.The fires burning out of control in my state of California collectively serve as a good metaphor for change. There is little doubt these fires are changing California. Change can occur rapidly or slow. A burning house changes rapidly; the weathering of rocks is slow. Change is noticed when something from “then” is compared to something from “now”. I suppose that is why many people collect old stuff – it helps them understand their “then”. I have found that images made from old photographs serve me well as a source for knowledge of the “then” variety. Looking at the images in this gallery should guide you to the conclusion that I am interested in railroad history. You would be correct. I find it very interesting to examine old images using the tools available on my computer. The gallery of images at the top contains a sampling of images I have collected in support of my interest in railroad history. The images have not altered in any way – yet. The usefulness of any image is determined by the “quality” of the image being examined. Such things as exposure, focus, original negative media, print media, image size, and contrast are all important in determining how informative an image will be. When the image is “right”, surprising things can be learned. An example is shown in the gallery below.
I have included an image of the “OMAHA”. It was the shop locomotive at the Omaha roundhouse about 1917. The image on the left is “as received” from the Union Pacific Railroad museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The center image has been edited to “improve” it. The image on the left is “blown up” to demonstrate what can be seen when things are”just right”. Notice the tools on the locomotive’s valve chamber.
An image of the trestle erected just east of Promontory Summit, the place where the 1869 joining of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad occurred, is shown in the above gallery. This trestle is celebrated in railroad lore because of its rickety appearance and its brief life as a mainline bridge. It was abandoned in favor of the adjacent and vastly superior “big fill”, just North of the trestle. The images have been improved to enhance their usefulness as sources for historical data. Examination of the leftmost image reveals the meaning of “rickety”. The number of the locomotive is seen in the center image. This locomotive is celebrated as the UPRR locomotive used in the ceremony that marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The image on the right illustrates the utility of images such as this to reveal details of daily life such as the attire of the men standing on the flatcar.
I was initially drawn to old images as a source of historical data by my attraction to the history of the Dale Creek Bridge. It is the astounding tale of building the longest and highest bridge on the eastern half of the Transcontinental railroad in the winter of 1868. A documented story of bridge construction tells how the partially completed bridge was nearly blown over by strong winds during a violent winter storm. According to the story, the engineer in charge rallied the frightened bridge workers to save the bridge from certain destruction. He had them gather all the ropes at the construction site and then cajoling them into securing the bridge by tying the ropes between the bridge and nearby rocks. The image shows the hurried nature of the attachment of the ropes, which gives greater authenticity to the story.