#425 – Library of Congress Images – the night photography of Jack Delano

Illinois Central R.R., Chicago, Ill. Vernon Brower, riding the foot board of a diesel switch engine at the South Water Street freight terminal

I’ve featured quite a few of Jack Delano’s Library of Congress photographs on this blog over the last 18 months or so. Maybe it’s because he photographed subjects that I am interested in, but his photographs stand out for some reason. While some of the portraits of the railway workers on the Santa Fe and Chicago and North Western Railroad are clearly posed (the best candid photographs are always posed, a wedding photographer once told me), others are less obviously so and were probably done as a collaboration with the subjects who were carrying out their daily tasks. But they do have too much of a sense of occasion about them to be candids.

Santa Fe R.R. yards, Argentine, Kansas. Argentine yard is at Kansas City, Kansas

Chicago and North Western R.R., Mrs. Thelma Cuvage, working in the sand house at the roundhouse, Clinton, Iowa

This second selection (below) caught my eye though. Most railway photography is about the hardware – the locomotives, trains, the infrastructure and their place within the urban and rural landscapes where they are found. And of course, you will sometimes (occasionally) get some featuring people. This selection is not about any of these subjects. These are more abstract and are in my eyes about light and movement, They are created as a consequence of trains and people, but are not about trains and people. Or maybe I’m reading too much into them and he was simply killing time experimenting at the end of a shift or waiting for something to happen?

Interestingly, after the war Jack Delano moved into cinema, a route not uncommon for photographers including John Bulmer, a British Photographer who I will also be writing about at some point in the next 12 months.

Activity in the Santa Fe R.R. yard, Los Angeles, Calif. All switch lights, head lights and lamps have been shaded from above in accordance with blackout regulations. The heavy light streaks are caused by paths of locomotive headlights and the thin lines by lamps of switchmen working in the yard. Santa Fe R.R. trip

Illinois Central R.R., freight cars in South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago, Ill

View in a departure yard at C & NW RR's Proviso yard at twilight, Chicago, Ill.



#424 – Library of Congress Images – street running trains

Empire State Express (New York Central Railroad) passing thru Washington Street, Syracuse, NY-Edit

I posted some Library of Congress photos of coal trains running through the streets last year. This is something I noted as being quite unusual in the UK. These are some more examples, and this appears to be a full blown express train.

Boston and Maine Railroad depot, Riley Plaza, Salem, Mass-Edit

This is idle speculation on my part, but I suspect that due to the way the railway opened up America, i.e. the railway was there first and towns grew up around them, this was perhaps more commonplace in the USA than in the UK, where the only incursion of railways onto streets tended to be at level crossings (tramways excepted). There were some notable exceptions of course such as the Weymouth harbour branch and the original Welshpool railway, and of course the Welsh Highland Railway now runs through Porthmadog, plus several other obscure minor railways but for the most part, road and rail rarely met*.

Empire State Express (New York Central Railroad) passing thru Washington Street, Syracuse, NY-2-Edit

But none of these examples are heavyweight express trains. These depict the Empire State Express running through Syracuse in the early part of the 20th Century, and it looks to be quite a spectacle. Of course, road traffic 100 years ago was several orders of magnitude less than it is today which would have made the concept easier although I’m quite sure it was fraught with danger even in those times, where health and safety was at best an inconvenience and at worst non-existent.

But this kind of scene appears to have been not uncommon in bygone America (and may even perpetuate to this day for all I know?), as many towns grew up around the railway as the western expansion opened up previously uninhabited wilderness. contrast this with Europe where towns and villages pre-dated the railways and thus tracks in urban areas tended to be in cuttings, tunnels or embankments, only intruding on roads at level crossings where bridges were impractical.

O.Winston Link also captured some street running in one of this most famous pictures that I posted up a few years ago. The wide traffic free streets of the rural Virginia town photographed on a dark night in the 50’s are probably ideal conditions for running a large freight train through and a world away from a narrow European street which demonstrates why the concept is rare in Europe and the UK.


*Other examples that spring to mind are the largely disused railway network in Trafford Park, however, this was built as an integral part of the estate and from what I’ve seen of the remains, tended to run alongside the road network rather than sharing space with it. The Metrolink network in Manchester is a bit of a hybrid as it runs both on the streets and also along former Network Rail metals from Bury into Manchester city centre. I’m sure there are other examples, but nothing like what I’ve shown from America!

#423 – The secret railway…………….


