Virtual Conversations

About the Conference

An online conference about railroad photography and art
A free event on April 18, 2020

Free Registration Here

Railroads connect us across time and space. And in these unprecedented times, we could all use a few more (socially-distanced) connections.   

We hope you will connect with us on Saturday, April 18, when the Center for Railroad Photography & Art hosts our first-ever online conference, Virtual Conversations.

The conference will take place throughout the morning and afternoon of Saturday, April 18 through a link provided by the Center. This will be provided in the week leading up to the event. The day’s programming will feature a collection of both pre-recorded and live presentations, a live Q&A session, a raffle for a Jim Shaughnessy print, an online gallery of attendee photographs, and an online exhibition by the Center celebrating how the world has been connected by rail.

Virtual Conversations is a free event, open to anyone who wishes to join. We will send more details as the day draws closer.

  • Pre-recorded presentations will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel.
  • Live presentations will be presented using Cisco’s Webex; live presentations will also be recorded and made available for later viewing on our YouTube channel.

Presenters

Gil Bennett, “Railroading with a Brush”
Travis Dewitz & Todd Halamka, “Mikado’s Farewell – China’s Last Steam Railroad”
Adrienne Evans, archives and preservation
Fred Frailey & Kevin P. Keefe, “ The Railroad, As J. Parker Lamb Saw It”
Justin Franz, “Winners and Losers: The Changing Map of the Northern Transcons”
Oren Helbok & George Hiotis, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the CRPA”
Elrond Lawrence, “Rails Along the Mother Road: the Southwest Transcon”
Dennis Livesey, Title TBD
Scott Lothes, “Return to Copper Country: Rediscovering the Railroads of Clifton and Morenci, Arizona”
Ken Rehor, “Lessons from Master Photographers”
Camron Settlemier, “Northwestern Exposure: Preserving Local Railroads with Video”

Presenters


Gil Bennett, “Railroading with a Brush”
Pre-recorded

This presentation will chronicle the history of railroad paintings in America from 1869 to the 2000s. The presentation will review small to big steam railroads, the streamline and transition era, the diesel revolution, the standard diesel electronics and mega mergers, and the hi-tech diesels electronics of today.

Bennett has been painting professionally since 1984 and is proficient in both oil and watercolor. He is a commissioned artist who has worked for both large corporate businesses on advertisements and individual buyers looking to revive nostalgic memories. He also paints landscapes, portraits, western themes and landscapes, but prefers to paint his favorite subject – trains.

Travis Dewitz

Todd Halamka

Travis Dewitz & Todd Halamka, “Mikado’s Farewell – China’s Last Steam Railroad”
Pre-recorded

Photographers Travis Dewitz and Todd Halamka made a two-week winter visit in 2018 to photograph steam locomotives on a remote coal mine railroad in China, located 2700 km northwest of Beijing. Scott Lothes will moderate a discussion between them about their trip, photography, and experiences.  

Halamka is a practicing architect and founder of Todd Halamka + Partners in downtown Chicago. His focus on railroad photography began in 2011, combining his lifelong love of trains and the outdoors with his fascination for image making.

Dewitz is a photographer based out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He has been published or featured in National Geographic, Trains magazine, Bakken Business Journal, Un-Sung Magazine, Vogue Italia, Cinamagic, Child Model Magazine, International Contemporary Artists Vol. XII, Amtrak brochures, Volume One, and Railfan & Railroad magazine. He is also the author of Blaze Orange – Whitetail Deer Hunting in Wisconsin.

 


Adrienne Evans, archives and preservation
Pre-recorded

Presentation description coming

Evans is the archives manager at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. She received her master’s degree from UW-Madison’s School of Library Information Studies in 2014. She worked at History Colorado for two years before coming to the Center in 2017.

