In the summer of 2017, my family and I were on a big train-cation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. As part of our trip, we visited Leadville, one of the highest incorporated cities in America, at an elevation of 10,152 feet above sea level. Leadville was founded in 1877, as a mining town. Read more
A Sense of Place
Saturday afternoon found me over in the valley again. Here in central Virginia, “the valley” is understood to mean the Shenandoah Valley which is “over” on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains from where I live. A year and a half ago, I began working on a project to photograph a few miles of railroad that runs between Elkton and Front Royal on part of what is now Norfolk Southern’s Shenandoah Valley line.
It was a pleasant early spring day. Some snow still lingered on the north facing slopes of the mountains, but in the valley the fields were beginning to turn green, and the trees were just starting to show some spring color. In the Town of Shenandoah, I stopped in the NS yard office and asked if it was OK to take some pictures (it was) and found out that a northbound freight was leaving soon. Read more
When my parents had to drop off a package at the Railway Express Agency at the now long-gone New Haven Railroad station in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that’s when I got hooked on trains. I was five years old then, but the sight of an express train roaring by toward New York City had me riveted. From that day through my childhood, I would beg my folks to stop by the station so I could stand where so many travelers to up and down the East Coast trod upon those old wooden platforms. The place reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke, diesel fumes from idling locomotives, the noise of baggage carts and porters moving across the platforms, and those great, green REA trucks coming and going from their part of the station.
But as I became an adult, it wasn’t just the old country depots and big city stations that fascinated me. It was and still is the stories and even history that moved through them. Read more
The End of Mail Service on the Chesapeake & Ohio
The Railway Post Office (RPO) was in existence for over 130 years and was an efficient way to move mail throughout the United States. Mail was sorted in-route for destinations to insure timely delivery. The RPO car was off-limits to passengers, and postal clerks were armed with pistols.
October 28, 1967, however, marked the end of through RPO mail service on Chesapeake & Ohio passenger trains between Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Although some limited sorting of mail still existed, it was really the beginning of the Post Office Department’s move to handle mail on trucks and planes throughout the U.S. Read more
I grew up in a neighborhood in the Bronx (the only part of New York City, as I always love to point out, that’s on the North American mainland) that was adjacent to the mainline of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad and its no longer active Van Ness yards. This was in the 1940s. As a little kid I’d take walks there with my father, and marvel at the trains, tracks, and rail-side and yard hardware—the signals, towers, cranes, etc.
Although our apartment was small by most anyone’s current standards, my parents managed to find room to somehow set up a small Lionel O -gauge layout for me and my brother. The engine had to be Santa Fe. Why? A little kid fixation I suppose. During the war my father’s business relocated him to Amarillo, Texas. He went ahead to get settled. My Mommy and I followed. We rode out on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (at least west out of Chicago) on the Super Chief. That catchy McGuire Sisters song was regularly on the radio too. These sorts of things stuck and sunk in. They still resonate to this day. For many of us who loved railroading from early on in life, those early experiences perpetuate some essential atoms of our childhood throughout the course of all our accumulated decades. Read more
The Trackside Photographer is entering its third year of publication (we launched on March 3, 2016) and I want to thank everyone who has followed along with us. I am most grateful for the many contributors who have been wonderfully generous to share their photography and stories with us, and who make this site possible.
One of the joys of my job as editor has been the opportunity to see hundreds of your photos from around the world. I have learned a lot, both about railroads and photography. Looking at the work of others inspires and fuels our growth as photographers, and that is the simple idea that keeps us on track. There is more to come in 2018. Join us! Read more