Some Vernacular Railroad Photographs features over 200 shots of railways and trains, unearthed by the book's authors.

It's hard to imagine a photograph disappearing into the ether today. The internet preserves carefully composed shots and boozy snapshot equally well. But this wasn't always the case.

Back in 2002, Jeff Brouws attended the Amherst Railroad Hobby show in Massachusetts and started collecting inexpensive old snapshots of railways and trains. "I didn't spend more than five dollars for a photograph," he says. It wasn't that hard -- no one was looking for aesthetically beautiful images. Instead, model-train enthusiasts were looking for historically-accurate shots to use in their work.

"These are everyday images, and for the most part were made by amateurs or people who were not artists," he says. He and his wife and co-author, Wendy Burton, scanned and digitized these forgotten images, touching up any marks in Photoshop. Their new book, Some Vernacular Railroad Photographs, released this week, features over 200 images from the collection.

He writes in the book's introduction:

Most of the prints were unsigned, with no identifying marks. Several had the names of their makers rubber-stamped on the back. Others, the antithesis of anonymity, contained an abundance of information faithfully recorded.

Roughly half the photographs in the book are unattributed, he says.

Brouws also serves on the board for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, and hopes to donate his collection to the Donnelley and Lee Library at Lake Forest College in Illinois, which houses the Center's archives.

Below, a selection of images from the book.

Illinois Central Railroad in North Jackson, Mississippi (April 1938 by C. William Witbeck)
Left: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in Albuquerque, New Mexico (1913 by Hanna and Hanna Studios); Right: New York Central in Harmon, New York (June 11,1945, by Ed Nowak)
Ann Arbor Railroad in Ann Arbor, Michigan (January 17, 1904 by C.T. Stoner)
Pennsylvania Railroad, location unknown (June 16, 1948, photographer unknown)

Top image: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Fairmont, West Virginia (August 1957 by H. Reid)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The ‘Marie Kondo Effect’ Comes at a Weird Time for Thrift Stores

    Netflix’s hit show has everyone tidying up, but that's not the only reason second-hand stores are being flooded with donations.

  2. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  3. A photo of President Donald Trump showing off U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes in March 2018.
    Perspective

    This Isn't a Border Wall: It's a Monument to White Supremacy

    Like Confederate monuments, President Trump’s vision of a massive wall along the Mexican border is about propaganda and racial oppression, not national security.

  4. Equity

    Hope You Aren't Counting on Getting a Tax Refund This Winter

    Millions of low-income households rely on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help them get through the winter. Too bad most IRS workers are furloughed.

  5. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.