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HeartlandRails.com is my online collection of railroad images, primarily from the Midwest USA--my heartland.

Born in the early '50s, I've been a lifelong railfan, thanks to my Dad who would "take me to the tracks" to wait for a train if I was a good kid in the car. I suppose that is how many of us railfans got started. I got a Lionel train when I was 5 or so, but my Dad was not a fan of the 3 track Lionel arrangement, so he got me an American Flyer. I still have it. Later, in the early 60s, I got my first HO layout and every Christmas after that would be accessories for the layout--which I only set up on the floor, not in any formal modeling layout.

When I was 12, my father took a job transfer to a town 50 miles from where I had lived all my life. This town, with a population of 1,000, had a RR running through it. As a kid in my bedroom, akin to Johnny Cash at San Quentin, when I heard the lonesome whistle of the train cut through the air on those Spring nights it took me to far away places. My curiousity was piqued by "where the track went when it went around the curve out of town", and I spent many a Saturday afternoon in the 60s at the depot in Vicksburg, MI., bugging the local GTW agent, Sam Miller, about trains. I was facinated by the buzzer that would go off when a train "hit the plant", and Sam would "hoop up orders" to the Engineer AND the CABOOSE.

In the 1970s I moved away from Michigan to Kansas City for a job and boy did I LOVE seeing those western roads..UP, Santa Fe, ROCK, Mopac. I even rented an apartment within yards of the FRISCO main heading to Springfield from KC. My favorite fanning activity was driving out to Holliday, KS., a few miles west of Santa Fe's huge Argentine Yard, and wait out some action while listening to Royals baseball games on the radio. When I got tired of that, I could cross the Kaw River to Bonner Springs and watch the UP and ROCK trains heading to Topeka. I started getting things like Don Ball books for presents, and even discovered a magazine about trains.

In the early 1980s I moved from Kansas City closer to home--Chicago--the RR Capital of the World. There, I met people like Paul Schneider, who worked as a tower operator for the BN at Union Ave., lining up the Dinkys out of Chicago Union Station each afternoon. Later, I became friends with the Conductor on my commuter train home each night on the CNW North Line, Tim Fuhrer, who happened to be a railfan too. (Geez, how many times in my railfan life have I met a railroader who is a railfan TOO???) Tim taught me the finer points of capturing RR images on film..like using 35mm slide film, etc. By then I had been given my first 35mm SLR.

As time went on, I moved from Chicago to another area rich in RR activity and history, the Upper Mississippi River Valley, in the Quad Cities. For you out of towners, that is Davenport & Bettendorf, IA., and Rock Island & Moline, IL. There my railfan buddies who more experienced in taking rail photos taught me some of the basics of decent photography. Since I didn't have a bag of money to buy fancy lenses and other gear, I did basic--a good Nikon SLR body and basic Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens and slide film. The usual recipe was: a couple rolls of film, a tank of gas, and a call to my friends for a day of railfanning. I was lucky to live in an area rich with railroads in their final glory days before becoming fallen flags--SF, SP, CNW, MILW, SOO, GTW, BN, and others.

After Iowa, I moved back to west Michigan, where I had grown up, for another broadcasting job. That meant I was able to get to know the rail environs of Grand Rapids, including CSXs ex-Pere Marquette line, which hosted run through traffic from CP as well as CSX trains. In that era, I used a lot of Kodachrome 25 as I was able to procure a steady supply of nice aged K25 from a local camera store in Grand Rapids. More and more, I would use K25 for full sun shots, and Velvia 50 (later Provia 100) from Fuji for those backlit and offlit situations. Looking back now, I'm glad I did--those Fujichromes really scan nicely.

In 1998, I accepted a job in Madison, Wisconsin, where I presently live. It enabled me to explore the ex-MILW and CNW lines that have now become parts of mega systems or my favorite regional, the Wisconsin & Southern RR. My film of choice in this era was Provia 100. I upgraded my camera to a Canon Elan 7E which I used up until 2005 when I switched to digital photography.

My first digital was a Canon A80 point and shoot in 2003, I made the full time switch to digital photography, using a Canon 20D, with EOS lenses in 2005. I prefer "normal" focal length, however I've been known to use my 300mm on occassion. My usual lens of choice is my Canon EF17-40 f4L glass. I would consider myself mainly a documentary photographer, but I love rail photography as art as well, so when that happens, great.

One of the coolest things about the internet is the ability of any person to have their own address on the web, right there next to the MSNs, Googles, and other Mega-companies. As long as there is open access to the web (which the big companies are lobbying Congress to make more difficult--write your Congressperson!) any person can create a site that enables others to see their body of work. My slides could be sitting in boxes in my closet, only to "come out" for a slide show to a handful of friends or maybe if I want to take the time to submit images to magazines they will publish one. Still, the other gazillion slides are sitting in boxes. That is why I view this site as my new slidefiles--only difference is my images won't be sitting in metal slide boxes in the closet but will be available at HeartlandRails.com for anyone to see--with the help of a slide scanner and this website!.

I welcome your comments and corrections.