The California State Railroad Museum photograph collection numbers over one million images in print (black and white, and color) and negative (film and glass plate) formats. Black and white images predominate. Over 4,000 corporate entities are represented. Both amateur and professional photographers as well as railroad and manufacturing companies have contributed photographic images to the Library. Every conceivable aspect of railroading has been captured on film. Although images of locomotives and rolling stock are the most common subject, users will also find views of trains, stations, shops and yards, bridges and buildings, as well as scenes of construction, railroad employees and documentation of significant events. Images which contain identified individuals have been catalogued separately in a portrait file.
Selections from the Southern Pacific public relations file (the surviving file is now housed at the Union Pacific Collection in Omaha) are available for study. The Southern Pacific Engineering Department print file contains rare views of construction in Oregon, California and Arizona in the early twentieth century. Early Western Pacific construction is also well documented. A donation from Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway provides in-depth coverage of early to mid-twentieth century rolling stock production, with an emphasis on freight cars. Researchers can study Pacific Fruit Express Company photographs which feature refrigerator cars and icing facilities. The Library has copies of the color specification sheets compiled by the Baldwin Locomotive Works (the original documents are held by Stanford University).
Photograph collections assembled by San Francisco Bay Area railroad enthusiasts Paul Darrell, Gilbert H. Kneiss, Roger Levenson, Warren Marcus, Stanley F. Merritt, and Louis L. Stein, Jr. have been added to the collection. There are also reference prints of railroad-related images by early Western photographers Alfred A. Hart, Lawrence and Houseworth, and Isaiah West Taber.
The photographic collections are housed in closed stacks. Library staff page files for patron use. Loose prints are filed in acid-free folders which are arranged in alphabetical order by corporate name, and if quantity warrants, further divided alphabetically by subject. Subject headings may be further subdivided by geographical or numerical order. Prints which lack any corporate identification are filed by subject. The donor’s name and the negative number (if available) are marked on the back of the print. Unless condition or other restrictions apply, reference prints may be ordered.*
Prints from various collections have been interfiled into a single and extensive alphabetical sequence – the California State Railroad Museum collection. The following photographic files are maintained separately from the Museum collection.
The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society deposited its research collection at the Museum in 1982. Over 300,000 photographs are arranged by corporate name and then by subject. The R&LHS collection is especially strong in its coverage of eastern and mid-western lines, but California and Nevada railroads are also well represented.
The photograph and negative collection of Lucius Beebe (1902-1966) and Charles Clegg (1916-1979) was acquired in 2000 through a combination of purchase and donation. The pair are perhaps the best-known and certainly among the most prolific authors and photographers to have graced the North American railroad scene. Secured from Charles Clegg’s sister, Ann Clegg Holloway and her husband John E. Holloway, of Washington, D.C., the collection includes more than 11,000 photographs and over 4,000 original black and white negatives. Also included in the collection are prints from the collections of other well known railroad photographers such as Gerald Martin Best, Philip Ross Hastings, M.D., Fred Jukes, Stan Kistler, and Richard Steinheimer. Beebe was among the first popular authors to gain access to the Pullman Company archives and the collection includes many enlargements and contact prints of opulent cars built by Pullman. Contact the Library for more information regarding access to this collection.
The Gerald Martin Best Collection was donated to the Museum Library in 1986. Mr. Best (1895-1985) was a railroad photographer, modeler, and the author of numerous histories such as Iron Horses to Promontory and Nevada County Narrow Gauge. The photograph collection includes over 70,000 prints and 55,000 negatives, documenting more than 2,500 North American railroads. Prints are arranged by corporate name. Nearly all of the images are roster shots of steam locomotives. These have been further arranged in road number order. There are also train shots, and some coverage of diesel power and rolling stock. Not all prints have negatives, nor do all negatives have prints. A photocopy of the cards Mr. Best used to record date and location identification is available; however, it is not always possible to precisely link this data with a specific print.
California author Robert M. Hanft presented his negative collection to the Museum in 1995. Dr. Hanft is the author of several railroad histories including San Diego & Arizona: The Impossible Railroad and Pine Across the Mountain: California’s McCloud River Railroad. Steam locomotives from the 1930s as well as electric traction equipment and first generation diesel-electrics are the focus of Dr. Hanft’s work. The 17,000-plus piece collection was largely photographed by the donor but includes select examples of work from other notable railroad photographers. Although there are no reference prints at this time, Dr. Hanft prepared a detailed inventory of the collection. The negatives are arranged by corporate name and then by road number.
The black and white negative and color slide collection of Philip R. Hastings, M.D. was donated by his family in 1997. Dr. Hastings (1925-1987) was well known for the many illustrated articles which appeared in Trains during the 1950s and 1960s as well as his contributions to and authorship of numerous railroad books. His images often centered on the surroundings and people of the railroading rather than a traditional view of a locomotive or train. In the collection are 46,000-plus black and white negatives, about 4,000 prints, and over 32,000 35 mm color transparencies. Dr. Hastings arranged his negatives by railroad name and then grouped them together by date photographed or topic. Coverage is nationwide with an emphasis on mid-west and eastern lines. Please contact the Library for more information regarding access to the collection.
The Pullman Company builder’s photograph collection numbers over 4,100 glass plate and film negatives. The collection was assembled through purchase and the gift of Arthur D. Dubin and the late George Krambles. The majority of the images are exterior and interior views of passenger cars and date from the late 1880s to the early 1940s. There are also views of freight cars, trucks, windows and chairs, as well as a series documenting shop activities. A database provides access to images by railroad name, car name or number, lot or plan number, Pullman negative number, and date. The Library is assembling a master file of Pullman prints for review. This set includes images for which the Library does not have an original negative. Both the negative and print files are arranged in Pullman negative number order.
Search the Pullman Company Negatives online catalog.
The California State Railroad Museum equipment collection photograph file documents the motive power, rolling stock and miscellaneous track vehicles owned by the Museum. Prints and slides taken prior to arrival at the Museum are arranged in albums by railroad and then in chronological order. Prints and slides of CSRM equipment taken during the restoration process as well as images documenting display and use subsequent to acquisition are also available.
*Unless condition, copyright or other restrictions apply, reference prints from the Museum’s photographic collections may be ordered.