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Press Release: Rail history group celebrates centennial year


Robert F. Holzweiss, President
6500 Riverstone Drive
Bryan TX 77808

Dan Cupper, Railroad History Editor
4741 Spring Creek Road
Harrisburg, PA 17111

Editors: Images to accompany this release are available by Dropbox at:
Captions for each are contained in Photoshop “File Info” file and also at the bottom of this release.

North America's oldest railroad history organization - the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Inc. - marks its 100th anniversary this year.

Founded in Boston in 1921, the nonprofit R&LHS is among the oldest groups dedicated to the history of technology anywhere. Through its publications, its 10 regional chapters, and its outreach programs, the group tells the stories of how and why railroads were and still are important.

"Only a few organizations last for a century," said Robert F. Holzweiss, president of the 2,200-member group. "We're proud to represent the heritage of an industry that is an underpinning of America's economy and society. The United States as we know it today would simply not exist without the linkages made by the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 and the settlement - with its pros and cons - that followed."

R&LHS sponsors studies in these ways:

  • Publishing the twice-yearly journal Railroad History, a 128-page magazine devoted to the heritage, operations, technology, and culture of railroading. Its original scholarship and fresh interpretations set the standard in railway research, through carefully selected articles, photographs, and art.
  • Giving annual awards for excellence in books, articles, photography, videos, and lifetime achievement.
  • Awarding research grants to historians undertaking intensive study of railroad heritage, often for book publication.
  • Providing scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in the field of railroad operations or history.
Some R&LHS chapters are highly active in preserving and displaying historic locomotives and cars. Starting in the 1930s, the Pacific Coast Chapter collected dozens of engines and cars, as well as other artifacts, that in 1981 became the core of the 100,000-square-foot, world-class California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. CSRM is part of the California State Parks system. R&LHS' collection of paper artifacts (photos, prints, books, maps, timetables) is housed at CSRM.

More recently, the Southern California Chapter released its largest display artifact, "Big Boy" steam locomotive No. 4014, back to the Union Pacific Railroad for restoration to operating condition. Weighing more than a million pounds and measuring 132 feet long, the engine was built in 1941. It was retired in 1961 and donated to the Southern California Chapter's RailGiants Museum in Pomona, Calif. Now the largest operating steam locomotive in the world, it has been seen by more than 1.1 million people during multiple tours made throughout the Midwest and West along Union Pacific lines.

Railroad History

Started in 1921 as The Bulletin of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, the journal Railroad History has a long record of covering North American railroading in depth. The name was changed in 1972.

Issued twice a year in perfect-bound format, the 128-page publication features stories about operations, technology, engineering, labor, business, law, and culture, with a lively presentation of photographs, maps, lithographs, artifacts, and ephemera to illustrate these themes. The articles represent original research and writing, with an occasional excerpt from a forthcoming book. Writers range from accomplished authors to well-versed historians to professors and graduate and doctoral students.

In addition, Railroad History publishes 20 to 30 book reviews in each issue, with a roster of some 80 reviewers ready to evaluate the latest offerings, whether they be from the trade press, consumer/ enthusiast press, or academic press.

Among stories published by Railroad History are:

  • How telegraphy changed railroading (2021)
  • Slave labor and the North Carolina railroads (2020)
  • The roots of the modern railroad merger movement (2020)
  • America's first transcontinental luxury train: The Golden Gate Special (2020)
  • How Yellow Fever affected railroads, their managers, and their passengers (2019)
  • A review of the Union Pacific, first transcontinental railroad, on the 150th anniversary of its 1869 completion (2019)
  • Three-part history of Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, once North America's leading producer of diesel-electric locomotives (2018-2019)
  • Biography of Charles H. Carruthers, 1847-1920, an artist who drew pen-and-ink and color portraiture of rare 19th century locomotives (2018)
  • Penn Central, 50 years later (2017)
  • Publicity films sponsored by the railroad industry (2016)
  • Irish railroad workers in southeastern Pennsylvania (2014)
  • Jack Delano's Depression-era photographic exploration of the Santa Fe Railway (2014)
  • Transporting WWII prisoners of war on the Pennsylvania Railroad (2011)
  • Toronto's Victorian stations (2010)
  • Black female railroaders (2009)
  • William Jennings Bryan and the 1896 presidential whistle-stop campaign (2008)
  • Fighting a 1914 blizzard with the wireless on the Lackawanna Railroad (2008)

