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mojo628 09-15-2003 04:47 AM

Railroading Books
Can anyone suggest some good reading on the history of railroading and perhaps some books on today's current state of railroading?


mu23 09-15-2003 06:43 AM

"The Railroad: What it is, What it Does", by John H. Armstrong, Simmons Boardman Books Inc. is a great railroad 101 textbook, goes pretty deep and very readable.

"Railway Age's Comprehensive Railroad Dictionary" Simmons Boardman inc. Great reference book, covering just about every aspect of railroading one can imagine from the general to the very technical to contractual terms. Simmons Boardman publishes for the industry, these are technical books, but again, very readable. If you want to read up on any specific railway ops or professions, these are the people to go to.

"A treasury of Railroad Folklore" Edited by B. A. Botkin and Alvin F. Harlow Crown publishing. This is long out of print but still available from used bookstores, especially those that specialize in railroadania. I read it cover to cover three times over when I was a kid, before returning it to the library. My ex-wife found me a copy a few years back and reading it again confirmed it for me as the best single volume on railroad folklore ever. It's all in there.

"The Road" by Jack London. Often bundled with one of his other works or with other London short stories. I've heard there is a volume out that contains all of London's RR stories.

"Rolling Nowhere" by Ted Conover. Out of print, is a good look at modern hoboing as is "The freight hoppers guide to North American Railways" {more of a how-to than a history} and "Done and Been" by Gypsy Moon. Many works describing the Industrial Workers of the World aka the IWW or The Wobblies will give you a lot of info on the turn of the century hobo who was of course, a breed of migrant agricultural worker and numbered in the tens of thousands. "Bound for Glory" by Woody Guthrie, is another great one, and the movie version starring David Carridene (sp?) ain't bad either. There was a great documentary about kids on the rails during the depression a few years back that also has a good companion book, can't put my hands on either at the moment.

Keep an eye out for anything involving Herman Haupt who was head of U.S. railways during the Civil War and a brilliant, talented, resourceful, man. I'm a long time SCV member, but I take my hat off to old Herman!

It's not history or ops but Gary L. Benson's "Railroad Photography", Kalmbach Books is a good thing to own. It's a how-to book on RR photography. It's B.D. (before digital) 1993, so there's a few archaic phrases to translate, but well worth it. Warning: This book is chock full of Bad Motives! (But what does he know, he just shoots trains for a living.) :P

"Highball: A Pageant of Trains" Lucious Beebe, writer of some renown, photographer, grand character, photographer, and pioneering railfan, put together this book of his railroad photography in 1945.

"Ultimate Train" by Peter Herring. Published by Dorling Kindersley and very similar in style to their Eyewitness Books series, just bigger and full of great photographs and facts on RR history and ops. Great for kids and adults.

I read a pretty good novel about modern day American railroading when I was in Guyana (of all places). It was about two brothers working for a fictional RR and was just loaded with great stuff. If anybody knows the title and auther, please post it here or send me a note.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head that is of a general nature.

iCe 09-15-2003 07:30 PM

Well, I have a book called "The World Encyclopedia of Locomotives" - A complete guide to the world's most fabulous locomotives

by Colin Garrnatt

It's an alright book

Gregory Wallace 09-17-2003 03:47 PM

Re: Railroading Books

They're not strictly about technical railroading -- so maybe not what you're looking for -- but for some lighter reading, Paul Theroux's travel-books are wonderful reading. He loves riding the rails all over the world, and spends a lot of time describing the trains, the countries and cities they pass through, and the people who ride them. Just to mention three:

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia -- Theroux travels from Europe all across Asia, including Russia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan, others.

Riding The Iron Rooster -- travels on the old railways of China. (My favorite book of his).

The Patagonian Express -- Theroux boards a train in Boston, heading South. He ends up in southern Argentina, having traveled almost the entire length of the Americas by ground (mostly trains.)

These books have been published for a long time -- most are from the '70s -- so you could get paperbacks cheap (or free from the library.)


mojo628 09-18-2003 01:12 AM

Thanks for the input fellas. Looks like I have a lot of reading to do. :lol:

oltmannd 09-18-2003 01:32 PM

I second MU23's recommendation of Armstrong's book.

I'll add "Nothing Like it in the World" by Ambrose. It's about the building of the US transcon. I actually did the "books on tape" thing and listened during my commute, then borrowed the book from the library to check out some of the pictures.


P.S. MU23 - outside the south, most people don't know what the SCV is! Agree with your assessment of Herman Haupt 100%!

Thunder Down Under 09-22-2003 05:16 AM


The best railway book in my library would have to be;

'Signalmans Morning - Signalmans Twilight' by Adrian Vaughan. It is about the experiences of Adrian as a signalman on the G.W.R. in the UK.

On my last visit to the UK, I was lucky enough to meet up with Adrian and he very kindly signed my copy for me. An absolute charming man.

Have plenty of others, mainly to do with accidents. This interest is allied to my occupation.


mojo628 09-28-2003 04:52 PM

Re: Books

Originally Posted by mu23
"The Railroad: What it is, What it Does", by John H. Armstrong, Simmons Boardman Books Inc. is a great railroad 101 textbook, goes pretty deep and very readable.

I've picked up a copy of this book and have begun reading it. It is like a textbook but is full of good info for rookie railfanners like me.

Thanks for the heads-up mu23.

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