In sidebar articles in 1947 Trains and The Model Railroader magazines, Kalmbach Publishing Company introduced Roy Campbell to its readers. Publisher Al Kalmbach hired longtime friend Campbell as the company’s sales manager and goodwill ambassador following a chance meeting on a Chicago to Milwaukee train. The job was a hobbyist’s dream – Campbell traveled the country (by train, of course), calling on railroad officials for Trains, on hobby shops and manufacturers for The Model Railroader, and on advertising agencies for both. He reported the results back to the magazines’ editors and staffs.
Roy Campbell’s background made him ideally suited for the position. Born in Houghton, Michigan, Campbell entered the insurance business at age 23 and worked his way up to the presidency of The Wisconsin Accident and Health Insurance Company. After the firm was sold, he successfully applied his interpersonal skills to the real estate business. He was looking for a new business venture at the time of his encounter with Kalmbach.
More importantly, Campbell was a railroad hobbyist himself. He was vice-president of the Railroad Society of Milwaukee and an avid railroad photographer. His artistic photographs won awards at Milwaukee’s Layton Art Gallery and were published in the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel. In addition to his own photography, he purchased from and traded with many other railroad photographers, amassing one of the largest and finest private collections in the Midwest.
Mr. Campbell died in 1965 and his collection lay dormant and largely forgotten for a quarter century. His son attempted to sell prints via magazine classified ads in the 1960’s, but found limited success. His grandson David Campbell requested assistance from friend and railroad author Tom Burg in finding recognition for his grandfather’s collection. Merrill Publishing Associates (MPA) was formed by Burg and publishing professional, Sharon Thatcher, to publish from the collection. To date they have published several photo CD’s and books.
Ralph Wehlitz, a Master Model Railroader, is a valued consultant. A series of ten books on Milwaukee Road steam locomotives is being produced by MPA for the Milwaukee Road Historical Association. Chicago’s Steam Suburbans was MPA’s first photograph book in its own line. A number of additional products are anticipated.
Thomas E. Burg received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1966 from Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, and a Master of Science degree from the University of Idaho. He pursued a career as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, retiring in 1999. Always a railfan and historian, Burg’s initial retirement project was the authorship of “WHITE PINE ROUTE, The History of the Washington, Idaho & Montana Railway Company”, published by the Museum of North Idaho in 2003. Since first encountering the Roy Campbell Collection, he has sought to fulfill David Campbell’s objective of giving its contents more visibility.