Robert J. (Bob) Zenk
Bob brings a diverse set of skills to his efforts in research, restoration, and communications on behalf of the Southern Pacific Railroad History Center.
He has been a trackside Southern Pacific photographer, a regular and veteran rider of SP passenger and excursion trains, and a skilled model builder of SP locomotives and rolling stock since his childhood in Fresno and teenage years in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a regular contributor to rail enthusiast magazines since 1979, Bob also shared an Associate Editorship of the rail interest and historical publication Mainline Modeler Magazine.
A longtime member of the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society, Bob also holds membership in the Pacific Locomotive Association, the Market Street Railway, and the Golden Gate Railroad Museum. His current restoration work includes support of the PLA’s ongoing restoration to operation of the only surviving imported Krauss-Maffei diesel-hydraulic road locomotive, a bold 1960s Southern Pacific Railroad experiment in high horsepower and tractive effort. Bob manages the Facebook page for that project, and has increased the viewership numbers from a modest start to highs nearing 15,000 individual followers.
Bob’s professional career grew from his love of language and performance. Following his degree in Theatre Arts, he has worked professionally as a member of performer’s Unions in stage, video, and film work. As a professional copywriter, Bob has written everything from radio commercials to screenplays and executive keynote addresses. He continues to work as a freelance writer, narrator, and voiceover artist, with a client list including Microsoft, Nike, Nintendo, Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruises, Nordstrom, REI, Lexus, and McDonald’s; his work continues to garner national industry awards.
Bob has lived and worked in Seattle, Washington since 1977, with a seven-year diversion to the island of O`ahu, and continues to maintain strong family, volunteer, and social ties to his beloved home state of California.
Besides being an unabashed railfan, Bob also self-identifies as a “Car Guy” and has preserved, repaired, or restored a dozen or more collectible automobiles, often driving them daily. Those skills have also been applied to railroad restoration projects, where the writer/actor can be found with sleeves rolled up and sweatband in place, doing finish bodywork or applying his graphics skills to the re-creation of authentic railroad signage, plaques, and lettering.
Bob was part of the logistics team which has recently returned Southern Pacific’s only Budd Rail Diesel Car to Northern California, where it’s destined to become a centerpiece artifact of the History Center. He finds “photo forensics” to be a fascinating research tool for creating a bank of information leading to a valuable artifact’s authentic restoration and appearance.
As a writer, Bob credits the influence of some of history’s most evocative railroad book and magazine authors, often employing the use of rhythm, cadence, and atmosphere when writing even the more pedestrian news update for a Facebook page. He looks forward to the History Center’s ability to captivate guests with the powerful story of the Southern Pacific Railroad.