A look inside Kalmbach's David P. Morgan Memorial Library

Posted by Rene Schweitzer
on Friday, May 24, 2019

Note: Click on any of the photos to enlarge


Did you know that Kalmbach houses one of the largest private collections of railroad photos and reference materials in the United States? It’s called the David P. Morgan Memorial library, and it resides on the second floor of our building.

The library's entrance, dedicated in the early 1990s.
The creation of the library must be credited to founder Al Kalmbach, who started accumulating materials in 1934, when The Model Railroader began publication. When Trains magazine started publishing in 1940, the collection of photo and resources from readers and contributors quickly grew, as they were sent in for future publication. Trains editor David P. Morgan is credited with beefing up the library’s contents starting in the 1950s.

Just inside the library's doors.

In time, the files were organized and formalized into a library, though likely it was a job done as time permitted. In the early 1990s, the library was formally named in memory of David P. Morgan, who was Trains editor from 1952-1987.

On the lower right are trays with old illustrations, mostly from Model Railroader and Trains.

While the DPM library has had several editors, two are notable for their long-term contributions. George Drury became librarian in mid 1975. He developed a unique cataloging system for the library’s reference materials that is still in use today. In fact, his system has been adopted by at least three other transportation libraries. George remained the librarian for nearly 20 years. Nancy Bartol, formerly of Trains magazine, became librarian in January 1997 and remained in that position until her retirement in May 2007.

Back issues and bound volumes of titles, both Kalmbach and others.

The library has occupied two locations in our current building. It initially was located in the area across from the Art Department in the original building, but it moved to the East wing after that was built in the late 1990s. The building has extra structural support to hold the weight of the materials and fireproof doors.

It’s difficult to provide exact numbers, but Tom Hoffman, the DPM librarian since late 2007, estimates that there are approximately 14,500 books and reference materials on the library’s shelves. This number doesn’t include the vast collection of publications, items from historical societies, and exchanges with other libraries.

The arrow notes the oldest item in the library's collection, from a Poor's Manual 1870.

Inside the oldest item--I believe it is missing the first few pages.

What are the oldest items in the collection? A Poor’s Manual of Railroads, from 1870, which documented the essential financial and historical information of railroads, and a Railroad Gazette, a weekly railroad news publication, from 1880. 

The second-oldest item, from Railroad Gazette from 1880.

Inside the 1880 Railroad Gazette.

While that number sounds impressive, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The library’s primary resource is its prototype images. About 20 years ago, the print photographs were estimated to number about 170,000. Add to that a collection of 10,000 or so slides and a digital collection of 57,700 items in the Trains Image Archive, and you approach nearly 238,000 images! Contributors still routinely send in images, digital and some prints, so that number will only increase.

The bulk of the library's collection in print photos. These file cabinets are full of them.

An example of one file drawer. Files are organized by railroad.

Thie magazine rack has seen better days. It dates from around 1954, based on the publication names on it (yes, all former Kalmbach titles). Trains & Travel eventually became Trains magazine.

While the library is not open to the public, Kalmbach Media employees and contributors are welcome to use the materials for research. Magazines like Trains and Classic Trains rely on the photographs for their articles, and others hobby titles routinely use images to accompany product reviews or other feature stories. The Books department routinely uses the print photographs for many of their model-railroad publications. And there’s also a science section of materials used by Discovers and Astronomy’s staffs.

Jeff Wilson is a familiar sight in the library. He regularly uses prototype photos for his model railroad books.

Now if only those old photos could talk.

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