Biography of Ron V. Nixon

Ron V. Nixon was born April 16th, 1911 in Gardiner, Montana to a family with Montana pioneer heritage. From his early childhood Ron was immersed in railroad life. His father, William Nixon, was a telegrapher for the Northern Pacific Railway, and Ron's family moved around Montana with each new railroad assignment. Ron V. Nixon's mother, Elizabeth, was also a telegraph operator and an avid amateur photographer. When Ron was only four years old his mother began to teach him Morse Code and in 1916 she handed her camera to her son and prompted him to take his first photograph: the crew of a circus train at Roberts, Montana. These two interests would later merge to become a lifelong career with the railroad and commitment to railroad photography and history.

Ron V. Nixon began recording his railroad experiences and travels when he was only five years old and was working as a "boomer" or telegraph operator for the Northern Pacific Railway in Livingston, Montana at the age of fourteen. In a Boston Evening Transcript article dated February 19, 1930, a Mr. J. F. Ariza, writes "Ron Nixon, an eighteen-year-old Montana youth, has cataloged the numbers of thirteen thousand railway locomotives. More, he can remember considerably over half of them, their types, where and when he saw them, and incidents of all kinds --tragic, humorous, freakish, grotesque, mystifying, thrilling, and colorful -- in connection with many of them. There are coincidences and episodes by the dozens among the engines the boy has set down in his records." Mr. Ariza also writes, "To young Nixon, a locomotive is a living, breathing, sentient thing, a thrill with life like a Kentucky thoroughbred, and as responsive to those that understand it."

Ron V. Nixon realized at a young age that his passion for railroad history could best be preserved and defined through photography. Beginning with his first published photograph in Railway Age magazine in 1930, Ron's photographs appeared in magazines, newspapers, rail company posters, advertisements and calendars. As a photographer, historian and respected locomotive expert, Ron V. Nixon authored numerous railroad articles throughout his career. From 1925 until his retirement in 1975 as manager and wire chief for the Northern Pacific Relay Division in Missoula, Montana, Ron V. Nixon's career and photographic collection spans several states and Canada.

Ron V. Nixon died May 24, 1989, in Missoula, Montana, having created a collection of over 30,000 photographs. In the spring of 1990, the Museum of the Rockies entered a contractual agreement to purchase the Ron V. Nixon Collection. The purchase was completed 1993.