#397 – Library of Congress Images – Logging train


Although huge swathes of Britain were once forested, much of this was cleared in mediaeval times and before for use as fuel and construction materials (for buildings and ships). So by the time the steam railway came along, there wasn’t much left and there was no requirement for railway haulage out of the forests.

However, given the enormous size of America, and the development of the country happening at the same time as the development of the railway, it was inevitable that railways would be used for applications such as hauling heavy lumber.

As forested areas tended to be hilly, specialised geared locomotives such as the Shay type were developed,  however conventional 4-6-0 types were also used for flatter areas. Additionally, there were a number of railway companies that were dedicated to hauling lumber, either to railheads or to mills.

A good introduction to the subject can be found here http://www.american-rails.com/logging-railroads.html, and Wikipedia has some good links http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_railway.

Some interesting videos on YouTube as well, this is a good place to start http://youtu.be/_haZIk4GXzI.



#391 – Library of Congress Images – Switching (shunting) locomotive



This image was simply titled Bethlehem Steel in the Library of Congress archive, and had no supporting information other than it was published in the period 1910-1920.

Interestingly, the engine has written Washington Terminal on the tender, which is confusing given the title of the picture. Wikipedia tells me that the Washington Terminal company provided shunting (or switching in American parlance) services for railways operating into the Washington Terminal railway station. This photo has also been posted on shorpy.com, where someone has commented that it rather Bethlehem Steel being the location, it is probably the turntable that is the product of Bethlehem Steel.

While clearly a staged photograph, it is an interesting one nonetheless. If you look closely at the 100% crop, you will notice that one of the crew is wearing a bow tie – surely this wasn’t regular attire for footplate crew on the railway?!?!!terminalJPG

#390 – Library of Congress Images – Mallett articulated locomotive

New Mallet articulated compound engine on the Santa Fe

Although articulated locomotives were a British innovation, and Beyer Peacock built over a thousand of them, only a few Beyer Garrets and narrow gauge Fairlie’s ever saw service in Britain. However, articulated locomotives were quite widely used in other areas of the world, especially where huge amounts of power were required without the loading gauge restrictions of the UK. Mallet locomotives started to appear in America from about 1903.

This huge 2-10-10-2 example is as big as an example as you would find, although later examples such as the famous “Big Boys” of the 1940’s were ultimately more powerful as well as being capable of 70mph. Speed was something these early Malletts were not good at, these 3000 series engines being ultimately unsuccessful due to the inability of the boiler to produce steam fast enough. They were relegated to helper status (I think banking locomotives were the British equivalent) before being converted to conventional 2-10-2 locomotives.

#389 – Library of Congress Images – Ironton Blast Furnace


This photo is titled ‘Columbia Steel Company at Ironton, Utah a locomotive outside the blast furnace’.

The Utahrails website gives an early history of the steelworks, but doesn’t explain its relatively short life of only 40 years. Despite the lack of established heavy industry in the area, Utah was home to deposits of iron ore, coal and limestone, all essential ingredients for making steel.

This somewhat jumbled history of the site implies the sites decline and closure was due to obsolete facilities and lack of demand in the west side of the continent.

#380 – Library of Congress Images – The Long Stairway, Pittsburgh


The photographs of Jack Delano have been featured before on this blog, and these were the documentary images of and around the railway. This is a slightly different subject matter and style of photography.

There are a few different variations of this scene on the Library of Congress website, but this one just works best in my eyes. Maybe it’s the solitary figure walking done the steep icy steps, and the people further down, all heading towards the gargantuan steel mills that dominate the bottom of the valley.

As a photograph, I think it needs these people in the photographs, and they need to be small in comparison to the landscape and the steel mill. By positioning the steps in the immediate foreground, their steepness is somehow emphasised, while the enormity of the steel mills implies something to me – the hardiness of the people and their trudge to work down steep icy hills to do a tough job in the dirt and heat of the mills.

Perhaps it’s these winter months that have drawn me to this winter scene and the one in my last post. Certainly, this would have had less atmosphere had it been taken in the middle of summer, when the skies were less murky, and there was no snow on the ground.

#379 – Locomotive and a watertower at the Erie Railroad yards, Jersey City

Locomotive and a watertower at the Erie Railroad yards, Jersey City, N.J-Edit

This was a bit of a one off in the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection on the Library of Congress website. It doesn’t appear to be part of a series and I can find no other railway photographs in the same collection. But it’s a good ‘un nonethless, even though it’s needed a bit of restoration work.

The scene is clearly a winter one, with the scattering of snow on the ground and the leaden east coast skies. The abundance of parked locomotives all in steam would suggest that this is was shot fairly early in the day, but I could be wrong.

The water tank looks fairly ramshackle, indeed fairly primitive compared with some of the massive facilities in American railway photographs, but is also very reminiscent of the archetypal New York water tower seen on many buildings in the city.

I can’t help but get the feeling this was a grab shot from the window of a stopped (or passing) train on an over bridge – not sure why though.

#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


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


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




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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.




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