Railway books for the literate

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Railway books for the literate

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Maggio 2, 2007, 10:56am

Whenever I go into a bookshop specialising in railway stuff these days, I get the impression that railway publishers, especially in the UK, have given up on books with actual words in them, and are just pumping out endless albums of railway porn ("Glory days of the Class XXX"; "Main line action in YYY"). Even the books with actual text rarely go beyond extended photo captions.

I've dealt with this mostly by buying books from German, Swiss, or Dutch publishers, or British stuff from before 1970, but I'm sure there must still be some readable British and North American railway books coming out. Any suggestions?

Maggio 2, 2007, 8:44pm

Good Morning, Thorold

There are a few North American railroad books that I, a fairly literate person, enjoy and can recommend without reservation.

My favorites would include The Modoc by Jack Bowden, a very comprehensive study of one component of the Southern Pacific

2. The Interstate Railroad by Ed Wolfe

3. Some of John Norwood books on the Rio Grande Narrow Gauge, but not including his other works.

4. James Fair's books on medium sized railroads in the South.

5. The Gilbert Hoffman books on logging railroads in Mississippi.

6. Boomer Railroad Memoirs by Linda Niemann.

7. The Colorado Railroad Annuals

8. Robert Richardson's memoirs of his railfan days, Chasing Trains

9. Jay Cooke's Gamble by M John Lubetkin

I could add more, and probably will in the next few weeks.

There is plenty of the badly captioned photo book available on this side of the Atlantic too. But there are a few with real words, and the ones cited above have some literary merit.


Dave in Duluth

Maggio 3, 2007, 3:59pm

Thanks for those, Dave - I'll add them to my list of things to look out for.

Maggio 4, 2007, 1:19am

#2 - Dave - I loved Boomer!

#1 - thorold, I hear what you're saying - I'm in transit between Kenya and Sudan at the moment but will have a look at my list when I get home in a week or two.

Modificato: Maggio 16, 2007, 1:30am

Here's a few with words that I enjoyed (includes some railway-related fiction):

All Aboard! Tales of Australian Railways - Jim Haynes

The art of the engine driver - Steven Carroll (fiction)

Behind the Steam - Bill Morgan (old footplate memories)

La Locomotive a Vapeur - Andre Chapelon (English translation)

Lunatic Express - Charles Miller (Uganda railway)

Passengers - Sue Lightfoot (erotic railway fiction, believe it or not!)

Permanent Way Vols I&II - M F Hill (Uganda and Tanganyika railways)

Platform Souls: The Train Spotter as Twentieth-century Hero - Nicholas Whittaker

Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale - Sam Posey

(both the above already mentioned in another thread in this group)

Railway Children - Edith Nesbit (timeless children's railway fiction)

The Railway Man - Eric Lomax (Burma railway)

Railwaywomen - Helena Wojtczak

The Red Devil and other tales from the age of steam - David Wardale

Tales of the Old Railwaymen - Tom Quinn

The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan (fiction with a fair bit of railway action)

When life was rusted through - Owen Letcher (Africa)

When There Was Steam - Tony Barfield (footplate memories)

And of course The Blackpool High-flyer railway detective trilogy (fiction) by Andrew Martin (see a separate thread on this group). Also various books by Paul Theroux.

Hmm - didn't realise I had so many!

Modificato: Maggio 16, 2007, 2:19am

I was gonna mention Paul Theroux, but ya beat me to it, John!

A couple of North American rail journey books I've liked:

Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America by Henry Kisor, as well as Making Tracks: an American Rail Odyssey and Last Train to Toronto: a Canadian Rail Odyssey by Terry Pindell.

I recently acquired acopy of Hunter Davies' 1982 book on walking Britain's disused rail lines: A Walk Along the Tracks.

Maggio 20, 2007, 1:46am

There's an LT group called Passages with a new thread called Trainspotting asking for literary passages about trains. I posted a reply suggesting that the originator of that thread, lorsomething, have a look at the LTR group, and got the following reply:

"Hey John. Thanks for the heads-up. I checked out the railroad group, but it's a bit more nuts and bolts than I had in mind. I'm looking more for literary passages that evoke the thrill of train travel and that offer glimpses of the landscapes and cultures they pass through. I love trains, but I don't know one from another."

Maybe some of us on LTR can oblige lorsomething with some literary railway stuff? I kicked off by posting W H Auden's famous poem "Night Mail".

Maggio 20, 2007, 1:17pm

May I suggest the following?

'A Book of railway journeys,an anthology compiled by Ludovic Kennedy' 1980

'The Trains we loved' by C.Hamilton Ellis, 1947,et seq.
a bit 'nuts and bolts' but a classic evocation of the pre-1923 scene in elegant prose and delightful pictures.

'Great Railway journeys of the world' B.B.C. 1981.
Based on a television series, but containing 'literate' essays by Michael Frayn,Miles Kington and Michael Palin ('Confessions of a train-spotter') among others.

Maggio 20, 2007, 1:17pm

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Maggio 25, 2007, 9:00am

Good Morning

Here are a few more suggestions for train books for people who actually enjoy reading.

Snow on the Rails by Dennis Boyer is a regional collection of short pieces on the railroad experience. Boyer is a very good writer who deserves wider distribution.

Almost any book by Don Hofsommer is a good experience. I am very partial to his Katy Northwest and the Tootin Louie.

Going north of the border, I love the five volume set on the Newfoundland Railway by Mont Lingard.

My favorite Brit train book found during a delightful crawl down Charing Cross Road is Coming Up with the Goods.

There are good books out there. Hope we can all keep sharing this information and demonstrating that there is a market for the quality product.

Dave in Duluth

Modificato: Maggio 25, 2007, 10:49am

Dave (#10)

I didn't know about the Newfoundland Railway books. I did ride the "Newfie Bullet' (Officially, the "Caribou") in 1966. I was stationed in the U.S. Navy at Argentia, which had a branch of the Nfld Ry. I did look up at Amazon one of the volumes, Next stop, Trinity Loop, and a used copy was listed at $116, and then I went to worldcat, and found the nearest library to Long Island that has it is Yale University. So, maybe I'll do an interlibrary loan, and see if I can't get it.

Bob Campbell

Modificato: Maggio 26, 2007, 2:47am

Hmm - if this goes on, this could turn out to be an expensive thread -- we're coming up with a lot of interesting-looking titles!

Having started it, I suppose I should add one or two myself...

I like books that show evidence of thorough research and do something creative with it. The Waterloo and City Railway by J.C. Gillham is one of the few recent books in this category I've come across and is maybe a bit too obsessive -- 460 pages for a line that's barely 2km long and has only two stations -- but he presents the information in an intelligent way and takes time to analyse it, so you don't feel you're being hit over the head with facts.

I was thinking of new books when I started the thread, but since Andre Chapelon and C. Hamilton Ellis have been mentioned already (I second both nominations!), I suppose it's worthwhile adding some other classics of the genre.

The British steam railway locomotive, 1825-1925 by Ernest Leopold Ahrons is a beautiful example of a book written by an engineer, for engineers(*), without any literary frills, but in elegant, straightforward technical language that's a pleasure to read. O.S. Nock's sequel is good too. They are available in various reprint editions, but are big and contain lots of drawings and photographs, thus tend to be expensive.

The railways of England by W. M. Acworth is a survey of the main pre-grouping railway companies in 1900 written from the point of view of a non-technical journalist who went around and got the full PR treatment from the various companies. It's particularly interesting because he focusses on the railways as businesses, and isn't bowled over by the magic of the steam locomotive. It's instructive to read it side-by-side with the romantic Hamilton Ellis.

Nobody's mentioned L.T.C. Rolt yet, but his account of the beginnings of the railway preservation movement on the Talyllyn in Railway Adventure is definitely a classic among 'readable railway books' (and was in part the inspiration for the great railway film "The Titfield Thunderbolt"). His biographies of Brunel and the Stephensons are very readable too, if a bit dated.

(*) to avoid the inevitable confusion: I meant engineer=someone who designs and builds engines

edited to correct touchstones

Giu 3, 2007, 4:20pm

> Hmm - if this goes on, this could turn out to be an expensive thread

The postman brought me Boomer: Railroad Memoirs and Jay Cooke's Gamble on Saturday. I'm about halfway through the latter. I wasn't too impressed with the early chapters -- jumping about all over the place and very much in need of the editor's red pencil -- but once he gets on to the real narrative, describing the various surveying expeditions, it becomes quite gripping. Boomer looks very interesting, too.

Jay Cooke's Gamble makes me think of a (much more political) book I read years ago about the crooked land deals associated with the building of the Union Pacific -- could it have been Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow by Dee Brown?

Thanks once again for the tips, Dave and John!

14morven Primo messaggio
Giu 4, 2007, 3:09am

I quite liked Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949 by John W. Orr - quite a readable book about the author's father's railroad career. The son isn't a technical man, but that's not the point of books like that anyway.

Lug 4, 2007, 11:44am

I'm halfway through Murder on the Railways, edited by Peter Haining. It's a collection of short stories by well-known crime authors, including Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy Sayers, Ruth Rendell and Ken Follett. They all contain some connection to railways (some more so than others), and they're all about crime, albeit not all murder. Some of these stories are old and unusual, and some have been out of print for decades. A thoroughly enjoyable book.

Modificato: Lug 4, 2007, 12:08pm

Heavens, I wil never find Murder on the Railways in the U.S. The nearest library to me on Long Island which has it Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, followed by Boston College and Bowling Green, Ohio. I looked through worldcat, as I put a link on my works page to be able to go to it directly. Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble all do not have it. Alibris references Canada for a copy.

