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updated: 1/30/2014 6:46 PM

Bartlett shutterbug featured in village's depot museum

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  • A steam-powered train passes by a grain mill along eastern Bartlett Avenue in this 1900s-era photo. The Bartlett Depot Museum is ushering in its spring season with exhibits devoted to steam engines.

      A steam-powered train passes by a grain mill along eastern Bartlett Avenue in this 1900s-era photo. The Bartlett Depot Museum is ushering in its spring season with exhibits devoted to steam engines.
    Courtesy of Bartlett Depot Museum

  • This is a photo Tom Cerwin shot of the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia. It's part of a new exhibit at the Bartlett Depot Museum.

      This is a photo Tom Cerwin shot of the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia. It's part of a new exhibit at the Bartlett Depot Museum.
    Photo copyright Tom Cerwin, used with persmission

 
 

Tom Cerwin likes trains.

Commuter. Steam. Diesel.

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The Bartlett man even likes to go to a restaurant where he gets his lunch delivered, not from the hands of a waiter, but on the cars of a model train.

When he retired from his job as a partner of a Chicago accounting firm, Cerwin decided to stop reading about old railroads and actually hop on board.

"It's a simple lesson on doing the things that are meaningful to you," Cerwin said.

He came across an obscure tourism industry devoted just to train fanatics who want to sit behind a steam locomotive.

Cerwin is one of them. He's traveled on a West Virginia railroad that once carried lumber bought by the Wright brothers. And another that carried President Abraham Lincoln to his inauguration.

It's the little-known connections between trains and the country's progress that has Cerwin hooked.

"There's almost a tactical sense to history," he said.

Along the way, the avid shutterbug has captured his train travels from Nevada to Pennsylvania.

And for the first time, Cerwin is sharing his work for other eyes.

The quaint Bartlett Depot Museum will showcase Cerwin's powerful pieces in the "Full Steam Ahead!" exhibit opening 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1. Museum Director Pam Rohleder first learned about Cerwin's work when she spotted the guy with the camera during the depot's restoration in 2009.

"His photos are very artistically beautiful," Rohleder said.

Snapping pictures of steam-powered trains is no easy task, Cerwin explains. They are more grimy and dark than modern-day diesel-fueled engines, forcing Cerwin to pay close attention to lighting.

Cerwin honed his craft reading tech manuals and in a course at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

"You never get to the end of learning," he said.

Cerwin hopes visitors to the museum walk away from the exhibit with a greater sense of the county's roots.

"There is a power, and there is a strength," he said.

A companion exhibit, "Steam Power," will feature photos and artifacts of Bartlett's dependence on steam engines for area dairy plants and grain mills.

The exhibits usher in the museum's spring season from February to May at 100 W. Railroad Ave.

Admission and parking are free.

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