Thursday, November 3, 2011

Delano Files: Super Chief at Albuquerque

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Super Chief is on time, as it makes its scheduled five-minute stop, westbound, at Albuquerque, New Mexico. The engineer and conductor made sure they didn't get there early, and make equally sure they whistled off on time. One never knew where the Superintendent or Trainmaster may be lurking!

There is a flurry of activity taking place in this photo, rich with detail, captured on 4" x 5" Kodak Color Film.

  • Beginning at the lower left of the frame, barely clipped, is a "Derail" sign, and, as you can see, the derail flange is flipped over on top of the rail. This, of course, to make sure the tank cars and supply car don't get onto the main line.
  • Next, we have a father and son, admiring the lead unit.
  • Two lines run to each unit, probably fuel, and water - water for the steam generator units.
  • I can make out three individuals walking toward the head end. So I am speculating that a crew change is taking place.
  • At about the middle of the frame, just behind the rear fuel line, I can see what must be the Engineer, dressed in his gray overalls, jacket and cap. He appears to have a duffel bag slung over his left shoulder.
  • Just ahead of him, having stepped over the fuel line, a fellow in black, wearing a Fedora; the Head End Brakeman, with his grip carried over his left shoulder. We all know Head End Brakemen wore Fedora's.
  • And just ahead of him, a fellow with a large grip, wearing what appears to be a baseball type cap. Has to be, by basic elimination, the Fireman.
  • Further toward the passenger cars, a gentleman in white - possibly the Chef - many be re-supplying the larder.
  • Then the confusing sea of people getting on or off the train. And passengers merely stretching their legs.
The fellow with the cart to the right of the lead locomotive has me perplexed. There is a pile of white bags on a cart. And in the frame, similar carts scattered. Perhaps you can identify those individuals.

All captured in a five-minute stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by Office of War Information staff photographer, Jack Delano. The photo of the Super Chief is one of thousands of exposures taken by Mr. Delano, sent out to document America's railroads during the war effort.

Born Jack Ovcharov in Kiev, Ukraine on August 1, 1914, he immigrated to Philadelphia with his family in 1923. At age 18, he began studying drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. At 22 he took up photography while studying in Europe.

Mr. Delano was hired by the Farm Services Administration (FSA,) as one of their large staff of official photographers, documenting rural America. When the FSA was decommissioned, Mr. Delano went on to work for the Office of War Information. This "Super Chief" is part an assignment to document the railroad effort during war, with thousands of photos taken between 1943 and 1944.

Mr. Delano passed away in 1997 in Puerto Rico. But thanks to him and dozens of others like him, we have a rich visual history of the United States, captured on thousands of negatives, which can be found in the Library of Congress.

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