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Join us back at Lake Forest College for Conversations 2024!

The annual conference hosted by the Center for Railroad Photography & Art provides an excellent platform for engaging with a diverse community of railroad photographers, artists, magazine editors, industry leaders, and scholars. This event is a unique opportunity to participate in inspiring and thought-provoking conversations about the rail industry and its history, as well as explore its visually captivating nature.


Conversations 2024 is sold out. To join our waiting list, please write to us at info [at] railphoto-art.org or call at 608-251-5785 x103.

Schedule of Events

Friday, June 14

All-day programming at the Illinois Railway Museum; Conversations attendees will receive free admission; doors open at 10AM

Private reception (closed to the general public), 5:00 – 8:30 PM


  • Heavy hors-d’oeuvres with drinks available
  • Exhibition reception for Requiem for Steam: Railroad Photographs of David Plowden
  • Train rides and photo opportunities

Saturday, June 15 

Coffee and pastries, (McCormick Auditorium), 8:00 AM  
Welcome, 9:00 AM      
Presentations, 9:25 AM  
Break, 10:10 AM  
Presentations, 10:40 AM
Lunch (provided), 12:00 PM
CRP&A Updates, 1:00 PM
Presentations, 1:30 PM
Break, 3:00 PM
Presentations, 3:30 PM
Reception (Brown Hall), 5:00 PM
Additional Dinner (Calvin Durand), 7:00 PM

Sunday, June 16

Coffee and pastries, (McCormick Auditorium), 8:00 AM  
Presentations, 9:00 AM
Break, 10:30 AM
Presentations, 11:00 AM
Conclusion, 12:30 PM


Steve Barry & Otto Vondrak – The legacy of Railfan & Railroad editor Jim Boyd
Tom Brown – Montana cattle trains in 1975
Jennifer Fowler & Benjamin Kuhns – Nevada Northern Railway
Lou Gerard – CTA, Soo Line, and South Shore
Dan Hadley – A look back at his Pentrex videography
Philip Hawkins – A retrospective of the accomplished UK railway artist
Dee Matyas – Contemporary photography of railroads and industry
Tony Reevy – A celebration of Phil Hastings’ influential photography
Paul Springowski – Contemporary rail videography and social media
… plus the Center’s Collections Team and scholarship presentations.

Your Photographs

After reserving your place at Conversations 2024, please send one of your recent photographs, preferably from the past year, for inclusion in a presentation of attendees’ photographs at the conference. Send one JPEG image file, either 1920 pixels wide or 1200 pixels high, to info [at] railphoto-art.org.





The campus of co-sponsor Lake Forest College (campus map), is thirty miles north of Chicago. Learn more about the City of Lake Forest online or download the PDF overview.


McCormick Auditorium
Lillard Science Center
Lake Forest College
555 N. Sheridan Road
Lake Forest, Illinois 60045

This year we will be hosting all presentations in McCormick Auditorium in the Lillard Science Center to support a higher capacity and to provide more comfortable seating. Session times will be similar to previous years (see past conferences as reference). Conference presentations will run from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday and 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM on Sunday.

Following presentations on Saturday, a reception will be held at Brown Hall from 5:00 to 7:00 PM and an optional banquet dinner will be served in Calvin Durand Hall at the Mohr Student Center as a conference add-on. Please note that lunch on Saturday is included in the registration cost; no lunch is provided on Sunday.

Friday Event

We are excited to announce a partnership with the Illinois Railway Museum in Union as a part of our Friday conference programming (included in the conference package).

Illinois Railway Museum
7000 Olson Rd
Union, IL 60180

The museum welcomes Conversations attendees with free admission to attend a variety of events throughout the day. The museum will offer access to its restoration shops, dispatcher tower, and provide guided tours of its extensive site. Trains will also be running throughout the day. Doors open at 10 AM.

At 5 PM the site will close to the general public and the Center will host a reception for conference attendees till approximately 8:30 PM. Event highlights will include:

  • Heavy hor d’oeuvres and open bar
  • Exhibition display of Requiem for Steam: Railroad Photographs of David Plowden
  • Train rides and photo opportunities
  • Access to explore the Illinois Railway Museum’s grounds
  • Brief words from the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and the Illinois Railway Museum

We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

The Illinois Railway Museum has an impressive site.
Make sure to check out our exhibition Requiem for Steam: Railroad Photographs of David Plowden. Rumor has it David may even be in attendance!

