Railroad photography: A death in the family

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I still remember vividly the image of the scrunched cap reflected in the window glass. It seemed an odd inclusion to this young railfan by a magazine called “Trains” that billed itself as “The Leading Magazine of Railroading.”

That photo was taken by none other than legendary photography John Gruber, who died this week at age 82. It accompanied his May 1994 feature story “A death in the family” recounting the end of the Green Bay & Western.

It wasn’t a story about locomotives, or passenger trains, or boxcars. It was a story about Railroading.

I’m often reminded of Gruber and that image when I’m trackside. When I look to make an image I ask myself what tells the story of railroading best? Sometimes it’s a locomotive, or a passenger train, or a boxcar. Often times, however, it’s something else entirely.

In August I worked with John on what turned out to be his last blog post for Trains, a 25-year look back at the demise of the Green Bay & Western – the railroad I will always associate with him thanks to that 1994 story.

At the end of the piece, Gruber encouraged readers to “remember the people.” This week, that’s exactly what we’re doing with you, John.

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