March 10, 2014

Hotshot Eastbound


"One summer night in 1956 in the coal-mining hamlet of Iaeger, West Virginia, a stranger walked up to Willie Allen at the drive-in. "Excuse me, sir," he said, "how would you and your date like to watch the movie from my convertible?

"What's the catch?" Allen, then a 23-year-old Army corporal on leave from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, recalls asking.

"All they had to do, the stranger said, is sit in the car until the train passed. "I'll give you $10," he added.

"Allen and his date, Dorothy Christian, took the deal, and the stranger took their picture. Thus O. Winston Link produced one of the most elegiac railroad pictures in a series he had begun some months before....

"He took almost all his train pictures at night, when he could engineer his scenes without the sun getting in his way.

"To do that, he had to devise his own flash system. Link would mark a train's path with lanterns, and then map out where to set out flash reflectors. Each reflector, which held up to 18 flashbulbs, was wired to a portable supply of batteries and condensers. When the train hit the right spot, Link pushed a button to fire the bulbs and, 35-thousandths of a second later, released the camera shutter. The system wasn't without its quirks—since the bulbs were wired much like Christmas lights, a single broken wire or faulty bulb could knock out all the others in the circuit." -- The Big Picture @ Smithsonian


Posted by gerardvanderleun at March 10, 2014 1:59 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Planes, trains and automobiles.

Posted by: Potsie at March 10, 2014 1:04 PM

Link had the advantage of being the staff photographer for the N&W and they would sometimes make "special" runs for his nighttime shots. Often the sync cables were sacrificed as they were laid across the tracks for a particular lighting effect.

Posted by: ed at March 10, 2014 4:44 PM

A world, a country, a way of life that is gone with the wind. All that remains are the photographs of a time that has been erased by...the future.

Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago.

Too bad. They were, overall, better people with, generally speaking, a better culture. Not perfect, not ideal, just better.

Posted by: David at March 10, 2014 5:21 PM

All three of the Link books are worth reading. Also, there was a 1 hour video entitled "Trains that passed in the night" about Link and his train photos including interviews with Link and one of his assistants that is worth watching if you can ever track it down. Particularly the final 10 minutes (they try to setup a final shot and Murphy intervenes).

I don't think he was a staff photog (he had his own studio in NYC), but had the support of the N&W president and had keys to the call boxes so he could get warning of upcoming movements.

Posted by: Soviet of Washington at March 10, 2014 6:11 PM

I know Links son, Conway and will show this to him.

Posted by: bgarrett at March 10, 2014 7:48 PM

Nice, so nice. Thank you!

Posted by: James Sisco at March 10, 2014 8:06 PM

That pic reminds me of Obamacare. Good idea, but poorly thought out and devoid of any foresight. The freight train is freakishly symbolic.

Posted by: Syd B. at March 11, 2014 6:42 AM