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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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Mrs. Sandman: 1943

Mrs. Sandman: 1943

April 1943. "Mrs. Thelma Cuvage, working in the sand house at the Chicago & North Western R.R. roundhouse at Clinton, Iowa. Her job is to see that sand is sifted and cleaned for use in the locomotives. Mrs. Cuvage's husband works as a guard at the Savanna, Illinois, ordnance plant." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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You're forgetting that the railroad was still running passenger service in those days. Mrs. Cuvage as a railroad employee might well have been issued a courtesy pass for commuting...

A long commute...

The Cuvages both had fairly long commutes for a time when everything that an automobile requires was rationed. According to Google Maps, the towns of Savanna, Illinois and Clinton, Iowa are 21 miles apart, which means even if they lived in the countryside between the two they commuted a combined 42 miles a day, which I imagine was a lot of gas when you drove a 1930's pickup or sedan.

[Drive a car? Most wartime workers would have taken the bus or interurban. Or streetcar if they lived close enough. - Dave]


The sand was and in many places still is very important. It had to be dried so it wouldn't freeze into chunks in the engines. Also needed to be clean and sifted so it would feed through the lines properly. Fed by air jets through tubes and dropped on the rail just in front of the driving wheels.

Mrs Sandman

Sand is still used by many railroads icy weather or not, for traction, especially on uphill grades.

Re: Sand

It was used for traction in icy weather, released from a hopper on the locomotive onto the tracks.


Dumb question, but what was the sand for?

SHORPY HISTORICAL 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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