A Pictorial History of Trains in Western Colorado
Tens of thousands of negatives from Grand Junction, Colorado photographer Robert Grant have been recently discovered. These images capture trains and railroad workers from Western Colorado.
Most of these images have never been seen. The others have gone unseen for 30 years or more.
Robert Grant Photos of Western Colorado
Robert Grant served as a photographer at the Daily Sentinel from the late 1930s until his retirement in the mid-1980s. Bob was something of an aviation and train enthusiast. Put simply, he loved machines. He always took full advantage of any opportunity to photograph situations involving man and machine.
Backstory On How This All Got Started
When Bob Grant died in November 2000, he left behind several file cabinets containing prints and negatives. Most of the prints were either test prints or shots that, shall we say, didn't make the cut.
When Bob died, his son-in-law, my dad, Arlie Jordan, began scanning and archiving the images.
Fast forward to sometime around 2010. I was riding my bike down 7th Street in Grand Junction. A train was blocking the road, so I, along with a number of motorists, had to wait on the train. It wasn't moving, but rather waiting while additional cars were hooked up.
Before long, a young man, roughly 13 years old or so, approached on a bike. He had no desire to wait for the train to get loaded, so he chose an alternate plan. Dragging his bike behind him, he crawled under the train and emerged on the other side. I say again, he got down and crawled under the train.
It is my understanding when they are hooking up cars at the yards, those trains can easily lurch ten feet or more. This situation could have been catastrophic, to say the least. While the teenager in question was young, in my opinion, he was more than old enough to know better.
This event reminded me of an image my grandpa, Bob Grant, captured decades earlier somewhere in that area. It was an image of R.T. Mantlow assisting a man who had just been run over, and in the process, cut in half, by a train. The man, Chester Little (sp), survived the accident.
Before long, I took an interest in joining my dad in the endeavor of finding, scanning, archiving, and sharing Bob Grant's photos.
It Gets Complicated From There
Sometime around 2011, I began presenting Bob's photography at various exhibits and art shows. Given what I witnessed with the teenager and the train, the decision was made to include the image of the man run over by a train. Needless to say, I took a ton of heat for this.
Why was the decision to include that photo? Put simply, Robert Grant was a photojournalist. He spent his career, several years of it with the Army in WWII, photographing plane crashes, crime scenes, fires, auto accidents, and countless other horrors. That was his job.
Secondly, given what I witnessed with the teenager and the train, it seemed necessary to remind the public what can happen when people try to go head to head with an unstoppable force like a train.
When it came to exhibits featuring his life's work, it seemed not only reasonable, but responsible, to include an example of the type of horrific scenes he frequently had to photograph.
Robert Grant Railroad Photos
Bob Grant loved trains. He also loved Western Colorado. The gallery below contains beauty shots, images of accidents, and people hard at work. None of the images below contain graphic content.