Modificato: Lug 4, 2007, 1:11pm

I picked up a new paperback copy in a branch of Exclusive Books, a chain of bookshops here in South Africa. But I had to enter it manually into Library Thing as the ISBN wasn't recognised. Incidentally it has some US authors including Elmore Leonard, James M Cain, Johnston McCulley and Francis Lynde. Good luck trying to find it!

Edit: Correction - I didn't add this one manually - I was getting confused with the book which I added immediately afterwards (a workshop manual for my pick-up truck). But I see that the ISBN I added has identified my copy as hardback when in fact it's paperback - I must correct that.

Modificato: Lug 4, 2007, 1:29pm

vpfluke --

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book from your library, ask if you can request an Inter-Library Loan via your own library - surely all of those Worldcat holdings can't be reference-only? Although for $4.00 ($.01 + $3.99 shipping @ Amazon for a hardcover copy), I'd buy it.

Modificato: Lug 4, 2007, 2:09pm

The cheapest copy on Amazon is $73.85, besides the $3.99 shipping. Not in my budget. I'll try inter-library loan for it. Inasmuch no library within New York State has it, this will take some time.

Lug 4, 2007, 2:24pm

#20 - wow, that's expensive. I paid ZAR123 which is about USD18. The UK price of GBP9.99 is printed on the book - that's about USD20.

Lug 4, 2007, 2:44pm

Sorry, I gave you the Amazon link that had the book cover showing. Below and to the right, they have a link to see all offerings. Several are asking for $0.01 plus shipping - essentially giving the book away.


Lug 4, 2007, 3:02pm

Fluke: underneath where it says $73.85 there is a box with a thin blue border, and within that you can click on options to purchase this book for $4.00 (four dollars - $.01 + $3.99) from Amazon's 3rd Party vendors! Just click on where it actually says "$.01"

Lug 4, 2007, 3:11pm

Thanks # 22 & 23

Modificato: Giu 1, 2008, 2:38pm

I'm reading A Brush With Steam by David Shepherd and finding it very interesting. It's a personal view of the earliest days of the UK heritage rail industry and is a valuable record of that seminal period. It's full of anecdotes, both amusing and serious. His insight as an artist comes through in the way he sees certain things.

He also talks a little about his African locomotives. I operated his South African 15F no 3052 in 2003 when we moved it in light steam from Mason's Mill in Pietermaritzburg to Ficksburg, towed by Spoornet electric units, and again in 2006 when I fired it as it ran under its own steam on several trips between Ficksburg and Kommandonek with David on board. He comes across as a very decent bloke despite his fame.

Giu 1, 2008, 11:48pm

A few weeks ago I picked up Rail-Trails New England, which looks at abandoned rail lines all over the six New England states. A look at what once was, unfortunately, but you can find these rights of ways on Google aerial maps. (Touchstone didn't work for this singleton.)

Giu 2, 2008, 12:10am

If it is this one, I think I will have to order it. Thanks vpfluke.


Giu 2, 2008, 5:24pm


That's the right one.

Lug 24, 2008, 12:30am

A reference to a four year old article on railway books has just appeared in the uk.railway newsgroup.

It begins, "Sadly, given the importance of the railway to the history of Britain, lots of books about trains are frankly dull. They have titles like Branch Lines To East Grinstead, which, with the best will in the world, do not make riveting reading on the beach. Here are 10 which do."

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/jul/21/top10s.railway

I've read ## 2, 3, 6 and 9 and all of them are excellent.

Lug 24, 2008, 3:43am

I beg to differ on 2 (weakish as a railway book, but a complete waste of space as a detective story) but I'd agree with him on 6,8 and 9.

(Was it Marchant or the Grauniad that slipped the greengrocer's apostrophe into 8? And isn't "Talyllyn" written as one word when it's the name of the railway?).

Someone lent me Marchant's own railway travel book Parallel lines a while ago - it isn't bad, if you can put up with his retired-hippy persona. But I think most of us would prefer more trains and less politics...

The most satisfying railway book I've read this year is definitely Dow on the Great Central. But there wasn't much competition, given that it took me about six weeks to get through all three volumes. And probably falls outside Marchant's terms of reference as being too specific - but as a railway history written by a railway manager who knew how to read between the lines of the minute book (and knew and worked with many of the people mentioned in the later part of the story), it's extremely interesting.

Another very readable book by a railway manager that hasn't come up yet on the thread is I tried to run a railway by Gerard Fiennes - most of it is rather dated now, as it's largely an attack on Beeching and centralisation, but some of his ideas have come back into fashion (e.g. local authority support for passenger services on rural lines).

Ago 3, 2008, 6:29pm

With the exception of "Railway Adventure", I have to say I've read none of those recommendations - so many books, so little time!

Dow's "Great Central" is indeed one of the classic histories; somewhere, I have a letter from him, written on real Midland Railway headed notepaper! Gerry Fiennes' "I tried to run a railway" is also well worth reading, if you can locate a copy - I've not seen one for years.

The thing is that most railway books are not intended for light reading, but are rather more scholarly. My current hot rave, The narrow gauge railways of Bosnia-Hercegovina by Keith Chester falls into that category (as well as being large format and very heavy - it put me to within 250 grams of my baggage allowance when I brought it back from Vienna!)

Dic 10, 2008, 4:00pm

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Dic 10, 2008, 5:37pm

>32 Foxhunter:

I read Fire and steam quite recently: I have to agree that he writes well, although I was a bit disappointed in other ways (see my review). But I doubt if it would be possible to write a general history of railways in Britain that pleases everybody - all credit to him for attempting it.

Dic 11, 2008, 5:37am

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Dic 11, 2008, 7:56am

Yes - I take your point - I enjoyed reading it, too, and it definitely deserves to be listed here.

Another well-written book in a similar sort of genre I read recently was The world the railways made by Nicholas Faith - a lot less systematic than Wolmar, but he spreads his net rather wider, and therefore ends up covering rather more material that was new to me.

Modificato: Dic 17, 2008, 12:52am

I can recommend anything by the British Railway Modellers of North America (http://www.brmna.com/). They seem to be fairly unknown here on LibraryThing (vast majority of the books that I own by them, I am the only member).

Dic 17, 2008, 5:36am

I think that's an issue with all the railway books on LT: there are so many railway titles out there (most of them very specialised), and so few people who catalogue them here, that it's fairly unlikely that two members have the same book. Of 167 books I have tagged "railway", only 11 are shared by ten or more members at present, and about 110 aren't shared at all.

As I mentioned recently on another thread, if I look at my overlap with the other people who use the tag "railway" a lot, there are never more than three or four railway books in it (my biggest overlap on railway books is with JohnTheFireman, because I've followed a number of his recommendations on this thread!).

Modificato: Dic 17, 2008, 7:36am

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Dic 17, 2008, 7:41am

>38 Foxhunter:

You're not the only one - look at Pythagoras! Astérix seems to be very popular among railway readers as well, for some reason. I suppose you'd get different results if you looked at people who use tags like "Railroad", "Eisenbahn" or whatever - "Railway" probably pre-selects Anglophile or Anglocentric users.

Thanks for the tip about "Wodehouse in Hollywood" - I'd missed that.

Dic 17, 2008, 10:37am

Railways are a passing interest of mine, but I think one of the issues is that a lot of these readers manually input or imported their books. Then, if the ISBN is missing or the titles are slightly different LibraryThing can't recognise them as the same work. Plenty of scope for combining - I managed to identify and combine about 50 combinations, mainly singletons. So that should help everyone along.

Dic 17, 2008, 11:17am

Thanks - I managed to pick off a few more as well, although frustratingly often it turns out that the books by a particular author that can be combined don't include the one you own yourself...

Dic 17, 2008, 12:10pm

True ... although I really wasn't expecting anyone else to have イギリスの鉄道のはなし―美しき蒸気機関車の時代 (A history of steam trains in Britain)

Dic 17, 2008, 4:40pm


One reason for the low number is that tags are split between "railway(s)" and "railroad(s)".
Railways have 2,844 entries put in by 264 users, and railroads have 3,688 entries oput in by 631 users. As an aside "chemins de fer' has 408 entries put in by 2 users (3 titles by myself -- so there is an avid railfan in France), and eisenbahn has 221 entries put in by 20 users. I once combined these two tags, but the splitters won. Like humor and humour (also split), railroad is the American term and railway is the somewhat more British term.

In any case, most railfans that have deigned to join LT have lots of singletons.

Dic 18, 2008, 9:07am

#40 - true. Many of my railway books are manually entered as they don't have ISBNs. Some are too old, others are privately published. Even some of the more modern ones that do have ISBNs don't show up when I try to enter them using the ISBN - presumably they're too specialised to be held by most libraries. I'm probably not clicking the correct box for a big library that might have them, but I have to confess that if they're not in either amazon.co.uk or amazon.com I tend to just enter them manually.

Modificato: Dic 18, 2008, 10:58am

>43 vpfluke:
...a few more:
spoorwegen 65 times by 14 users
ferrovia 2 times by 1 user
jernbane 2 times by 2 users

rail 142 times by 49 users
trains 3,487 times by 925 users
treinen 15 times by 6 users
Züge 0 times

Probably doesn't tell us very much, but quite fun. "Trains" seems to bring up a lot of children's books, whilst "rail" brings up quite a few atlases and timetables - there clearly is some difference between these and "railway"/"railroad", which seem to differ from one another only in geographical scope. Why do English and Dutch speakers have books about both railways and trains, whilst German speakers only have books about railways...?

