Images of Railroaders: 2019 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program


Miško Kranjec, left, and Blair Kooistra won first prize in the “Images of Railroaders” black-and-white and color categories, respectively.

The theme for the 2019 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards was “Images of Railroaders.” The panel of judges assessed submissions for creative content and with an eye towards John’s legacy for capturing journalistic images of railroad workers in their environment.

All of us at the Center know that John would be incredibly proud of both the quality and the volume of submissions. This contest received 551 images from 138 photographers–a record number of photographs and the second-highest number of entrants in the awards’ sixteen-year history. In the two categories, 101 photographers submitted 250 black-and-white images, and 117 photographers submitted 301 color images.

Judging for the 2019 Gruber Awards was the most difficult process in recent years due to the large number of outstanding images. The judges spent many hours over multiple days analyzing and discussing the submissions. Selecting winners was almost overwhelming due to the numerous possibilities, and the judges regret that they had to narrow the field to so few. One judge said, “There were many, many great images submitted and not listed here.”

Images of Railroaders, Black-and-White Winners:

  • First Place: Miško Kranjec, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Second Place: Jeffrey Mast, Canton, Michigan
  • Third Place: Dennis Livesey, New York City

Images of Railroaders, Color Winners:

  • First Place: Blair Kooistra, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Second Place: Ryan James Gaynor, Millgrove, Ontario, Canada
  • Third Place: Bryan Bechtold, Denver, Colorado


The first-, second-, and third-prize winners in each category will receive cash prizes of $500, $300, and $200, respectively. Each photographer recognized in the “Judges Also Liked” category will receive a free one-year subscription to Railroad Heritage. As in recent years, the California State Railroad Museum will exhibit the winning photographs, and Railfan & Railroad magazine will publish an article.

Black-and-White: 1st

Images of Railroaders, Black-and-White, First Prize: Miško Kranjec

An exhausted fireman cleans his locomotive’s ashpan before he can indulge himself with much-needed washing and resting at Nova Gorica, Slovenia, on the Italian border, in July 2015. His locomotive has just run over the Bohinj or “Transalpina” line from Jesenice via Bled, an extremely difficult sixty-mile road, mostly on a 2.5-percent grade, with more than two dozen tunnels.

Miško Kranjec’s stunning portrait of a Slovenian fireman cleaning the ashpan of his locomotive after a hard run takes first place. Perfectly composed and exposed, the image is notable for the expression it conveys; the man’s face seems to match the grit of the locomotive.


Images of Railroaders, Black-and-White, Second Prize: Jeffrey Mast

The crew of Pere Marquette 2-8-4 steam locomotive no. 1225 begins another North Pole Express run at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan, on December 6, 2008.

Jeffrey Mast’s wide-angle view of the engineer and fireman of Pere Marquette 1225 takes second place. The unique perspective captures both the engineer at the throttle and silhouetted fireman in a vantage from just outside the cab. The view looks down the boiler, which is enveloped in its own steam and flying snow at the start of a North Pole Express run.


Images of Railroaders, Black-and-White, Third Prize: Dennis Livesey

Two members of a railroading family occupy the cab of Reading & Northern 4-6-2 steam locomotive no. 425. Ryan Frederickson stands in the gangway looking for signals next to his father, Shane, who has the “four-and-a-quarter” well in hand at Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, on October 10, 2017.

Dennis Livesey’s perfectly-captured steam at speed pacing or panned shot of Reading & Northern 425 takes third place. Blurred background and foreground vegetation form a perfect frame for this scene of a father and son in the window and gangway.

Also Liked

Images of Railroaders, Black-and-White: Judges Also Liked

Color: 1st

Images of Railroaders, Color, First Place: Blair Kooistra

Steel Driver, CTA Green Line, Chicago, 2014

Blair Kooistra’s symphony of line, form, color, and texture depicting a Chicago CTA train takes first place. Framing the train with the aged and weathered “El” structure draws the eye right to the motorman. Noting the peeling painting, visitors may want to avoid standing beneath the structure.


Images of Railroaders, Color, Second Place: Ryan James Gaynor

A CN conductor climbs aboard GP38-2W locomotive no. 4774 as freezing rain falls on in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on the dismal evening of January 8, 2019.

Ryan Gaynor’s twilight capture of a CN conductor in the rain takes second place. This image is a standout for its deep, contrasting colors and the positioning of the employee in the beam of the headlights.


Images of Railroaders, Color, Third Place: Bryan Bechtold

Steam wrecking crane operator on the Nevada Northern Railroad in East Ely, Nevada, on February 5, 2010.

Bryan Bechtold’s striking view of a Nevada Northern derrick and workman takes third place. Flat lighting enhances the shadow details on the complex machinery and compliments the pastel sky.

Also Liked

Images of Railroaders, Color: Judges Also Liked