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Locomotive Breath: 1910

Locomotive Breath: 1910

Salem, Massachusetts, circa 1910. "Boston and Maine Railroad depot, Riley Plaza." 6½ x 8½ inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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1905 view

Attached is a 1905 postcard view of Salem station. Perhaps someone can confirm that the item hanging in the upper left corner is a trade sign for a pharmacist? Note also the semaphore signals and crossing sign.

Burning passion

Famed railroad fan and photographer Lucius Beebe wrote that his father hated the Salem station with a passion. When on one freezing winter night a fire in Salem threatened the building, he bundled the entire family into a carriage and drove all the way from Boston to watch it burn. When the fire was halted before it reached the station he was furious.

Love It

I love the title of this photo, being a Jethro Tull fan. Steam trains are great. I love the whoosh of them when they pass by!

Change of Practices

What fascinates me about this and many other pictures is the contrast with the modern way of doing things.

Here's a locomotive pulling a train down the street as casually as a bicycle, and nobody seems a bit disturbed by it. The lady just to our left of the engine appears to be waiting, a little impatiently, for it to pass, and a couple of other folks are watching idly, as if it were somewhat interesting but in no way remarkable. Today's practice would require at least a chain link fence, possibly topped by razor wire, to isolate the rails from the passersby. What if a child were to run under there?


What a wonderful photo and details captured on a moment in time. Like Trooper Jeff, I wish the photographer had gotten just a bit more of the signal in view at the left. Extra signal lamp on the ground and some interesting chains and levers that seem too heavy to have been a permanent part of the signal, so perhaps it is being worked on.

Two men are flagging the crossing while the train leaves the station. One of them has a bit more of a uniform like either the station agent or perhaps a trainman who will board as the cars roll past in a smooth and graceful ballet type move that has become so natural to him after years of performing it.

Not sure if the number painted on the lens of the headlight is the train number, as it differs from the locomotive number, and we have no way of determining if the train is departing on schedule because the cloud of exhaust steam obscures the nice station clock.

[Even if we could see the station clock, how would we know if the train was on schedule? - Dave]

Hmm, I guess you are right. If it were on time, then we could surmise what time it was by finding a timetable schedule from that date that matches the train number, if that is what the number on the headlight represents, but we still wouldn't actually know what time it really was or if the train was on time. LOL. Good point.

State of the B&M Art

B&M renumbered its roster in 1911 and the one other picture I can find of a No. 200 is a 0-6-0 switcher which is clearly not what we're seeing here. However, they seem to have really liked slide valves, because I haven't seen a picture of a B&M loco before the 1920s that shows piston valves. From what I've been able to find it could date anywhere from around 1885 up to just a few years before this picture was taken, though I'm guessing that it's probably from the early 1890s.

The state of technology

I guess I don't know my history of technology very well. I am always surprised to see such widespread use of electricity, phone service, etc. in these early 20th century photos.

1847 - 1958

It was located at the intersection of Washington and Derby Streets. The station connected Salem to both Boston and Maine. Today the trains from Boston go underground, directly beneath Washington Street.

A busy railroad scene

Lots of fascinating railroad details here.

The loco's small size and slide valves indicated it is actually quite old, possibly a rebuilt 4-4-0 going back well into the 1800s. Also note the notch in the coupler knuckle, permitting it to handle link and pin coupling.

Obviously a cold day, with that magnificent steam plume, the steam clouds around the loco and also even the horses are wearing coats (blankets), except that poor boy on the right, who is not to happy about the loco.

Wish the photographer had included more of the signals on the left edge of the picture. Also note the interesting miniature signals to the right and left of the loco.

Coming through

How awesome it would have been to be so close to the devastating power of that engine!

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