Center for Rail Photography & Art acquires Steinheimer works

Black-and-white photo of electric locomotives in mountains, taken from on board train
A famous Richard Steinheimer image of a Milwaukee Road Little Joe electric locomotive, taken by moonlight. The Center for Railroad Photography & Art has acquired the majority of the Steinheimer collection. (Richard Steinheimer; courtesy CRP&A).

MADISON, Wis. — The Center for Railroad Photography & Art has acquired the majority of the photography collection of the legendary Richard Steinheimer, whose work often graced the pages of Trains Magazine and who blazed a creative trail across California and the West for six decades.

Cover of August 1977 Trains Magazine with Santa Fe piggyback train
The cover image from one of Richard Steinheimer’s many Trains Magazine features. (Richard Steinheimer)

The collection includes nearly all of Steinheimer’s color photography, a vast collection of his black-and-white prints, plus black-and-white negatives and scans, exhibition prints, and more.

“This is truly a monumental event in the Center’s history,” Scott Lothes, executive director of the Center, said in a press release. “From the day I joined the staff in 2008, I have hoped the Center could be the steward for Stein’s photography, and I know our founder, John Gruber, also held that hope. We now have the ability to preserve and share his work thanks to the trust of Shirley Burman Steinheimer, Stein’s widow, partner, soulmate, and keeper of his tremendous visual legacy. We’re grateful for the incredible generosity of our board of directors and donors – foremost Bon French and Rich Tower, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, and everyone who has ever supported our efforts.”

Black-and-white image of man walking down railroad tracks in fog
A Southern Pacific track worker walks down the track at San Francisco’s Bayshore Yard in January 1950. (Richard Steinheimer; courtesy Center for Railroad Photography & Art)

The color portion of the collection comprises about 30,000 slides; the Center will also receive black-and-white negatives circa 1975 and later, and a significant selection of black-and-white prints and scans. Additional materials will be included at a later date.

Steinheimer was born Aug. 23, 1929, in Chicago, and died from Alzheimer’s Disease on May 4, 2011, in Sacramento, Calif., where his wife and photography partner Shirley still resides. A team from the Center led by archivist Adrienne Evans gathered at the Sacramento home in early June and prepared the collection for transportation to the Center’s archive in Madison. It has now arrived safely.

Heather Sonntag, Ph.D., associate archivist, will take the lead on processing the Steinheimer Collection supported by Elrond Lawrence and Ken Rehor, lifelong Stein devotees who were part of the collection team in Sacramento.

“With this milestone achievement, combined with the Ronald C. Hill Collection in 2020 and recent agreements to acquire collections from California photography legends Tom Gildersleeve, Gordon Glattenberg, and Stan Kistler, the Center has assembled a world-class collection of western North American railroad photography,” said Lothes.

More information about the Steinheimer Collection, his legacy, and future image requests will be shared at the Center’s website.

Four people with boxes in truck
The Steinheimer collection is prepared for its move by the Center’s Elrond Lawrence and Adrienne Evans (left), along with Shirley Burman Steinheimer and Ken Rehor. (Center for Railroad Photography & Art)

Angelia S. Rico

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