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Locomotive Lair: 1942

Locomotive Lair: 1942

December 1942. "In the roundhouse at Proviso Yard, Chicago & North Western Railroad. Chicago, Illinois." Nitrate negative by Jack Delano, Office of War Information. View full size.

 

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When I was about ten years old, out of boredom,

I would hop on my trusty Hercules "racer" and pedal the two miles or so north on Westchester Boulevard that became Bellwood Avenue and ditch my bike in the bushes where Bellwood dead-ended at the Proviso yard. I would then wander around one of the largest railroad yards on the continent. Upon my return my Irish mother would ask what I'd done all day, and I would reply, truthfully, "riding my bike." Any more detail would have invoked a wrath I did not want to even imagine. When my father came home, though, I'd relate to him in detail the engines and rolling stock I'd seen. His job after leaving the navy was to deliver Diesel locomotives for Electro Motive and instruct steam engineers in their operation, so he was an interested audience, and saw nothing odd about such an adventure. I doubt kids do that kind of thing today. Indeed, thinking about it, they shouldn't. No steam locomotives at the yard then, but there was a long line of tenders that sat there for several years. When I was a bit younger, though, I distinctly remember running a few doors down to the corner (not allowed to cross the street on my own) on those rare instances when I heard the unmistakable sounds of a Milwaukee Road steam locomotive puffing down the Indiana Harbor Belt Line tracks and becoming visible in all its smoke-belching, steam-hissing glory in the not-too-far distance from that corner. What a memory that is.

Superb image

What a powerful, evocative image. A dual environmental portrait with an element of mystery. I suspect if he ever saw this, Alfred Stieglitz said or thought to himself, "well done!" For his part, could he have seen it, Rembrandt would have found the lighting to be familiar and splendidly appropriate.

For my part, I hope Jack Delano won an award for this one. He certainly should have.

Steam age environment

... captured on film. This is a marvelous photo. Where there's smoke, there's work.

Proviso Yard Noir

"Yeah, that was a gunshot ... but pay it no never mind. Quit lookin over there; look at me! You ain't heard nothin! Got it? You, me, and Crazy Dave was workin' together all night in the roundhouse. Got it?"

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