Harold K. Vollrath – January 6, 1923/August 6, 2015

Filed under: Obituaries |
crossHarold K. Vollrath, age 92, of Coppell, Texas, passed into the arms of his savior on Friday, August 6, 2015 in Irving, Texas. He was born on January 6, 1923 in Manhattan, New York to Harold Benson and Delaware (Kemper) Vollrath. He was a retired railroad executive and maintained a passion for trains to his last days.

He is survived by his daughter, Rev. Ginger Hertenstein and husband, Dean; grandsons, Jonathan Carroll and wife, Angela, Lee Carroll, and David Hertenstein; step-grandchildren, Liz Bisson and husband, Doug, Kathy Voss and husband, Dave, and James Hertenstein; great-grandchild, Evelyn Hertenstein; step-great-grandchildren, Cole Bisson, Lauren, Asher, and Corbin Voss; a niece, Karen Toula; nephews, Fred Ollis and Jim Ollis.

jaynesGraveside services will be held at 10:00 am, Saturday, August 8, 2015 at Rolling Oaks Memorial Center, 400 S. Freeport Parkway, Coppell, Texas. A memorial service will be held at a later date in Kansas City.


Vollrath’s first cover shot in Trains was the December 1941 issue.

Known as “K” to family and friends, Vollrath was born Jan. 6, 1923, near New York City. His early interest in trains was nurtured by visits to Franklin, La., where his grandfather was president of a sugar mill that had its own railroad and steam locomotive. In the mid-1930s Vollrath discovered Railroad Stories magazine and the International Engine Picture Club. The boy began taking photos and exchanging negatives with photographers from across the country.

Vollrath began contributing photos to the new Trains magazine, and one — of a Reading Co. 2-8-0 taken from a gondola car during a fan trip — was selected for the cover of the December 1941 issue.

After graduating from high school in 1941, Vollrath took a job at his grandfather’s sugar mill. Within a year he was an operator on Southern Pacific’s Texas & New Orleans, and in 1945 he became a T&NO train dispatcher. During the postwar traffic slump Vollrath held a variety of jobs on several railroads before joining Kansas City Southern as a train dispatcher at Shreveport, La., in 1949. He moved to KCS’s labor relations section in 1964 and retired as the road’s director of labor relations, based in Kansas City, in 1988. He became active in the Kansas City live-steam scene in 1977, owning and operating several inch-and-a-half-scale locomotives.

Throughout these decades, Vollrath amassed a collection of some 50,000 negatives, about 8,000 of which were his own work. He made and sold 8×10-inch prints — which appeared widely in books and magazines — until failing health began to curtail his activities in 2012. His grandson, David Hertenstein, has taken over the print-selling business, and the family intends to keep the negative collection intact.

Vollrath’s second wife, Charlotte, whom he married in 1981, died in November 2014. He was the subject of a “Great Photographers” article in the Fall 2011 issue of Classic Trains.