The Track Comes First

Stations: An Imagined Journey
The cover of Michael Flanagan’s Stations features his painting “Chalybeate Springs,” based on a Charles Rotkin photograph taken on the Central Railroad of New Jersey in High Bridge, New Jersey that appeared in a 1972 Fortune magazine essay on eastern U.S. railroads.

In the summer of 1992 I attended an industrial archaeology field school at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and spent my free time investigating railroad action around Martinsburg, Winchester and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley. Two years later, my annual Christmas stocking-stuffer book was Michael Flanagan’s illustrated novel of railroad paintings, Stations: An Imagined Journey which to my surprise was set in the same geographic area.  I was immediately drawn to the paintings, many of which looked like familiar places.  The narrative seemed cryptic on the first reading.  But I kept returning to the book, which eventually led me on my own journey, a personal exploration that rewarded me with a deeper understanding of my attraction to the railroad landscape.

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Inside the East Broad Top

“The Current Chapter”

The last time I saw the East Broad Top under steam was October 29th, 2011, during a freak pre-winter blizzard fondly referred to as Snowtober. The storm produced unusually early season snowfall across the northeastern United States, breaking records for total accumulations. In fact, in some cities Halloween was cancelled and children were left without treats. Two months later, the tourist excursion season ended, and the East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company suspended operations indefinitely. The narrow gauge railroad has been dormant since, their doors locked. Once touted as the oldest operating narrow gauge steam train at its original location in America, water has not boiled inside a locomotive for five years. But I never stopped going back to visit this historic landmark. Face-to-face in the presence of absence; the current chapter.

One of Matthew’s images from the day, aptly named “Train on a Snow Day”, placed second in the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s 2014 Awards Program

Since its most recent closure, I have been routinely visiting the towns of Orbisonia, Mount Union, Robertsdale, and all points of interest in between. Regardless of season, weather conditions, or time of day, it is my mission to photograph and document the facilities as they exist present day. With permission from EBT management and ownership, access to the railroad complex has been graciously granted to capture photographs of these spectacular scenes. Read more

The Pinkerton Landing Bridge

Homestead, PA, December 3, 2016. An eastbound CSX intermodal train rumbles over the Monongahela River on the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie bridge.

On July 6, 1892, the “Battle of Homestead” was fought at this site between the striking steelworkers of the Carnegie Company and the Pinkerton detectives.

The conflict had been brewing for several months. For union members belonging to the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers the working and living conditions were dismal. Twelve hour days, seven days a week with every other Sunday off was the norm. Efforts by the union to negotiate were ignored. Management in the form of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick refused any form of negotiations. Frick developed a hard line, telling Carnegie that he, Frick, would take care of the strike. The workers were locked out; they, in turn, surrounded the plant, refusing entry to anyone. Read more