General Motors Electro-Motive Division SD40-2 is classic North American locomotive design. This rugged, powerful, and reliable model was built in the thousands between 1972 and the early 1980s. Its essential boxy utilitarian form shares the same functional appearance common to most of EMD’s American road-freight locomotives built from 1963 until the general proliferation of Safety-Cab designs in the early 1990s. Canadian Pacific ordered large numbers of SD40 and SD40-2s from General Motors Canadian subsidiary and these were its dominant road locomotive for the better part of two decades. In the early 2000s, they remained standard on CP’s Delaware & Hudson lines in New York and Pennsylvania.
On October 12, 2003, I made a series of photographs of Canadian Pacific SD40-2s on a southward/westward freight at Delaware & Hudson’s Bevier Street Yard in Binghamton, New York. Here the locomotives were paused in nice light giving ample opportunity to make photographs from different angles. I was working with a pair of Nikon F3s (one F3HP, one F3T), and a Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with an unusual super wide-angle lens. Displayed here are a few of my results. The broadside Contax view at the bottom of the post was among the images featured in my recently published North American Locomotives by Voyageur Press.
Locomotives have long been the subjects of photographic study. The earliest images are believed to be Daguerreotypes from the early 1850s. As early as the 1860s, locomotive manufacturers routinely photographed locomotives to document their construction and to help interest prospective buyers. The nature of the steam locomotive meant that a great deal about the machine could be gleaned by studying it from the outside. Railway enthusiasts were enamored with locomotives from the very beginning; sketches and drawings of engines date to the earliest days of railroading, while railway enthusiast photography certainly dates to at least the 1890s, if not earlier. While I’ve always been fascinated by railways, I didn’t routinely examine locomotives on film until I was about ten. My earliest railway photography tended to feature signals. If there were any locomotives in my pictures, these seemed to appear on the horizon in the form of a looming headlight. Later, I made a great many images of locomotives, sometime picturing them at work, other times resting between jobs, and often I examined them on a macro level; in other words, up-close and in detail. I’ve written a number of books on locomotives, and these chronicle their evolution and development, intended application and service, and performance. My body of locomotive photography has aided in illustration of these efforts. This selection of images is intended as the first installment in Tracking the Light of my exploration of locomotive geometry: the shapes of the machines. Later installments will focus on specific railway fleets, individual types, and perhaps some individual machines.