Editor’s Notebook

The color of railroading . . .
Town of Shenandoah, Virginia – March, 2018

A while back, a friend said to me that in his opinion, black and white is the color of railroading. I didn’t disagree. When we look at well known railroad photographers, most all of them worked in black and white. Richard Steinheimer, Jim Shaughnessy, Philip Hastings, O.Winston Link, David Plowden and many others produced outstanding bodies of work in black and white. In fact, there was a time that I would have said that the color of photography is black and white. Most of the great photographers that I admire worked in black and white. Of course, part of the reason for the predominance of black and white is that color came fairly late in the history of the medium.

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Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day  2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part One

In April 2018, my friend George Hiotis and I made a fourteen-day, 2,300-mile journey from my home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to Chicago and back. We had a GREAT time.

Ostensibly, we made the trip for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art conference, but we spent most of a week before and all of a week afterwards on the road. I came back with 4,200 pictures—crazy, right?—and George brought home more than 5,000. We photographed at something like seventy-five locations, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia, from before dawn until long after dark on most days. We stumbled on some astonishing places and buildings in addition to the dozens that George had put on the initial itinerary, developed through scads of research in the months before the trip. We also met some memorable people, a few of whom I photographed. I had set out on this trip determined to overcome my self-consciousness about photographing strangers, and you will see some of the results here. Read more

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Railroad Town:
 Bowie , Maryland

When people think about the town of Bowie, Maryland, they think of it as that town that they breeze through between Annapolis and Washington D.C. along U.S. Route 50. Most people will say that there is really nothing in Bowie but houses and a few shopping centers, and that there is really nothing particular to the town. Well, if you knew that it is the largest town in Prince George’s County, Maryland; that it is the fifth most populated town in the U.S. state of Maryland and the third largest town in land area in the state of Maryland;  that it is one of the largest suburban cities of Washington D.C., the home of a race track, the Belair Mansion and Belair Stable Museums which was once a colonial plantation house plus a few other historic homes; and that it is the home of the National Radio and Television Museum which is housed in an old home, you cannot say that there is not much to the town of Bowie. It is a town that has much more than you can imagine.

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Last Train to Pikes Peak

Sitting on a siding, we see a train descending the line not far from the peak. We got to wave at the other passengers, as they passed by us on our siding.

Last summer, during our Colorado summer vacation, we made a stop in Manitou Springs to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.  This is an amazing trip to the top of Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 14,110 ft.

As our train ascended the mountain, we saw a beautiful high mountain lake that is used as a reservoir for the city of Colorado Springs.

Along the way, the train passes through four different terrains ranging from high plains to alpine tundra. The route is 8.9 miles long, with very steep grades, and takes a little over three hours to reach the top. In addition to the usual two rails, the cog railroad has a rack mounted in the center of the rails. The locomotives use a cog, or gear to power the train along the track. This allows the cog train to traverse grades far steeper than traditional railroads. Read more

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The Final Harvest Season

To the casual observer, this scene would suggest only the illumination of an incandescent bulb behind a green fresnel lens on Signal 482.4 as it sends out a clear indication to an approaching northbound train on the Union Pacific McGehee Subdivision. It is a scene that has been repeated countless times for well over a decade.

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The Railway Mail Service

Part Two

Letter Case end of standard 60-foot Railway Post Office car.

Standard 60‑Foot Full RPO Car (1928)

All 60‑foot RPO cars built after 1912 were of all‑steel construction. These cars were used for the distribution and handling of mail only; the interior had built‑in letter cases and pouch and paper racks, plus overhead boxes.

The cars were heated by steam heat, with long protected steam pipes along the baseboard on each side of the car, except near the doorways where there were large upright protected radiators. During the advance distribution of the mail at the initial terminal, the car’s steam line was connected to permanent terminal steam lines, when needed. En route, the steam was furnished by the locomotive, whether it was diesel or steam powered. Read more

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