Recently, I featured a post of a photo by John J. Young, a noted railroad photographer in the Ohio Valley. I received enough comments about him that I thought I’d share some of his other work. While I never met John, I did have the opportunity to correspond with him on several occasions concerning photo subjects in the valley. John was gracious enough to share several photos with me and I’m now sharing them with you.
John started his photography with a camera that his father gave him when he was only around eleven or twelve. Railroad subjects always seemed to be in his focus and he quickly developed a keen interest in railroads of the Ohio Valley. Those days were different than they are today and the kid with the camera made quite a few friends among the station agents, ground personnel and even the engine crews that rode the rails. Rumor has it that John once detected a serious track problem, reported it and thus saved the railroad considerable damage from a derailment. This got him a pass to ride trains and both his area of interest and his collection of photos grew significantly.
There is also the story of his mother sending him to the store to make a small purchase. Well, John had his camera and along the way, encountered a train. One thing led to another and the next thing you know, John arrived home… about eight hours later after taking a ride for most of the day! I don’t know how true these stories are but they do add some color to a man who did some really great work in black & white. So, let me share a few of the images that he had shared with me many years ago.
The image above was taken at the underpass in Warrenton on the Wheeling & Lake Erie. John’s train is coming to the wye, headed east while the approaching loco is just coming off of the wye headed west, returning from a trip north.
Here, one of the Wheeling’s big articulateds is caught in the yard at Pine Valley. Most of these locos survived through the merger with the Nickel Plate and were the largest locos in the fleet.
One of the few bridges that carried the Wheeling name is captured in this photo taken west of Warrenton near Connorsville, Ohio. John commented on the photo that he was fortunate to get this shot because only a few weeks later, the bridge was repainted and the W&LE name was covered completely.
A string of hoppers carries coal in this shot taken at an unknown location.
How’s this for recycling? After the frequently flooding Ohio River ravaged the original station at Warrenton, management got the idea to place an old passenger car at that location. The thought was that, if a flood was coming, a loco could be dispatched to simply pull the “station,” the passenger car Kent, to higher ground. Well, things didn’t always work out as planned and moving the car seemed to move down on the list of priorities when the river rose so there was a rowboat placed under the car in case the agent needed to get out quickly.
The Wheeling wasn’t the only railroad that John took photos of. In this shot taken at Benwood, West Virginia, a Baltimore & Ohio switcher plies its trade. Soon, the steam loco will be replaced by the small diesel just behind it. But until then, there is work to be done and the old veteran handles the job nicely.
John is no longer with us as he passed away several years ago in New York where he was teaching photography at a community college. But he does leave quite the legacy with his thousands of railroad themed photos that he took through the years. At a time when cameras were scarce and photography wasn’t an inexpensive hobby, we are indeed fortunate to have had someone like John capturing for all of us, the day-to-day operations of railroads everywhere.