If like me, you have never heard of O. Winston Link, you are in for a real treat when you visit the Link Museum. It has an amazing location in a passenger train station, it couldn’t be more appropriate. It also shares the space with the Roanoke CVB which means you will have access to lots of great information about the Roanoke area.
O. Winston Link was a photographer and also a civil engineer. His official training was in engineering but his passion was photography and his love was steam trains. Between 1955 and 1960 he documented the final days of the Norfolk and Western steam powered trains.
Even if you don’t know his name you probably have come across his fascinating and evocative photographs. He realized that photographing the trains at night allowed him to control the atmosphere and lighting and with the cooperation of the railroad, he was able to captures the very essence of the steam train.
The Link Museum documents not only his life and works but the history of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. You don’t have to be a railroad fan to fall in love with his photographs, they cross all class barriers and give you a picture of life here in the Roanoke area in a time that has passed us by. He was amazing at capturing the soul of an era and the people whose life he touched.
Your first stop should be the gift store where you purchase your entrance ticket. Please check out their website for current fees.
I am going to suggest that you begin your visit by watching the 30-minute film ‘What A Picture I Got” in the General Electric Transportation Theatre on the lower level of the building. You will understand better what went into the making of these photographs after you have watched the movie.
After you watch the movie you can continue to tour on the lower level or you can return to the upper level to begin the tour, it is your choice. You will be given a booklet which takes you on a numbered tour of the exhibits in the museum.
While his photos form a large part of the exhibits, there is much more to this museum. It is about the history of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. Link had a love affair with the steam engines that were created in the adjacent motor shop especially the class A-1218. It was his dearest wish that this engine be preserved and it was.
Mr. Link was a self -trained photographer with a natural eye for what was appealing. In some of his most evocative photos, the trains are in the background and he captures a moment in time. Walking through the galleries is fascinating even if trains are not one of your passions and if you are a steam train lover, this museum is a must.
If you plan to watch the movie, allow at least an hour and a half to do justice to this unique and wonderful museum.