 

Fred Frailey

Kevin P. Keefe


Fred Frailey & Kevin P. Keefe, “ The Railroad, As J. Parker Lamb Saw It”
Live

Fred Frailey and Kevin Keefe offer a wide-ranging selection of photographs from the camera of J. Parker Lamb, one of the key figures in railroading photography during the steam-to-diesel transition era of the 1950s and ’60s. Keefe and Frailey will trade anecdotes about Lamb — each worked extensively with him as authors and editors — and present some of Lamb’s best black-and-white work, much of it from the Center’s new book The Railroad Photography of J. Parker Lamb, as well as additional images from the Center’s Lamb collection. 

Frailey is one of America’s best-known railroad writers. His new book Last Train to Texas is just out from Indiana University Press, joining such other Frailey classics as Blue Streak Merchandise and Twilight of the Great Trains. He has written for Trains magazine for more than forty years and at the end of 2019 ended a long stint as one of its columnists. A Texas native, Frailey studied journalism at the University of Kansas and worked at the Kansas City Star, Chicago Sun-Times, and U.S. News & World Report before he enjoyed a long tenure as editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Keefe is a member of the Center’s board of directors and is a columnist and blogger for Classic Trains magazine. He studied journalism at Michigan State University, worked for eleven years in daily newspapers, and spent twenty-nine years at Kalmbach Publishing Co., where he was a member of the Trains staff for thirteen years, eight as editor. He later served as the magazine’s publisher. He retired in 2016 as Kalmbach’s vice president-editorial. Keefe’s book, Twelve Twenty-Five: The Life and Times of a Steam Locomotive, in 2016 won the Notable Book Award from the Library of Michigan.

 


Justin Franz, “Winners and Losers: The Changing Map of the Northern Transcons”
Live

In “Winners and Losers,” Justin Franz offers a look at the phenomenon of railroad towns along the northern transcontinental corridor. He focuses on how it played out along the Great Northern in Northwest Montana through contemporary images of the area’s two railroads: BNSF Railway’s main line over Marias Pass and the Mission Mountain Railroad’s Kalispell Branch.

Franz is a writer, editor, and photographer who lives in Whitefish, Montana, just steps away from the former Great Northern Railway’s mainline. Franz grew up in Maine where he acquired his interest in trains from his father who spent ten years as a railroader. In 2007, Franz moved to Montana and later graduated with a degree in print journalism from the University of Montana. Franz recently became the associate editor of Railfan & Railroad and Railroad Model Craftsman magazines. His work has appeared in Trains Magazine, Railroad Heritage, Travel & Leisure, Atlas Obscura, New York Times, and Washington Post.

 

Helbok (left) & Hiotis (right)

Oren Helbok & George Hiotis, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the CRPA”
Pre-recorded

Oren Helbok and George Hiotis regale adventures they have had over the past ten years on their travels to the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s annual Conversations conference in Lake Forest.

Helbok was born in the Bronx in 1965 and ran away from a steam locomotive the first time he heard one, at age two, but he very quickly turned around. Oren learned the technical aspects of film photography from his father, John, and spent twenty-five years in darkrooms before raising children and then going digital. Now running a non-profit arts organization in central Pennsylvania, Oren lives closer to more active steam locomotives than he could in any other place in the U.S.

Hiotis is a professional photographer who saw the beginning of his career by borrowing the family camera to take pictures of trains. He made his very first picture at the Jersey Central station in nearby Westfield in the mid-1950s, and his interest advanced beyond the hobby stage in the early 1970s. He has nurtured a great passion for railroads, in both their mechanical and human aspects, most often aiming for an unusual representation. He has won two grand prizes and one second prize in the Trains magazine photo contests.

 


Elrond Lawrence, “Rails Along the Mother Road: the Southwest Transcon”
Live

This personal journey will begin with images from the Santa Fe era and leap forward to examine BNSF’s dynamic Transcon from New Mexico to California, seeking out the traces of Santa Fe heritage and the places that still evoke its mystique. 

