Close this search box.

Railroads and Photography: 150 Years of Great Images

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum has been selected as a venue for the Center For Railroad Photograph & Art’s traveling photographic exhibition. This exhibition, “Railroads and Photography: 150 Years of Great Images,” opens at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum on November 1st in the ground floor of the Transportation Building. Not only was the Museum selected as a venue but also there are two photographs included in the show of the Nevada Northern Railway.

The theme of the exhibition examines the close relationship of railroading with the growth of America. Steel rails, the “iron horse,” and the railroader made much of the country’s development possible. Scarce indeed is the American whose family tree does not include a railroader or whose life has not been influenced by the railroad.

Railroad companies employed photographers to record the building of the eastern and western railroads and opening of the West. Artwork commissioned by the companies played an equally significant role in American life. Today an ever-increasing number of artists and photographers portray the romance, history, and continuing development of railroading.

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art recognizes that important, frequently overlooked relationship. Artists and photographers over the years have produced a vast number of visual images, which capture the importance and excitement of American railroading. The center’s goals are preservation and presentation of railroad-related photography and art. We are committed to interpreting high-quality images to the public in a variety of traditional and nontraditional ways.

The exhibition recognizes that railroading and photography grew up together. Only a few years separate the beginning of US railroading in 1827 and the first photographic image–and the iron horse soon became a favorite subject.

A decade after railroading gained a toehold in America, Louis Daguerre invented the first practical photographic process. Samuel F. B. Morse, a painter better known for his telegraph code, brought the daguerreotype to the US in 1839. An undated view of the 1848 locomotive “Tioga” is among the earliest American railroad photographs and is included in the exhibition.

Railroads pioneered the field of industrial photography, first as a way to record their locomotives and later to promote travel by rail. Beginning in the 1930s, impressive photo books brought new attention to rail photography. Through the years, the tie between railroading and photography has remained strong, maintained by professionals, railroad companies, and skilled amateurs alike.

These examples of railroad-inspired creativity only hint at the 150-year legacy of thousands of talented men and women. The outstanding images suggest how deeply railroading has affected our culture, our visual heritage, and our daily lives.

Railroading was an agent of change and a powerful tool. With it, men and women reshaped the continent and made our modern existence possible. Those same Americans used and enjoyed photography both for personal creative expression and as a powerful tool for change and development. The camera and the locomotive grew up together.

Jointly, railroading and photography permit us to look back over the last century and a half and realize how far we have come. But some things do not change. It is safe to assume that for as long as trains rumble through the landscape, folks at trackside will capture the moment with an image.

We thank the Donnelley Library, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois, for sharing photographs in the Munson Paddock Collection, and photographers who contributed to the exhibition.

The Exhibition Photographs
Listed chronologically by photographer

1. Unidentified; Tioga, built in 1848 for the Philadelphia & Columbia, among the earliest known railroad photos (Smithsonian Institution).

2. Alfred A. Hart (1816-1908);Central Pacific at Cape Horn (Barry J. Swackhamer Collection).

3. Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902); Dan Casement and clerks at Echo City (Union Pacific Museum Collection) Golden spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah (Union Pacific Museum Collection).

4. John Reid (1835-1911); Rosendale bridge, Wallkill Valley, New York, 1872 Locomotive R. Peters, 4-4-0, New Jersey Locomotive and Machine Company #479, built 1866 for Atlanta and West Point in Georgia (from original glass plate negatives) (Lake Forest College).

5. Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916); Lumberyard for the Comstock south of Carson City, Nevada, in 1876, with Virginia & Truckee engine I. E. James amid mining timbers. (Nevada State Railroad Museum).

6. John B. Silvis (1830-1900); Winnemucca family, Nevada (Barry J. Swackhamer Collection).

7. John G. Hyde (active 1880s); From Our Indian Summer in the Far West, published in London in 1880 (Lake Forest College).

8. H. H. Bennett (1843-1908); Train crew, Minnesota, 1881 (H. H. Bennett Studio Foundation), Buena Vista, Iowa, 1881 (H. H. Bennett Studio Foundation).

9. William Henry Jackson (1843-1942); Toltec Gorge, New Mexico, 1881, photochrome (Library of Congress).

10. William H. Rau (1855-1920); Panorama of Horseshoe Curve, Altoona, Pennsylvania, 1900s (Railroaders Memorial Museum).

11. J. Foster Adams (1882-1962); Fast freight near Fairchild, Wisconsin, 1904 (State Historical Society of Wisconsin/Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society).

12. Perrie Mahaffey (1887-1961); Broadway Limited at Night, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 1930 (California State Railroad Museum).

13. Unidentified; Carriso Gorge, San Diego & Arizona Eastern (John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library, St. Louis Mercantile Library).

14. Adolph Presler (1897-1987); Kaufmann and Fabry, Chicago. Five Titans, steam locomotives in Chicago, 1937 (Illinois Central Railroad).

15. Unidentified; New York Central’s 20th Century Limited, Chicago, 1938 (Arthur Dubin Collection, Lake Forest College).

16. Albert Phelps (1917-1994); Outback meet of Nevada Northern varnish from Ely and Southern Pacific’s eastbound Challenger at Cobre, Nevada, in July 1941. (Nevada State Railroad Museum).

