Beyond signing with Kevin P. Keefe

Beyond signing with Kevin P. Keefe: Keefe’s first published article in The trains from the October 1975 issue, a two-page story in what was called the “Frontispiece” format, essentially a single photo with some commentary.

Q: What was your first signing in The trains?

A: My first piece published in The trains was in the October 1975 issue, a two-page story in what was called the “Frontispiece” format, essentially a single photo with some commentary. My story was called “Anonymity on Father Marquette”, a brief tribute to the Berkshire 2-8-4 class 1200 steam locomotives of the Father Marquette Railway. I was part of the Michigan State University group that started restoring PM #1225 a few years earlier, so this was a good way to start my The trains writing career. I still have the letter from David P. Morgan, accepting the story and promising a check for $25, which for a 24 year old was real money.

Q: What is your favorite locomotive and why?

4-6-4 Steam Locomotive
Hudson 5344 poses for a sidewall builder photo at the American Locomotive Co.’s Schenectady plant in November 1931. She was the last built member of the J-1e subclass and one of only two engines J-1 with roller bearings on its driving axles. Rationalization of railway equipment was still three years away. NYC Center

A: With all due respect to the 1225 and PM engines, I have to say my favorite is the New York Central 4-6-4 Hudson. I’ve never seen one, sad to say. When we moved to my hometown of Niles, Michigan in 1956, the NYC Hudsons had been out of service for a few years. But the myth and mystique surrounding these thoroughbred machines really fired my imagination, aided by the Hudson stories that some old heads in New York used to tell me when I hung around Niles Depot as a kid.

Q: Describe your love of the railroad in 6 words or less?

A: The railway mixes history, romance and technology.

Q: What is your best memory as a contributor?

A: It’s hard to hold on to a single memory after so many stories, but looking back, I’d say the fondest memory is my first feature film The trains characteristic. It was titled “How Michigan Got Into the Railroad Business” and appeared in the October 1976 issue, describing how Michigan was a pioneer in the state-backed short line business that boomed after the creation of Conrail in 1976. My future boss Dave Ingles, editor from 1987 to 1992, I made some pretty aggressive edits to the story, but I was happy with it. I learned a lot. And seeing your byline feature for the first time is a rush.

Q: Which article got the most reaction from readers?

A: This was to be my “Rhythm of the Rails” cover story in September 2017. Editor-in-chief Jim Wrinn had asked me to do a high-profile story about the influence of trains and railroads on American music, and I chose to tell the story primarily through country and blues music traditions, largely centered around country icon Jimmie Rogers and blues giant Muddy Waters. I’ve also included a sidebar where I’ve recommended 10 particularly effective train songs or recordings. When it comes to music, everyone has an opinion. I had plenty that time!

Q: What advice would you give to a new contributor?

A: Start small, or at least with something you can eat. And stick with something you know is cold. Large-scale features, if done right, are an intricate weave of theme, fact, and style, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds, especially when it comes to grabbing the attention of your audience. ‘a reader. Remember that your editor is your friend: everyone needs an editor. Everybody. The comments you get are probably targeted. Try to learn from experience.

Beyond signing on with former Trains editor and current contributor Kevin P. Keefe on what it’s like to be a part of it all. Starting with David P. Morgan and beyond.

About Jun Quentin

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