John F. Stevens was an accomplished engineer with vast experience in building several American railway lines. In 1905 Secretary of War William Howard Taft appointed Stevens Chief Engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission.
It is said that success of the canal was his doing. After returning to private industry, he was once again called upon to serve the government - in 1917 President Wilson appointed him Chairman of the U.S. Railway Commission to Russia with the diplomatic status of Minister Plenipotentiary. Two years later he was made President of the Inter-Allied Technical Board of the Siberian Railways, a post he held until 1923. After the failure of the Provisional government, he managed to keep his vast network of railways open. This album appears to have been made either under his direction or for him by another member of the Inter-Allied Technical Board. The opening pages contain views around Harbin and scenes of Manchuria from the vantage point of the railway; the dates for these are March 13-April 22, 1919. Next are scenes at Manchuria Station, one showing members of the board with "wandering Mongolians". On the 25th of April they proceed to Chita and Lake Baikal where they photograph a Czech armoured train, and at Verkhue where they photograph the camp of the 27th U.S. Infantry and troops guarding the American Red Cross trains. On the 26th they arrive in Irkutsk where they stay until the 30th and made several photos of the damaged governor's residence, the grave of the 100 Bolsheviks killed fighting the Czechs etc. In early May the group proceeded through the Taishet disctrict where they photographed a wrecked British horse train, a burned station and two photographs of men hung by the Czechs. Additionally, there are several photos of armoured trains and destroyed bridges. On the 5th of May they arrived in Toursk, and then on across the middle of Siberia. Interspersed are photos made of a train carrying Czech airplanes to the front, Italian troops at Krasnoyarsk, a British horse train, a Hungarian prisoner's orchestra and patients on a Russian hospital train. In Omsk they photographed Admiral Kolchak and U.S. Council Harris at the American Red Cross Hospital, and a group of women track-shovellers, etc. On 15 May they arrived in Ekaterinburg-there are photos of the Czech troops, the triumphal arch erected by them when they took the city, the New Siberian Army under Kolchakm, and the Czar's house with the shell-pocked room where the Czar and his family were murdered. The next leaves contain photos from 1918-1919, they include an 11 year old Siberian soldier, a bridge across the Ob River destroyed by the Bolsheviks, review of the Siberian army, Czech General Syrovy, Czech soldiers at the front, and several others involving Czech troops and Russian gun-boats on the Amur River. This exceptional album captures the spirit of revolution, anarchy and international intrigue during the years of the Russian Revolution, the battle for control of the Trans-Siberian Railway was crucial to the outcome.