Call for Submissions: Continuity & Change – Photographs of Railroads in the 21st Century

We’re looking for images that capture the essence of rail transportation in the 21st century. What does contemporary railroading look like? What aspects of rail transportation remain evergreen, recognizably connecting our world with the world of the past? What is new, exciting, different, hopeful, or full of promise? What has been irrevocably altered, or what is about to be? And, just as importantly, how do photographs help us see this world? 

We’re working on a book that answers these questions. We’re looking for photographs of railways in one of five subject categories:

  • Scale, distance, and landscape are important characteristics that help define railroads in North America, whether it is the size of locomotives and equipment, the length of trains, or the expansive natural landscapes they traverse. Show us how railroads struggle with the natural landscape, or how they compliment it. Give us images of trains 24/7/365, in every kind of weather, and every kind of landscape. 
  • Work on the move. What does the path of commerce look like? How does cargo originate, how does it get where it needs to go? Who does the work? Which commodities are fading, which are going strong? Show us what the railways do, what they carry, how, and who makes it all move. 
  • Passenger railroading. From Amtrak at fifty years old, to the subways, commutes, and light rail trains that knit together North American cities, to new passenger rail systems under construction coast to coast, show us images that capture what passenger railroading means. We welcome images from any kind of service, especially when they show how vital passenger trains are to everyday life. 
  • While we are primarily looking for photographs from North American locations, we’re also interested in images of international exchange. We’re looking for photos made anywhere in the world that help put North American railways and rail practices in a global context, or help illustrate how the products that North American trains carry are part of a worldwide network of trade. 
  • The Holdouts. Is that old hometown railroad still running? The “Rust Belt” may be rusty, but what is still alive? Show us those surprising survivors, those anachronisms that still hang on, the things that are on the way out, and what’s about to disappear. 

We’re interested in photography that communicates the present moment as elegantly as possible. We’re open to a wide variety of styles, from unusual perspectives to unusual techniques, to straightforward approaches. What matters is that your photos, in the spirit of photojournalism, tell us stories about railroading now. We would especially like images that could not have been in any other time than our own, whether because of the subject, or the way they were made, or both.

You may submit up to twenty (20) images in total that fit one or more of these themes. You may wish to submit a broad sample, or a selection that tightly focuses on a single subject; What matters most is the quality of the images and how well they respond to one or more of the themes above. Images must have been made in or after the year 2000, and we especially prefer images made since the Great Recession of 2008. For full consideration, please get us your submission by April 2nd.

Submission Process

To participate, please submit the following materials to

  • Up to twenty (20) images
  • Basic captions with location, date, and basic information
  • Optional supplemental text with additional caption information, context, or anything else you think we ought to know about about how your photographs respond to the themes. 
  • Contact information: Your name, mailing address, email address, and phone number

Electronic submissions only. Files can be sent via email, Dropbox, WeTransfer, etc.

Captions, optional supplemental text, and contact information may be sent in a document (Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, or PDF) or in the body of an email.

Images should be high-resolution jpegs with a pixel dimension of at least 3000 on one side. 

Send all submissions by April 2, 2021 to

An autorack train speeds past the Gerald Grain Center on the outskirts of Archbold, Ohio, in August 2019. Photograph by Francis Byrne.

The Center will publish selected images in a future book project, and may also use images in its journal, 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.

The Art of Dining on Rails: Presented by Jay W. Christopher & Anne Lapinski

Tuesday, February 23, 2021
7:00-8:00 P.M. (U.S. Central), on Cisco Webex

Now Available on YouTube
The Christopher Transportation Museum is home to Jay Christopher’s personal collection of airline, shipline, railroad, and airship artifacts that preserve the history of transportation dining starting in the late 1800s. The dining artifacts along with the accompanying collections tell a broad story of early travel and preserve significant history in their aesthetic design and fabrication.
The railroad collection at the Christopher Transportation Museum is the museum’s first and largest collection. The railroad collection presents a sweeping narrative that touches on many aspects of early railroading in the United States and abroad. The museum’s collection allows visitors to get a first-hand look at what it was like to work, travel, and, most importantly to eat aboard these illustrious trains.
The Christopher Transportation Museum and the Center for Railroad Photography & Art invites you to join us as we explore the museum’s collection in the upcoming presentation, “The Art of Dining on Rails.”
Jay W. Christopher, Historical Collector, The Christopher Transportation Museum
Anne Lapinski, Collection Curator and Manager, The Christopher Transportation Museum
This event is free.




