From left to right: Mike at the Bessemer & Lake Erie's dispatcher's desk on display at the Greenville Railroad Park Museum, Greenville, Pennsylvania, August 2013. Nate Clark photo. Mike in the cab of Respondek Railroad's Illinois Terminal heritage SD40–2 No. 2301 in April 2010. Brandon Otterstrom photo.Don Marson, engineer for the Maine Eastern Railroad, and Mike at Rockland, Maine, 2012. Brandon Otterstrom photo

MIKE SCHAFER

I am an author, editor, documentary photographer, and graphic designer by trade. I work both independently and as a subcontractor.

Currently I’m serving as editor/art director of Passenger Train Journal, published by White River Productions, The Milwaukee Railroader/Milwaukee Road Historical Association, The Diamond/Erie Lackawanna Historical Society, The Nickel Plate Road Magazine/Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society, and with Bill Schafer as co-editor of, Ties/Southern Railway Historical Association, all produced through White River Productions. I also serve in various capacities for The Flyer/Illinois Traction Society, The Mid-American/Illinois Central Railroad Heritage Association, The GM&OHS News/Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Historical Society, The Rocket/Rock Island Technical Society, and Railroads Illustrated published by White River Productions.

My specialty areas — geographically speaking — relating to most of the above topics are largely Midwest and Northeast, including New England. My photo collection also includes amusement park scenes and roller coasters (especially vintage and wooden), industrial archeology, and “Americana” subjects such as classic diners, roadside landmarks (vintage hotels, courthouses, bridges), and good old-fashioned scenery.

I also have an interest in railroad modeling as it relates to prototype operation. More about this in a future new page in this website.

I also have a side business that addresses leadership and self-improvement through the building of compensated communities. It’s an ideal endeavor whether you’re just interested in learning about leadership and self-improvement or in building your own business around the booming field of leadership. Please contact me via e-mail for more insight on this.


Railroading has been my passion as far back as I can remember, which is about 1951! An always expanding collection of American Flyer electric trains, thanks to my mother, and the occasional family trip to Chicago on the Illinois Central from my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, further fueled the passion into the 1960s. Then in 1964 came a major turning point in my life when I befriended the now-late Jim Boyd through the Forest City Model Railroad Club. Click to View Large Image!

A then-recent graduate from Milwaukee’s Layton School of Art & Photography and a news film photographer and editor for Rockford television station WTVO, Jim had seven years on me with his passion for railroading and was an accomplished and published photographer. Jim became my mentor, teaching me the ropes of photography, both in the field as well as in the darkroom, as well as how the railroad industry evolved and how it functioned. (Yup, that’s me in my red Rockford East High School jacket, observing IC’s Land O’ Corn departing Rockford for Waterloo, Iowa, in the 1967 photo at right by Jim Boyd.)

Click to View Large Image!

Inspired by Jim’s own photography and his generous coaching, on Nov. 27, 1964, using my Aunt Bert’s slide camera, I took my first railroad transparency, which was of the Santa Fe’s passenger engine terminal in Chicago. I didn’t fully comprehend this moment at the time, but I had just officially started my lifelong career in documenting the railroad industry. I have not stopped since. Today, my photo collection includes some 100,000 photos, mostly slides, but also black & white negatives and now digital images.

As the 1960s unfurled, some members of my family were patiently urging me to “outgrow” this peculiar (to them), apparently out-of-control interest and get a “real job.” However, I had other plans. When I was 16, I had decided that, if I was going to work for the rest of my life, it had better be in a job for which I had a passion. When it came time to seriously consider career options, I again can thank Jim Boyd for pointing me in the right direction: the journalism corner of the vast field of railroading.

On June 7, 1971, I started my first job in this field as a copywriter at Kalmbach Publishing Co. for Trains and Model Railroader magazine’s new books division. Despite some rough track here and there where my career path switched tracks, I’ve never looked back — except to savor the life-changing times I’ve had traveling, photographing, and writing while meeting and often befriending some of the most wonderful people I’ve known. Over the years, I’ve been both privileged and pleased to share my work with others. I feel it is my calling to mentor others — as Jim Boyd and many other have done for me — who wish to further their interests, understanding, and goals in the fascinating world of railroading.

BACKGROUND
  • Rockford East Senior High School: major in art, minor in English.
  • Associate Arts Degree, Rock Valley College, Rockford, Illinois.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Fine & Applied Arts and Art Education, Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, Illinois.
  • 1967-1971: Darkroom technician and field photographer for Columbia Studio, Mid-West Studio, Wernick Studio, and Carlson Commercial Photography, all in Rockford, Illinois.
  • 1971-1979: Kalmbach Publishing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin — associate editor and production artist for Kalmbach Books, a division of Trains Magazine and Model Railroader.
  • 1980-1986: D.B.A Zephyr Graphics & Editorial, providing art, editorial, and production services for PTJ Publishing Company, Park Forest/Homewood, Illinois (art director and editor for PTJ’s magazines and books, including Passenger Train Journal and Prototype Modeler).
  • 1986-1990: Interurban Press, Glendale, California — editor and art director for IP books and magazines, including Passenger Train Journal.
  • 1991-2005: Andover Junction Publications, Andover, New Jersey, Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Lee and Mendota, Illinois — AJP co-owner and editor and art director for AJP’s line of railroad books and contract magazines.
  • 2005-present: White River Junction Productions, Inc. — owned and operated by Mike and primarily serving Missouri-based White River Productions.