PDN Photo of the Day

An Insider’s View of the Last Steam Trains

Steam trains have had a lasting romantic appeal, especially for photographers. In the new book Smoke Over Steamtown, published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Dennis A. Livesey documents the steam trains and the people who run them at Steamtown National Historic Site, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a working railroad museum dedicated to the history of steam trains in the U.S. Livesey is a train photographer whose work has appeared in magazines including Trains and Railfan & Railroad. Along with shots of locomotives passing through snowy landscapes framed by billowing clouds, Smoke Over Steamtown also focuses on life in the maintenance shop and yard, recording images and stories from the people who work as mechanics and crew for the site’s steam locomotives, diesel-electric locomotives, passenger cars and freight cars.

Writes Livesey, “My first visits here were made as a photographer, inspired by such greats as O. Winston Link and Richard Steinheimer, who tried to capture the steam train experience on film.” But he eventually “stepped through the looking glass,” as he puts it, and began working on the trains as a volunteer, in addition to photographing them. “Having undergone rigorous training, I serve as a Steamtown trainman and railroader myself. Instead of capturing the action of others on camera, I am now the one throwing track switches, hooking up air hoses, turning locomotives on the ninety-foot turntable, and giving hand signals to the engineer who stops and starts the locomotive on my say-so.” The result is an insider’s view of the work of running the site and its trains. Writes Livesey, “This participation has not only been a new personal experience, it has invigorated my photography, providing a new perspective and lending an authenticity that it did not possess before.”

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