Remembering Jim Koglin

Memorial Day weekend 2013 brought sadness to the Center, with the loss of long-time member and friend James R. “Jim” Koglin of Harrison Township, Michigan. He passed away at his home on Sunday, May 26. Born in Detroit on December 11, 1938, Jim graduated from Denby High School in 1957. After living in the city for more than 40 years, Jim settled in Harrison Township, 25 miles northeast of Detroit on Anchor Bay. A lifelong aircraft enthusiast, Jim was an avionics mechanic for the Air National Guard from 1957 to 1994. He served as a camera repairman and weapons control technician on many fighter planes, including the F-86, F-89, F-94, RF-84, RF-101, F-106, F-4 and F-16. He became a volunteer at the Selfridge Military Air Museum in 2003.

The “Kog,” as his friends called him, was known for his love of photography, which extended from planes to trains, lakeboats, lighthouses and grist mills. He spent many an hour along the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers photographing the lake freighters. Jim also pursued railroad photography extensively, with a special love for steam and particularly the former Rio Grande narrow gauge lines in Colorado, which he visited more than 25 times.

Jim is survived by his loving wife of 22 years, Sher; sister, Susan (Grady) Whatley; niece, Susan (John) Mayer; and grandnephew, Josh. Visitation and services will be held at the William R. Hamilton Funeral Home, Mount Clemens on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 from 2-8 p.m., with services the following day, Thursday, May 30, at 10:30 a.m.

Virginia & Truckee no. 29Virginia & Truckee steam locomotive no. 29 in Nevada in 2012. Photograph by Jim Koglin
Jim Koglin, 1938-2013Jim Koglin, 1938-2013. Photograph by Jim Thomas

Celebrating 150 Years of Railroad Labor

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) was founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard in Detroit, Michigan, on May 8, 1863. The union—the nation’s earliest—has represented the interests of its members for 150 years and is celebrating that history with an anniversary meeting in Detroit on May 8, 2013. Sponsored by the North American Railway Foundation (NARF), the Center for Railroad Photography & Art attended and brought its traveling exhibition, “Still a World Apart: 150 Years of Railroaders at Work.”

The exhibit showcases the lives and stories of railroad workers, and it includes a preview of the Center’s “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano” exhibition. That project is also sponsored by NARF and opens at the Chicago History Museum on April 4, 2014.

The Center congratulates the BLET on 150 years and thanks the NARF for its ongoing support of the Center’s exhibitions, publications, and programs. See more photographs from the anniversary meeting on the Center’s Flickr site.

BLET members viewing the Center's exhibitionAttendees of the 150th anniversary of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, held in Detroit, Michigan, viewing the Center’s exhibition, “Still a World Apart: 150 Years of Railroaders at Work,” sponsored by the North American Railway Foundation.
The History of the BLETCenter member John Fasulo’s iconic image, “The Engineer,” is featured on a special publication about the 150-year history of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Raves Resound for 2013 Conference

Record attendance of 170, exceptionally well-received presentations, and a flurry of congratulatory emails marked the Center’s 2013 Conversations about Photography conference at Lake Forest College, April 12-14. Sponsors included host Lake Forest College, Trains and Classic Trains, Canon, Railfan & Railroad, Leoni Engineering, and the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. Twenty of the Center’s members supported the event as patrons.

The conference was number eleven for the Center, and “the best ever for me,” according to photographer John Fasulo of Beacon, New York. He added, “The ‘out of the box’ presentations broke new ground and were thought-provoking. Bravo!”

One regular attendee congratulated the Center on “a fantastic mix of subjects.” And he reminded us that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. “The sleeper hit for me was the Stations presentation. When I saw it in the program I didn’t expect much, as I’m not familiar with the book and the title doesn’t give much hint as to what’s inside. But Matt Kierstead’s enthusiasm for the subject, as well as his detailed analysis of what the author [Michael Flanagan] was trying to get at, made for a really compelling presentation, and I’ll be on Amazon today to place my order.”

During the Center’s report on its 2012-13 activities, founder John Gruber and his family were introduced. (Grandson Martin Gruber was on hand and seems to have contracted the railroad bug, as has his uncle, Dick Gruber, John and Bonnie Gruber’s older son. Wife Bonnie and granddaughter Tamara were also on hand.) The audience gave John a two-minute standing ovation in recognition of his establishing the Center, founding its Railroad Heritage journal, launching the Conversations conference, and presenting nearly innumerable exhibitions and other publications. Scott Lothes, Gruber’s successor, noted that everyone looks forward to continuing contributions from John.

A thirty-page, full-color program contained examples of works featured in the presentations and exhibitions, providing attendees with an instant souvenir and collectible. (Before you know it, copies will appear on eBay.)

Presenter Pablo Delano, who talked about the work of his father, Jack Delano, noted that he “got a lot of warm, heartfelt feedback.” The Center received several written comments from attendees who are looking forward to the Center’s forthcoming Chicago History Museum exhibition featuring the elder Delano’s portraits of Chicago railroaders taken in 1942-43. It opens April 4, 2014, and the Center is working on ways to incorporate a visit to the exhibition and a special program about it for the 2014 conference.

