Winston Link was born on December 16, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York. While attending Brooklyn's Manual Training High School, Link developed an interest in mechanics and engineering. In addition to his formal schooling, his father introduced him to photography. Link became completely enamored with the art of photography and spent weekends shooting pictures at airports and railyards on Long Island and in New Jersey. Undoubtedly, it was here that Link developed his life-long love of trains.
Link went on to study civil engineering at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where he was also the photo editor of the school's newspaper. After graduation in 1937, he temporarily abandoned civil engineering to work as a staff photographer for the public relations firm of Carl Byoir & Associates in Manhattan. After a brief return to engineering to design submarine-locating equipment for Columbia University during World War II, Link opened his own studio, operating as a freelance photographer for the remainder of his career. Unlike his contemporaries, Link did not become a photojournalist but instead sought commissions from commercial clients like Alcoa, B.F. Goodrich, and Texaco.
It was while working on a commercial commission in Virginia that Link became familiar with the Norfolk and Western Railway. From 1955 to 1960 Link made over 2500 pictures of the N & W steam locomotives for his personal collection. He recognized that there was one great problem in making photos of the locomotives, however, and that was lighting. Winston once said, "You can't move the sun, and you can't even move the tracks, so you have to do something else to better light the engines." In addition to photographing the N & W trains, Link also made several sound recordings of working trains. Link became known for these recordings after finishing photographing the N & W but it was not until 1983 that his photographs were exhibited in a museum. Since then, they have received wide public and critical acclaim. Link died in 2001 in South Salem, New York. On January 10, 2004, the O. Winston Link Museum opened in Roanoke, Virginia.