Ronald C. Hill Collection


Ronald C. Hill, of Denver, Colorado, passed away on January 23, 2023, at the age of eighty-five. A prolific and accomplished railroad photographer, particularly of the Intermountain West, he leaves an extensive visual legacy through his many books and calendars. His collection of more than 27,000 slides, negatives, and prints is with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Hill was born on May 13, 1937, in Fox Lake, Illinois to Clyde C. and Fern L. Hill. His father was a professor of English, and in the late 1940s he accepted a teaching position at the University of Denver. Chicago’s rich tapestry of railroading, including trips on the Santa Fe to visit his maternal grandparents in Lawrence, Kansas, had left a deep imprint on Ron and cemented his love for railroading. The move to Denver brought proximity to the landscapes that would become nearly as important to his photography as the trains of the West, and he would live there most of his life.

Following his father to the University of Denver, Hill majored in English and political science. He stayed for law school and passed the Colorado Bar Exam in 1962. He had completed the Reserve Officer Training Corps and spent the next two years with the Army at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he became a captain and received the Commendation Medal. Returning to Colorado in 1964, he embarked upon a successful legal career with a practice that specialized in defending insurance companies. He formed his own firm in Denver with Arthur Anstine, initially Anstine & Hill, and later Anstine, Hill, Richards & Simpson. He ultimately sold his stake in the firm in 2008 and fully retired in 2015.

As an undergraduate in Denver, Hill became more serious about both his railroad and photography interests. College friendships led him to the nascent Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, where he would later serve on the board for more than four decades, with a thirteen-year stint as president from 1981 to 1994. Under his leadership, the museum became a more modern and professional institution; it would later grow expansively, and it flourishes today. Hill was also active in the National Railway Historical Society, including a one-year term as president of its Intermountain Chapter in 1970–1971.

Using primarily Leica and Hasselblad cameras (of which he was an ardent devotee), Ron created an incredible body of both color and black-and-white photography. While trains and railroads were his primary subjects, he also photographed airplanes extensively as well as other modes of transportation, infrastructure, and landscapes from the 1950s through the 2010s. He covered Colorado’s railroads extensively throughout his life, and he also spent considerable time in Montana and western Canada, as well as Europe. He frequently sought locations that conveyed the geographic features and other characteristics of western railroads, and he liked to return to the same locations over the years to record their seasonal variety and changes through time.

Hill’s publications include twelve books over a span of more than thirty years, writing on his own and with several friends and co-authors including Bill Botkin, Jeff Brouws, Al Chione, Victor Hand, R.H. Kindig, and Dave Stanley. His first book, Railroading West: A Contemporary Glimpse, came out in 1975 and sold out two editions. While most of his books focus on photography, he greatly admired the artist Howard Fogg (befriending him on a train ride), and co-authored The Railroad Artistry of Howard Fogg with Al Chione in 1999. His publishers included Rail Graphics, the Colorado Railroad Museum, and Cedco Publishing. He also worked with Cedco on both train and airplane calendars for several years, wrote numerous magazine articles, and had many of his photographs published in books by other authors.

In 2015, Hill joined the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, and he presented his work at our Conversations 2016 conference in Lake Forest, Illinois. We welcomed Ron’s photography into our Railroad Heritage Visual Archive in 2020, along with several paintings by Howard Fogg and other artists that Ron included in his donation. Over the next eighteen months, Heather Sonntag, associate archivist, processed his nearly 25,000 color slides, digitizing more than 3,000 of them, as well as a number of his negatives and prints. She and Scott Lothes, executive director, each wrote an article about Ron’s color photography for Classic Trains magazine. Jeff Brouws, a longtime friend of Ron’s who also serves on the Center’s board, examined Ron’s black-and-white photography in the Spring 2016 issue of Railroad Heritage, the Center’s journal.

Of his many visits with Hill, Brouws wrote:

During the mid-1970s I spent many a fine evening down in Ron’s basement, settled into an easy chair, room darkened, the fan of his Leica projector humming, watching a parade of slides go by of action on the Joint Line south of Denver, Colorado & Southern steam up in Leadville, or Nicholas Morant-inspired imagery he made in British Columbia of Canadian Pacific trains. But before we descended downstairs with Cokes in hand, he delighted in showing me the latest Terence Cuneo print he had acquired and would wait patiently as I tried to locate the scale mouse the artist always included in each of his paintings. Suffice to say over the years I batted around 500 on my discoveries. But I’m thankful for these small, seemingly everyday moments; it’s what we cherish most when remembering a dear friend.

