Moonlit Rail ™



I fear that by posting a page such as this, I may have gotten the hopes up of those looking for an immensely detailed compendium of some aspect of railroading. Regrettably then, I am not a "train spotter"; I have no gray-and-white striped cap covered with metal watch-fob logo pins; I don't know who made the engines and carriages of any railroad, nor what running numbers appeared upon them. Rather, I take an interest in history — particularly industrial history — and transportation; in combination with the peace and tranquility of many of the natural spaces through which some rail routes have meandered, I find an exploration and examination of this history to be inspiring, educational, and a fun nudge for my own penchant for wanting to travel the now-forgotten path.

What I have collected here are mostly photographic resources from my explorations, including some "movies" I am painstakingly in the process of assembling from thousands of still images. Most of these are related to the "Massachusetts Central" which has it's own exhibit area on this site.

Follow the links underneath the "railroad" item on the navigation menu to locate this per-railroad content.

A Moonlit Image

If you are viewing this site with a graphical web browser, you will most likely have an image of moonlit railroad tracks as the backdrop for each page. (If you find reading white text on top of this mostly-dark image unpleasant, you can choose a more conventional page design by selecting an alternative "page style" from the navigation menu.)

If you like this moonlit background image, feel free to save a copy for your own personal use; it is 1440x1080 pixels in size. (If you wish to use site content for other than personal use, please contact me - the author - for arrangements.) A similar but wider version of the same image (sized for use as 1920x1080 format computer desktop wallpaper) is also available. And just for fun, an alternate version of the same image is available where the tops of tree branches are covered in imaginary ice that reflects the moon's light.

For the technically curious, looking at the frosty version of the desktop wallpaper will offer more obvious clues as to how the images were assembled. Although I tried to shoot the rail bed at night, under the moon light, with a tripod-stabilized camera, the results were far from satisfactory; the human eye, it seems, has a much higher dynamic range than regular photographic equipment. I just couldn't get the lighting I wanted without a hopelessly over-exposed moon. Long on determination but short on time, I found a way to capture the image I wanted: by compositing several images together. The railbed was shot underexposed in broad daylight, with many edits to remove the sky, one gradient at a time. A separate image of a moon was then added in by compositing along with a crudely hand-drawn star field. The "frosty" version simply preserved more of the sky in close proximity to the twigs and branch tops. Though utterly fake, the resulting imagery nonetheless suits the intended purposes.

Why the moon at night?

One lovely evening, at the quiet hour of 3:00am, I had ridden my RF900RR westward on back roads to the Wachusett Reservoir. Under the moonlight, I gazed down the railroad tracks of the W&N, contemplating the rippling effect of the heat coming off the rails as it distored the reflected light. I loved the mood this presented, even if the image would be elusive; eventually, as mentioned above, I would create a reasonable facsimile.