Center Names New Executive Director

Scott Lothes, Executive Director, photo by Kyle Weismann-Yee
Scott Lothes, photo by Kyle Weismann-Yee

Scott Lothes, an accomplished railroad photographer with a degree in mechanical engineering and experience in magazine journalism, has been named executive director of the Center, effective August 2011.

“I welcome Scott Lothes to the full-time position with the Center. He has impressive credentials which will make him a real asset to the organization,” said John Gruber, president of the Center. “His association with the young railfan community promises a strong future for railroad photography.”

In accepting the position, Lothes (pronounced low’-tess) noted the Center’s interest in the railroad worker and its ties to the academic study of railroads and railroading. “I wish to continue developing them,” he said, “as well as pushing forward with the Center’s forays into social media as well as backwards into the publishing of historical articles about railroad art as well as railroad photography. I have a life-long interest in the railroad’s history-making impact on America, and everyone in my family will testify to my passion for railroad photography.”

Lothes and his wife, Maureen Muldoon, will move from Oregon City, Oregon, to Madison, Wisconsin. He will assume the position on August 1, taking over from John Gruber, who was instrumental in founding the Center in 1997. Gruber will focus on the Center’s Chicago Project, an exhibition planned for 2013.

In his railroad photography, Lothes, 32, focuses on the relationship between railroads and landscapes (both natural and cultural). He began photographing seriously in 1999, and in 2003 he won the Trains and Canon photography contest (see bottom photo at left). He tied for third place in the Center’s Creative Photography Awards Program in 2005 (third photo at left) and tied for first place in 2006 (top photo at left). He then served on the awards program’s panel of judges in 2008 and 2009. His nearly 300 photographs in print publications include covers for all of the major railroad magazines, and staff at Trains selected one of his photos for the 100 Greatest Railroad Photos special issue (see second photo at left). In 2010 Lothes had his first solo photography exhibition at the Midland Center for the Arts in Midland, Michigan, which retained one of his prints for its permanent collection.

Growing up along CSX’s former Chesapeake & Ohio main line near Charleston, West Virginia, he learned to count by watching 100-car coal trains. He was graduated magna cum laude in 2002 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, with a degree in mechanical engineering, aiming to design diesel locomotives. Instead, his first full-time job was as the assistant editor of the engineering magazine Sound & Vibration. He also has undertaken independent studies focused on railroads’ representation in literature, which led to his “Great Writers’ Lessons for Railroad Photographers” presentation at the Center’s 2008 Conversations about Photography conference. His articles have appeared TrainsLocomotiveRailfan & Railroad,Railroads IllustratedRailroad Heritage, and The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon.

In 2005, Lothes left the engineering magazine to follow his college girlfriend, Maureen Muldoon, to Asia, where they married and spent nearly two years traveling, living, and working. In China, he witnessed the end of main line steam operations, and in Japan, he taught English in a high school. Those experiences led to several publications and multimedia shows, including “Along Steam’s Last Mainline” at Winterail in 2010. Since 2007, Lothes has been self-employed as a freelance writer, photographer, and Web designer, based out of western Oregon. He joined the Center’s staff part-time in 2008.

See more of Scott’s photography and complete CV at his homepage,