Railway Poster • USA • 1950s

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Railway Poster • France/Sweden • 1946

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Railway Photograph (disaster) • Mexico • 1960s

This is by Enrique Metinides…


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French SNCF Passenger Railway Network Typographic Map • Rudi Meyer • 1976

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Railway Publication • British Railways in Peace and War • 1944

My friend, Diana, lent me this book about BR during WW2. Lots of terrific industrial photography, and a wonderful colour centre-fold celebrating the logistical significance of the railway in wartime…

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Railway Photograph • Robert Hanks • 2020

My friend, Robert Hanks, took this photograph on the Cambridge-Newmarket line last week. Lovely.

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Graphic Representation of 19C Railway Acceleration • Sunday Times • 1970

Here is a diagram from the Sunday Times, Eureka; History of Invention from 1970.

The diagram is from the entry about steam railways and shows the shrinking effect, on geography, of mechanical railway acceleration in the middle of the 19C. Of course, the diagram is a generalisation…the country didn’t get smaller in such a regular way.

The geographical distortions associated with the acceleration of the railway machine-ensemble are much more complex, especially after the great cull of smaller lines, and the increasing speed of the main lines from 1960 onward.

Still, this is a diagram from 1970s; for a newspaper.

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Music of the Rails • Freight Train Whistles in the Night

Here is a film of an American steam train winding its way through the mountains. The driver, Steve, is giving the whistle his best blast. There’s a corny voice-over at the beginning which is best to ignore…

Quite apart from the lovely whistle sound, there is a plangent echo as the sound disappears into the vast landscape.

I’ve discovered that British and French whistles have a very different sound , and modern air horns have power, but less soul.

I’ve posted before about the music of the rails and about how all of American popular music derives from the sound of the railway track. I realised watching and listening to these films, that in addition to the track and mechanical sounds of the train, there are important additional sounds devolving from the warning bells of railway crossings and the echo-effects of the whistle. US locos have a bell on the front too.

All these sounds change in relation to each other as the train moves…producing strange doppler effects which are specific to being at tack-side, or on the train.

The soundscape of train travel is so strange and beautiful.

PS I was reminded of Moondog’s Tugboat Toccata and the lovely tug-boat whistle at the start of that piece. I discovered his equally lovely Choo Choo Lullaby

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Music of the Rails • Flying Scotsman • BBCsounds • 2020

Here is a BBC sound recording of the famous Flying Scotsman…


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Music of the Rails • Florian Schneider 1947/2020 • TEE (1976)

Here’s a wonderful picture of the French TEE from the 1970s.

I rode one of these trains between Paris and Toulouse in 1978. Happily, this was also the period of Kraftwerk’s famous TEE LP, and was probably the most stylish iteration of the train. I loved those internal venetian blinds.

I’ve posted before about these trains and about Kraftwerk, and about the history of machine-sounds as music.

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