Photographer Jim Fredrickson to Attend March 18 Palouse Empire Rail Society Swap Meet at WSU

PULLMAN, Wash. — Railroad photographer Jim Fredrickson of Tacoma will take part in the fifth annual Palouse Empire Rail Society Swap Meet, set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, March 18, at Washington State University’s Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.

Admission is $2 for ages 12 and over and free for those under 12.

Fredrickson, 74, is author of the best-selling “Railroad Shutterbug: Jim Fredrickson’s Northern Pacific,” published by WSU Press. Fredrickson retired in 1981 after working 39 years for Northern Pacific Railroad’s telegraph and transportation departments.

“I was never without a camera whenever I went on the railroad…I have negatives for every picture I ever took…a rough estimate of 30,000,” Fredrickson said.

“Railroad Shutterbug” is filled with reproductions of photos he took of the trains, stations, people and places of the Northern Pacific, now called Burlington Northern Santa Fe. A sequel will be similar but with more large-format photos and include some Canadian railway shots.

“The photos Jim took and other things he collected as a hobby are a historical treasure trove of the way railroading in the Northwest used to be,” said society president and Pullman businessman Ken Vogel. “Before the highways, trains were the way people and products were transported.”

Among the photos are some taken on the Palouse line of the Northern Pacific. Fredrickson knows Pullman’s history. During its railroad heyday, Pullman had two active railroad depots for the Northern Pacific and the Union Pacific. The depots are now being used for other purposes. Freight train traffic through Pullman is “once in a blue moon or less,” Vogel said. When trains do pass through, the tracks pass behind the old J.C. Penney, in which Vogel operates Ken Vogel Clothing. His store includes railroad memorabilia, one of which is “George,” a mannequin dressed in a complete North Pacific conductor’s uniform.

Along with Fredrickson, passenger railroad promoter and retired Ephrata attorney James Otis Neal will discuss the possibility of passenger trains traveling from Yakima, across Stampede Pass to Auburn and back within the next eight to 10 years. The high cost of gas, highway deterioration and the success of passenger trains traveling between Salem, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, are all cases cited by Neal in support of passenger train travel.

This year there will be about 100 tables, two model train sets in operation and more at the swap meet. Collectors are expected from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and possibly Canada. In addition to toys and railroad memorabilia, the swap meet will offer a table of brochures on various dinner trains operating in the Northwest.