Music of the Rails • Engine 54 • 1968

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Music of the Rails • Oscar Peterson • 1963

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Music of the Rails • JJ Cale • 1974

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Music of the Rails • Psychedelic Train • 1970

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Railway Photographer • Margaret Bourke White • USA • 1945

German refugee train at the end of WW2…by the American photographer Margaret Bourke White.

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Railway Photographer • Robert Doisneau • France • 1950s

The French photographer, Robert Doisneau, is widely known as a member of the humanist photography movement of the middle 20C. He was also a street-photographer, and is famous nowadays for his image, Le Baiser de l’hotel de ville (1950).

Doisneau was also the house photographer for the SNCF, the French railways, for about twenty years. The railways provided Doisneau with a context in which to frame his interest in the people within the structures and systems of the great railway network.

Interestingly, the SNCF commissioned the Brazilian social-documentarist photographer, Sebastiao Salgado, to photograph the railways in the 1980s and early 1990. In America Jack Deleno and O Winston Link took pictures of the people and machines of the railway. In the end, almost every great photographer has  taken pictures of the railway…

I love the contrast between the smokey blackness of the traditional railway and the technical precision of electric traction. Doisneau was there at exactly the right time to trace the end of an era and the beginning of the new…

And here is a rare picture of real passengers on a train to the Parisian suburbs. Must be the end of the day, they look exhausted.


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Alex Katz • Cezanne and the Railway…

In a recent interview, the US artist Alex Katz made an interesting point about the painting of Paul Cezanne…

I am conscious of Cezanne’s clumsy, overworked surfaces – his problems with human volumes – but on the train ride back I looked at the landscapes out of the window, and it was all Cézanne!


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Sister Rosetta Tharpe on a Railway Platform • Manchester • 1964

The BBC continued their series of curated musical archive shows with a sofa-based discussion between Cerys Matthews and Val Wilmer about the cultural impact of the delta blues.

You can watch the programme on iplayer, here

It’s well-worth watching.

Cerys Matthews is a well-known singer and radio presenter. Val Wilmer is a writer and photographer who as spent her life within the jazz and blues community…

First up was a brilliant film of Sister Rosetta Tharpe playing at the disused railway station at Wilbraham Road, Manchester, for Granada TV in May 1964…

It must have been raining and freezing, as Rosetta came onto the platform wearing a natty overcoat…the audience, on the other side of the tracks also looked pretty cold.

If you are interested in discovering more about Rosetta Tharpe, there is an old documentary on box of broadcasts, and a review in the Guardian…

All of the commentary on the railway-station show expresses a slight surprise at the idea of staging a blues show on a railway station platform…but the TV producers seem to have intuitively understood that modern popular music was born on the railway, between the Delta and Chicago, and passing through Memphis and Detroit… Delta blues are widely acknowledged as the wellspring of all modern popular music…

By a happy co-incidence, I recently posted about this very subject on my railway-themed college blog, here

Music of the Rails • The Theory

and again, here

Chicago – New Orleans • The City of New Orleans + Panama Streamliners • Chicago + Illinois • 20C

If popular music was born on the railway, you might easily map it’s development. This is especially the case in relation to the railway axis, above. It’s no surprise that there’s now a whole lot of music mapping and info-graphics online…

These musical maps are derived, conceptually, from the work of Cornelius Cardew on graphical scores. I’ve posted about him before, here

and with more background, here

You can download the whole of Cardew’s work online as a pdf.

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French Railways SNCF • Railway Dining • 1960s

Here is a picture of the restaurant car of theFrench railway SNCF flagship service between Paris and Nice, called Le Mistral. This is from the period of modernisation at the end of the 1960s.

The evident formality of the whole is practically 19C…that’s pretty French.

I love the internal venetian blinds on the windows. I remember these, from the 1970s, as a powerful indicator of modern sophistication. In contrast to the lace-type half-curtains of the previous era.


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What this blog looks like…

Here is a screen-grab of some of my recent image uploads onto this blog.

I love this kind of visual overview of what has been built up over a period of time. Like a virtual mood-board…

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