ETA: there are a couple of books tagged "Zug" but it looks as though that refers to the Swiss canton

Dic 18, 2008, 1:13pm


For UK publications you might try searching the University of York (I happen to know that they include the catalogue of the National Railway Museum) or the Talis Union Catalog, which aggregates catalogues of lots of UK public library services, and would include local history type books.

Dic 18, 2008, 3:51pm

The British Library and the Bodleian give pretty good results for UK publications as well. But I expect John's main problem is that LibraryThing doesn't have very many African sources.

Dic 19, 2008, 5:07am

Thanks, antisyzygy and thorold - I'll try those. But thorold is probably right about the African sources.

Maggio 6, 2009, 4:43am

Came across this 'New Zealand Railways Magazine' published between May 1926 and June 1940; which has been digised and is freely available at http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-corpus-railways.html

The issues cover a broad spectrum of topics, (including railways outside NZ) so I thought it might appeal to some here.

Maggio 6, 2009, 12:40pm

>49 antisyzygy: Thanks - looks interesting. I've bookmarked it!

Mar 22, 2010, 6:56am

Not books (although you can buy books via the site) but thought some readers might like this website BritishRailways.tv "BritishRailways.tv is an online video community which allows users to upload, watch and share their own British railway videos. Upload and browse railway videos from over 400 locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From steam railway videos to diesel and electric, any railway video can be added as long as it is of UK origin. Why not check out the video channels page where there are channels with railway videos dedicated to railtours, scrapyards, preservations groups to name a few with more being added all the time. "

Apr 3, 2010, 4:34pm

I have just found a new work called 'Blood, Iron, and Gold' (2010) (355 pages) by Christian Wolmar. I will get back with a review after I have read it.

Apr 4, 2010, 1:44am

Blood, Iron, and Gold: how the railways transformed the world sounds promising -- I'll try to get it from a nearby library.

Apr 5, 2010, 1:47am

>52 JimThomson:,53
...except that it is by CW and it has a "How X changed the world" subtitle, both of which suggest that you should expect a book that addresses you as though you were a television camera.

Wolmar's good at what he does, which is writing interesting, lively books for people who don't know much about the subject. A modern C.J. Allan or O.S. Nock, but with fewer hard facts. If you do know something about railways already, then you stand little chance of learning something new, or of getting in-depth analysis of what you know already. From the press review, it sounds as though this one will be covering similar ground to Nicholas Faith's The world the railways made - I don't imagine he'll have found any material that Faith didn't already cover.

Giu 24, 2010, 6:05pm

I've just finished Bryan Morgan's The end of the line which a friend lent me. I am blown away by this. Morgan travelled through Western Europe in the early 1950s looking at secondary railways, and put his experiences and personal likes and dislikes in this book. About half the book is about France, a country I wish I knew better; but his chapters on Switzerland and Austria (a country I know fairly well) are worthwhile, and his coverage of Germany is almost as good and extensive as France. Given that he was unable to access East Germany, Poland or the (then) Czechoslovakia, he gets a lot of mileage out of what he did see. I've spent some time cross-referring his German chapter with the excellent Schweers & Wall German rail atlas, and a surprising amount of what Morgan saw in the 1950s is still extant in some form or another, and this has inspired me to think about retracing some of his steps as soon as I am able.

If there is one thing about this book that irritates the modern reader, it is Morgan's habit of dismissing something that (in the 1950s) seemed fairly humdrum - he will say something like "On the way there, I passed the Schmalspurbahn Aktiengesellschaft Bad Homburg, but as they only had some nondescript engines and a few ancient coaches of indeterminate origin, I gave them a miss for something more interesting." And he makes a mysterious comment about there being something dark and mysterious and evil in the Berchtesgaden Alps unconnected with the area's Nazi past, and which he says is only equalled by a feeling of mystery and ancient terror that overcame him on the Great Western between High Wycombe and Banbury. What could he mean?

Otherwise, a fine book; and I must now hunt down a copy of my own.

Giu 25, 2010, 4:16am

>55 RobertDay:
I'd forgotten that - I must have read it 40 years ago. Thanks for mentioning it, Robert - I'll look out for it. When I first read it, I'd visited very few of those places; in the mean time I've travelled a bit more, so it should be more interesting.

As far as Germany is concerned, there are a lot of minor lines that would have been active in his time that closed (to passengers) in the sixties, but have reopened in the last 15 years or so.

Giu 26, 2010, 2:57am

I have a copy of this book. It comes to me from my father and is dedicated him by the author. My father had provided him some photographs (one is published) on the railways of Vivarais and indeed other information. He wrote several articles on subject, including that appeared in 1955 in La Vie du Rail and others. I have a draft written a little before the abandonment of the network of Vivarais in which it defended its electrification and its modernization just like what had been made on Trento - Malè in Italy I do not know where both met, because in epoch, my father lived in Paris and I did not have opportunity to ask him because I discovered this book only after its decease. I first thought of a meeting during vacation in railway station of Cheylard or elsewhere. But the remark contained in this book, which had avoided me, leads me to think that meeting would have been able to take place during war someplace near B. My father was then part of the 2nd DB (on one of 3 tanks which first penetrated into Paris) and ended war near B. He did not like to speak about this place and has never gone back to it contrary to other places in Germany.

Ago 16, 2010, 8:20pm

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Gen 15, 2011, 11:47am

If you have an interest in small logging railroads, I can recommend Sierra railway by Dorothy (Newell) Deane. It really does have far more text than pictures, and is a wonderful history of a California shortline.

Gen 19, 2012, 3:53pm

Have just finished reading 'UNION PACIFIC; The Reconfiguration, America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present' (2011). definitely a work of Business, but quite intriguing as to the overnight switch from a declining business to a growth business. This coincided with a shortage of railroad capacity to handle the new volume of traffic. This took place in 2003, with the Chinese invasion and the rapid development of low-sulphur coal sources in the West, and was a reversal of the century-long need to reduce capacity so as to reduce maintenance of unneeded trackage.

Mar 7, 2012, 11:27am

Slightly off from the original intention of this thread, but not worth starting a new thread for: what about technical books that don't talk down to the non-technical? I borrowed the failry recent Ian Allan book How a steam locomotive works by Dominic Wells a little while ago, and I'm currently reading a 1950s edition of Leitfaden für den Dampflokomotivdienst by Leopold Niederstrasser. Not surprisingly, Niederstrasser, meant as a textbook for real footplate crews, is a lot more technical than Wells, which is aimed more at the armchair engine-driver, but they both do a pretty good job of explaining the thermodynamics and mechanics of steam engines to readers who don't happen to have a degree in Mech Eng. And of explaining what all those mysterious levers and handwheels do...

Mar 7, 2012, 9:05pm

The American Railway is a good technical book that does not talk down to the non-technical - of course it is about the technology in the US ca. 1889. My review of the book is below.

The American Railway, first published in 1889 and subsequently reprinted by various publishing houses (this edition is a 1988 edition published by Castle, a division of Book Sales), is a summation of the state of the railroad business in 1889. By 1889 U.S. railroads had a combined mileage of over 150,000 miles which was more than all of Europe combined. Railroads were the high tech of the day and the size and scope of the industry impacted (for good and ill) all aspects of American life and interest in all things railroad was high, not only in the U.S. but also overseas. This interest resulted in the publication of numerous books (of varying quality and depth of understanding). The fact that this particular book has been reprinted several times could be viewed as a testament to the quality of its content.

This summary is divided into 13 chapters; The building of a railway, Feats of railway engineering, American locomotives and cars, Railway management, Safety in railroad travel, Railway passenger travel, The freight -car service, How to feed a railway, The railway mail service, The railway in its business relations, The prevention of railway strikes, The every-day life of railroad men, and Statistical railway studies. Each chapter is authored by a then recognized expert in the field of the chapter title. Each chapter has a byline for the author followed by an outline of chapter contents and each chapter contains illustrations and tables.

While this book is an overview of a technical enterprise it is not a dry read. The attention to detail and the description of events and practices long since vanished from the American scene hold the readers interest. If you know anything of present day railroading just reading the chapter outlines provides an appreciation of how much things have changed. I would recommend this book to anyone desiring a better understanding of the state of 19th Century railroad technology and practice.

Modificato: Mar 8, 2012, 12:09am

David Wardale and Chapelon (both mentioned in >5 John5918: above) are very technical and not easy to read, although Wardale does have some interesting stories in between all the heavy technical data.

Steam Locomotive Design: Data and Formulae by E A Phillipson is precisely what the title says - a heavy duty textbook full of data and formulae.

The Engine Driver's Manual - how to prepare, fire and drive a steam locomotive by Brian Topping is a bit populist.

I have some old manuals from steam days which are quite readable:

Handbook for railway steam locomotive enginemen - British Transport Commission - an original UK manual from 1957.

Handbook on the Steam Locomotive for enginemen and running shed staff - a 1956 original from South African Railways.

Locomotive Management: Cleaning, Driving, Maintenance: Section 1 by Jas T Hodgson, a 1996 reprint of a 1939 edition.

2-10-0 Austerity Engine and Tender - brief description with hints on maintenance and repair - Ministry of Supply, a 2005 reprint of a 1945 edition. An interesting and rare piece of history - an "owner's manual" for a steam engine. Very few (if any?) other steam locos came with such a manual - it was apparently assumed that the railway company which designed and/or built them would know how to run and maintain them. A War Department Austerity engine would be used by all sorts of different railway companies and by the military, so presumably that's why it has a manual - the poor squaddies would have been lost without orders to follow!