Railroad History Awards

David P. Morgan Article Award (started 1982)
The award is given for an outstanding periodical article or paper within the preceding three years of lasting significance to the interpretation of North America's railroading history. Morgan (1927-1990) was editor of Trains magazine from 1953 to 1987 and was best known for his lean, perceptive prose and his expansion of the limits of photojournalism among contributors.

George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award (started 1982)
This award is given for a book published within the preceding three years of lasting value to the interpretation of North American railroading history. Hilton (1925-2014) was an economics professor at UCLA and a historian. Among his books are Cable Railways of Chicago, The Electric Interurban Railways of America, The Great Lakes Car Ferries, and The Ma & Pa: A History of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad.

Fred A. and Jane R. Stindt Photography Award (started 1982)
The award is given for a significant body of work over a long period of time, or a single photographic project or publication, making an outstanding contribution to the photographic interpretation of North America's railroad history. Stindt (1911-1992) was a prolific California photographer and author.

Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award (started 1982)
The award is made for significant and long-standing contributions to the writing, preservation, and interpretation of railroad history. Best (1895-1985) was an accomplished author, having written more than a dozen books on railroad history.

John E. Gruber Video Award (started 2017)
This award is given for outstanding video projects that creatively and accurately educate viewers about one or more aspects of North America’s railroading history. Gruber (1936-2018) was a renowned photographer, an accomplished writer and editor, and founder of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Research Fellowships

William D. Middleton and John H. White Jr. Research Fellowships
Named for widely known railroad scholars William D. Middleton (1928-2011) and John H. White Jr. (1933-), these $2,500 awards are intended to encourage new and established scholars to research and publish their findings on railroad history.

Scholarships (started 2020)

R&LHS offers scholarships to promote the study, at a professional academic level, of railroad history and operations. Started in 2020, the scholarships are named in honor of three individuals, George W. Hilton, Edward Myers, and Bruce R. Ward, who bequeathed funds to the R&LHS for this purpose.

Awards are made in the amount of $3,000 per academic year to both advanced undergraduate (3rd and 4th year) and graduate students. The program is open to students majoring in history and transportation/ transportation logistics, or other majors where the student's work has a demonstrated connection to railroad operations, engineering, and history.

George W. Hilton (1925-2014) was an economics professor at UCLA, and also an accomplished historian, writing a number of books on railroads and ships, including The Ma & Pa: A History of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad, The Great Lakes Car Ferries, and The Night Boat.

Bruce R. Ward (1934-2010) was a California engineer who worked for Lockheed Corp., and was a live-steam model railroad enthusiast, steam historian, and photographer. A member of R&LHS, he was also a 46-year member of the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum. He traveled the world in search of steam locomotives to photograph, visiting Canada, Mexico, England, Denmark, Germany, France, and South Africa.

Edward T. Myers of Matteson, Ill., a member of R&LHS for more than 35 years, had been editor of the trade journal Modern Railroads for 25 years, retiring in 1980. He died in 2003 at age 89.

R&LHS Regional Chapter Press Contacts

New York Chapter (founded 1934) New York City area

Tommy Meehan, chairman
914 513-9265 (cell)

Pacific Coast Chapter (1937) San Francisco/Sacramento

Ron Swehla, chairman
916-832-2436 (cell)

Southern California Chapter (1953) Los Angeles

Paul Guercio
410-491-1814 (cell)

Southwest Chapter (1981) El Paso, Texas

Stephen Heetland, chairman
915-540-9660 (cell)

Southeast Chapter (1989) Jacksonville, Fla.

