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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 • GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE PIES

Midnight Special: 1957

Midnight Special: 1957

1957. "The Birmingham Special gets the highball at Rural Retreat, Virginia." Gelatin silver print by O. Winston Link. View full size.

It's everlovin' light

If this isn't a movie set it oughta be.
Fantastic!

Atmosphere

The romance of the rails. The chance to travel and see new places. Wonderful picture.

Siding track

I believe it was always single tracked. If you look closely, you'll see that he's standing on pavement, a good clue that it's a siding for unloading freight at the station and not a through track.

Also, check out the lantern that he's holding. If you look closely, you can see the line running to it. Link would stage the photos, using props such as this, and place a weaker bulb inside to give the illusion of it being a working kerosene lamp. Brilliant in every aspect!

The last one

The Rural Retreat station is the only one of the classic N&W frame train stations still in existence. (All the others were pulled down in the '50s and '60s with the demise of steam and of passenger service.) When I saw it in 2012, it was boarded up, with peeling paint and rotten planks all over.

Since then, things have gotten better. The depot building has survived a number of close calls, and the town has created a foundation to restore it to original condition. Details about their efforts are here.

Winston Link's Techniques

This print reveals Winston Link's photo techniques. One of his flash bulb reflectors peeks around the edge of the station. The man by the station has aimed a hand-held flash toward the camera to simulate a lantern. A close look at the enlarged photo shows the synch cord dangling from his other hand. It has been partially retouched out against the brightly-lit ground, but the cord is there in the shadows.

Townbay

On Point

Class J 4-8-4. The 4-wheel trailing truck can barely be made out. The lightweight aluminum rods with roller bearing crankpins give it away.

Single track now

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
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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