Roanoke, VA: O. Winston Link Museum

photo taken at the museum of O. Winston Link and his elaborate equipment to photograph at night

photo taken at the museum of O. Winston Link and his elaborate equipment to photograph at night

We headed over to the O. Winston Link Museum (housed in a former passenger station of the Norfolk & Western RR) dedicated to the photographer Winston Link whose photographs captured the history and last days of the steam locomotive. The Norfolk & Western Railroad, headquartered in Roanoke, was the last company to operate steam locomotives. At the Virginia Museum of Transportation the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 (http://fireup611.org/) is on display through Labor Day and it was possible to book a ride (contact them for 2017). Their rail yard, explores historic steam and diesel engines, cabooses, and other rail equipment. Inside the Museum (housed in a former freight depot), visitors can enjoy model trains and hands-on exhibits, stroll among the antique automobiles, and explore the truck, bus, and aviation exhibits.

The content and composition of O. Winston Link photographs and that he was a master of lighting makes him one of the most exciting and fine photographers I have seen. It is said that he had the eye of an artist and mind of an engineer. He pioneered night photography. He believed that it was more romantic and dramatic and that steam from the trains against a night sky photographed white. Against a day sky it came out a dirty grey.

Hotshot Eastbound (1956), taken at the drive-in theater in Iaeger, West Virginia, was used in Link's book Steam, Steel & Stars. This is one of Link's best-known photographs

Hotshot Eastbound (1956), taken at the drive-in theater in Iaeger, West Virginia, was used in Link’s book Steam, Steel & Stars. This is one of Link’s best-known photographs

He documented, both in photographs and in sound recordings, the last days of steam locomotive railroading on the Norfolk & Western line in the United States in the late 1950s and the communities along the rail. His recording supported his film. It was not until he had a traveling exhibition in 1983 that his work was brought to a wider public. He died in 2001 at the age of 86 of a heart attack outside a train station in Katonah, NY.

There is some justice in the world: In 1996, Link’s second wife, Conchita, was arrested for (and later convicted of) stealing a collection of Link’s photographs and attempting to sell them, claiming that Link had Alzheimer’s disease and that she had power of attorney. She served six years in prison.  When she was released she again attempted to sell some of Link’s works that she had stolen, this time using the Internet auction site eBay. She received a three-year sentence. There is more information, images and a powerful film about Links available at http://www.linkmuseum.org/

Next Blog: The Taubman Museum in Roanoke, VA and the traveling exhibit “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell”

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