Mar 8, 2012, 7:29am

>62 alco261:
Yes, those late 19th century overviews often have good stuff in them. I've browsed through on or two on Google Books. The one you mention sounds like a US counterpart to . Acworth, whom I mentioned in post 12. He's technical in economics terms rather than engineering, so some bits are a struggle to get through. From about the same period, I have a couple of modern reprints of monographs (in German) by Ludwig Troske on the London and Paris underground railways. He was essentially a German spy sent to find out all that he could about metro systems in other countries before they went ahead with building one in Berlin. Incredibly detailed reports, going right down to the level of things like doorhandles and non-slip treads for staircases.

>63 John5918:
It occurred to me after posting that there was at least one person in this group who would be likely to own a few footplate manuals!

I wonder what happened if you bought a steam engine "off the peg" from Baldwin, Beyer-Peacock, SLM, Henschel, or whoever for use in some distant part of the world: did they ship it with documentation, or would they always send out a fitter from the factory to commission it and train the local staff? I suppose the danger would be that they got head-hunted and never came back, like the man from Newcastle who drove Der Adler.

Mar 8, 2012, 9:05am

I've just looked up something which I found on the internet a while ago - a 1944 Locomotive Firing Course from the USA - here. It's quite comprehensive.

While doing so I also found a Wikibooks page on Steam Locomotive Operation - here. It's very short and simple.

Modificato: Mar 9, 2012, 2:30am

If you want "technical" in a more general sense of how the railways work rather than simply the workings of the locomotives, you could do worse than get hold of a copy of the rule book. I have the British Railways Rule Book of 1950 and the East African Railways and Harbours General Rules of 1963, and both give a wealth of detail about how the railways operate.

The modern UK rule book is online, in sections which can be updated easily and individuals can download it free. I have the current South African manual which is not online nor publicly available but is similarly made up of several sections.

Mar 9, 2012, 7:31am

>66 John5918:
I have a BR rulebook from about the same time, given me by a signalman great-uncle (no doubt he should have handed it in when he retired, but...). It's nice to have, especially because of the personal association and the evidence of long years of pasting in addenda and correction slips. And occasionally almost poetic (I remember a lot of stuff about "fog, rain and falling snow").

Electronic versions of rulebooks have taken away one of the great pleasures of bureaucratic life. When you've spent the last couple of hours of a Friday afternoon carefully inserting the new pages into your loose-leaf binders and throwing out the superseded ones, you know your week hasn't been entirely wasted...

Modificato: Mar 14, 2012, 2:45pm

Hello, everyone... just joined the group. I'm currently reading Fire & Steam which prompted me to look through LT for railroad/railway/rail oriented groups. I'll contributed here by listing books from my LT library which deal with the subject. I probably should someday actually put tags on them, but really, I'm too busy reading ;)

Anyway, I think most are within the realm of what you are looking for. I've probably duplicated a few already mentioned but I figure it's easier just mentioning them all, just so I don't miss one. I've also included a couple of books on subways.

Fire & Steam

Kings of the Iron horse

All Aboard! The Railroad in American Life

The Impossible Railway: The Building of the Canadian Pacific

Orient Express, the life and times of the world's most famous train

Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic: The Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels

How Steam Locomotives Really Work

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean

Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869

Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World

To the Great Ocean, Siberia and the Trans-Siberian Railway

The First Tycoon

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West

To the Wide Missouri: Traveling in America During the First Decades of Westward Expansion

American Railway: Its Construction, Development, Management, and Appliances

Building a great railroad : a history of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

The Victorian Railway

Sierra Railway

Subterranean Railway

Engines of War

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America

722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York

Labyrinths of Iron: Subways in History, Myth, Art, Technology, and War

Death railway (Ballantine's illustrated history of the violent century. Human conflict)

The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Erie Railway Wars, and the Birth of Wall Street

Mar 14, 2012, 6:00pm

>68 jztemple:
There seem to be an awful lot of "and" and "how" subtitles in that list (Subtitles: one annoying cliché and how it ruined non-fiction publishing). Generally those are a very powerful indicator of low-quality non-fiction. But I could be wrong...

Mar 14, 2012, 6:41pm

I can't see any issues with using subtitles, especially if it helps to explain what the book is about.

Mar 14, 2012, 10:28pm

>69 thorold: I'd have to agree with >70 jztemple:. A great number of the books I have on railroads ( my general tag is "railroad history") have subtitles and I don't see strong connection between quality and subtitles.

Mar 15, 2012, 11:49am

OK, I made a sweeping generalisation, so I'd better defend it...

I don't have anything against subtitles per se. Where I see a problem is with the formulaic approach to non-fiction publishing based on the notion that every successful non-fiction book must take some apparently minor fact and demonstrate that it was actually earth-shatteringly important. To indicate to the potential purchaser that the book does this, it gets a snappy title with a ": X and how it transformed Y" subtitle.

I'm sure that there were some worthwhile books that started this trend off, but mostly the effect of having such a subtitle is to distract the author into a silly game of cherry-picking any piece of evidence that looks as though it supports the assertion in the title (I can't think of a railway book I've read that does that, but it happens a lot in general history books). In other cases, the author seems to be blissfully unaware of what the publisher claims the book is setting out to prove. Wolmar's The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How it Changed the City Forever is a good example: quite apart from the "forever", which is a word you associate more with preachers than with historians, the book is mainly about how railway construction reacted to urban development, the opposite of what the title suggests. The subtitle has the effect of making a not-bad book into a ridiculous one. And I'm sure this trend is making it harder to publish proper, scholarly books that give you a comprehensive view of one particular subject.

Mar 15, 2012, 8:45pm

>72 thorold: Fair enough - I agree, I've seen books like that too.

Mar 15, 2012, 10:25pm

(Good Heavens, this thread is nearly five years old....)

If the topic is still "...train books for people who actually enjoy reading", I'd like to put in a word for Eric Newby's The Big Red Train Ride.

Mar 16, 2012, 1:37pm

Apr 1, 2012, 12:53pm

> 72: Thorold, the trouble with subtitles is that they are very often the publisher's idea, not the author's. And I speak from some experience here...

Apr 1, 2012, 4:40pm

I just checked out of the library a book, The Moffat Museum by Eleanor Estes to take a look at the chapter named "The One-Dollar Trolley Car". I am a trolley (tram) enthusiast, and will even look at railway books written for the emerging literate.

Giu 11, 2012, 12:35pm

>55 RobertDay:: Found a copy!

Giu 11, 2012, 4:17pm


I was trying to update the ck on Bryan Morgan: he was born in 1923, is he still living?

Giu 12, 2012, 11:15am

>79 vpfluke:: Sorry, I have nothing on him that's recent. He was a well-regarded UK novelist in the early 1950s, but I don't think any of his fiction remained in print into the 1960s and 1970s when I knew him as a railway author. There is a current writer of IT programming books who I suspect is not him.

I'll keep my eyes open for more info...

Giu 12, 2012, 11:40am

In Worldcat, he is separated from the IT writer, and similarly in LT. Worldcat shows Bryan Morgan's most recent work as about 1985 (probably a revised edition -- I didn't dig deeply). Morgan worked as a research metallurist during WWII. I do own his book, Great Trains.

Giu 12, 2012, 12:57pm

>81 vpfluke:
If you can find an old member of St Catharine's, they should be able to check if there's an obituary in the college magazine.

Mar 15, 2013, 8:49am

Let's try this again. I posted last night and it doesn't appear now. Is there still any interest in this group? I have found that most if not all the books written by William D. Middleton are well written, are not just lists of facts, explain technology without being too 'nuts and bolts' and cover most all electric based transit, trains, interurbans and trolleys, that run with electricity.

How about ephemera in this area, primarily related to the West and National Parks prior to 1940?

Modificato: Mar 15, 2013, 9:11am

It has been a long while since anyone has posted on the LTR. I'm still interested and would like to see a bit more activity on it. I haven't bought any railway books for a long time for various reasons so I haven't felt I have anything new to contribute in that respect. I don't know whether anyone wants to branch out into less book-related railway conversations?

I do most of my posting on the Friends of the Rail Forum, a South African-based forum of which I am an administrator, which concentrates on African railways but has quite a lot of world interest too. I read various Yahoo groups (East_African_Steam, sar-L, Garratt, sa_transport, Railroad_Brake_Equipment) and post occasionally, as well as Railroad.Net, a huge US commercial site which has some interesting conversations on it. I'm also aware of Steam Tube in the UK, but I dropped out of that as I couldn't handle too many online fora. I also occasionally look at Railpictures.net, where some of my friends post photos from time to time. Rob Dickinson's International Steam Pages is another site I go back to from time to time to see what's new, and some of my pictures and information have appeared there.

Mar 15, 2013, 10:03am

John, forgive my failure to thank you for your Post in re blue flags. As you have probably seen (to your horror) I have been "anarchizing" elsewhere on LT. That being said, I continue to extend the heavilyt gloved hand in railroad brotherhood. If you can get a few more people on-board, I'll certainly bbe along for the ride. Keep after thorold: he's a heavy-duty railfan, and has the advantage of being a little younger than you and me. I suspect he'll see this and chuckle -- so be it. -- Goddard

Mar 15, 2013, 10:21am

I'd say there's probably still interest in this group. The main issue is just that - books and discussions about railroading are not a main issue on LibraryThing so comments/discussions are bound to be few and far between. I've kept busy in other ways - I've added a few new first person accounts to my collection and I've spent some time writing a number of reviews of railroad related books and/or adding quotes to the "Common Knowledge" section of books of this genre. I'm currently reading Tracks of the Iron Horse which is Grensten's account of his life as a track gang member from 1924-1968 while working in Montana and the Dakota's and my most recent purchase was Powering UP a collection of first person accounts of female workers on the UP.

