Railroad Photography

on Thursday, June 25, 2009

Last month, Trains magazine's e-newsletter included a link to an online exclusive about creative railroad photography. [If you don't receive the Trains e-newsletter, click here to sign up.] The article was written by Scott Lothes, project director for The Center for Railroad Photography and Art, based in Madison, Wis. He wrote about what makes a railroad photo creative and how it has changed over the years.

This Monday, we have another exclusive article on railroad photography. This time it's written by John Gruber, long-time Trains contributor and president of The Center. He introduces you to a really cool historical timeline of railroads that begins with this daguerreotype of steam locomotive Tioga. The photo was taken in Philadelphia circa 1850. Tioga was purchased by the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad. It is probably one of only two or three photos that exists from that era, according to the Center. That's incredible!

So, this gets me thinking. Are you preserving your railroad photos? Do you know how best to do it? Preserving photographs entails everything from the right supplies to cataloging your collection. The process applies to prints, slides, and CDs. I can't tell you how many times I've asked someone for a photo to illustrate a story and I've heard, "I'll have to dig that out. It's somewhere in my files." The photos are no good to anyone (not even yourself) if you can't find them. One of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art's goals is to preserve photography, which they do so on their Web site.

Preserving photography is just as valid and important as preserving railroad equipment. Last week, I attended the American Public Transportation Rail Conference in Chicago. I was fortunate to take a tour of the Chicago Transit Authority Skokie Shop, where they perform maintenance on their rail cars. However, the real highlight was the ride there. We first took a private L train out to Skokie, with part of the trip aboard two 4,000-series rapid transit cars. They were Nos. 4271 and 4272. These were the same cars used in the motion picture Public Enemies hitting theaters next week. In fact, our operator said, "my elbow may be seen in the movie, if it didn't hit the cutting room floor." The cars are beautifully maintained and several old photographs and advertisements adorn the interior.

Regarding photography, would you like The Center to cover the topic of preservation and organization of slides, prints, and digitals? Are there other photography or art-related topics you'd like to see covered? In the meantime, check out Monday's newsletter with our second Web-exclusive article courtesy of The Center for Railroad Photography and Art.

Angela Pusztai-Pasternak • Assistant Editor • Trains Magazine 

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