Some of the most beautiful scenes of vintage European steam in film were crafted in French filmmaker Jean Renoir’s 1938 film entitled La Bête humaine (English: The Human Beast; and in the UK released also as Judas Was a Woman).
The film centers on an express train engineer who discovers his wife was seduced by a wealthy godfather and plots their murder. This murder is witnessed by a co-railway worker. The plot complexifies further with the ramifications of this murderous path.
The express steam train pulled by French steam type 231 plays a major star role in the movie throughout, representing and symbolizing the human journeys, with beautiful photography and atmosphere.
Read more here:
Here are some clips:
Below is a short, great overview video from Vimeo, of a discussion held in New York, with Christopher Brown, author of the excellent book: Still Standing: A Century of Urban Train Station Design regarding the notion of what civic life is in a democratically-inspired region/nation and its relationship to public life, transit, and political power.
As High-speed rail is on peoples’ minds in the United States, catching up with Europe and Asia, and South America as far as attention to railroads, is an interesting development. Most decidedly, it is about politics, money, and power. The way the people of power see themselves on the global stage, from the 16th century forward, has become an important aspect of how we are all, as citizens of the phenomenon of nationhood, see ourselves.
Ultimately, it is, as the video states, about how people may move between places in comfort, safety, speed, and enjoyment.
Photo by Steven M. Welch at Rail pictures.net
On July 2 -3, 2011, the Southern Pacific 4449 pulled trains from Portland, Oregon to Wishram, Washington.
This is a great video of “Chasing” the locomotive on its trip. The Photographer rides to shoot the video, while the famous steam chasing driver “Rich” shows his skills at providing ample and exciting distance and speed in order to capture the beauty and power of steam and the environs.
Video is posted by gregudolph.
The SP 4449 was called “The Most Beautiful Locomotive in the World” at the Height of Steam train popularity in the 1940s and 50s. It is now housed, along with one of my all-time favorite steam locomotives of the US, the SP&S (Spokane, Portland & Seattle) 700.
Richard Steinheimer, famous railroad photographer of the USA, especially of Western US Railroads, passed away on May 4, 2011 in Sacramento, California after a long illness.
Let us remember his life, dedication, artistic vision, love of railroad–his heritage.
Richard Steinheimer (1929-) is considered one of the world’s greatest railroad photographers from the United States. Railroad photographers, artists, and videographers are the main people who have allowed our memories to be kept alive, and to be remembered through generations, of steam locomotives, steam trains and the reminiscing of the days when steam-driven trains were the major form of transportation on land.
He started his photographic career in 1945, when one of the most illustrious and powerful railroad companies–the Southern Pacific Railroad, ran their trains past his home. In 2004, he was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease and in 2007, suffered a stroke. His photography will remain in our heart/minds to remind us of the glory of American steam.
Southern Pacific 4194 at Night, Glendale Station, California 1950
For further reading on Richard Steinheimer: