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About the Photos

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 • ABOUT PARIS, 1895

Vesuvius Amoco: 1956

Vesuvius Amoco: 1956

Vesuvius, Virginia, 1956. "Sometimes the electricity fails." Gelatin silver print by Ogle Winston Link, pioneer of the photographic genre that might be called rail noir. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. View full size.

After gravity jars, portholes

I remember in the early 60's there were quite a few gas pumps with a small round window on the face. A spinner inside it would indicate flow as your tank was being filled. At least I assumed it was actual gas flowing through it. Could have been just a gadget giving the appearance of that.

Now I suspect it was intended as a transitional gimmick to satisfy the old timers who were used to watching the glass jar empty.

[That was called a sight glass. This report from 1939 to the National Bureau of Standards reports that those un used at the time did not work as purported. -tterrace]

Re: Gravity Pumps

I know I'm missing something, but why do the (visible) numbers count the direction they do? It would seem more logical to have 0 at the bottom, so you directly see how many gallons have been pumped into the reservoir.

[The glass cylinder was completely refilled after each sale to be ready for the next customer. See this. -tterrace]

The club

Following Shorpy feels a bit like belonging to a discussion club.

Whatever the subject of these wonderful photos, there is an audience of enthusiastic, knowledgable members who explain what we are looking at while filling in the sort of fascinating detail that draws you into even the most unlikely subjects. I can't tell you how many times I have clicked off across the web to further investigate a subject after having my appetite whetted by Shorpy and his many followers.

Thanks for both preserving and presenting such evocative photos as well as moderating possibly the most entertaining, educational and civil comments section on the web.

O W L Buick

Correct. It is his car. Fitted with a piece of plywood in lieu of the rear seat to allow more camera equipment to be loaded into the vee-hickle.

No Electricity Needed

Perhaps I am stating the obvious, but some people may not know how the gas pump in the photo works. The attendant hand pumps the needed amount of gas with the long lever as shown in the photo. The clear cylinder on the top of the pump shows the quantity of gas pumped. Gravity did the rest when filling up the car, thus no electricity needed.

Still in use

There's a resort on the way in to Kings Canyon National Park that has two functional gravity gas pumps. I had my tank topped off from one them last June.

1952 Super

Designated by the three faux portholes on the front fender where a Roadmaster would sport four. The Special also had three, but was built on the smaller body shared by Oldsmobiles. This car would be left in the dust in '53 when its Fireball Straight Eight was replaced by the brand new 322 V-8 in the same chassis.

OWLish flash

Link's night pictures were flash photography: there's a well-known photo of him and an assistant surrounded by some of his apparatus, including one reflector which held eighteen flashbulbs.

Link also did some daytime photography along a branch line which did not operate at night. I have the fortune to own a print from this group, unfortunately a little damaged, which an office mate happened to find for me many years back in a junk shop. Much less dramatic than his night shots, though.

The most famous N&W streamliner, 4-8-4 Class J #611, survives, and there is a campaign being mounted to put her back into excursion service.

More info on Winston Link

Actually Link used flashes exclusively in the project, at least for the night shots. He was an engineering major in college, and after graduation became a commercial photographer. He used that background when making and planning his photos, and you can see many of the diagrams made in the planning of the individual shots both in his books and at the Roanoke museum dedicated to his work on the N&W.

The prints made from his negatives are masterful, with tonal variations to make any devotee of Ansel Adams proud. Although the photo reproduction in the books is excellent, nothing beats seeing original Link prints.

4-8-2 Mountain

The locomotive is a 4-8-2 K2a Mountain—one of twelve (road numbers 126 - 137) built in 1923 by Baldwin for the Norfolk & Western Railway. Its cylinders were 28 x 30 inches, it had 69-inch drivers, a 200 psi boiler pressure, weighed 359,460 pounds, with 57,950 lbs of tractive effort. In this picture #131 is pulling the #2 passenger train northbound on the Shenandoah Division of the N&W.

When these (and ten others built in 1919 by ALCO—road numbers 116 - 125) were rebuilt, they were up-dated with 70-inch drivers, semi-streamlining, boiler pressure bumped up to 220 psi, and an increased tractive effort of 62,832 lbs.

No Norfolk & Western 4-8-2 Mountains survive.

Been there, done that

In 2012 I went on an odyssey through central Virginia, searching for the locations of Winston Link's photographs, to see whether they could even be found, and if they could, what changes sixty years had made (I found an astonishingly high number, and some hadn't changed as much as you would think). While I found the general store at Vesuvius still standing albeit boarded up, the pumps are gone--the 1923 pump now stands in the Winston Link Museum in Roanoke.

Someone please,

Identify that streamlined steam locomotive #131, which to a railfan is the highlight of the photo.

Interesting

I was 6 years old then and of course remember the kind of pump behind the attendant being typical through the 50's and 60's. I didn't realize the old 30's era pumps, like the one being used, still being around that late.

The Buick

was O. Winston Link's own car. It also appears in another of his famous photos, along with perhaps the same couple.

There is a fine Link museum housed in the former Roanoke, Norfolk & Western passenger station. In addition to his photos, it also includes his recordings of steam trains and a collection of railroadiana.

As a bonus, the station was redesigned after WWII by Raymond Loewy, and there is a gallery of his work as well.

Lighting

According to wikipedia,

"Link's vision required him to develop new techniques for flash photography of such large subjects. For instance, the movie theater image Hotshot Eastbound (Iaeger, West Virginia), photographed on August 2, 1956 [negative NW1103], used 42 #2 flashbulbs and one #0 fired simultaneously."

While he may have used floodlights he certainly used flash too.

Great coffee table book!

I was given a great photo book of O Winston Link's nighttime rail photos. Spectacular! His use of flash in these black and white photos was great.

[He used floodlights. - Dave]

America the Bourgeois

When all the cool kids drove full-sized Buicks!

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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