⇒The Trackside Photographer is one year old this month. Thanks to all of our readers and contributors for a great first year. We have lots of interesting content scheduled for the coming year. Join us trackside each Thursday as we continue to explore the railroad landscape.
Across the Potomac river from Paw Paw, West Virginia, a landmark canal tunnel stands which is also associated with the early years of railroading. The largest structure on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the 3,118 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel was built at the height of the race between the C&O canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to reach the Ohio River. Construction of the tunnel began in 1836, but labor disputes, unexpected construction difficulties and lack of funds delayed completion until 1848. The C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad were both born on July 4th, 1828. In Georgetown (Washington, DC) the C&O Canal held an elaborate ceremony with President John Quincy Adams in attendance. In Baltimore the groundbreaking for the B&O railroad was more modest. Charles Carroll, the last remaining signer of the Declaration of Independence dug the first shovel-full of dirt to begin the construction of the railway. As the two companies made their way westward disputes over property were inevitable. At Point of Rocks, Maryland, competing claims to the narrow right of way resulted in a four year delay in construction until the courts ruled in the canal's favor. In the end, of course, the railroad won out. The Baltimore and Ohio reached Cumberland, Maryland in 1842, eight years ahead of the canal. After a disastrous flood in 1889 bankrupted the C&O, the canal came under the control of the Consolidation Coal Company, which was principally owned by the B&O. The canal closed in 1924.
The Center for Railroad Photography & Art recently published The Railroad and the Art of Place, by David Kahler, who is a contributor to The Trackside Photographer. It is an evocative look at how railroads shape the visual and cultural landscape. We will have an in-depth article about the book in March. In the meantime you may learn more and order here.
You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore Dinner in the diner Nothing could be finer Than to have your ham an' eggs in Carolina* I never ate in the dining car of a train during the heyday of passenger train travel. I regret that. But I can imagine sitting in the dining car with a salesman going to the next city; a mother and a small boy; a family going on vacation; a soldier returning home. The passengers may be lonely or bored, excited to be going someplace new, or just happy to be going home. I imagine sitting at a table in the diner with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. surrounded by other travelers. People come and go and the world slips by the window. I'll be home in the morning. In 1932, the C&O inaugurated the George Washington as its flagship passenger train with service between Newport News, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. Three dining cars built in 1922 were refurbished for the George Washington. Gadsby's Tavern is the only car that survived. The C&O Historical Society owns the car and has restored it to its original 1932 appearance. For a moment as I stood in the door of this old dining car, I could imagine what it might be like to eat dinner here with the sound of the rails beneath my feet. I almost expected a porter to come through the door on the other end of the car. But I was all alone and the car was still and silent, a ghost of railroading's past. Edd Fuller, Editor - Text and photographs Copyright 2017 *Chattanooga Choo Choo - Mack Gordon/HarryWarren
A Christmas Memory
At daybreak, I arrived at the Kansas City Southern rail-yard in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The morning was clear and cold. A yard worker coming to work with a styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand stopped and we chatted for a few minutes. The yard foreman, he said, was not in yet, but he thought it would be OK if I walked around and took some photographs. Steam rose from his cup and I could smell the coffee as he walked away. About an hour later, the yard foreman came over to where I was shooting and asked if I would come to the office with him and sign a release form. From the windows of the office in the old interlocking tower, I could look down over the entire yard. One diesel locomotive was starting to switch some cars, but otherwise, all was quiet. It was Christmas Eve, 2007 Many years ago my wife's grandfather worked for the Illinois Central Railroad in this same yard. Although I never knew him, I thought about all the Christmas Eves that he reported to work here, steam rising from the waiting locomotives, and the smell of coal smoke lingering in the clear morning air.
Thanks to all our readers and contributors for supporting The Trackside Photographer this year. This Thursday, December 22nd, "Christmas in the City" by Bob Hughes will be the last article in 2016. And please join us on January 5, 2017 to start the New Year.
Have a Joyous Christmas Season and a Safe and Prosperous New Year!
Edd Fuller, Editor
The Squirrel and the Crow
A Thanksgiving Fable
One chilly November morning, a gray squirrel was gathering food for the winter. He was a very gray gray squirrel, for he had seen many seasons come and go, and he knew just where to hide his winter food, safe from nosy groundhogs and thieving bluejays. Soon the winter snows would fall. Presently, he came to a road that runs through the wood. He stopped on the edge of the road, flicking his tail nervously. Just then, he heard a loud voice, coming from high above, and he looked up to see a shiny black crow high on a branch overhead. "CAW! Be careful friend, for a dangerous menace hurtles up and down this path, and it flattens any creature that gets in its way." The crow was hungry and quickly made a plan. "Wait, and I will watch and tell you when it is safe to cross, for I have keen eyes and from my branch I can see very far." The squirrel settled on his haunches beside the road. He arranged his tail into a question mark over his back and waited. He waited for what seemed like a very long time before the crow spoke again. "Get ready!" the crow cawed and spread his wings. "Now! Now! Now!" But the gray squirrel, instead of starting across the road, turned and looked up at the crow. "Thank you, kind crow!" he called, but his words were drowned out by the roar of a big black car that hurtled down the road just as he spoke. The disappointed crow flew off and the gray squirrel scurried safely into the woods on the other side of the road. Back in his warm den, the squirrel ate a feast of hickory nuts and some red berries that he had saved special to celebrate the beginning of winter. Then he burrowed into his nest and arranged his tail to keep his feet warm. The light was fading and he listened to the sound of the wind in the trees. It is a good thing to always give thanks, he thought to himself and soon he was sound asleep.
Edd Fuller – Text and photograph copyright 2016
Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States, and The Trackside Photographer will be taking the day off. Please check back on December 1st for the next new article.
Place in Photography
“Place conspires with the artist. We are surrounded by our own story, we live and move in it. It is through place that we put out roots.” - Eudora Welty This photo was taken by a member of my family around 1936. That is my grandfather in the middle with his hat on his knee. My mother is the blond-headed girl on the left, half in and half out of the frame. It would be another ten years before she would marry and I would come along. Unlike so many family photographs that fill the frame with a person, this picture reveals the spirit of a place, and that is what makes this old photo special to me. The people in the photo are in context. Their life and the place where they lived it are visible. I knew this place. I remember sleeping in the attic room behind the dormer windows above the porch, and the rain on the tin roof. The best photographs come when the photographer makes a connection to a place and responds to it. For us railroad photographers, that may mean backing up a bit to see the broader context, or going deeper to uncover the history and meaning of a place. This came to mind recently while reading about two multiple-year photography projects. Michael Froio wrote about his Pennsylvania Railroad project, From the Mainline, in an article which we published (here) on The Trackside Photographer last week . He writes:“My goal when I set out was to satisfy a curiosity, but what I think I have done is expand my use of photography to become part of a larger idea interpreting the social, industrial and railroad history in a creative and accessible way.” And in the latest issue of Railroad Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, Marc A Entze writes about his experience photographing an small Idaho short line over the course of a decade. In “To Fully Photograph a Place” (pp18-39) he tells how his experience with the railroad deepened over the years as his photography went beyond beautiful railroad scenery to find the soul of the place and the people who lived and worked there. The railroad is now gone. My grandparents died in 1963 and their house was sold. A few years later, it burned down. Their place survives in a single photograph. I wish there were more. Edd Fuller, Editor Your thoughts and comments are welcome