Lee Witten, secretary
801-476-1209 (landline)

Steve Jones, chairman
801-394-1521 (landline)

Lackawanna Chapter (1997) Scranton, Pa.

Ken Miller
908-217-3553 (cell)

Mid-South Chapter (2009) Birmingham, Ala.

Marvin Clemons, past president
205-533-3766 (cell)

South Central States Chapter (2010) Fort Worth, Texas

Robert H. Tigner, chairman
817-999-4235 (cell)

Steel City Chapter (2017) Pittsburgh

v Kevin Varrato, president
412-969-1620 (cell)

R&LHS National Officer Press Contacts

Robert Holzweiss, president

Bryan, Texas

979-575-8164 (cell)

Dan Cupper, editor, Railroad History

Harrisburg, Pa.

9717-756-3116 (cell)

Jerry Angier, secretary

Scarborough, Maine

207-831-4854 (cell)

Ron Goldfeder, membership chairman

St. Louis, Mo.

314-432-5726 (cell)

William Howes, VP-member services

Jacksonville, Fla.

904-891-3540 (cell)

Alden Dreyer, corporate clerk

Shelburne, Mass.

413-625-6384 (cell)


Images to accompany this release are available by Dropbox at:
Captions for each are contained in Photoshop "File Info" file, and are repeated below:

01 R&LHS' oval-shaped logo was created by noted industrial designer Otto Kuhler in 1932.

02 Variations on the R&LHS centennial logo.

03 R&LHS Founder and President Charles E. Fisher at a dinner honoring the New York Central Railroad on February 16, 1945. Fisher raised the society's profile by nurturing such relationships with senior railroad management. R&LHS archives

04 From 1927 until 1957, except for a war-induced interval between 1942 and 1948, the R&LHS maintained its headquarters, archives, and members' reading room in premises provided by Harvard Business School's Baker Library. Wall space was at a premium, with more than 200 framed images on display. Since 1995, the society's document archives have resided at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. R&LHS archives

05 Observation-car drumhead sign adorning a July 25, 1937, R&LHS New York Chapter excursion train operated by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania photo

06 In repatriating 4-8-8-4 Big Boy steam engine No. 4014 to Union Pacific Railroad for restoration in 2013, the R&LHS Southern California Chapter ensured that Americans could once again experience the pinnacle of steam-locomotive operation. The largest operating steam locomotive in the world, it is shown here on public display at West Chicago, Ill., on July 29, 2019. Dan Cupper photo

07 The world's largest operating steam locomotive, Union Pacific Railroad "Big Boy" No. 4014, thunders through Nelson, Ill., on July 30, 2019. After its retirement, the R&LHS' Southern California Chapter in 1962 accepted it as a prized static display piece. Later, the chapter agreed to return it to UP in order for the railroad to restore it to operating condition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Dan Cupper photo

08 Then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan were guests of the R&LHS Pacific Coast Chapter at a dinner aboard the Chapter's private car Gold Coast on July 13, 1970. As a result of that meeting, during which the chapter's Dr. Denny Anspach (center) outlined a vision for the PCC's equipment collection, Gov. Reagan initiated public funding for what became the California State Railroad Museum. Opened in 1981 in Sacramento, CSRM is known for its dramatic exhibits. Bob Church photo

09a A postwar streamlined passenger diesel locomotive of the Southern Pacific Railroad shares display space in the California State Railroad Museum with "Little Buttercup," an 1899 Santa Fe Railway steam switching locomotive. Dan Cupper photo

09b Virginia & Truckee Railroad locomotive No. 12, named "Genoa," a Baldwin Locomotive Works product of 1873, shines in the spotlight alongside polished 19th century wooden passenger cars at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Dan Cupper photo