View of the railroad dining car collection at the Jay W. Christopher Transportation Museum. Photograph by Anne Lapinski.

The Iron Road to the Deep North: Japanese Railways of Hokkaido, Then and Now

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
7:00-8:00 P.M. (U.S. Central), on Cisco Webex

Now Available on YouTube
Victor Hand traveled to Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, in 1966 and 1971 in search of steam locomotives.
Scott Lothes lived in Hokkaido from 2005 to 2007 where he taught English and rode trains all over the island. His presentation uses Hand’s photography, which is now part of the Center’s collection, as well as Lothes’s more recent views, to explore Hokkaido and its fascinating railways. The tracks cling to rugged coastlines, climb spectacular mountains, and have undergone many changes in the decades between Hand’s and Lothes’s visits.
Lothes, President and Executive Director of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, joined the Center’s staff in 2008. He is a regular contributor to Trains, Railfan and Railroad, and other railroad publications, with more than fifty bylined articles and some 500 photographs in print.
This event is free.
A Japanese National Railways D52 locomotive steams south with a freight train at Onuma, Hokkaido, in January 1971 beneath snow-covered Komagatake. Photograph by Victor Hand, Hand-JNR-C18-01.
A JR Hokkaido “Super Hokuto” Limited Express train rolls along Uchiura (“Volcano”) Bay near Date, Hokkaido, in June 2007 with Komagatake in the background at left. Photograph by Scott Lothes.

Three-Of-A-Kind : 2021 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program

Theme: Three-Of-A-Kind 

The 2021 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program asks photographers to submit a set of three digital images that thematically tell a story capturing a unique aspect of railroading. These three images will be judged as a single submission. Photographers may submit up to two sets of three images.

There are no time frame limitations, digital manipulation of the images is permitted but not required, color and black & white images are acceptable as determined by the artist.


Theme introduction: December 1, 2020
Submission deadline: May 1, 2021
Awards notification: August 1, 2021

Learn more here

Wallace W. Abbey: A Life in Railroad Photography, presented by Kevin Keefe and Scott Lothes

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
7:00-8:00 P.M. (U.S. Central), on Cisco Webex

Now Available on YouTube
Kevin Keefe and Scott Lothes, co-writers and editors of the publication Wallace W. Abbey: A Life in Railroad Photography (Indiana University Press, 2018) come together to celebrate the life and work of a man who devoted a fifty-year career to the railroad photography community. Keefe and Lothes will present highlights from the book, which drew from Abbey’s collection of 25,000 black-and-white negatives held by the Center.
The presentation will chart Abbey’s career documenting the railroad industry. Beginning in the 1940s, Abbey masterfully combined journalistic and artistic vision to transform everyday moments in transportation into magical photographs. A photographer, journalist, historian, and railroad industry executive, he helped people from many different backgrounds understand and appreciate what was often taken for granted: a world of locomotives, passenger trains, big-city terminals, small-town depots, and railroaders. During his lifetime he witnessed and photographed sweeping changes in the railroad industry from the steam era to the era of diesel locomotives and electronic communication.
Kevin Keefe is the former vice-president-editorial for Kalmbach Publishing Co. He served as editor of Trains from 1992 to 2000. As a student at Michigan State, he worked on Pere Marquette steam locomotive no. 1225, and later authored a book about it.
Scott Lothes, President and Executive Director of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, joined the Center’s staff in 2008. He is a regular contributor to Trains, Railfan and Railroad, and other railroad publications, with more than fifty bylined articles and some 500 photographs in print.
This event is free.

On a rainy summer day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1952, two boys watch as the Chicago & North Western’s westbound Twin Cities 400 makes its stop at the city’s lakefront depot, near the shore of Lake Michigan. Abbey-03-049-002.