Our Stories


SEE THE FRIENDS THROUGH THE EYES OF OUR VOLUNTEERS

AMAZING PEOPLE… INSPIRING ACCOMPLISHMENTS!

WORK SESSION VOLUNTEER STORIES

CRAIG & MAGGIE MCMULLEN | WORK SESSION VOLUNTEERS


It was nothing short of destiny that led Craig McMullen to become a FRIENDS Volunteer. After all, he is a Colorado resident… has had a deep interest in Colorado history… was long aware of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad… has been interested in railroading his entire life… and is a very talented woodworker. The relationship was simply meant to be. And Maggie? Well, she was along for the ride… and what a ride it’s been!

With his woodworking background, Craig’s transition to restoring railroad cars was a natural progression, made better because it’s what Craig does for fun… because he can… and because he wants to. That’s not to say woodworking is all Craig has done as a FRIENDS Volunteer. As he says, “We all come with different backgrounds and skill sets, but we also all learn to do things outside the skill sets we bring. For me, it’s been everything from mechanical projects, welding, landscaping and painting to helping Maggie man the grill on burger days I even learned how to hang a coupler!”

While Craig’s work experiences are multi-dimensional, the majority of his work has focused on car restoration – something he finds incredibly rewarding. As Craig puts it, “Just being a part of a team… preserving living history… watching the transformation… seeing the fully-restored cars… and experiencing the thrill of watching them return to the tracks makes it all worthwhile. Over the years, Craig has worked on restoring more than 20 various rail cars, doing much of the work year-round from his home-based woodworking shop in Colorado Springs, using old photos when possible to ensure his work is historically accurate. Some of the many restorations he’s worked on include the old emigrant sleeper 470, the cab for locomotive 168 and the interior of the kitchen car that Maggie works in… which bring us to Maggie!

Like Craig, Maggie’s volunteer experiences have been diverse, ranging from lettering rail cars and providing “crew muscle” when needed to keeping volunteers fed and happy, which is how she spends the majority of her time. Maggie arrives by 7am each morning to help prepare snacks and lunches, making it possible for crew members to swing by for tasty, filling lunches as well as coffee, pastries, fruit, veggies, soda and other snacks throughout the day. Says Maggie, “You get to know a lot of people from diverse walks of life, including educators, doctors and scientists. Best of all, you make a lot of great friends. As fellow volunteer Bob Rieb says, ‘The first year, you come for the railroad. After that, it’s for the friends!’”

In addition to Craig’s year-round restoration work in his home-based woodworking shop, he and Maggie volunteer for four to six weeks each summer. Craig has also served on the FRIENDS Board for 7 years, serving as Board Chair for 5 of those years. To all considering becoming a FRIENDS Volunteer, they simply say, “Do it! Don’t be afraid that you have nothing to add, or don’t have the right skills. We’ll teach you without over-stretching your abilities. There’s something for everyone… so many ways to help! Best of all, you’ll build amazing, lifelong friendships!”

SCOTT MCCOLLOUGH | WORK SESSION VOLUNTEER


Scott’s interest in railroading began in his college years, during which he worked on Colorado’s Georgetown Loop railroad. Over time, Scott took interest in the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, becoming a FRIENDS Member in 2010. With a bit of extra time afforded to him in retirement, Scott began volunteering for work sessions in 2019.

Having worked on metal and woodworking projects with his father and brother in his early years, Scott knew he had skills that he could apply to FRIENDS restoration projects. That being said, he will be the first to say his skills have improved greatly through working with other very helpful, talented volunteers.

In his first work session, Scott helped inspect and repair railcar brake systems. Then, for four work sessions, he worked with other volunteers to restore the Rotary OY (rotary snow plow), which was built in the early 1920’s and hadn’t operated for nearly 30 years. The team replaced siding, roofing and roof beams. They also installed the new finely-crafted FRIENDS-built windows and doors, and painted the car as well. The newly-restored Rotary OY was featured in a special event held in February of 2020.

Scott has been impressed with the diversity of volunteers – people from all over the country who achieve exceptional work of the highest quality. As a volunteer himself, he feels it’s a great way to meet new people, build work-session and personal friendships, gain hands-on opportunities to work on one-of-a-kind projects, give back to the railroad and see amazing results, such as breathing new life into historical railroad treasures, like the Rotary OY.

A fairly new FRIENDS Volunteer, Scott has shown what it means to dive in, not knowing what lay ahead, but finding that participation has led to meaningful personal enrichment and rewarding experiences.

