During Father Browne’s long life a revolution took place in the realm of transportation. After ships, his preference was for trains.
Among the distinguishing characteristics of this collection of railway photographs are the following. First, the pictures were taken by one of Ireland’s greatest photographers and they have an inherent artistic merit. Secondly, there is an emphasis on people that is usually lacking. Railwaymen involved in their various tasks and passengers arriving, departing, changing trains or dining, all feature. Thirdly, although the majority of the photographs were taken in Ireland and England, this book has the added pleasure of including some trains from as far afield as Suez and Sydney. Train crashes feature too, including one which was quite serious. Father Browne had special permission to board and photograph the ‘Travelling Post Office’ en route between Dublin and Cork. These photographs are unique in showing every aspect of the TPO operation.
Most of the photographs in this book were taken in Ireland during the 1930s. At that time Ireland had a lot more railway lines than it has today, with very few towns further than ten miles from the nearest railway station. 3,400 miles of track covered the country and these had been laid down by many different companies. Father Browne photographed all of these, as well as travelling on many of the country’s narrow-gauge railways. The West Clare, thanks to Percy French, provides the best-known example.
E. E. O’Donnell holds a doctorate in communication from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. He has been Curator of the Father Browne SJ Collection since he discovered 42,000 of the photographer’s negatives in the Jesuit Archives in 1985.