|For his creative color photography documenting railroad history for more than 60 years, R&LHS presented its 2014 Fred A. and Jane R. Stindt Photography Award to Tom Gildersleeve, Santa Clarita, California. His production of high quality duplicate slide sets also contributed to preservation of the visual history of railroads.
“I started taking pictures in 1948 in black and white, but it was seeing what my brother did in color on a trip to Oregon and Washington in 1950 that almost instantly converted me to color. Color was like being there! I got a 35mm Argus C-3 for Christmas in 1950, at which time I was 13 years old, and never looked back.” Gildersleeve said.
Since then, his work has been published in at least 48 books (one of which he co-authored with Nils Huxtable, Narrow Gauge…then and now) and in calendars, magazines, cards, and video jackets. He wrote one article on night photography for Rail Classics Magazine in 1973, while for Classic Trains he has written and illustrated “Early Days in the O.C. [Orange County],” Fall 2012, and “Cab-Forward Curtain Call,” Winter 2007. His 1951 picture of Santa Fe 3751 is one of only a handful of color views of it in regular service. He was Winterail’s Hall of Fame recipient in 2012.
In his professional life, he was a civil engineer. He graduated from Stanford in late 1959. He returned from the Air Force in 1963 and took up a career with the Division of Highways, later Caltrans. He spent most of his time doing design work on highways and freeways, but did have a 10-year stint in maintenance. He retired from Caltrans in 2000, but spent another three years in post retirement work with the agency negotiating with cities about relinquishing state highways to them, finally reaching full retirement in 2003.
Looking back, he expresses much satisfaction with his duplicate slide production. “I have talked about my photography, but I have long thought that what I did with dupes was my most significant contribution to railroad history. Probably at least 80 percent of what I duped originated with other photographers, much of it taken long before I was either active as a photographer or had the skill I later acquired. My duping has given that material a leg up in the preservation department. Some of the originals I worked with literally no longer exist, but because of the dupes the images continue to survive.”
Stan Kistler presented the R&LHS certificate to Gildersleeve at Winterail on March 8 at Stockton, California. The full citation will appear in Railroad History.