John Dziobko Jr., born October 10, 1932, in Newark, NJ, passed away August 5, 2022, two months short of his 90th birthday, in Madison, WI.
He was uniquely a one in a lifetime kind of guy. An original. His voice, chuckle, childlike curiosity, gifted extraordinary intellectual aptitudes and exceptional rail photography will be remembered and never forgotten.
John attended S. 17th St. Grade School, graduating in 1946. The family moved to Irvington, NJ, where he attended Myrtle Ave. Jr. High School, graduating in 1947.
At Newark Vocational and High School he took an advertising art program for a year, transferring to Irvington High in September 1948. There he took a scientific program and graduated in June 1950, afterwards taking courses in chemistry and algebra.
While working at various daytime jobs including the mail room at A&P, and attending college at night, John graduated with a B.S. in Mathematics from Seton Hall University in June 1960. In 1972 he received his Masters in Mathematics from Farleigh Dickinson University.
Beginning in April 1961 John was employed by the Department of the Army as a mathematician/statistician until retirement in 1990. In those thirty years he held positions at Picatinney Arsenal, Dover, NJ, transferring to Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, IL., in 1974.
In 1972 he married the love of his life, Gloria Roselle, of Orange, NJ., who at one time was his dental hygienist. John and Gloria relocated to Davenport, IA., where they lived until her passing in November, 1979.
John’s railroad interest began at age seven when his father took him trackside at several railroad facilities in Newark, among them Pennsylvania Station and Broad Street stations of the Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western, and the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
He took his first black and white photos of railroad subjects in July 1948, using a Kodak Brownie and size 127 film. That September, he took his first Kodacolor images. John started 35mm black and white photography in 1949, with a Bolsey camera. His first 35mm Kodachromes came in July, 1950. For the next 69 years 35mm was the format of his choice. And, while his friends encouraged him to make the digital photography transition, his heart was always with film media.
It should be noted however that John was very open minded to the new digital era that dawned in the new millennium. He began to scan and upload his photos to popular photo websites, accruing nearly 10 million page views, and began publishing his photos to his own site, GodfatherRails.com, with the help of his longtime friend Ray Peacock.
Early on John was fascinated by the colorful new diesel locomotives that were beginning to be used on American railroads, spelling the end of the iron horse. He largely ignored the dirty old steamers until about 1953, when he realized they were an endangered species.
He then started traveling North America, searching out active steam locomotives wherever they may still be found in use. His main attraction was the Pennsylvania Railroad. John reflected that he was happy to have witnessed those transition years.
One of the trademarks of John’s photography of railroad subjects is the inclusion of the human element in his photos. He made many friends in the industry over the years, including a man named Mr. Cherry, the Foreman of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Camden Terminal Enginehouse in the early 1950s, who simply admonished John and his teenage railfan buddy Bill Rosenberg to “be careful” when they would show up on their weekend photo safaris.
After steam power had vanished in N. America by 1960, John began to travel the world in his free time, photographing active steam trains. Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador were first. Then came Europe in 1965. He circumvented the globe in search of steam, his last overseas trip to China in 1999 to photograph steam’s last mainline stronghold at Jing Ping Pass in Outer Mongolia.
In 2015 John moved to Madison, WI., where he stayed in the home of Ray and Ruth Ann Peacock. A nurse by trade, Ruth Ann helped John make a transition to specialized nursing care as congestive heart failure was always threat to his health. It was at this time that his beloved cat, King Tut, came into his life thanks to Ruth Ann. John so loved his cat and considered him royalty.
Later John moved to Capitol Lakes, a health care facility in Madison, where he was cared for by the wonderful staff for nearly five years.
John’s brother William Dziobko supported John in his passion and passed in 2020 in Washington, DC. John is survived by his sister in law Beatrice of Washington, DC, his cousin Susan Zetkov-Lubin of Briarcliff Manor, NY, and her children Court Bauer, Juliette Lubin, and MacKenzie Lubin. Along with his family John was close to a number of friends over the years, too numerous to mention. Special thanks to Ruth Ann Peacock for her loving care of John.
A visitation and funeral service will be held at Cress Funeral Home on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, starting at 1pm. In lieu of flowers John would ask you make a donation to your local Humane Society or to one of the many railroad historical organizations, museums, and preservation groups. He was proud of his nearly 70 year NRHS membership.