Representations of Railroading from the 1820’s On; Dark on Nov 25; Engineering, Ingenuity & Innovation in Response to Covid

Explore the Unknown!  

For November 18, 2020

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Hi WN@TL Fans,

A map of Wisconsin in 1849, the year after statehood, shows lakes and rivers and roads, but not railroads. Here a person could travel no faster than a horse, a steamboat or a schooner.

A mere ten years later a person could ride a train from Milwaukee on Lake Michigan through Madison on the mighty Catfish and on to Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi.

By 1882 a network of railroads had reached Manitowoc, Green Bay, Marinette, Ashland, Superior, Hudson, La Crosse and more.

In these same years, another new technology—photography—was developing and sharpening our views of countryside and cityscape.  Photographers recorded how railroads and their engines, rolling stock, rail yards, and depots—along with the railroad workers & passengers — were reshaping both town and country.

This week on November 18 Scott Lothes of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art here in Madison will be here to speak on “Representations of Railroading From the 1820’s On.”

My Burlington Route Cup Runneth Over

I have a quiver-full of connections with this topic.  My Grandpa Zinnen lived in Racine and worked for the Burlington Route nearly his whole adult life.  I grew up encircled by the Illinois Central tracks on the southwest side of Dixon, IL; and now my kids are growing up four blocks from the bike trail built on the former IC right of way that runs through campus and past the south side of Camp Randall.  Finally, my friend and across-Garfield-Street-neighbor, Inga Velten, works for the Center and introduced me to Scott.


“As one of the world’s most transformative technologies, railroads are frequent subjects of all forms of art. Beginning with the first paintings of steam locomotives from the 1820s and moving all the way through to digital photographs of today’s trains, we will consider the long relationship between railroads and visual media. Featured works will include highlights from the collections of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, a Madison-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and present significant images of railroading.”


Scott Lothes is president and executive director of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and editor of its quarterly journal, Railroad Heritage. An accomplished freelance photographer and author, his work appears frequently in a variety of publications. He grew up watching coal trains in West Virginia and received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Madison’s Glen Oak Hills neighborhood with his wife Maureen Muldoon, who works as a career advisor at UW-Madison’s SuccessWorks. They enjoy exploring Madison and Wisconsin with their dog, Maddie.

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We’ll be dark for November 25, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Alas, this year we won’t be going Over the River and Through the Wood to Grandfather’s house.


On December 2 Lennon Rodgers of the Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab of the College of Engineering will be here to talk to us about “Engineering, Ingenuity & Innovation in Response to Covid.”

Here’s how he describes his presentation:

“In March of this year UW Health urgently reached out to Lennon Rodgers in the College of Engineering to help prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases. The focus was initially on designing and manufacturing face shields, but soon expanded to other projects to help combat the spread of COVID-19. This “Badger Shield” effort was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Wired Magazine, Nature and others because of their close collaboration with UW Health, focus on mass production and creating what has been called a “pop-up” supply chain. This talk will tell the story of how a group from across Madison came together to create Open Source designs that have been produced in the millions around the world.”


Lennon Rodgers is the Director of the Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which includes a makerspace, machine shop, and a set of interdisciplinary design programs. He earned his PhD and M.S. from MIT and B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all in mechanical engineering. Previously he worked at MIT as a Research Scientist and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an engineer.


On December 9 Jeff Sindelar of the Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences and the Division of Extension returns to Wednesday Nite @ The Lab to share the stories & sagas of what it’s taken to imagine, design, contract, build out and open up the new Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery Building.

Description:  “The Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery (MSABD) building is a testament to designing and constructing a building pinned to the Land Grant missions for teaching, research, and outreach; embracing the ideologies of the Wisconsin Idea; and pursuing a relentless quest to advance the field of animal agriculture for the next 50 years.

“The MSABD building has been a 20 year journey that has finally become a realization.  Learn how one of the most technically complex facilities at UW (and in the State) came about driven by a need (ensuring Wisconsin animal agriculture remains viable) by a countless number of talented and influential people (on and off campus) pursing a singular vision for advancing science and supporting stakeholders .  We will discuss the “journey” — pre-design, design, construction, and start-up — of creating the most state-of-the-art facility of its kind in the world.

“We will place special focus on the start-up of this incredibly technical facility taking a behind-the-scenes look at some of the challenges, learnings, and successes of bringing a facility that conducts cutting research, teaching, and outreach activities; processes and sells meat and poultry products; and houses a biosafety level 2 facility to work with pathogenic bacteria.  Needless to say…this is far from a “normal” facility at UW as we hope you will join to understand why.”

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Remember, we now meet by Zoom, since we can’t gather all in one room.

If you have registered for the WN@TL zoom series, you don’t have to register again.

If you haven’t signed up yet, please register at

The recorded presentations and Q&A will be posted on the WN@TL YouTube site.


I hope to see you this Wednesday at 7 by Zoom.

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H