Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Hot Shot East Bound

with 11 comments

In 1955, O Winston Link set out to capture the last days of steam railroading in America . Responsible for establish rail photography, Link also pioneered night photography, producing several well known examples including Hotshot Eastbound, above and Hawksbill Creek Swimming Hole showing a train crossing a bridge above children bathing. Link’s interest in railroads developed as a youth growing up in Brooklyn. He reflected: “The train is as close to a human being as you can get. It talks, it moves, it grunts and groans. And each engine has its own characteristics–its own sound and smell and sights.” In the 50s,  Link used a large-format view camera to take 2,400 pictures, most of them at night, of Norfolk and Western’s coal and passenger trains — the country’s last steam engines. The company retired its last steam engine in May 1960.

Although his photos exuded spontaneity, they were often the result of elaborate preparations and darkroom manipulations. “Hot Shot East Bound” was photographed on August 2, 1956, in Iaeger, West Virginia, in an effort to depict small-town American life at the end of an era. As the steam engine symbolically exits the frame, a young couple in Link’s own 1952 Buick convertible takes center stage, both literally and metaphorically. Later, in his darkroom, Link added the U.S. Air Force Sabre airplane on the movie screen to extend this metaphoric power. The photo was a poignant display of a cultural lifestyle in speedy transition. The 50s marked the beginning of excess, decadence, and conspicuous consumption. For Link, no landscape embodied this as effectively as the drive-in theater, a cultural space first created in 1928 by Richard Hollingshead in response to the United State’s burgeoning car culture.  By the late 50s, America — a nation of 40 million people — was buying cars at the rate of 8 million annually. Under President Eisenhower, more than 50% of federal transportation budget went to creation of highways and less than 5% to public transportation. Los Angeles had more cars than the whole of Asia, and GM’s profits overtook Belgium economy.

(See the Smithsonian Magazine’s account of how the photo was taken).

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Posted in Industries, Society

Tagged with ,

11 Responses

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  1. Just a note to say how much I admire the consistent quality of your selections and explanations and background research on all these photos. It’s an amazing and rewarding site.


    June 30, 2010 at 2:18 am

    • My mother is from Iaeger, WVA, Both my uncle and my mother worked at this drive in theater
      …My grandmother’s house was on the other side of the tressel…The picture was actually taken in Sandy Huff…Technically..Iaeger limits were quarter mile west of where pic was taken


      January 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm

  2. this is soooo interesting you can find out so much about things that happened in that time and so discriptive as well!!!!! lol


    July 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm

  3. […] Iconic Images: Although his photos exuded spontaneity, they were often the result of elaborate preparations and […]

  4. planes, trains, and automobiles


    July 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

  5. good post


    August 7, 2010 at 7:24 am

  6. Nowadays people would say “shopped!” ’cause of the plane. The picture is a kind of hyper-real visual assault that seems odd for the period. It’s interesting to wonder how it was lit – there appears to be a huge spotlight off the left of the frame, presumably lighting up the choo-choo’s cloud of steam, or perhaps a nuclear bomb.

    Ashley Pomeroy

    August 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm

  7. Link lit all of his night photographs with an array of custom flash bulb set-ups. The plane that was added (as noted) in the dark room because the massive flash washed out the original image on the screen. The O. Winston Link Museum has a virtual exhibit at http://www.linkmuseum.org containing all of the original negatives. Search for NW1103 to see the multiple versions of this shot!

    O. Winston Link Museum

    October 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm

  8. I remember see a special about this photograher some 10 or more years ago on PBS I think. I told the whole story about his life and how he created these marvelous pictures. I always liked the Hot Shot Eastbound, and found I could get a copy. It will be nice to hang on the wall.

    Raymond Petersen

    February 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

  9. There is one bicycle in the photograph. Can you find it. That is the fun part of the photo. People always thinks planes trains and autos, but he did not forget the bike!


    March 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    • I found it leaning against the passanger side of the 52 convertible buick…

      Kevin Bodman

      February 9, 2016 at 12:59 am

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