Following the Golden Spike: Time, Place, and Change Along the First Transcontinental Railroad

Drake Hokanson
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
7:00-8:00 P.M. (U.S. Central), on Cisco Webex

Now Available on YouTube

Terrace, Utah, showing ties left in place on the original Promontory transcontinental route. Drake Hokanson.
Join artist Drake Hokanson, contributing author and photographer to the Center’s publication After Promontory, in a re-photography trip along the original Union Pacific route in his virtual presentation, “Following the Golden Spike: Time, Place, and Change Along the First Transcontinental Railroad.”
Throughout the 150 years since the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, many parts of the 1,800-mile route between Omaha and Sacramento have changed enormously. Some sections are busy, three-track, state-of-the-art mainline; others are abandoned to the desert wind. In his presentation, Hokanson will address the broader history of railroads and photography and expand on how these two technologies came of age together in the nineteenth century and profoundly changed how we experienced the world. Through his black and white photographs, Drake Hokanson will explore the layered past, the natural and human geography, and the deeper meaning of this linear landscape.
Drake Hokanson is an author, photographer, and independent scholar who looks to the broad American land, its places, well-worn paths, people, and stories as the subjects for his photographs, books, exhibits, and essays. He is the author/co-author of three books, has edited and contributed to several others, and has exhibited photographs coast to coast. His other experience include teaching photography and nonfiction writing at the university level for some thirty years.

An Evening With The Winners of the 2020 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program: John Troxler & Steven Chen

John E. Troxler and Steven Chen won first prizes in the 2020 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program in the black-and-white and color categories, respectively.
Join us in a conversation about their photography on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 from 7:00-8:00 PM (US Central Time) on the Cisco Webex.
This is a free event.
John Troxler won first prize in the black-and-white category with this shot on a westbound NKP 765. He perfectly captured a young boy’s attention as it passes a Metra Employee Open House shuttle train during the afternoon of June 17, 2017 near the Chicago 47th Street Metra station.

Steven Chen took first prize in the color category with this shot of a CSX worker fixing the frog at the northeast end of Emory siding just outside of Atlanta, on January 29, 2019. Maintaining the essentials of railroading – the frog which connects the rails of sidings and main lines together – compose a humanistic side of railroad life.

Call for Submissions: Railroad Photography and Art During the Covid-19 Pandemic

We have a question for you: how have you, as a railroad photographer or railroad artist, continued to practice your art during a time of pandemic and unrest? Our hope is to come together as a community, and share with each other how we are responding to the situations that we all face.

Tell us—and show us—what you have been doing for the past three or four months. Have you been out photographing the masked employees who daily risk their health to keep our rail transit running? Have you turned to photographing empty stations or abandoned places? Are you sticking close to home, rediscovering your local railways, or are you engaged in the ultimate social distancing, and camping alone with your camera in very remote places? Have you been in your studio, working more than ever on drawings and paintings, or at home organizing your old negatives, prints, and slides? Are you researching in books or online, examining photographs of relief trains during the 1918 Influenza outbreak, or studying portraits of Pullman Porters?

We’re looking for short stories⁠—250 to 500 words⁠—that answer one or more of these sorts of questions. Tell us what you have been working on through this moment. Show us, too, with a few images of what you’ve been working on, whether it’s of a train in a wild and lonely place, or your studio with a half-finished painting on the easel.

We want to see what you are already doing, rather than ask you to make new work. Because of that, our deadline is short: please get us your submission by July 15.

Submission Process

To participate, please submit the following materials to

  • Electronic submissions only. Files can be sent via email, Dropbox, WeTransfer, etc.
  • A first-person description of what you have been doing, between 250 and 500 words
  • 1-3 accompanying images, with location, date, and basic caption information; images should be high-resolution JPEG files with a pixel dimension of at least 3,000 on one side.
  • Text, captions, and contact information may be sent in a document (Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, or PDF) or in the body of an email.
  • Be sure to include your name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.

The Center will publish selected stories and images in a future issue of Railroad Heritage, online, or in another appropriate format. The Center reserves the right to retain electronic copies for future publication, use on website, Facebook and other social media, or for public exhibition. In all cases, the photographer retains the copyright to the image.

Send all submissions by July 15 to

A Wisconsin & Southern freight train cuts through downtown Madison, Wisconsin, on June 4, 2020. In normal times, John Nolen Drive at right would be much busier with morning commuter traffic. Aerial photograph by Scott Lothes

In The Studio With Adam Normandin: Living With Trains And Life With Art

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
7:00-8:00 P.M. (U.S. Central), on Cisco Webex

Available now on Youtube

Join artist Adam Normandin in an exploration of his work, influences, and studio.

Normandin is a contemporary realist painter living and working in Los Angeles. His paintings depict undoctored freight train cars as they appear in yards, often covered in graffiti or resting in desolate settings. Through his work, Normandin looks to examine the notion of space, purpose, and the passing of time, and the exploration of interconnectedness and transience of humanity.

Adam Normandin poses with Visitor, 2018, oil & acrylic on canvas, 44 x 96 inches

ANNOUNCEMENT: Fall conference

Due to the ongoing concerns and challenges surrounding the global health situation, we are rescheduling Conversations Northeast at the University of Connecticut from September 19, 2020, to a Saturday to be determined in Fall 2021.

We are now planning to offer an online conference on Saturday, September 19. Registrations will open on June 29. Stay tuned for details.

We hope to “see” you virtually on September 19, and in-person next fall in Storrs, Connecticut.

Erie Lackawanna east of New Milford, Pennsylvania, on October 18, 1974. Photograph by John F. Bjorklund, Bjorklund-54-27-24