#372 – Library of Congress Images – Virginia coal trains


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.


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


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








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









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