By Scott Lothes/photos as noted
Founded in 1997 the Center for Railroad Photography & Art works with photographers, writers, and historians around the world to offer a new and unprecedented view of the railroad’s influence on American culture through the preservation and presentation of art and photography. The Center does not maintain a museum space but collaborates with other institutions, using the majority of its resources for creative programs. Since the beginning, the Center’s goal has been to offer high-quality public programs associated with photography and art works in all media. The annual “Conversations about Photography” sets the pace for national discussion about contemporary railroad photography and encourages young photographers to become a part of the community.
A full day of world-class imagery and thoughtful discussions about railroad art and photography awaits attendees of Conversations Northeast on Saturday, October 29, 2016, at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. The conference, cohosted by CRPA and Archives & Special Collections of the UConn Library, builds on the success of the Center’s popular Conversations conference in Chicago. Conversations Northeast is a northeastern-themed version, and it will feature a full day of presentations, exhibitions by photographer Jim Shaughnessy and from university’s extensive archives, and several opportunities for socializing including lunch and an evening reception.
The location is the Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, 405 Babbidge Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-1205. Go to the CRPA’s website for more details and registration information.
Central Vermont 2-8-0 steam locomotive no. 471 pulls off the turntable in this view by presenter J.W. “Jack” Swanberg. A career in railroad management gave Swanberg an insider’s view to operations across the northeastern U.S., while his love of trains and travel took him all over the world. He will share photographs and stories from both near and far in his presentation.
A Conrail office car special crosses the Jersey Meadows north of Croxton Yard on the former Erie Railroad main line on August 25, 1989. Photographer Victor Hand grew up just as the age of steam was ending the U.S. After chasing steam all over the world, he eventually came to appreciate diesel locomotives. In homage to Dr. Strangelove, his presentation is titled, “How I learned to stop worrying and love the diesel.”
Jim Shaughnessy is a household name in railroad photography, and for good reason. His views of railroading throughout the U.S. and Canada—and particularly in the Northeast—are both dramatic and contemplative. Still actively photographing today, he looks back on seven decades of railroad photography in his presentation, “The Call of Trains,” which includes this idyllic view of St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County mixed train no. 44 passing horses in Vermont’s Lamoille Valley in 1955.
Railroads were frequently the object of political cartoons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mark Aldrich, a professor of economics at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., has been collecting and studying railroad-themed political cartoons for decades. He will share some of his favorites, along with his observations and commentary about them.
Archives & Special Collections of the University of Connecticut Library houses some 100,000 railroad photographs, including this view of New Haven Railroad train 13, The Forty-Second Street, at Cos Cob, Conn., with FL9 diesel locomotives 2041 and 2021 on April 11, 1961, by William Higginbotham. Archivist Laura Smith is assembling a special exhibition of photography for the conference.
In the early decades of the 20th century, photographer Lewis H. Benton roamed throughout New England, photographing railroad stations and their environs with the aid of Irving Drake. This view shows the Boston & Maine’s depot at West Epping, New Hampshire. The images were often unattributed and scattered to many different collections, but researcher Bob Belletzkie has tracked down hundreds that came to reside at UConn. He will share highlights and discuss his findings at the conference.
This portrait of the East Portal of the Hoosac Tunnel at Florida, Massachusetts, is by photographer Shaun O’Boyle from his series “Portraits of Place.” O’Boyle photographs many features of the landscape and built environment, including rail lines and their infrastructure. He will present selections of his work and discuss his approach.
Attending the Conference
Conversations Northeast will be held at the Thomas J. Dodd Center at the University of Connecticut, 405 Babbidge Road, Unit 1205, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-1205. Please visit to the Center’s website for more details and registration information.
Scott Lothes is president and executive director of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. To date more than 300 of his photographs have appeared in print, along with forty bylined articles in magazines including Trains, Classic Trains, Railfan & Railroad, and Railroads Illustrated.