DON & JILL STEWART | WORK SESSION VOLUNTEERs


If there’s a theme that defines Don & Jill’s volunteer work, it’s “FRIENDS forever.” In their quest to preserve history through their FRIENDS volunteer efforts, this couple has built treasured, lifelong friendships that bring them back year after year. And their story? Well, it’s unique, to say the least!

Upon returning from serving our country in Okinawa, Don rode the C&TSRR in 1977… a trip he found most enjoyable. But it wasn’t until he attended a 1994 Narrow Gauge convention in Colorado that he learned about FRIENDS membership and volunteer opportunities. It didn’t take much to convince him, and the following year both he and his 13-year old son attended their first work session. They had a great time, with 11 on the crew painting 12 cars in all. The work was fun, but an even greater reward for Don was watching his son grow in self-confidence, being treated like one of the adults. This tradition continued for the next 9 years until his son took a full-time job that prevented him from participating.

Over the years, Don worked on a variety of projects, including rebuilding stock pens to how they were in the early 1900’s… helping restore the coal tipple, a box car and gondola… hanging huge doors on the old round house… serving as a chronicler… and painting, assuming the role of paint crew team leader for the past 12 years. Don loves helping his team take something that’s old and beat up and make it look new again, along with making the work fun while giving each person the opportunity to do each aspect of the job. The challenges of getting everything lined up for the work sessions, placing paint orders, ensuring all the supplies are in place and keeping everyone busy keeps Don on his toes. And if that’s not enough, he also serves as Chairman of the FRIENDS Board.

Don and Jill started dating in 2009, with Jill having no interest in joining Don for the summer work sessions. The next year, Jill acquiesced because she didn’t want to be away from Don. She worked hard… was accepted instantly… was teased incessantly… accidentally painted her foot the first day… and loved every second of it. Fast forward to a summer work session a few years later, with Jill scraping the underside of a 495 steam locomotive boiler and Don climbing down from the top, thinking to himself, “If she’s tough enough to do all that, I need to keep her around.” He dropped to one knee and proposed on the spot. As you might guess Jill said “Yes!”

Don has turned Jill into quite the train buff, and she can’t wait for each new summer session. “It’s contagious! I want to get dirty… and put in a hard day’s labor. We all get nicknames… we play music… and even though we paint great big cars, we all paint side by side because we love being together! And every once in a while, I disappear so that I can talk with guests. The entire experience gives me such a sense of history, making me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. Plus, by working on a train built in 1881, I get the added bonus of feeling connected to my great grandmother, who was born in the 1890s… the same era as this train.”

“I’ve loved old steam engines for as long as I can remember,” says Don. “It’s so rewarding to be working nearby… see them moving around the yard… and watching them when they pull out. Best of all, it’s given Jill and me the opportunity to make close friends and stay in close contact. Our friends are family, and each summer is like a family reunion!” “My year’s not fulfilled if I don’ see them… talk with them… laugh with them… get their texts and calls… think of them… and feel that sense of warmth that comes with having such close friendships,” adds Jill.

For those thinking about volunteering, Don offers this: “Just do it! If you can spend some vacation time as a FRIENDS Volunteer, you’ll find it so worthwhile… engaging… and enjoyable. For 25 years I’ve been going back. As a vacation, it’s what I want to do. It’s hard to explain. Until you’ve done it, you don’t get it.” The once reluctant Jill shares the same feelings. “If you’re thinking about doing something, why wouldn’t you? What do you have to lose? At least get the experience, and, trust me, you’re going to love it! In fact, think about it for a family vacation. Show your teens there’s something bigger than themselves and that they can make a difference. You’ll unplug… see each other in a different light… reconnect… connect with nature… and have a vacation you’ll all remember for a lifetime!”

RON BURKHART | WORK SESSION VOLUNTEER


Ron hasn’t let distance keep him from being a Work Session Volunteer! A resident of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Ron has a long railroad history, having taken a job in 1969 with the Milwaukee Road at Bensenville, Illinois and serving in multiple positions over the years. He first became interested in the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in 1971 by riding a Rocky Mountain RR club special. From 2003 to 2008, he ran charter trains in the U.S. for a private tour operator. During that time, he watched the C&TSRR from afar, monitoring activities and progress. In 2015, he took the plunge, becoming a FRIENDS Member and, subsequently, a Volunteer.

