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Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography
Edited by John Gruber

Winner of the George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award, Railway & Locomotive Historical Society

“Some books are histories, some biographies, some storybooks, and some are coffee table art books. Rarely can one book do all at once. Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography can—and does—in spectacular fashion.”
Trains Magazine

In the winter of 1942–43, photographer Jack Delano was assigned by the Office of War Information (successor of the Farm Security Administration) to tell the story of the American railroad system and its essential role in keeping the nation’s troops armed, fed, and housed, in addition to normal homefront railroad work. Delano’s boss was Roy E. Stryker, the visionary leader of FSA photography projects during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, documenting social conditions during the Great Depression. The best of Delano’s photographs compare favorably with images made by such other famed FSA photographers as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.

Delano’s photographs of railroaders in Chicago, the nation’s railroad hub, captured life in the yards, shops, and environments of the freight lines. He concentrated on the men and women who made the railroads tick: those employed directly in train service as well as many working behind-the-scenes in repair, maintenance, and bookkeeping. These superb portraits and their subjects’ milieus have never before been published as a collection, and they are reproduced here magnificently. Extraordinary documentary text complements the images. Editor John Gruber and others at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art researched the railroaders’ lives and wrote their biographies. Delano’s son Pablo, himself a professional photographer, made new portraits of many of the railroaders’ families and wrote a reflection on his father’s career. The book also includes essays by historian Jeremi Suri on the railroad and modern America and by editor John Gruber on Delano’s railroad assignment.

Railroaders breaks new ground for the genres of railroad books and historical photography books. These workers’ compelling, universal stories create a composite history not only of railroad work but of labor in the first half of the twentieth century.


John Gruber is the principal founder of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and the author or coauthor of six other railroad photography books. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.





Railroaders adds drama and social history. . . . An affecting testament to a way of life that has all but vanished, and as a tribute to a photographer whose work still intrigues.”
Isthmus, Madison, Wisconsin

“The photos are a superb representation of the railroad lifestyle during [World War II] and the large format . . . showcases Delano’s photography very well. . . . Readers interested in the lives of railroaders or the art of documentary photography in the mid-20th century will find it rewarding.”
Library Journal



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Larger images

August 2015
200 pp.   11 1/2 x 11
108 color and b/w photos

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Cloth $60.00 t
ISBN 978-0-615-95156-0
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Distributed for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art

• This book accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the Chicago History Museum, April 2014 through August 2016
• Included are 1943 photographs of “a typical railroader’s family”—the family of Daniel Sinise, conductor for the Indiana Harbor Belt freight switching line (and grandfather of the actor and musician Gary Sinise)