Posts Tagged ‘Railroad photography’

Photo Conference Registration Underway

February 21, 2021

Registrations are being accepted for the annual Conversations conference to be held online by the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

The event will be held on April 10 between 9:50 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. CDT and hosted on a Cisco Webex platform.

There is no charge for registration but registrants have the option of making a donation.

Scheduled presenters and their programs include: Patrick Cashin, New York MTA; William Gill, night photography; Jonathan Glancey and Ian Logan, authors of Logomotive: Railroad Graphics and the American Dream; Erik C. Lindgren, photography and art from Colorado railroads; Jeff Mast, photography of John Bjorkland; Kevin Scanlon and Kevin Tomasic, railroads and the art of place in Pennsylvania and West Virginia; and Yoichi Uzeki, New York City and Tokyo

To register, go to

‘Connections’ is Photo Contest Theme for 2020

April 23, 2020

“Connections” is the theme of the 2020 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program being sponsored by the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

The center said in announcing the competition that the theme is open to each individual’s interpretation related in some manner to railroading.

Photographers are invited to submit up to three images that were made within the past five years.

The deadline for submissions is May 1 and winners will be notified by Aug. 1.

Each submission must include the location, date and basic caption information. Other required information includes the name of the photographer along with a mailing address, email address and phone number

Images should be submitted as high-resolution jpeg digital files with a pixel dimension of at least 3000 on one side of the image. The image must not be watermarked.

Files must be submitted electronically via email at or a sharing service such as Dropbox and WeTransfer.

The Center reserves the right to retain electronic copies for future publication, use on its website, on Facebook and other social media, or for public exhibition.

Photographers will retain the copyright to all submitted images In all cases, the photographer retains the copyright to the image.

Prizes include $750 for the first place image, $500 for second place and $250 for third place.

Images that are awarded “judges also liked” status will receive a one-year subscription to Railroad Heritage magazine.

All winners will be published in the Fall 2020 issue of Railroad Heritage. Railfan & Railroad magazine will publish the winners in a fall issue.

The California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento will display a gallery exhibition of the winners, as well as several selections from the “judges also liked” category.

The competition is named for the late John Gruber, who was the founder of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Photography Center to Move Event Online

March 23, 2020

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art will host an online free conference on April 18.

The event is in part intended to replace an event had been scheduled for April 17-19 that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virtual Conversations event will require registration on the center’s website.

“Our community still has so many stories to tell and images to share, and digital technology provides us more ways to connect now than ever before. So the show will go on,” the center said.

Additional details about the conference will be released later.

Railroad Photography Conference Canceled

March 17, 2020

A conference on railroad photography that was to have been held in mid April has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Center for Railroad Photography & Art has scrubbed “Conversations 2020,” which had been scheduled to be held April 17-19 at Lake Forest College in suburban Chicago.

The Center said it canceled the conference after receiving guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gatherings of 50 or more people should be avoided for the next eight weeks.

The Center said it will seek to bring in to next year conference as possible of this year’s scheduled presenters as it can.

Those who have already purchased tickets should consult the Center’s website for refund information.

Railroad Photography Conference Set for April

January 18, 2020

The Center for Railroad Photography & Art will hold a three-day conference April 17-19 in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Known as Conversations 2020, the conference will be held at Lake Forest College, which is a co-sponsor of the event, located 30 miles north of downtown Chicago.

The conference will begin on Friday evening with a reception at 5 p.m. in the Glenn Rowan House followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. in Calvin Durand Hall.

Following dinner, Norm Carlson will give a presentation about Chicago rail commuter railroad Metra.

Saturday’s events include presentations, breakfast, lunch, an evening reception with drinks and appetizers, and dinner.

On Sunday the conference will conclude with presentations from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the McCormick Auditorium of the Lillard Science Center.

The scheduled presented and their topics are: Patrick Cashin (MTA), Steve Crise (photographing trains large and small), Phil Hawkins (railway art from the United Kingdom), Kevin P. Keefe (photography of J. Parker Lamb), Dennis Livesey (retrospective of his photography),  Mark Llanuza (then-and-now photographs of abandoned railroads in the Midwest plus recent work from Metra),  Sammuel Phillips (contemporary photography from Appalachia), and Dennis Ziemienski (rail art from the West).

