A year or so back I took a look at Essential Witness and Transition by Jim Shaughnessy and Colin Gifford respectively. This week our ever genial postie tapped on the door and left this gem, Requiem For Steam. If you’ve read or bought either of the Shaughnessy/Gifford books and enjoyed them, this is another from that same rich vein of high quality monochrome inspiration.
David Plowden has a passion for railroads and for capturing America as it ‘disappears’. The images in this book range from the 50’s through to some from the 1980’s. The few 80’s and 70’s pictures don’t show steam in action but depict infrastructure, lacking nothing in the context of the title. There are few 3/4 front images, and a whole range of subjects including locomotives, stock, people and the railroad in a wider context. The core areas covered are the mid west and up north easterly into Canada and Quebec. Printing of the images is outstanding, blacks are black, and white, white. The book features roughly 190 images with brief captioning adjacent to the relevant picture. At the back of the book there’s a section as with Shaughnessy’s of extended captions and thumbnails of the required pictures.
There’s plenty to be inspired by with this book, the picture of WelchWest Virginia above being one such image. Not only does the image ‘validate’ some of those coal country layouts that have featured in Model Railroader, steep wooded ravines with property cheek by jowl against the railroad, for me it was a light bulb moment. The curve of those hoppers immediately struck a chord with a UK location I’ve been thinking of modelling. The key difference however is the Uk sidings are straight, but this image has made me reconsider that alignment to perhaps a curve. The sweep of those coal cars has an appeal to it, that would potentially work on my Forest of Dean project. I didn’t think I’d find that inspiration for the mancave in this book, but it does illustrate how such quality images can inspire in unexpected ways.
This book fits in very well if you’re an enthusiast of Americana, History, Railroads and monochrome photography. What is evident is that Plowden has a deep affinity with the subject matter, and throughout the course of the journey, captures that with dramatic effect. This is well worth it’s place in my library, and if you like the works of Shaughnessy, Gifford, capturing moments of the past with authenticity, it’ll earn its place on your shelves easily.