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Thread: The End of an Era

  1. #1
    John Fasulo Guest

    Default The End of an Era

    THE END OF AN ERA

    While visiting relatives on my first trip to Germany in 1974, I was told by an uncle that I should visit and photograph the rail terminal at Hof, West Germany near the Czech border. My uncle, who had recently retired from German Railways, knew of my interest in trains. He explained that Hof was the terminal of the last division of German Railways to still be all steam; and that it was soon to be modernized.
    The next morning, I was on the train from Düsseldorf to Hof, an all day journey. Late in the evening, with a light rain falling, my train snaked through the yard at Hof. Before my eyes was a dream come true. Here, in the 20th Century, were some of the last working steam locomotives in Western Europe.

    As my train moved through the yard, the rails glistened in the darkness. Light from the towers illuminated the scene. Train whistles shrieked in the background and the smell of coal and steam permeated the air. All around, engines from another era were wrapped in a blanket of steam. My train pulled into the station. I found a small pension to spend the night. I didn’t sleep much that evening; all through the night, I was awakened by the sounds from the yard. The next morning, I dressed and ate quickly. The proprietor of the pension asked if I wanted a taxi, but I decided to walk as it was not far. On my way down to the train station, I passed under the main line. On the track above, a long freight pulled by steam passed over me. At the station, I asked to be directed to the division superintendent’s office. It was only a short walk away.

    I climbed the steps and entered the office. A sullen, humorless railroad clerk was at a desk near the door. I tried to explain that I wanted to get permission to photograph the engines in the yard. I was told, rather curtly, that it was ‘Verboten’, and I couldn’t photograph in the yard. That seemed to be the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned. I retreated to the station to think about my next move; after all, I didn’t come this far to be turned away by a clerk. As I was pondering my next move, a railway police officer came over and asked about my camera gear. He said that he had seen me enter the superintendent’s office. I explained my confrontation with the clerk. He frowned and told me to follow him. With the policeman at my side, we entered the building. Without stopping at the clerk’s desk, and without even a glance , we continued upstairs to the office of the division superintendent. He was quite friendly and pleased that someone had an interest in his steam engines. He called for his chief machinist. We had coffee and cake, and talked about the New York Central Railroad and the 20th century Limited. He was interested to know that my grandfather had emigrated from Germany in 1923,was a machinist for the New York Central RR, and worked on the engines that pulled the 20th Century Limited from New York to Chicago. After saying goodbye, I was escorted by the head machinist to the roundhouse and given a tour. About 20 minutes later, he excused himself and said that I could go where I pleased and take all the photos that I wanted. “Just be careful”, he told me, this is a working railroad remember”.

    I spent the day photographing the twilight of steam in Germany. I photographed the roundhouse, inside and out, the coaling station, ash pits, watering tower and the crews that worked in the facility. It was a day that I would not forget. I seemed to be standing in a time warp. All around me, steam prevailed. Again I thought, this could be Germany in the 1930’s. Not long after my visit, the facility was raised and steam for the most part, except for tourist railways, disappeared forever from the German landscape.

    In 1995, I was again in Germany not far from Hof. I decided to take a look at what had become of the Hof facility. The yard was unrecognizable to me. The roundhouse was gone. So was the turntable, the coaling station, watering towers and ash pit. In its place was a square, modern diesel shed. I left without taking a photograph. Returning had been a mistake. I was comforted, however, with the knowledge that I had captured images more than twenty years earlier that would endure. Many of those photographs are now in the archives of the German Railway Museum in Nuremburg. In 1998, after months of correspondence with the museum director, a series of photographs was purchased by the museum. Those photographs were some of the last images portraying the twilight of steam power in Germany. I was in the right place at the right time. Like my friend and ‘mentor’ American photographer David Plowden, I was, ‘one step ahead ahead of the wrecking ball’.


    (I continue to photograph railroads. Now that I am retired from the television industry, I have more time to devote to still photography. In the past,I traveled across Canada by rail on the Canadian Pacific as well as much of the US on Amtrak. This past summer, I took Amtrak to Montana to visit a friend. I have purchased a digital camera, but still prefer to shoot Black and White film and work in a traditional darkroom.)

    John Fasulo
    Beacon, NY
    January 2006
    Last edited by John Fasulo; 09-19-2006 at 01:22 AM.