Short presentations will also be given by the conference docents.

Conference attendees are asked to send after purchasing a ticket one of their recent photographs, preferably from the past year, for inclusion in a presentation of attendees’ photographs.

Tickets for the conference will range in price depending on whether an attendee is a member of the center and when they register.

For members, early registration (through Jan. 31) will be $120. Regular registration (Feb. 1 through March 27) and late registration is $160.

Non-member registration fees are $120 (early), $190 (regular) and $210 (late). Student registration fees are $50 regardless of when they register.

The registration fee does not cover the Friday dinner ($70) or Saturday banquet ($40). Student dinner fees are $25 for Friday and $20 for Saturday.

Up to four scholarships, funded by conference patrons, are available for young, new, and/or emerging photographers and artists to cover ticket prices, two nights of lodging (double occupancy), and partial travel expenses to and from the conference.

The deadline to apply for a scholarship is Feb. 21.

Further information is available at

Railroad Photography Contest Theme Announced

December 31, 2019

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art has announced that “connections” is the theme of its 2020 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program.

Entries are due by May 1, 2020, with winners to be notified on Aug. 1.

Submitted photographs must have been made within the past five years. There is a limit of three images per photographer.

All submissions must be in a digital format.

The contest theme is subject to each photographer’s interpretation, which must be related in some manner to railroading.

The first place entry will win $750 while second place will receive $500 and third place $250. Entries that are placed in the “judges also liked category will receive a one-year subscription to Railroad Heritage magazine.

For more information go to

John Gruber was Influenced by the Work of Photojournalists and Brought That to Railroad Photography

October 11, 2018

Wednesday, Oct. 10, was a slow day for railroad news. Oh, there was news made and reported, but none of it involved railroad operations in the region that I cover for the Akron Railroad Club blog.

Among the news items on Wednesday was an obituary for John Gruber, 82, of Madison, Wisconsin, a noted railroad photographer and founder of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

I wasn’t going to report Gruber’s death on the ARRC blog because I wasn’t sure most ARRC members would know who he is even if they might have seen his work.

But I was intrigued when former Trains editor Kevin Keefe wrote in a tribute that Gruber had pioneered a “daring new approach to photographing the railroad scene.”

That got my attention. What was it? How was it daring?

It turns out that Gruber was an early practitioner of using a telephoto lens to, as Keefe put it, practice the art of “getting up close and personal with professional railroaders.”

This wasn’t something that Gruber thought of on his own but rather was the byproduct of the influence of newspaper photographers.

Keefe wrote that Dick Sroda of the Wisconsin State Journal and Jim Stanfield of the Milwaukee Journal inspired Gruber to go beyond what he was seeing in Trains magazine.

“It was a time when press photographers and journalists were interested in what people were doing,” Gruber once said. “I saw this as an underrepresented area of railroad photography, and I took advantage of every opportunity to document railroad people at work, rather than concentrating on equipment.”

Gruber may have built a career on people-oriented photographs, but it is not a philosophy that has caught on with most rank and file railfan photographers.

Most railfans are fixated on the equipment, particularly the lead locomotive of a train. The people working on the train, riding the train, or watching the train are an afterthought if they are thought about at all.

That is particularly true of spectators and bystanders. We’ve all heard someone lament that a railfan or a daisy picker got into an otherwise pristine image of an oncoming train. I’ve griped about that myself at times.

Although I never considered myself a photojournalist per se, I did engage in the practice during my early years in the newspaper industry.

At small town newspapers you need to make photographs as well as conduct interviews and write stories.

News organizations spend a lot of time writing about the behavior of organizations. They also report a lot of staid news about people in organizations, much of it focusing on such things as the work history of someone who was just named to a position such as vice president.

That information can be contrived and lacking a sense of authenticity even if it is rooted in reality.

But it’s the moments when people are captured acting naturally that most excites photojournalists. To capture those moments on film or megapixels takes practice, some training, and patience. In time it becomes something that you just do.

John Gruber is not the only railroad photographer who took a journalistic mindset into his work and he probably wasn’t the first.

But it became his trademark or brand to use a current buzzword.

His first photograph published in Trains featured shivering railfans photographing an excursion on the North Shore interurban line at Northbrook, Illinois, in February 1960.