Following the wander round Rhydymwyn, I was asked if I wanted to see some abandoned trains nearby. Now that’s the kind of offer that I can’t refuse, so we drove back towards Mold, parked the cars and made our way across some fields. Hidden away from view in some trees is this small collection of narrow gauge diesel engines and a standard gauge diesel shunter, sat on a length of abandoned railway track. DSC_6385-Edit

I don’t know the history of this collection but a bit of googling has showed that they belonged to a gentleman called Ian Jolly. There’s a little information here. The standard gauge Simplex appears to have been based locally at the nearby Synthite works in Mold, which was rail connected until 1983. The others I have no idea about – any information would be welcome!

DSC_6380  DSCF1955 DSCF1961 DSCF1956-Edit

#417 – Library of Congress Images – A Beyer Garrett in Iran


I posted a while back some pictures I took of the former Beyer Peacock works in Manchester, and it coincided with stumbling across this photograph in the Library of Congress of the trains run by the allied forces on the Iranian Railways in WW2. I actually posted some photographs of British built 8F’s on the line a while back, but didn’t really pay much attention to this at the time, until I visited Gorton and dug out a reprinted Beyer Peacock catalogue I bought from MoSI as part of their Beyer Garrett centenary event in 2009.

Sure enough, in 1936, Beyer Peacock sold 4 Beyer-Garrett locomotives to Iranian State Railways for use on their northern section which crosses the Elburz mountain range.


#414 – Library of Congress Images – Streamliners and The Burlington Zephyr

Streamlined train, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Streamlined train, La Crosse, Wisconsin-4

A high speed streamlined stainless steel express train – is there anything more effortlessly Art Deco cool than this? Dating back to 1934, the Pioneer Zephyr trains must have seemed to have driven straight off the pages of a science fiction comic when compared to the typical steam locomotive of the day. FSA/8d25000/8d250008d25005a.tif

The power source was not as futuristic from a technological standpoint, but pointed to the future a – diesel engine that provided current to traction motors in the bogies. While this type of power unit had been tried before, it had not been used in anything as ambitious as this.

The Burlington Zephyr. East Dubuque, Illinois

At this time, diesel power was pretty much confined to shunting locos on British railways at the time. Perhaps due to the nations vast coal reserves and relative lack of oil in the UK (offshore reserves notwithstanding) diesel traction was fairly slow to take off on British shores. While there was some small scale experiments in diesel and petrol rail cars, as well as the electrification done by the Southern Railway, it was only really post war with the LMS D16 diesel locomotives was a new era signalled in Britain. Continental Europe was far ahead – Germany’s ‘Flying Hamburger‘ entered service in 1934

I’m no expert on diesel locomotives, so this is specualtion on my part, but I wonder whether the dieselisation of American railways started earlier than in Britain due to the nations oil reserves. While the country had huge coal reserves as well, the benefits of the internal combustion engine were well known, plus the huge refining capacity available maybe made it inevitable that diesel power would take over once the actual technology of diesel engines was perfected. While there were numerous experiments with diesel power in America, the Pioneer Zephyr was something of a trailblazer for the concept.

And maybe because of the greater number of railway companies, who didn’t all have their own locomotive building facilities, the importance of the independent locomotive builder was greater in America than in Britain (not that Britain lacked independent builders, but for the most part, their products tended to be either for industrial use or for export rather than domestic mainline use). Consequently, there was probably more of a market for innovations like diesel power than in Europe.

Either way, the Burlington Zephyr was certainly a success, the units ran until 1960. Other streamlined diesels quickly followed (with varying degrees of success) but the Zephyr made the headlines and stayed in them with publicity stunts such as the dawn to dusk run, and film appearances.


I love this film noir style photograph taken in Chicago Union station of the Denver Zephyr in 1943. It was taken by Jack Delano who took a lot of the photos I’ve posted before of the wartime American railways. A professional photographer, he later went on to become a film director and he had a great eye for light.



#411 – Library of Congress Images – A Princess Coronation in America


The Duchess of Hamilton with the Royal Blue on Thomas Viaduct

The 38 Princess Coronation class locomotives built by the LMS at Crewe works between 1937 and 1948 were some of the finest ‘top link’ steam locomotives built in the UK. For a while, no. 6220 held the world speed record at 113 mph although this did not last too long. The Princess Coronations power output of 3300hp was never surpassed in the UK though.

