CRP&A Member Exclusive: The History and Development of Madison’s Railroads

Tuesday, June 20, 2023
7:00 p.m. (U.S. Central Time), on Zoom
Registration closes at 4 pm CT on Monday, June 19

Registration Closed

CRP&A members can request the recording link at 

Our summer members-only program features a detailed look at the Center’s hometown Madison, Wisconsin, by our executive director Scott Lothes, showcasing the photography of John Gruber. These presentations are open to members of the Center and are presented to express our gratitude for their support. If you’re not a member, consider joining today to see this program as well as previous members-only events.

Railroads played a tremendous role in building Madison and south-central Wisconsin, and they continue to play a critical role in the regional economy. At their zenith, nine different railroad lines radiated out of Madison. Seven of those routes remain in service today, although only four of them still extend to their original destinations. This program will largely draw from the collection of John Gruber, the Center’s principal founder, who grew up in Prairie du Sac and lived in Madison, covering the changing railroad scene of Milwaukee Road, Chicago & North Western, and others.

Before the 20th-century rise of car culture and the building of the interstate highway system, a town’s ability to attract a railroad was a significant marker of its growth and economic health. In 2023, as Madison is considering a possible return of passenger rail, it’s a perfect time to examine local railroad history.

Join us on Tuesday, June 20, at 7 pm Central (5 pm PT / 6 pm MT / 8 pm ET) for this exciting program! This program is being recorded and will be made available to members by request.


This event is open to members of the CRP&A

Join Today! Become a member here




In 1955, a Milwaukee Road train rests nearby the Chicago & North Western depot with the capitol building visible in the background. Photograph by John Gruber.

Railroads, Art, and American Life: An Artist’s Memoir by J. Craig Thorpe

Tuesday, May 23, 2023
7:00 p.m. (U.S. Central Time), on Zoom

Available on YouTube

Collecting more than thirty years of paintings and renderings, Railroads, Art, and American Life tells the story of rail transportation in America through the life and works of artist J. Craig Thorpe. His artwork depicts not only the golden art of train travel but considers the present and looks forward to a potential future. Featuring more than 130 color illustrations and combining history, biography, ethics, and humor, Thorpe’s personal story joins with his paintings to invite the reader to relive the heyday of American rail and better understand the role of railroads in our society today.

J. Craig Thrope grew up in Pittsburgh where the Pennsylvania Railroad paintings of Grif Teller inspired his interests in art and railroading. A degree in design from Carnegie-Mellon University refined his skills, which he began to apply through volunteer work at the East Broad Top. After army service, jobs in architecture, and grad school, Thorpe moved to Seattle as a freelance illustrator. Amtrak’s 1993 calendar gave his work a national audience. Now, over the past thirty years, Thrope has completed more than fifty works for Amtrak, fifty-four for White Pass and Yukon, as well as numerous others for railroad suppliers and operators, excursion railways, and museums. The scope of his artwork falls into three general categories: paintings of the past, paintings of the present, and paintings of what is possible.


This event is free.
This presentation will be recorded and be made available on our YouTube page,

“Railroads, Art, and American Life: An Artist’s Memoir” is available now at Indiana University Press




Book Cover Art:
“The Mountains Still Call”
C. 2022 J Craig Thorpe
Oil on canvas 20×30 in

Collections from the UK’s National Railway Museum

Presented Ed Bartholomew 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023
12:00 p.m. (U.S. Central Time), on Zoom

Available on YouTube

Ed Bartholomew is Lead Curator at the National Railway Museum in York, England, where he has worked since 1995, having joined as Curator of the Photographic Collections. His role at the NRM includes the curation of the museum’s collections, ranging from archives to objects. He is particularly interested in the impact of railways on the landscape, their visual representation in photography, art and posters, and the promotion of railways through publicity and marketing.  His publications include Railways in Focus (with Michael Blakemore) an account of the National Railway Museum photographic collections (Atlantic Transport, 1998).

Photography grew up alongside the mechanized railway, and Bartholomew’s talk will showcase the NRM’s photographic collections from their origins to the present day, encompassing 170 years of photography. It will illustrate the breadth of the collection, with examples of the official photographs that documented the work of railway companies and advertised their services, alongside images by many skilled enthusiasts, who spent hours at the lineside in search of the perfect shot.


