I often dream of trains. And when I do, the sound I hear is, oddly, audiophile quality. I suspect this is due to half-speed mastering. But alas, like so many times before, I’d be wrong. But just by a couple of decades.
All the way back in the 50’s – 1958 to be exact – a 19-year-old by the name of Brad Miller released an album of sounds compiled from recording Southern Pacific steam locomotives in California with his dad’s Ampro mono tape recorder with a crystal microphone. The title of the album was Memories In Steam” and the label he founded to release the record was, wait for it, Mobile Fidelity Records. It was instantly successful enough that Miller released two more volumes before the end of the year. A legacy – and an imprint – was born.
Shortly after that initial trio of mono releases, Miller bought an Ampex 601-2 tape recorder and a pair of Electro-Voice microphones, a battery and an ATR converter. Stereo, here we come. The early to mid 60’s saw Miller release several Train records, including a three-volume series entitled “Twilight Of Steam”. The first of the series was actually a companion piece to a book of the same title, and at one point was actually available as a stand-alone title or packaged with the book. Synergy!
It was still a good ten years before Mobile Fidelity Records morphed into the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs that we knew and loved in the 70’s and is still an active entity today. And still releasing half-speed mastered vinyl records, though not quite up to the high-quality standards of that imprint back in the day when Japanese virgin vinyl was being employed for all the pressings. But still likely better than the sound one would get from what kept Mobile Fidelity going between the death and rebirth of vinyl – gold compact discs.
Anyhoo, what we have here is a sealed copy of “Twilight Of Steam, Volume 2” (MF-15). Stereo steam, recorded all over the country, with text on the back jacket framing the “scene” for each recording. The 45-year-old jacket is in pretty nice shape, with just minor corner issues, including a small bottom right corner crease. Whatever appears a wear in the scan appears to be isolated to the shrink. $40.