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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Nebraska: 1938

Nebraska: 1938

November 1938. "Omaha, Nebraska. Railroad yards." Medium format negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

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In the upper right, behind the tall smokestack, sits Johnny's Cafe. Established in 1922 and still serving today, it remains as one of the last artifacts of the Omaha Stockyards.

Smoke and Steam

As a twelve year old living in Geelong, near Melbourne, Australia, there was a pedestrian overpass above the main railway yards, similar to the road viaduct in this photo. I had a strong interest in trains, and a friend would join me after school to stand on the overpass and watch the action of the shunting trains in 1959. Most of the engines were still steam powered, and we always got a kick out of standing in the right spot to get a blast of smoke and steam as the locomotive passed underneath. Upon returning home, my mother would encounter me and immediately say: "You've been down at the train yards again, haven't you? Go get cleaned up." To her credit, I was never prohibited from visiting the railway.

The Brakeman's Club

The "brakeman's club" was not a social gathering. To apply the hand brakes, the brakeman (lower right of photograph) would turn a large brake control wheel located atop each freight car of the train. Every brakeman carried a thick brake “club” to help give them leverage in turning the wheel (and also to defend against hostile hobos!).

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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