James P. Gallagher, whose 1950s black-and-white photographs of Maryland and West Virginia railroading earned him national prominence, died of complications from a blood infection Saturday at Union Memorial Hospital. The Parkville resident was 82.
A Baltimore native raised in Ednor Gardens and Guilford, Mr. Gallagher was a 1938 graduate of Loyola High School. He earned his bachelor's degree in business from Loyola College in 1942.
During World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and served as a communications officer with the 49th Fighter Group of the 5th Air Force in the Southwest Pacific.
After the war, Mr. Gallagher returned to Baltimore and went to work for Gallagher Construction Co., a family-owned business that began developing Ednor Gardens in the 1920s.
In 1960, he became a stockbroker for Robert Garrett & Sons Inc., and later joined Thomson & McKinnon Auchincloss Inc., from which he retired in 1987.
His interest in photography started in his youth, and in the late 1940s he joined Lensmen of Baltimore, a photographers' club.
He was looking for something different and challenging to photograph, and found it in railroading - then being transformed from steam to diesel power. Although he was not a railroad enthusiast at the time, Mr. Gallagher realized the visual possibilities in the world of the smoky steam engines. He also knew they were facing extinction.
He decided to go trackside, lugging his Speed Graphic and Rolleiflex cameras to record their final years. He was encouraged in this pursuit by Baltimore & Ohio Railroad officials, who gave him a pass to their yards and facilities with one stipulation: Don't get hit by a train.
Sympathetic railroaders tipped him off to steam-powered train movements. Blessed with a liberal work schedule and a car that was always loaded with equipment and gas, he was prepared to roar off in search of his quarry at a moment's notice when the phone rang.
He crisscrossed Maryland, West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania, chasing trains, sometimes waiting for hours in less than comfortable conditions to record their passing.
"I knew what I wanted and just waited," he told The Sun in a 1992 interview. "My basic approach was to plan, set up, shoot and return if that instant did not produce results to my satisfaction."
His work began to appear during the 1950s in the Sunday Sun Magazine, Trains Magazine and B&O Magazine.
In 1992, Greenberg Publishing Co. published his Trackside Maryland: From Railyard to Main Line, a selection of Mr. Gallagher's work from those years.
"He brought to it a completely different eye and perspective than the normal rail fan. He brought real art to a subject that had gotten turned into a cliche with the coming-and-going shot," said Herbert H. Harwood, a rail author and historian. "Jim was a very dynamic and energetic guy, who also caught an aspect of railroading that others didn't get, and that was the human side of the industry."
"He was a superb photographer," said Bruce C. Greenberg, author and former owner of Greenberg Publishing Co. "In order to get those kind of pictures requires an artistic vision and lots of very hard work. He combined steam engines, clouds of smoke with sky and light."
One of Mr. Gallagher's memorable images is an almost silhouette of a diminutive Ma & Pa steam engine, boxcar and caboose crossing Gross Trestle in Harford County on an autumn day in 1955.
Mr. Gallagher had waited hours in a dry streambed to photograph the train, but was about to go home when it began raining. He stopped putting away his equipment when he heard a distant whistle, and got the picture as the train slowly rolled across the trestle.
The photo was recently added to the permanent collection of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art in Madison, Wis. He also was the recipient in 2000 of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society's Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year, Mr. Gallagher's memoir of his World War II days, With The Fifth Army Air Force: Photos from the Pacific Theater, was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.
Last year, he removed his extensive collection of wartime images from his files and sat down at the dining room table of his Rosalie Avenue home and in longhand began filling legal pads with his recollections.
"He was selfless and self-effacing. All he wanted to do was to tell the story of the 49th Fighter Group," said Robert J. Brugger, regional editor at Johns Hopkins University Press. "He welcomed editing and often said that he was not good with words. He said, `I speak through my photographs.'"
In 1958, Mr. Gallagher married Betty Collison, an educator who died in 1997.
He was a communicant of St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church in Parkville.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Joseph's Passionist Monastery Church, Old Frederick Road and Monastery Avenue.
He is survived by a brother, A. Norman Gallagher Jr. of Baltimore; a stepson, Michael C. Muller of Atlanta; a stepdaughter, Karen M. Casanova of Catonsville; four grandchildren; and two nieces.