Keeping Track Of Trains

February 07, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen

When he was growing up in the 1920s and '30s, Jim Gallagher had no interest in trains. It didn't matter that his Ednor Gardens home was within sounding distance of the Baltimore & Ohio trains that were slugging their way uphill toward the Clifton Park pusher station or slowing down as they headed into the 26th Street yard.

Even with their whistles, hissing steam engines, and black smoke charging skyward, the trains could not turn the head of the youth playing football and basketball on Ellerslie Avenue.

"They were simply there and a part of the everyday fabric of life," recalls Mr. Gallagher, who is now 72 and lives in Hamilton.

So how does he explain his recently published and widely praised book, "Trackside Maryland, From Railyard to Main Line" (Greenburg Publishing Co.; $49.95), a photographic record of the period in American railroading when steam engines were lumbering out and diesel locomotives were rolling in?

By the time he got hooked on trains and railroads, Mr. Gallagher, a Loyola College grad and World War II vet, had been an amateur photographer for a number of years. Following the war, he went to work in his family's real estate development company. He also joined a photographers' club, the Lensmen of Baltimore, and was looking for something challenging to shoot.

He found it in railroads. And he had the good sense to realize that his favorite subject -- the steam engine -- would not be around forever.

Carrying a Speed Graphic and a Rolleiflex everywhere he went, he began photographing the steam trains that criss-crossed Maryland, West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania. Aiding his cause were a few fans of his work at the B&O's headquarters in Baltimore, who gave him a pass to that line's property and alerted him to the comings and goings of steam engines.

He studied the terrain, terminals and structures -- what he calls the essential components of a railroad -- before taking a picture.

"I knew what I wanted and just waited," he says. "My basic approach was to plan, set up, shoot and return often if that instant did not produce results to my satisfaction."

The body of work that resulted (from the late 1940s to the late 1950s) is a remarkable record of the end of the steam era in American railroading. The book is 224 pages with 260 black and white photos.

The photographs on these two pages are from the book. Text is by Evening Sun columnist Jacques Kelly. The book is available at area bookstores.

Fred Rasmussen is on the staff of The Sun for Carroll County

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