Working on the Rotary OY (rotary snow plow) restoration gave Ron hands-on opportunities not afforded to him in his career as a Conductor on a Class 1 RR. As he says, “New opportunities have been the best teachers in my life.” He learned to call in reinforcements when needed, particularly when sealing Rotary OY end beams and filling the sealed cracks with epoxy putty, which was outside his comfort zone.

Ron has found that working with other like-minded volunteers on an iconic project was a most rewarding experience. In his own words, “For the most part, we are all railroad nerds (said with a smile!). I thoroughly enjoyed everyone who was there, especially the individual stories and experiences that we shared as we worked.”

Seeing that work sessions are clearly judgment-free zones, Ron encourages others to consider becoming a FRIENDS Volunteer, regardless of skills. He believes any inexperience on the part of new volunteers will be overcome by the patient, helpful guidance provided by seasoned volunteers.

MARSHALL & MARY JANE SMITH | WORK SESSION VOLUNTEERs


What motivates a couple to leave their home in Texas each year… drive 850 miles… and spend their summers “working on the railroad”?  Marshall and Mary Jane Smith sum it up in just one word.  FRIENDS!  Their friendships are broad and deep, and include not only FRIENDS Volunteers, but also the many people they’ve come to know in Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico.

“We’re there because we want to be,” says Marshall. “We’re a very friendly group.  We work together and get to know each other.  Newcomers quickly make friends and each year the friendships grow.  Plus, we’re a group that doesn’t need to be managed.  We show up on time… get to work… and do whatever it takes!”  Mary Jane adds, “It’s the enjoyment of volunteering… helping out the train… and it’s the people – our friends and all the new people as well.”

Both Marshall and Mary Jane marvel at the diversity of FRIENDS Volunteers.  They’ve worked with Volunteers from as far away as Iowa, Pennsylvania, England and Australia, with backgrounds that include everything from Latin teacher and guitar maker to nuclear physicist.  “Some people think they need a real skill set.  We do have a lot of people with specific skills, but many others just have willing hands to lend… and they learn as they go.  There’s a place for everybody!” says Marshall.

Marshall and Mary Jane’s interest in summer volunteer work started more than 20 years ago following their first ride on the C&TSRR, and once they settled into retirement, it’s continued every summer thereafter.  For the first few summers, both worked on the Section House restoration at Cumbres Pass, but then they opted to move to the yard so they could get to know more people.

In her two decades of serving as a FRIENDS Volunteer, Mary Jane has primarily been focused on food preparation. For nine years, she has served as Food Prep Team Leader, which means she’s been responsible for organizing, planning, creating menus, shopping, placing food and supply orders and preparing the food needed to feed up to 120 people who count on her team for hearty, tasty meals, snacks and drinks each day.  She’s learned to improvise on occasion when needed, and also counted on Marshall to help shop and load when she makes the occasional trek to Santa Fe for volume purchases.  She’s the first to say she could not have done this without the help of great team members.

While Marshall has worked on a variety of projects, including restoration of the tourist sleeper, pile driver and snow plow, he’s settled into the role of “bolt guy,” otherwise known as “big nut,” ensuring that the bolt car is stocked with all the fasteners needed to meet the demands of the restoration crews.  That’s no easy task since some fasteners, such as square-head bolts. are nearly impossible to find, and other fasteners are not available at all, which means existing fasteners must be repaired or replacements must be made from scratch.  It’s easy to understand why inventories, orders and organizing are more than enough to keep Marshall busy day after day.

So what do these two seasoned FRIENDS Volunteers say to those thinking about becoming a volunteer?  In Marshall’s words, “If you’re not sure, come try out a work session or two.  Once you volunteer, have been on site and find your niche, you’ll be here to stay!”

JOHN S. ENGS | WORK SESSION VOLUNTEER



A childhood Lionel train set launched John’s lifelong passion for old steam engines, fueled further by his father taking him to watch steam-powered trains pass through the small California town he grew up in. Years later, while in the military, John would investigate historic railroad locations every chance he had, which exposed him to volunteers who were restoring old railroad equipment. John was hooked, evidenced by his joining FRIENDS as a member and volunteer in 1998.

Now living in Colorado Springs, John has worked on some long-term restoration projects, the first two of which were helping restore a Pile Driver (OB) in his hometown and a Museum Boxcar in Chama, NM. The OB project took roughly ten years to complete, after which John got involved with another decade-long project – restoration of Car 470, an 1889 Pullman Tourist Sleeper.