Conference Scholarships

Expand your creativity: Apply for a scholarship at Conversations 2024!

Conversations, the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s annual conference, is coming back to Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois, on the weekend of June 14-16, 2024. Explore past conferences here.

Conference scholarships are available to younger and/or emerging photographers and visual artists. They are available to individuals creating photography or other visual art focusing on rail-related subjects, who meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Under the age of 30 at the time of application
  • Enrolled in an institution of higher learning, in a program relating to fine arts
  • Have less than five years of experience in the field of visual arts

The conference scholarship is designed to support artists who would otherwise be unable to attend. Even better, you’ll have the opportunity to show your work to fellow photographers, artists, editors, and rail community leaders … and get inspired yourself! Details below.

The due date to submit your application (scroll down for details) is April 22, 2024. Recipients will be notified on April 26. [NOTE – The 2024 positions have been filled.]

Scholarship recipient Steven Chen presents his photography at Conversations 2023. Photograph by Elrond Lawrence

An ideal applicant will demonstrate:

  • Thoughtful, creative work in photography or other visual arts with rail-related subject matter
  • How attending the conference will support their development as a visual artist
  • Financial need
  • Volunteer experience

Successful applicants will receive:

  • Up to $400 in travel reimbursements
  • Free admission to the conference
  • Meals provided at the conference venue
  • Two nights of lodging at the conference hotel
  • A platform to present your work in a short presentation
  • The opportunity to meet and learn from industry greats


Application process

Applications will only be accepted electronically.

Please submit the following to info@railphoto-art.org

  • A short (500 words max) introductory statement that describes:
    • The artist’s medium (i.e. photography, oil painting, etc.)
    • Any training, experience, or influences that have contributed to the applicant’s development
    • A description of the applicant’s past projects and/or special achievements
    • How the applicant feels they would benefit from attendance
    • Contact information including, name, phone number, and email address
  • Up to 10 sample images
    • In an email attachment, or
    • In a linked social media account where the applicant’s work can be viewed


Conference attendees at the Friday reception at Conversations 2023. Photograph by Elrond Lawrence

About the Center:

The Center for Railroad Photography & Art (www.railphoto-art.org | @railphotoart) is America’s foremost organization for interpreting the intersection of railroad art and culture with America’s history and culture. The Center has achieved that status through successful publications (especially its quarterly journal, Railroad Heritage), exhibitions, conferences, and an awards program, all of which showcase the best of railroad photography and art in ways that enhance understanding of railroad history, technology, and artistry.

Founded in 1997, the Center works with photographers, artists, writers, and historians across the country, although its home is in Madison, Wisconsin. The Center does not maintain its museum or archive space, but instead collaborates with other institutions.

About the Conference:

The conference is the nation’s premier venue for presentations on railroad art and photography. The three-day event is held on the picturesque campus of Lake Forest College, just thirty miles north of Chicago. Attendees include active railroad photographers and artists, magazine editors, industry leaders, and scholars from wide backgrounds. Past presenters include photographers David Plowden and Lina Bertucci, railroad executive Henry Posner III, writers such as novelist Linda Niemann and Washington Post transportation columnist Don Phillips, and curators Ian Kennedy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Anne M. Lyden of the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Ashlee Whitaker of the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.


The conference registration package includes two receptions on Friday (hosted at the Illinois Railway Museum) and Saturday (hosted at Brown Hall on the Lake Forest College campus). Pastries and coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and lunch on Saturday are also included. The banquet dinner on Saturday can be purchased as a conference add-on while registering.

Please let us know in advance if you have any special dietary needs, and we will make every effort to accommodate them.

Conference attendees enjoy lunch in Calvin Durand Hall on Saturday. CRP&A Conversations 2019 photograph by Henry A. Koshollek

Lodging suggestions

Nearby Hotels:

Hilton Garden Inn
26225 N. Riverwoods Boulevard
Mettawa, IL 60045, 847-735-8374

Residence Inn Chicago Lake Forest Mettawa
26325 N. Riverwoods Boulevard
Mettawa, IL 60045, 847-615-2701

*Room blocks are not being offered due to underuse in recent years
*We recommend booking lodging early as several weddings and student sporting events are taking place in the local area over the conference weekend