This work is based on studies carried out in 1997 primarily at the railway station of Sotteville-les-Rouen. In discovering this place, this pinnacle of railway history, I wanted to render homage to both the passion and the know-how of these men who rescued the steam locomotive Pacific 231 from the scrap heap.
The resurrection of this monster in steel could have been done only with the willingness of the dedicated railway men involved, and by a great number of traditional crafts that have unfortunately almost totally disappeared.
Through these photographs I have attempted to rediscover the spirit which animated the heroes of the rail, so well represented in the film of Jean Renoir, “La Bete Humaine,” with its heavy atmosphere of coal, steam, and burning metal so representative of a time in which these pioneers lived and worked. And finally, I attempted to recreate the ambiance of these workshops suffused with a patina of the work and efforts of these black and grimy “gueules noires.”
I sought to bring out a certain timelessness in these images which would illustrate the heritage of this zenith of the industrial revolution, of which this locomotive is without doubt one of the most remarkable symbols.
If these photographs can bear witness to this age, they may also help share the human condition of an era now passed away.

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