O. Winston Link: Life Along the Line – the end of N&W steam

A Photographic Portrait of America’s Last Great Steam Railroad

O. Winston Link: Life Along the Line offers an expansive view of Link’s multidimensional portfolio and a moving account of the people and communities surrounding America’s last steam railroad. The book features rare images that have never before been published: portraits, candid images of N&W employees at work, modernist images of locomotives, as well as powerful variants of the famous photographs.

O. Winston Link photographed the Norfolk and Western, the last major steam railroad in the United States, when it was converting its operations from steam to diesel in the 1950s. Link’s N&W project captured the industry at a moment of transition, before the triumph of the automobile and the airplane that ended an era of passenger rail service.

His work also revealed a small-town way of life that was about to experience seismic shifts and, in many cases, vanish completely. Including a collection of more than 180 of Link’s most famous works and rare images that have never before been published, O. Winston Link: Life Along the Line offers a moving account of the people and communities surrounding the last steam railroad.

Also included is a CD of Link’s notable unreleased recordings, many of which were made at the exact time and locations of the photographs in the book.

“His photographs work for railway buffs, for people interested in photography and then there’s the human level. His pictures allow you to involve yourself in the lives of Americans in the 1950s.” -Tony Reevy

[Product Description]


By Robin Benson

At last Abrams gives us a third helping of wonderful Link photos. The first book, ‘Steam Steel & Stars’ in 1987 introduced him to a wider audience and now he’s firmly established as a great American photographer, something railroad fans have known for years. Of the three Abrams books I think this is the best because it is so comprehensive and also a first-class production.

The book’s 180 photos (twelve in color) are in five sections: ‘Railroaders’ looks at all sorts of Norfolk & Western employees; ‘Iron Horses’ covers the various units N&S used and Link chose this railroad because it was the last to use both steam and diesel; ‘Side by Side’ with trains on the mainline; ‘In the Land of Plenty’ has a lovely selection of photos of small towns, stations, passengers, stores and buildings in the N&S region. The last section: ‘How it was done’ is, I think, one of the strengths of the book. It’s a detailed look at how Link worked, not just with cameras but how he took movies and did recordings.

By E. Weiler

For readers that are train buffs and fans of Winston Link’s work, this is the best collection and narrative I have seen to date. Not only are there some new photos that have been unpublished before, but the narrative is very well researched and clearly written. The final chapter is written by Mr. Link’s son, who gives us a vivid picture of the personal side of the photographer, including the story of how his ill-fated second marriage ended in the destruction of much of his work.

Do not miss this book. It will stay with you, both in heart and spirit.

About the Author

O. Winston Link (1914-2001) photographed the Norfolk and Western from 1955 to 1960. His brilliant black-and-white prints established him as an important American photographer, and many of his images have become modern classics. Tony Reevy, administrator at the UNC Institute for the Environment and advisory editor of Railroad History, is an author who has published two books and more than 100 poems and articles. He lived in Durham, North Carolina.

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