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Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

The Railroad Photos of Jack Delano Transit Museum History Photos

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

These days almost everyone has a camera – whether it be a point and shoot, an SLR, or just the stock camera that came with your cell phone. Despite all the criticism of people these days and what they’re photographing, part of me thinks that the people of the future who consume all their nutrients in pill form might find today’s photos of food taken by hipsters rather quaint. The fact remains that what is commonplace today may be noteworthy and historic tomorrow. Time has only proven this true – Boris Klapwald’s snapshots of Grand Central Terminal were boxed up and forgotten for nearly fifty years, until discovered by his daughter. She brought them to the MTA, and they were exhibited in the Terminal through Arts for Transit. Street photographer Vivian Maier was practically unknown until her largely undeveloped film was put up for auction after her death. Her discovered photos have since been exhibited around the world, and is the subject of a documentary. Although the good majority of the photos captured these days aren’t much to write home about, it is undeniable that we are well-documenting our world, and the things future generations will most likely interpret as just plain weird.

Though cameras were far less common in the past, there were many photographers that froze glimpses of what was then normal life. I’ve posted about the Depression-era photographers of the Farm Security Administration before – despite the name, the project yielded thousands of photos that had nothing to do with farms, but instead featured normal Americans living life – including two of the most iconic photographs of Grand Central Terminal. A similarly iconic photo of Chicago’s Union Station also came out of the project, captured by photographer Jack Delano. Delano’s railroad-specific work in the Chicago area is currently on display at the Chicago History Museum, which I recently got the chance to check out.

Portrait of photographer Jack Delano and a locomotive
Portrait of photographer Jack Delano and a locomotive

Though I’m not a frequent visitor to Chicago, I had been to many of its museums (including the Museum of Science and Industry where the legendary Empire State Express #999 now lives). This was, however, my first visit to the Chicago History Museum. The museum provides an interesting look at the history of this unique city – from railroading, to the origins of atomic chain-reactions, and yes, even that cow that supposedly started that fire.

Within you’ll find well designed exhibits, and signs that not only encourage photography, but invite you to share your thoughts and snaps on social media. Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography, as the exhibit is called, depicts the life of railroaders in the Chicago area during World War II, as part of the federal government’s Office of War Information (successor to the aforementioned Farm Security Administration). Besides showing the hardworking men (and women) that kept the country running during the war, Delano’s photographs capture the waning years of steam railroading in the United States.

If you happen to be in the Chicago area between now and next year, the exhibit is worth checking out. For more information, visit the museum’s web page.

 
  
  
  
   
  
  

Born Yakov Ovcharov in Voroshylivka (then part of the Russian Empire, now part of Ukraine), Jack Delano emigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. Delano studied graphic arts, photography, and music, and was talented in all three disciplines. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, he embarked on a photographic project documenting coal miners in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. With this portfolio, he applied for (and was accepted to) a job in the photography program of the Farm Security Administration. He remained in the program as the FSA was consolidated into the Office of War Information, where he captured railroads in the Chicago, Oklahoma, and California areas.

Below you’ll find a selection of some of my favorite Chicago-area Jack Delano railroad photographs, several of which were in the exhibit. Thousands of Delano’s photographs are available online to view at the Library of Congress, railroad and otherwise.

 
  
   
  
  
   
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
  
 

Pioneer Park and the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Fairbanks, Alaska Transit Museum Photos Videos

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Before I continue with a long series of photos and videos from the Alaska Railroad, I figured it would be fun to quickly introduce everyone to the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, located in Fairbanks, Alaska. Located in Pioneer Park, the museum operates a historic 1899 steam locomotive a few times a year for visitors. Built in 2005, the museum consists of a shop for the locomotive, and a smaller section for displays, all of which is staffed by volunteers. The museum was one of the very first stops for the NRHS convention, and the historic locomotive was operating all afternoon, and a night photo session was held in the evening.

Postcard from Alaskaland, and token from the centennial exposition
Postcard from Alaskaland, and token from the centennial exposition.

Pioneer Park, where the museum is located, is a bit of an interesting spot in Fairbanks. The grounds were first established in 1967 for the Alaska 67 Centennial Exposition, which celebrated the centennial of the Alaska Purchase. Later the 44-acre historical park became known as Alaskaland. It was eventually renamed Pioneer Park, lest you think it some type of amusement park with roller coasters (Alaska has none, unless you count the hill named roller coaster on the Dalton Highway).

1981 brochure for Alaskaland
1981 brochure for Alaskaland, including an aerial view of the railroad tracks encircling the park.

So before we depart Fairbanks on a journey down the Alaska Railroad, let’s take a quick minute to check out Pioneer Park and the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, and a short video from my GoPro camera which was mounted on their historical locomotive.

