Monday, August 24, 2009

Old photos ...

Today's post is the story of a cool moment, and a thoughtful gesture.

A little over a week ago I was out in the hills walking my dog, when my cell phone rang. It turned out to be someone I'd never spoken to before ... a gentleman named Derek Legg, who'd come across a post I'd made a couple of months earlier about the wreck of a Great Northern Railway train at Wolf Point, back in 1934. It turned out that Mr. Legg was in possession of a series of other photographs of the wreck, shots that had been taken by a now-deceased family relative, and he very graciously offered to send the pictures to me.

A fat envelope arrived at my house a few days later, containing a letter and a cache of old photos. The photos, perhaps from a Brownie No. 2 box camera, had been taken by a man named Harold Booth, who in 1934 had just graduated from the University of Iowa and had been sent to Fort Peck with the Army Reserves. There were several photos of the Fast Mail wreck, and a whole series of other shots depicting life around the Fort Peck Dam site that summer. They're very evocative images, and I hope to feature a few of them here.

Today's photo is one of Mr. Booth's shots of the Fast Mail wreck, probably taken the day after the accident. A steam wrecking crane has arrived on the scene, has righted the tender, and is now working on the locomotive. You can see how badly the locomotive cab was crushed by the event.

Many, many thanks to Derek and Ann Legg for sharing these photos with us.


  1. What a nice gesture...and how good of you to share.

  2. Yes! The History of this area during the building of Fort Peck Dam is fancinating. I used to live close to that area and was given a copy of a map drawn by some "old-timer" showing the location of all the little towns that sprouted during this era. It amazes me that there is little evidence left of what was once a bustling network of little "town" (if u can call them that). However, if you know where to look you can still find some really interesting remnants. There is also a book that I really enjoyed called "Bucking the Sun" by Ivan Doig. Check it out, I would love to see the photos!

  3. It was a nice gesture, indeed ... and in addition to showing them here, I'll need to ensure that the photos find a good home at an appropriate archive someday.

  4. And yes, Mr. Great Falls ... it's definitely an area with a fascinating history. I really want to spend a day up there sometime wearing an archaeologist's hat and with a day to kill. People always think of "ghost towns" as being 19th-century mountain mining towns, but our prairies are full of 20th century equivalents, many of which are just as interesting as what the mountains have to offer.

    I'll try to remember to bring the photos along the next time I come to the Electric City ... that should be enough to entice you to reveal yourself!! :)

    I've had "Bucking the Sun" on my reading list for ages ... I should probably bump it up the priority list a bit.

  5. Its a good book, I think you would like it. (I'm thrilled at the moment that I have read a book you haven't!!)

  6. Ha! There are probably more books in that category than you think. :)