Northern Pacific steam locomotives at the railroad’s Seattle roundhouse in 1955. Photograph by Hal Lewis. Lewis donated his photography collection to the Center in 2011.
The Lewis collection is a recent addition to the Center’s holdings and comes as a gift of Hal Lewis of San Jose, California. Lewis is a pioneer African American railfan and railroad photographer who began photographing trains in the late 1940s. He donated his collection to the Center in 2011, which consists of about 750 black-and-white negatives and 800 color slides.
Lewis earned his undergraduate degree in engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in 1953. During college he frequently photographed the area’s railroads and has fond memories of New York Central’s J-1 Hudson steam locomotives climbing the one percent grade out of the Wabash River Valley.
Following graduation, Lewis pursued a career in aeronautics that took him to Seattle from 1953-58, and then to California, where he lives today. He photographed steam in both locations, and also on several trips to Canada while he lived in Seattle. California highlights include the West Side Lumber Company. His work has appeared in Classic Trains and Railfan & Railroad magazines.
Lewis pursued his railroad interest in other avenues besides photography. He also made audio recordings of railroad sounds, which he and a colleague sold through L&H Railsonics. Following his retirement from Lockheed in 1989, he became very active in the Central Coast NRHS Chapter and the Pacific Limited Group.
See John Gruber’s profile of Lewis in Railroad Heritage no. 31, pages 14-21.