Balancing Power (2000) by Dan Senn Pre-Computer Railroad Stories of the Pacific Northwest ..Click image to enlarge. See video (55:00) | Balancing Power is an astonishing anecdotal account of human cooperation and efficiency by our greatest generation. Born of a sound and video installation by Portland artist Dan Senn for the opening of the Washington State History Museum, Balancing Power is the story of 13 former employees, in their own words, who worked at Tacoma's Union Station between 1935 and 1970. Speakers Pat Almquist, Ed Anderson, Hank Burke, Bud Emmons, Jim Fredrickson, Dick Leary, Ed Overlie, Don Shane, Harold Speer, George Stephenson, Anabell Stillman, Chuck Stillman, and Duke Tone. Artist Statement . "Several years ago I created an installation of sculptural instruments and video for the opening of the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, WA, which involved interviewing former employees of the Northern Pacific Railroad who had worked at Tacoma's Union Station between 1930 and 1970. Having little to go on but vague memories of steam engines and a once bustling passenger service out of Milwaukee, WI, I entered the interview stage with a virtual blank slate. My only agenda was based in musical and visual requirements, that is, the need record interesting stories and faces to accompany the percussive sounds of my automated instruments. To my unexpected joy, however, I found a group of people who were exquisitely well-spoken and literate, all of whom had loved their jobs and described a network of co-workers, thousands upon thousands, who had cooperated to enable a system of dazzling complexity. As I interviewed 13 former telegraphers, dispatchers, secretaries, an accountant, a car men, and a train master, I discovered a system virtually free of social conflict and quickly learned that this was for very good reasons. Person-to-person communication skills underpinned the smooth running of the pre-automated, pre-computerized pre-1970s rail system. To communicate poorly was to jeopardized human life. With many tons of fast moving steel rolling in every direction, the selfish and immature did not last. The railroad of old exemplified a cooperative ideal and to interview these "old timers" was to shed light on their unique and extraordinary lives and on a spirit which serves them well in their present lives." DS

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