This event is free.
This presentation will be recorded and be made available on our YouTube page,





Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s steel foundry at Horwich works in 1919. Image by a Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway photographer. Credit: Science Museum Group

All-star photographers to headline Rio Grande narrow gauge book

We’re thrilled to announce the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s next hardcover book, Rio Grande Steam Finale, to be released October 1, 2023.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many of the nation’s greatest railroad photographers journeyed to southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico to document the final years of the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s spectacular narrow-gauge railway. They were driven by a fever for which there was no cure: the chance to photograph half-century-old trains operating on rails spaced three feet apart, the last remnants of an empire.

Drawing from thousands of images of the Rio Grande narrow gauge in the Center’s archive, this book gathers the finest work on this rich subject by Tom Gildersleeve, John Gruber, Victor Hand, Don Hofsommer, Jim Shaughnessy, Fred Springer, Richard Steinheimer, and Karl Zimmermann. Inside Rio Grande Steam Finale you’ll find a stunning gallery of black & white and color images, lavishly presented and many published for the first time, covering the narrow gauge from Alamosa to Chama, Durango, Farmington, and Silverton.

The trains are captured in furious action, climbing steep mountain grades, crossing high trestles, winding beside rivers, and traveling vast flatlands. Thundering steam locomotives billow plumes of smoke, some doubled together at the head end and some assisted by rear helpers placed ahead of timeworn cabooses; they’re seen from trackside, from hilltops, from pacing cars, and from inside the cab. Exquisite scenes at day, night, and dusk capture the railroad people, engine houses, rolling stock, lineside structures, and magnificent scenery that shaped the Rio Grande’s legendary narrow gauge system.

Engaging essays by Hofsommer and Zimmermann, both of whom experienced the narrow gauge first-hand in the 1960s, provide context and personal insights. Extensive captions add context to the stories of the photographs, which trace the pattern of typical train operations of the era. The book concludes with a chapter of color images of today’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Edited by Scott Lothes and Elrond Lawrence, the 10×10 book includes a map by David Styffe and nearly 200 outstanding photographs. The book will sell for $60. Pre-order information will be announced in August on our website and on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Cover photo: Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotives 497 and 487 hammer up the four percent grade to Cumbres, Colorado, under a dramatic sky at Windy Point on October 3, 1967. Photograph by Victor Hand

Inside the Ronald C. Hill Collection

Presented by Heather Sonntag, with special guests Jeff Brouws and Tim Tonge

Tuesday, March 28, 2023
7:00 p.m. (U.S. Central Time), on Zoom

YouTube Link

After spending nearly 15 months processing the Ronald C. Hill Collection of approximately 27,000 items including color transparencies, negatives, and prints, Heather Sonntag sees Ron Hill as “the whole rail-fan package.” Join us to hear how Heather first learned about railroad photography through Ron’s impeccable camera work that spans 60 years from 1957 to 2018. She will provide an overview of Ron’s long career in heritage train preservation, book publishing, darkroom printing, and rail-fan tripping. Also focusing on his color slides, Heather will showcase Ron’s tremendous “roadside railroad photography” (coined by Jeff Brouws) from the Center’s Visual Heritage Archive, celebrating the many zingers along the mainlines and narrow gauge tracks in Ron’s beloved Rocky Mountain West and elsewhere across North America.

Ronald C. Hill (1937-2023) recently passed away on January 23, 2023, at the age of 85. Ron gifted his collection to the Center, which spans from the 1950s to the 2010s and includes coverage from much of the United States, western Canada, and Europe. Read more about Ron’s tremendous legacy on our website:


Heather Sonntag joined the Center in 2020 as an associate archivist. She holds a doctorate in cultural history with a focus on 19th-century photography albums and a master’s of library and information studies from UW-Madison. She has interned with the Library of Congress, and also works as an assistant archivist of visual materials at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Jeff Brouws is a member of the board of directors for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and had been a friend to Ron Hill for over 50 years. He brings the Center knowledge of 19th and 20th-century photography and a broad background in publishing, with seven photography books to his credit. His photographs can be found in numerous public and private collections.

Tim Tonge is a member of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and knew Ron Hill since 1977 when he met him at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Tim was browsing the book section and admiring one in particular, which he voiced out loud to the man next to him. The stranger (and coincidentally author of that publication) said “thank you.” That began a 45-year friendship between Ron and Tim. The two have traveled together across California, New Mexico, and Wyoming as well as the CRP&A conferences.


This event is free.
This presentation will be recorded and be made available on our YouTube page,





Ron Hill at Tehachapi, California, in 1977. Photograph by Jeff Brouws


Canadian Pacific FM C-liner no. 4052 at Fernie, British Columbia, Canada, on August 20, 1966. Photograph by Ron Hill, Hill-21-02-17