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15303Joe Klapkowski

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  • Aaron Keller
    Mar 8, 2012
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      I knew Joe for 15 years.  When I returned from the Midwest, Joe and I made points to explore what was left of the FJ&G.  We spent a few days together at various points on the calendar.  Tagging along with Joe was always an adventure.  His presence on the Mountain Lake Electric trip (which many members of this group were also a part of) was noteworthy. 

      It is worth observing that Joe authored the Rails Northeast article on the FJ&G in the very early 1980s.  His B&W prints are some of the best documentary evidence showing the way the railroad operated in the better half of the Delaware Otsego years.  His photos showed the businesses on the line that still received rail service in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Among my favorite shots were the photos Joe took in Johnstown; few others photographed the switching in that area.  (Ira Barnes, et al., photographed mostly Gloversville.)  For Joe, Johnstown was a summer home; thus his interest centered to a degree on that part of the line.  

      Joe was also the only photographer I know who functioned fully without a light meter.  When the battery in his manual camera went dead in the 1970s, he never replaced it.  Interestingly, I never am aware of him messing up the exposure on a shot.  He also was quite adept at shooting in different weather conditions.  

      I had full access to an automated darkroom while I was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University.  I discussed this access with Joe, and he in turn lent me his stash of B&W negatives.  The biggest smile I ever saw on Joe's face was when I handed him a stack of probably a hundred or more custom-printed (with borders) B&W 8x10 prints of his FJ&G negatives.  (I did a few 5x7s as well.)  I believe he had developed the negatives himself and never had them all fully printed. 

      Joe's employment in the New York City banking industry led to a few interesting non-railroad discussions.  His explanations on the proper way to handle secured transactions were important when I went to law school; without just a little bit of base knowledge I probably would not have passed my second class covering the Uniform Commercial Code.  I regret that I did not ask him a few more questions on these topics.

      As non-railroaders who enjoyed railroading as a hobby, I think Joe and I both recognized the business components of the industry as well as the hobbyist components; it was a side interest for us; a unique diversion from the grind of professional life that also kept our minds busy. 

      Joe also made a few critical contributions to our understanding of the freedom of the press as it relates to railroad photography.  I forget the complete set of details, but Joe played a hand in overturning some of the post-9/11 "photography bans" in the mid- and lower- Hudson Valley.  I do recall that he did an interview on one of the New York City network-affiliated television stations about the dilemma.  I should know the specifics; however, they escape me.  Joe was knowledgeable enough and articulate enough to take up that task for the rest of us; plus, his credentials as a member of the professional community put him in a position to better argue the issue.  For that, I applaud him. 

      Joe also was fond of telling a story about how he met someone in New York City, ascertained she had an Upstate New York accent, and asked if she happened to be from Greenwich, N.Y.  When the person astonishingly answered "yes," Joe asked if she knew David F. Nestle, and it turned out she did.  Small world.  Joe claimed that Upstate New Yorkers had extremely discernible regional accents and I'm not certain I disagree. 

      I will miss Joe's informed stories and passion for the hobby. 

      -Aaron
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