Mar 15, 2013, 1:04pm

In re #86. IMPORTANT! Does POWERING UP have anything about Christina Gonzalez, Uncle Pete's first female hostler? Used to have a picture of her on my bedroom wall, quite a strain on my then-marriage, I might add.

Mar 15, 2013, 1:16pm

>87 HarryMacDonald: I don't know. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet but when I get home this evening I'll check and let you know.

Mar 15, 2013, 1:21pm

Many thanks in advance! It appears that you playing here on LT while the boss thinks you're working. Good for you! Some of my best writing was done this way.

Mar 15, 2013, 6:50pm

It's even worse if you're in the UK, as very few British railfans are on LT. Most of my railway titles have only one or two members with copies. And I find it odd that there are so few covers for UK railway titles, whereas Amazon.de appear to have large numbers of the German ones covered...

Mar 15, 2013, 7:48pm

So I see there are a few of us around. I'll continue pumping stuff in. I got up to about 1000 entries and sort of hit a wall. I'm at about 190 Railroad Docs, primarily advertizing for the US National Parks prior to 1940, 125 Railroad books and about 100 trolley related items. At about 20/session when I get to it, it's going to take a while as I'm moving from an old home grown system to LT!

Mar 15, 2013, 9:43pm

>89 HarryMacDonald: No office playing - blocked - but if you have one of those have-to-go-to-appointments kind of days and you find yourself in waiting rooms with wifi and you happen to have a laptop for distraction, well, that's something else again. As for Gonzalez - nope not in this book. It is subtitled "A History of the Women of the Union Pacific in North Platte, Nebraska" so perhaps she wasn't working out of North Platte. It looks like it's going to be an interesting read.

Modificato: Mar 16, 2013, 8:21am

There are quite a lot of people on LT now with big collections of railway books, but the problem in getting a real discussion going is that rail enthusiasts tend to have quite specialised interests, geographically and technically. Someone with a big library of books on Welsh narrow-gauge or Swiss trams doesn't necessarily know (or perhaps care) enough to get involved in a discussion about UP diesels, or vice-versa. As we've said before, there's no canon of key railway texts that everyone is likely to have.

Like John I haven't been reading a lot of railway books lately, and it's a while since I came across one that would fit in this thread. Yesterday I was reading a pot-boiler O.S. Nock produced to order for the British Rail board in the 60s: it was quite a reminder of why one should avoid reading books by technical journalists...

>86 alco261:,87,92
Interesting that the subject of women rail-workers comes up again: I think that's more-or-less where we came in, with Linda Niemann and Helena Wojtczak, up at the top of this thread. Maybe that's the answer: if there were more women writing railway books, we might have some sort of common pool of knowledge...

Modificato: Mar 16, 2013, 8:51am

>93 thorold: Likewise, my main focus is on African railways, and more specifically Sudan, South Africa and East Africa. The last railway book I bought, last December, was Electric and Diesel Locomotives of South Africa by Bernard Zurnamer, which is unlikely to have much common interest and I am the only LTer who owns it.

I have the books by Linda Niemann and Helena Wojtczak, and enjoyed both of them. I suppose we all have some more general interest railway books which are not connected to our specific focus.

Mar 16, 2013, 8:50am

>85 HarryMacDonald: Goddard, thanks for the heavily-gloved hand of railroad brotherhood. In my travels I've found that the brotherhood often does exist and I've had hospitality, footplate rides, workshop tours, copious cups of strong sweet railway tea and even the chance to swing the shovel occasionally on railways in different parts of the world once they know that I am a fellow railway enthusiast. The little conversation we had about blue flags on another thread (was it a religious one, of all things?) is an example of how non-book-related railway conversations can come up from time to time. When a railway query comes to mind, ask a railfan from another continent.

Mar 16, 2013, 12:28pm

I don't think there are a lot of railfans from the U.S. on LT -- outside of books about the building of the transcontinental railroad and very general interest books, most specific book about U.S. railroads have under 10 members. My own interest is more in electric railways and trolleys (trams). For the latter, there is a French railfan who has the best collection on LT. And he is carefully putting periodicals which feature trams into LT.

Mar 16, 2013, 3:44pm

In re #96. Yo, Bob, are you on-board or not? Meanwhile, I think LT participant "bemidjian" has written a RR bk or two. Maybe somebody else should approach him: I think I scared him away by offering to swap my anarcho-eroto-mystical novel for his monograph on a Midwestern shortline. Me and my big mouth . . . Green board ahead, boys and girls!

Modificato: Mar 16, 2013, 9:09pm

...well....I guess we do have one possibility for "unified action" johnthefireman, thorold, and I have each reviewed Linda's book so if HarryMacDonald, vpfluke, RobertDay, ulmannc and the rest will do the same we'll be able to claim an LT first- a single book reviewed by every member of a tread....not much but it could be a start :-). I would also agree with >96 vpfluke: outside of the general interest books there are few owners/takers on LibraryThing

Mar 16, 2013, 9:46pm

I don't own Boomer Railroad Memoirs but checked my library system, and the library in Hicksville, here on Long Island, has a copy, and so I have ordered it. So, I could review it.

Mar 17, 2013, 10:17am

I went to my old index system (1000 down, 5000 to go not counting all the 'stuff' in boxes) and I have it so, I'm in. Just say when and I'll stop reading the other 3 books I have going and go with this. I read it a long time ago but don't remember much other than the idea of a woman boomer caused me to buy it!

>96 vpfluke:. The bookstores I visit seem to have lots of the general interest trade books, better known as door stops at the auctions I attend, or very specific items. For what it's worth, Denver and Seattle have been good hunting areas for me! I can't forget Victoria, BC either! A lot of these visits were over 10 years ago and bookstores have gone through multiple generations by now. I'm thinking a generation in the book business is about two or three years!! Enough of my unrelated wanderings!

Mar 17, 2013, 10:37am

>100 ulmannc: I recall being in Denver 10 years ago and finding a model railroad store which claimed to be the largest in the world. It was certainly the biggest I'd ever seen, although I believe there is one in Delft in the Netherlands which also claims that honour.

Mar 17, 2013, 10:38am

>100 ulmannc: I wouldn't say there's any time table however and whenever is ok ...it was just a thought with respect to addressing >84 John5918: ...and who knows, it might be fun.

Mar 17, 2013, 10:40am

Here I go!!!

Mar 17, 2013, 10:44am

>101 John5918: I knew there was something I meant to mention to you - the two volume set Permanent Way by Hill is, as near as I can tell, an extensive history of railroading in Africa. I haven't read the books from cover-to-cover but I have read parts and pieces and I have found them interesting. Volume 1 is the story of the Kenya and Uganda railway and volume 2 is the story of the Tanganyika railways. I didn't see them listed in your library and I've been meaning to mention them to you.

Mar 17, 2013, 10:45am

Just finished reading the little flyer called The iron trail. A sketch by A. C. Wheeler that was published in 1876. It is a group of short chapters that were published in the New York World. It pops up in L of C but Touchstones don't work on either the title or the author. It's classic railroad propaganda.

Mar 17, 2013, 10:53am

>104 alco261: Thanks, alco261. I have both those books. I've read the first one from cover to cover and dipped into the second one, as Tanganyika doesn't interest me quite so much. Very detailed official histories. They are in my library, and I've just checked and they appear when I search my LT library. Wonder why they're not appearing for you?

Modificato: Mar 17, 2013, 11:10am

> 106 that is odd. I wonder what we are doing differently with respect to listing these books. According to my listing I'm the only person on LT that has these. Addendum: Ok, I think I see what is going on. We've listed them with different titles, publication dates, and publishers. I wonder if LT can connect the two listings since both are correct.

Modificato: Mar 17, 2013, 11:09am

>107 alco261: I've listed them as Permanent Way Vol I and Permanent Way Vol II, both by M F Hill. It shows five owners of Vol I and two of Vol II.

Mar 17, 2013, 11:21am

> 93: You think O.S. Nock was bad? You should (or perhaps shouldn't see) Railway reminiscences of three continents by Gerard Vuillet. I've reviewed it....

Nock could write what he knew (and to be fair, he knew a lot). The trouble is, he tended to do that every time he had a book to write: so, for example, when he wrote a book called Great locomotives of the LMS, he started fifty years before the LMS was formed and didn't get onto the subject matter of the book until he was two-thirds of the way in!

I've been inspired by Bryan Morgan's The end of the line, which I'd point to as highly literate railway writing; but then again, Morgan was also a novelist. I'd like to try to bring that book, written in the early 1950s, up to date; but so far, I've not been able in interest a publisher in such a seemingly esoteric project.

Railway enthusiasts are almost as tribal as football fans (British ones more so); and the market for serious books that are about railways first and tribalism second appears pretty limited no matter where you are.

Mar 17, 2013, 11:50am

>105 ulmannc: This looks like it is going to be one of those days. I clicked on your touchstone for A.C. Wheeler and I got The Great Gatsby. I'll check your library instead.

