#374 – Library of Congress Images – Industrial Landscape Panorama

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This is a join up of two 8×10 glass negatives so as you can imagine the digital file is huge! Panoramas are (relatively) easy to produce digitally, especially when you have the right tripod head, a fast computer and the right software, but taking one using a large format camera and making darkroom prints must be a hell of a task. There are some panoramas online which are 5-7 images wide – my computer simply isn’t powerful enough to process them at full size.

Obviously, a file of enormous proportions such as this (560mb TIFF, which is 15000 pixels wide!) is unusable on the web, so here are a few 100% crops.

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 The way you can make out detail in textures, the door frame, cables on the machinery in the background is astonishing, when you consider how far away the camera was.

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A steam crane ticking over nicely.

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 This is the far left of the frame. You can make out houses on the hillside in the background, and some kind of mast. I’d love to be able to print out one of these at full size and just look at all the detail.

#373 – Library of congress images – Bingham copper mine

Bingham Copper Mine, Utah. Carr Fork Canyon as seen from 'G' bridge. In the background can be seen a train with waste or over-burden material on its way to the dump-Edit

 

Bingham Copper Mine, Utah. Carr Fork Canyon as seen from ‘G’ bridge. In the background can be seen a train with waste or over-burden material on its way to the dump.

 

 

 

Bingham Canyon, Utah. Ore train at a mine of the Utah Copper Company-Edit

Bingham Canyon, Utah. Ore train at a mine of the Utah Copper Company.

Until recently Bingham Copper Mine was the largest open cast mine on earth, and has been worked since the 1906. A full history can be read here.

The mine is astronomically big, and for many years had an extensive internal railway system. This was replaced in the 70′s by a conveyor system, although I think ore is still hauled to the smelters by rail, much like these photos from the 1940′s albeit not by steam.

And although medium format doesn’t have the same level of detail as the glass negatives seen in some of my other Library of Congress images, it is nice to zoom into them and take a look at some of the smaller details that you wouldn’t really see when viewed at screen size, or even on a large print.

 

 

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The vast scale of the working is obvious in these photos in which the railway appears to be little more than a childs train set. I presume the driver was under instruction in the second photo to open it up a bit in an effort to get some exhaust, as otherwise the train would simply be lost. As it it is, it becomes a bit more of a focal point in the photograph. These photos are well worth downloading from the Library of Congress website and printing large to get the full effect!

 

Bingham Canyon, Utah. Ore trains on a trestle bridge above an open-pit mine of the Utah Copper Company-Edit

 

Ore trains on a trestle bridge above an open-pit mine of the Utah Copper Company.

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The one street of the town of Bingham Canyon where the Utah Copper Company workers live.

 

Utah Copper -Bingham Mine. Brakeman of an ore train at the open-pit mining operations of Utah Copper Company, at Bingham Canyon, Utah

 

Brakeman of an ore train at the open-pit mining operations of Utah Copper Company, at Bingham Canyon, Utah

These photos are less about the railway and the locomotives and more about their place in this breathtaking environment.

I’m looking at these photographs from the perspective of someone interested both in the industrial landscape and railways, and while the photographer probably lacked my narrow field of interest, he has in my eyes captured the essence of both in these photographs. Of course, there are plenty of other photographs in this series online at the Library of Congress and I’ve cherry picked the ones that interest me, but these are the ones that really stood out. The fact they are in black and white really adds to the effect in my eyes.

That being said, it is interesting to see the mine in colour, as the colours on show are amazing. Similar can be witnessed in the UK at the Parys copper mine in Anglesey, a big hole in its own right, but not on the same scale as this!

 

Carr Fork Canyon as seen from 'G' bridge, Bingham Copper Mine, Utah

Carr Fork Canyon as seen from ‘G’ bridge, Bingham Copper Mine, Utah

View of the Utah Copper Company open-pit mine workings at Carr Fork, as seen from the railroad, Bingham Canyon, Utah

 

View of the Utah Copper Company open-pit mine workings at Carr Fork, as seen from the railroad, Bingham Canyon, Utah

Finally, a later view of the mine railway. This was from the 1970′s, and in the final decade of railway operation within the mine. The electric locomotives were replaced by the early 80′s with diesels, and later the rail network was replaced with conveyors. Everything you could possibly wish to know about the mine and its railways can be found here: http://utahrails.net/bingham/bingham-index.php

ELECTRIC ORE TRAIN LOCOMOTIVE and POWER SHOVEL. - Utah Copper Company, Bingham Canyon Mine, State Route 48, Copperton, Salt Lake County, UT

ELECTRIC ORE TRAIN LOCOMOTIVE and POWER SHOVEL. – Utah Copper Company, Bingham Canyon Mine, State Route 48, Copperton, Salt Lake County, UT

#372 – Library of Congress Images – Virginia coal trains

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Boy this was hard work! The negatives were as rough as the environment they portray and must have been developed in gravy and moonshine. Most of the Library of Congress scans that you may have seen in earlier posts have required a few minutes work in Lightroom to give them some contrast and a bit of cropping and sharpening, but I decided to export this first one to Photoshop to get anything out of it. It’s certainly an improvement, but it required a lot of work, and I couldn’t be bothered with the rest, so resorted to a few gentle tweaks in lightroom.