That led to a friendship with legendary Trains editor David P. Morgan, who published many of Gruber’s photographs. The two would go on to become traveling companions.

Keefe wrote that Morgan would later say about Gruber that he was always “on top of the action, however unexpected and regardless of the hour. His pictures tell it like it was.”

Gruber never worked as a newspaper man, opting instead to take a job in publications and public relations at the University of Wisconsin, a position he held for 35 years.

But you don’t have to be a professional journalist to understand and practice the principles of photojournalism.

Aside from his work for the university, Gruber was an editor of the Gazette of the Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

In 1995 he began editing Vintage Rails, a magazine about railroad history and culture published by Pentrex.

After Pentrex shut that publication down four years later, Gruber moved on to organize the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, which has its own magazine and hosts an annual conference known as “Conversations.”

“I had become curious about railroad photographers — who they were, their backgrounds, their ideas about photography,” Gruber said of why he created the organization.

Other than magazine articles, Gruber wrote or co-wrote a number of books, including Travel by Train: The American Railroad Poster, 1870-1950 (with Michael Zega); Classic Steam; and Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography

In 1994, the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society presented Gruber its Senior Achievement Award.

You sometimes hear railroad photographers describe one of their images as having been inspired by a well-known photographer such as Philip R. Hastings, Richard Steinheimer, David Plowden or Jim Shaughnessy.

None of the images presented above were inspired by John Gruber as such. But I’d like to think that he’d appreciate them and understand why I made them.

They were all made on the same day on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and none were planned. They were just moments I saw and was nimble enough to capture. More often than not instinct takes over when these opportunities present themselves.

The top image was made at Boston Mill before a photo runby featuring Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

I don’t know who that boy is. He might be the son of the engineer or another members of the locomotive crew. But this experience is one he will never forget and one that many children and even adults are not fortunate enough to have.

The middle image was a grab shot of a passenger sitting in one of the open-window cars in the steam excursion. I did intend to make images of passengers watching out those windows, but you don’t know what you will get.

This guy’s demeanor captures the joy of riding an excursion, particularly one behind a big steam locomotive.

The bottom image was made at Botzum station of a CVSR engineer working the northbound National Park Scenic.

It’s one of those countless moments that unfold on the CVSR or any other passenger railroad every day. And yet it tells a story, even if only a small one, of life on the railroad.

I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to Gruber than to post the type of images he devoted his life to making.

Unseen Link Images in New Exhibit

September 21, 2018

A new exhibit at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke,Virginia, is showcasing rarely seen images made by the photographer best known for capturing the last days of the steam era on the Norfolk & Western.

Unseen Link will run through Nov. 6 and show original prints never before shown at the museum.

The images came from the Historical Society of Western Virginia archives and the O. Winston Link estate.

They include his work of operations of the Canadian Pacific and Long Island Rail Road, some of his commercial enterprises, and other images from New York, Canada, and Louisiana.

When Someone Thinks Your Hobby is Silly

February 13, 2017

A spring on the door of our dishwasher had broken so we called an appliance repairman to fix it. He been to our home before, but I’d never met him.

on-photography-newI had come downstairs to see how the repairs were going and found the repair guy talking to my wife about someone he knows who photographs trains.

I’ve never met the appliance repairman’s friend, but his name sounded vaguely familiar.

Within seconds it became apparent that the repair guy doesn’t think much of the hobby of photographing trains. “I think you’re both nuts,” he said.

It could have been worse. At least he didn’t say that railroad photographers are engaging in some sort of nefarious activity.

It was yet another example of why I am careful who I talk with about what I enjoy photographing.

The repair guy didn’t say why he thinks it strange that someone would travel for miles to photograph a particular locomotive.

Given the strident tone of his remarks, I didn’t care to explain it to him. He doesn’t want to know and probably wouldn’t understand if someone did explain it to him.

He thinks making photographs of trains is silly and nothing I or anyone else might say in response is going to change his mind.

I generally avoid people like that. It doesn’t matter what they think.

Of course some people are open-minded about the interests of others and have a genuine curiosity about the attraction of railroad photography to those who practice it.

If such a person were to ask me why I make railroad photographs I would say that railroad operations have always fascinated me and that I can’t remember a day in my life when I wasn’t interested in trains.

