Joe McMillan: 2017 Fred A. and Jane R. Stindt Photography Award

Portrait of Joe McMillan (24K)

Joe McMillan


Joe McMillan, Arvada, Colorado, received the award for a significant body of work making an outstanding contribution to the photographic interpretation of North America's railroading. McMillan graduated from Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas, with a degree in civil engineering. After graduation in 1964, he went to work as a draftsman in Santa Fe Railway’s office of the Eastern Lines chief engineer in Topeka, Kansas. He retired in 1995 as the assistant director of safety and rules. He moved his family from Chicago to Arvada, Colorado, and built a house along the Rio Grande Moffat Route. He stays busy with his publishing business, McMillan publications, and traveling.

McMillan’s black and white photography began in 1953 with a borrowed 616 Kodak camera from his dad. More light got to the film from light leaks in the bellows than through the lens, but a few good negatives made it through unscathed. From the 616 he retreated to a box camera for a few years. While the depth of field was lacking, there were no more light leaks. Prior to a family vacation to Alaska in 1957 he acquired a Zeiss Ikonta, his first decent camera, which produced 6x6 cm images. In 1963 he stepped up to a Mamiya Press 6x9 cm, which produced extremely sharp negatives, but lacked telephoto. That issue was solved in 1970 with the purchase of a Mamiya C330, which he used until the Pentax 6x7 cameras and lenses became available in 1972. He purchased two 6x7 bodies and several lenses which he used until he discontinued black and white photography in 1990.

Slide photography began in 1963 with a Pentax 35mm. After running through several Pentax cameras, he converted to Nikons in 1983, finally ending up with a pair of F5 cameras and a number of lenses. In March 2005 he converted to digital photography and now shoots with a Nikon D810 and a D700.

He authored his first book, The 5:10 to Suburbia, jointly with Bob Olmsted in 1975. Bob and Joe were almost neighbors in the 1970s in Woodridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and spent a lot of time together working on books and photographing trains. Joe credits Bob for getting him into the publishing business and showing him the tricks of the trade. Together they authored or co-authored books on the Santa Fe, GM&O, Rock Island, GB&W, C&NW, Milwaukee Road, CGW, TP&W, Cotton Belt and Alcos. Joe has authored eight Santa Fe books and is working on a ninth, "Coast Lines and Valley Freights," which will feature the Santa Fe in California. His most popular book, Route of the Warbonnets, was a black and white look at the Santa Fe in the 1970s. That title has gone through seven printings since it was first released in 1977.

The full citation will appear in Railroad History.


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