John W. Barriger III (1899-1976) created one of the most far-reaching photographic surveys of the nation’s trains and railroads ever undertaken. The Center for Railroad Photography & Art, John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library, National Railroad Hall of Fame and Cincinnati Museum Center have collaborated to present this black-and-white photo exhibit in Museum Center's Ruthven Gallery.
Barriger ranks among the 20th century's most significant railroad figures, having achieved high acclaim for his leadership of federal transportation agencies and of railroads themselves. As a top executive, Barriger used his own photos of railroad infrastructure in order to make specific decisions and predictions about what would help railroad lines succeed, and about what could cause them to fail. In fact, his considerable record of anticipating and diagnosing problems over the course of five decades from the 1920s into the 1970s earned him the nickname "Doctor of Sick Railroads."
Barriger was most active as a photographer in the 1930s, when he led the railroad division of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, but he made pictures throughout his six-decade career in the industry. And now at least some of his 60,000 railroad photographs, created both for his own pleasure and as a tool for bringing improvements to the industry, can be viewed and even appreciated as art.