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Thread: Riding with a Fisheye

  1. #1
    TomNanos Guest

    Default Riding with a Fisheye

    I guess Im fortunate to have contacts with the railroads that, from time to time, call me and ask if Id like to ride with them for a day. The most recent time was late June 2007 when a friend called and asked if Id like to tag along with Connecticut Southern Railroad train CSO-4 on a Saturday run from East Hartford, CT to West Springfield, MA and return. After getting approval from my wife the keeper of the calendar I met the guys in East Hartford, preparing to ride north on a beautiful summer day.

    As Ive ridden and photographed this line a number of times, I decided to try out something different I strapped my Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye on the 20D and went with that lens for the majority of the day. Sure, I did switch to the standard wide angle (18-50mm) and the telephoto (70-200mm) from time to time, but the bulk of the shots my guess would be about 60% of them were with the fisheye. I figured it would be an interesting twist on the proverbial "limit yourself to one lens for a day" challenge. Why the hell not?

    Rather than doing the expected here and going through all the shots in the order they were taken, Ill mix it up a bit with the text also and instead group them by type of shot. Lets start out with what youd expect from such a wide angle lens in tight quarters shots of the guys in the cab.

    Here's a couple views of my gracious hosts Allan and Mick, both of which are engineer/conductors on the CSO, and would swap duties through the day. First off, on the way up to West Springfield, they discuss what they need to do to get in & out of CSX's classification yard with the cars they need to bring back to Hartford.

    A little later in the day, as we wait for the Amtrak Springfield Line dispatcher to give us permission to head south out of Springfield, MA, Mick catches up on some paperwork while Allan is in the station checking out the latest bulletins.

    Attachment 2827

    After the dispatcher gave us the go-ahead to head south out of the station, and we were well on our way south on the Springfield Line, Mick and Allan were sharing stories with me - all of which cannot be repeated anywhere.

    And finally Mick gets his turn in the right hand seat, as Allan needed to, ahem, drop something off in the rear unit. Luckily we had moved all of our gear to this cab.

    Next up we'll move outside of the cab - there was a nice blue sky with some of the proverbial puffy white, what I like to call Simpsons clouds, in the sky. With the fish, I was sure to get some of that sky in the shots.

    Of course, now that I mentioned the Simpsons clouds, here's a shot with nary a cloud in the sky. I guess I failed to mention that the clouds rolled in a bit later in the day. This one was shot on the way north running through Windsor Locks, CT. The flag waving in the warm summer breeze made the photo for me.

    Now in CSX's West Springfield yard we've got some of those cottonball clouds. The way the track arrangements are between the Amtrak Springfield line (runs north-south) and CSX's Boston Line (east-west) are, it requires CSO freights to shove in and out of the West Springfield yard. Here the train is shoving into West Springfield past the signals at CP-99.

    Attachment 2823

    Once we put the train into the track the yardmaster designated, it was discovered that the track he gave us was 2 cars too short. So the yardmaster told us to cut the 2 cars off and drop them on an adjacent track. While Mick walked the 3/4 mile or so to the head end, Allan stepped off to line most of the switches. I got a shot of him heading back to the power, again with those puffy clouds rolling above.

    One of the other duties CSO-4 would have to attend to in West Springfield this day is to drop off an SD-40 for Monday's CSO-1 train (a job that runs bridge traffic over the Springfield Line from West Springfield to CSX's Cedar Hill yard in New Haven). So the trio of locomotives headed west through the yard to where the CSO locomotives are kept (Upper 18 is the stub track they're kept on if you're curious). While remaining on the two B39-8s that we'd ride back to East Hartford, I got a shot of Mick riding the 6-pack out of our consist with that blue & white sky looming above.

    Well, finally I tried some more, for lack of a better term, detail type shots with the old fish. Here's a trio from the trip.

    First up is a shot as we were coming north on the Springfield Line. Since there was a slow order, I stepped out of the cab and got a shot with the number board as the prominent part of the picture, and part of the Springfield skyline in the background.

    Then as we started the shove into West Springfield on the CSX Boston Line, I opted for a blur shot over the coupler of the lead locomotive. At this point we weren't going more than a couple miles an hour. And let me tell you something - not only was it tough keeping still, but also with the fisheye, it was tough keeping my feet out of the frame!

    And finally, a shot that just struck me as I walked past - a look down the long hood of the lead B39-8.

    It was quite refreshing shooting with primarily one lens - especially one that is so unusual - for the 8 or so hours we were on the rails. Like I said, I didn't completely limit myself to only bringing the fisheye along, but I did make myself think a bit more about the shots and use the 15mm more than I normally would have.

  2. #2


    Good stuff, Tom and a fun experiment in single lens shooting. Nice to see those old LMX's still roaming the rails. Will have to sort through my negs and see if I can find the 8579 lugging tonnage over Stevens Pass back in the day.

    I vote for approval.

    Martin Burwash

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Zanesville, Ohio


    Yea, I guess you are fortunate.

    I liked it too.
    Chris Crook

    pictures and yap

  4. #4


    Just when I pat the review board on the back for fast action...what happens? Tom's great essay lingers here and is being ingnored! All it needs is one lousy vote, folks.

    Martin Burwash

  5. Default

    Geeeze Martin - I take one day off and what happens? A good flogging!

    I like this piece. Not only the single lens view point but a nice flowing commentary. A nice easy feel and very nice 'weird' lens work. Like Martin, it's interesting to see those ex-LMX GE's still earning their keep.

    I vote a big YES!

  6. #6
    TomNanos Guest


    Thanks guys!

    Martin - I'd love to see some shots of these old girls in their prime. The guys on the CSO love them for the road jobs, but bitch and moan about them for switching - load too slow is the biggest complaint. Anyways, the ones the CSO now has are 8511, 8530, 8552, 8554, 8565, & the aforementioned 8579.

  7. Default

    I can't believe it! I don't have any of these. Here's are a couple of their sisters out here in the wild NW. The 8540 is shown at South Seattle in the early 90's and 8528 at Skykomish in 1988.

  8. #8


    I'll have to take a look one of these days, Tom. I know I have a bunch of shots of the bloody nosed sharks. Right now just too much feed milling and farming..not to mention an Aug. 15 deadline for an upcoming MRL article...wink, wink.


  9. #9
    16CSVT Guest

    Thumbs up

    Tom, I enjoyed the ride and you have some nice comps in there as well.

    How many fags did the guy get through on that shift?
    I had better rephrase that hadn't I. How many cigarettes did the guy smoke on that shift.

    Did he sit awkwardly on that radio as well, looks like he could be in a bit of a quandry there.

    Seriously, I liked the trip a lot, nice flavor.

    Really liked the comp with the flag and both the action shots with the guys 'doing the job'.#7 & 8.

    Nice Tom.

    All the best.


  10. #10
    Two23 Guest


    A 15mm wouldn't be wide enough for me. My 10-20mm is my most used lens, and I've looked at the Sigma 8mm with great longing. I bought the ultrawide partly because it works so well inside cramped cabs. Mostly what I can talk my way into are old Geeps or SW switchers. Flash can be a problem in those so what I always do is point my SB-800 to the ceiling and use the white reflector card to throw a little light forward. I'm not aware of any shoe mounted flash that can cover 10mm. (This on a D80 1.5x crop body.) Below is the only cab shot I managed while on vacation. Do I get any points because it was in Hawaii? Engineer Bruce of the Kauai Plantation Railroad. Engine is a 1940s vintage GE 25 tonner. Cool stuff! Note that the 10-20mm is not a fisheye but is a rectilinear. It tends to keep lines straight.

    Kent, heading back to SD

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