John W. Barriger III’s Depression-era Photography

On June 23, 2012, the National Railroad Hall of Fame in Galesburg, Illinois, inducted John Walker Barriger III (1899-1976) into its pantheon of leaders in honor of his myriad contributions to the industry. Barriger III achieved high acclaim for his leadership of federal transportation agencies and of railroads themselves. Unusually for a top executive, one of the tools Barriger III used in making decisions and prophesies was none other than photographs he made himself of railroad infrastructure. So successful was he in helping to cure the industry from the 1920s into the 1970s that he became known as “the doctor of sick railroads.” And now at least some of the 60,000 diagnostic railroad photographs he made, both for his own pleasure and as x-rays of the industry, can be considered more than tools. They can be considered art. The Center, the Hall, and the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library in St. Louis presented an exhibition of Barriger’s photography at the Ford Center for the Fine Arts at Knox College in Galesburg over the summer. The exhibition will appear in the future at the Barriger Library.

2012 Conference Took Attendees Home and Around the World

Railroading from a home-town perspective to railroading from an around-the-world perspective captivated attendees at the Center’s tenth annual Conversations about Photography conference, April 13-15 at Lake Forest College. The importance of close-at-hand experience to railroad art was emphasized by Tom Fawell of West Chicago, whose paintings derive from his early exposure to them in his backyard. While Henry Posner III held listeners spellbound with his photographs and stories of railroad activities from around the world. On Saturday a near record 157 attendees (160 is the record) participated. Other speakers were Shirley Burman Steinheimer, Bill Botkin (who also exhibited photographs that elicited high praise), Steve Crise, Christian Goepel, Drake Hokanson, Joel Jensen, Clark Johnson, Richard Solomon, and Chris Starnes. Sponsors were Lake Forest College, the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (a first-timer), Trains and Classic Trains magazines, Canon, and Railfan & Railroad magazine. Visit the conference page for a more complete overview. The next conference will be held April 12-14, 2013, at Lake Forest College.

Friday Night Reception

Fred Springer Dies

One of America’s leading rail enthusiasts and philanthropists, Fred Springer, died in Santa Fe on April 18 at the age of 83 after a long illness. His family notified friends with an email whose subject line reads “The last train has departed.” The announcement included “words of John Wesley that Fred lived by (and lived up to, though he never thought so himself), ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can!'” The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society recently awarded Springer its 2011 senior achievement award, and a few months ago Springer and his wife, Dale, gave the Center his 87,500 railroad photographs along with a substantial sum to ensure they will be properly processed, housed, and described in a publicly accessible database. The images will be available for research at Lake Forest College’s Donnelley and Lee Library in the archives and special collections. Springer’s photographs range from the 1940s to a few years ago. See our feature on Trains Magazine’s website.

Springer Receives R&LHS Award

Fred Springer has been awarded the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society’s 2011 senior achievement award for his contributions to writing, preserving, and interpreting North America’s railroading history. A few months ago, Springer gave the Center his railroad photographs—about 80,000 color slides and 7,500 black-and-white negatives—along with a substantial donation (his wife joined in this element of the donation) to process them for public access and to house them in archivally correct materials. Springer started making railroad photographs in the 1940s in Colorado and New Mexico, and quickly fell in love with narrow-gauge lines. See our feature on Trains Magazine’s website.

Train Festival 2011

Thanks to everyone who visited the Center’s booth at Train Festival 2011 in Rock Island, Illinois. We displayed two rotating photography exhibitions, one in memorial of Ryan Schoenfeldt (1976-2011) and one of Jack Delano’s World War II photos of Chicago & North Western’s women workers at Clinton, Iowa, 30 miles up the Mississippi River from Rock Island. Thanks to everyone who made the event possible. See more on our Facebook page.