Over the years, John’s involvement deepened, including serving as a FRIENDS Board Member and also Chair of the Projects Committee, the latter of which requires him to be onsite for most summer work sessions. That’s a huge commitment, but as John says, “Being a FRIENDS Volunteer seemed the natural thing to do. Many retirees do volunteer work – this is work I wanted to be involved in. There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction in being part of a restoration team.”

There’s no doubt that John’s contributions to FRIENDS will have a lasting impact for decades to come.

SHARON MCGEE | Chronicler



A resident of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Sharon first rode the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad back in 1976 when passengers sat on school chairs in converted box cars. But it wasn’t until she rode again roughly a decade later, when a friend chartered the caboose, that her interest was piqued, resulting in FRIENDS membership. With the passing of another decade, Sharon became a FRIENDS Volunteer and has not missed a year since!

With roughly 20 years of FRIENDS Volunteer work behind her, Sharon has helped paint cars and has been instrumental in developing the museum car displays, but her primarily focus has been serving as Chronicler, including Lead Chronicler. As such, her job is to document projects and the myriad of details associated with them so that down the road, when someone needs to do additional work, they will have detailed records to rely on. Sharon, along with the other Chroniclers she leads, takes photos and copious notes, detailing who’s on the crew and identifying all that they accomplish. She continues her work even after the summer sessions have ended, with hundreds of pages of records being the final result.

As Sharon says, “The fun part of being a Chronicler is that you get to meet just about everyone! Plus, I’ve made so many friends over the years. It’s always fun to see everyone again! And I love learning the history of the cars and buildings. It helps me appreciate how long they’ve been around and picture what it must have been like to have people back then riding the train and making use of the buildings. It also makes me realize how important it is to keep records.”

Sharon’s husband, Jim, is also a FRIENDS Volunteer. His work has included car and track restoration, tree trimming along the tracks, restoration of the foundation under the bunk house, and pretty much anything and everything else that anyone needs. And if that’s not enough railroad work for one couple, they also both volunteer at the Colorado Museum in Golden, Colorado!

For those thinking of volunteering, Sharon says, “You need to know what you’re capable of. For example, I wouldn’t be good at pounding nails, but there’s so many other things I can do. Many volunteers learn new skills, such as painting, or using a saw or router. I’ve even seen some women outdo the men! So give it a try! I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did!”

Docent VOLUNTEER STORIES

BOB ROSS | DOCENT VOLUNTEER



Bob’s railroad passion began with a ride on the narrow-gauge Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad as a teen camp counselor and evolved into years of FRIENDS Volunteer participation, without a single regret along the way!

If there’s anyone who epitomizes FRIENDS, it’s Bob Ross. In his own words, “How marvelous it is to be a part of the history of restoring and preserving this railroad! It’s actually a privilege to volunteer. It means the world to me.”

Bob first became a FRIENDS Member in 1998 and started volunteering for work sessions the following year, uninterrupted for 20+ years. The majority of Bob’s summer work centered on hiking along and occasionally riding a “speeder” along the 64 miles of C&TSRR’s right-of- way to maintain the many mile markers and signs. As Bob says, “It was physically hard work, but the fresh air and surrounding beauty made it enjoyable.” Plus, there was a lot of interaction with C&TSRR guests as they would see Bob and the crews working in the yard areas and would often stop to ask questions.

In 2002, Bob became a FRIENDS Board Director and also began applying his geology major and love of history to his role as a FRIENDS Docent. While being a docent was challenging because of the long days of walking through the train, the personal interaction and the ability to interpret the C&TSRR as a living museum to people of all ages from around the world kept his Docent spark going. One of his favorite memories was meeting Robert C. Van Camp, producer of Great Scenic Railroad Journeys, a series of documentaries featuring railroads from around the world, including PBS airings of a C&TSRR and FRIENDS documentary.

It’s no surprise that Bob has made a lot of friends though the years. “We first come for the railroad, but we become family.” says Bob. “The cross section of members is incredible. They include heads of corporations, doctors, lawyers, teachers and people from all walks of life – all coming together to do the work of FRIENDS. No matter who they are, they all fit in because we have one goal in mind – a desire to make FRIENDS effective in the work we do, with pride and a sense of fulfillment in doing so.”

Having served as a Work Session Volunteer, Team Leader and Site Leader… Board Director and Chairman of the Board… Docent… and Docent Program Manager… Bob and his selfless contributions to FRIENDS are truly inspiring!

RICH MUTH | DOCENT VOLUNTEER



For Rich, FRIENDS all started with the purchase of a getaway home in Chromo, Colorado, halfway between Chama and Pagosa Springs, and a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, the first of which has now totaled more than 500 C&TSRR rides! On that first ride in 1997, Rich noticed the work FRIENDS Volunteers were doing, which spurred his interest and motivated him to become a FRIENDS Member and Volunteer.

