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In this album of black-and-white photographs, a people-oriented treatment of steam locomotives is favored over an obsession with mechanical detailia that tends to overwhelm photo collections of railroading. Dramatic shots of smoking machines hurtling down the line are de rigueur in any album, but Withuhn's selections and captions stress the quotidian meaning of steam engines in the three decades before diesels and autos triumphed: they were the economic lifeline. Railroad stations were the gateway to towns small and large. Repair shops and switching yards supplied jobs, and in one moody photo a herd of engines steam in twilight, patiently awaiting maintenance. People at work, or going to work, that's Withuhn's theme. Nowadays buffs work at restoring the old beasts that weren't scrapped, and a closing section depicts the fruits of those enthusiasts' labors. A Smithsonian curator, Withuhn captures the gritty look of working on the railroad so well and so inexpensively that libraries looking to spruce up a tattered train shelf can confidently couple up this title.
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  • Seller location: Franklin, Auckland, NZ

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