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About the Photos

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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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.

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It's everlovin' light

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


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.


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

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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