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In this colour photograph, the number of a Union Pacific EMD E8 Diesel Locomotive ‘942’ appears in red sans-serif font against a yellow background.

A Visual Feast

The Chartered Society of Designers have dined out on one of our books, calling it a visual feast. ‘The real treat,’ Carmen Martínez­-López writes of Logomotive, ‘is the imagery of the trains with their branding, the logos, and the associated typography.’

In this black and white drawing by Neil Gower, Zephyrus, god of the west wind, points to a streamlined future above a speeding Burlington Zephyr diesel express.

In this classic example of railroad graphics from the 1930s, Zephyrus, god of the west wind, points to a streamlined future above a speeding Burlington Zephyr diesel express.

Written for those with a vested interest in design, the review aptly takes cue from Logomotive’s cover art. Of the stylized illustration of Zephyrus, Martínez­-López observes, his ‘outstretched arm and hand visually signposts and leads you to open the book and begin the journey’.

Noting the nostalgic potential of all the American themes that come together in this visual collection, the review sets a challenge for those born in the 50s and 60s, ‘to flip through the book without remembering Casey Jones, the folk legend engineer, “steaming and a rolling” at the throttle wheel of the Cannonball Express as sung by Burl Ives, or Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill walking alongside The 20th Century Limited in Grand Central Station in Hitchcock’s North by North West’.

On this journey through time, Martínez­-López witnesses it all, from the highs of the golden age of American trains to the lows captured by Ian Logan’s ‘images of abandoned box cars and locomotives, lain on their side like dead beasts’.

Having graciously accepted Zephyrus’ invitation, she concludes ‘it is difficult to browse the pages without hearing the “clickety-clack” of the wheels on the track, the soulful voices of country & western and folk singers, harmony singing, or visioning wide open landscapes with endless tracks disappearing across deserts into mountain ranges, or, feeling the rush of air as the train accelerates, or sipping a cocktail in a stylish bar car.’

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To get a copy of Logomotive: Railroad Graphics and the American Dream in the UK, click here. In the US and Canada, order from here.

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