on Rozengracht at Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, NL, May 30, 2016

A few weeks ago, I posted a blurry photo to Facebook that would be a part of the recent website update as a tease, asking if anyone could identify where the photo was from despite the blurry image.  Here is the image in its original form.  The photo is of a Siemens Combino tram in Amsterdam.  The trams form the backbone of the city’s transportation system and are found on many major thoroughfares in the city center.  These streets wind quite a bit due to the city’s layout, which means there are ample opportunities to get photos of the trams with the iconic row-houses as a backdrop giving the photo a sense of place.  I also like the GVB tram livery.  It might be a bit plain (you can think of the NYCTA’s simple blue stripe on a white vehicle as an example of a comparable paint scheme in the US), but I think it looks crisp and sharp, makes the trams easily identifiable on the street, and makes them stand out in photos.  In addition, I really like the way the vertical lines of the tram’s window frames and articulated joints and the row houses are so distinct, while the trees create a break up these otherwise rigid boundaries and the many straight lines in this photo.

Now that the location of this photo has been shared, expect to see some more “Viewfinder” posts with photos from my recent trip to Amsterdam as well as other places I’ve visited in the past few months in the days and weeks to come.

Where Do Your Eyes Wander?

Bombardier Flexity Outlook “Cityrunner” 3069 on Rue Royale at Warandeberg, Brussels, Belgium, November 21, 2013

When taking a transit photo, sometimes the goal can be to take a picture of the vehicle and just the vehicle, as explained in the explanation of Types of Transit Photos.  However, sometimes a transit photo can be taken with a background that takes the viewer’s attention away from the vehicle in the photo.  For example, in the photo above, are your eyes supposed to focus on the tram as it comes down the street, the buildings lining the street to the right, or the Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg Church and other buildings in the background?  On the two occasions I’ve found myself in downtown Brussels, I’ve found many opportunities to get photos such as this one, where the “focus” of the photo is hard to pin down.  While the tram is certainly what initially inspired the photo, there is certainly much more to see here than the vehicle itself.  What are your eyes drawn to when you see this photo?

The Beginning of the End for the WMATA 1000 Series

A few weeks ago, I was alerted to a photo that had been posted on Flickr of WMATA Rohr 1013 at a scrapyard in Baltimore.  In other words, the retirement of WMATA’s oldest cars, the 1000 Series, has started nearly 40 years after these cars first entered service.  About a week ago, the Washington Post wrote an article describing the scrapping process, and I’ll offer my thoughts about that tomorrow.  For this post, I just wanted to share a photo that I took of car 1013 back on January 20, 2005 at Farragut North.  At the time, I didn’t think there was a whole lot that was particularly noteworthy about the photo.  It is a pretty standard photo taken of a train that is about to leave the station with a decent view of the station platform and vault as well.  Who knew this railcar would be among the first to be dispatched to the “great train yard in the sky?”

WMATA Rohr 1013 at Farragut North
January 20, 2005

Transit Bloopers

Last week, I showed a friend of mine a photo posted to a Facebook group of a Ride On bus that was supposedly going to a place called Glennont.  Here is the photo, courtesy of Dave Galp, who originally posted it online:

Good luck finding Glennont on a map of Montgomery County, MD...

Good luck finding Glennont on a map of Montgomery County, MD…

Photo by Dave Galp, used with permission

Did you find the error?  The sign is supposed to say “Glenmont” but the destination was misspelled in a recent update of all the destination sign readings.

At least that one is hard to notice at first glance, I had to look at the photo more than once to realize what was wrong.  The error on the destination sign of this TCAT bus in Ithaca, NY is probably a bit easier to spot:

I took this photo in the fall of 2006 and have yet to figure out how to pronounce the word on that destination sign.

This post is not meant to discredit the hard work of the transit professionals behind the scenes who make sure the overwhelming majority of the signs and brochures that passengers rely upon each day are correct.  However, we are all human and occasionally make mistakes, and in the case of transit employees, those minor misspellings have potentially wide audiences.  So what is the funniest “transit blooper” you’ve seen on a sign or heard in an announcement?  Feel free to share what you’ve seen or heard in the comments (with our without a photo attachment) below!

Water Water Everywhere

MAN NL-313 27631 on Sderot Rothschild at Tzahal, Haifa, Israel, June 7, 2013

One of my favorite things to photograph are fountains, waterfalls, and other water features.  My stay in Haifa in June 2013 was not my first trip to the city by any means, however it was just before a fairly significant change to the city’s transportation network would take place.  About two months after that visit, the Metronit bus rapid transit network began service.  However, the dedicated lanes that the system would ultimately use were constructed and being used by local buses as early as 2009.  The “Lin” station has a set of fountains constructed in the very wide median between the bus lanes as the road widens to go around a traffic circle and sculpture at the next intersection.  Needless to say, once I discovered this, I made a point of getting a photo of a bus at this location with the fountains in the foreground.  The photo you see here is the result.

Types of Transit Photos

I have two broad categorizations for the types of transit photos I tend to take.  These are “roster shots” and “artsier shots.”  I expect to use these terms on occasion here at The Travelogue, so I figured I should define them so everyone understands what I am talking about.  In an attempt to make the descriptions consistent and easy to understand, all the photos used as examples are of Gillig Advantage buses operated by TCAT in Ithaca, NY.

