Planes, trains and photography

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 2:40pm
By: Matt Noller

Mallory Ferroll 1

When Mallory Hope Ferrell was a child, his parents bought him a toy train set, sparking his interest in locomotives. Fifty years later, this interest has yet to fade.

Ferrell, a retired Air Force Lt. Col. who lives in Peachtree City, recently saw the release of his latest book, “Narrow Gauge Country 1870-1970,” by Heimburger House Publishing Company. The book, his 18th, is a pictorial coffee table book about narrow gauge railroads - railroads with widths of 3 ft. as opposed to the regular 4 ft.

“[The book] is about narrow gauge railways in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico,” Ferrell said, “otherwise known as ‘Narrow Gauge Country.’ It begins in the early 1870s and follows the growth of the railways pictorially with nothing but what I consider great photographs.” The book contains over 600 black and white pictures by famous photographers and painters of the era.

“It covers a 100-year period in fine photography,” Ferrell said. “I tried to use a great number of unpublished and unseen photographs.”

Each picture in the book came from Ferrell’s personal collection, which he has built up over the years. He currently has somewhere around 115,000 photos on file and is constantly looking for more.

Mallory Ferroll 2

Ferrell’s interest in photography began in junior high school with the Virginia steam rails that ran by his home. “I could see that the steam rails were a dying thing, and I wanted to document them,” he said. “The best way to do that was with a camera.” Ferrell began working with a photographer for the school paper learning how to process photographs in a dark room, a process he still uses to this day.

“Almost everywhere [my wife and I] have lived, I’ve had a dark room. Where we live now, my wife gave up part of her laundry room so I could have one,” he said. “The quality is so superior. When I can take a digital picture that’s as good as I can make in the dark room, I’ll switch over.”

Ferrell continued his photography through college, working for the Black Star photography agency and LIFE Magazine. After Ferrell “saw the writing on the wall for LIFE,” he went into flight training for the U.S. Air Force and later became a pilot for Delta Airlines.

“I was always interested in flying,” he said. “As a kid, I built models of every airplane I could find. My parents bought me the train set hoping I would get interested in trains. It worked.”

In addition to the photographs, Ferrell has built up an extensive collection of railroad memorabilia, including paintings, books, builders plates and a 130 year-old railway clock. He also builds contest-quality model trains and cars for national competition.

The conventions are also a chance for Ferrell to research for his books, which have won two Western Writers of America Silver Spurs for best Western History book. In addition to “Narrow Gauge Country,” Ferrell said, he has three books currently in the works, including one, “Nevada Central: Sagebrush Narrow Gauge,” which is finished and due for release next year.

“Narrow Gauge Country 1870-1970” may be purchased at bookstores and hobby shops or directly from the publisher at

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