He started his FRIENDS work as a Work Session Chronicler, taking photos and making notes to document the work sessions. Then, in 2000, the idea of having tour guides on the train took hold, eventually evolving into the FRIENDS Docent program, which greatly enhances the C&TSRR guest experience. Rich found it a perfect match for his interests and skills and has served as a Docent ever since, including assuming the role of Docent Manager.

By his own admission, it took Rich about five years to know “what’s coming next,” yet he’s never stopped learning. He and other Docents take great pride in finding and sharing new details and stories with each other and the guests. He’s learned how to effectively engage the guests and loves it when they ask questions. “It’s often the kids who have the best questions!” says Rich. Some of standout guests were a woman who had grown up in the car inspector’s home at Cumbres Pass and the nurse on duty at Mary Immaculate Hospital in New York when he was born. Small world!

Rich treasures the friendships he’s made through FRIENDS. He reflects, “The sense of camaraderie we have with fellow Docents and Volunteers is so rewarding, as are the lasting friendships we make with C&TSRR crew, including conductors, brakemen, engineers and track crews. Plus, what ties into this is the deep, rich Spanish heritage in this part of the world – all part of the fabric of what the railroad encompasses.”

For those thinking of becoming a FRIENDS Docent, Rich simply says “Do a demo!” In other words, ride the train, see how the Docents engage the guests, get an idea of the knowledge they have mastered and talk with Docents along the way. “Riding the C&TSRR is a unique experience, but as Docents, we take it to the next level, sharing history, culture and natural wonders that deeply enrich the guest experience.”

Rich takes great pride in preserving the C&TSRR, a National Historic Landmark that allows guests to take a unique, memorable and, in some cases, life-changing step back in time. It certainly was life changing for Rich!

SEE RICH IN ACTION!

BOB HEY | DOCENT VOLUNTEER & COORDINATOR



Perhaps it was the fact that Bob’s father worked for the Chicago Northwestern… or perhaps it was the C&TSRR ride he and his wife took over picture-perfect mountain terrain in 1995… or the second ride with a friend in 1997… that gave Bob the idea of becoming a FRIENDS Member and Volunteer, but once he made up his mind, there was no turning back!

Bob joined FRIENDS and started volunteering in 2000. He’d leave his Milwaukee home for two weeks each summer… and eventually for much longer periods… to serve as a Docent Trainee and, subsequently, a full-fledged Docent. Back then, Bob had no idea that he would play a key role in taking the Docent program from a loosely-run operation to the well-organized program that exists today.

Once he was in his mid 80’s, Bob finally decided it was time to hang up his Docent hat, but what a legacy he left behind!

When Bob first started, there were no formal Docent training requirements. Assignments were made on the fly in the railyard, and Bob and other Docents relied on Ticket to Toltec, A Mile by Mile Guide for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad by Doris Osterwald for facts and interesting details.

Over time, it became clear that a formal training program was foundational to the success of the program. Bob first assisted the Docent Coordinator, Chuck Heroneme, but soon found himself fully inheriting the responsibilities, which included researching Disney University to see what practices could be applied to the FRIENDS Docent program… developing a formal training program… creating a written Docent trainee test… and absorbing a wealth of information regarding the railroad and the area history, culture, flora, fauna and geology.

Bob quickly learned that the people living in the area, many of whom became lifelong friends, were an exceptional source of information not found in books. Some started working on the train at a very early age, and one could trace his family history back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Bob encourages all Docents to mingle with and learn from those who know the area and history best.

Bob Hey… once a policeman… once a banker… always a friend of C&TSRR. His contributions to FRIENDS are many and will not be forgotten.

HISTORICAL PRESERVATION VOLUNTEER STORIES

CHRIS JAMES | Photographer and C&TS DISPATCH Editor



From archeology student to photographer and C&TS DISPATCH Editor? The journey is worth noting!

Always interested in photography and design, Chris taught visual communication at the college level until 2006. Shortly after, by chance, Chris’ life “got on track!” He and some friends rented an entire C&TSRR train car, all dressing in Victorian outfits except for Chris, who donned railroad coveralls, wore an engineers’ hat and carried a lantern. When FRIENDS Board Member, Bob Ross, asked “Who the heck are you?” while pulling out a FRIENDS membership form, the die was cast. Chris became a FRIENDS Member and soon was volunteering.

