oh link! roanoke, va

O. Winston Link self-portrait

The mystique of trains plays a large role in borderland culture.  Here, a museum lovingly rose from Roanoke’s former Norfolk & Western passenger terminal, with an amazing photography collection that captures the dying years of America’s last steam railway.

O. Winston Link, a commercial photographer from New York, had a passion: steam trains.  He self-financed his documentary project, from 1955-1960, during 21 trips to Roanoke, which blossomed into a city a century ago at the intersection of two rail lines.  Capturing many images at night, he brought his studio outdoors with hundreds of yards of cables for lighting.  This is my kind of man!

His collection was ignored for nearly 20 years, until the 1980’s brought international exhibitions and two published works.  In 2000, Link began negotiations with Roanoke, personally choosing the museum’s siting at the defunct passenger terminal.

Not only a beautiful homage to the past age of steam trains, his 2,000 images represent the most important photographic series taken of the region.

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