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Saturday, January 25, 2014

O. Winston Link Museum

O. Winston Link and George Thom with Flash Equipment, New York, NY 1956

I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that it took me ten years to visit the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke. I visited it on Saturday and have to say it is now my favorite museum in Roanoke. I'm a huge fan of black and white photography as well as steam engines so this was right up my alley. His photos are magnificent and the three I'm showing in this blog post were taken from postcards I had bought and believe me they do not do him justice.

Gooseneck Dam on the Maury River with Train No. 2 near Buffalo Forge, Virginia 1956
"It required six full days to set up and complete. To get the flash units across the river a person had to cross on a two-wire span, one for your feet and the higher one for your hands, as there were no boats or bridges nearby. The uptilted strata with water rushing between the plates of rock in the set-up area was so confusing at night that we set up guide ropes to get to the light stands and cameras. It was a great challenge, and a satisfaction to see the negative of the first exposure, without any test, was as it had been calculated to be."
One of my favorites...The sign for Solitude caught Link's eye as soon as he started the N&W project. Link noted that "This place was out in nowhere, and the more I studied the sign, the more alone I felt. I twas eerie to be in total darkness in that place. It was well-named Solitude!" It was also one of the few photos he shot totally by himself with no assistants.
I caught the end of a film on his life and wish I had had the time to see it from the beginning. O. Winston Link was born and raised in Brooklyn. Ahem, yet another talented, creative genius that shares my hometown. Although he was a life-long New Yorker, he said he always felt like he was "home" when he came back to Roanoke. He loved this city, its people, and especially its trains. We are indeed a most fortunate city that he chose us to host his museum when I'm sure he easily could have found a home in Manhattan.

Although photographs are not allowed in the gallery, the yard was opened where the 1218 stood majestically on the tracks. One of his stipulations on having the museum built here was to have the 1218 permanently placed there, and although that was an impossibility as the location is too small for a roundhouse, he was instrumental in Norfolk & Western's decision to restore and donate the locomotive to the city of Roanoke. The 1218 usually stands next to the 611 on the tracks of the Virginia Museum of Transportation which is a couple of blocks away, and the reason my family ended up in Roanoke. My son was a train fanatic and we wound up in Roanoke to visit the museum 20 years ago and ended up staying. Best decision ever. It's definitely worth a visit, especially if you have kids, and even if you don't.

Here's a couple of shots of the yard and a couple more of Downtown Roanoke...

 And just think in a couple of years y'all be able to visit us via Amtrak which is getting a station downtown. Choo Choo, all aboard!


  1. I can't wait to visit Roanoke! It's now on my list of places I've got to see, thanks to you and your brilliant writings. I'm so glad you enjoyed the museum, and I'll be sure to visit that when I go - it's not that far, after all. And, I'm looking forward to your next post!

  2. Happy to read your comment Barb...Roanoke is a great place to visit, just wait until after winter is over and you'll have many more amenities that you can take advantage of!