But the lack of technical quality misses the point as what they are documenting is not only a piece of social documentary, but also something quite unfamiliar to British eyes. Running trains through streets was quite common place in America, but not something that happened in Britain much (although you’ll see it today in Porthmadog where the Welsh Highland Railway runs through to the station on the Cob).

But its not so much the fact they’re running through the streets, as the proximity to the shops, houses and cars. But I guess that in coal mining districts like this, they were just a fact of life. You lived in a company house and if the company chose to rumble 1000 tons of coal train past your front door several times a day, you were not in a position to complain.

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Coal train going through center of mining town. Davey, West Virginia.

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Train pulling coal through center of town morning and evening, Osage, West Virginia.

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Train pulls coal through center of town past miners’ homes (company houses) several times morning and evening. Osage, West Virginia.

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#371 – Library of Congress Images – Allied Railways (and British Engines) in Iran

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An American locomotive with an American soldier crew hauling freight to Russia somewhere in Iran.

I was quite surprised to see world war 2 photographs of the Persian Corridor in the Library of Congress. This was the supply chain set up through Iran by the allies to supply Russia by road and rail. The motive power was primarily diesels, ideal in an oil rich country like Iran, but initially it was steam, including 120 or so British 8F’s. These were later supplanted by American steam and then diesel, but a few are captured here in this barren landscape, so different from the British landscape and the more familiar environs of say, Shap.

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Somewhere in Iran. An American engine transporting allied aid for Russia, stopping at a station rimmed by mountains.

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An American crew in the cab of an American engine are at a stop on the railway passing the time with some Iranian boys somewhere in Iran.

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An American engine pulling a great load of supplies for Russia along a mountain- rimmed plateau somewhere in Iran.


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Mountainous route of trains carrying supplies to Russia. An American engine with an American crew along a gorge through the ever-winding route somewhere in Iran.

#370 – Union of South Africa on the East Lancs Railway 2

 

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Of course, it’s not all rural locations, but the urban locations around Bury aren’t really accessible. Even those around the railway station are only accessible on occasions like this, but it did allow for some variety as I do like to capture the people side of the railways where I can.

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 Finally, some alternative views. I always try to mess around and look for something different, away from the crowd. This isn’t easy as you are always conscious of getting in other peoples shots, but a lunchtime stop at Ramsbottom station allowed some time and space to approach from different angles, as well as seeing what I could make of the stuff on the platform.

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My rarely used 20mm came out of the bag for this, it was as close as I managed to get before having to move on. It’s not a bad lens actually as it doesn’t exaggerate perspective as much as something like my old 14mm, or the wide end of the 16-35.

#369 – Union of South Africa on the East Lancs Railway

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If I could draw an automotive comparison to the sound of a streamlined A4 steam loco it would be to a flat 6 Porsche engine – a taut, highly tuned mechanical beat with the underlying threat of huge power. I’m not well up on the different noises of steam locomotives, but hearing the Union of South Africa (or USA as it’s been nearly abbreviated to) on the latest 3P20 charter at the east Lancs Railway gave me a new appreciation for this kind of thing.

While the A4′s are of course renowned for their high speed London to Edinburgh runs, epitomised by the immortal Mallard in 1939, they were also to be seen on high speed freight runs. So when given the option of seeing USA on a charter hauling a freight train or a passenger set, I chose the passenger option. To my eyes, seeing an A4 hauling wagons is like seeing a Maserati towing a caravan or a race horse pulling a Brewers dray – rare, and thankfully so.

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Of the surviving locos, I’d only ever seen Mallard, and that was in the National Railway Museum in York, and a striking thing it is too, positioned next to the equally striking Japanese bullet train. From a photographers perspective, it’s a bloody nightmare though. Seeing USA out on the track was a different proposition altogether and gave me a new appreciation for its styling.

Like the wonderful noise it makes, the styling is taut and muscular, like a lean light heavyweight boxer. But the wonderful sweep of the line above the wheels, which were originally semi covered, was something I’d overlooked before and it intrigued me.

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Charters of course are a double edge sword. On the one hand, you have the opportunity  to shoot in the best locations, in the best light, exhaust effects on demand, and multiple run pasts. However there are constraints to work within – the obvious H&S issues of being on a live railway line, plus you are kind of restricted to shooting (to an extent) with the rest of the group so that you don’t get in someone else’s shot. So what better way to deal with these constraints than by giving myself some more? I now shoot only with prime lenses on charters for their superior image quality, and lightness. I previously carted round a 28-70, 16-35 and a 70-300, which are all brilliant lenses, but big and heavy, so carrying 3 primes in my gilet pockets is far less effort and allows for superior results.

