by Lara Zielin
Claude Stoner loved railroads and spent decades collecting photos of trains and railroad history. He rescued photos whenever he could—once saving hundreds of old pictures from the basement of an electrical contracting company. He even used his historic images to locate former landmarks, including old railroad trestles and bridges.
Stoner’s documentation of each photo and its contents was meticulous, often including the number or name of the train engine, construction number, date of manufacture, dimensions, and a list of owners (when available).
When he died in 1977, Stoner’s daughters donated his collection of more than 3,600 photos to the Bentley. Stoner’s collection also contains correspondence with other railroad photos collectors, providing some additional identifying information and context for the images.
Nearly every aspect of Michigan railroad history comes alive through these photographs.
Sources for this story include:
Itzkoff, Donald M. Off the Track: The Decline of the Intercity Passenger Train in the United States (Greenwood Press, 1985). Hill, May Davis. Telltale Photographs: The Stoner Railroad Collection (Michigan Historical Collections, 1981). Michigan Department of Transportation. Michigan’s Railroad History: 1825–1914 (online 2014).