I had the opportunity to participate in an organized trip to a place called the Trolley Graveyard in Windber, Pennsylvania in December of 2020. As this was almost a year into the pandemic, I jumped at the idea of going anywhere at all. It was outside and everyone would be masked and distanced and so it seemed like a safe outing. That 160 mile round trip from my home in Pittsburgh was about an eighth of the total mileage for my car in the year 2020.

The Trolley Graveyard is a private collection of decommissioned streetcars that a man named Ed Metka has been collecting for almost thirty years in Windber, a suburb of Johnstown. It’s not normally open to the public but Mr. Metka will open it to groups occasionally. Ethereal Aperture, based here in Pittsburgh, organized the trip and half a dozen of us drove out there this winter.

There are train cars in better shape inside the barns but it was too dark in there for ISO 400 and I hadn’t brought a tripod or flash so these are all of the trolleys and train cars that have been out in the elements and slowly rusting in the relentless Western Pennsylvania weather.

I took my $25 Canon Elan IIe paired with a new Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens; the 35mm cartridges were hand-loaded from a 100-foot bulk roll. I shot three rolls of ILFORD Delta 400 Professional and one of expired Kodak Gold 400 but these five shots are all from one roll of the ILFORD. It was a very gray and overcast day in Western Pennsylvania, typical here for about half the year, which gives you a signature soft, even light with few shadows. This quality of light turned out to be a good match for the somewhat melancholy subject matter and ILFORD’s Delta 400 does a terrific job of capturing the textures of the metal, wood and fabric surfaces.

Even though the site isn’t open, it’s pretty obvious from these pictures that young folk with spray cans manage to get in there. The graffiti just adds another layer of texture to the surfaces.

I developed the rolls in HC-110 using standard timings from the Massive Development Chart and scanned them in with an Epson Perfection Pro v850 and then tweaked the tones a bit in Lightroom. While I’m quite happy with these, I wish that I had access to a darkroom to print them properly and will eventually do just that, probably on some cooler-tone paper.

~ Gene

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  1. Love the tonality of these, as they capture the current forlorn state of these once shiny and useful streetcars.
    The Delta-400 – and your eye – served you well (as did your modest but trusty Canon EOS gear!)