Mar 17, 2013, 9:54pm

107 & 108

I'll try to combine them.

Mar 18, 2013, 5:40pm

>111 vpfluke: it worked - thanks

Mar 18, 2013, 5:49pm

>111 vpfluke: It now shows 6 and 3 owners instead of 5 and 2, so I presume that means it has worked.

Modificato: Mar 20, 2013, 10:26am

>97 HarryMacDonald:. I just put something out there as a review of Boomer: Railroad Memoirs by Linda Niemann.

Now there are 4 reviews out there. I just looked over at the touchstones and it puts (others) after Niemann's name. What's that all about?

Mar 20, 2013, 8:33am

>114 ulmannc: I just tried that - all it means it that there are other books out there with the lead word "Boomer" in the title - as for #4 it looks like a review to me. :-)

Modificato: Apr 2, 2013, 12:37am

>109 RobertDay:
Thanks to the revival of this thread I finally remembered that I meant to get myself a copy of The end of the line. When I got it, I realised that I had read it a very long time ago as a library book. I agree with Robert: very literate railway writing. Sometimes frustrating in its lack of detail about things that have now gone for good, but very enjoyable to read. It might be fun to bring it up to date, but I doubt if any publisher would go for it. It seems to be the rule nowadays that you’re only allowed to be lyrical or whimsical on television... Anyone writing such a book would have almost as much fun as Morgan complaining about the complexities of the timetables of those lines that have survived into preservation. Is the second Tuesday in August a lime green day or an orange one? Not to mention the impossibility of reaching most museum railways without a car.

When I buy secondhand books over the Internet I usually have a look to see if I can order something else from the same dealer to save a bit on the postage. That way I ended up matching Morgan’s book with Philip Bagwell’s 1968 history of The Railway Clearing House. Maybe not a literary treasure, but some very good solid historical writing that doesn't hesitate to make you think a bit. Bagwell is clearly convinced that the railway industry is in a mess (who wouldn't be, in Britain in the sixties, apart from O.S. Nock?), and that most of the problems are the fault of Victorian private enterprise and the reluctance of governments to intervene. Railway companies (apart from the Midland) wanted to keep investment down and focus on small volumes of high-value business; they had absolutely no incentive to get involved in throat-cutting price competition, so Britain ended up with ridiculously expensive passenger and freight rates, whilst the companies managed to block or delay expensive safety improvements. The RCH, although good at its job of dividing up revenue between companies, seems to have been a classic example of totally ineffective “industry self-regulation” in its other role as a central coordinating organisation.

Apr 2, 2013, 3:58pm

I must admit that for a Yank, trying to figure out how the UK runs and all the different lines and wondering if anyone makes a profit is rather confusing.

Several months ago I went on to websites with the UK government documents and after several hours decided I was even more confused. I did get a subscription to Today's Railways UK and have started to piece things together a bit but I'm still feeling ill at ease in my lack of understanding.

Does anybody have a picture, drawing, PP, or the like that shows the way this works? I understand the track maintenance more or less but it is the control of what I'll call slots for trains. I'll even buy a book if there is one that helps!

Apr 3, 2013, 7:37am

>117 ulmannc:
In that case, Bagwell won't help you much: he only goes up to 1922 in detail. Victorian capitalism is much simpler to understand. There were essentially no rules at all, and it was all secret deals between men in top-hats...

If you're persistent enough, you can find most of the official documents and rules on-line: the Office of Rail Regulation (http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/) is one possible place to start. Or Wikipedia. But it's not for the faint-hearted. Christian Wolmar has written a couple of books on the political background to rail privatisation, but they are probably out of date by now.

Apr 4, 2013, 8:38pm

I thought one of the recent postings >109 RobertDay: and/or 116William D. Middleton. A lot of his discuss Interurbans but several are on Railroads and they are enjoyable to read - - at least for me!

A book I have read at least twice and will probably go back to again is Set up running : the life of a Pennsylvania railroad engineman, 1904-1949 by John Orr. It is a biography of this father running steam on the middle division and the division going up into NY State on the PRR. I found it enjoyable and to this day makes me wonder how anyone who worked freight ever kept a family together. I'm sure the same applies today although on roads it may be getting a bit better today. Am I reading too much between the lines?


I saw a review for Principles of Railway Operation by John Glover published by Ian Allan in the UK. The last line of the review says ". . . it is recommended reading for all railway industry professionals." Would it help someone like me to understand the UK operations a bit better than I do now? I thought it was me but it sounds like even the professionals over there get confused as well.

Apr 4, 2013, 9:26pm

>119 ulmannc: No, I don't think you're reading too much between the lines. Any number of the recent first person accounts of working on the railroad echo the same theme. For example Burlington Northern Adventures, Goin' railroading: two generations of Colorado stories, and Life and Times of a Locomotive Engineer express similar sentiments. If you like Orr's book I'd recommend Brownie the Boomer and Railroadman for your consideration. If you want to get some sense of these books without ordering them up I've reviewed Burlington Northern Adventures, Brownie, and Railroadman and I've provided samples of the writing style in the Common Knowledge section.

Apr 4, 2013, 10:02pm

I've read Brownie the Boomer, have Goin' railroading: two generations of Colorado Stories but can't recall it and read Life and Times of a Locomotive Engineer. I'll check out the review of Burlington Northern Adventures.

Past my bedtime! Thanks for the reminders.

Apr 5, 2013, 4:56am

>119 ulmannc:
Curiously, your touchstone for John Glover seems to point to Beowulf! Lets see if I have better luck...

Glover's best known for his book about London Underground, which Ian Allan like to re-issue every few years with a different title and a new set of pictures. I have the version called Principles of London Underground Operations, which was probably the basis for the one you were looking at. It's interesting, but not very sophisticated: rather basic stuff about predicting line capacity in terms of timetables, signalling equipment and so on. And quite a bit (important for London but maybe not in a more general book) about designing stations for passenger flow. Nothing much about the economic side.

Modificato: Apr 8, 2013, 2:05pm

Re no 117 - the May issue of The Railway Magazine contains reviews of several new books which may help.
The Modern Railway, Key Publishing,£25 ISBN 978-0-94621-9384
sub-titled The definitive guide to the UK's railway industry in 2013, this takes a look at the state of play in numerous companies and sectors and focuses on their view of 2012 and their aspirations for the future.

Loco Review 2013, Freightmaster Publishing, £18.95, ISBn 978-0-9558275-6 - aims to cover,mainly by way of colour photos and captions, as many notable loco-hauled workings as possible during the previous 12 months.

Rail Info, Lily Ubs, £18 ISBN 978-1-907945-18-2 - gives a broad overview of the UK rail industry, it is intended to provide a reference tool for those who work in the industry, being strong on tables,graphs and other other statistical data...a very useful addition to the busy rail professional's library.

Railway Directory 2013, DVV Media £295 (that's right) - a 'bible' for the railway industry.

Also a new edition of Track Atlas of mainland Britain, Platform 5 Publishing, £24.95 ISBN 978-1902336978 - a fantastic reference book that deserves to be on the bookshelves of every self-respecting railfan.

Hope this is of interest. F/H

Apr 8, 2013, 8:39pm

>123 Foxhunter: How I wish my Railway Magazine would come in good time each month! Mail to Nairobi is not usually very prompt!

Apr 8, 2013, 9:11pm

>124 John5918: Tell you a secret. It takes my copy over 3 weeks to get to the Philadelphia Area in the US from Sweden where 'Todays Railways' is published. If they had a digital version I would subscribe to that but Platform 5 still only takes orders by phone or snailmail or fax - - - I guess the Internet will make it to the offices in Sheffield one of these days!

>123 Foxhunter: Thanks for the suggestions. I was thinking about the Track Atlas as my only other one for Britain is pre WWII. I think I'll pass on the one for 295 pounds(no symbol on this keyboard!). I'll see if I can find the review to read on "The Modern Railway".

Maggio 19, 2013, 8:39am

Back to the OP. I haven't read this book but saw an interesting review which claims "Railway books usually cater for picture book-loving trainspotters but Steaming to Victory is as gripping as a fictional thriller."

Steaming To Victory: How Britain's Railways Won The War by Michael Williams

It also claims: "In an age where a faulty door button brings your train to a standstill, this book recalls the era where 40 tons of exploding TNT triggered only a small delay..."

Maggio 19, 2013, 11:44am

>117 ulmannc:: Most Brits don't really understand how our current system works either: or don't want to, because that knowledge leads to madness. The idea was to free up the system from the shackles of public sector planning and finance, and to make the railways pay their way: but in order to maintain profitability, they're now subsidised more than they were when they were publicly owned. The railways do make a profit, but only as long as a Conservative government keeps pumping money in....

There is also a school of thought that says that the privatisation was made so Byzantine to prevent a future Labour government re-nationalising it easily (or at all).

I mustn't say any more, or I'll veer so far off-topic that I'll get justified grief from all the rest of you...

Maggio 19, 2013, 12:04pm

Maggio 19, 2013, 5:07pm

>128 John5918:
Hmmmm. If it proves anything, it's that even sentiments you agree with sound false and unconvincing when they're argued for solely by blustering and pulling statistics selectively out of the air...

Maggio 19, 2013, 10:48pm

>126 John5918:. I went looking for the book you mentioned but find it is not available in the US yet except by a Kindle copy. I found two sources but they are in the UK and the shipping is more than the Kindle and the book has to be purchased on top of that! The sample reads well and I just might have to break down and get it but I'll wait until it becomes available in the US (4 June per Amazon). I have more than enough other items to keep me out of trouble right now!

