Book Review: The Twilight of Steam: Great Photography from the Last Days of Steam Locomotives in America

Twilight of Steam
The Twilight of Steam: Great Photography from the Last Days of Steam Locomotives in America
By Brian Solomon
Voyageur Press, 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401; 192 pages, 128 b&w photos; hardcover, 12 x 10 in.; $50.00

More than 50 years after the last steam engines ran in revenue service, the fascination endures. Decades ago, steam’s visceral appeal engaged some of the finest talents who’ve ever lifted a camera at a passing train, but it continues to draw people who are too young to have witnessed steam in the old days.

Steam’s ability to capture such a diverse audience is on display in this new photographic anthology. The editor and author is Brian Solomon, who didn’t see the inside of a cradle until nearly a decade after steam’s demise. As for the artists that Solomon has assembled here, any list that includes John Gruber, Jim Shaughnessy, and Richard Steinheimer provides ample reason to take a closer look.

You’re not likely to be disappointed. Each regionally-oriented chapter begins with a brief essay, followed by several pages of nicely reproduced photos. From quintessential New England snow shots on the Central Vermont to grubby-day pictures of Baltimore & Ohio in the coal fields; from the Rio Grande narrow gauge to the palm trees of California; from Mexican heat to Canadian cold, the anthology is rich and wide-ranging.

A lot of books have chronicled steam’s last days, most of them featuring the work of a single photographer. If you’d like a more diverse collection, or if you desire just one book on the subject, this volume could fit the need nicely.
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