  2. #2
    greenthumb Guest

    Default

    John ~

    I enjoyed reading the story line of your awesome steam adventure. I think that there are a few formatting adjustments that would make it more enjoyable for others to read. The first thing that comes to mind is that the text needs to be broken into sections or paragraphs. At the same time, possibly dispersing the images in the midst of the text with captions.

    I am not a student of steam, so I would like to have some sort of description or caption with the images. The scenes captured don't have meaning to me. With some info, I think I would be further drawn into the images and the story. I don't know if other readers would be schooled in the typical steam operations, but I am not.

    Regarding the photos, the first image is too small to be discerned. A caption to the second would be helpful. Three is good size, caption would be appreciated. Fourth, the roundhouse image, I really like the feel of the this photograph, very nice !! The last image has a good feel to it as well, but I don't know what I am looking at.

    I like the copy as written (but needs breaks), I felt like I was following you around the Hof Shops. I felt a little disappointed with lack of other images. Maybe you are holding others back for other uses, but I was expecting more...

    Lastly, the attached BMP file won't open for me and my laptop.

    Best Regards,

    ~ jeff

  3. #3

    Default

    > I like the copy as written (but needs breaks)...

    I think the formatting may have gotten lost during posting. I've tried to fix the formatting, guessing at where spaces seemed to be present, and repaired the image file.
    Last edited by Bob; 09-09-2006 at 04:27 AM.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  4. #4

    Default

    I love the overall melancholy feel of this essay. The rawness of the photos beautifully matches the text. Like Jeff, I would like to see a few of the images blown up a little larger. Unlike Jeff, I am not bothered by the lack of captioning. To me this is an essay about emotion, with the technical specifics of each photo secondary.

    I vote to approve as is.

    Martin Burwash

  5. Default

    I like the mood of this essay as well. I'd love to see more photos though. The ones included just whet my appitite. I vote to post!

  6. #6

    Default

    I like this essay, it's an interesting story and the photos are excellent. He's done a nice job documenting the last days of steam.

    The photos are really nice, though I will agree a couple are smaller than I'd prefer. As for the formatting, I'd blame the forum software rather than the writer. I've tried to reformat it, and it can be tweaked if needed.

    As for captions...

    First of all, I have to admit I don't need them, being familiar with stem, so maybe it doesn't bother me as much as it would others. I also admit I like lots of details in the captions, but since I'm not writing the essay, I don't get to make that choice, and not all articles have to have the same format.

    That said, he mentioned being inspired by David Plowden. I have several Plowden books, and they all have one thing in common. The captions are extremely brief, normally one short line. I grabbed "A Time of Trains" and leafed through it to verify what I recalled. Along with getting a nice surprise by finding several images of Reading 2100 in there that I hadn't recalled, I confirmed that the captions are brief and to the point, usually only giving a very broad desciption and location. i.e. "Reading 2100 and 2124 on a Reading Ramble near Port Clinton NJ"

    There's also typically a nice intro at the beginning of the chapter, which pretty much is the way this essay is set up. So if the intent was to capture the David Plowden approach, he's done it well.

    I vote for approval.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  7. #7

    Default

    PS - This isn't about preservation, but since it deals with steam I thought this category is a good fit. If anyone, especially John, doesn't agree, let me knowm and we can discuss options.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  8. #8
    greenthumb Guest

    Default

    Yes, the formatting edits help with the flow of the day's events.

    Martin and Bob, thanks for expounding the benefits of John's essay, you both opened my eyes to more of an "era feel", rather than a documentary focus. I missed that and appreciate your explanations on your perspectives.

    Oh, I can now open the final attachment.

    Great essay.

    ~ jeff

  9. #9

    Default

    Excellent images. Great opportunity to shoot, and you did a great job!

  10. #10
    John Fasulo Guest

    Default The End of an Era

    Thank you all for your positive outlook and constructive words. Ive found this site, as a newcomer, a bit confusing, but I'll get used to it. As for picture size, as a novice digital person.. (all the old photos obviously were B&W prints and needed to be scanned), Im learning as I go along ... here are more photos that I could and will psot and I will give more caption details, but not a lot. I like to see the photo tell the story... I think it was Lewis HIne who said,"If I could tell the story with just words, why do I ahve to lug this damn camera around?" or words to that effect.
    Anyway. Thank you again for your support .. I look forward toposting more essays in the future.
    John Fasulo

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