IN 1939, 6229 Duchess of Hamilton swapped identities with 6220 Coronation and was shipped off to the USA to attend the World’s Fair. Arriving in Baltimore, the loco and a set of articulated carriages were unloaded and dispatched to the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) depot at Mount Clare and used in a number of publicity films and photoshoots. The most popular ones were of her were on the Thomas Viaduct with her B&O Railroad contemporary the ‘Royal Blue’.

To allow her to run on American metals, Crewe Works had installed an American bell, head lamp and buckeye coupling, and after leaving Baltimore, the train went on a 3000 mile tour of that covered Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany, Boston, Hartford and many others before arriving in New York to take it’s place at the World’s Fair.

During the time of the exhibition though, events back home took a turn for the worse and Britain declared war on Germany. It was decided to be too risky to send the train back, so the loco was stored by the B&O at its Fell’s Point facilities in Baltimore and the coaches were taken to Jeffersonville, Indiana where they were used as living quarters for the US Army Quartermaster Corps. The locomotive was returned to the UK in 1943 and on her return to Crewe, she swapped identities back to No. 6229.

Duchess of Hamilton is now preserved in fully streamlined condition at the National Railway Museum in York, and looks splendid! It is interesting to note how small she looks in comparison to the American loco, which by US standards, is not huge.

I can highly recommend ‘The Duchesses’ by Andrew Boden, a very readable account of the class, more so than most railway books.




#407 – Steam on the River Dart


OK, time for a few holiday snaps, but mine consist of paddle steamers, factories and steam locomotives;)

The River Dart runs through 18.5 miles of Devon countryside and is navigable from Dartmouth to Totnes. Dartmouth is best known for its Regatta and the Naval College, but is also a deepwater harbour, although it sees little commercial shipping these days (aside from an occasional cruise ship visit). However, given the county’s popularity as a holiday destination, the river is home to hundreds of leisure craft as well as car and passenger ferries and tourist boats. The most significant of the latter is the Kingswear Castle, once one of several paddle steamers that were built on the river, for service on the river with the River Dart Steamboat Company. The Kingswear Castle is the only survivor and while it isn’t the only paddle steamer in the country, it is the last coal fired one.


 The remains of the original (1904) Kingswear Castle


 The 1924 Kingswear Castle in Dartmouth


 Making her way up the river

The current Kingswear Castle was built to replace an earlier ship that carried the same name, as well as the same engines. Built in 1904, she was withdrawn from service in 1924, her engines were donated to her successor and her hull left to rot at the side of the river where the last remains can still be seen today (just). The current Kingswear Castle was built in Dartmouth in 1924 for service on the Dart between Dartmouth and Totnes, a job it did until 1965. By then, it was more economic to use diesel powered / screw driven boats, so the steamers were withdrawn. Kingswear Castle is the only survivor. It ended up being bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, who also own PS Waverley, who took her to the Medway and over many years restored her to working condition. She re-entered service on the Medway in 1985 and returned to the Dart in 2013.

It was interesting to see how small she was compared to the steamers I’ve seen and blogged about on Lake Lucerne. Kingswear Castle is just shy of 35m in length, whereas the Swiss ones are around 62m. Interestingly Waverley is 73m long, but was designed as a sea-going ship rather than a lake / river steamer.

Also on the river is Philip and Sons shipyard where the Kingswear Castle was built. In its 141 year history, the yard built hundreds of vessels including the lightship Edmund Gardner that can be seen in the Albert Dock in Liverpool). This was the last industrial shipyard on the Dart and closed in 1999 but is still in use as a marina.




Finally, any visit to the area would be incomplete without a visit to the Dartmouth Steam Railway. This is a bit of a misnomer as the railway actually runs into Kingswear, which is on the opposite bank of the river to Dartmouth. Confused? You will be – there was actually a Dartmouth Railway Station on the quay in Dartmouth – passengers had to buy tickets there and cross the river by ferry to catch the train from Kingswear Station. Dartmouth station still exists but is now a cafe and I forgot to take a picture of it.

The railway itself was of course once part of the Great Western Railway network and was part of the Beeching cuts.

The railway, while a ‘heritage’ line in the sense that it runs steam trains along a former GWR branch, runs 7 days a week and is employs by full time staff rather than volunteers. It has also provoked anger amongst some of the railway enthusiast community by naming all of its locomotives (not all of the engines would originally have been named when in GWR / BR service). None of this particularly bothers me – it is a well run line with good facilities that is hugely popular with the many tourists to the area.


 7827 Lydham Manor