#366 – Library of Congress Images – Santa Fe in colour

West bound Santa Fe R.R. freight train waiting in a siding to meet an east bound train, Ricardo, New Mexico


Servicing engines at coal and sand chutes at Argentine yard, Santa Fe R.R., Kansas City, Kansas


A few more images of the Chicago and North Western railway to complement those I blogged recently. In some respects, the outside environment probably suits the film better (Kodak Safety Film again), as by modern standards it is incredibly slow with an ISO of somewhere between 8 and 16. However, taking pictures of moving subjects would have presented its own exposure challenges with such a slow film, so most of the engines appear to be static, moving slowly, or towards the camera where there is less relative movement.

As someone who was born and brought up in the heritage era of steam railways, it’s a reminder of how dirty the engines were when in regular service. Arguably this was accentuated by the rigours of war service, but it’s an interesting counterpoint to today’s beautifully turned out trains.


#365 – Library of Congress Images – Chicago Railway Yard

Chicago, Illinois. One of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad's '400' fleet of locomotives lined up for coal and water at a coaling station







Chicago, Illinois. Locomotive picking up coal and sand on its way out of the yards


Chicago, Illinois. Locomotives lined up for coal, sand and water at the coaling station in the yard of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad


Clinton, Iowa. Women wipers of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad cleaning one of the giant locomotives


Having explored inside the railway works, Jack Delano continued his documentation of the Chicago and North Western outside in the switching (shunting) yards. One tends to forget the enormous size of American steam locos until you see them with people next to them, and those depicted in these pictures aren’t even the really big stuff like the articulated ‘Big Boys’ that were built for war service in the American southwest.

It is interesting to note the women workers drafted into work in the railway – they are described as ‘wipers’ which I presume translates into ‘cleaners’ in British railway-speak. Much was made of the women aircraft workers (Google ‘Rosie the Riveter’) but like in Britain, women were at work across all industries including doing some very dirty jobs such as locomotive cleaning as well as ship building.

Chicago, Illinois. Locomotive taking on sand at an Illinois Central Railroad yard, before going out on the road


Locomotives over the ash pit at the roundhouse and coaling station at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yards, Chicago, Ill


Chicago, Illinois. Engines lined up at coaling station at an Illinois Central Railroad yard


#364 – Library of Congress Images – Chicago Railway Workshops in Black & White


Chicago, Illinois. Workmen studying blueprints in the Chicago and Northwestern repair shops


Following on from the last post of the colour photographs of the Chicago and North Westerns workshops, this series are in a more familiar black and white. I say familiar due to the abundance of shed photographs taken in the 50’s and 60’s by British enthusiasts. However, these are different inasmuch as they depict working scenes (although they are probably staged) rather than just recording the engines that were there on that day.

Black and white does suit the environment. I imagine it was heavy, hard, filthy work as steam locomotives are inherently dirty and the dismantling and maintenance of them would be equally, if not more so.

These are just a small selection of the photographs online. The total collection gives almost a well rounded depiction of the railways operations, people and locomotives and is well worth exploring further.

Like the colour ones, these are also the work of Jack Delano, and he has made dramatic use of the light in the building. These are the work of an artist, as opposed to a railway enthusiast, and it shows.

Chicago, Illinois. In the roundhouse at a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yard7


Chicago, Illinois. Locomotives in for repair at the roundhouse at an Illinois railroad yard




Chicago, Illinois. Working on a locomotive at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad shops 3


Chicago, Illinois. Working on a locomotive at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad repair shop 3


Chicago, Illinois. Working on a locomotive at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad repair shop 4


Chicago, Illinois. In the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad repair shops 8bit


Chicago, Illinois. In the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad locomotive repair shops3


Chicago, Illinois. In the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad locomotive repair shop5


Chicago, Illinois. A worker in the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad locomotive repair shops


Chicago, Illinois. A welder at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad repair shops 2





Brymbo Steelworks Heritage Open Day


All that remains – the empty space in the background is where the main works used to be.

Brymbo Heritage Group have contacted me to let me know that they will be open on the upcoming Heritage Open Day on 27th September 2014. It starts at 1030 from the Brymbo and Tan-y-Fron enterprise centre, Blast road, Brymbo LL11 5BT.


As it was – the only buildings left are those on the far right hand side of the picture, at the end of the long building that runs across the lower half of the picture.

The group occupy the few remaining building on site, not much compared to what was there 30 years ago, but it is the most historic area of the site and the original blast furnace remains. I can assure you that it is worth a look and the guys who run it are all ex-employees who have a genuine interest and passion for the place, and to my mind that counts for a lot.