Roster Shots

An example of a 3/4 roster shot

Roster shots are not a time for creativity.  The point of a roster shot is pretty much to get a photograph of the vehicle, just the vehicle, and nothing else but the vehicle.  The most typical roster shot is the “3/4” roster shot, which is best defined as a photo showing as much of the vehicle as possible, usually from a slight angle of about 30 degrees to the side of the vehicle’s center line.  Typically, the vehicle won’t be in motion, and may even be parked in a yard at the time of the photo (in which case an effort needs to be made to have as few things as possible in the photo frame aside from the vehicle itself).  Sometimes these shots can be “wedge” shots taken from a kneeling position, but usually these are taken from a standing position.  Roster shots also do not have to be taken from a 30 degree angle; they can also be taken from head-on, the rear, or the side of the vehicle.  However, the ~30 degree angle is most common.  Roster shots are a great way to document how a vehicle looks and to make sure that a photo collection has a basic photo of every vehicle type in a given fleet, if all 7000+ photos on this website looked like the one above, you probably wouldn’t be here for very long.

Artsier/Artsy Shots

An example of an artsy shot

As the name implies, an artsy shot does have a creative bent to it.  Let’s look at the photo to the right as an example.  Yes, it is true you can see the entire front and left side of the bus like you would in a 3/4 roster shot.  But the bus is clearly moving as it is in the process of making a left turn to come closer to where I am standing.  Also, Cornell University’s iconic McGraw Tower is very visible in this photo.  If you’re already accustomed to associating the clock tower with Cornell and Ithaca, you can immediately place where this was taken.  Using the clocktower and other Cornell landmarks to add an artistic element to the photos of Ithaca’s buses can’t really be done for a 3/4 roster shot.  However, using surrounding buildings and landmarks does add a level of creativity to what is otherwise just a photo of a bus with the dual purpose of establishing where the photo was taken.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list!

Is it a 3/4 roster shot or not?

Lots of photos can fall between the two categories.  For example, many quick shots of a bus going down the street may share the elements of a 3/4 roster shot.  The photo above has many aspects of a 3/4 roster shot as described above, but I would place it in the creative and artsy category because I framed the photo to include the entire Schwartz Performing Arts Center entryway behind the bus.  I expect most of the photos I share here on The Travelogue to fall in to the artsier category, though like in this last example, expect to see plenty of 3/4 roster shot elements in those photos.

One Last Note

Friends who have traveled with me occasionally comment on the very deliberate “crouch” I sometimes adopt in order to get some photos.  This crouching or kneeling results in what is usually referred to as a wedge shot as a result of the angle of the subject of the photo.  In addition to creating a certain perspective that I like to experiment with on occasion, it also has the benefit of lowering one’s center of gravity slightly and sometimes makes it easier to hold the camera without moving it as much, which is extremely valuable in situations where a slow shutter speed is required (i.e. dark subway stations or night shots).


Why Take Photos of Transit?

The “Flxible Metro-B” could be found all over the Washington DC area throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s. Now that all these buses have been retired, the only place to “see them in action” is on websites such as this one.

I’m not sure that the question “why take photos of transit” is a burning one in the mind of many people who are reading these words.  After all, if you’re here, there’s a good chance you’re interested in taking or looking at photographs of trains and buses.  However, it is a question I get occasionally and for the benefit of anyone who is curious about why I make a hobby out of this, I’m going to make an attempt at an explanation.

I think I started taking photographs of the trains and buses I rode as a way of documenting what vehicles I had been on.  For example, if I was in New York visiting family, I’d wait for the train to pull out of the station and get a photo of the rear end as it left the station.  It took longer to evolve from getting these simple photographs to getting some of the artsier ones I try for these days, but I think that many transit photographers go through a similar evolution.  Also, at around this time, the Internet was fairly new but I had been exposed to it long enough to find out that there were other people who shared my interest in transportation and who had websites, such as  I had a nascent interest in the Internet and building my own website, and figured if others were doing this, I could, too.

The site has grown quite a lot over the years.  If I remember correctly when it started, it had under 300 photos, none of which were from places outside the United States.  Today, Oren’s Transit Page has over 7000 photos from the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.  There are photos of transit systems and lines that were only dashed lines on a map, such as WMATA’s Silver Line and the Jerusalem Light Rail, and also photos of vehicle models that no longer run in regular service such as the “Redbird” subway cars in New York City, or with paint schemes that are no longer in use.  In the case of the retired vehicles, the photos I have can now serve as a historical record of what used to be.  Based on the thousands of people who turn out to ride the vintage train in New York City each December, I think it is safe to say that other people are also interested in what used to be as well.

Another thing that people who share this hobby enjoy trying to get are rare shots.  Sometimes a city has a vehicle in a special livery to commemorate an anniversary, such as the “silver buses” that Ride On used to commemorate its 25th anniversary.  Other times, you manage to see and get a photo of a bus or train model running on a route where it typically is not found.  It’s sort of a game of hide and seek except your target is moving.

Lastly, as someone who has also developed an interest in photography itself (and not just taking pictures of transit vehicles and facilities), it is challenging to set up shots of subjects that won’t wait for you to get that perfect shot.  Cars and pedestrians can cross between your camera lens and the bus you’re trying to photograph.  Trains have timetables to keep, they aren’t going to stand in a station longer so you can get a good picture or stop short of the usual spot to set up a better shot.  As a photographer, I have to work within these constraints in my attempt to get the shots I want and adjust on the fly if need be.  I don’t necessarily have to do that if I’m taking a photo of a landscape.

Does this explanation help answer the question in the title of this post?  If you’re a transit photographer yourself, do these reasons apply to you or do you have others?  Feel free to answer one or both of these questions in the comment section below.