Sunday, July 28, 2013

Frank J. Richter, 1916-2013

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Franz (Frank) J. Richter, an icon in railway industry journalism and publisher of two industry trade publications, died July 25 in his adopted country of Argentina, where he lived with his wife, Teresita. He was 97.

In 1945, Richter left the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Publications Section, where he was an editor, to co-found Modern Railroads with Dave Watson, who he had met at Welding Engineering magazine. He served as editor of Modern Railroads from 1945 to 1958, and then as publisher, from 1958 through 1971. During Richter’s tenure, the magazine’s parent company, Watson Publications Inc., launched two other trade journals, Appliance Manufacture, and Transportation Management (later known as Transportation Management & Logistics). In 1971, Cahners Publishing bought Modern Railroads. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp. acquired Modern in 1991 and folded thge magazine into Railway Age.

In 1972, Richter became publisher of Progressive Railroading, which had been founded in 1958 by Phil Murphy as Railway Materials. Richter and Murphy formed Murphy-Richter Publishing Co. Richter was instrumental in launching two new publications, The Car & Locomotive Yearbook and The Track Yearbook. Following Murphy’s death, Richter sold the company in 1989 to Ron Mitchell and Richard Zemencik, remaining as a consultant. In 1994, Mitchell and Zemencik sold Progressive to Trade Press Media Group Inc.

In 2005, Richter authored “The Renaissance of the Railroad: A Chronicle of the Transformation of The Century.”

Richter was born May 25, 1916, in Willamette, Ill., to parents of Austrian origin. Teresita, his wife of many years, who survives him, was from Casilda, Argentina. Richter died in Tornú Hospital, Buenos Aires, after a prolonged illness.

In 2001, the American Association of Railroad Superintendents (AARS) established the annual Frank J. Richter Scholarship. Through the program, AARS awards $1,000 scholarships to promising full-time undergraduate or graduate transportation students. Richter also received the Intermodal Association of North America’s Silver Kingpin award for excellence in intermodalism in 1994, and was named an honorary fellow of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver in 1999.

Richter and Robert G. Lewis, Railway Age’s long-time publisher, were contemporaries and friendly competitors for decades. Lewis died in 2011 at age 94.