The Historic Railroads In The American   Landscape

Grain Elevator, Stanford, Montana
Prior to the front range of the Rockies and cresting the continental divide, agricultural structures such as this grain elevator are some of the most striking buildings along the rails. Because some are well over a hundred years old and others, like this one, are new, they indicate a long relevance of the railroad in serving agro-industry.

 

Photographer John Sanderson is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this landscape/documentary photography.  From the project ‘RAILROAD LANDSCAPES’.  To see John’s body of work, click on any image.

 

Park Avenue Tunnel Cut, New York City
The Park Avenue Rail Cut dates back to the 1800s. Like many other parts of the country, the rails came first and people followed suit, building lives, cities and towns. The buildings surmounting the tracks here vary from early to late 20th century and include storefronts typical of New York City.

 

Metropolitan Corridor, Maspeth, Queens, New York City
Our view stretches westward here through a canyon of industrial buildings towards Long Island City.

 

Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham, Alabama
Known as the “Pittsburgh of the South”, Birmingham was once a major source of pig-iron.
The Sloss Furnaces are one of the few American steel mills from the height of the industrial age that are still intact.
It produced pig-iron from 1882 to 1971.

 

NA Tower, Martinsburg, West Virginia
Vestiges of the past line the tracks here in Martinsburg, West Virginia. NA Tower once controlled switching operations here and operated until 2003.

 

Space changes around rail lines that remain generations after their construction. The tracks flow into the distance or cut across a picture, leaving us in wonder; and yet their confident line anchors one to its path. Once bustling depots sit forlorn, objects of aesthetic pride are forgotten. Elsewhere, tracks flow through immutable mountain passes. This body of photographs examines the overlooked track-side environment of America’s railroads. From the urban to the rural, I set out to examine how the tracks exist as a narrative force within the frame while also looking to places describing our collective history.

 

Bootlegger Tunnel, Moab, Utah
While the Railroad Landscapes project began in the urban northeast, as I went Westward I found a similar visual geometry and scale between the railroad and the environment. The scale of buildings in New York City or Cleveland, Ohio surround the tracks much like the ancient sandstone monoliths here in Utah. The great commonality is the railroad, which connects them all.

 

Riverline, Newburgh, New York
The early years of this project brought me to the Hudson Valley. It was there the foundations of this project developed.

 

Oscar Ewton Elevator, Sayre, Oklahoma
Grain Elevators like this one have lined the tracks throughout the country. The ties to railroading and the agriculture industry run deep and these structures are a testament to the layered history surrounding the tracks.

 

Clearing Storm, Medicine Bow, Wyoming
The tracks in the mid ground are of the Union Pacific Railroad’s transcontinental route, originally completed in 1869 (the first to be built).
They have been in active use since that time. The structures in the foreground are roadside relics from the old Lincoln Highway (Route US 30) which, like many towns, was bypassed when Interstate 80 was complete. This section of Wyoming, Carbon County, was named after the railroad began mining the area’s rich coal deposits to fuel its trains.

 

Shaker Pub, South Union, Kenctucky
The Shakers, a Christian religious sect most active during the 19th century, constructed this tavern in South Union, Kentucky.
It is part of many architecturally distinct structures they left behind in New England and the Midwest. The proximity of their settlement to the railroad shows how enmeshed the railroad was to society.

 

All images & text © John Sanderson

 

 

See also:

Carbon County Folio Box and Booklet

Folio Box and Booklet By John Sanderson

 

 

 

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