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The New YorkerIn Travel by Train, Michael E. Zega and John E. Gruber show how the spread of railroads across America coincided with the birth of modern advertising techniques to produce a blizzard of railway posters. Early, wordy efforts based on circus posters gave way to the big pictorial landscapes of the eighteen-nineties. As cars became dominant, graphic designers resorted to an increasingly stylized approach to glamorize the idea of travel itself, a trend that reached its apogee with the posters of streamliner trains of the thirties.
The romance of railways is almost exclusively connected to the steam era. Vanishing Steam is a record of Eric Langhammer's remarkable quest, begun in the seventies, to photograph "steam locomotives at work in a natural everyday environment" before they disappeared altogether. Langhammer relates with justifiable pride the extreme level of obsession one needs to feel to go and see a train at twenty below zero in Nancha, in northeastern China.
For the photographer Andrew Cross, plenty of romance remains in the big ugly freight trains of modern America. His book Some Trains in America uses a panorama format to accommodate images of vast trains snaking across open desert and prairie; the average freight train today is more than a mile long. Meanwhile, even the humble New York subway car has its fans, as Gene Sansone demonstrates in his exhaustive survey Evolution of New York City Subways. Featuring such curios as a private subway car built in 1904 for the director of the subway, his work also provides useful insights into such imponderables as why the cars on the F line are longer than those on, say, the 1 and 9 lines.( Leo Carey)