 
  
   
  
  
 
  
  
 


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Friday Fun: Video From the Lake Shore Railway Museum Transit Museum Photos Videos

Friday, August 30th, 2013

For some quick Friday fun, I have a lovely video taken at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East, Pennsylvania from a few weekends ago. Cedar Point was not the only place where I got to mount a GoPro camera on a train… I’m like an addict that can’t stop. I love trains, I love every kind of train, but I can’t put my camera on every train. (Though I may certainly try)

In other news, if you’re on Instagram and you’re not following us, you totally should be. Besides interesting photos of Metro-North trains taken on my day to day commute (and beyond), there are plenty of other railroad-related locales that have shown up in our photo feed. Here are a few from the Lake Shore Railway Museum… besides having some historical locomotives and cars, the railroad line behind the museum is quite active, and you’ll see both CSX and Norfolk Southern passing by all day long.

Lake Shore Railway Museum Lake Shore Railway Museum
Lake Shore Railway Museum Lake Shore Railway Museum

Is there anything to eat on this darn train? Tickets and menus from the 20th Century Limited Transit Museum History

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Right before Grand Central’s Parade of Trains I got an email from Polly Desjarlais, one of the educators at the Transit Museum. The museum was looking for a copy of a nice ticket to duplicate and hand out to kids at the Parade, and there’d even be a costumed conductor to punch those tickets. Since there would also be a coloring book page of the 20th Century Limited, they were really looking for a ticket from that specific train. Unfortunately, my collection did not include a ticket from the 20th Century. Not only that, I had never even seen a ticket for it, whether in real life or otherwise. In the end, the museum ended up duplicating one of my many commuter tickets, and thus quite a few little children at the Parade of Trains “found themselves” on a Harlem Division train bound for Hartsdale in August of 1943.

20th Century Limited
Scenes from the 20th Century Limited.

Though I may be a little late to the party, I did finally acquire a ticket from the 20th Century Limited. Too late, unfortunately, to use for the Parade of Trains, but perfect timing to share with all of you. And because nobody wants to ride the 20th Century Limited on an empty stomach, here’s a small little collection of menus from the train. Enjoy a quick look back at life aboard not only Grand Central’s most famous train, but one of the most notable trains in American history.

Ticket from the 20th Century Limited
All aboard the 20th Century Limited!

20th Century Limited Menus
One of the more boring menu covers

20th Century Limited Menus
The more “traditional” 20th Century look

20th Century Limited Menus
Simple, yet elegant. When do we eat?

Check out August’s Cat Fancy Magazine! Transit Museum

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Any good reader of this blog is familiar with Sadie the Subway cat, former resident of the Transit Museum, though now retired. One of the last times I recall seeing Sadie at the museum was the morning before I interviewed Howard Permut. Apparently I wasn’t too worried that a little bit of fur on my clothes would be a faux pas when interviewing the president of Metro-North (albeit not as bad as actually using the term “Brokeville” while referring to a particular model of Metro-North’s rolling stock). Nonetheless, it seemed like Sadie was in a rather sociable mood, and was intently focused on disturbing a class touring the museum (as you could likely imagine, all the children’s attention turned from the lesson to the furry visitor, sorry Polly!). I picked Sadie up and carried her to another of the museum’s display trains, but she would have none of it, and walked back to where the kids were.

Most longtime visitors to the Transit Museum have at least one Sadie story. The first time I visited the museum I encountered her sitting in her favorite perch in the money car. I was certainly surprised to see a cat. It was definitely unexpected, but in a good way. A lot of good things are unexpected.

So what’s up with all the Sadie memories? Our favorite feline will be featured in the August edition of Cat Fancy magazine. I recounted a couple of my memories of her for the article, and it also gives a nice mention of I Ride the Harlem Line. You may also recognize the photos, which were featured on the site many months ago.

Cat Fancy Magazine
August’s issue of Cat Fancy magazine.

Sadie is, of course, enjoying retirement, and her new favorite perch – a window above Brooklyn. Thinking back to the aforementioned last time I saw Sadie at the museum, I recall that sandwiched in between my visit to the museum and my interview was a quick trip to the Transit Museum’s archives. Located in the bowels of the MTA’s Brooklyn office building, the archives contain a plethora of artifacts related to the subways, and even of Metro-North. Found within is archivist Carey Stumm.

I’m not sure what exactly I pictured in my head for the Transit Museum’s archivist (perhaps an elderly librarian type?), but Carey was certainly not what I had imagined. Far from elderly, Carey is a kind soul whose favorite items in the archives’ collection include the Myrtle Avenue El, and the Putnam Division. I definitely did not expect that.

As you’ll read in the magazine, Carey is now the guardian of Sadie. It seems appropriate that two of the unexpected, lovely things about the Transit Museum are now together. Rest assured that everyone’s favorite subway kitty is in good hands.

Cat Fancy Magazine