The other thing with fast primes is that they are all F1.4 or F1.8, which allows for some interesting depth of field experiments. As noted, A4′s are striking looking engines, so I tried using a very shallow depth of field to separate the nose of the engine, the bit which really distinguishes it from other engines, from the background. Has it worked? To a degree, although it goes against the established aesthetic, which is probably why it takes some getting used to.

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But for wider, more traditional shots, a much greater depth of field is required. Unfortunately the light and wind direction were not really in our favour and the images were somewhat unremarkable compared to some from the day before.

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‘Little Burrs’ is off limits normally, but it was out of the wind, so the exhaust wasn’t billowing all over the place like it was at ‘Big Burrs’ just up the line. A spot for a wider angle lens, the 35mm in this instance.

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Big Burrs and the exhaust is getting blown over the other side of the line.

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The East Lancs Railway does have some reasonably good line side vantage points, although encroaching undergrowth and tress doe restrict some of these, especially when trees are in leaf. Summerseat viaduct is a very popular spot on steam galas, and does allow a half decent view of the engine as it passes, although for something as big as an A4, timing is crucial.

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Similarly, there is also a view of the train across one of the bridges approaching Burrs, somewhere I’d never tried before, but I took a quick look before leaving and it looks like a good spot for the winter months when there are fewer leaves on the trees, and a nice afternoon light glinting off the boiler.

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Of course, it’s not all rural locations, but the urban locations around Bury aren’t really accessible. Even those around the railway station are only accessible on occasions like this, but it did allow for some variety as I do like to capture the people side of the railways where I can.

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Finally, some alternative views. I always try to mess around and look for something different, away from the crowd. This isn’t easy as you are always conscious of getting in other peoples shots, but a lunchtime stop at Ramsbottom station allowed some time and space to approach from different angles, as well as amusing the stuff on the platform.

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My rarely used 20mm came out of the bag for this, it was as close as I managed to get before having to move on. It’s not a bad lens actually as it doesn’t exaggerate perspective as much as something like my old 14mm, or the wide end of the 16-35.

#368 – Library of Congress Images – a trip on the Santa Fe in Black & White

People talk about how in the digital age, there is a lot of ‘machine gunning’ of scenes with dozens of photographs taken, and not all with a great deal of care and attention. In looking through the photographs of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway it seems that the practice wasn’t unheard of in the days of film. The sheer volume of photographs taken on this trip were astonishing when you consider that it was shot on medium format which has maybe 10-12 shots per roll, as opposed to the 36 on 35mm film. That said, I suppose if you’re an official photographer of the American Government, tasked with documenting the war effort, then your job is to fire away and let someone else pay the bills.

Compared to the majority of the scans from the Chicago and North Western, the ones from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway are very flat. As I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t unusual with negatives, and they normally require work in the darkroom or photoshop to liven them up a bit. Clearly there must have been differences either in the film choice or the developing at the time, or possibly in some of the scanning software algorithms more recently.

This has meant that I’ve had to spend some time in Lightroom making some adjustments to them to bring them to life a little. Its hard working on someone else’s negatives as you didn’t see the scene in the first place so you’re making guesses as to how things looked and just how much contrast the scene and its parts should have.

One thing I did notice was how scratched the negatives were. Not so much volume of scratches, but large patches of them in certain area, most noticeable in the first one. Many are affected, and some I’ve managed to get rid of, but not all.

 

Barstow, California. A view of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard at night

 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001022795/PP/

Argentine, Kansas. Freight train about to leave the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad yard for the west coast

 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001021326/PP/

An Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe passenger train passing through the Flint Hills district of Kansas

 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001021416/PP/resource/

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Vaughn, New Mexico. Conductor Ennis O'Niell of Clovis, New Mexico, who was about to leave on the return trip

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Vaughn, New Mexico. Head brakeman Thomas H. Knight of Clovis, New Mexico about to leave Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard on the return trip

 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001022279/PP/

San Bernardino, California. Engines at the roundhouse

I don’t know how many engines were stabled at San Bernardino roundhouse, but it must have been dozens. The place is vast and lasted until 1995.

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Isleta, New Mexico. Conductor of a passing freight train on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad picking up a message

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Clovis, New Mexico. D.L. Clark, engineer, ready to start his locomotive out of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard

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Clovis, New Mexico. Checking a locomotive as it leaves the roundhouse in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad shops

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Clovis, New Mexico. Refacing the tires of a locomotive with a Ledgerwood apparatus

 The fitter here seems tiny compared to the monolithic size of the engine and the coaling stage behind. Note also the enormous tender on this locomotive.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001022211/PP/

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http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001022869/PP/

Walking the roof of the train. Something uniquely American about this.