Stories exist behind every picture. Sometimes these stories are mere fantasies and artistic escapes, but other times, the stories ring true with a unique view of the historical past. This work of the front plate of Engine 316 of the Texas State Railroad is a charming example of that form of historically significant art.
The chipped paint and the dirty appearance of the lettering and numbers show the age and wear that this locomotive has experienced. This image elevates the industrial beauty of the iron horses of the great steam locomotive period. The plate itself, especially shot in a tight close-up, provides a sense of permanence of the industrial revolution and the role that steam engines played in it.
Perhaps we can alter our perceptions of the time period more by looking into the history of the Cooke Works that produced this star of the yesteryear. The Cooke Locomotive and Machine works factory, erected in the early 19th century in Patterson, NJ, started to manufacture steam engines as early as the 1850’s.
The company also had the names of Danforth, Cooke, & Company, Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works and, thanks to a merger in 1901, the ALCO or American Locomotive Company. The plant was in full operation until the 1920’s when it shut down operations in the Patterson area.
This means that our valuable engine 316 is one of the last steam locomotives produced by the Cooke Company before it merged with the ALCO in 1901-1902. Engine 316 not only provides a group of tourists with a glimpse of the years of East Texas railroading. She also provides an inspirational ride through the history of American engineering and manufacturing for the mid 1800’s to the 20th century.
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