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Abbey, Wallace W. (1927-) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Abbey, Wallace W. (1927-)
Variant Name: Abbey, Wally

Historical Note:

Wally Abbey was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1927; his father was a career employee of the Chicago Tribune, for a time as photo editor.  Wally began photographing trains in 1940, at the age of thirteen.  With railfan photographer friends from high school in Evanston he began making short trips around Chicago in 1942, hanging around engine terminals, train stations, and yards. His favorite lines were the Santa Fe and C & NW. 

He got a summer job in 1944 in a Santa Fe diesel repair shop and spent the rest of his career off and on working for or with railroads, often in a public relations capacity.  Abbey wrote articles for Trains starting in 1949 and was invited onto the Trains staff by Al Kalmbach, serving 1950-54.  After that he took photos in connection with his public relations positions: Association of Western Railways (1954-56), at Railway Age (1956-59), at the Soo Line (1959-70), as a consultant (1970-75), at the Milwaukee road (1975-80), at Trailer Train (1980-82), and for the AAR at the Transportation Test Center in Pueblo, Colo. (1982-91).  He also took train photos for fun, and his spouse recalls that family vacations had railroads worked into them.

Abbey did not have formal photo training, but learned much from the Merlin Krupp graphic design firm while working for the Soo Line (1959-70) and he observed published photography in magazines and believed that his quality improved with experimentation.  But when he picked out a group of twenty-five black and white favorites a few years ago, they were from the late 1940s and early 1950s.  He was the recipient in 2003 of the lifetime achievement in photography from the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. 

Abbey now resides with his spouse Martha in a retirement home in Minnesota Twin Cities area.

Sources: Gruber, John, "Wally Abbey, Railroader, journalist, photographer," Classic Trains (Summer 2010), 36-45.
Note Author: Arthur H. Miller

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