I don’t know why that is. Why does anyone like what they like? There are reasons for it, but sometimes those are beyond our comprehension.

Maybe it is because trains are large objects that move. I also have an interest in commercial transport aircraft for the same reason.

Maybe those are unsatisfactory explanations for why I like to photograph trains, but I sometimes wonder about those who religiously follow a certain professional Cleveland football team that loses games more often than it wins them.

They talk about what the owners, players and coaches should be doing even though no one with the team will ever hear their ideas or much care about them. Now isn’t that silly? Maybe not if you enjoy doing it and it is harmless fun.

People have passions about certain things and they seldom sit back and wonder why that is. There is no reason to do that. You like something and that’s that.

I’ve never felt a need to do “missionary work” and explain why I and others enjoy photographing railroad operations.

And yet given the post-911 climate we probably should. We probably should seek to educate the public about why we make railroad photographs.

But I don’t want to do that. If someone thinks that making photographs of railroad operations is silly or stupid, well, that’s their problem, not mine.

And yet I know that it does become my problem when their problem becomes the worldview of police officers and others with a well-meaning, but misguided sense of trying to protect national security.

In the meantime, I’m going to go about my business of photographing rail operations. I enjoy it and come to think of it maybe I need no better explanation than that.

If You Post Your Photographs in Social Media, It’s Almost a Sure Bet That Someone Will Steal Them

January 30, 2017

If you post photographs on social media you run the risk that someone will copy and use your work without your permission. Chances are they won’t even give you credit so no one will know that it is your image.

on-photography-newIn theory that is a violation of copyright law, but like speeding on an expressway it is a law that is widely flaunted.

I’m not sure whether to be angry or flattered when someone steals my photos.

At times I’ve been amused. That was the case when someone posted on a photograph of a flier on the wood bridge carrying Bort Road over the CSX Erie West Subdivision tracks near North East, Pennsylvania.

A group seeking to save the bridge from removal put on that flier an image that I made of a CSX train passing beneath the bridge. That photo had been posted on the Akron Railroad Club blog.

I was less amused when I discovered the organizers of a Michigan railroad conference lifted an image I made last July of Amtrak’s Blue Water at Durand, Michigan.

An educational group should know better than to steal a photograph without permission or giving credit.

On occasion, someone sends me an email asking permission to use one of my photographs.

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers did that for an image I made of an Amtrak train in Kalamazoo. My images have been used with permission in professional presentations and in the magazine of a rails-to-trails group.

But All Aboard Ohio stole a photograph I made of the Lake Shore Limited at Bort Road and published it on Page 1 of its newsletter. They did give me credit, though.

Some photographers won’t post on social media because they hate having their photographs used without their permission.

Others post stern copyright warnings, but those may be useless because it is easy to copy and paste online content.

Those who steal copyrighted work are largely unapologetic about it. Supposedly, some people believe that if something is online it is in the “public domain.”

There may be some truth to that, but I see it a different way. There is larceny in the hearts of many, if not most Americans.

Some scrupulously honest people will refrain from theft out of principle or moral obligation, but far more others have the attitude of “I’ll take what I can until someone stops me.”

The cost of stopping people who steal photographs can be high and the rewards low or nonexistent even if you prevail in a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Using the legal system is not free.

Many, if not most, who “steal” the photographs of others are not making money from the theft.

They see what they did as providing an illustration. I can look past those situations, but have a harder time with situations such as the blogger who copied an image I made inside an Amtrak dining car and used it to illustrate a travelogue about his Amtrak trip. The post suggested it was his photograph.

I received an email from someone I don’t know alerting me to that theft and providing a link to the site moderator to seek removal of the image.

I was told this blogger has a reputation of stealing other people’s images. Although I thanked the watchdog, I wound up not doing anything about the theft.

In part that is because I have adopted the philosophy of David Oroszi, a highly-respected railroad photographer from Dayton.

He once wrote that if someone is able to profit from stealing one of his photographs, well then good for them.

He did not elaborate on why he felt that way, but it might be a combination of understanding that the battle might not be worth waging and feeling comfortable with his own success as a photographer.

Dave’s images have appeared in numerous books, including several he has co-authored. Magazines regularly pay him for use of his photographs.

He knows what retailers know that you do what you can to protect your property but some loss from theft is part of the cost of doing business.