A tribute to a great railroad photographer

on Saturday, December 22, 2018

Associate Editor David Lassen walked into my office in October and said he was talking with Editor Jim Wrinn and suggested we do an all John Gruber gallery. I couldn’t have agreed more. So I held what I had planned for the February 2019 issue and quickly dove into indexes and bound volumes to immerse myself in nearly 60 years of a very prolific photographer. How do you choose only a handful of photos to honor this man who seemed to only know how to capture great imagery?

Gruber, founder of the Center of Railroad Photography & Art, photographer, author, and more, died Oct. 9, 2018. As I began to pull my bound volumes off my book shelves, I seemingly had nearly as many on my desk as I had left on the shelves. I used post-its to mark pages within the same volumes that John had left his mark. I wished it wasn’t his passing that made me take in his work for Trains in this fashion. I’d worked as his editor for a couple of the stories and had certainly seen these photos here and there over the years, but I was moved to see stacks of John’s words and pictures overlap one another on my desk.

I pushed back in my chair and sat there for a moment, taking in the work as a whole. I decided I needed to take a picture. I moved my chair (on wheels) out of the way and grabbed one of my guest chairs, indeed a guest chair that John himself had perched upon. I stood on the chair with my cellphone above his work to take a photo. I reached as high above my head as i could to get them all in — where’s a drone when you need one? I wish I could’ve fit more of his narrow gauge work or his Chicago railroads throughout the decades or his story on the end of the Green Bay & Western or Norfolk & Western No. 611 and its crew and all of its angles. I hope you enjoy the February Gallery. I think you will be as pleased as I was with the selections. The issue should be in your mailboxes soon, or you can pick it up on newsstands Jan. 8, 2019.

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