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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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Low Rider: 1942

Low Rider: 1942

December 1942. "Worker inspecting a locomotive on a pit in the roundhouse at the Chicago & North Western RR's Proviso Yard." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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I think the torch is just for show in this picture. Yes they did use a flamed torch fro checking the air lines for air leaks but there are no air lines at all on any steamer that would be located where this man is standing.

Not so bad!

I work in a steam-era roundhouse. In fact the rails on the pits are still 1940's era. We now service Long Island Railroad diesel engines. In the photo subject's day, the majority of the oil fumes present would have been from lube oil, which would not be particularly combustible in such a non-enclosed environment. Even today, with an abundance of lube and diesel oil fumes, we quite routinely have a need for ignition sources (grinders, welders, torches etc.). I have however, heard many a story of the roundhouse roof frequently catching fire due to cinders from the engine smokestacks! I'm also, by the way, a volunteer fireman.

The Flame

He is checking for air leaks -- if the flame flickers it shows a leak. He's not under the firebox. The fire is banked when the engine is in the roundhouse.


You do realize that he is under a steam locomotive, there is a very large fire above his head in the firebox, which has many a ton of coal burning...

Change your oil?

With all the oil and fumes around especially in an open pit below the locomotive, I would sure be concerned about the small open flame. What is he doing? They had electric trouble lights then!

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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