17. William Rittase (1887-1968); Chesapeake & Ohio locomotives at Clifton Forge, Virginia, 1944 (C&O Historical Society).

18. Howard Earl Day (1911-1975); “Lonely traveler,” St. Louis Union Station, early 1940s (St. Louis Mercantile Library).

19. Esther Bubley (1921-1998); CB&Q worker, Princeton, Illinois, 1948 (Newberry Library, Chicago).

20. Charles M. Clegg (1916-1979); Tremont and Gulf crosses swamp trestle east of Rochelle, Louisiana (Anne Clegg Holloway); End of track, San Luis Valley Central, Colorado (Anne Clegg Holloway).

21. Ted Wurm, Oakland, California; Virginia & Truckee locomotive 27 and train no. 2 at Carson City, Nevada, May 30, 1950 (Nevada State Railroad Museum).

22. Clyde Hare, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Steam train at twilight, Pittsburgh, 1951 (Center).

23. *Richard Steinheimer, Sacramento, California; Winter at Thistle, Utah, 1951 (Center); Leased Rio Grande diesels at Mina, Nevada, New Year’s Eve, 1971 (Center).

24. *Stan Kistler, Grass Valley, California; Southern Pacific Cab Forward, Colton, California, 1952 (Center).

25. *Jim Shaughnessy, Troy, New York; Boston & Maine and covered bridge at Bath, New Hampshire, 1953. (Center); Central Vermont at St. Albans, Vermont, 1956 (Center).

26. Robert Hale (1912-1992); Norfolk & Western 2-6-6-4 locomotive, Virginia, 1950s (M. D. McCarter collection); Second 24, Grand Canyon Limited, Cajon Pass, California, 1950s (M. D. McCarter collection).

27. *William D. Middleton, Charlottesville, Virginia; Chicago & North Western Station, Madison, Wisconsin, 1955.

28. *James P. Gallagher (1920-2002); Maryland & Pennsylvania, Gross Trestle, 1955.

29. *Philip R. Hastings (1925-1987); The Mohawk that Refused to Abdicate, Shelby, Ohio, 1955 (California State Railroad Museum).

30. *O. Winston Link (1914-2001); Train No. 2 Crossing Bridge 425, Arcadia, Virginia (Front View), 1956 (Lent by Link trust).

31. Henry R. Griffiths Jr. (1916-1997); Early morning sun lights up the rear of a Union Pacific loaded reefer train, Ogden yards, 1956 (Jim Griffiths).

32. *David Plowden, Winnetka, Illinois; Canadian Pacific (former Boston & Maine) depot in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

33. *J. Parker Lamb, Austin, Texas; Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Meadowlark (RDC car), Vermilion River, 1959.

34. Steve Patterson, Arvada, Colorado; Elk River Coal & Lumber Co. Shay 19 and train cross creek bed filled with water, West Virginia, 1961 (Patterson).

35. *John Gruber, Madison, Wisconsin; Duluth & North Eastern in below zero weather, Cloquet, Minnesota., 1962; Rochester 400 in the fog, Madison, Wisconsin, 1962.

36. Chris Burger, Russiaville, Indiana; Handing Up Train Orders, New York Central, Mentzer, Ohio, 1964 (Center).

37. Gordon Osmundson, Oakland, California; Eccentric Crank, Southern Pacific 4449, 1975; Hook and Boom, Nevada Northern, Ely.

38. Shirley Burman, Sacramento, California; Southern Pacific forge shop, Sacramento, 1980. (Center).

39. *Ted Benson, Modesto, California; Sierra Railroad, “First Light, Canyon Tank,” 1985; San Jose, California, Station, 1985.

40. Brian Solomon, Monson, Massachusetts; Starrucca Viaduct in Pennsylvania, 1989, color (Center).

41. Mel Patrick, Denver, Colorado; Looking westward on the D&RGW main line between Cedar and Mounds, Utah, in May 1996. First prize winner in the March 1997 Trains photo contest, color. (Center).

42. Tim Doherty, East Hampton, Massachusetts; Leaving Iona Island along the Hudson River, 1998, color (Doherty); Conrail business train, Canisteo Valley, New York, 1998, color (Doherty).

*Winner of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society national award for photography.

The center, incorporated in 1997 as a nonprofit Wisconsin organization, has received 501(c)3 status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The Donnelley Library at Lake Forest (Illinois) College serves as the center’s archive. A journal, Railroad Heritage, is mailed to donors of $40 or more a year, of which $10 is reserved for a subscription. Send gifts to P.O. Box 259330, Madison, WI 53725-9330.

The exhibit is open for public viewing Wednesday through Mondays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s Transportation building.

Our traveling exhibition, “Railroads and Photography: 150 Years of Great Images,” opened in 1999 at Railfair at the California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento, and moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania; Madison, Wisconsin; Lake Forest, Illinois; Champaign, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Temple, Texas; and Carson City, Nevada, and Lisle, Illinois.

Accessibility Toolbar

Hours of Operation

Monday - Saturday | 8AM - 5PM
Sunday | 8AM - 4PM

Our Location

1100 Ave A, Ely, NV 89301

Become a Member and Save!

Members get discounts on admissions, experiences, trains, tours, gifts and more.