Who Is Ken Rattenne, Anyway?

Photographer, Videographer, Author, Artist, All Around Nice Guy

In The Beginning

Ken Rattenne was born to his parents at an early age in San Francisco, California, during what the period known as the "Baby Boomer" era. After brief stays in Seattle and Mill Valley, CA., Ken's family found their way to the Santa Clara Valley (50 miles south of San Francisco) when he was eight.

Ken continued living in the San Jose area (now dubbed Silicon Valley) until 1988 when he moved 90 miles east to Modesto, in California's great Central Valley. He'e been there ever since.

A Love Of Trains

When asked, Ken will tell you he has been fascinated with trains since...well, as far back as he can remember! He received his first electric train set at age 4 and continued an interest in model railroading until 1971. It was that year he discovered photographing real trains was a lot more fun than modeling them. For the next few years Ken shared modeling trains with shooting them, albeit with an Argus 620 box camera given to him by his father. By 1977 Ken had forsaken N Gauge trains for pair of Nikons. His destiny was clear! He would document the changing railroad industry, and maybe get something published along the way.

By the late 1970s, Ken was submitting photographs for publication to railfan magazines, quickly becoming a regular contributor to CTC Board, Pacific News (later Pacific RailNews) and Passenger Train Journal (PTJ) magazines. Ken also became a frequent photo contributor to Joe Strapac's popular Southern Pacific Review book series, which also helped to popularize his lens work.

By 1982 Ken saw his first feature article appear in PTJ, covering Amtrak's then-emerging San Joaquin corridor in California's Central Valley.


Ken's first camera was an old Argus box camera handed down to him by his father. It used 620 film and took images good enoug h to make good scans some 40 years later. In 1976 Ken bought his fiirst Nikon camer, a Nikkormat model that had a very finiky light meter. In theearly 1980s Ken upgraded to a pair of Nikon FM2s which were his primary tools until 2006 when he bought a Nikon D200. 

In 1992 Ken Ken bought his first video camera, a Sony Hi-8 model that served him well until 1996 when it went south. Next it was an upgrade to Sony digitial Hi-8 and in 2007, when that camera was dying a slow death, he bought his first prosumer model, a Canon XH-A1. Ken has a passion for video editing and creating finished DVDs that are entertaining to those who watch. 

The Seven Year Project

"The Feather River Route"

How Can I Get A Copy?  Both volumes of The Feather River Route books have been out of print for many years. However, Amazon.com sometimes lists one or both volumes in their catalog, with  both volumes shown as special order items. Railroad book dealers also may carry the volumes from time to time. 

Cover that never was  The above cover was the original cover proposed for Vol. 2 but at the last minute the publisher asked for a different photo. 

In 1983 Ken took his first step into publishing by releasing his own calendar featuring the Western Pacific Railroad, printed by Joe Strapac's Shade Tree Press. Though it received rave reviews in the railfan press, it was 1983's best kept secret, i.e. I lost money on it.

However, the calendar demonstrated to Ken that the Western Pacific Railroad was a hot subject. The WP had just been merged into the Union Pacific in December of 1982, and was the West's first "fallen flag." Plus, from a publishing standpoint, many years had gone by since a book on the WP had been released. Early marketing surveys revealed that the railfan community was more than ready for a serious monograph on the Western Pacific, especially if it covered the railroad through the merger.

So began Ken's seven year project writing The Feather River Route, Volumes I and II. 

To help make his name even better known in the railfan market, Ken began editing a number of monthly news columns: He began as Amtrak/Passenger editor for CTC Board magazine in 1985, staying with that publication until 1992; then Amtrak news editor for Passenger Train Journal, and a contributing columnist for Pacific RailNews (now defunct). Ken also continued writing full-length feature articles which found their way into every major railfan publication in the United States.

In 1990, Feather River Route,Volume I was published by Transanglo Books (Interurban Press), followed a year later by Volume II. Each volume was well-received and both were nominated for writing awards. And both were sold out by 1993 and currently are out of print. (2,700 copies of Volume I were printed, but only 2000 copies of  Volume II for some unknown reason. )

Complementing each book were a articles published in Pacific RailNews to promote each volume. Ken has continued to write railroad-oriented articles, authoring "Feather River GP40s" in 1996 and South Of Stockton appearing in Railfan Magazine in 2007. In 2010 Ken resumed writing and has a pair of articles sheduled to appear in print in late 2010 and sometime in 2011.

About "San Jose Sentinels"

Beginning in 1992 Ken began working on a magazine project documenting the pair of interlocking towers still in operation in the San Jose area. The "San Jose Sentinels" manuscript was delivered to Pacific RailNews magazine in 1993, where it was subsequently published in November of that year to critical acclaim. The "San Jose Sentinels" online article presented here has been updated to reflect changes that have occurred since the article was first published. It is the first of several on-line article reprints planned by Ken.

You can reach Ken via email at krattenne@sbcglobal.net

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