Friday, June 19, 2009

Chicago to LA by rail, 1943

Here are photos from the end of the age of steam. They were taken on Santa Fe freight trains pulled by steam locomotives between Chicago and Los Angeles in March 1943. The photograrpher was Jack Delano and the assignment came from an agency of the US government, the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration unit in the Office of War Information. Run by Roy Stryker, the FSA/OWI was nothing like other wartime propaganda operations. Stryker put together a core of able photographers, some of them mdash; at the outset mdash; inexperienced and unskillful amateurs. Remarkably in a time when photog professionals were all men, quite a few of his crew were women. He gave them all considerable artistic freedom, even to the extent of showing gross defects in American society such as racial and sexual inequality, and he insisted that they all research projects before going out to shoot them, understanding the context of the stories their photos would tell.

In this photo-shoot, Delano showed technical skill, artistic imagination, and an ability to construct a compelling visual story. The story he tells is one of transportation muscle, the strength of a country engaged in a two-theater war which was manufacturing weapons at an unprecedented rate. It's a story of men and machines interacting across half a continent. It shows both low-paid minority workers along with the dominant white culture and the few women who could obtain jobs in the railroad industry at the time. Finally, it shows the powerful, streamlined diesel-electric engines which would, in the next decade or two, wholly replace the stolid, black steam locomotives.

All the photos come from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection in the Library of Congress Prints and Photos Division. The captions are from notations on the film negatives and were prepared by P&P staff members. Click the images to view them full-size.

{Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad conductor George E. Burton and engineer J.W. Edwards comparing time before pulling out of Corwith railroad yard for Chillicothe, Illinois; Chicago, Ill.}

{Santa Fe R.R. freight train about to leave for the West Coast from Corwith yard, Chicago, Ill. }

{Night view of part of Santa Fe R.R. yard, Kansas City, Kansas}

{Santa Fe R.R. yards, Argentine, Kansas. Argentine yard is at Kansas City, Kansas}

{Servicing engines at coal and sand chutes at Argentine yard, Santa Fe R.R., Kansas City, Kansas}

{Yardmaster in railroad yards, Amarillo Texas }

{General view of the city and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, Amarillo, Texas. Santa Fe R.R. trip}

{A completely overhauled engine on the transfer table at the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad locomotive shops, Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is now ready to go into service}

{Hammering out a draw bar on the steam drop hammer in the blacksmith shop, Santa Fe R.R. shops, Albuquerque, N[ew] Mex[ico)}

{Vaughn, New Mexico. Easternbound train about to leave the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard on the return trip}

{Clovis, New Mexico. D.L. Clark, engineer, ready to start his locomotive out of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard}

{Clovis, New Mexico. Women employed at the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard to clean out the potash jars. Left to right: Almeta Williams, Beatrice Davis, Liza Goss, and Abbie Caldwell}

{Ash Fork, Arizona. Pulling into the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard}

{Winslow, Arizona. A young Indian laborer working in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard}

{Barstow, California. Head brakeman J.C. Shannon (left) and swing brakeman, B.E. Wilson, waiting for their train to pull out of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard}

{Switch lights in Santa Fe R.R. yards, Los Angeles, Calif. Due to blackout regulations all such lights are hooded. Santa Fe R.R. trip}

{Activity in the Santa Fe R.R. yard, Los Angeles, Calif. All switch lights, head lights and lamps have been shaded from above in accordance with blackout regulations. The heavy light streaks are caused by paths of locomotive headlights and the thin lines by lamps of switchmen working in the yard. Santa Fe R.R. trip}

{Washing one of the Santa Fe R.R. 54 hundred horse power diesel freight locomotives in the roundhouse, Argentine, Kansas. Argentine yard is at Kansas City, Kansas}

{Santa Fe R.R. streamliner, the "Super Chief," being serviced at the depot, Albuquerque, N[ew] Mex[ico]. Servicing these diesel streamliners takes five minutes}

{Primary route of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway; source: wikipedia}

{Jack Delano; source: wikipedia}

For more information see:

Photography Encyclopedia: Jack Delano

Jack Delano (American, 1914-1997) by the Scott Nichols Gallery

Jack Delano photos from the 1940s

Gallery of Jack Delano pictures of the Santa Fe Railway for Railfans

The Legendary Super Chief, Flagship Of The Santa Fe

Super Chief article on wikipedia

1 comment:

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