Railroad photography: Keeping 'it' together

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Monday, August 6, 2018

Do you have little yellow or green boxes with 38 slides strewn across your desk? Do you look for a better way to organize and catalog them? I ditched the developer boxes years ago, but still struggle to organize my slide collection in a meaningful way. I'm hoping that with this post other film dinosaurs such as myself will share their methods. First, let's start with an example.

I've always been a Milwaukee Road fan, even before my relocation to America's Dairyland. That includes modern railfan trips to former Milwaukee Road lines and collecting slides from before my time and of the present day after I switched to shooting digitally. So, for example, I have photos of the Milwaukee to Twin Cities main line in the Milwaukee, Soo Line, and Canadian Pacific eras. There is a distinct cutoff, a merger date, for the Soo-Milwaukee combo in the mid-1980s, but the transition to the Canadian Pacific was much more gradual. But, still, Soo Line is a wholly owned subsidiary of CP, even though it is no longer operated independently.

Similarly, I have slides of the Soo Line, Wisconsin Central Ltd., and Canadian National on the same piece of railroad; should they be separated in three boxes, or left together? 

Then, what about Amtrak? Does it get filed with the line it operates, or in a box by itself? (Same for commuter operators elsewhere in the country.) I am more geography-oriented in my travels and studies, so I prefer to sort my slides based on location rather than by locomotive number, which is another popular method. Pulling the Amtrak slides from the Canadian Pacific box goes against that thinking.

How do you solve the conundrums? Is everything on a specific line lumped together regardless of operator? Or do you file by locomotive road and number, regardless of location? What about structures? Railroad hardware? Or even railfans? Sound off in the comments so that I may better file my (still growing) collection.

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