Link’s train photos document rural culture

The Korean war movie “Battle Taxi” was on the screen at Iaeger Drive-In in West Virginia on Aug. 2, 1956, when O. Winston Link created “Drive-In Movie.” The resulting work was actually done from two separate sheets of film, one for the movie screen image and the other to capture the train
Link at work

Winston Link’s photographs, on display at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, focus on trains. They also are as much about life along the train tracks as about the steam locomotives he captured puffing along through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.

The museum houses the largest collection of his works, which document the end of steam railroading along the Norfolk and Western Railway tracks. The railroad, now Norfolk Southern Corp., was headquartered in Roanoke at that time Link did his work, 1955-1960.

Along with close-up images taken in the railyards in Roanoke are photographs of rural life: a horse and wagon standing near a depot, a couple sharing a tender moment while watching the train go by or a train rolling by an outdoor movie theater in Iaeger, W.Va., perhaps the most famous of his shots.

Link, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and trained as a civil engineer, was a self-taught photographer who had many credits before his death in 2001. The railroad project was his special baby, but he also photographed construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York Harbor and did photography for a number of advertising agencies.

The Link Museum’s displays explain his camera techniques as well as show life of the time. The exhibit takes about an hour and a half to enjoy fully and longer for those who choose to watch the documentary film on his life.

The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sandra Kelly

Board Member, Historical Society of Western Virginia Graduate: Hollins University, BA and MALS in English; Virginia Western Community College, AA in Business Administration Profession: Writer, editor