R&LHS Marks Centennial; Awards Scholarships

Founded in Boston in 1921, the nonprofit R&LHS “is among the oldest groups dedicated to the history of technology anywhere.,” the organization notes. “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 publishes a twice-yearly journal, Railroad History, a 128-page magazine devoted to the heritage, operations, technology and culture of railroading whose “original scholarship and fresh interpretations set the standard in railway research, through carefully selected articles, photographs, and art.” The Society also gives annual awards for excellence in books, articles, photography, videos and lifetime achievement, and awards research grants to historians undertaking intensive study of railroad heritage, often for book publication. As well, R&LHS providies 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,” the organization says. “Starting in the 1930s, the Pacific Coast Chapter collected dozens of locomotives 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, 4014 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:

  • 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): This 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): This 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): This 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

William D. Middleton and John H. White Jr. Research Fellowships: Named for widely known railroad scholars William D. Middleton (1928-2011, and a long-time Railway Age Contributing Editor) 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.

The winners of 2021 scholarships are:

Left to right: Stanton Schmitz, Matthew Parkes, Benjamin Kletzer
  • Bruce R. Ward Scholarship: Stanton Schmitz, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering at the Michigan Technological University and has a particular interest in the application of artificial intelligence to rail transportation.
  • Edward Myers Scholarship: Matthew Parkes, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois and seeks a career in the railroad industry.
  • George W. Hilton Scholarship: Benjamin Kletzer, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the University of California-San Diego and is writing a dissertation on the development of the Chinese National Railway.

            These three students were selected from a field of 12 applicants. 

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 (1914-2003) of Matteson, Ill., a member of R&LHS for more than 35 years, had been editor of the rail industry trade journal Modern Railroads (which Railway Age acquired in 1992) for 25 years, retiring in 1980.

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