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Reproduced by permission from the Waukesha Freeman
Appeared on front page of the
Jan 6, 2007 edition

Gil Reid, 1918 - 2007

Railroad’s ‘Picasso’ captured history of trains

Local artist’s work known worldwide


BROOKFIELD – Whether riding the rails or even the elevator at Amtrak’s corporate offices, passengers and train buffs alike likely came across the work of Gilmore Wiley “Gil” Reid, said Amtrak official Cliff Black.

Reid’s work was shown on everything from Amtrak calendars to magazine illustrations to book covers and prints. Reid, of Elm Grove, passed away Tuesday at age 88.

Reid’s artwork was perhaps seen by the largest audience in his illustrations for the annual Amtrak year-at-a-glance calendar. His artwork was reproduced on the calendars for 19 years, from the 1970s to early 1990s.

“Much of the original art is hanging in Amtrak headquarters in Washington’s (D.C.) Union Station,” said Black, acting chief of corporate communications at Amtrak. “If you ride an elevator in the corporate offices, chances are good no matter what floor you get off at, you’ll be treated to framed art by Gil Reid.”

Black said his former colleague Bruce Heard traveled with Gil each year to scout for new locations for the next year’s painting. Reid’s artistic talent, his eye for detail and historical accuracy made him sought after as an illustrator, Black said.

“The first thing that comes to mind about Gil is his gentlemanly demeanor. He impressed most people, certainly me, with his kindness and old-fashioned courtliness. He was a true gentleman,” said Black, “very selfeffacing but a stickler for accuracy in his work.”

“A lot of railroad enthusiasts have his framed prints,” said Rob McGonigal, editor of Classic Trains magazine, a Kalmbach publication.

Reid worked for Kalmbach Publishing from 1956 to 1978 as an illustrator for Trains and Model Railroader magazines. He left in 1978, McGonigal said, to paint full time and still worked for the company’s publications on special projects.

“One of his best known paintings was on a dust-jacket cover of ‘The Hiawatha Story,’” McGonigal said. “That’s a pretty famous image. He was one of the top people in the field. Railroad artwork is a niche in the painting world. And he was a terrifically nice man, a wonderful human being with a lot of great stories, too.”

Rodney Kreunen, state railroad commissioner for Wisconsin, said he knew Reid for many years.

“He was probably the best ambassador the railroads ever had relating their history to the public,” Kreunen said. “He was the railroad industry’s very own Picasso. His ability to replicate detail in watercolor and how to place the locomotive, the time and the scene was a touch few people had.”

Lorrayne Woodford-Reid said her husband experimented with many types of paintings before specializing in railroads and locomotives. And at the memorial service Tuesday, the family plans to display Gil Reid’s first and last train paintings.

Reid was born in St. Louis, Mo. and raised in Richmond, Ind. before attending Miami (Ohio) University and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He served with the 10th Engineering Battalion in World War II and received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Italy.

Reid’s most recent painting was completed for the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. The museum commissioned a painting annually which was then reproduced in prints for membership packages.

“Gil knew trains and loved them,” said Bob Lettenberger, operations manager at the National Railroad Museum. “He captured railroad history. You can read his bits of description, or if you were lucky enough to sit there with him and let him tell you his story about (the painting), you would be transported trackside to a completely different time and world.”

Reid is survived by his wife, Lorrayne, of Elm Grove; daughter, Sara Kaploe, of Olatha, Kan.; two grandsons and an extended stepfamily. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Ann; son, Gilmore Jr. and stepdaughter, Linda Woodford.

A memorial service is planned at Brookfield Presbyterian Church, 1485 N. Brookfield Road at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Visitation is scheduled from noon until the time of the service.

Submitted photo Gil Reid is seen with a recently completed print ["400" at Elm Grove] in this recent photo. Reid, renowned for his paintings of trains, was commissioned by Amtrak for artworks at the railroad’s headquarters and also worked for a local magazine company illustrating train scenes. He died Jan. 2.


 

 

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