A few snaps from my visit in 2010 are here: http://www.theviewfromthenorth.org/brymbo-steelworks




Flywheel pattern


Inside the foundry


#363 – Library of Congress Images – Chicago Railway Workshops in Colour

In the roundhouse at a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yard, Chicago, Ill.-Edit









In the roundhouse at a yard of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad, Chicago




Locomotives over the ash pit at the roundhouse and coaling station at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yards, Chicago, Ill


















Chicago and Northwestern railroad locomotive shops, Chicago 2















C & NW RR, working on a locomotive at the 40th Street railroad shops, Chicago



A young worker at the C & NW RR 40th Street shops, Chicago, Ill


In my nightschool studies of the history of photography, we covered the photographers that Farm Securities Administration (FSA) commissioned to document the American ‘Dustbowl’ crisis of the 1930’s (Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ being the best known example), but I didn’t realise that a similar large scale photographic documentation had taken place during World War 2 of the war effort. I have seen a number of photo websites publish some colour images from this operation, mainly of the women aircraft workers, but I didn’t realise the enormous scale of the undertaking.


With some careful searching I discovered thousands of railway images taken during this period, covering the people, facilities, locomotives, rolling stock and landscapes of the wartime railway. Interestingly, there were quite a lot taken in colour, the scans of which are fabulous. These are some of my favourites, as colour photographs in steam workshops are rare. They are part of a larger series taken in the Chicago workshops of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.

I’ve had to try and correct the colour casts on these, something that slide film is prone to. Have a look at the originals in the links to see what the originals are like. The negative says Kodak safety film which I’m presuming is a Kodachrome derivative , a new film around this time and one whose archival properties are renown.


#362 – Library of Congress Images – USS Maryland in dry dock

U.S.S. Maryland in dry dock, Charleston Navy Yard-Edit-Edit

I mentioned in the first post in this series about the quality of the glass plate negatives in the Library of Congress archive.  I love looking at these images at 100%, it’s not so much pixel peeping as seeing what is in the image as they are so big. They are scans from 8×10 negatives and were probably rated at an ISO of something very low (probably less than 10 but I have no specific information) so the resolution is incredible. They have been scanned / rephotographed on a Sinar 54H and the Tiff files are around 150mb, so there’s an enormous amount of information. In fact, given that the Sinar is a medium format back, I dare say that there is probably more detail on the negatives than the sensor can pick up. These could easily be printed at A1 with massive detail, in fact I might get one done out of curiosity. I’ve downloaded a few and tidied them up a bit – dust and scratch removal plus some contrast adjustment to make up for the flatness of the scans.

USS Maryland crop 2

This is a really busy scene. The initial thing you I saw was the team of men painting the ship, and then the men on the bow looking at the camera. There seems to be some kind of re-supply operation going on with a line running from the dockside fo the ship that has a container running along it. There is a good crowd of bowler hatted people on the dock observing the activities. Up on the mast on the superstructure, two sailors are doing something, maybe cleaning the smaller guns.USS Maryland crop4

This late 1890’s / early 1900’s type of battleship were known as pre-Dreadnoughts, as they were all made obsolete when the Britishnlaunched the HMS Dreadnought in 1908. You’ll notice the characteristic sloped bow – these were standard for the era and early ships had them reinforced for ramming, which was considered an important tactic / weapon of the era. However, it ultimately fell out of vogue as in reality ships rarely got close enough to each other to engage, mainly thanks to improvements in naval gunnery.USS Maryland crop1

There is something quite stylish about these ships – the pristine white hulls, the elaborate crests on the bows and wooden bridge house show an element of Victorian panache combined with the menacing array of guns present – this thing is like a floating fortress!USS Maryland crop 3

#361 – Library of Congress Images – Launch of Battleship Georgia at Bath, Maine.


The Start, launch of U.S.S. Georgia at Bath, Me


The Launch of the U.S.S. Georgia at Bath, Me

In the stream, launch of the U.S.S. Georgia at Bath, Me


I recently discovered the Library of Congress online photo archive, an amazing archive of photographs depicting many aspects of American life up to the 1950’s. Online are thousands of scanned photographs, many of high quality glass negatives. The resolution on these will blow you away, and the high resolution scans are available to download in very large TIFF files for closer examination.

This sequence shows the launch of the battleship USS Georgia at Bath Ironworks in 1904. Large format cameras aren’t known for their rapid shooting ability, and film speeds in 1904 would have been single digit ISO’s so to manage four frames during the launch was a remarkable achievement.

I passed through Bath on a driving tour of New England in 2001 and found it to be a bit like Barrow in Furness here in the UK – a small town dominated by a massive shipyard. At the time, the yard had just transitioned to building ships on a massive level concrete platform before they are transferred into a giant floating dry dock for completion and launch, rather than the traditional slipways, as shown above (This actually isn’t too different to the method used at Barrow, where subs are assembled in the Devonshire Dock Hall, and then wheeled outside onto an elevator and lowered into the water).

Due to limitations of time, camera and access, I only took three pictures from an area outside the site, but you’ll get an impression of the size of the facilities. Interestingly, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers which the yard has been producing for many years are actually longer than the Georgia (500 vs 440ft) although they aren’t quite as wide (66 vs 76ft) and have a lower displacement (about 10000 tons compared to 15000 tons).