Railroad Heritage Visual Archive

John F. Bjorklund Collection
All 99 boxes and 55,000 color slides of the Center’s John F. Bjorklund Collection, a gift of his widow, Rose. Bjorklund wrote the location and date on the mount of every slide. The collection is a trove of information and imagery, dating from the 1960s to the 2000s and spanning the entirety of the United States and Canada. Photograph by Jeff Mast.

The Center cares for more than 200,000 photographs in its Railroad Heritage Visual Archive. The Collections and Acquisitions Committee of the Center’s board of directors and executive director Scott Lothes oversee new acquisitions. Preservation activities take place both in house and in concert with the Lake Forest College Library Archives and Special Collections, which has a recognized heritage of stewardship of more than a century. The Library considers the Center “a partner in promoting its railroad photographic holdings,” which the Center amplifies with materials it has acquired from nationally-known railroad photographers together with non-photographic works of railroad art. The Special Collections division at Lake Forest processes and conserves collections, often with financial support generated by the Center, and cooperates with the Center in publication of all its railroad holdings.

Archival work occurs daily in the Center’s office in Madison, Wisconsin, following the hire of Jordan Radke as full-time archivist in January 2015. Radke supervises graduate student interns from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies. Utilizing facilities in both Madison and Lake Forest, the Center can handle multiple collections simultaneously to reduce backlogs and to ensure the processing of materials is up-to-date. Together the Center’s and Lake Forest’s collections have gained recognition as a nationally significant repository of railroad photography.

Highlights of the Railroad Heritage Visual Archive include:

  • Ted Rose Collection, approximately 4,400 black-and-white negatives, acquired in 2006
  • Wallace W. Abbey Collection, approximately 23,000 black-and-white negatives and 8,000 color slides, acquired in 2010
  • John F. Bjorklund Collection, 55,000 color slides, acquired in 2011
  • Hal Lewis Collection, approximately 1,000 images of various formats, acquired in 2011
  • Fred M. Springer Collection, approximately 8,000 black-and-white negatives and 47,000 color slides, acquired in 2011
  • David Plowden Collection, approximately 150 black-and-white railroad publicity prints and 30 archival prints for exhibition, acquired in 2012
  • Perry Frank Johnson Collection, approximately 5,000 black-and-white prints, acquired in 2009
  • Leo King Collection, approximately 14,000 images of various formats, acquired in 2006
  • Glenn Oestreich Collection, approximately 20 small boxes of prints and several thousand negatives, acquired in 2010
  • Ken Burbach Collection, approximately 1,800 color slides, acquired in 2011
  • Smaller collections from Lewis Ableidinger, Norm Adler, Chris Burger, Luther Gette, Arno Lenz, Willis McCaleb, Bob Olmsted, Norbert Shacklette, ranging from a dozen of photographs to several hundred
    Additionally, the Center assisted Lake Forest College in identifying and describing photographs in its Arthur Dubin Collection, with more than 400 examples available on

Download the Center’s Collections Management Policy (206 KB PDF file), prepared by the Collections and Acquisitions Committee and adopted by the full board of directors in November 2014.