One of my favourite railroad photographs

On an early spring day in 1943, at the hight of the second world war i Euope, Jack Delano walked up on a bridge spanning the Albuquerque, New Mexico, railroad station yard. I imagine him setting up a tri-pod. Attaching his 4×5″ view camera. Taking a light metering. Adjusting the focus. Adjusting the framing. Metering the light one more time.

And trips the shutter.

Just as the sacks of produce are rolled onto the platform in front of the big, blazing red engine. Just as the man leans down to grab a bucket, in order to capture the spillover of fuel, as the engine is soon filled to the brim. While tha man in the hat is taking the scene in. The passengers flock onto the station plattform to get a breath of fresh air before the train rolls on. Frozen on Kodakcrome in Delanos camera.

Santa Fe R.R. streamliner, the "Super Chief," being serviced at the depot, Albuquerque, New Mexico. March 1943. Taken by the collection of the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information at the Library of Congress.

Jack Delano, 1943: Santa Fe R.R. streamliner, the “Super Chief,” being serviced at the depot, Albuquerque, New Mexico. March 1943. Taken by the collection of the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information at the Library of Congress. Photograph by Jack Delano – Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

This is one of my favourite (railroad) photographs. It is not a spectacular one, it is somewhat subtle even though to a European everything in America is anything but low key. What I like, I think, is how it captures the ordinary day at the station, and yet everything has an exotic tinge to it. And it is not just the cool cars, its the romance of long haul rail travel. Imagine crossing a continent in a single rail journey!

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Kirov station on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

A few weeks ago, I did just that. Europe feels tiny when you, in Moskow, get on a train in the evening, knowing the sun i rising on the end station. For me that was Ulaanbataar, the capital of Mongolia, some 6000km away. You get to feel the size of a country when you spend five whole days crossing it by train. One station at a time, one world in a leap.

 

 

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