During a visit to Denver in January 2018, Bon French, who chairs the Center’s board of directors, spent part of a day with Ron at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. Bon said:

He gave me a terrific tour with lots of behind the scenes insights on the museum’s growth, expansion, and success. I had not been there in many years and it was truly wonderful to see. Their archives building was particularly impressive. Ron was quite proud of what had been accomplished.

Michael Schmidt, who serves on the Center’s board and befriended Ron in his later years, shared the following reflections:

Ron was a modest man. He lived in his modest one-story ranch house where, inside, time seemed to stand still—but when the garage door opened there was always something special. He loved his athletic European cars. A proper obituary could certainly be titled, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” The topic of any of his beloved interests—trains, commercial aircraft or automobiles–would engender a smile and a sparkle in his eyes. Though reserved, Ron was quick to critique photographic works within his favorite subjects. The Center can be pleased not only to have received his railroad images but also his endorsement of our place as the premier depository and source for the care, keeping, and sharing of images of railroading.

—Scott Lothes, February 2023

Ron Hill holding camera in a portrait by Jeff Brouws
Ron Hill in Arvada, Colorado, along the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in the 1980s. Photograph by Jeff Brouws

Hill Collection Overview

  • Gift of Ronald C. Hill
  • 25,000 color slides
  • 2,000 B&W prints and negatives
  • 1950s to 2010s
  • Coverage spans much of the United States, western Canada, and Europe, with emphasis on Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia

Reproduction Requests


Select Publications

Authored, co-authored, or edited by Ron

  • Hill, Ronald C. “CP Rail in Beautiful British Columbia,” Pacific Rail News, No. 163, Vol. 15, No. 5 (May 1975): 10-15.
  • Brouws, Jeffrey T. and Ronald C. Hill. Railroading West: A Contemporary View. Denver: Rail Graphics, 1975.
  • Hill, Ronald C. Rio Grande in the Rockies: A Contemporary Glimpse. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1977.
  • Hill, Ronald C. and Dave Stanley. Rails in the Northwest: A Contemporary Glimpse. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1978.
  • Hill, Ronald C. and R.H. Kindig. Union Pacific 8444. Colorado Railroad Museum, 1978.
  • Hill, Ronald C. (Ed.) and R.H. Kindig. Locomotive 346: The First One Hundred Years. Colorado Railroad Museum, 1981.
  • Hill, Ronald C. Rio Grande West: A Contemporary Glimpse. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1982.
  • Hill, Ronald C., William E. Botkin and R.H. Kindig. Union Pacific 3985. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Historical Foundation, 1985.
  • Hill, Ronald C., William E. Botkin and Victor Hand. Union Pacific: Mainline West. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1986.
  • Hill, Ronald C. Mountain Mainlines of the West. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Historical Foundation, Colorado Railroad Museum, 1988.
  • Hill, Ronald C. Colorful Colorado Railroads in the 1960s. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Historical Foundation, Colorado Railroad Museum, 1992.
  • Hill, Ronald C., Al Chione, Howard Fogg, and G. Mac Sebree. The Railroad Artistry of Howard Fogg. San Rafael, CA: Cedco Publishers, 1999.
  • Hill, Ronald C. Rio Grande: Memories of the Final Years. Golden, CO: Colorado Railroad Museum, 2007.
  • On or including photography by Ron Hill

    • Brouws, Jeff. “Artistic Integrity Worth Emulating: The Railroad Photography of Ronald C. Hill,” Railroad Heritage (Spring 2016): 28-43.
    • Garden, John F. The Crow and the Kettle. Cowley, Alberta: Footprint Publishing, 2004. [p 127]
    • Grenard, Ross. Colorado & Southern: A Personal Memory of the Standard Gauge. Andover, NJ: Andover Junction Publications, 1987. [including image(s) by Ron]
    • Lothes, Scott. “Montana Calling: With a Leica and a Porsche, Ron Hill chased the Great Northern,” Classic Trains (Summer 2021): 72-79.
    • Sonntag, Heather S. “Alpine tracks: Riding high on the Canadian Pacific with Ron Hill,” Classic Trains (Winter 2022): 42-51.
    • Union Pacific: 18-month calendar 2023. Willow Creek Press, 2022. Photos by Ronald S. Hill, Center for Railroad Photography & Art Collection.