The Story of Albert Carpenter Kalmbach

Who is Albert Carpenter Kalmbach?  He was born on June 25, 1910 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  What is he famous for?  He printed newspapers.  Commonly known as Al C. Kalmbach, he brought a small printing press at the age of twelve with moving from his savings account, and he printed papers for the Milwaukee Sun.  After he graduated from Marquette University and losing a job due to the Great Depression, he started the Milwaukee Commercial Press where he printed newspapers for churches.  He died on October 14, 1981, but he left a legacy for many to enjoy.

Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful.  He printed newspapers in Milwaukee and made a great life of it.  He must have been a great guy, but journalists seem to turn me off.  However, I am more interested in railroads.  Therefore, I will not be reading about Al C. Kalmbach in print anytime soon or anytime later.”

Who is Al C. Kalmbach?  He did grow up around the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, and he did print newspapers, but that is just the beginning.

Al Kalmbach is known for printing newspapers, but he also had another great interest in railroads.  He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin near the shops of the Milwaukee Road (a railroad company).  He became interested in model train when he helped one of his friends build their later.  (This friend later became the mayor of Milwaukee.)  After high school he began to build a model railroad layout in the attic of his parent’s home.  After graduating from college, he had a job offer with the Pennsylvania Railroad working with the electrification project which sadly fell through with the Great Depression.  In 1932, he started the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee.  In 1935, he organized a convention for the National Model Railroad Association bringing model railroaders from the United States and Canada together in Milwaukee.

You can say that Al Kalmbach accomplished a lot, but this is not his real accomplishment.

Before the first model railroad convention he published ‘The Model Railroader’ with the release of the first issue in January of 1934.  It did not receive much enthusiasm.  Some told him to give up the magazine.  His wife, Beatrice, encouraged him to continue with the magazine.  After many years the magazine was successful with model railroaders and eventually made a profit, and it became the official magazine of the National Model Railroad Association.

In 1940, Al Kalmbach began another publication known as ‘Trains Magazine’, a publication that tells about railroads in general.  ‘The Model Railroader’ and Trains Magazine’ were the two main publications of his company, Kalmbach Publishing.  The company continued to print books and magazines.

Through his life, Al Kalmbach promoted the hobby of model railroading to the general public.  From 1952 to 1953, he was the president of the Hobby Industry Association of America.  He continued to promote model railroading until his death in 1981 at the age of 71.  Although the company based in the Milwaukee area still bears his name, he is also remembered at the Al C. Kalmbach Memorial Library at the headquarters of the National Model Railroad Association in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Today, you can go and see all kinds of products from books to videos to magazines to model trains to scenery plus so much more.

The next time you read ‘Trains Magazine’ or the Model Railroader’ or the next time you visit a model train show, think about a man named Al C. Kalmbach whose legacy continues on.

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