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Story: Having made a career from taking photographs of foreign lands I, like so many others, am guilty of neglecting to explore my own country. But last year I found myself in Rock Island, Quad Cities, the spiritual home of the Midwest Railroad, and it was there that I was reminded of how little the place had changed even though I had been away from it for so long.

The Rock Island Line flows from Chicago to New Orleans, and has been hauling people and big industry for the last 140 years. It got me thinking of all the adventure this rail road has witnessed from its inception to today, and the beauty of middle America that these trains witness day in day out. The spirit of the rail road still resonates with people and retains the romantic dream of a simpler way of life, of taking pride in what you have.

During my trip I met a man called Pete and his faithful companion, Emmy. He had worked the rail road for 50 years and had retired some 15 years ago to set up a bait shop for his friends in the local town. He showed me pictures of the trains he helped build and the pride he had in contributing to an American icon. At the grand old age of 89, he doesn’t have a lot as you can see, but he has all he needs. To me that is the success of living in towns such as Rock Island in the heart of a forgotten belt of America.

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