Photographs from the Railroad Earth


“…till the time of evening supper in homes of the

railroad earth when high in the sky the magic stars ride above

the following hotshot freight trains…”

-Jack Kerouac, from October in the Railroad Earth



Jack Kerouac wrote October in the Railroad Earth in the fall and winter of 1952-53. At the time he was living in San Francisco and working as a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railway and living in a flophouse. In his short story he describes the diversity of people he sees, bums, businessmen, construction workers for Pacific Gas & Electric, all residing in the railroad earth. To Kerouac these aren't all disperate classes of people, but they make up one whole, "nobody knew or far from cared who I was all my life, three thousand five hundred miles from birth-All opened up and at last belonged to me in Great America." 


While Kerouac was describing the people he encountered and the environment in which they existed my photographs seek to examine the landscape that the railroads make up. Like the people of San Francisco railroads are all around us, sometimes we notice them, sometimes we don't. They exist in a variety of environments and in various states of prosperity. These photographs are my observations of the railroad and how they fit into a whole in the railroad earth.