Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #199 – Mechanical/Industrial

A steam engine under power.

There was a time when current mechanical technology was horsepower (with real horses), then with the Industrial Revolution, animal power was replaced by machine power and the real revolution began. Consider the changes in the industrial world in just your lifetime. There are signs of the old ways and the new way of doing things wherever you look. What’s going on in your part of the country that reflects life today, or life as it was in days gone by? For example, in the image above, a large fixed steam engine roars to life every Labor Day Weekend at the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher’s Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota, a reminder to us all about the time that steam was king.

Stanley Hotel-12
Manual elevator control

Fans of Stephen King will know the story behind the famed Stanley Hotel in Estes Colorado. After staying in the hotel during the off-season, King was inspired to write The Shining. You can stay in that hotel today. Now over 110 years old, the fashionable resort was built by Freelan O. Stanley.

The hotel elevator was originally designed with a control panel for the elevator operator to use. The human operator has long since given way to a modern elevator button system, but craftsmen left the original control next to the place where the elevator operator once stood.

Stanley Hotel-8
Stanley Steamer

Freelan Stanley and his brother Francis were well-known industrialists whose claim to fame was the production of steam-powered automobiles through the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. In the lobby of the hotel, you can check out an example from the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. We visited the hotel during the Christmas season in 2017.

Barnes and Noble-1
Pratt Street Power Plant

Constructed in the Neo-Classical style, the power plant on Pratt Street in Baltimore was completed in 1909. Construction started in 1900 and was one of only 11 buildings to survive a major fire in 1904 that destroyed much of the pier area. When we visited in 2019, the former power plant that was designed to power the city’s trolley car system had long since been converted to an entertainment center. At the time of our visit, the building contained a Barnes and Noble book store, a Hard Rock Cafe, a gym, loft offices, and other entertainment offerings. The book store has since closed, a victim of slow sales during the pandemic. Over the years, the repurposed power plant has won several awards for the innovative conversion of a functionally obsolete building to a modern urban entertainment center.

Big Iron
Grain dryer

North Dakota is an agricultural state and venues around the state feature farm equipment shows. In the fall of the year, Fargo farm implement dealers show off their products at a trade show called “Big Iron.” They show off their latest in both mobile and fixed farm equipment. I was attracted to capture this grain dryer as its shiny surface reflected the blue skies on a beautiful September day. It was then I noticed the animated conversation taking place at the base of the dryer.

Old 261
Old 261

One last entry that features steam power is a beautifully restored steam locomotive. It is much newer than the other steam-operated items featured in this post. Constructed in 1944 for the Milwaukee Road Railway System, engine 261 was used to haul freight and passenger cars until 1956. The engine was restored in 1993 and has since been operated by the Friends of the 261 Inc, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The mobile blacksmith

I conclude my review of mechanical and industrial images with a recreation of a typical American blacksmith of the early 20th century captured at the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher’s Reunion. Blacksmithing, however, is much older than many people realize. The principles trace back to 1500 BC with the launching of the Iron Age. By medieval times, blacksmiths were a fixture in every town and city, and the principles of working iron to make tools were well known. Feel free to stop by my Flickr site here to view the album of images in the original HD format.

For this challenge, consider subjects reflecting industry or items that are mechanical in nature. Consider images of local agricultural or industrial buildings or a macro shot of the gears in a watch. Maybe it’s images of a nearby historical park where volunteers “recreate” life in an earlier time. How about the engine of a passing train, or a shot of a semi carrying a load of vehicles. What do you think of when you consider the terms Industrial or Mechanical?

Last week’s responses to Patti’s Light and Shadow Challenge were wonderful with many fine examples in both color and black-and-white. Next week, it’s Amy’s turn to host our challenge, so be sure to visit her site. New challenge posts are released on Saturday each week at noon EST. If you’d like to join in our weekly themes but aren’t sure how to proceed, look here.

John Steiner


  1. John, this is just fabulous – (hi)storytelling and photography. So well done. Yesterday I got my PC back again, and here’s my little contribution to your interesting challenge!

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