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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NORTH TUSCANY COAST, 1948

Long Train Going: 1943

Long Train Going: 1943

March 1943. "Canyon, Texas. Approaching the town on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad between Amarillo, Texas, and Clovis, New Mexico." One of hundreds of photos documenting Jack Delano's trip from Chicago to California on a Santa Fe freight for the Office of War Information. View full size.

 

Yeah, they might be passenger cars

Hard to tell but they sure don't look like freight cars. Could be a repositioning move of troop cars from one base to another. Clovis had some WWII bases near it as I'm sure other towns down the line did.

What I'd like to know is what kind of locomotive was pulling them.

Are those passenger cars?

It looks like there might be a block of about 8 passenger cars deadheading in the freight train, just to the left of the signal. Not unheard of, but I would think unusual in view of the shortage of passenger equipment during the war. Or maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, which would not be unheard of either.

Still hauling freight.

This curve appears to be about 3 miles north of the center of Canyon, TX and about a mile south of present day Interstate 27.

After Canyon the track turns southwest toward Clovis, NM and continues westward toward Albuquerque and Los Angeles. Since the early 20th century this track has been part of the Santa Fe Railroad's(now BNSF)Southern Transcon route between Chicago and Los Angeles.

These days you'll see a lot of inter-modal(container) trains on high-priority schedules with transit time from Chicago to Los Angeles in the neighborhood of 55 hours.

A Cold Day

The the length and contrast of the plume produced by the steam locomotive up ahead indicates it's a cold day in Texas. The picture appears to have been taken hanging out the window of the caboose cupola. I'll bet the crew was happy when he closed that window upstairs, letting all the heat out!

I would love to have made this trip.

That so much wood is in sight ahead is interesting for many unfamiliar with railroads of the era. We often think of metal and railroads, but even in the mid-1940s, wood was still used extensively for boxcar sheathing. Reefer cars (note upward protruding latch for the ice hatch) like the one just in front of the caboose the photographer is riding in were still almost exclusively wood-sheathed to help reduce heat transmission.

The war had a lot to do with what could be seen along the nation's railroad lines, too, in terms of construction materials. Some "war emergency" cars were produced, framed with steel as before, but using wood sheathing for the sides instead of steel, which went to the war effort. Virtually every car the could be pressed into service was repaired and operated. Thus many older cars continued in service when they otherwise would have been scrapped and replace by new.

The effects of the Great Depression also contributed, since many railroad held off ordering new equipment, then found themselves handling greatly expanded war traffic while the equipment order they might have placed just before the war was set-aside until victory. It was a good thing, but FDR's relatively limited attempts at economic recovery never really lifted economic activity enough to escape the Great Depression. It was the war itself, with its huge economic stimulus, that finally ended the Great Depression. A lesson about holding off on economic stimulus and austerity budgets that should needs to be emphasized as we struggle into the 6th year of the Great Recession.

That's also why there's still a lot of wood in sight along the iron road.

 
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