Lawrence is a writer, photographer, and public relations professional with a passion for railroads and vintage highways. He grew up in Fontana, California, within sight of Santa Fe Railway’s Second District mainline and former U.S. Highway 66; weekend trips to Barstow with his parents planted the seeds for his book Route 66 Railway, and his daughter completed the circle by traveling with him on photo safaris for that project. Elrond’s work appears in Trains, Railfan, the NRHS Bulletin, and other publications. He lives along California’s central coast near Salinas with wife Laura and three cats and frequently travels to Southern California. In January he was named executive director of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation.

 


Dennis Livesey, Title TBD
Live

Presentation description coming

Long ago, Dennis Livesey saw the light. He is not sure if it was a New Haven Railroad headlight or his father’s slide projector but in either event, he was bitten both by railroads and photography. A graduate of NYU Film School, he had a 34-year career as a camera technician in the movies. Along the way, he convinced an incredible lady named Mel to marry him and raise two outstanding children. Now a camera specialist for a large camera retailer and a volunteer conductor at Steamtown, he photographs trains whenever the light is right.”

 


Scott Lothes, “Return to Copper Country: Rediscovering the Railroads of Clifton and Morenci, Arizona”
Pre-recorded

The copper mining region of far eastern Arizona is home to spectacular railroading and intriguing industrial history. Scott Lothes, the Center’s president and executive director, became fascinated with the area during a college internship in 2000. He recently returned and was pleased to discover that, like a good wine, they have grown even more interesting with time. 

Lothes became the Center’s full-time executive director in 2011, after serving on its staff part-time since 2008. In 2013 he succeeded John Gruber as president and editor of the Center’s journal, Railroad Heritage. He is a regular contributor to Trains, Railfan and Railroad, and other railroad publications, with more than fifty bylined articles and some 500 photographs in print.

 


Ken Rehor, “Lessons from Master Photographers”
Live

Presentation description coming

Bio coming

 

Camron Settlemier, “Northwestern Exposure: Preserving Local Railroads with Video”
Pre-recorded

Presentation description coming

Bio coming

Presenter Gallery

Coming soon

Raffle

Following Conversations tradition, the Center will once again host a raffle for a donated Jim Shaughnessy print. The print is signed by the photographer.

Jim Shaughnessy’s photograph, donated by Jeff Brouws, shows a pair of Canadian Pacific Railway 2-8-2 steam locomotives leading a freight train through Lennoxville, Quebec, in January 1956.

Ticket prices are $10 per ticket, $25 for three, or $40 for five. Ticket purchases will close on Saturday afternoon (exact time TBD) and the entries will be randomized. Scott Lothes will announce the winner live on air following the presenter Q&A.

 

Ticket Number



Attendee Photograph Gallery

Part of the conference includes a gallery of attendees’ photographs. To have an image included in the gallery, please follow these instructions:

Select one of your recent photographs, preferably from the past year, in JPEG format, meeting these required dimensions: 1920 pixels wide or 1200 pixels high. Include the location and date the photograph was taken, and a basic description.

Email the image file to info@railphoto-art.org.

 

Submission deadline: Wednesday, April 15

The gallery will be posted on Saturday, April 18.

 

Trouble Shooting

We recommend downloading and testing Webex prior to the start of Virtual Conversations as it may take a few minutes for the application to get up and running. We will conduct testing sessions during the week of April 13-17 and encourage you to attend one to ensure that your system will work properly. We will announce times by April 13 via email and on this website.

Center staff will not be available to troubleshoot on the day of the conference due to limited resources. If you are experiencing connectivity issues, the most likely cause is lack of bandwidth on your end. We recommend that no other devices that use significant data be used during the conference, and if you have a wireless connection, you may want to sit near your router. If problems persist, it may simply be due to a lack of bandwidth or heavy usage. Our best advice is to exit the conference, close the application, reopen it, and rejoin. Also, make sure to close all other applications and webpages on your computer while using Webex. We apologize for not being able to provide more assistance, and we will record all of the presentations and make them available on our YouTube channel the following week.