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Chisholm Trail 150

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Smoke Over Oklahoma: Railroad Photographs of Preston George

Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George

How Railroads Tamed the Territory
July 7 – Sept. 3, 2018

Photographer Preston George became interested in the steam locomotives during the Great Depression, and captured black and white images using a Kodak camera. Eventually, he switched to a Graflex camera to photograph the trains as they cruised through Oklahoma. This exhibit is from the Oklahoma History Center and the Heritage Center staff and members are excited for its arrival.

Numerous railroad lines traversed through Oklahoma – including the Frisco, the Katy and heavy duty locomotives from the Kansas City Southern and Santa Fe lines. The community of Duncan’s history is definitely connected to the railroad industry, which even today, promotes an active railroad organization and is home to the Rock Island 905 Historical Museum, located in nearby Fuqua Park. Longtime CTHC Association member Rick Duncan has installed a working model railroad in the center of the room that will be on display all summer. Rick has been collecting trains since he was five-years-old. He is also a member of the SouthWest Oklahoma Railroad Association (SWORA). Duncan’s interactive train set should delight all ages.

Images featured in this exhibit are included in a book of the same title, by author Augustus J. Veenendaal Jr. which is available in our gift shop.

Press Release July 3, 2018
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center steams into summer with ‘Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George’

DUNCAN, Okla.  — When the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center opens its doors Saturday, guests will get a chance to view its newest exhibit, a photographic exploration into the past with “Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George.”

Featuring 25 historical black and white photographs of various railroad lines and heavy locomotives that traversed through Oklahoma – like the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, this exhibit comes from the Oklahoma History Center and will be available at the Heritage Center through Sept. 3.

It was during the Great Depression that George became fascinated with the steam locomotives. He started photographing them in 1935, with a Kodak camera, and in 1940, he switched to a Graflex camera. As the trains cruised through Oklahoma, he photographed them.

Besides the historical aspect of the actual trains photographed, George captured the landscape of Oklahoma, which today is much different. In 2005, the Oklahoma Historical Society acquired the Preston George Collection of more than 1,000 negatives. As mentioned in the book of the same name, written by Augustus J. Veenendaal Jr., the price of oil was down to 11 cents a barrel, when George first began his photographic adventure. The book is available in the Heritage Center’s gift shop.

As part of the exhibit, CTHC member Rick Duncan has staged a working model railroad, complete with buildings, a trestle train track bridge, and other scale elements. Duncan is also a member of the SouthWest Oklahoma Railroad Association and has been collecting model trains since he was five-years-old. He and wife, Patsy, often take trips to see train exhibits and trains.

The City of Duncan’s history is also deeply connected to the railroad industry, and even today, is home to the Rock Island 905 Historical Museum, only minutes away from the Heritage Center. The Heritage Center is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Chisholm Trail Heritage Center is a National Day of the Cowboy “Cowboy Keeper Award” winner, Oklahoma’s Outstanding Attraction (OTIA Redbud) and a True West Top Ten Western Museum.