Michael Froio, a photographer from Williamstown, New Jersey, and also a presenter, remarked “It is exciting to be a part of a community that has such a diverse approach to celebrating our railroads through art and photography.” David Lester, a transportation historian and writer from Atlanta, said, “Great selection of presenters this year, and I particularly enjoyed the railroad journalism panel discussion.” Lester also congratulated the Center on “all of the hard work that went into this.”

Hyde Perce of Kenilworth, Illinois, seconded the endorsement of the arrangements and added praise for Lake Forest College’s cuisine: “I have to sign up for next year just to get my annual ‘fix’ of pecan rolls.” He also noted the conference’s general conviviality: “One of the really fun things I enjoy is just meeting conference attendees. Such a nice group of people.”

George Hamlin, a transportation consultant from Fairfax, Virginia, best stated a common sentiment: “Pat yourselves on the back, relax for a brief period, and then move on to more outstanding efforts.”

Just what the Center plans to do.

Matt Kierstead
The “sleeper hit” of the 2013 conference for many attendees was Matt Kierstead’s deconstruction of the book Stations: An Imagined Journey, by Michael Flanagan. Photograph by Hank Koshollek. See more photographs on the Center’s Flickr site.

Barriger Exhibition at St. Louis Mercantile Library

Through June 2013. St. Louis Mercantile Library, First Floor, 7606 Natural Bridge Road, St Louis, Missouri. “Along the Line: 1930s Railroad Photographs by John W. Barriger III” is now on display at the St. Louis Mercantile Library. The exhibition features black-and-white prints of photographs made by John W. Barriger III (1899-1976), whose deep love for railroading led him to create one of the most far-reaching photographic surveys of the nation’s railroads ever undertaken. Most of the photographs in the exhibition focus on the 1930s, when Barriger led the railroad division of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a federal agency that oversaw loans to railroads during the Great Depression. After World War II, Barriger served four different railroads as president, continuing to photograph while advocating for “super-railroads.” For his myriad contributions to the industry, the National Railroad Hall of Fame in Galesburg, Illinois, inducted Barriger into its pantheon of leaders on June 23, 2012. The Center, the Hall, and the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library in St. Louis worked together to present this exhibition.
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Double-headed westbound steam freight train on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in Burlington, Iowa, in the 1930s. Photograph by John W. Barriger III, collection of the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library.

Center’s Board Elects New Leadership

The Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s twelve-member board of directors has decided, with unanimous votes, who will guide the organization following the end of founder John Gruber’s presidency on March 1. The board named Scott Lothes as president and executive director, the latter a position he has held since August 2011. The board also created a new position, chairman of the board, to which it elected T. Bondurant “Bon” French. Gruber, who will remain on the Center’s board and active in several projects, said, “Bon French’s support of the Center has been an inspiration. He is dedicated to railroad photography and understands the Center’s mission. He is highly qualified to serve as the Center’s first chairman of the board.”

French, who joined the Center in 2002 and its board in 2009, brings a wealth of business, financial, and cultural knowledge to the organization’s leadership. Bon manages the Chicago-based investment firm, Adams Street Partners. In addition, he serves as a trustee of Northwestern University, as a member of the Kellogg Graduate School of Business Dean’s Advisory Board, and on the board of the Chicago History Museum. An active railroad photographer, he has photographed more than 650 different railroads in the United States and Canada. French commented, “I am pleased to continue to help the Center grow and prosper in any way I can. It is marvelous how many different talents we have on the board.”

Lothes joined the Center’s staff on a part-time basis in 2008 and has steadily taken on more responsibilities. He is an award-winning photographer and widely published author, with more than 300 photographs in print and 40 bylined articles to his credit, including many in Trains and other railroad magazines. At the Center he has also proved his remarkable skills as an executive. Lothes said, “The Center is on a great path thanks to John Gruber’s vision and dedication, the loyalty of our members, and the board’s strength and support. I am grateful for their confidence and look forward to a bright future.”

Over the course of the past few years, the Center has enjoyed a robust expansion in both scope and practice. The coming “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano” exhibition at the Chicago History Museum represents a substantial advancement in the Center’s efforts to showcase the role of railroad photography in public history. In addition, another outstanding “Conversations about Photography” conference is slated for Lake Forest College this April 12-14. Educational, inspirational, and entertaining, the conference remains the highlight of the year for many railroad photographers.

The Center continues to thrive and evolve as a vibrant, nationally recognized organization, looking ahead to many years of continued success in promoting the incredible wealth of visual arts and images associated with railroading. We look forward, as well, to the continued support of our many colleagues, members, and fans.

The Center’s board of directors has elected Bon French as Chairman of the Board and Scott Lothes as President and Executive Director. Lothes (left) and French are shown addressing the crowd at Conversations about Photography 2012, the Center’s annual conference. Photographs by Steve Crise.