Maggio 20, 2013, 3:48am

>130 ulmannc: I've ordered it from Amazon in the UK. I'm having it sent to my nephew's address in UK, which is free delivery, and then he'll send it out by hand with someone travelling to Nairobi in July.

Maggio 20, 2013, 8:19am

>128 John5918:, 129: For those you you (un-?)lucky enough never to have heard John Prescott in the flesh, this reads as it would sound, except that through being given a good print editor, Prescott fails to mangle the English language as badly as he normally does in real life. (Some may say that removes some of his charm. I wouldn't care to comment.) Given that the man is a politician, Thorold's use of the word 'blustering' is quite apposite; and that explains the selective statistics, too.

Lug 2, 2013, 1:25am

Just received Steaming to Victory: How Britain's Railways Won the War by Michael Williams, which at first glance seems to be a fairly solid volume worth reading.

Lug 2, 2013, 5:42pm

I'm waiting to hear what you think of it. I've been watching it on Amazon and ABE to see if it is moving. I'll have to check again to see if it is available in the US yet as a hard copy. . . I don't want an ebook. . . you know. . .old school. . . Luddite. . . etc. . .

Modificato: Lug 2, 2013, 7:53pm

I just noticed I forgot to post this little book I found when I was looking for Steaming to Victory. It's called Steaming into the Firing Line: Tales of the Footplate in Wartime Britain. I decided to buy it since the e-book version was only $2.99. What have I got to lose. It's a bit of a light weight but it was a fun read once I got the hang of British railroad slang. We all need those at times. It's similar to some of the early 20th century Railroad Fiction like Brownie the Boomer and the like.

Lug 2, 2013, 9:28pm

>135 ulmannc: Did you mean "like early Railroad Fiction or Brownie the Boomer"? Brownie is a first person account.

Lug 3, 2013, 11:18am

I guess sort of both. Thanks for correcting me on this. I see another tag needed for my collection!

Ott 16, 2013, 9:17am

>133 John5918:. Did you have a chance to read Steaming to Victory yet? Has anyone read it yet? Shall I tell my daughter to buy it for me for a present?!!!

Ott 16, 2013, 10:39am

>138 ulmannc: Not yet, I'm afraid, and it is in Nairobi while I am in Juba. I'll have a glance at it when I get back to Nairobi at the weekend, although I will have other distractions as we have a real live locomotive which will hopefully be in steam by then for testing prior to a steam excursion the following weekend.

Ott 16, 2013, 11:18am

>139 John5918:. No rush but lots of steam! That's more important.

Can't say I have been behind any lately. I did go to Chicago last month for the the 75th anniversary of Central Electric Railfans Association and rode in a lot of early trolleys and elevated cars primarily from the Insull era. I also went to Kenosha, WI and rode all of their PCC's (6!) that are painted for different lines in the US.

Maybe next year when I go to CO or I may go out to Strasburg and ride the cabin car on their local freight that moves 3 times/week. Once in a while it is steam but usually it's diesel or a doodlebug.

Ott 16, 2013, 3:02pm

I finally made it to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington PA two weekends ago and enjoyed it. A well kept up tram museum.

Ott 20, 2013, 3:03pm

>138 ulmannc:-140 Back in Nairobi and I'm now more than halfway through Steaming to Victory. Not sure what to say, really. It's interesting, but it's not great literature. A lot of anecdotes, lots of quotes from earlier books about the railways during the war, fairly bitty and jumps around a lot, and it could probably have benefited from a stricter editor. It's very jingoistic. Some interesting photos.

Modificato: Nov 27, 2013, 2:23pm

Until I checked out Goddard’s profile, from his post in another thread, I had no idea this group existed. I was pleased to see that many of the touchstones had green flags as contained in my own library. I was surprised to find that I have 41 books tagged as TRAIN, yet I am far from a ‘gricer’, it is both the travel and the history that engages me. Of course we share Terry Pindell’s works, all of Theroux, Newby and that wonderful autobiography of the Orient Express by Cookridge.
I was surprised to see that John, our footplate fireman had nothing on the fabulous ‘Blue Train’ which I first rode back in the 1990’s and I had heard that there was a new bio-book about this train and it’s wonderful experience.
May I offer a few good reads that I have enjoyed from my own collection (I’ll only list those I have reviewed). Firstly the series from a true railway-man, Adrian Vaughan (no relation but a fair doppelganger!):
Signalman's Morning (and his excellent Bio on that great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Engineering Knight-Errant

On the English rural trains, that Paul Theroux says all English grew dreamy about:
Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain which has a fabulous nostalgic cover.

The On The Slow Train series by Michael Williams and a nice series from the BBC on Great railway journeys and the books by Ludovic Kennedy and, of course, John Betjeman.

A true ‘gricer’ book I own because it was my own “local’, useful, quaint, charming and of value to it’s community – so of course, it was closed The Sheppey Light Railway

Good travelling (with a book) all!

Nov 27, 2013, 3:14pm

>143 John_Vaughan: I have got one on the Blue Train, although it's only the free publicity book which I got when I rode the Blue Train from Pretoria to Victoria Falls in 2000.

Nov 27, 2013, 3:20pm

I have one of those somewhere (or SWMBO has it "put away safely" somewhere!). I went (twice) the other way, once from Jo'Berg (in the safer days) and last time from Pretoria to the Cape. Beats flying!//

Modificato: Nov 27, 2013, 3:46pm

>145 John_Vaughan: The last few years I've travelled between Jo'burg and Cape Town quite a few times on Premier Classe. It's not as luxurious as the Blue Train, of course, but it's pretty good, and a fraction of the price (it's comparable to the air ticket and much more fun). I haven't done it for two or three years so I don't know how it is now.

Nov 27, 2013, 4:06pm

I was on a 'company ticket' so it was the same price to them as my (club) airfare. I was very impressed and found out later that for a small cost I could have 'upgraded' to obtain a ... Bath Tub! I was a bit reluctant the last time, thinking that as everything else had changed the 'Blue Train' would disappoint. But it was great.

The only book I have found was a fictional story The mystery of the Blue Train and I read little fiction.

Nov 27, 2013, 7:32pm

My favorite cover, a detail, from Eleven Minutes late. My offering for our Group Picture IF we allowed them!

Modificato: Nov 28, 2013, 3:59am

>149 thorold:
Nice pastiche 1930s-railway-poster atmosphere, but it's a rather puzzling image. What is actually going on?

The first odd thing is that we see a train apparently approaching us, but we know that in the UK trains usually run on the left, not the right. I thought at first that the cover designer had simply flipped the image, but you can see the figures on the clock in the higher-quality example on Amazon, and it's the right way round.

The train could be arriving "wrong-line" in the platform - unusual, but not unknown, especially since in this case the tracks have unfortunately been laid so close together that it wouldn't be possible for two trains to pass in the station - but then why is there a railwayman on the platform giving it the "right-away" with a green flag and a whistle?

Alternatively, it's just departed on the right track, leaving the guard behind (he's facing away from the train, so he might not have noticed it setting off...). But that doesn't fit with the happily-expectant waiting passengers. And it would have to be a light engine or an autotrain propelling, as the engine is at the back. And surely the fireman would have noticed the guard had been left behind on the platform and stopped the train...

Nov 28, 2013, 8:32am

>149 thorold: Maybe the fireman did see the guard left behind, told the driver, and then they both had a good laugh and kept the train going so they could watch the guard running to catch up...

There's an old railway ditty, told to me by a fifty-years-on-the-footplate man, about the relationship between driver and guard:

The guard is the man who sits in the van
And rides at the back of the train.
The driver up front thinks the guard is a ****
And the guard thinks the driver's the same.

Apologies for including that in a thread which includes the term "literate" in its title.

I'm not well up on British railway rules, but in South Africa a stationmaster could display a green flag to an approaching train to give the driver authority to pass a semaphore signal at danger, but he should be at the signal, not in the middle of the platform, and he should be carrying both red (furled) and green (displayed) flags. He can also display a green flag to an approaching train if his station is booked as a conditional stopping place (ie if the train only needs to stop if there are passengers to pick up or set down) and he has no passengers to be picked up.

But, as I think you were hinting, this picture is probably an example of artistic licence!

Nov 28, 2013, 9:04am

Another possibility that occurred to me was that the artist got his inspiration from a Hornby layout where the whistling guard and the group of passengers are all glued to the platform.

The book looks interesting, anyway. It's not every railway book that opens with the author fantasising about Juliette Binoche...

Modificato: Nov 28, 2013, 9:14am

>151 thorold: The other option is that the artist doesn't have a clue with respect to standard British Railway practice and this in spite of the fact that the book appears to have been printed in the UK. Artistic mistakes (if that, indeed, is what this is) with respect to any kind of technology have a long, distinguished history.

If you want a real groaner with respect to railroads you can read my review of On the Blue Comet. As I noted in the review the list of mistakes goes on for pages and the list I provided in the review is not exhaustive. As an additional item since we are talking book covers - the Lionel Blue Comet used for the cover of that book is the very last version of the engine which was made in 1936. The 1931 version is quite different.

Nov 28, 2013, 9:34am

Yes thorold, you have covered all the mistakes - the author also points them out! But it IS a good read with decent prose.

John, I read this morning ..."Kenya formally launches a new Chinese-financed railway which should eventually extend across East Africa to reach South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi." But I do not think there can be a book about it yet!

