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Bob Lind, Published February 21 2012

Lind: Ron Nixon was ‘dean’ of NP Railway photographers

Ronald V. Nixon has become known to railroad historians as the “NP photographer deluxe.”

So says Bill Kuebler, formerly of Fargo and now of Apple Valley, Minn., who is one of those historians who admires this man he calls the “dean” of all Northern Pacific Railway photographers.

Ron, who once worked in Fargo, retired from the merged Burlington Northern Railroad in 1975 after 48 years with the company, and died in 1990. He was, Bill says, “a very shy, self-deprecating man, and yet one of the most accomplished persons of his era.”

Thanks to Bill, here’s more about Ron:

He was born in 1911 in Gardiner, Mont. His mother taught photography to him; he was just 5 when he took his first NP photo.

Ron began photographing the NP in earnest in 1920 when he was 9, the same year he learned telegraphy; both of his parents were NP telegraphers.

He eventually worked for the NP, too, initially as a telegrapher and then as a dispatcher at Missoula, Mont.

He served in Fargo in 1937-1938, Glendive, Mont. (1938-1939), and Livingston, Mont. (1940-1941)

In the 1940s, Ron was a railroad rules instructor at the Gale Institute, Minneapolis. The institute taught telegraphy and railroad rules to young railroaders, and Bill says Ron “was widely known as arguably the best rules instructor in the business.”

Ron had several of his photos of NP wrecks on the walls of his classroom, and he’d tell his students that “every one of these awful accidents resulted from a rules violation, the establishment of new rules, or both. So learn your rules. Lives will depend on it.”

In 1962, Ron photographed an accident at Evaro, Mont., that took the life of a child. A story about it will be running in a future Neighbors column. It will include a photo taken by Ron Nixon.


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fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com