Kathryn R. Burke

Interviews and Biographical Stories

“I’ve met a lot of fascinating people traveling the editorial road. Some of my favorite interviews were with women who had unusual jobs and backgrounds and men who worked in tourist railroading, a true niche occupation. A life-long interest in the arts has also placed me on an ongoing trail of artistic endeavors. And, of course, my work in photo-journalism and as a publisher has sent me far and wide in search of a good story. Here, I share a few of my interviews.”  ~ Kate Burke

Jeff Ellingson, Curator, Roundhouse Museum
AND renowned railroad artist

[July 2021 | San Juan Silver Stage] Durango, Colo. Jeff was just 11 years old when he first encountered the train, the one where wound after college, he would wind painting cars and locomotives, for 18 years. Which he still does. but now he does a whole lot more! He also serves as engineer, fireman, conductor, and for the last 18 years, Curator for the Roundhouse Museum (Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad). Jeff is also a renowned railroad artist. His paintings depict an incredible amount of detail—detail of what he loves most, locomotives, railroad history, and the scenic San Juan Mountains. His love of his work and the art of painting it shines from every canvas, all of them, essentially, pre-sold. He’s a commissioned artist. “When I pick up a paintbrush,” Jeff says, “the painting is already sold.”  [story]

Connie Williams, Western Colorado Wonder Woman
Apples, Art, and the Apple Shed.

[March 2020. San Juan Silver Stage] Cedaedge,Colorado. From the time she was a small child—drawing on her grandfather’s bald head (with consequences) until this moment, when she is wielding a paintbrush—Connie Williams’ heart is in her art.I n grade school, some of her artwork was selected for an art exchange with European schools. In 7th grade, she won the National Poster Contest. While she was making art and winning art awards, Williams was also riding horses, which she loved to paint, too. She learned to train and ride them, and wound up a rodeo queen. Art continued through college. Then came the Apple Shed, all 28,000 square feet of it which she turned into a gallery, deli, and recently, wine store and tasting room. [story]

Most recently, she;s opened another Apple Shed in Texas… but that’s another story.

RR Engineer, Mike NicholsMike Nichols. steam locomotive engineer

[2008, Silverton Magazine.] Durango,Colo. RR Engineer, Mike Nichols, is living a dream he didn’t even think was attainable. “I was eight years old when steam disappeared from the main line in this country,” he said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to become a steam locomotive engineer.”  But he did!  [story]

This article appeared in the Silverton Magazine, which I published from 2000 through 2008. Mike Nichols has since retired from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge and now resides in Oregon, where he has a new career as a radio DJ.

Lisa Kramer, Voice of the San Juans

[December 2019, SanJuan Silver Stage.] Montrose,Colo. Lisa won that title at Altrusa’s annual Voice of the San Juans contest, and she definitely deserved it. I visited with Lisa at her home studio a few days later, and she sang I Believe to me. She had me in tears. That beautiful voice. Her range, sincerity of notes, tones, and lyrics—Lisa doesn’t just sing, she emotes. A little later, after some congenial discussion about her life and her music, and learning a lot about how a karoke machine works (totally new information!), Lisa cranked up her machine and sang Patsy Cline’s Crazy. I closed my eyes and, OMG! It was Patsy singing to me. [story]