John Gruber, Center’s Founder, Resigns Presidency

John Gruber, the principal founder of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art in 1997, has announced his resignation as president, effective March 1. He will remain on the Center’s board of directors and continue to serve as a volunteer.

He said, “I thank the directors and members for their enthusiastic support through the years, and am confident the Center will continue to prosper under its new leadership. I will be taking advantage of the opportunity to continue writing and photography projects and books, which have been delayed during my years at the Center.”

Mel Patrick, a renowned railroad photographer and long-time Center member, speaks for many with these remarks, “In my mind, John is one of three people who I identify as having brought ‘class’ to the hobby that we share with such passion—the other two are Lucius Beebe and David Morgan. John has always been a quiet giant in our field, encouraging the new photographers as well as recognizing those who came before us. Well done, Mr. Gruber; we all stand in your shadow and are thankful for all that you have given us.”

Gruber, a native of Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent much of his professional career in its publications department. He has been a freelance railroad photographer and writer since 1960, and he served as the editor of Vintage Rails magazine from 1995-99. He received a lifetime achievement award for photography in 1994 from the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS). Gruber is a founding member of the Center, having signed the incorporation papers in 1997. Since then he has served as its only president and editor of its journal, Railroad Heritage.

Thanks to an early partnership that Gruber helped forge with the Archives and Special Collections department of Lake Forest College’s Donnelley and Lee Library, the Center has become an important repository of railroad images. Its holdings include the photography of railroad watercolor artist Ted Rose and the photography of former Trains magazine editor Wallace W. Abbey, which Trains helped fund with its 2010 preservation award. Recent acquisitions include the collections of railroad photographers John F. Bjorklund, Hal Lewis, and Fred M. Springer.

Under Gruber’s leadership, the Center has grown to become a nationally significant arts and education nonprofit organization devoted to railroading in North America—the only such institution. Its programs serve the substantial community of railroad photographers—amateurs and professionals—on the North American continent. Its traveling exhibitions have appeared in railroad and art museums across the country, including the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee; the California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento; and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The Center has produced 31 issues of Railroad Heritage since Gruber launched the journal in 2000, including critically acclaimed special issues, Railroad History in a Nutshell and Railroad Preservation in a Nutshell. Recently, two Railroad Heritage articles have received the David P. Morgan Article Award from the R&LHS—the top prize for articles published on railroad history in any American publication.

Also under his leadership, every spring since 2003 the Center has hosted an annual conference, “Conversations about Photography.” It has grown from a one-day event with forty attendees to three days and 160 attendees. All but one has been on the campus of Lake Forest College, including the 2013 edition, which will be April 12-14.

Gruber also conceived and promoted the Center’s largest project to date: “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano,” an exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, April 4, 2014, to August 10, 2015. The project will bring Delano’s 1942-43 highly diverse American railroad story in pictures to one of the nation’s foremost public history museums. Gruber has played and will continue to play vital roles in research, writing, and publishing the catalog.

The Center’s board of directors will meet on February 27 to elect a new president. Executive director Scott Lothes, hired full-time in August 2011, will take over editorial duties of Railroad Heritage and continue to manage the organization’s day-to-day activities. Gruber sees a bright future for the Center, saying, “It has been rewarding to see the Center prosper and become the leading railroad visual arts organization in North America. The Center now has a well-qualified board and executive director to move it forward.”

John Gruber, David Kahler, and Nona HillJohn Gruber (left) with vice president David Kahler and board member Nona Hill at the Center’s Conversations about Photography 2012 conference.

Scholarship Winners Announced

A South Carolina teenager who explores the lighting possibilities of digital photography, and a New York City young professional who uses traditional large-format media, have won scholarships to attend the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s annual Conversations about Photography conference, April 12-14 on the campus of co-sponsor Lake Forest (Illinois) College.

Peter Lewis, 18 and a native of Clemson, South Carolina, was home-schooled and now attends Clemson University as a freshman majoring in pre-business. He says, “I can’t count the number of times I have gotten up at 5 o’clock on a Saturday morning to seek out a few trains. Regularly, I would ride my bike to the railroad track.” Additionally, he frequently serves as a volunteer photographer at events throughout the region. See more of his work on

John Sanderson, 29, is a rising young professional photographer in New York City where he has shown his general work as well as his railroad specialty at five galleries. He is a graduate of Hunter College, New York City, in political science. Of his choice to use 4×5 and 8×10 view cameras, he says, “The larger format changed my approach to the landscape. Since I could no longer capture fast-moving objects as I could with 35mm, I became more contemplative of the moment than I was with the smaller camera. I started to see the movement of light and shadow across a scene as important as a rumbling train.” See more of Sanderson’s work at

