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32: Railroad Photography and Preservation (editor's title)

Public interest in railroad technology and history has paid dividends in preservation of equipment and buildings. It has also led to some railroads' putting historic equipment into occasional use. This image by prominent art photographer David Plowden is a case in point. At the age of 28, Plowden "undertook [his] second expedition to eastern Canada and Maine, to photograph the very last active steam locomotives in North America," as he wrote in "Vanishing Point: 50 Years of Photography" (2007). During that trip in February 1960, he captured Canadian Pacific's long-lived steam locomotive 2816 at St. Luc engine terminal, Montreal, Quebec. Plowden recalls that "there was a sign 'Boiler Empty' hanging from the headlight." Natural light from the the clerestory windows provides the only illumination and makes the hulking locomotive appear as an almost mystical presence, a leviathan in respose. After Plowden photographed it, the locomotive was put back into service on the Montreal-Rigaud commuter line. It made its last revenue run in May 1960. In 2001, CP put the now-famous locomotive into excursion service, an important commitment to preservation by the railroad and aided by Plowden's photography.

Hear an except from an interview with Paul Hammond, director of the California State Railroad Museum, in November 2008, discussing his thoughts on the future of railroad preservation.

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Alternate Title Railroad History in a Nutshell
Source David Plowden, Winnetka, Illinois
Coverage Spatial, Montreal, Quebec; Temporal, 1960
Rights David Plowden
Date Created 1960-11-02
Resource Type
Extent 11 in. x 14 in.
Depicted Railroad
Location Montreal, Quebec
Image Type Fine art photograph
Equipment, Locomotive CPR 2816, class H1b, 4-6-4, December 1930
Builder, locomotive Montreal Locomotive Works
Creator Description David Plowden says of himself that he stays one step ahead of the wrecking ball in recording "vanishing America." He started with steam locomotives, and has moved to the many changes he has observed on the North American rural and industrial landscapes. He was born in 1932 in Boston, began learning darkroom techniques at the Putney School in Vermont in 1948, published his first photograph in 1954 (in Trains), graduated from Yale in 1955, worked for the Great Northern as an assistant to the trainmaster in Minnesota, eventually assisted photographer O. Winston Link, and began a full-time professional career in 1960-61. He has more than twenty photography books to his credit.
Comments For non-Nutshell views: further technical and historical information, see "Koshollek's View of CP 2816" and Ted Rose's "Illinois Central / Roundhouse, Carbondale, Illinois."
Collection David Plowden Collection
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