Chris’ three years as a work session volunteer ended abruptly with back surgery and subsequent issues. But that’s just the beginning of Chris’s story. In 2016, he was asked to take over as Editor of the C&TS DISPATCH. The match could not have been more perfect. Chris had proven his creative and writing skills with publication of Silver Rails: The Railroads of Leadville, Colorado.” He knew how to write… take photographs… and do the print layouts. He also loved railroad history and was a FRIENDS Member. It was an ideal match, giving Chris the opportunity to volunteer without climbing ladders or standing on top of box cars.

The editor’s job is no small task. Chris puts out four issues per year, each totally new and fresh, with plenty of great stories and photos… hard work, but a work of love for Chris. As he says, “I love railroad history, already digging into it as a teenager when most guys were more interested in girls than dusty historical newspapers and photographs. Suffice it to say that volunteering with FRIENDS is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life because it’s helping to restore and preserve something that I dearly love: narrow gauge steam railroading in the Rockies. Just being around the locomotives is good enough, but there’s also the smoke, the smells, the scenery and the friendship of being among FRIENDS! We’re all different, from different places, with different skills, different interests, different political views and different expectations, but we’re all working together with the common goal of preserving the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad as a “living museum.”

When talking with others about becoming a FRIENDS volunteer, Chris simply says, “Do it! If you like railroads, believe in history and preservation and want to help in some way, just do it. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is.

Volunteering is neither skill, age nor gender specific. We have master carpenters, welders and machinists, painters, cooks, nail benders and everything in between. Regardless of your skill level, there’s always something you can do to help. Plus you’ll get the satisfaction of helping to preserve something that is unique in America, a truly historic narrow gauge railroad!”

And that’s how Chris’s life journey took him on his path to becoming DISPATCH Editor. He’s right where he belongs!


WES PFARNER | Photo Collection Volunteer



Knowing that his efforts help preserve memories that will forever change how others view the C&TSRR, Wes spends three afternoons each week working on the Dorman Photo Collection, a rich heritage of photos treasured and purchased by people from around the world.

First attracted to C&TSRR because of his interest in railroad history, Wes became a FRIENDS Member in 1988. His work on the Dorman Photo Collection began in 2006. Because of the extensive size of the collection, his work on the project continues even today, with much of his efforts directed to revising and correcting the photo database information to ensure its accuracy. Wes also works on other photo collections and sells books donated to FRIENDS via the Internet.

Having dedicated countless hours to the Dorman Collection over a roughly 15-year time frame, Wes has probably set a “work session” record for the longest-running project in FRIENDS history. His rewards are rich and include the work schedule that helps keep his body and mind active… the friendships he’s made through the years… the knowledge he has gained… and the appreciation he continues to receive from narrow gauge fans and modelers who view and purchase Dorman Collection images.

Wes’ dedication is an inspiration to all of us who are FRIENDS members!

Dave Ryerson | Photo Collection Volunteer


A train buff since childhood, Dave first rode the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in the early 70’s, but it was his son, a FRIENDS Member, who introduced him to FRIENDS and the idea of serving as a volunteer. The timing was perfect.

Dave had retired from Sandia National Laboratories and was looking for something to do. He jumped at the opportunity to help with the Dorman Historical Photo Collection. At that time, all the labeling and record keeping were done manually, which was time consuming in terms of both entries and searches.

Dave quickly recognized the need to digitize the entire process. Over a period of several months and with the help of his son, he built a massive database of photos and related information. He clearly remembers the “wow moment” when he discovered how to take data from the database and embed it into the photos, allowing photos to be easily searchable by using the embedded data. The software Dave and his son developed is still in use today, with a database that now encompasses over 30,000 photos.

To Dave, being a FRIENDS Volunteer means he is “contributing to a historical project of interest to many people, while developing deep and lasting friendships along the way.” One of those friends is Wes Pfarner, who is as devoted to the project as Dave, with the two having worked closely together for years.
Dave volunteers on a weekly basis, giving of his time and talents to work on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Historical Photo Collections. He continues to write database software, scan photos, add information to the photos and post them to the Internet for use by and sale to the public.

Dave’s dedication to digitizing the photo collection and making it readily available and accessible to the public online is a contribution of great significance. His only wish? That at least a few photo lovers from the next generation of train enthusiasts will take interest in the work he and Wes are doing, and will carry on their work for years to come.
Meanwhile, it’s the selfless, caring and talented people like Dave who show us what it truly means to be a FRIENDS Volunteer!

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