My all-time favorite rail photo

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Monday, November 2, 2009

The world is at war. Our nation has just emerged from the Great Depression and is fighting for its survival as a free people. Yet, life still goes on. Santa Fe’s twice-weekly, all-Pullman Super Chief, headed from Chicago to Los Angeles, is stopped for servicing at Albuquerque, N.M. Water and diesel fuel from tank cars are being pumped into the bowels of the twin locomotives. Passengers step out for a break; some walk up to the head end. Everyone wears a hat. The engineer approaches to take this train on its next lap, to Gallup, N.M.

Jack Delano (1914-1997) came to the U.S. with his parents and brother from Kiev, Ukraine, in 1923. An accomplished musician (viola) and classical composer, he developed an interest in photography that led to a job at the Farm Security Administration. One project he undertook was to document the lives of railroaders, and in March of 1943 he traveled the length of the Santa Fe Railway, by freight train. At Belen, N.M., Delano took a break, went to nearby Albuquerque and captured on 4x5-inch Kodachrome this timeless image of an instant in the life of a streamlined train. That’s Delano in the bottom photo.

I see this photograph (at right) every day. It’s the image that fills my monitor when I boot up my computer. I never grow tired of looking at it.

You can download this image from the Library of Congress at  or at










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