R&LHS presents Railroad History Awards

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Written by

Dan Cupper, Editor – Railroad History, Railway & Locomotive Historical Society

The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society presented John P. Hankey (left) with an Achievement Award; Brian Solomon (center) with a photography award; the late William L. Withuhn (right) with a literary award; and Bill Leistiko and Gregg Ames with magazine article awards.

The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS) has announced the winners of its annual Railway History Awards program. The awards recognize superior achievement as well as outstanding work in photography and in book and magazine writing.

After a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, R&LHS has resumed its program and now honors:

  • John P. Hankey with the Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award for 2020.
  • Brian Solomon with the Fred A. and Jane R. Stindt Photography Award for 2020.
  • William L. Withuhn (posthumous) with the George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award for 2020.
  • Bill Leistiko with the David P. Morgan Article Award for 2020.
  • Gregg Ames with the David P. Morgan Article Award for 2019.

Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award

John P. Hankey is a fifth-generation railroader from Baltimore & Ohio whose work in the theory, study, and interpretation of railroads has brought him to the forefront of heritage preservation. 2022 marks half a century of his professional involvement in the field.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Hankey got his big break when he was hired as a historian and archivist for the Chessie System (B&O, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Western Maryland) at the B&O Railroad Museum, where the focus then was on B&O’s 150th anniversary celebration.

He later served as a B&O brakeman, hostler, locomotive firefighter and engineer, and researcher at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. After graduating from the University of Delaware, he returned to the B&O Museum as chief curator, director of interpretation, and general manager of railroad operations from 1989 to 1993. He played a major role in the separation of the museum of the Chessie CSX successor and its creation. as an independent non-profit organization.

Hankey has consulted for a wide range of museums, historical societies, projects and film/television/radio productions. Its client list includes the National Park Service; California State Railroad Museum; Pennsylvania Railroad Museum; Western Maryland Scenic Railroad; and the Georgia State Railroad Museum. He was the lead nominating author and part of the planning team for the listing of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in the National Historic Landmarks Survey in 2013.

Hankey is the author of over 100 articles on the history, preservation or interpretation of railroads. He also led 120 railroad-related study tours in the United States and Europe. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he taught courses in railroad history and the history of technology. Hankey is working on two books on B&O related topics. He lives in Omaha with his wife, Sharon Wood, a history professor at the University of Nebraska.

George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award

William L. Withuhn (1941-2017) enjoyed a 27-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, largely as a curator of transportation. His book American Steam Locomotives: Design and Development, 1880-1960 was published by Indiana University Press with financial support from the R&LHS.

The 464-page book is a technical study of the steam locomotive between 1880 and the end of steam operation in public transport service. Based on the seminal work of John H. White Jr. American Locomotives: A History of Engineering, 1830-1880 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), Withuhn introduced the subject in the mid-twentieth century, emphasizing design improvements to meet changing operating requirements and increased performance.

A licensed locomotive engineer, Withuhn qualified on the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1966 and operated several steam engines throughout his career, including Smithsonian’s 1831 John Bullwhich he helped prepare for living history demonstration races.

Withuhn has devoted most of his professional life to research American steam locomotives, often submitting portions of the manuscript to partially meet the fellowship requirement during its annual performance review. He died in 2017 at age 75 before the manuscript was ready. With support from his widow, Gail, and careful editing by the late Peter A. Hansen, editor of History of the railway (2007-2020), the book was completed and published in 2019. It ranks as the definitive work on the history of post-1880 steam locomotives and steam locomotive technology.

Fred A. and Jane R. Stindt Photography Prize

Brian Solomon is one of the most prolific and well-known names in railway photography. He is also one of the most prolific names in publishing, having written and illustrated more than 60 books, including Rails around the world; Brian Solomon’s Rail Guide to Europe; Depots, stations and rail terminals; Railway signaling; and North American railroad bridges.

Solomon received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY) and worked in photo lab management and commercial photography. His articles and photographs have appeared in The Age of the Railroad, Trains, railroad explorer, Railfan and railway, Bulletin of the National Railway History Societygermany Modelleisenbahner, Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society, and the UK Railway review.

As a child, Solomon often traveled with his father, Richard Jay Solomon, and his first railroad photo was an Ektachrome image he had taken before he was 6 years old. By the age of 9 he was developing his own film, and on his 10th birthday his father presented him with a pre-war Leica 3A screw-type rangefinder which taught him the basics of the craft. Over time, Solomon’s work has encompassed black and white color positive, Kodachrome and Fujichrome film, as well as various digital formats. He has photographed trains in over 30 countries.

Responsible for marketing and events for the Conway Scenic Railroad in New Hampshire, Solomon also produces a daily railway photography blog and writes a monthly column for The trains.

David P. Morgan Paper Awards for 2020, 2019

The David P. Morgan Article Award honors “a distinguished article of enduring significance to the interpretation of North American railroad history.”

Bill Leistiko won the 2020 award for his three-part series, “Silvis Shops,” published in Remember the Rock Flight. 12, Nos. 1 and 2 (2018); Flight. 12, Nos. 3 and 4 (2018); and Vol. 13, Nos. 1 and 2 (2019).

Leisitko’s articles provide a comprehensive look at the rise and life of one of the most important stores on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. The story begins with the “why” and “where” of the original Silvis (Ill.) Shops site. He then explains how the stores were built and equipped. The third and final installment, a social story, covers the people who made it all work. His articles also include photographs of industrial equipment and the workers who used it.

Growing up in Rock Island, Illinois, seven miles from Silvis, Leistiko had a childhood friend whose father worked in Silvis. He saw the Rock Island trains almost daily, and as a Cub, he toured the Silvis yard. He is retired from a 30-year career in the Air Force.

Gregory P. Ames received the 2019 award for “Mother Hubbards’ Bone of Contention: In Search of the ICC ‘Ban’ on Mother Hubbard Locomotives”, published in History of the railway No. 219 (Fall-Winter 2018).

Railroad history, like other types of history, is replete with myths, one of the most enduring of which Ames demolishes. Ames set out to find evidence of the oft-mentioned but never documented Interstate Commerce Commission “ban” on the use of Camelback-type steam locomotives, which place the cab astride the boiler. Using primary sources, he destroys the myth. As he argues, there have been no ICC rulings or orders banning the locomotives. Although controversial, the practice of physically separating the engineer from the firefighter to accommodate a large combustion chamber has never been banned nationally.

The grandson of an Erie Railroad yardmaster, Ames wrote more than 20 articles for The trains, History of the railway, Railway heritage, The diamond (magazine of the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society) and others. He is also the author of the book Old Maud: America’s first Mallet locomotive (Editors on Track, 2003). A retired government documentary and railroad librarian, Ames lives in St. Louis.

A list of previous winners in all categories is available on the R&LHS Website.


Key words: Latest News, Railway and Locomotive Historical Society
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