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Hal Lewis

Hal Lewis, 2013 winner

For Harold O. “Hal” Lewis (1931-2016}, railroad photography was essentially his social life while an aeronautics student at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. This experience launched a lifelong commitment to railroad history and railroad preservation, bringing him the R&LHS’s 2013 Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award. Mark Entrop, awards committee chair, and John Gruber presented the certificate to Lewis at his home in San Jose, California, in March 2013.

While at Purdue, Lewis made friends with New York Central engine crews who saw him trackside with his camera. “I began to get cab rides and I was soon taught to fire. The fireman would run the engine, I would fire and the engineer would sit on the seatbox behind me. Passenger engineers did not like to fire because they had lost the skills and had no desire to relearn them. I rode from Lafayette to Indianapolis, 60 miles and Lafayette to Kankakee, 75 miles,” often studying between runs, he said.

Lewis preserved these experiences in print. They are described in “Firing the Hosier Hudsons” (Railfan and Railroad, July 1991). His Classic Trains photos (Summer 2002, Fall 2002, Fall 2003, and Spring 2009) also focus on the Purdue years. A profile of him appeared in Railroad Heritage 31 (2012).

He graduated from Purdue in 1953 from the School of Aeronautics. He worked for the Boeing Company in Seattle from 1953 to 1958, then at Lockeed in Sunnyvale, California, until retiring in 1989. “Shortly after, I joined the Central Coast-NRHS Chapter convention committee that was in the planning stage for the 1992 National Convention. I was named the Rail Operations Manager. This turned out to be a very successful convention, both operationally and financially.” A nonprofit was formed with Central Coast and three other railfan groups, called the Pacific Limited Group (PLG). Lewis was vice-president. PLG trips on the UP using the UP steam locomotives and UP passenger cars, the last being the last excursion train over Tennessee Pass in 1997.

Lewis died August 27, 2016. He had been a resident of San Jose for 52 years.

Lewis has made important and significant contribution to railroad history and preservation. R&LHS is proud to recognize these achievements with the 2013 senior achievement award.

The announcement appeared in Railroad History, Spring-Summer 2013.