This is the inaugural year for conference scholarships, which cover all expenses including travel for two young or emerging photographers. Applicants had to submit ten images with a statement of purpose and meet one of three criteria: under 30 years of age, enrolled in an art-related higher-education program, or have less than five years experience in the field. Support for the effort came from the sixteen patrons of the 2012 conference. They are Darryl Bond, Norman Carlson, Charles Castner, Bon French, John Gruber, Nona Hill, Clark Johnson, Jim Koglin, Jeff Mast, Brian Matsumoto, David Mattoon, Don Phillips, Kenneth Rehor, Michael Schmidt, Jeffrey Smith, and Michael Valentine.

The eleventh annual Conversations about Photography is April 12-14, 2013, for the tenth time on the campus of co-sponsor Lake Forest College, 30 miles north of Chicago. Other sponsors include Trains, Classic Trains, Canon, Railfan & Railroad, and the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. The event begins at 5:30 on Friday with a reception, dinner, and keynote address by Tony Reevy on his new book about O. Winston Link’s photography. Saturday features a full day of presentations headlined by Norfolk Southern company photographer Casey Thomason, with a reception in the evening. Sunday morning workshops include a panel discussion on railroad journalism led by Jim Wrinn, editor of Trains magazine.

Visit the conference page for more details and to purchase tickets. Consider becoming a patron to ensuring that the scholarship program continues in 2014 and beyond.

Photographs by Peter Lewis (left) and John Sanderson, the Center for Railroad Photography & Art's 2013 scholarship winners.Photographs by Peter Lewis (left) and John Sanderson, the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s 2013 docent scholarship winners.

Center Receives R&LHS Article Award

The Center’s editorial consultant, John O. “Jack” Holzhueter, received the 2011 David P. Morgan article award from the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. Holzhueter received the award for his story “Olive W. Dennis: B&O Polymath,” which appeared in issue no. 24 of the Center’s journal, Railroad Heritage. R&LHS awards committee chairman Mark Entrop came to Madison to present the award in-person on December 29, 2012.
Jack Holzhueter and Mark Entrop
Mark Entrop (right), chairman of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society awards committee, presented the formal certificate for the 2011 David P. Morgan article award to John O. “Jack” Holzhueter, a consultant to the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, at the Center’s administrative office in Madison, Wisconsin. Holzhueter and Entrop stand with the certificate outside the Center’s office. Photo by John Gruber

Chicago Project Expanding

The Center’s innovative “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano” exhibition has received a larger and more prominent location at the Chicago History Museum, as well as new dates. The exhibition will now appear in the Green-Field Gallery, right off the main stairs and the only elevator in the museum, ensuring that every visitor will see it. The gallery’s additional space will permit using larger photographs, more artifacts, and the incorporation of contemporary photographs of portrait subjects’ families. These have been made by Jack Delano’s son, Pablo—a talented photographer himself and a professor of fine arts at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The exhibition now will open on April 4, 2014, and remain on display through August 10, 2015. As senior curator Russell Lewis explained, “Faces has thus moved up on the CHM marquee, and we are looking forward to showcasing it in a larger form and more central location.”
South Water Street freight depot in Chicago
Illinois Central’s South Water Street freight terminal in Chicago, April 1943. The image is among the sixty photographs that will appear in the Center’s exhibition “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano,” which will open April 4, 2014, at the Chicago History Museum. Learn more about the exhibition.

Trains that Passed in the Night: Photographs by O. Winston Link

Hot Shot Eastbound, Iaeger, West Virginia, 1956Photograph by O. Winston Link and copyright W. Conway Link.

January 7 through February 17, 2013; lecture by Thomas H. Garver, Link’s former assistant, on January 10, 2013. Purdue University Galleries, Yue-Kong Pao Hall of Visual and Performing Arts, 552 West Wood Street, West Lafayette, Indiana, 765-494-3061. The exhibition recognizes the railroad work of O. Winston Link, a Brooklyn, New York, native and commercial photographer who became well-recognized for his complex images of factory and industrial plant interiors. For Link, the steam railroad was a vital ingredient to “the good life” in America, an essential part of the fabric of our lives. It is this quality—of life, not machinery—which he captures so artfully in his photographs, showcasing the final years of steam railroading on the Norfolk & Western Railway—the last major railroad in America to operate exclusively with steam power. The broad appeal of Link’s photographs is derived not so much from the images of the steam locomotives themselves (although they are regarded as some of the best), but from the way in which their inclusion expresses the photographer’s deeply felt respect for the quality of life that the steam railroad reflected and supported for so many years in the United States.