I spent most of my professional life working around “dirt” in some fashion, having spent almost 30 years as an Army Engineer at home and abroad. Thus when our two girls were young they listened to me talk about what I was doing, and sometimes saw first hand what that was. One of them coined the term “pickin’up dirt thing” to refer to any sort of heavy construction equipment they saw. Recently, we hired a local construction guy to come demolish our in-ground swimming pool, and to then dump loads of fill dirt into the resulting hole. Yesterday, looking out the window at the Case front-loader sitting out back waiting to complete the job, I laughed to myself when I said, “There sits a pickin’ up dirt thing.” Then, I was inspired to make some close up, and somewhat unique black and white photos of it, just to be a bit creative. So here you go!
Category Archives: Transportation
All along the busy Norfolk Southern Rail Line that winds through the hills and mountains of SW Virginia, there are remnants of days when trains stopped at many small towns, given that railroads were then the primary mode of transportation. Such was the case in Boones Mill, VA which in 2000 had a population of less than 300. Boones Mill is located along the main highway south of Roanoke. What its population was when trains stopped there is unknown to me. Trains don’t stop there today, but I did to record a small piece of history.
I love trains, especially those that thrived throughout the United States during the early-mid 20th Century. Rail lines went just about everywhere it seemed, connecting towns and cities large and small. Most train depots had a similar look. Long, single-storied brick and wooden structures that lay parallel to the train tracks. There was always a long wooden deck or concrete loading and unloading platform which felt the pulse of thousands of travelers for decades. Today, in locations such as Bassett Virginia, these iconic stations still exist, albeit in some decay, but are still being used for purposes other than train traffic, which has ceased. When I visited the Bassett train depot recently I was looking for something different to photograph, but with an objective to portray the aging and rustic nature of the facility. The town of Bassett now uses this building for a city market, where local goods are sold on weekends. It is also used for special community gatherings. While trains no longer pass by, people like me often do.
How many remember gasoline filling stations when regular gas was 18 cents per gallon? Thanks to an antique dealer near where we live, an original Shell Oil station has been renovated, with lots of red and yellow colors all over. Original pumps and other items are set up as they once were, and the only thing missing is people driving through filling up, while having their oil checked, windshields cleaned, and tires filled with air all at no charge except for that related to the amount of gas used. This all made for some interesting photo opportunities for me recently. Enjoy what I saw that day.
This is the last of three posts made in order, that summarize some of the aspects of three World War Two war planes I recently photographed while attending an exhibition at the Blue Ridge Airport near our home. A P-51 Mustang fighter, B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and a B-24 Liberator bomber are traveling around the United States together to provide opportunities for visitors to pay respects to all those who fought, were wounded or died in planes like these during the campaigns in Europe and the Pacific. What follows are several close-up images I made of each of these planes, composed and developed in a way to provide visual interest, as well as to show their size and power.
Per my last post, I wrote about recently spending time in the midst of several World War II veterans, and photographing three of the vintage but still flying planes in which they fought and risked their lives for the defense of our country. Heroes all. Three WWII vintage war planes flew into the Blue Ridge Airport near our home last week, and I visited on two days to make photos and to learn more about this period of our history.
While I was looking into the plexiglass windshield on the nose of a B-24 Liberator bomber, a man standing behind me asked if I knew what it was I was seeing inside. I said I thought it was the once very highly classified Norden Bombsight, and he told me I was correct, but would I like to learn more. For the next few minutes he told me he had been the pilot on a B-24 like this one, flying in the Pacific Theater of the war, and later spent time in the Army of Occupation in Japan after the fighting was over. He told me he was later that day going to fly the B-24 we were standing next to, during its trip from the Blue Ridge Airport to South Carolina for the next planned exhibition location. He also told me he had built his own helicopter from scratch recently, and showed me some photos of his work which he carried in his wallet. He said he had wanted to fly from when he was a young boy, and had never lost that passion. I asked him what it was going to be like when he sat in the pilot’s seat again, and he replied that it would be as if he had never left it. Such was the impact the war had on him.
The B-24 on display has the names painted on its side of hundreds of veterans who had flown in or were related in some way to the plane. Also, the same “fighting logo drawing” as used during the war had been repainted in bright colors on the side of the plane’s nose. In sum, the bomber looked powerful not only in its size and the number of machine guns all around, but what it carried inside.
The plane’s significance really hit me when I crawled under to look inside the bombay doors, where I saw three (dummy) 500-pound bombs which signified the main purpose of the bomber; one with the words, “To Hitler from the Mighty 8th Air Force” painted on its side. I felt as if I had been transplanted back in time.
I thanked the veteran I had met, and told him I very much appreciated his service to our country. With that, he was met by others like me who wanted to talk with him. In closing, I note that the 8th Air Force suffered half of the Army Air Force casualties during the Second World War in all theaters of operation, with 26,000 airman alone killed in the battle for Europe. To them, this photo series is dedicated.
How many remember the saying many of us learned as kids, “Railroad crossing, look out for cars, can you spell that without any “R’s.” And of course, the answer is T-H-A-T. OK, not so funny but it sets the stage for my main point…that being I am a “nut” for trains and all that goes along with them. I wish our lives were full of more trains, and less planes, automobiles and other sorts of similar transportation. Instead of having reliable, on-time high-speed train service connecting cities and locations as is done in Europe, we in the United States long ago let go that form of transportation in favor of the internet highway system we use today. I understand the reasons why that was done, but in the process we neglected rail service to the extent it almost became a joke. Thankfully, rail service is being revived somewhat, but we have a long way to go. I feel I am not alone in this…especially with those sitting in a traffic jam somewhere on I-81, trying to get to their vacation destination, or those waiting on a tarmac at some airport in the hot sun waiting for baggage to be loaded. So, in sum I get my fix with trains by making as many photos as I can about that subject. Here’s just one.
In the 18th and 19th Century here in the United States, horse-drawn wagons prevailed on the rough and rutted winding roads (such as they were). Many of these roads began as trails cleared by Native Americans. The tradesmen who maintained and built these carts and wagons were called “wheelwrights.” These tradesmen made wheels for carts and wagons by first constructing the hub (called the nave), the spokes and the rim/fellows segments, and assembling them all into a unit working from the center of the wheel outwards. Most wheels were made from wood, but other materials have been used. Here is an example of such a wheel I found on a historic farmstead in SW Virginia. I wonder how much it hauled in tons during its lifetime of service.
All one need do is to look at the millions of junked cars sitting in unsightly lots and elsewhere in the United States to realize just how much the American automobile has evolved over the years…especially in design and excess use of chrome. I suppose the same will be written 20-30 years from now pertaining to what we see today on our roads and highways. But…the best part about all of this is that we have lots of excellent photo opportunities just waiting for our cameras.