When Bob Yanosey spoke to me about writing for a book of B&O steam photos, my initial surprise and enthusiasm soon turned to doubt and hesitancy. Although I had photographed on the B&O in the 1950s, and had spent four years in its employ, I questioned my qualifications for the task. As a life long railfan, I was aware of the critical gaze of this community of hobbyists, and I wondered if the possible satisfactions would outweigh the potential risks involved. Surely, more knowledgeable candidates existed. Furthermore, I wondered whether enough interest existed more than forty years after the last B&O steamer ran to warrant another book, especially after outstanding predecessors had covered many of the railfan stomping grounds.
My concerns notwithstanding, I started reviewing photos and developing captions. It soon became clear that the work of the many photographers deserved to be seen, and that my task was akin to being a midwife to deliver their photographic creation. They are the real authors. In this spirit, I give credit to the represented photographers and trust that no harm comes to their efforts from my addition of comment and observation.
This book contains color photographs of B&O steam locomotives taken in the 1940s and 1950s with the majority taken in the 1950s. Most of the photographers used Kodachromedaylight film (ASA 10) that has retained most of its original color quality over many years. Unfortunately, the typically affordable domestic camera of that time was not as capable as the film. It might have had an f3.5 lens and a maximum shutter speed of 1/200. On a sunny summer day, a 1/200 of a second shutter speed required a f4 aperture, which was pushing a camera's limit. Action shots on cloudy, dull days were usually doomed to mediocrity. High quality German cameras were expensive, and it was a time before the many innovative and affordable Japanese cameras appeared on the U.S. scene. Although telephoto lenses existed, they were generally not available on the popular cameras of time. Today's fans should keep these limitations in mind when viewing photos older than forty years.
While I have attempted to be accurate, and have received some help and suggestions, I hope that any inaccuracies in my text will not detract from the essence of the book-the photos themselves. Unfortunately, some photographers, including myself, have not always taken the time to document their slides beyond noting location and date, and, in a few cases, not even these minimal facts. As I reviewed more than 500 slides, my frustration increased as I attempted to augment the many meager descriptions provided, without introducing errors.
Of the dozen or so books and documents that I've consulted, two stand out as most helpful: Sagle and Staufer's B&O Power, and William D. Edson's Steam Locomotive of the Baltimore & Ohio, An All-Time Roster. It became evident, though, that even these comprehensive works contained errors and contradictions. In one case, photographic evidence (assuming the photographer's dating accurate) contradicted both references. Apparently, not many documents explaining B&O steam development, maintenance and operation have survived for one reason or another. My conclusion is that inaccuracies are difficult to avoid given the unavailability of original documents and of access to persons with first-hand knowledge of the B&O. Believing that some readers will want to explore beyond what this photo book, by its nature, offers, I have prepared a selected bibliography.
My several years working for the B&O (19571961), first as a Technical Trainee (a management preparation program), and then as a software programmer (a divergent path) gave me some firsthand knowledge of the railroad. Earlier, in 1952 and in 1955, I had photographed B&O steam in the Cumberland area and in northern Ohio. As a trainee, with a generous, system wide pass, I often rode the head end to gain some familiarity with the physical railroad and operation. By 1957, diesels had taken over passenger operation and steam was found only in the Midwest, so I am very thankful for the two occasions that I rode steam cabs, first on a drag freight from Willard to Newcastle, and then on the "last passenger excursion" from Cleveland to Holloway, OH.
This project has rekindled my interest in the B&O and has refreshed memories of working for a somewhat quixotic and interesting railroad. It has also strengthened my opinion that the steam locomotive was the most fascinating and powerfully evocative machine of its time, one that has not been, or perhaps ever will be, replaced for its appeal to the imagination. It engaged the senses, and demanded attention. Diesels did not, and do not, "do it" for many of us that knew steam. Furthermore, in all fields, today's technology tends to be quiet, without much observable movement. We are losing the excitement of seeing and hearing machines work. I can hope that the following pages of photographs will convey some of the visual excitement of steam in action.
I am also aware that glorifying past railroading may be taken by some to imply that it was better than present railroading or what might be in the future. This is not my intention. Each generation needs to create its objects of interest, and it is indisputable that people become interested in what they can and choose to be involved with. Since it is difficult to become involved with steam engines today, these pages will probably appeal more to those old enough to have been involved with them. To younger readers whose interests in steam, of necessity, are more historical, a lesson to consider is, that nothing is around for ever and that each age offers opportunities for involvement and creation that should not be missed.
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