Beebe & Clegg: Their Enduring Photographic Legacy

With dramatic images and sweeping promotional strategies, Lucius Beebe—joined in 1941 by his life partner Charles Clegg—introduced railroad photography and the world of railroading to wide popular audiences. Their pioneering efforts established a broad market and wide appreciation for rail photography, leading to its far-reaching appeal in print today. With several prints never before seen by the public, the exhibition Beebe & Clegg: Their Enduring Photographic Legacy has been assembled by the Center for Railroad Photography from source material of the book of the same title (The Center for Railroad Photography & Art, 2018).

Beebe and Clegg met for the first time in April 1941 at a brunch in Washington, D.C. The two instantly hit it off and began what would become a lifetime partnership in both their personal and professional lives. For the next quarter of a century, they compiled an impressive publishing record, while Beebe also provided a prolific outpouring of texts for newspaper columns and national magazines such as Holiday, Town & Country, Esquire, Ford Times, Gourmet, and This Week.

In their professional lives, Beebe and Clegg began by showcasing their own heroic images of trains, moving creatively ahead with pictures and texts, reaching a peak in Mixed Train Daily. They went on to recognize other venues and photographers, giving increased attention to railroad imagery, culminating in Great Railroad Photographs U.S.A.

At a time when railroad books were almost unknown, it took a celebrity writer of the stature of Lucius Beebe to transform the seemingly prosaic subject of railroads into books that beguiled the public. Beebe and Clegg pioneered the genre of railroad books, brought their material to mass-market audiences, and established themselves as household names. Their work built the foundation for continuing interest in creative railroad photography and helped aggrandize shortline and narrow-gauge railroading.

Beebe and Clegg were the right people at the right time to bring the heroism, charm, and history of railroading to the public. Their photography and their writing demonstrated the importance of railroading in community life and contributed to America’s historical legacy. Together Beebe and Clegg created more than thirty books on railroading and Western Americana. Their legacy has grown larger than the publications they produced, as they demonstrated that the railroad serves the nation as an icon of American experience.

The Center for Railroad Photography & Art is a 501©3 non-profits arts and education organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, that operates primarily through exhibitions, conferences, and publications to build an understanding of railroading’s importance in the development of the United States.

The Center produced the exhibition, Beebe & Clegg: Their Enduring Photographic Legacy to complement the book of the same title by John Gruber and John Ryan. The Center is a membership organization, open to all. To learn more about its programs and how to join, visit

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