O. Winston Link Museum (Trains/Photography)

If you love the sleek lines of 1940s and 50s streamlined locomotives, you owe yourself a visit to the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, VA. Link was an industrial photographer who set out in the mid-fifties to document the machines and people of the Norfolk & Western Railroad using the controlled lighting one would expect of a 1950s annual report. Gaining cooperation from the N&W, he took thousands of images of engines, people, and track side life, just before the use of steam power on the road ended.

Link carefully crafted his images using massive banks of flashbulbs connected by hundreds of feet of wire. While panned early on, his images are now recognized for what they are – a unique visual record of a way of life that passed to history within a few months after Link captured it.

The museum is truly a shrine – but It left me with a profound sense of loss – time and technology move on, but it is a painful thing to see a gallery of stunning photos of massive streamlined engines – alive and at work, and then go across town to the Virginia Museum of Transportation to see the 611 – the last surviving N&W J Class streamlined engine, preserved as a static display – though her headlight was lit, her soul was gone.

Perhaps some day, somewhere a rich rail fan with deep pockets will commission a replica, or at least find a surplus engine that can be shrouded as many engines were to give them a modern look.

Virginia Museum of Transportation: http://vmt.org/

O.Winston Link Museum http://www.linkmuseum.org/collection.html

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