Recently, I have been thinking about the role of photography in documenting the railroad landscape. Photography and the railroad grew up together. Both were born in the early years of the 19th century and photography has provided a valuable documentary record of the industry that helped power the industrial revolution and the creation of the modern world.
Hunter Harrison is in the news again, and this time CSX is in the cross-hairs. Whether you think Harrison’s style of railroading is progress or desecration, one fact remains: more change is coming.
Harrison is one agent of change, but there are many others. The infrastructure changes legislated by Positive Train Control (PTC) will dramatically alter the railroad landscape. Those changes are well underway. The April issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine reports that BNSF has completed PTC installation on more than half of its system. CSX will replace searchlight and color position light signals on much of its system in 2017 and 2018. Other railroads are following suit. Read more
⇒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.
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
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!