O. Winston Link


The Last Steam Railroad in America
February 3 – March 26, 2011

O. Winston Link (1914-2001) was born in Brooklyn, New York. He is best known for his photographs documenting the last days of steam locomotive railroads in the United States during the 1950s. He was trained as a civil engineer in the late 1930s. When the Norfolk & Western Railway began to convert its operations from steam to diesel, Link spent five years documenting the trains and the towns along the line in Virginia. He made significant achievements in the use of night photography, often using elaborate flash equipment and staging techniques to create extraordinary images. His background in engineering proved especially useful in this regard, allowing him to solve the significant technical hurdles posed by the work. Speaking of his preference for night photography, Link explained "I can't move the sun—and it's always in the wrong place—and I can't even move the tracks, so I had to create my own environment through lighting." Although Link financed the project himself, he did receive assistance in staging the photographs from the Norfolk & Western officials. Although Link's photographs had attracted attention from the Museum of Modern Art and other museum curators, it wasn't until the publication of the book Steam, Steel & Stars in 1987 that his images reached a wider audience. Gallery and museum exhibitions as well as publication in magazines around the world followed. From 1960 until he retired in 1983, Link worked as a commercial photographer. He died in 2001. In January 2004, the O. Winston Link Museum opened in Roanoke, Virginia. The museum is located in the former passenger station of the Norfolk & Western Railway adjacent to the Virginia Museum of Transportation.