My introduction to a railroad paycheck was during the summer of 1969. During junior and senior high school years, 1967-1968 at Alexandria (Virginia), I frequented Alexandria Union Station to meet Railway Post Office trains. The ticket sellers and baggage-mail porters became familiar and friendly to me. I had found a summer job during June, 1969, at Arrow Moving Company in the west end of Alexandria. It paid two dollars per hour, but only if you went out on a moving assignment. I was thin and immature, so the coordinator would look around the room of candidates and pick those who appeared more athletic. I did my share of moving refrigerators up three flights of stairs, but on many days I wasn’t assigned to a move by 11 a.m. after having arrived at the office by 7 a.m. On those days there was no pay and nothing to do except to go home and try again the following morning.
By the mid 1960s, my father was still working a “relief” job. This meant OW on Mondays, JO on Tuesday and Wednesday, and NW on Thursday and Friday. For several years the railroad was short on towermen, and my dad worked his days off at NW. Saturday was my big day to go with him. My dad was always a good relief and came in early—most men were. Jim Donahue was the day man and was ready to leave after we showed up and he let my dad know if anything was not normal. That meant with the interlocking machine as well as trains not running in their normal order.
Before leaving Polish Hill, George and I did some exploring above the church, looking down the streets and alleys for vantage points. Phelan Way, which runs behind the church and climbs like crazy at its eastern end, up to Herron Avenue, offered a good example of the neighborhood’s flavor.
George found the narrow passage between two buildings attractive, and he had me walk past it a number of times on the next street down, Brereton, so he could capture me in mid-stride in the gap. The large and indolent husky who lived there watched me over the gate with some interest but expended no energy in saying so. Read more
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
In 1946, the United States Railroad system had about 3,950 interlocking systems and signal towers in service throughout the country. Almost every one was manned 24/7, and had one operator or more to handle the traffic.
One day you are making dinner in the afternoon and see a headlight on the bridge, that headlight you waited so patiently for as a kid.
Go back to the days when you were ten or eleven and the phone rings at home. Grandma needs you to get something from the pharmacy. She sends you there a couple of times a week for various and sundry goods, so you jump on your bike (a twenty-six incher—big time stuff there) and head to her house to get the money. Then off you go down the back road, not because it’s the most direct route, no because it runs along the edge of the hill and from there you can check out the B&O and their big bridge over the Allegheny River. The line is the Pittsburgh and Western (P&W) sub that runs from Glenwood yard west towards Ohio or (if they take a right at the wye in Eidenau) Buffalo.