Nov 28, 2013, 9:51am

>153 John_Vaughan: It's big in the local media, and even BBC World Service covered it. I posted a few links here. At the same time as this new long-distance international line is being begun, Kenya Railways is also building new commuter stations and improving the commuter networks. Exciting times! At our own humble level we're still trying to get regular steam excursions up and running, with another meeting at the museum on Saturday.

Modificato: Nov 28, 2013, 12:21pm

>154 John5918: A very neat and interesting blog John. And yet another (younger) doppelganger!

>152 alco261: "... the Lionel Blue Comet 1936 ...". Is that an anorak I see?
(: D

Nov 28, 2013, 2:01pm

>155 John_Vaughan: ? You lost me on that one....

Nov 29, 2013, 10:02am

"Anorak" is used in the UK as a term of abuse by non-enthusiasts to describe excessive concentration by enthusiasts on details. (Though some of us are reclaiming the word in time-honoured fashion.)

When an author purports to use meticulous historical detail to establish time and place and then gets those facts wrong, anorakism is, in my view, wholly justified.

Nov 29, 2013, 11:00am

Oh most certainly NOT intended as 'abuse' by me alco261 I assure you, nor do I understand how it could be. I have read the word multiple times in my train books and understood it was teasing for an enthusiastic train spotter.

Modificato: Nov 29, 2013, 12:07pm

BTW Robert, it was not the author - Matthew Engel - but purely artistic licence from the cover illustrator. The author points out the problems clearly laid out by thorold. But he, like Thorold and I still like the nostalgic (if unreal) feel of the picture.

Nov 29, 2013, 12:50pm

>159 John_Vaughan: Yes, it's definitely a nostalgic style.

Modificato: Nov 29, 2013, 11:47pm

>157 RobertDay: Ah Ha! I see. Across the pond we are referred to as "rivet counters" if the issue is that of lack of fidelity of detail on a model and "bean counters" or "detail freaks" if the issue is one of factual accuracy. This, of couse, is different from "foamer" which is someone overly enamored of trains in general- not to worry, I'm sure the various labels apply to me and I take a certain amount of pride in that fact so I'll just add anorak to the list to better identify my interests to an international group of train buffs. :-)

Nov 29, 2013, 10:07pm

>161 alco261:. You just gave away my secret. I love to ride the front seat in trolleys and interurbans and elevateds and . . . or if that doesn't work, I ride in be rear car looking out the back to see what has happened!

I spent 3 days back in September in Chicago at the 75th anniversary meeting of Central Electric Railfans Association with one whole day devoted to riding Insull cars up and down the IRM electrified line - - - what a hoot!

The best place, though, was the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, IL. Here are grown men playing with their 650 volt DC layout. Every car has a story and its own running personality. They even have a pair of CTA cars they converted from 3rd rail to trolley pickup! Riding the front seat on those was easy and fun!!

Now is someone would just get a Brill Bullet running like they did on the P&W (I loved riding those cars) along with the Liberty Liners from the North Shore Line back running on the P&W (before they figured out they were too heavy for the bridges) I would really feel like a 10 year old in the drool-er seat!!

Oh for PRR GG1's to run again. . .

Nov 30, 2013, 12:22am

Nothing to do with the topic of this thread, but I note that this LTR group has just come back to life again in a couple of threads after quite a long period with very few posts. Long may the railway conversations continue.

Nov 30, 2013, 10:12am

Dic 1, 2013, 12:56pm

Just found this book The Blue Train by David Robbins, Has anyone read it or can comment on it?

Dic 1, 2013, 2:49pm

>165 John_Vaughan: That touchstone takes me to a book by Lawrence Clark Powell. From the one review it looks as if it might not be about South Africa's Blue Train...

Dic 2, 2013, 9:21am

Our touchstones can be frustrating! Usually it says "and others" but not this time. Here is Robbins work...http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0670847402/ref=wl_it_of_o_pC_nS?ie=UTF8&colid=YN7L8X1GKXH1&coliid=I130NPSZ6BGOYB&condition=all

Dic 2, 2013, 5:27pm

Is this it? The Blue Train


Dic 2, 2013, 5:41pm

Yes Robert, that is the one. I have put it on my wish-list for Xmas. If I do not get it I will order it and post a review here.

Dic 4, 2013, 1:46pm

Not about books but some lovely stations around the world, including NY and Bombay's Victoria. From the BBC.


Dic 4, 2013, 7:56pm

I happen to like the PRR 30th Street Station (excuse me - Amtrak) in Philadelphia. I can't find a good link so just Google '30th st station picture' and you will get a group of shots. I was pleased that Amtrak decided to clean up he interior and now they are working on the outside! Now if they could just fix up the suburban decks a bit!

Dic 6, 2013, 2:31am

>170 John_Vaughan:
It's interesting how everyone seems to be so impressed with Berlin Hbf and the rebuilt St Pancras. Probably the result of tireless PR by the architects and developers. When you actually use those stations as a passenger, they have all the character and beauty of a giant shopping mall. The spot where the classic St Pancras photo is taken from isn't anywhere you normally pass on the way to or from your train (I think it's the terrace of one of the bars). From the main circulation area all you see are retail outlets, fast food, and a nice roof. The three actual stations are miles apart in walking distance, and the trains are tucked away out of sight. (But I do like the easy connection between Eurostar at St Pancras and the ECML at King’s Cross.)
Berlin Hbf is worse: it's a characterless concrete and glass hole, filled with escalators, lifts, and balconies full of shops. It hits you over the head with its size, but it doesn't make you feel like a welcome guest of the railway. If I had to select a big German station for that sort of top ten it would have to be either Köln or Hamburg Hbf - the first for its amazing setting, the second for the way the building manages to be both train-centered and relatively welcoming for the passenger.
If I had to nominate a recently-built or rebuilt station, then it would be Antwerp, where you still get a strong sense of the character, purpose and scale of the old station even though it has been hollowed-out and lined with raw concrete. I think they have a few rather splendid new stations in Spain too, but I haven't actually used any of them yet.

Dic 6, 2013, 7:33am

> 172: Well, I don't have too many pictures of the rebuilt St. Pancras trainshed, but so that others can make their minds up, here are my pictures of Berlin (middle part of the set):


and for comparison, a few of Köln:


Dic 6, 2013, 12:14pm

Some very nice shots Robert! Great signal box picture from Lichfield. Very evocative.

Modificato: Dic 6, 2013, 6:08pm

Just finished Signalman's Twilight by Adrian Vaughan. I said in my review...
This book only arrived yesterday and I have read and shelved it with the others by this writer, a conscientious and professional railway worker and thoroughly 'readable' author.I am already missing his quite , clear 'voice' and am so saddened by his account of the passing of such a lifestyle that I will probably decline to read the last part of this trilogy.

In this work the author (no relation) continues his auto-biographical account of his career from a young an very unofficial signalman's helping hand (Booking Clerk)to the demise of both his career and the GWR (God's own railway)and the passing of those efficient and evocative steam engines, surely the clipper-ships of rail.

The book has many great photograph's by both the author - who remains to this day a steam enthusiast - and his father. His prose-sketches of the wonderful characters who were his work-mates make the reader feel that they were part of his life too, and he grows lyrical in his descriptions of not just the marvelous engines, but the early dawn and surrounding country-side. Lots of witty "tales", great research, as well as recalled and detailed memories - a great read for railway-lovers and just readers of plain good prose.

Dic 7, 2013, 9:16am

I can endorse John's comments on Adrian Vaughan's books. In particular (and it's a long time since I read them), he records a number of items of railwayman's lore which I remember my father (who worked in S&T in Derby) talking about. The piece on railways workers' comments about a sort of animalistic reincarnation addressed to magpies and crows around the line always struck a chord with me. I often heard my father comment on "the old signalman" when seeing a crow perched in a spot with a strategic view up and down the line....

Dic 7, 2013, 12:58pm

>171 ulmannc:,172,173 Here's one of my favorite stations. It's the main station at Oblivion on the Ophir and Oblivion Railroad. :-)

Dic 8, 2013, 9:39am

>172 thorold: all you see are retail outlets

That appears to be what main line termini are all about these days.

Dic 8, 2013, 12:26pm

...and of course, in the 1:1 world this approach to Amsterdam has always been one of my favorite views

Dic 8, 2013, 3:24pm

I have to put that picture on my own thread.



Dic 8, 2013, 3:56pm

That is one heck of a throat going into Amsterdam. That ladder set of crossovers is wild! Was that layout ever run by an "Armstrong" tower?

Dic 8, 2013, 5:24pm

It's controlled from a flying saucer...
The top picture on this page is the current "tower"; the second picture is the nx panel they used from 1975 to 1996 (when they widened the approach lines to six tracks):

The black and white photo near the top of this page shows the interior of one of the two mechanical boxes that controlled it until 1975:

If you want to see some more entertaining Dutch signal box architecture, google "seinhuis Muiderpoort"

Dic 8, 2013, 6:25pm

>180 Mr.Durick: I'm glad you like it. I took that shot several years ago and my only regret was that I wasn't able to go back there in the evening and try it with all the possible lights and reflections ....oh well, maybe someday.

Dic 10, 2013, 2:44pm

Railway Cartoon Book by Ken Baynes. Oh dear. Sad to think trees died for this one! Very poor 'muddy' illustrations, some totally unreadable (too small and too grey). I suppose if you can find - as I did - a cheap old copy it is a collectors item. NOT at all literate!
Questa conversazione è stata continuata da Railway books for the literate - part 2!.