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Book Review: The Twilight of Steam: Great Photography from the Last Days of Steam Locomotives in America

By Peter A. Hansen | June 25, 2014

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Twilight of Steam
Twilight of Steam
The Twilight of Steam: Great Photography from the Last Days of Steam Locomotives in America
By Brian Solomon
Voyageur Press, 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401; 192 pages, 128 b&w photos; hardcover, 12 x 10 in.; $50.00

More than 50 years after the last steam engines ran in revenue service, the fascination endures. Decades ago, steam’s visceral appeal engaged some of the finest talents who’ve ever lifted a camera at a passing train, but it continues to draw people who are too young to have witnessed steam in the old days.

Steam’s ability to capture such a diverse audience is on display in this new photographic anthology. The editor and author is Brian Solomon, who didn’t see the inside of a cradle until nearly a decade after steam’s demise. As for the artists that Solomon has assembled here, any list that includes John Gruber, Jim Shaughnessy, and Richard Steinheimer provides ample reason to take a closer look.

You’re not likely to be disappointed. Each regionally-oriented chapter begins with a brief essay, followed by several pages of nicely reproduced photos. From quintessential New England snow shots on the Central Vermont to grubby-day pictures of Baltimore & Ohio in the coal fields; from the Rio Grande narrow gauge to the palm trees of California; from Mexican heat to Canadian cold, the anthology is rich and wide-ranging.

A lot of books have chronicled steam’s last days, most of them featuring the work of a single photographer. If you’d like a more diverse collection, or if you desire just one book on the subject, this volume could fit the need nicely.

One thought on “Book Review: The Twilight of Steam: Great Photography from the Last Days of Steam Locomotives in America

  1. It's so sad to think that steam once ruled the rails and they don't. But Union Pacific is restoring big boy number 4014 and that's exciting!

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